Abrupt or Gradual Change?

Found picture on Web, apologies to whomever it belongs (will remove if needed)

Each essay wrests a limited clarity from the infinite mycelium of loose ends that keeps the inquiry growing. As if demonstrating what I felt to be true in Truth and Distortion, the last essay clarified something, but also left distortions that I’d like to consider.

Is the transition to a proprioceptive mentality necessarily so dramatic and dangerous for example? Is it really like falling from a cliff? Or is it the most gentle transformation imaginable, giving up the strife that comes with trying to live up to a false ideal, seeing through all these deceptive feints and accepting them until they evaporate as irrelevant?

I’m never going to argue that anything I say is real. These are merely stories that wring from the world particular insights, while shutting down others. So the question has to be spun like a prism to see other spectrums of truth. And this also allows me to see with greater clarity the context in which the previous metaphor was apt. Let me see if this can be done with one of those loose ends right now, the gradual versus abrupt question.

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Cliff Diving: The Dangerous Leap into Suspension and Proprioceptive Flight

Photo from Groundtruthtrekking.org

I’m forced to decipher the order that is slowly unfolding on its own. That is, this isn’t really an inquiry through words or logic of a thinking mind, but a way for words and logic to catch up with a wider perspective than a thinking mind can know.

It’s as if something non-rational is trying to recalibrate the rational mind so that it doesn’t block access to a larger perception.

And I’m not sure of my role as a speaker entirely. The speaker seems to be necessary in some way, but it’s not central to what is happening. Currently it seems to function mostly as a filter, to help organize certain features of reality into a workable personal relationship to the world.

But this worked-out relationship to the world – not only this sense of Self, but also everything this form of Self demands, such as power, prestige, and economic and national systems to promote all that – is leading to self-destruction.

The culture keeps looking for new ways to improve the filtering function of the Speaker or Self (which is to say, improve the moral quality of this fictional approach to the world); and we also keep looking for ways to improve the economic and national systems designed to promote the function of the Speaker or Self (which is to say, we keep looking for social solutions to this psychic and spiritual crossroads).

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… And Now I don’t

I made a big and interesting mistake in trying to ascertain who you are in the essay “I See You Now.” Even the title sounded threatening. But this is what Negative Geography was built to handle — a place where I can stare back at my own footprints in the subtle mud of language and decipher where I go wrong.

And some of these mistakes reveal ancient confusions, ancient in that they are not entirely personal mistakes, but self-injurious reactions to transgenerational traumas as Mate tends to describe it, stretching back through human history beyond reckoning.

From one angle, this is the kind of mistake that our parents wisely warned us against — staring too long into the image reflected in the water, because we’ll drown in confusion.

However, I’m no longer susceptible to this fear. I think it’s because I already drowned a long time ago and now I’m beginning to crawl back to the shore like some kind of primordial shape, picture a mud puppy if you need to.

The first surface mistake was in devaluing the deeper personal and impersonal relationships I have with many of you. You aren’t some abstract conception of an Other; you are not merely mined for your value and then discarded, which is what I described. But the image I hold of the person listening is mysterious to me still, as if I’m picturing a mind that is still forming; but one that is partially revealing itself in many of you; and sometimes even in brief exchanges with strangers on a bus; with everyone who carries that charge of honesty that can change a life; and all this feeds the image of a wider mind that is listening, a real mind, in flesh and blood. And I made the mistake of accidentally discounting the fact that this potential is visible in real people reading, and is not abstract and disembodied.

So this led to the the second surface mistake — a failure to acknowledge how important these ongoing dialogues with you are in everything I write.

The underlying error, however, is solipsism. But solipsism is not merely a fancy way of describing a self-centered outlook.

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Technical Note on Why the Last Essay Isn’t Really About Writing

Maybe what I’m really after in speaking of an imaginary “you” and “Me” is a rapport with these persistent thoughts of self and other, these imaginary beings that occupy center stage in life. I’m not interested in being a writer, it’s not my career. But in looking at the dishonesty of thought honestly I’m dealing with a communal mess. And part of the resolution of a communal mess will necessarily involve communication of this sort.

