We are Like Squid: The Gift of Shape-Shifting

“He explained that [shamans] see infant human beings as strange, luminous balls of energy covered from the top to the bottom with a glowing coat, something like a plastic cover that is adjusted tightly over their cocoon of energy.

He said that glowing coat of awareness was what the predators consumed, and that when a human being reached adulthood, all that was left of that glowing coat of awareness was a narrow fringe that went from the ground to the top of the toes. That fringe permitted mankind to continue living, but only barely.

As if I were in a dream, I heard don Juan explaining that, to his knowledge, man was the only species that had the glowing coat of awareness outside that luminous cocoon.

Therefore, he became easy prey for an awareness of a different order; such as the heavy awareness of the predator. He then made the most damaging statement he had made so far. He said that this narrow fringe of awareness was the epicenter of self-reflection where man was irremediably caught. By playing on our self-reflection, which is the only point of awareness left to us, the predators create flares of awareness that they proceed to consume in a ruthless, predatory fashion.

They give us inane problems that force those flares of awareness to rise, and in this manner they keep us alive in order for them to be fed with the energetic flare of our pseudo-concerns.”

Carlos Castaneda — “Active Side of Infinity”


A prismatic perspective changes the nature of a conversation. When we realize that thought is not actual, but fictional, then answers, and the deceptions necessary to defend those answers, both go extinct. They become archaeological artefacts of a world that has ceased to exist.

We stop trying to compete to be right the moment we realize that nothing we say is right.

In fact, nothing we say is even Close to being Right, because what we Say about life and life itself are composed of utterly different substances.  The map can’t get closer to being the place itself, no matter how precise it tries to be. They are different substances entirely and never the twain shall meet.

But in this case, we’re making maps of a world that becomes more complex and profound as we learn. So beliefs are essentially out of date and primitive the moment they’re formed.

Out of date if they’re proposed as answers, that is. But they become more profound as metaphors – freer to experiment with angles and stories, because we’ve discarded the burden of being right. So we’re no longer being pressed into working towards a singular conclusion.

And then discussions stop being debates over who is right. We stop acting like prosecutors of one another. We stop trying to undermine an “opponent’s” point of view, because it would be self-limiting. So argument dies and questions become subtle requests for directions to the vantage points being discussed, because every new metaphor adds interest and color to everything.

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The Predator is Real: Learning to See Prismatically

Let me see if I can write a cheat-sheet to make the last essay a little easier.

First, it’s necessary to see things through a prismatic perspective. Otherwise what I say won’t make sense.

It sounds hard, but it’s only a little disconcerting at first.

By a prismatic perspective I mean realizing that nothing we think is actual. I think most humble human beings accept that their ideas are not perfect.

Now look at the same realization a little more intensely, that’s all.

What that means is I can only observe a small bandwidth of stimuli even at my best. And from what I Can see, I only remember a smaller fraction. And of those memories, I can only stitch together the few that make the most sense to me. So all I ever know are fictions.

That’s not what we usually think, but it’s the same thing as realizing that our ideas are only interpretations. Interpretations are fictions.

And they can be honest or dishonest fictions. But facts that aren’t the product of some interpretation are few and far between. And they’re usually negative, such as “the emperor has no clothes”. But in this case the negative discovery is that thought is not actual.

So ideas are only at best insightful, not literal.

Without the delusion of absolute truth there’s no motive to lie. Think about that. We lie when we’re trying to convince someone of an absolute truth, even if it’s only the absolute truth of Selfishness, the need to lie to protect my sense of Self. But if we see that nothing is conclusively true, including our sense of Self, but only at most a helpful way of distorting an otherwise ungraspable whole to make it meaningful, then there is no competition between points of view. They all add information, that’s all.

And if nothing can be taken literally, then thoughts become more creative, conjectural, metaphoric, prismatic.

Each word is like a different refraction of an unknowable actuality. Each word provides a slightly different slant or insight into qualities of the world.

So I could have called this a “metaphoric mentality” instead of a “primsmatic perspective.” The word “prism” emphasizes the ability to spin the issue around to get insights into different qualities. When I use the word metaphor, this emphasizes the suggestive nature of thought, the absence of Literalism. But neither of them are the actuality. They are merely different qualities that each metaphor reveals in what would otherwise be a mysterious, ungraspable whole.

So when thought stops trying to be actual, it becomes more creative, trying out different angles to discover wider potentials in the world. We shift from a narrowing search for answers to a widening, adventure-loving exploration, which can’t have an agenda because it doesn’t know what’s coming next. But in this spirited exploration of the world we begin to discover new powers, like the freedom from competition that this prismatic angle provides; the creativity it encourages.

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Defeating the Predator: The Limits of Insights and Convincing Ideas


Thanks to Dirk’s House of the Sun for the image and for interesting commentary: http://www.soul-guidance.com/houseofthesun/predators.html

“We have a predator that came from the depths of the cosmos, and took over the rule of our lives. Human beings are its prisoners.” …

From “Active Side of Infinity”, by Carlos Castaneda


Intro

I hate the loneliness of dishonesty, when I’ve broken some intimate connection with another by holding a poisonous secret. Or maybe it’s the loneliness of being trapped behind a false front, invisible to everyone.

