A Last Hoorah on My Way Out the Door

by David Goza, who teaches World Music at the University of Oklahoma. At age 63, he has probably outlived his sell-by date by at least a dozen years.

This somewhat longish essay may constitute a farewell of sorts: not so much a farewell to this forum in particular (a forum I’ve been following closely for some years, without ever submitting so much as a single comment), as a farewell to an online life in general. In the near future I will no doubt be posting similar messages on my personal Facebook page and in other groups in which I’m active, as I little by little take my leave — but I want to start here because I’ve come to value this board and even to regard many of you as friends (without your even so much as suspecting my existence): some of you have come to mean a great deal to me. Despite the enjoyment I’ve derived from my interaction with good people in cyberspace, I think I’ve about had it with virtual reality, with the wraithlike, chimeric notion of an “online community.” So I’m not so much talking about bowing out of this group specifically, as I’m mulling overdue secession from a much larger domain of supposed connectedness.

This essay is also about something much more important than my leave-taking. Let me try to explain.

A year or so ago, in their unending quest to discredit me, certain Christian fundamentalists did me the greatest imaginable honor by linking me by reputation and accusation to the brightest lights of western culture — people such as Morris Berman and Noam Chomsky: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2257182604/. I would never pretend to any arrogant comparison of stature: I’m not worthy to lick the sandals of someone like Berman. Nevertheless, as he has articulated more clearly than anyone I know, the nature of the sickness of western civilization and the reason for a prognosis that is anything but optimistic, I find myself in profound agreement with him: if you want to know my position with respect to our predicament, read Berman. If we have a future, it is because of people like Berman and Chomsky. And that future — if any — lies somewhere in the twenty-second century or beyond, on the far side of that Dark Age into which we are now sinking. Our children, unfortunately, will not fare well. I wish it were otherwise, but wishing never made anything so. (But perhaps there’s hope for our great-, great-, great-, great-grandchildren. Again, I don’t think so; but who knows, really, how things will unfold?)

That Dark Age will be characterized by economic collapse, infrastructure failure and the perpetual war of all against all: a Hobbesian world. It is an open question whether the human species will survive it: thousands of nuclear-tipped missiles still sit restless in their silos, yearning to be free (and hundreds of nuclear power-generating plants stand ready for meltdown as the lines of supply erode and the technical expertise needed to keep them under control dries up). But in case some remnant of our species does survive the inevitable collapse, perhaps we should be concerned about what will follow that Dark Age, and do whatever we can to make possible a good society in a distant century, populated by historically-minded people who will perhaps be grateful to us for having made the effort.

So far as the present is concerned: in a Truthdig column published a little over a year ago, Chris Hedges — another of my intellectual heroes — tells us exactly what academia has become. It is a devastating critique, and it is absolutely on the money. Read it if you dare: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_perversion_of_scholarship_20120730/.

On the afternoon after reading Hedges’ column, I chanced to encounter a student-led brag session held for prospective OU students who were being conducted on a campus tour in 110-degree heat: an exercise in cheerleading and perception management. I tarried (and loitered) long enough to listen to the student “orientation leader” — a football player — paint our supposedly great institution in what he must have imagined to be glowing terms. He spoke of his positive experiences over the past three years: the social clubs, the dances, the camaraderie, the free movies, the games, the pep rallies and tailgate parties… and not a single word about the mind-opening, life-changing things he’d learned in the classes he’d taken. He led them in an impromptu singing of “Boomer Sooner.” That’s what academia has become. I make my living in that milieu. It’s making me sick: I think I have to leave it — an awareness the arrival of which tails Guy’s by a good number of years — and I don’t know how I will earn a living if I do. Again, I encourage you to read that column by Chris Hedges: he says much more clearly than I can, what I want to scream at the top of my lungs.

Those who have followed me on Facebook — especially many of my former students and colleagues — have noticed and commented on a kind of downward trajectory in my posts over the past few years: a tone of voice that has become and is becoming increasingly morose. There’s a lot of truth in that perception: I don’t think there’s a shred of optimism left in me, except for the possibility that I still entertain, that good efforts made now may yield fruit in a far distant future that I cannot begin to imagine and certainly will not live to see. That’s the main reason I’ve continued to teach, even as it’s become increasingly apparent that my best efforts are mostly wasted — and worse, that I am thus to a degree complicit in the Higher Ed scam. But I keep on teaching because it seems to me the right thing to do. I can only hope that at least a few others are similarly motivated (and I know that they are — but they are vanishingly few in number).

Teaching is no longer the joy for me that it once was: most of my students are openly scornful of my efforts and resentful of the assignments I give them. They see me as a dinosaur with outlandish, antiquated ideas and unreasonable expectations, an obstacle to their enjoyment of their “experience.” My assignments cut into their social life. Despite repeated admonitions, they persist in “texting” their friends during my lectures and sleeping during the films I show them: wonderful, vibrant, thought-provoking films about Gypsy music, African polymetric drumming, and the art of Andy Goldsworthy. The message they send is unmistakable: culture is bunk, and they can’t wait to be finished with this onerous academic requirement, and if they don’t get an “A” it will be my fault and I’ll have ruined their lives. Most of them write like kindergartners, and are not — apparently — bothered by that fact. If I were a religious man, I’d thank “God” for the exceptions, of which there seem to be fewer each semester.

The collapse of western culture will ultimately be a collapse of money and infrastructure, but it is being led by a collapse of the human spirit. The infrastructure collapse will nevertheless be spectacular, and it’s going to be shocking and horrifying to a great many people who are unprepared for it and who resist any attempt to raise consciousness about its looming inevitability. Do you remember that awful day not long ago when the northern part of India experienced a widespread failure of the electrical grid that left 370,000,000 people without power in sweltering heat? That’s more than the combined populations of the United States and Canada. The following day, a more extensive grid failure left 800,000,000 people in the dark. That wasn’t a one-time, fluke event: that’s India’s future. Moreover, it’s our future — and it won’t be long in coming. We’ve become far more vulnerable than most people realize: dependent on a fragile infrastructure that is crumbling on account of a slow-motion economic collapse and the “deferred maintenance” that always characterizes such general declines. Needless to say, the OU College of Business has nothing to say about any of this. Future historians (if any) will have much to say about the economic/infrastructure collapse of the west: that will be easy to document. What will be open to interpretation, and the subject of heated debate, is why we let things get to such a state. In answering that question, such writers as Berman, Chomsky and Hedges are our best guides. We ought to be reading them and paying attention. I can only hope that their insights will be preserved for future generations to discover and to learn from: I would like to think that our distant heirs will notice our mistakes — and the penalties they incur — and avoid them.

What will my “students” do when they discover that their laptop screens are blank? What will fundamentalist Christian propagandists do, when they no longer have the internet and television available to them as vehicles for the spreading of their hatred and paranoia? Will they find community? It seems to me doubtful: they seem to have the instincts of cannibals, and cannibals do not make welcome neighbors.

I don’t have a lot to add to what such insightful commentators as Berman, Chomsky and Hedges have already contributed. But I’d like to take a shot at saying in my own words, what I think will be necessary in order for the human species to survive in any condition that would be worth living in, and also offer a few words about how I see my own role, in whatever years are left to me, in preparing for a better human future.

I want to talk specifically about the role that I think religion will need to play, in a sustainable world in which human happiness is actually possible. In light of the overtly confrontational, no-holds-barred approach to religious fundamentalism that it’s been my habit to take for the past several decades, some of the things I’m about to say seem surprising even to myself.

My complete lack of belief notwithstanding, I’m not a very good atheist and never have been. I have a deeply religious bent. I respond to the world in a way that could only be called “worshipful.” My respect for life is such as would strike most “practical” persons as weird and unhealthy. I cannot — and never have been able to — bring myself to kill a spider, a scorpion, a wasp or a pit viper: it would never occur to me to do such a thing. Ever since I was a small child, and continuing without exception to this day, I have had a profound and unshakeable sense of the sacredness of life, of the magic of the world. And when I read the religious philosophy of the Ewe people who live around the mouth of the Niger River, I find myself in full agreement:

“ … (T)he sea, the lagoon, the rivers, streams, animals, birds and reptiles, as well as the earth with its natural and artificial protuberances, are worshiped as divine, or as the abode of divinities.” (This is a quote from an obscure and otherwise deadly ethnomusicological monograph.)

This instinct is very familiar to me, and has never been easy to square with my declared atheism: I see the divine all around me. I’m by temperament a pantheist if ever there was one. I cannot rid myself of the notion that the entire cosmos is somehow alive — possessing a consciousness (or being a consciousness) that has nothing to do with nervous systems, but likewise has nothing to do with “souls” or “vital forces” or any of that other snake-oil crap that preachers have peddled: a consciousness that is perhaps the essence of the fundamental forces of the cosmos — e.g. the “enjoyment” (I can’t think of any other word) that an electron “feels” when it jumps from a lower energy state to a higher one. Before you dismiss this as mushy-headedness, consider: at what point do you draw the line, where consciousness is concerned? Is a kingfisher conscious? How about a sunfish? What about a starfish? A coral polyp? A honeybee? An amoeba? A bacterium? A virus? A carbonate molecule coming out of solution as it contributes itself to a growing calcite crystal? Did you arbitrarily draw the line between those last two? Why not between the bacterium and the virus, which resemble each other even less than the virus and the carbonate molecule resemble each other? Or have you been unable to draw the line yet? If so, how much farther down into the submicroscopic world would we need to go before you could draw that line with any confidence?

And it goes the other way as well: if a honeybee is conscious, how about the entire hive? The entire anthill, termite colony, school of fish or flock of birds? The city of Paris? European civilization? Human civilization? How about the entire terrestrial/oceanic/atmospheric biosphere? Can you say for certain that the ocean doesn’t enjoy the experience of having its tides raised by the pull of the moon? Can you imagine what it “feels like” to the ocean, to be drawn by the moon? Or is the ocean somehow “reaching for” the moon, as trees stretch themselves toward the sun? Do you know for certain that the earth doesn’t in some sense “love” the star it orbits? (Is gravitational attraction a type of love?) How about the “feeling” of that star for that vast community of stars of which it is a member?