Writing provides the opportunity for an elongated span of attention on these matters.  But it’s not the only way to approach all this. So it’s not about writing, it’s about the communal movement of thought. In any communicative case (speaking, fighting, using sign language, doing math) the same issue looms that I was trying to contend with — what to do about the self-image that insists on acting like a middle-man at all times, even poking its ugly little head between two embracing lovers more often than not in the form of anxieties and worries. This spoiled brat of thought has to be the center of attention and is constantly driven by insecurities, because it is by nature a deception, a projection posing as a reality.

So the question tends to be, how do I look at thought honestly knowing full well that a fictitious “I” or “me” will inevitably intrude on the scene demanding to play a central role?

There are a million ways to handle this and all have been tried in these essays, with varying effects. The one is to do what is being done in this paragraph, which is to refuse to use personal language and speak from the third person’s perch.

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I See You Now

Would you believe me if I said I don’t want to call attention to myself? It would seem impossible because I’m placing these private and somewhat personally unnerving words out there on Facebook, for one thing.

But personal attention makes me sick. And yet I couldn’t find you until I placed these things in some kind of public thoroughfare. I didn’t care if it was just a park bench. Someplace where you might happen along, allowing me to imagine you.

A park bench is almost perfect, but not quite believable enough, because I’m sure these words would be pecked to pieces by a passing pigeon or thrown up on by a drunk, before anyone real like you happened along.

And so I tried a publication like Counterpunch, fairly broad and relatively easy to access. But periodicals have a far too particular outlook, are too demanding in what they want from me. I’m not inclined to work at molding myself to anyone’s demands. I need a thoroughfare that is utterly open-ended and will not lead to any kind of fame, which would destroy my solitude or anonymity. But the thoroughfare still needs to be larger than a park bench in order to allow me to convincingly imagine you as a passing stranger with a mind as large as God’s.

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The Need for Comedy and Illusion

The problem with essays is that they tempt the writer to speak from a podium of sorts, as if he or she (let’s say he, because I’m talking about myself obviously), as if he were Walter Cronkite, the last representative of the True Believers in solid facts at the center of life, fading out to extremes of fantasy on the left and right.

But that’s not a valid picture of honesty, because there is no solid center if I am learning. The center is precisely the place where suspension and uncertainty live. Nothing is known; all is shifting perspective.

But in saying this I end up sounding like I’m standing at a podium again, and the hypocrisy this generates is fascinating, if nothing else.

Essays generally leave a stench of dishonesty no matter how honest they try to be. I think there’s another way to write essays, and that’s what I’m exploring.

I wish I could ask the reader to bear with me while I say this next sentence, because this statement is just a door to a larger room, but here it is: I’m not really interested in helping anyone. That’s not why I write. I write because I enjoy tracking down and confronting my own dishonesties.

What I am, at best, is honest about my own dishonesties. And I DO think that facing dishonesty is a good thing for the culture, because the culture is not facing its dishonesties, and I’m pretty sure that this will shortly be the cause of our extinction. But even if I feel this way, that’s not my motive.

I think it’s the other way around: I don’t think I can have a motive if I’m honest. I think I can only have a motive to be dishonest. Honesty is merely being without duplicity. There’s no effort involved if there’s no duplicity. So honesty is an empty condition, negated of all efforts, which are in fact efforts to hide from myself. So honesty is incredibly lazy, a slacker of sorts. There’s nothing moral about it. I do nothing and I’m honest. If I do something about it, then I’m squirming, looking for an advantage, an improvement, anything but the truth.

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Everyday Schizophrenia

The glen that thinks

Is it too small a story to say I do things independently, as if I were an outside agent? Is it more reasonable to say that it’s the environment that thinks through me and through every tree, bird, person or breath of wind, each an energetic and idiosyncratic manifestation of earthly intelligence?

This body becomes an aspect of its surroundings the moment the assertion of my differences ceases. if I’m not constantly thinking about myself, I dissolve into the world itself.

It requires a story to create a sense of independence. Relax for a moment and I disappear. But disappear only as something alienated from earth and others.

You could tell the story that the woods “inspire Me”. But that’s a story that misses something large. Inspiration IS seeing that tree’s connection and inseparability from intelligence. Intelligence arises between you and me, between trees and me too, and the little stream below where I sit carries the voice of my own intelligence.