I want to get down from the high horse that writing seems to conjure, because it’s not honest. I’m a mess too. I’m crawling around in the mud after having fallen off my high horse for the millionth time, crouched down among the dirty socks and muddy water, as you are too, nudging you in the ribs to ask “what the fuck is happening here?” Candor is what is needed now, and sometimes I don’t know how to be candid.

It makes me want to shout, like Ronny Cammareri, “I’m not a monument to justice!”

Here’s what I think is happening: We’re facing ourselves in the flesh, you and I, slowly maybe, but the world is forcing the issue, as we hit limits in every direction. We’re being forced to face ourselves without false fronts. In fits and starts to be sure. And as a percentage, not many of us, but millions here and there, now and then.

And this means we’re breaking now and then into a kind of impersonal point of view, where my sense of Self, my wooden character, my public persona, is seen to be coming apart at the seams. And this is good news, but it makes for a very chaotic person, who takes things personally, like a puppet of reactivity, in one instant, and then impersonally, and with unflustered bemusement in the next.

I feel like Pinocchio, parts of me feel almost alive at times.

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Why Am I Writing?

Photo by Aaron Burden

I don’t write because I know something. I write because I don’t. This is the narrative of someone who isn’t fully developed and never will be, and who sees things partially.

Writing occurs when a growing tangle of questions (or contradictions between my everyday life and a wider, less self-defensive perspective) becomes uncomfortable, much like a hairball in a cat. So I’m forced to disgorge this tangle in the form of yet another story or essay.

However, it’s not as if there’s a Right answer to anything and all undeveloped perspectives are simply sophomoric. Every definitive conclusion to my questions and contradictions would remain sophomoric (I remind myself), because there is no positive answer, only negative observations (of what is not true).

But this absence of certainties doesn’t imply the absence of honesty. At any stage of development, at any consistent depth of perception, I’m honest to the degree allowed by that particular depth. At a certain depth, the honesty may be only verbal. At another it may be more behavioral (trying to live up to moral codes and such). Or at still another it might be self-lucidity, the ability to recognize the persistent failure to live up to codes, and the kindness inherent in not trying to be perfect anymore, which is an honesty that exceeds morality. They’re all forms of honesty, but some reach deeper.

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When I Was Seven Years Old I Was Abducted by Aliens

You can receive this: “on whatever sphere of being
The mind of a man may be intent
At the time of death”—that is the one action
(And the time of death is every moment)
Which shall fructify in the lives of others: — TS Eliot, “The Dry Salvages”

When I was seven years old I was abducted by aliens. You don’t have to believe me. I’m being as honest as I can, but everything – everything – in the retelling becomes fictional. What is an alien anyways? I can only observe a small bandwidth of stimuli even at my best. And from what I Can see, I only remember a smaller fraction. And of those memories, I can only stitch together the few that make the most sense to me. And when I realized this, I no longer bothered to distinguish between fact and fiction, but only between honest and dishonest fiction. And I’m being honest about something I encountered, even if the event itself is little more than an unreliable dream now, distorted by years of confusion and fear.

Despite all that, I can recall the honest facts, which are given shape by a kind of fictional wrapping paper. Without the shape of the fiction you would see nothing. The experience remains untranslatable otherwise. But look through the paper to see what I mean.

I remember waking up in the dark room and feeling a pulsing heat or color or emotion. I could describe it as any of these, or by a thousand other words, but look, this is what I meant: the fictional telling gives an unavoidable skew to the memory. Words are always distortions, and when I don’t keep that in mind I become delusional with certainty. I become entranced by a hall of mirrors and can’t see through the complicated reflections to the actuality that is nature’s complex simplicity. Complexity and complication are very different. For it’s the simplest thing to sit quietly on the land. And yet it remains the most complex world of microbes, fungi, trees, and birds, with no ceiling above us, only endless space.

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The Schizophrenic Crisis

This appeared in Dissident Voice.

I’m not looking at schizophrenia for the moment as a sickness, but as a more or less inevitable development or consequence of a body that refines thought to such an extent that it becomes confused by its own images and beliefs and mistakes them for reality itself.

Conclusive certainty or dogma would be an obvious symptom of this crisis – a crisis which may have begun several thousand years ago and is only now approaching its ‘do or die’ moment: Learn this lesson or perish.

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Might Makes Right

I think the philosophy that drives Trump could be summarized (from one angle) as “might makes right.” And I’ll bet that a large segment of Trump supporters might be ashamed to admit that they share that philosophy. A smaller portion probably openly holds that view without shame. In fact, they might see it as a sign of treasonous weakness to think of the world in anything but “might makes right” terms. And a portion of these supporters would be violent racists. To them the “fact of life” is that it’s a battle from birth to grave. And a larger portion probably quietly support them, whisper to one another that they’re “our soldiers, which isn’t hard to do when you’ve been raised in a culture that worships the warrior, the conqueror, the rugged individual ready to fight for an imaginary independence

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The Nincompoop and the Better Angel or Taking the Red Pill or Rambling (Uncontrolled) Notes on Chaos and Control

red pill

One

Let this entry be chaotic and disorderly. I’m tired of writing in a suit and tie. Tired of this formal voice.