I realize that by writing the foregoing I’ve diluted the meaning of “consciousness” to the point of uselessness, so long as we insist on being reductive about it. But perhaps my whole point is, our tendency to reductionism — our hard-headed, “practical” way of viewing the world (even among those who paradoxically also entertain notions of a deity who intervenes in the affairs of men) — has not served us well. At the very least, an evil impulse has overtaken and co-opted it, turning our sciences into means for commodifying the planet and stripping it of both its “resources” and its sanctity.

Consider: if the world’s rivers behave somewhat as a circulatory system behaves (and the parallels could be drawn on many levels), what does it mean that we’ve dammed all the major rivers somewhere along their way? Isn’t it as though we’ve clogged the arteries of the planet? How could that possibly turn out well? Ask the salmon, or any number of other species that are being driven (or have been driven) extinct on account of it.

The industrial misadventure that was born of the unholy alliance between our sciences and our commodifying instinct is rapidly undoing us: we have driven the inauguration of a new geologic period — the Anthropocene — whose outcome will be nothing less than a sixth great planetary mass extinction (which will in all probability include us), comparable to such debacles as the close-Permian extinction that wiped out over 90% of marine species and over 70% of landlubbers about 251 million years ago, and the much later close-Cretaceous extinction that took out the dinosaurs and ammonites. This will be the first time in our planet’s history when such an extinction event will have been caused by a single species — a conscious species, some of whose members recognized what we were doing but were powerless to stop it or too indifferent or demoralized to try.

As Guy has noted, we currently drive about 200 species to extinction per day. That’s nothing short of horrifying. That’s well over ten times the background rate of extinction, and such a high rate of extinction has happened only a few times in the history of our planet. We’re not the crown jewel of creation: we’re the next fucking asteroid.

Now, if we (and by “we,” I mean humanity in the aggregate) all held the same views that the Ewe hold, we wouldn’t be able to do about 99% of the things that we do on an average day: they would be unthinkable to us. Blasting open the skin of the Great Mother in order to mine coal, copper and tar sands would be considered an outrageous proposition. Subjecting her epidermis to hydraulic fracturing in order to make her fart methane would seem utterly perverse. Poking long bore holes into her back in order to pump out vadose water and those (wisely and mercifully) sequestered hydrocarbons we insist on setting on fire would seem like the work of madmen, behaving like blood-sucking insects with lifespans measured in hours. Yet we depend on these questionable and ultimately ruinous practices in order to keep cranking out and powering all those gizmos and gadgets that we’ve come to accept as normal, desirable and even indispensable. Our behavior is like that of addicts, and our addictions are killing everything. I wish people understood the world as the Ewe do. It’s the way I have always seen the world, and the cognitive dissonance of my life is coming rapidly to a head: my continued participation in this industrial/corporate/killing-machine horror, this life-destroying juggernaut we’ve turned loose on the world, is something that I cannot justify, and from which I believe I will soon have to withdraw if I am to retain any sense of self-worth.

I want to return once again to that religious view of the Ewe: I believe that it is the only worldview that can finally save us. Paradoxically, it is an ancient worldview that was once universal, but that has been drowned out by the siren song of civilization. It will have to be recovered. And I don’t know how that will ever be possible. It is utterly incompatible with the civilization we have built and the culture of death that we have embraced.

One of the things that stands in its way is religion itself: specifically, the Abrahamic faiths; and most especially their fundamentalist fringes. Fundamentalist religion is the enemy of all that is good and true and — yes — holy. Science is no threat to the religious worldview of the Ewe, nor is the reverse true. Just imagine what sciences informed by such reverence, by such a care and concern for all that exists — and religion that embraces the scientific method and revels in the discoveries that the method makes possible — could contribute to the wellbeing of all conscious creatures, human and otherwise! But in a world where fundamentalism has such a purchase as it has in ours — defines religion for so many (as it often does for many atheists, in fact) — such a benign, beneficial “religion” as that of the Ewe is unlikely to gain many adherents. Fundamentalism has balkanized us this way: it has created such a climate of animosity and distrust that those who are scientifically-inclined tend to dismiss any mystical tendencies (a term I use with some trepidation) as unworthy of consideration, to be consigned to the same scrapheap as the drivel that emanates from the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra (who should certainly marry so that she can call herself Oprah Chopra). I wish it were possible to make it much clearer that this is not the kind of thing I’m talking about. I’m talking about something that Albert Schweitzer called “reverence for life,” and I’m inclined to extend the definition of “life” so as to include the whole cosmos, top to bottom. For me it is a religious experience: I don’t know any other way to put it.

During my long, tortuous journey out of the fundamentalist Christian faith in which I had the dubious fortune to be planted at birth, there was a time when I entertained thoughts of becoming an Episcopal priest. Here is how I saw things: civilization is rudderless, and is about to founder on the rocks. We are in sore need of guidance, and that guidance must come from our humane instincts, which we have largely stifled in order to be able to play a role in the civilization that has dehumanized us. Unless those humane instincts can be recovered and experienced as deeply — and applied as broadly — as what’s implied in the Ewe religious philosophy I quoted above, they will not suffice: humanity will remain anthropocentric, which is the worst mistake of all. The Ewe see themselves as integrated into the world: they cannot imagine the world as something different from and apart from themselves; this is the essence of numinous experience, an apprehension of the divinity of it all. Needless to say, that is not our view: we in the west are completely anthropocentric, and that myopic view is destroying us. I thought, given the liberalizing trends in the Episcopal Church over the past forty years or so, such an institution might actually be able to do some good in the world, by gradually adopting and encouraging a much larger and more loving view of the world. After all, Episcopalians generally seem to have no doubt that evolution happens, and an evolutionary understanding of life certainly reveals the kinship of all life: an anthropocentric view is impossible to sustain in the light of such understanding. But despite my hopes, I gradually came to accept the fact that Christianity (including the Anglican kind) is simply not amenable to such an enlarged worldview. Christianity is fundamentally anthropocentric: every one of its doctrines assumes the centrality of humans in the divine plan. It is thus a vastly inferior view of the world from that of the Ewe, and also that of the sciences (which likewise repudiate anthropocentrism). That’s why I finally left: I saw it as a hopeless proposition.

Nowadays, the people I’m likely to engage in heated conversations on Facebook are not Anglicans: they’re Christian fundamentalists. I’ve got a real problem with the pathology that has parasitized their brains. That’s absolutely toxic stuff: it’s the enemy of all that lives. It pretends to be “pro-life,” but everything about it trumpets the very opposite. Christian fundamentalism is a cult of death. It is a real and horrible evil. It transforms human beings into mindless automatons. It robs them of life and joy. It turns people into murderers of the mind and of the planet.

Such “religion” has no place in a better world. If a better world does someday come about, it will be because Christian fundamentalism has finally been consigned to the ash heap of history, along with the cults of human sacrifice that flourished in Mesoamerica a thousand years ago, and other such life-hating, child-destroying grotesqueries.

I don’t yet fully understand what my role ought to be, in promulgating such a revised (or recovered) view of the world, but I’ve sadly come to the conclusion that “social networking” is not the way to go. I can’t see that I’ve made the world a better place — that is, more humane, decent, kind, loving, caring, respectful — by my activities on Facebook. Sadly, I suspect I’ve had the opposite effect: continually tormenting the rattlesnake without any good outcome to show for it, making the rattlesnake meaner by the minute. That cannot possibly serve the ends I wish to see.

So I’ve concluded that it’s probably better that I take my leave of an electronic “community” that — if it exists at all, is certainly the strangest “community” that’s ever existed — and try to find a better way; and that conclusion may well be extensible to the way I make my living. Morris Berman describes a “monastic option,” a way of living that preserves that which is about to be lost, keeping it whole and safe (even if misunderstood) through a time of darkness so that it may be rediscovered later — much as the wisdom of classical Greece was kept alive after the fall of the Roman empire by people who had no idea what it meant. I think I have to find a way to become a participant — a citizen — in that tradition, or my life will ultimately have had no meaning.


McPherson’s final essay in a seven-part series was published 7 September 2013 by The Good Men Project: Questioning Culture: The Absurdity of Authenticity.

Independent filmmaker Pauline Schneider is creating a documentary film. A short clip of this work in progress is embedded below.

Comments 141

  • “…it’s like looking into your child’s eyes and saying to them ‘You mean nothing’

    No one would say that to a child except the Wicked Witch of the West and a few of the regular posters hear at NBL. :>)

  • John Glover

    The child is you, or me, or anyone many years earlier. Who would say it? Someone who had lost their sense of ‘Self’ perhaps?

    Just Sayin.

  • @ John Glover

    Hahaha, Wanna name names ? ;-)

    Just found this on NC, I think it sums up NBL rather well, I dedicate it to Rob @ the Public Library

  • Hey Ozman: What’s going on down under?


    Southern Australia is being rattled by hundreds of quakes- and scientists aren’t sure why

    September 10, 2013 – AUSTRALIA – Scientists in Victoria are attempting to learn more about the increase in the number of earthquakes in the Gippsland region. Seismologists are describing the region as an earthquake hotspot. There were only 50 earthquakes recorded up until 2009, but since then there have been 700. The activity has been particularly high in the Strzelecki Ranges which lie between the Latrobe Valley and the Gippsland coastline. Locals have been intrigued by the tremors for years. Gary Gibson from the University of Melbourne says the motion in Gippsland is high. “There are other spots that are active for a period of time but they’re active for a geologically short period, maybe 100,000 years or something and they go quiet. And they’ve got no long term evidence of continued motion,” he said. “Whereas the motion in Gippsland here, the rate of earthquake activity we have at the moment is high. The geology suggests that the average over the last few million years is probably even higher.” There are eight seismographs planted in the ground along fault lines meters below the surface around Gippsland to monitor the tremors. They are so sensitive that they can record the vibrations of approaching footsteps. One of them is on Neville Cliff’s beef farm. “We’ve had some good earthquakes come through here. You can hear them coming. It’s like an express train coming and the house shakes,” he said. “How many farmers got a seismograph? People tell me how many cattle they’ve got and how many acres they’ve got and I say well have you got a seismograph?”