This may sound fanciful, but I think it’s a more practical vision, a more factual one. Less dependent on an imaginary being who somehow “sits in” this body, who carries the name “I”, a little director I used to call “Zingryo” as a kid, sitting on a throne behind the eyes. He is “me”, and when he thinks about himself he is thinking about an Other of sorts, as if this Self he is thinking about were somehow still outside him, always one step removed, as Beckett comically observed.

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Truth and Distortion

It’s impossible to comprehend anything without some distortion of actuality. Because in order to understand anything, I have to ignore and lose my comprehension of something else.

Try to avoid this, try to understand anything perfectly, and all you’ll do, dear imaginary reader, is distort your awareness by this great ambition, obtaining some glimmer of clarity at the expense of a singled-minded focus that causes pain in direct proportion to the pleasure it produced. That’s why Beckett said, “The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh.” 

So I can’t fall headlong into a particular story and take it as gospel, because there is always distortion. Focus is a distortion of the field of vision. Where there is focus there is a loss of wider attention.

And there is no way to obtain a perfectly wide field of attention because the universe will always be wider than these 6” brains can span.

So I can’t look at distortion as a problem that needs to be eliminated. It’s part of the process of thinking, that’s all. And it needs to be acknowledged and realized, because otherwise thought operates under the deluded assumption that it can solve everything eventually. And thought can’t solve the problems thought itself creates.

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A Minor Pop of Sound and Fury

I’m slowly regaining a desire to write. But as a warm-up I’d like to clear my throat with this mostly second-rate rant on the state of the world.

I think we all come into this world like molten lava, with no settled opinions, shifting our gaze, shedding old forms of thought, constantly growing. I equate this molten lava with passion, and the fluidity of learning, and we still feel it in any question that burns, questions that interest us beyond any practical utility.

But we’ve also been born into a culture that systematically attempts to channel this molten energy into particular shapes and forms, where it cools and hardens into certainties and dogmas. This includes the hardened conviction that it’s necessary to quell the passions of children, and stabilize them into practical shapes that can help maintain the social system itself.

To me this looks like the work of the predator performing another of its “stupendous maneuvers” (Castaneda). Like some great wrestler, the human species is flipped 180 degrees on its back, where it submits to justifying the repression of its own young as a way of maintaining the inorganic life of the system itself. And so the social system stops being merely a tool for the promotion of human potential and becomes instead an end in itself, justifying the human sacrifice this requires.

This molten lava metaphor is supposed to represent the liveliness of the ever-growing human soul. But of course, the molten lava metaphor also suggests the dangerously destructive qualities of a human being, who can’t be corralled into working their fingers to the bone in support of this mechanical system of control we call our nation or our economic system.

And so we can watch the slow degradation of human intelligence in me and in most people as we age.

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Kingswit

Short story posted in Subtle Mud, called Kingswit.

In a post-apocalyptic world, but one where ecosystems have regained their balance and people have become scarce, shy of technology, shy of one another, shamed perhaps, three travelers come upon a man they know vaguely from various encampments. He was a man people avoided as if he had rabies — he was sick with the disease of mind that had destroyed the world. They could recognize that easily. The man had been brutally beaten and left paralyzed by wandering tribes, who are themselves susceptible to the old disease. One of the three travelers stays with the paralyzed man for a few days, until he puts him out of his misery. And it’s about the guilt this causes, the poisons it stirs to the surface.

A second tone poem of sorts mentioning Seldon is also added to the site, and here’s an excerpt from that:

Sometimes I wonder if this is a different earth, if there were no survivors after all, and this is all there is to the great beyond. I think the survivors walked through a curtain of some kind and everything smells and feels differently now. The earth has grown larger again, too vast for a journey of several lifetimes. That’s what happens in the absence of technology. A weary, wary and quiet anarchy reigns now.

Now and then you pass an outpost where they still use a diesel truck to drag tree trunks; but most of them have become rusty bones hidden in the brush. 

There’s almost a taboo about technology now. It holds the embers of the previous world.

There are only a handful of people for every 3 days journey. People are shy, an inherited shame I think. Maybe in other places the power vacuum has been filled by warlords. But in my experience nobody wants that kind of power now. Power is another ember of that lost world.