Now it’s time to drift into deeper topics so that I might get as close as I can to a real movement, not the idea of a movement. Everyone’s probably heard Korzybski’s “the map is not the territory”. If this is understood as a concept then it’s not really understood at all. As a concept it’s merely another “map.” To really understand what he means the statement has to initiate a full stop, which is an action, not an idea or concept, not another map. I’m trying to write essays that run into the limitations of thought, which would initiate the action of negation, rather than the positing of ideas or concepts.

I’m not sure I’m doing very well yet. But for some reason I can’t stop trying.

So when a new meaning (which is a new way of being) eludes me, remaining tantalizingly close but still too vague to realize, I feel compelled to write. But writing involves not writing for the most part. I wait to catch myself in the act of some relevant stupidity. Then the writing draws attention to this movement of stupidity, and mainly by negation (the elimination of assumptions that divert my attention) I get closer to what is happening.

I’ll place the various negations I encounter in bold.

I wish the writing didn’t end up so f’ing complex, but in reaching for the thing that is just beyond my grasp there are no precedents. I’m always pushing into the dense underbrush of my own unconscious habits, where the new movement distinguishes itself (if I’m patient).

I don’t write knowing anything, but the writing itself allows me to discover things, so that I end up sounding as if I know something after all, which is a lie. But I can’t seem to avoid that lie just yet, so I’ll expose it up front.

(You might say I’m distinguishing “discoveries” from “knowledge” and I am. The first is a negative discovery that pries me loose from blind assumptions, leaving the questions more open-ended; and the other positive certainty (knowledge).

One of the most tantalizing movements that I’ve never had enough patience to focus upon fully is the relationship between chaos and control. It’s a fascinating oddity: Order emerges by realizing one’s own disorder. Or honesty is the realization of dishonesties. Cosmos is the realization of Chaos.

This means the honest fool, who lives close to their own foolishness, never hiding from their mistakes, is a far more interesting and worthwhile companion than the intelligent person striving for the perfect theory or behavior.Read More »

The Limits of Ken Wilber: An Appreciation

ken wilber

Ken Wilber likes to say that every stage of human psychological or spiritual growth “includes and transcends” the previous stage. We don’t lose our capacity to access earlier stages of development; and we don’t reject those earlier stages as “wrong.” We see the logic that drives earlier stages and can operate within that logical framework whenever it’s necessary.

He also seems to imply that growth is a gradual diminishment of ego as a driving force. A wider and wider horizon of empathy accompanies each stage of development.

This vision provides the impression of a kind of winding stairway or double-helix of personal progress. Each step in this stairway represents a certain leap from one set of assumptions or “action-logics” to a new and more encompassing set of assumptions. But all in all this “inclusion and transcendence” represents a gradual growth.

There’s nothing wrong with seeing things in this way, even if the emphasis on inclusion and transcendence seems incomplete to me. Rather than saying we “include and transcend” each previous stage, I’d prefer to say that transcendence of previous stages involves inclusion and shedding or sacrifice (the positive and the negative). Because in every stage of development (whether from 1st grade to 2nd; or from an ethnocentric to a more interconnected vision) fundamental assumptions driving previous stages are lost or negated. This is far more significant than inclusion. Inclusion is simply what remains by default after certain fundamental beliefs are sacrificed. The real change occurs via negation or sacrifice of old beliefs. Negation removes a layer of confused mud, leaving the vision a little more cleansed and wider in focus. What isn’t removed is still (by default) included in the new vision.Read More »

Starving the Tree of Racism: How Seemingly Benign Values and Beliefs Feed Racism

Strange Tree

Dear fellow white men, but I hope others stick around as a Greek chorus.

An honest recognition of this culture’s history of treachery, kidnapping, torture, and murder is needed to read this. This is my fundamental starting point. So I’m essentially only speaking to those white men who recognize this and want it to end.

I’m arguing that if this is really our passion, then we can’t solely focus on stopping overt racists, or eliminating the racism and sexism baked into our institutions. These are necessary goals of course. But ultimately we won’t be very helpful if we don’t simultaneously (and primarily) work to expose the subtlest roots of racism in ourselves. And if we dig deeply enough we discover that we’re contributing to this violence through our identification with many of this society’s seemingly benign (but in fact toxic) values.

Magnification, Not Abstraction

I feel that poisonous minerals of racism seep into our bones microscopically through values that often appear innocuous and beneficial. But it might not seem practical or relevant to talk about these subtleties at first, because this can feel like an escape into abstractions from more pressing racial problems. But these are magnified examinations of the subtle roots of racism, not abstractions.

Nevertheless, it feels like I’m asking readers to pause for a moment in rescuing the drowning people downstream. But I don’t feel anything can be resolved downstream. I think we need to discover the deepest source of the problem, which remains hidden in us.Read More »