    Honors student Dan Sandiford recently finished a study on the seismic activity of areas with fractures in the rock bed, called faults. He looked at whether the activity was related to faults in the Gippsland area. “The question really is, are those faults still active? Are the earthquakes that are happening and have been recorded here in the modern era related to those faults? The study suggested that those earthquakes did happen on faults and those faults are some of the largest ones which are known in the area,” he said. Gary Gibson says it is hoped the research will have some impact on building regulations in the area. “One of the problems with living in an inactive area is firstly that your building standards don’t take serious consideration of the type of earthquake that is going to affect us,” he said. “The way you try and avoid problems with earthquakes is you don’t want buildings to collapse under any circumstances so they have to be designed to withstand it.” –ABC.net

    @muffleupagus: i’m not paranoid. You’re just unconcerned. How can you possibly say that all the nuclear energy from all sources would be minimal when it’s already having significant effects on the environment and the people of Japan (there’s also Radchick’s website where people send in the plant and other mutations they’re finding on the ground). I think talking to you is pointless. Keep your head in the sand and have a great life.

  • Have you been misled by your supposed “Leaders”?

    And why do you want to kill yourself for them?

    Which side are you on Tammy? ….

    “Stand Up if You Are Opposed to This War! “Which Side Are You On! to Sen Tammy Baldwin Anti-War Protest At Fighting Bob 2013 9.7.13 #Syria”

    A last HURRAH! for the little people that don’t count – a double standard for all!

    Kill yourself and support the War Machine!

  • “Our shared Progressive values”….

    Penn And Teller Get People To Sign Water Banning Petition

    “Our shared Progressive values in Washington!”

  • @ ulvfugl Thanks for, per usual, seeing my meaning — and extending it to the universal whole. Super.

    @ TIAA Thanks for the thanks. We’ve shed too many tears already, too much mournful blood, how about… lets try out peace for a change… heck, just to see what happens. Could be fun. More on that score:

    @ Kathy Cassandra The cooperation within ecosystems that I was talking about isn’t limited to familiars within species… there is a total cooperation that is the dynamic web of life. That cooperation is threatened by aggressively consumptive self absorbed competitive lifestyles which are driving extinction and tearing the cooperative web of life, and human communities and cultures, apart. Belligerence and violence towards peaceful cooperation is the hallmark of hierarchical domineering capitalism. There is a hateful, racist, fundamentalist aspect to it that is shameful and crude, which shrouds itself in sick shady denial. It is downright stupid — killing the ecosystems kills us.

    While it may be natural for predators to kill and shed blood, they are only a small portion of the total biomass. Imagine a massive herd of large predators, killing everything in their path – how long could it go on? Is there any way for it to be sustainable over the long term? Of course not. No species ever sustained themselves for the long haul on that impossible ecological strategy. Predators, by their very nature are rare and don’t live in large herds.

    Yet there is a wholly unbalanced emphasis upon ‘sleek’ predators in the corporate, private ownership, 1%, domineering, oppressive, waste it all, predatory mass media. There is an untoward fascination with blood and gore and torture and imposing punishment and suffering and dominance in industrial civilization. It is driven by greedy conquest for the few and lack of compassion for all the rest — who are supposed to worship and grovel below the foot prints of the rich and famous. Red in Tooth and Claw is driven by war mongering and callous war profiteering. Hitler loved it, the adolescent bastard. (and no, he was not a vegetarian — that was just a twist of propaganda, yet some 68 years later… people still believe it! Even the esteemed N.Y. Times had to do a retraction a few years ago.) The predatory death culture is furthered by those who get cheap thrills from satisfying their own misguided unfortunate unhealthy blood lust addiction. Get kicked…? kick the dog — or beat the wife and/or the kids too. Exploit the poor family down the road or across the sea.

    Such behavior doesn’t befit human grace or intellect. It does not further the pursuit of happiness. It lowers human society to a brutal state that’s natural and normal for hyenas, lions and wolves… but we are humans. That which is normal for predators expresses as low brutality in humans. A regression to the reptilian mind. We should not be looking to predators and scavengers for examples to emulate. We should be seeking a more honorable, peaceable way that is better for us and for the Earth.

    Indeed there are those who do not eat meat – dead or alive. As I guess you know from this blog, I have been totally vegan for about 40 years. It has improved my outlook on life and my health – immensely. It has changed the way I feel about my fellow Earthlings… all Earthlings. It has drastically reduced my environmental impact. To any honest thinking person there is a very clear difference between the sentience of a cow and a carrot, but flesh vendor propaganda feeds bizarre rationalizations which feed long embedded, emotionally rooted habits instilled, even imposed, at a tender age. It is very difficult to see things from a fresh perspective without actually going there and trying it.

  • Great piece! I agree wholeheartedly about the sacredness of all things, living and mineral, the harm that the Abrahamic religions have promulgated on the living planet and all it’s creatures (Protestant lack of Ethic helped with destroying the planet too), and the abject failure of our educational institutions/prisons.

    But if you leave the virtual world, how will you continue to find your tribal members? Find likeminded people like Guy, some of the readers here, or teachers like me who are floundering in a world that teaches our youth to obey but not to learn? How will we find you to reach out to you to hatch ideas of how we can try to turn the tide together, even a little bit? Maybe even toss a few star fish (students) back into the water?

    I found my tribe through social networking, and I’ll never look back. They are my support group, my friends, my sisters and brothers, my wing people, my back up, and my shoulders to cry on. I’m am always amazed and grateful for finding them. You know, you can’t choose your blood, and you rarely can choose your neighbors, but you can choose your friends and kindred spirits…. If you can find them.

  • But if you leave the virtual world, how will you continue to find your tribal members?

    It is the same light everywhere, just a difference in the windows that let it through. It includes the non-human windows, like the ones that entered the Ark:
    The elephant chewing a caraway bun
    The rhinoceros and the kangaroo
    The bear, the flea and the bumblebee
    Etc. (From “One more river of Jordan”)
    To recognise it as such one’s sight has also to be completely unclouded. In which case one will oneself be a perfectly clear window. They all are one’s tribal members once one recognises that it is the same light coming through each and every one.

    What do two Buddhas talk about when they meet? Perfectly ordinary things. Extraordinarily ordinary.

  • @Robin Datta
    Re: Albert Allen Bartlett

    From your referenced article:

    “He was preceded in death by his wife, Eleanor, and is survived by daughters Carol, Jane, Lois and Nancy.”

    Apparently Albert Allen Bartlett did not practice what he preached.


    Another outstanding post. Thank you for that.

    Happy nineoneone everybody. crusaderbunnypants and the penguin’s finest moment.

  • With thanks to David Goza for his contribution, I’ve posted a new essay. It’s here.

  • …about the same as looking into a child’s eyes and saying “Santa Clause is coming tonight.”

    Do I believe Venus is the evening star because it orbits the Sun closely such that we cannot see it once the Earth has turned sufficiently away from the Sun? Sure, I can believe that, but I do not KNOW it. For all I know, some crazy alien is up there with a big flashlight.

    I’m totally comfortable going to my death knowing I don’t know.

    One moment you’re bright and lively,
    The next you’re crawling with worms.
    Fate is a terrible villain
    And you, my friend, its poor victim.

    I want knowledge, not faith, not suppositions,
    but knowledge. I want God to stretch out His
    hand towards me, reveal Himself and speak to

    But He remains silent.

    I call out to Him in the dark but no one seems
    to be there.

    Perhaps no one is there.

    Then life is an outrageous horror. No one can
    live in the face of death, knowing that all is

    Most people never reflect about either death or
    the futility of life.

    But one day they will have to stand at that
    last moment of life and look towards the

    When that day comes …

    In our fear, we make an image, and that image
    we call God.

    You are worrying …

    Death visited me this morning. We are playing
    chess together. This reprieve gives me the
    chance to arrange an urgent matter.

    What matter is that?

    My life has been a futile pursuit, a wandering,
    a great deal of talk without meaning. I feel no
    bitterness or self-reproach because the lives
    of most people are very much like this. But I
    will use my reprieve for one meaningful deed.

  • @ogardener

    Re: Albert Allen Bartlett

    His daughters were probably born in the 1940s or 1950s. I would cut him some slack.

  • Logspirit, every time a tree shades out undergrowth it is competing for the resources of sunlight, nutrients, and water. Strangler figs kill the trees the climb up on to get to the sunlight. However one self replicator prevents another from getting resources is a form of competition.

    The balance of nature looks like the whole cooperating. When the wolf keeps the deer from overpopulating you could say they are cooperating for the benefit of all. But the deer and the wolf are not cooperating, the deer is running and the wolf if successful is eating.

    However perhaps the best way we humans could cooperate to save our species is for all of us in the west who have at least enough money to own a computer to commit suicide and ask for our meat to be sent to starving people who don’t do as much damage to the planet.

    If you accept that that idea would be cooperation, I will accept that the deer and wolf are cooperating with the plants to make sure the plants are all eaten up by too many deer. Surely the deer lays down its life to the cooperating deer for the sake of the ecosystem?

    Rob at the library, keep on posting! “Wake, eat, poop, sleep. Repeat.” Yep and after enough cycles, die and feed worms.

    U – I know better than to start responding to your comments to me.

    Btd – another great limerick – you seem to be an inexhaustible source. Thank the good dog or I might depress myself instead of facing extinction with a laugh and a smile.

    John Glover Says: “…it’s like looking into your child’s eyes and saying to them ‘You mean nothing’”

    No one would say that to a child except the Wicked Witch of the West and a few of the regular posters hear at NBL. :>)

    When I look into a child’s eyes, I see a human that is going to have to die. Since they are already living they mean something – to their parents, their grandparents, themselves etc. That is little m meaning. MEANING is something else and is a fiction invented by people who can’t face death. The numbers on my thermometer means I turn on the fans or turn them off depending on whether outside or inside is cooler. The workings of my car recently meant that my idle was stuck and had I paid more attention to that meaning I might not have lost my breaks from fighting the idle. How it was acting should have meant GET THIS TO THE MECHANIC NOW.

    The unborn in some sense have no meaning, only potential meaning. Once they are born their birth means they will die. It also means they will use resources, perhaps bring some more unborn to life. Their lives will add to overpopulation. They may have loving parents to whom they mean something. They may have poor parents to whom they mean possible income by selling into sex slavery.

    I advocate for the unborn to remain unborn so that they do not enter a world in which they will suffer greatly and die early. That means I care about children. Anyone who cares about children would not want them to suffer and collapse will mean terrible suffering for the children.

    My own children and grandchildren have special meaning to me. I wish collapse didn’t mean what it will mean for them. I wish I could have seen what was coming and not procreated those many years ago. But that doesn’t mean that these individuals who exist have no meaning to me.

  • Dear All:

    Thanks to all of you for your comments on my attempt to put into words the things that claw at my heart. It takes me so long to read your responses (owing both to my snail’s-pace approach to reading and to an intermittent internet connection) that I have not replied in the manner they deserve. I will try to sum up a few things, and in all probability this will be my last posting in this particular thread.

    When I read back through my own written work, I often find it to teeter on the brink of incoherence, largely because the specter of NTE is so overwhelming and soul-corroding that clear-headedness is simply more than I can muster. Not only do my twenty-something students look back at me five classroom hours per week: I have also (gasp!) reproduced, and the fruit of my loins is a 29-year-old young man who is far more talented, wise and decent than I have ever been. I’ve had my 63 years, and I wish with all my heart that he might have his, should he want them. When I stare into the void, it is *his* truncated life that stares back at me.

    I recognize and fully own the fact that I’m as susceptible to confirmation bias as anyone, and as vulnerable to hopium. But with hundreds of students in their early twenties, and a son who’s not yet completed his third decade of life, how could I be otherwise?

    *Of course* I hear the fat lady warming up, and she’s in fine voice tonight. I can only hope that she turns an ankle on her way to the stage. It has happened before; perhaps it will happen again. The same asteroid that killed off the big carnivores of the late Cretaceous also cleared the way for us. Attempts to predict the future with any degree of certainty have always ended up looking a little foolish. Even while knowing how ineffectual it is to cross one’s fingers, I find mine chronically crossed.

    I wish you all the best. I really do value this cyber-community, and intend to stick with it long after I retire from Facebook.


  • @David Goza, I read through your post twice. During the first reading I was sympathetic all the way. At one point in my life, one of the various time-killers I walked away from was a gig teaching night school for a few semesters, so I have an inkling of what instructors are put through although I am sure it is worse now than it was 10-15 years ago.

    On my second reading, though, my sympathy dwindled as it dawned upon me how absurd a situation it is that you have regarded as normative: that young people sit still in a room to learn about Other People’s Cultures as artifacts and be graded upon it. This isn’t “culture”; it’s the opposite of culture. All the raw material that Americans use for such coursework is something done better first under more natural circumstances by its originators.

    It seems as though it’s desirous for American children to study other cultures largely because we have no real shared ongoing culture of our own that is worth studying or propagating (other than commercial culture, which is energetically developed and propagated via advertising and other media). This is another of the bizarre one-time conditions generated via our huge surplus of fossil-fuel energy.

    In other words, historically Japanese people would study HOW TO DO Japanese painting, calligraphy, music and other indigenous forms of craft and art. In America, we have decided that meta-knowledge is better than direct knowledge; that we’re going to just sit around and analyse what OTHER PEOPLE KNOW HOW TO DO, rather than actually doing anything ourselves. I think ‘educators’ are blind to how pointless and vapid their offerings actually are. I also think the students, even those as young as six or eight, know that schooling is a boondoggle and is preventing them from doing rather than helping them become autonomous or even merely useful. Between the lines, our education system !screams! how little we think of our children and how little we regard them (or ourselves) as active and productive contributors to a shared society or community.

    This development is perfectly in line with all of the other activities in modern life which have ceased to function: the medical system which doesn’t heal, the food systems which give us poisons, etc. Everything has become an end to something other than promised, by now. So it’s really not any wonder that kids are barely going through the motions… our whole society, from the President, Congress and Supreme Court right on down to the cashier at Burger King has already decided that merely going through the motions is the Rule of the Day and younger generations have gotten that message loud and clear.

    Whether we’ve chosen to be inauthentic out of laziness, or whether commercialization of any spark of originality has squashed authenticity right out of us, I can’t say. But all I know is that the architects who design crappy rectangles don’t want to live in them, as a rule; they want to live in the old loft building or the de-sanctified church or the Craftsman-era bungalow, but then they go right back out when they wake up and design another crappy box. Most of modern society finds itself occupied MAKING A LOT OF THINGS THAT IT DOESN’T ACTUALLY WANT, it appears to me. So it’s no wonder we have lost our way ‘spiritually’ (in the non supernatural sense) and otherwise.

    I can’t really address your comments on religion other than to say that what you call “worship” towards nature or other creatures I would identify in myself as “respect”. We don’t need to worship nature but we do need to respect it. It’s this loss of ALL CONCEPT of respect which modern industrial society has accelerated, including SELF-RESPECT.

    Best of luck in your monastic pursuits. Have you decided what you are going to focus on preserving, as far as it goes?

    As to

  • Dear Gail, I do not feel I am saving the planet, I know the planet is saving me. Always it has saved me. Always. It is there for me moment to moment, never missing a beat. It is a sharing living being not a cannibalistic darkness for you to analyze. There may be little difference between us as I decide in all futility to fight on and you decide the fight is over, dead over, leaving us both still culpible as you note, we shall see. No doubt you owe it a debt that cannot be payed in your lifetime and will not be paid. I do not know why our sacred link to this being becomes so diminished that we can no longer be aware. But proof of existence of diminishment in you and many others is undeniable. The ultimate of all non-linear feedback loops dooming us all, and though the planet gives eternally you will not now give one iota in return and seem to do nothing but wish the giving body finally be raped of life giving power. So your analysis death, destruction and misery can end, can be true and final. This need to be right, even when we agree nature is proving us dead wrong, is the root of all human wrong. Surrenduring to a greater truth which allows us allegiance back into the tribe of nature, a war we are losing. But I do not blame you for what you believe. Not a chosen belief, but perhaps instead a forced one, believe me, I get it then.

    I stand to give testament with many that there is more than what you see, how is it you discount us so?

  • @Tom

    Well then you can add reading comprehension dysfunction in addition to paranoia. I voiced my concern regarding fuku initially. I then said that after being concerned enough to pour through a ton of data, I concluded most of the alternative news sources were lying through their teeth, and paranoid idiots were buying the nonsense.

    Nowhere did I say that this wasn’t a local or regional issue. What I attempted to convey is that it’s essentially a non issue compared to the rest of the problems we’re facing right now.

    Compared to the global health problems going on right now, fuku is barely on the radar. You lack perspective.

  • @ ogardener

    Happy nineoneone everybody. crusaderbunnypants and the penguin’s finest moment.


    @ Rob at the Public Library

    Hahaha, you’re like the proverbial drunk looking for his car keys under the streetlight, not where he dropped them…

    If you look in the wrong way in the wrong place, you don’t find what you’re seeking.

    You don’t look outwards towards Venus, you look inwards, inside yourself.

    ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is within you’ blahblah, etc.

    Look, I’m not trying to convert you or persuade you, just trying to explain something.

    In our fear, we make an image, and that image we call God.

    But that is infantile theology. I know that the peculiar and corrupt version of Christianity that prevails in USA and some other places, has that notion of a Father Christmas / Zeus type Super Daddy deity, who sits on a cloud somewhere, that has been sold to the masses by unscrupulous men. But I hope you are not seriously suggesting that intelligent educated people have not followed that line of thought, dismissed it, and gone far, far beyond it, centuries ago ?

    Einstein called it ‘cosmic religious feeling ‘ :

    I shall call it cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to elucidate this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.
    The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear at an early stage of development, e.g., in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learned especially from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer, contains a much stronger element of this.
    The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.
    How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a God and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.


    I’m not a Christian or a Jew or a Moslem, so I don’t make any image, any mental conception, of a God, in the sense that you are talking about, the whole premise appears nonsensical from my perspective.

    My life has been a futile pursuit, a wandering,
    a great deal of talk without meaning. I feel no
    bitterness or self-reproach because the lives
    of most people are very much like this.

    Yes, but I FOUND what I was looking for…. :-)

    THAT is the difference between us. It wasn’t easy, it took a LOT of digging, through a LOT of shit, because 90% of everything these days is garbage, and maybe I was lucky…. and now, here on NBL, various people have said, ‘Well, if zen makes you like ulvfugl, I don’t want anything to do with it’ blahblah, etc. But that’s missing the point, because I wasn’t looking for something that made ME into a PERFECT PERSON, an example for the world of MORAL rectitude, was I, and I don’t stand up and say to everybody ‘BE LIKE ME’. I DON’T CARE what anybody ELSE does, its none of my business.

    I was looking for the truth that Gurdjieff had, that the Indian yogis found, that the Buddha found, and then when I’d sorted that, I went looking for the truth that the Taoists had found, and all this stuff is entirely different to the whole Judaeo-Christian Biblical worldview, so different it’s hard to find any common ground at all….

    Most institutionalised religions are belief systems designed to socialize humans so that they can fit into a structured heirarchical civilised way of life. This has been going on since Sumer, at least.

    And of course, as we all know, from our personal lives, the imposition of education and work and policing and conformity to regulations and so forth does not sit very well with a primate designed over a million years or so to live under much looser conditions, so there’s an inevitable amount of trauma and distress involved, and religions and psychotherapies attempt to cater to that damage and help people to ‘adjust’.

    I’m really not at all interested in ‘adjusting’. If anything, given NTE, I’m interested in re-wilding. Monbiot has done a book on re-wilding the land. I suppose it’s what he sees as what’s possible, given the political limits, but he conceives of civilisation remaining intact much as it is, which seems absurd to me, have your cake and eat it too.

    But what about re-wilding the head and heart ? I don’t mean your idea, Rob, that we cannibalize our neighbours, I don’t mean Lord of the Flies, I don’t mean barbarism, I mean throwing out the cultural conditioning. This would be entirely in tune with zen and taoist teachings.

    As a meditative technique, for examlpe, you close your eyes, go inside yourself, and discard everything that is to do with the life you had since you were born, that has come from the soceity you were born into, and find what remains, that was given by nature. Taoist teachers have been talking about that stuff for two thousand years.

    It’s not about being ‘good’, it’s about being ‘natural’, in the same way that wild animals are true to themselves and their natures. Some people here think that human nature is basically horrible, but that has not been the taoist experience at all. What is horrible is the corrupted and distorted version.

  • @ Kathy C.

    U – I know better than to start responding to your comments to me.

    I was attempting to elevate the level of your thinking. To conceive of life as if it was confined to your backyard would be silly, I’m sure you’d agree.

    So, why is it sensible to conceive of life as confined to this planet, excluding the Sun and all the rest of the Universe ? Makes no sense.

    But you’re quite right not to respond, because I’d shortly be drawing attention to a host of anomalies in your worldview which would annoy you, such as the photons that permit you to see what’s in front of you, having the peculiar property of being able to be in two places at once, etc, which, as I see it, makes a nonsense of your materialist conception of reality.

    If MEANING is a fiction, then so is NO MEANING equally a fiction. You can’t have it both ways. You tell the story and say it is meaningless. Others tell their version and find it rich and brimming with meaning, everywhere they look.


    From way back up the thread,

    @ Gail

    “the really important question I ask myself isn’t whether there is some meaning or intent or consciousness in the universe, but what it is about the human brain that makes us want to believe there is – and to invent religions and meaning and intent and consciousness of whatever flavor; they are essentially all the same. They all tell stories about who we are that fly in the face of reality.”

    @ Artleads

    What reality? And how do you know it is there?

    This I think is the crux of the matter.

    People who think like Gail tell themselves a story that says there is some sort of solid objective reality, independent of themselves, and they construct that reality accordingly ( in their brains / minds ).

    People who think like Artleads, accept that all realities and meanings are constructed by our minds, and claim that Gail’s independent objective reality is an illusion.

    That is, it is imaginary, a mental model, a construction, an abstraction, and thus no more ‘real’ than other mental models, such as Heaven, or King Arthur’s Camelot, or Atlantis, or anything else which the mind can conceive of as having an existence external to one’s self and a locality in space and time.

    Remember, this has nothing to do with how many people share a particular view. Whether it’s correct or not isn’t decided by vote, or what we’d like or prefer. What we want is the truth. The truth may be that there isn’t a truth to be got, hahaha, but it’s interesting to try…

    The two positions are political, ideological, as well as epistemological and ontological, and difficult to see how they can be reconciled.

    You see, Gail and the supporters of her perspective will appeal to science, I assume, but that position collapses, because, essentially, of the physics, which says that there is NOTHING THERE. That what appears to be solid stuff is mostly empty nothing, with some energy whizzing about, and the fact that our senses tell us that things are hard and things are heavy and things are like this and like that, is trickery which our senses and nerves and our brain processing plays upon us, as Kathy C. so often reminds us.

    But then, taking Artleads position, science collapses, because from the very start it has been a fundamental premise that there is an objective reality, independent of the observer, which can be measured and tested, and it makes no difference whether you do it, or I do it, or when we do it, or where we do it. If that’s not true, we’re in some trouble. If what Sheldrake suggests, that some of the universal constants are not constant, is right, wtf does that mean ?

    Science gets squeezed from both directions.

    It used to be, that the quantum physics arguments could be evaded by saying they don’t matter on the human scale, because they don’t apply to biological systems, etc. But that’s no longer true.

    Afaik, nobody has any satisfactory answer to this conundrum the whole thing is a mess, and awaits a genius to prove a new paradigm, maybe Lee Smolin ? Meanwhile, we muddle along…

  • @ Rob at the Library

    Hi Rob, I hope you’re not considering me to be one who knows, since I know diddly. Below is a link I got from a link posted by Ulvfugi. I DO pretty much abide by the 5 principles for happiness offered therein. Not from study, particularly, just from commonsense.


    Anything I “know” comes from elementary logic or experience. If you want far-the-heck-out, abstract, can’t-grasp-it, not for foolish average slobs (who probably won’t reach the promised land), then go with Robin Datta.

    So here’s my little folly for the day. I derive from (am an integral part of) the universe. My entire history has likewise flown into the universe. So I’m not an isolated being with a firm border, but more like a train station (which has its own character) that everybody passes through. But I have the responsibility to take care of my train station self. Were my paint to be peeling, my floor dirty, my clerks sloppy and rude, I’d be something of a downer type of train station. No, instead I must pick myself up and try to have some standards, to not foster depression and defeat among my visitors.

    In more human terms, I have an obligation to raise the level of my game, or to at least try. To not try to be a better person would seem as low and reprehensible as if I were to kick an old blind dog standing in my way. I don’t refrain from doing this to attain some reward or to bargain for favors. It’s just who I am. You can’t be something that you’re not. Others can certainly try to break you down to be a low, conniving, negative, hopeless, no-good wretch, but you don’t have to acquiesce, as my above link suggests.

    People who lose no opportunity to assure me that life is meaningless come in like a three hundred pound bully standing in the doorway, with arms akimbo, preventing me from going outside to enjoy the sunlight. They prefer I remain in the basement classroom and write a hundred lines–“We’re going to die, and life has no meaning”–on the chalkboard. Oppressive. And what about all the time when I could be enjoying myself instead?

    So I’m a child of the universe. During a lifetime, the baton has been given to me, and I must do my best with it. Even if the sun gobbles up the Earth–and should I be using brain cells to contemplate a billion years into the future?–nothing can destroy what I put out into the universe, just as nothing could destroy all the universal forces that led to my existence. OK, enough of my 2 cent BS for one post. :-)

    @ BadlandsAK

    Thanks for the link! SO sorry I couldn’t open it beyond the tiny serial images. (I shouldn’t be allowed to use a computer!) But I did check out other work by Song Dong. Glad to meet another visual artist on NBL!

  • What an excellent thread this is!

    Beautiful and awesome.

    @David Goza
    I am humbled by your humility, kindness and gentleness.

    “ogardener, Ace looks like she’s singing! How wonderful!”

    That’s very observant of you wildwoman. Ace was just hammin’ it up.
    You wouldn’t believe how entertaining it is. Many belly laughs. This morning Ace brought the fawn. Don’t have a name for him or her yet as I haven’t identified its sex. The whitetail deer are getting their winter coats early this year methinks. I wonder what Nature has in store for us further on up the road.

    @Curtis A. Heretic

    I just hope he was buried in a three sided coffin and is now returning his nutrients to the soil.

    Is it safe to say this man made a contribution to exposing the North Americans to Indian classical music?

    Thanks all for stimulating ideas and thought provoking conversation.

  • david goza, thanks for the essay, and i hope to read more of your comments on this blog.

    robin, thanks for the notice of al bartlett’s passing.

    ‘Whether we’ve chosen to be inauthentic out of laziness, or whether commercialization of any spark of originality has squashed authenticity right out of us, I can’t say.’ -lidia

    i think civilization itself, with it’s social hierarchies and dogma pushing leaders, secular and religious… the whole culture, including arbitrary laws, make authenticity/spontaneity virtually impossible. we are as we’ve been trained to be: domesticated animals; sheeple. only wild untamed beings have the freedom to be authentic/spontaneous.

    btw, i’ve trying out a restricted calorie diet this week, by fasting, or nearly so, every other day. so far, it hasn’t been too hard, currently on my 3rd fast day. not entirely sure why i’m doing it, other than because i can, and am curious of it’s affects, which have been sort of positive mentally (experiencing greater serenity). part of it’s appeal is it’s health benefits, including less disease and living longer. of course the latter, in the face of our predicament, isn’t a benefit one should count on. but simply maintaining the best possible health for however long it may be possible, is of value.

  • @ ogardener Glad you enjoyed it. Happy to see a gardener out there. As you show us all by example… connecting with the Earth promotes sanity.

    @ Kathy Cassandra Sometimes new perspectives can upset our most deeply held beliefs. So, many find it comforting to cling to old ways, at least for the short run. You seem determined to hold on to your views. That is your right. But I don’t see you addressing any of my points, so this feels like it is going nowhere. Therefor I’ll just offer one last thing to consider, along ulvfugl’s suggestions: First, check out the microscopic world. Look through a microscope if you ever get a chance. The enormous living world down there will probably amaze you… Then look out at the rest of this galaxy and beyond to the billions of other galaxies… that will probably amaze you too. Ask yourself if it is all cooperating… from the tiniest creatures all the way up to the clouds of galaxies… or fighting? If you still think it is all about blood lust… Oh well… at least take some of my heartfelt advice: Watch your cholesterol and blood pressure.

  • @ logspirit

    You’re under estimating Kathy C.’s knowledge and understanding. My point to her, was that it was a mistake to view this planet / life on Earth as a closed system, when it’s obviously not, it’s embedded in a larger system, without which it could not exist at all.

    @ Artleads

    Thanks for giving me the challenge and opportunity to think more about this difficult stuff.
    I brought your comment back here from the next thread.

    From the previous thread–the conundrum over competing, equally “unworkable” views on reality:
    I thought you answered that quite well awhile back. There is the hard, relatively mechanical (Newtonian) science of reality that governs the major forces of the cosmos. Gravity and the like. But at the sub-atomic level, you can have photons in two places at once. I believe your thought was that, although the Newtonian reality might not be totally impervious to quantum reality, it was impervious enough.

    Firstly, let’s get one thing out of the way, that I haggled with Ozman about, as far as I can see, none of this has any bearing on climate science, or what we need to worry about re loss of forests and depletion of aquifers and so on. I don’t think it has anything to do with most of our human-scale existence problems.

    It may have some relevance re atmospheric chemistry, and it impacts our lives, because computers use the knowledge from quantum mechanics, and so on, but mostly this is about the culture wars, and it’s about trying to understand what we are, and what the Universe is, and it’s intellectual indulgence for people who like to think about stuff, which is not most people.

    ‘Traditional’ science is under attack from at least three directions, people like you, who come from art, religion, liberal social science angle, like Ozman, with his post modernist critique, all the Creationists, and AGW deniers and ignoratii.

    Then there’s the Capitalists who just see it as a convenient tool to make some cash, and if it doesn’t come up with the answers they want, they squash those and rewrite the data, etc.

    And then there’s the attack from within, when people like Sheldrake and Smolin and Radin come up with scientific results which apparently break fundamental assumptions of science. And then there’s scientism, which complicates things.

    So, there’s a very complicated battlefield, with a number of different armies, all with different loyalties, all hacking away at each other amidst the smoke and confusion.

    So what I try to do, for my own sanity and benefit, it try and understand what’s going on and pass on whatever insights I get, maybe help others, and if they say it’s wrong, then I can take that into account too, gradually things get clearer. Maybe. But it changes all the time. There’s never going to be a final definitive end to this.

    Apparently, big forces respond differently from little ones. I don’t know if any attempt has been made to draw the line between the two, or if that is even a valid concern. Even if the universe is an unknown in the largest sense, it is comprehensible enough as far as human society is concerned.

    It’s not just the photons, it’s lots of particles that exhibit lots of weirdness, that completely defy normal common sense on our scale.
    Yes, the line used to be drawn, that the particles were so small it didn’t matter, because when you put a whole lot of them together, to make a table or a jug, the effects get cancelled out, so the table and jug just sit there, nice and solid.
    But then – I’m not completely up to date – last time I checked, quantum effects operate on objects just up to the threshold of human visibility, the largest amoeba, buckyballs, and large objects supercooled in a vacuum, and then it was found they operate at room temperature in wet biological systems, so they have been discovered by nature long ago and incorporated into biology…

    What one has to do is to consider what this means for epistemology. It used to be thought, by scientists, and common sense, that there was a ‘world out there’ that was independent of any individual observer, which we could study.

    That simple model cannot be supported any more. It is in pieces. I know that Kathy and Gail and Lidia and many others have argued and dismissed this, but I am following the science exactly, and that is the result, and it is uncontestable and unavoidable.

    Somehow, this has to be reconciled with people’s everyday experience as they encounter the world they live in. Nobody, so far as I am aware, has been able to do this, in a way that is satisfactory.

    Think of it this way. A photon begins its existence at the centre of the Sun, takes 100,000 years to emerge from the surface, about 9 minutes to reach Earth, it hits a rock, bounces off the rock, hits the retina of your eye, triggers a response that travels down the neurons to the back of your brain, your brain then models an image of sunlight and an image of a rock.

    That is our crude mechanistic epistemology, as it stands. But what happens when you add in the actual properties that we know about photons ? The model doesn’t make any sense any more. We are only using it, and teaching it, because nobody has been smart enough to come up with a new model which actually fits and explains what we know from the physics.

    My question to Gail had to do with her dismissal of any other concept of reality other than that it is hard, soft, wavy, green, “material” ONLY. It is not relative to which creature looks at it. It’s just one fixed way. You have very clearly refuted that view. And it is where that view precludes the reality of what you can’t see and dissect in a lab that is problematic. Something like the collective unconscious (although not my major preoccupation) would fall by the wayside. So would any kind of invisible healing force.

    Oh. Well, I misunderstood. I’m not picking on Gail, I was just using what she said as a handy example. My critique would be completely different, but too long to pursue now, you don’t understand.

    My assumption is that the small reality does not contradict the large. The Newtonian level works well enough, within a sphere that we aren’t disputing here. But we may be justified in saying we don’t know how the large and small relate, or even whether the quantum level might apply at an even bigger scale than the Newtonian. It’s beyond me; I have a lot of more urgent fish to fry.

    The theoretical physicists enjoy themselves playing with numbers and having fantasies and calling it science, but much of it is junk, because none of the ideas can be tested or evaluated. I think the conflict you’re talking about isn’t between Newtonian, it’s between Einstein’s Relativity and Quantum physics, and various abstruse problems which specialists struggle to fit into a Grand Theory of Everything.

    As to the various scientific and philosophical visions of the past, can we afford their contradictoriness any longer? Were they envisaging NTE? Doesn’t NTE demand a more conciliatory, tentative, consensual and collective approach among thinkers today? Something radical has changed, and thinking should change with it. The missing moral dimension in epistemology that got us into this fix might, IDEALLY, be replaced. Isn’t NTE an overriding moral dilemma that flips thinking upside down? I guess I’m for fuzzy thinking: this AND that, rather this OR that. Patchwork-quilt thinking.

    Yes. But 90% of global population has not yet caught up with NBL. I’ve been on the Beach of Doom for a while. I don’t like to be bored, something to pass the time. What’s the latest news from the cutting edge of astro-physics ? Well, I’m curious to know…

    You see, some people were thinking about entropy, that everything eventually grinds to a halt, and it’s all cold blackness, finito. But that idea could be fundamentally mistaken, because of the Black Holes, the information isn’t scrunched to nothing after all, it squirts out the other side, so there’s maybe an open system, the entropy idea doesn’t apply… Darwinian evolution of Universes with evolving laws of physics ?

    Not that it matters…

    Howlin Wolf


  • @ Artleads

    Okay – if that works for you, great!

    this thread is dead, see you later.

  • @ ulvfugi

    The Howlin Wolf video is awesome. Such complex (often repellant) genius lies among the many things I don’t understand. You list others above.

    As to what I don’t understand… So, so much! I like to think of it like drawing. It’s much better to leave lots of empty spaces than to fill them in wrong. People can imagine the right configuration if you leave it open to their imagination. The drawing can breathe and live through openness. But it’s deadly to faithfully render, but render wrong, all the tiny details. Naïve artists can get away with it often, but it doesn’t do when you wish to render a thing with scientific correctness. However, if you really know what you’re doing, you can fill the details in to the utmost degree, and all will be well.

    In what I post here, I try to avoid saying untruthful things. When you say I don’t understand something (since it matters greatly to me to not say untruthful things) I’d appreciate if you could correlate that to how I filled in some detail in the wrong way. If all I did was leave something out that didn’t foreclose on the truth being inserted into the gap, then I’m not concerned.

    Otherwise, you haven’t struck me as trying mostly to avoid boredom. I have much respect for the usefulness of your incomprehensibly relentless probing and inquiry.

    My goal, I thought, was to be constructive. Internet addiction may play a role in my being here, but beside that is the goal of some kind of shared purpose. So would that be like trying to herd cats?
    Could it be best just to treasure the wisdom of the many here, and not hope for more?

    “Yes. But 90% of global population has not yet caught up with NBL.”

    Oldgrowthforest offered insight on this subject a day of so ago: Far more people than is thought get it in some fractured way or other. Christian fundamentalists in particular. Regular people know more than they let on or have time or intellectual wherewithal to discuss.
    What’s puzzling is how people at NBL, some of the brightest I’ve witnessed, with all the awareness and intellect you could hope for in a group, can’t arrive at some shared new pragmatic vision.

  • @ Artleads

    Ok, well, you put a lot of effort, heart and soul, into this blog, so I’ll attempt to reply to what you’ve said… here, going back to the start :
    @ Gail

    “the really important question I ask myself isn’t whether there is some meaning or intent or consciousness in the universe, but what it is about the human brain that makes us want to believe there is – and to invent religions and meaning and intent and consciousness of whatever flavor; they are essentially all the same. They all tell stories about who we are that fly in the face of reality.”

    @ Artleads

    What reality? And how do you know it is there?

    So, I assumed you were questioning Gail’s statement taking a certain line, but I was mistaken. The line I would have taken would have been different.

    Please understand I’m not picking on Gail, or insulting her, it’s just a handy example, lots of others say just the same thing, it’s representative of a position.

    THIS. ‘fly in the face of reality’. WHAT reality ?

    Gail’s reality ? Whose reality are we talking about here ?

    Gail is suggesting, no, insisting, that there is only one REAL reality, and that’s the one that she knows and defines, and everybody else lives in fantasy versions that they invent.

    Okay, now let’s leave Gail out of it, because it’s nothing to do with her personally, because as I said, lots of people take the exact same stance when they speak.

    And let’s call it Reality X. That is, the idea that there IS a reality, that is sort of super real, that is not ‘invented.

    This idea, Reality X, is completely untenable. I shall try to show you why.

    All it amounts to is a political and ideological doctrine, backed by power, indeed, by force.

    It says that ‘This is what you must believe, this is what reality is, it is what we tell you it is, and if you refuse to accept it, we will kill you’.

    Reality X is reality as defined by the dominant imperial culture. It defines reality to suit it’s own preferences and purposes. It’s the culture of dead white European men, filtered by capitalism and militarism and imperial hegemony. Just as the victors write the history books, they write most of the other books too. Just as they own the tv and the publishing houses, they control the Universities and who get to be eminent professors whose work gets promoted. The whole thing is a racket.

    Where IS this so called reality, this Reality X located ? It’s a cultural construct, a shared project, agreed upon by millions of people who all cohabit within a mythology, that they have been brainwashed, indoctrinated, to believe, by TPTB who decide the education policies and control the money and suppress ideas they don’t like and promote ideas they do like. There’s nothing neutral or objective or ‘real’ about this Reality X, it’s all fabricated, and all this is thoroughly researched and documented, over the last century, e.g. Bernays, e.g. John Taylor Gatto, millions of people stumbling along in a shared fantasy…

    Now, Gail possibly, others certainly, will claim that THEY are not part of that, that they have awoken and rid themselves of that illusion, and found the REAL reality…. e.g. Gail no longer ‘believes in’ the myth of progress, etc.

    But where is all THAT located ? It’s a construct in the mind, in their brain, as is everything that we are aware of.

    So all that has happened is swapping one story for another story.
    And when you get right down to it, that’s all anybody EVER does, including Gail, including me, is to tell a story.

    Stories are political, they are ideological, sometimes they can have immense power, they can change people’s lives, even change the world.

    Gail’s story, like the other people on the right, Dawkins, Pinker, et al, and the stories of the Christian Dominionists and Moslem Wahabis, is fundamentally fascistic and intolerant, saying that all OTHER stories are wrong and unacceptable and cannot be tolerated, and this has been a project of many people throughout history, to spread their story everywhere and eradicate all others.

    But the more interesting angle is how this applies to science, because, when science began with Bacon, Descartes, Leibniz, Newton, etc, the idea was, getting away from God intervening and arbitrarily interfering with ‘reality’, that there was a fixed reality independent of all humans, which could be studied and recorded. That’s an absolutely fundamental assumption, a corner stone. If that goes, the whole philosophical basis of science is in trouble. Thing is, it already went, and nobody took any notice…

    Once quantum physics showed that the observation effects the experiment, well, basically, everybody should have gone back to square one to start again… mind and matter are not supposed to be connected. But they are. The physics demonstrates it to be so. Irrefutably.

    Everybody pretends there isn’t a problem because nobody knows how to fix it. Bit like the financial crisis and the ecological crisis.
    You see, science made sense when naive realism made sense, but once you can prove that stuff can be in two places at the same time… what then ? And that’s only one of a long, long list.


    @ TIAA ( from next thread )

    Dear Artleads, when you speak of the large and small are you considering the quantum/physics as the small or large reality, or inter-changeable? I like to think of the hidden forces (as in not apparent to the human eye) as the large and everything we see with our eyes as the small. That apparent reality that we all experience differently reminds me of Paul Cherfuka’s most recent comment and that what we can share with each other has to fall into the matrix of that fabric we are all shaped by and experience through the particular, if small variances of individual shape. Where our unique shape and place in life is harder to share as common to all, except in the sense that what we are made of is almost identical. So there is that larger bedrock and un changing reality ( some may think spiritual) and the superficial, constantly changing ( some may say material). We are frightened out of our wits to be forced to look upon the apparently formless void, but ironically the void makes all things material. Instead of greater life in that void, we see the end of life. Perhaps this healing of that experience becomes so important as we do our best to honor where we are now, as living material miracles that are a unit expression of the greater miracle. Can we adjust our vision to see this? I say yes and here we are cultivating in the garden of souls. Ulvfugl, I would appreciate your input.

    TIAA, I have no idea what people should say to kids, in the next thread, but it’s a somewhat sombre subject and I don’t want to dilute it with this stuff, so reply here.

    There’s been several different conception of what the Universe is like, in the Western cultural history, as well as many more in other cultures of course – historically, Ptolemaic, Copernican, Newtonian, Einsteinian and then that from Quantum Physics, so the picture has changed over the last two thousand years or so.

    Quantum effects were supposed to involve the very small, just up to the limit of what could be distinguished with the naked eye. Then there’s human scale, on this planet, where Newtonian physics works for most things, and if you’re building a house you don’t have to worry about Einstein’s physics or quantum mechanics. But if you want to explore the Universe, yes, Einstein’s stuff is directly relevant as is quantum stuff.

    Thing is, we are human beings. What does that mean ? What does it mean to be a complete human being ? The head and the heart…
    This dispute is the usual insanity, that it is an either / or, when it is obvious we need both.

    Why don’t people understand this ? Einstein did. I frame it as mythos and logos, two ways of knowing the world.

    When I speak about the Void, I’m talking about something one finds inside one’s self which transcends both mythos and logos, it’s a sort of ultimate experience devoid of all characteristics.

    So you learn meditation and you learn various techniques and you find various sublime states and so forth, and then you find that the furthest you can go is the state where there is nothing at all, called by many different names in different traditions, e.g. Sunyata.

    I like the term the Void. I don’t find it at all frightening. If you cultivate it in meditation then it enter into your everyday life.
    What can be said about it ? I mean, it is strange that this experience is available to us.

    I suppose it has some significance, possibly, that we cannot comprehend. It’s not really possible to think about it, or define it in any way, or even speak about it sensibly, but plenty of people have known about it and it’s possible to see what they are talking about i the ancient records when they describe the experience, from many traditions and cultures.

  • I read an account of last night’s flooding in Colorado and noticed the official quoted in the article referred to it as a ‘500-year flood’ rather than the usual ‘100-year flood’ (which seems to happen ever other year these days!)

    So this is what we have to look forward to — ever more extreme weather events wreaking havoc on civilization. There won’t be a new normal — as soon as we get used to certain level of climate chaos things will ratchet up again, and again, and again… ad nauseum.

  • @ ulvfugi

    Fallacy! That’s the word I should have used in describing what I wish to avoid. How can one know next to nothing and never crack a book, and yet avoid making fallacious statements? Short of saying nothing, I guess it’s hardly possible. But thanks for the compliment anyway, as well as for doing everybody’s homework and just about everybody’s thinking too.

    So as to incline a little toward Gail’s position (assuming I understand it), I’ll try this. If I hang a wet paper towel up, and measure how long it takes to dry–a simple project I did when substituting for third grade–it will dry in a measurable period of time. It is convenient that we have clocks, since that gives all civilized humans a common yardstick and means of agreement as to how long the paper takes to dry under specified conditions. If there was no clock to measure drying time, there could be an hour glass or sundial, etc., to serve the same purpose.

    So we have agreed-upon-by-humans means to accurately-enough measure sensed phenomena. No doubt, the clock’s record of the time involved would differ very slightly at Earth’s atmosphere or some other extreme geographic location. But if we’re hyper Earth conscious and only concerned about what civilized Earthlings deem important, then the clocks on flatland (where civilization mostly occurs), becomes the basic measure of time, and no other kind of time is worth noting.
    This is “civilized” thinking. It is mostly concerned with how the civilized world works right this moment. That is how nearly all the world views phenomena–according to common experience under “normal” circumstances. It is a hyper practical view of life. Since just about no one cares how time changes in space, or what’s at the border of the universe, why concern oneself with it?

    And indeed, anything we discern as hard or liquid or green can be weighed, dissected and measured in the lab. If some other animal sees green as red, why should that matter to humans? If quantum physics could assess these phenomena in strange, unfamiliar ways, why is that important? The chair I sit on can be counted on to hold my weight, all my usual expectations about matter hold true, quantum physics or no.

    I’m assuming this is where Gail is coming from…which seems harmless enough on many levels.

  • @thevirginterry, yes, you are probably right about authenticity. It all requires a context of art either established (the majority following culturally normative expressions as in the case of most historical artifacts) or created as a response to the Establishment (as in the case of iconoclasts ancient and modern who want to break the old patterns and visions). Although many times the iconoclasm replaces nothing nourishing on the same level. Once Malevich painted a monotone canvas, what was the point of anyone ever doing that again, particularly? The Taleban haven’t replaced the stone Buddhas with anything other than dust and violent, dreary patriarchy. 

    Sometimes the dialog comes to a dead end, and we are at the Mother of dead ends.

    I have undertaken periods of four-day water fasting recently, just before and after my chemo sessions. There’s some evidence to indicate that this will starve stray cancer cells as well as amplify the effects of chemotherapy against them. I have not found it hard at all, outside of missing the social and ‘fun’ aspect of eating. I find I have more time in the day, I enjoy having fewer dishes to wash, and I feel released from what I would often call ‘the tyranny of the food’—a sensation that I get when people are antsy and rigid about mealtimes, or overly obsessed with planning future meals when one hadn’t finished the current one (my Italian MIL was famous for this corrosive anxiety). Anyway, what’s interesting is the negative reaction that it engenders in others; even my naturopath was dead set against it. I could stand to lose twenty pounds, anyway, but people act as though missing a few meals will cause me to keel over.

  • @ Lidia

    First I put this here, trying to show some respect and consideration for the people discussing premature death of their loved ones on the next thread… unusual for me, I know…

    Second glad to see you are back to your old self, Lidia, but if you’re going to challenge me here, even from your death bed, please don’t expect any mercy ;-)

    “non-physical realities” How can you make a case for any such thing after emphasizing our complicity in perception of our surroundings?

    So, I have to read your first paragraph three times to try and comprehend why it is that you cannot understand such a simple thing…

    Let me see if I have got it right. You are confusing the meaning of words. I mean ‘physical’ as in the distinction between ‘physical’ and ‘mental’. And you are thinking of ‘physical’ as all things being based in ‘physics’ ? Perhaps that is it ? Otherwise, what could explain your lack of insight ? So. Let me proceed…

    All phenomena which are possible for us to perceive are necessarily physical— there is no escaping it. There are also physical phenomena which we cannot perceive, or that we perceive poorly. But positing phenomena which a.) we cannot perceive, and b.) which are not “physical”, seems unfruitful if not psychotic. You can really make up any damn thing you choose, and folks do.

    This seems so absurd to me. Look, if you go to a movie, you partake of a NON-PHYSICAL REALITY. You travel down streets that do not exist. It’s a flat screen with photons hitting it from a projector that bounce off and enter your eye, there is no physical reality there, but the reel of film and the techno trickery creates the illusion of a reality.

    The same would apply to a dream. Do you have dreams when you sleep ? Right. A non-physical reality. People who take ahayuasca and similar, have vastly enhanced visionary experiences of non-physical realities.
    Do you understand what I am talking about ? We can perceive or experience mental phenomena which have NO physical correlate. Hence non-physical realities.

    Yes, we can make up any damn thing we choose, and yes, folks do. It’s called ‘human creativity’. From Hieronymous Bosch to Salvador Dali to Escher to Walt fucking Disney But it’s also the same fount that produces creative engineering solutions and amazing scientific insights and all the rest.

    My sister’s rapture church is into prayer for healing. Somehow, though, they are never able to heal amputees or kids with extra chromosomes. I guess this ” healing” practice would fall under a “non-physical” reality: something that exists only as wishful thinking in their minds.

    This is a red herring. I’m not going to argue on behalf of your sister, or in favour of nonsense. Look, I’m hard headed and tough minded and the first to see through people who are into so called ‘magical’ or wishful thinking. This is a difficult area, like doing archaeology on a garbage dump, most of what people threw away was garbage, but by chance sometimes, someone dropped a gold coin… see what I mean.

    BTW, just to clarify something you maligned me with in the last thread, I never said that there was “a ‘world out there’… independent of any individual observer.” But being part of a larger vibrational energy/material system doesn’t give us or the system ‘meaning’. You as an individual have to want it to have meaning. If I set off a certain series of equations, I can make a computer draw fractal “art” with, to my way of thinking, no inherent meaning whatsoever. I can dump certain chemicals together and crystals will naturally form at a given rate–so what?

    Hahaha, well, I’m so glad you are paying such close attention, sorry if I appear to have maligned you.

    That’s a complicated thing to unravel. Do you conceive of yourself as a machine, part of a larger machine ? That’s the Cartesian model. That’s something I somewhat vehemently reject. I’d see it as one of the root cause of NTE. I can’t do any justice to my argument here, in such a brief comment.

    Our being an expression of the Universe rather than removed observers is perfectly coherent with my view, which remains: it’s only the human animal who wishes, through its clearly defective quality of protagonism, to find capital-M Meaning which—whaddayaknow—coincidentally implies a role for humans. (viz. the “universal healing force” comment you cited along with other malarkey). I find these propositions to be complete non sequiturs, kind of like the “News for Budgerigars” in which “No budgerigars were killed today in an incident on the A-2 motorway…”

    Don’t really understand that…

    That there are forces afoot which we can’t comprehend is obvious. That doesn’t make them meaningful in the slightest. Does gravity have intrinsic meaning?

    It might help to know what it meant if we understood what it was, which we do not.

    But it’s a very strange question. I can easily accept that meaning is constructed, and I accept it can be totally nonsensical. One bunch of people live on an island and declare that life and the Universe means such and such. Then they all move on, and another bunch of people arrive and declare that it means something completely different. No problem with that.

    Then we have this post-modern era, where people get bits and pieces of culture and meanings from all over time and space and cut and paste them, bricolage, into whatever stew they want to cook up, so you can have Superman and Jesus and Dracula in the garden of Versailles in a video and it doesn’t even strike people as incongruous, just that nobody knows wtf anything means anymore.

    But to say that the Universe means nothing ? It’s HARD to find really profound meaning, it doesn’t just arrive, especially for someone like you who has bought into the meaninglessness of the Cartesian Paradigm, which deliberately threw out all meanings…

    Pushing the envelope of our perceptions is always possible, as with some of the training you have talked about in the past. One thing that comes to mind right away is how even the dimmest among us will perceive a live animal in the vicinity and lock eyes with it, easily before having cognitively picked it out from its surroundings. I regard this sort of thing, along with other sorts of apparent magic like premonitions, to be part of our real material and physical sensorial capacity and in no way supernatural.

    I have absolutely no idea what the term ‘supernatural’ is supposed to mean.

    Yes, There is this training that I do. It’s taken years to find what I’ve found. It could have taken days, weeks, or months, if I’d have had a teacher who already knew. I can’t help it that people are sceptical and won’t believe what i say, but this chi thing is astonishing and it works. Nevermind.

    Somewhere along the line @oldgrowth picked up the silly “atheist = rageful” meme, which appears to me a form of projection. I had a wonderful, tranquil life in which I was never was forced to endure much religion; thanks to parents born into warring denominations my sister and I were products of a “mixed marriage.” It were the religionists what come, angrily, to shake my tree, dear. Darling sister, whom I’d considered one of my best friends, a couple of years ago decided from one day to the next that I was going to writhe in burning sulfur for all eternity. But atheists are full of “rage”. Yeh, right… It’s not me who’s making up sadistic stories about a psycho deity and scaring the children. I mean, have you READ the (Jewish) old testament?

    Yes, of course I have read it. But why is that representative of ‘religion’ ? It’s just one amongst very, very many. I prefer to call them belief systems. As I’ve tried to explain more than once, the one that I adhere to, zen, is a sort of anti-belief system, a belief system the goal of which is liberation from all belief systems, including it’s own.

    Kabbalah, I Ching, astrology, tea leaves, are all just mechanisms (like a secular psychotherapy appointment) which create opportunity for introspection and intuition to blossom in a fashion removed from day-to-day distractions. They create arbitrary structures which can be necessary for art. You see, I have been both a scientist and a graphic artist. I had a friend in art school who could never initiate a project because she could never bring herself to fix any of the variables involved—size, material, color, whatever. So that’s where I see a practical underpinning for various systems of “divination”. In intending to seek the will of the gods we are really seeking any sort of guidelines just so we won’t have to face a blizzard of choices alone, and often we read the tea leaves or the horoscope in a way that merely rationalizes choices we have already made, whether consciously or not. Or we use them as parlor tricks, like John Cage had done.

    I wouldn’t include Kabbalah with divination, but the others, yes, I’d broadly agree with that, but I think it could be viewed as something rather more serious. My model would be something like this :

    The Unconscious is vast, has its own deep wisdom, its what grew our bodies, it has all the evolutionary background knowledge which allowed us to survive. The conscious thinking ego is a tiny fragile thing that floats upon that Unconscious. It’s often falling asleep and dipping into semi-consciousness and forgetting itself. It struggles against many much more powerful forces.

    I think Robin Datta is trying to get at this, with his muddled metaphors about chauffeurs and lizards.

    Anyway, the Unconscious does not speak english, it speaks in more ancient symbolic forms and impressions, more animal-like, more dream-like, but it knows lots of stuff, so one way of consulting its wisdom is a bit like fishing, you drop it a bait on a hook, that’s what divination is. Whether I Ching or astrology or tea leaves or dreams. You frame the question as simply and clearly as possible and drop it into the depths, and you’ll get an answer.

    Sometimes that answer will be very hard, even impossible to decipher, perhaps it’ll be years later that you understand what it meant. Sometimes it’ll be so staggeringly brilliant it’ll take your breath away. Sometimes it’ll just say ‘You’re an idiot, isn’t it obvious’.

    Zen mind is about being tuned in to this Unconscious thingee all the time.


    Lidia, dear, this is getting too long. This is nothing ‘supernatural’. There’s scientific data, I don’t have the links, martial artists, detect mind to mind transmission of intended attack before any move is made.

    Oh, this just in…

    ulvfugl, if I may interject, you accuse Kathy of not looking at the science that contradicts her opinions, but you never actually present the science or evidence in question.

    On the contrary, I have presented scores of links and references, repeatedly. But this goes back many moons. Look, Lidia, i am not so stupid or naive as to make any claim that I cannot SUPPORT, am I.

    The problem with arguing with Kathy C. was that she never looked at my references, never refuted them, just carried on insisting upon her position as if they did not exist. That was in the days before the two post rule, when we were arguing about consciousness.

    Look, it is scientifically established that meditation changes the brain, both form and function, in all kinds of ways that are of benefit to the individual. You can change who you are, and how you are, by your own volition. Is that religion, or is that science ? Well, it’s both isn’t it ?

  • Beg pardon, Librarian, not Lidia, re that last.

    All I can do is try to explain mysticism to the scientists and materialists, and science to the mystics and dreamers, Librarian.

    It’s a thankless task, because both sides see me as their enemy, but I see the whole conflict as absurd and unnecessary.

    Maybe it’s because I live in UK. Nobody here would think it strange for a scientist to be a Catholic or an Anglican or a Moslem or an Atheist or anything else. There just isn’t the sort of crazy polarisation there is in USA.

    Mythos and Logos. We need both. Nothing we can do about it anyway, they are not going to go away, they are built into the way our brains work.


  • Being a Person

    Be a person here.
    Stand by the river, invoke the owls.
    Invoke winter, then spring.
    Let any season that wants to come here make its own call.
    After that sound goes away, wait.
    A slow bubble rises through the earth
    and begins to include sky, stars, all space,
    even the outracing, expanding thought.
    Come back and hear the little sound again.
    [Come back, and hear that call.]
    Suddenly this dream you are having matches
    Everyone’s dream, and the result is the world.
    If a different call came there wouldn’t be any
    world, or you, or the river, or the owls calling.
    How you stand here is important.
    How you listen for the next things to happen.
    How you breathe.

    -William Stafford

  • Dear Ogardener, thank you, the beauty is ours to share.

    Dear Badlands, thank you for that poem. Perhaps re-post on every thread till we hear? Reminds me of Lao-Tzu, “It is the child that sees the primordial breath….”

  • @Artleads Thanks for the link! SO sorry I couldn’t open it beyond the tiny serial images. (I shouldn’t be allowed to use a computer!) But I did check out other work by Song Dong. Glad to meet another visual artist on NBL!

    You’re welcome! The image was just one I grabbed off of google. Works addressing impermanence are fascinating to me, and being a printmaker, the printing of ‘water on water’ had me very curious. Nice to meet you, too! I found this letter from the poet Adrienne Rich this morning, and thought you might find it interesting, as well her belief
    “in art’s social presence—as breaker of official silences, as voice for those whose voices are disregarded, and as a human birthright.”
    And one of her excellent poems:

    Prospective Immigrants Please Note

    Either you will
    go through this door
    or you will not go through.

    If you go through
    there is always the risk
    of remembering your name.

    Things look at you doubly
    and you must look back
    and let them happen.

    If you do not go through
    it is possible
    to live worthily

    to maintain your attitudes
    to hold your position
    to die bravely

    but much will blind you,
    much will evade you,
    at what cost who knows?

    The door itself makes no promises.
    It is only a door.

    -Adrienne Rich

    @ulvfugl Thanks for the link to your ‘Building Inner Strength in Chaotic Times’ post. Most excellent! Reminded me of something my son said when I asked him how he learns his, what we call, ‘moves’. (A crazy mix of break dancing, ballet, gymnastics, martial arts…I don’t really know what label fits.) Anyway, he told me his body tells his mind what to do, which I found interesting, because I usually look at it the other way, training the mind to overcome the discomforts, and limitations of the body. I learn a lot from him!

  • @TIAA You’re welcome! I learn many things from the children, or maybe I’m simply re-learning things I once knew as a former child…

  • @ Badlands


    I think the moves are fundamentally intuitive. Some of them have ancient stories how they a were learned from watching animals and birds.

    Lots of animals and birds appear to meditate. I suspect all those taoist exercises are about returning to, rediscovering, our true human nature.

    Ogf told me something nice about native americans spending a lot of time just sitting and looking at the ‘the world’.
    I knew a very old Welsh lady, who lived in a remote place in the countryside, and she had a convenient bench in front of her cottage, and she’d just sit and gaze at the view. There was nothing particular to see. Just countryside, and if I’d sit by her she’d give me a commentary, on some clouds coming, or some shadows, or trees moving in the wind, faraway… all very subtle, and most people would think, very dull and boring, I mean, they want plane crashes and Formula 1 race cars screaming past, or whatever… I think because they are mostly already dead, ghosts, and only severe shocks penetrate… :-)

    I think the W. Stafford poem is lovely, I’ll paste it there if you don’t mind, seems very appropriate.