Deep Temporality and the Challenge of Community

We all recognize that preservation of social order after any significant disruption, if not the cessation, of industrial civilization on the heels of fossil-fuel depletion and/or environmental collapse will necessitate a reconstituted sense of community – more egalitarian, more intimate, more grounded.  In November we talked about the problem of time in some detail.  I want to return attention to our time-conception but now in relation to the notion of community, and the challenge of an emergent post-collapse community, specifically.

In that earlier conversation, I wagered that our commonsense notion of time, understood as the strictly unidirectional flow of events moving relentlessly forward from recent past to anticipated future, is a convenient but pernicious construct of modern (civilized) consciousness.  It intractably limits attention to a dialectics of progress — achievement, acquisitiveness, advancement — while forcing us to ignore the subtleties of our concrete embodiment, of being-situated in the present and all that it entails.

History, as well as autobiography, is a graphic projection of this inexorable temporal dynamic and the internal sense of time-consciousness to which it apparently gives voice. Reification of an autonomous sense of self – either as passive observer or active agent in a world peopled with entities and other agents – appears as a result of an accretive process springing from our ongoing commitment to this temporal impetus.

In short, the emergence of unidirectional time-consciousness ushers in a systematic objectification of both human and non-human nature, while articulating the historically determinative concepts of causality, agency, individuality, and alterity. Competition, conquest, and culpability are not far behind as key ingredients of personal achievement and nation-building.  Life itself becomes a problem to be solved; while the Other emerges as an enemy needing to be conquered.  Even the otherness of nature, from which we have forcibly abstracted ourselves, needs to be subdued and controlled.

In such a framework, “community” – from the Latin munus (a gift) and cum (together, among each other): meaning “to give or share among one another” – must be a hard won battle, because in such a competitively-driven agent-focused perspective, sharing or communio must feel more like a ‘giving-up’ or ‘giving-away’ that which one previously possessed as one’s own. In this case, sharing seems destined to wait upon, and expect, a return on its investment, a quid pro quo if you will. Such communion would seem, therefore, to be primarily calculative in nature and intention — an avatar  of the collective masquerading as community.

Such intentionality, and its masquerade, lay at the heart of most modern economic and social theories. It is self-seeking and propagandizing at bottom; and it resides comfortably at the core of the American imperial project. We witness it in our nation’s fierce desire to “spread” democracy, our brand of capitalism, and our vision of the future around the globe. Our administration embraces a globalizing hegemonic strategy, and has even covertly utilized the tentacles of virtual communities and social networking to advance its totalizing agenda and promote its imperial vision: Arab Spring? NGO’s in Egypt? Twitter, Facebook, YouTube?  You get the picture.  But, what is the nature of such global community-building, and what is the objective in sharing our values and our cultural artifacts?  What is it we expect in return?  Certainly, it is not selfless gift-giving among our foreign comrades in the human community.  In reality, the political and economic agenda is not at all covert.  We seek our own political and economic interests, expansion of our empire, greater access to global resources (human and natural), untapped markets for our goods, and securing the future of our manifest destiny.  And we will “share” it, even if it requires force feeding it down the throats of the global community.

On the other hand, in a world where temporality is not so d-e-l-i-n-e-a-t-e-d, where time does not flow like a river, where individuals are not perceived as isolated agents driven by time’s crucible and by their own uniquely personal histories; in such a world, being human discloses itself in a more primal experience of participation — displaying an openness to the mystery of the present and the gift of presence.  Borrowing terminology from the Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, Martin Heidegger called this state of openness, gelassenheit or “releasement;” almost a Taoist concept of letting things be,  of not managing or forcing things to our will.  But, in such a view, our taken-for-granted assumption of ‘time as a river’ driving us intractably forward simply melts away.  As the phenomenologist, Maurice Merleau-Ponty reminds us:

This often repeated metaphor is in reality extremely confused… The objective world is too much a plenum for there to be time.

He refers to this plenum as “the thickness of the pre-objective present, in which we find our bodily being, our social being, and the pre-existence of the world.”  It is here that the experience of deep temporality emerges; and, in such an experience, the reality of community — of “our social being” — must be a different affair altogether.

The Latin term communio [Greek: κοινωνία] (“sharing in common” or “mutual participation”) – deriving from com (“with”) and unus (“oneness”) – is suggestive of an instinct grounded in the feeling of consubstantiality (being-of-one-substance). In this respect, where a full present (kairos) engages us – as flesh of our flesh, rather than chronos reigning over us and enslaving us to the future — communion and, hence, sharing should be spontaneous, a gift in the original sense of that word, non-calculative at its core.

In the absence of an abstract, objectifying, and calculating rationality, we commune (communicate, share, participate, and live) with our fellow wanderers as simply and serendipitously as nature shares with and participates us – all of a common substance.  It is this more primal sense of sharing that may perhaps be recollected in the Christian theological symbolism of ‘taking communion’ where the Eucharist, receiving the body and blood of Christ, provides a remembrance of ‘at-one-ment’ between receiver and giver.

Yet, trying to create community among isolated (economic) subjects and objects merely occupying the same generalized spatiotemporal horizon is largely artificial and built upon the exigencies of commerce and civic life. Moreover, such communion is often achieved by means of the highly touted theme — “enlightened self-interest” – forced into being by the proximity of city walls and political necessity.

I guess what I am suggesting is that a new, post-collapse community, if it is to be meaningful and sustainable (psychically and ecologically), will require a transformation in our internal sense of time-consciousness, a return to and recovery of participatory presence (kairos), and the concomitant loosening of our fixation on chronos and the intractable march of Father Time.

It is here that deep temporality and real community merge, recovering that generative power grounding the present moment, relocating us in closest proximity to one another and to nature — engulfed in its wildness, absorbed in its powerful, pulsating, and cyclical rhythms of periodic return and renewal.  And, while our language here may sound romantic, it is only because we have become tin-eared, accustomed to hearing the cold calculations of scientific rationality and ‘objective’ facts of historical narrative.  We have become the bloodless, virtual animals they want us to be.  We need to break the spell; and internal time-consciousness is at its core.  This seems to me to be a singular problematic to address now. Obviously, after such a thorough “civilizing” enculturation to unilinear time-consciousness, it may be rather hard to recollect what deep temporality and real community actually feel like.

96 Responses to Deep Temporality and the Challenge of Community

  1. Cliff says:

    Just sit in deep temporality with the forest, with BIG TREES, no distractions, NO wanderings of a civilized/enculturated nature. Sit for as long as it takes you to feel something, see something of great beauty and behold(be held by) the feeling/insights that appear. But still, remain firm with any one tree for as long as it takes And your insights(trees) will talk and You WILL remember what an actual community Feels like .

    • kulturcritic says:

      😉 The only unfortunate thing is that you will not be left alone to commune in private with the trees; other people will come a’callin. You will be forced to build community with them!

    • john patrick says:

      Perhaps, Cliff… because we climbed out of them. I sense the same thing when I watch the ocean kiss the shore. The ocean–mother of life. And I sought a path out of it. So, how can one feel “eternally” grateful to the land, if the water preceded it.

  2. John Bollig says:

    The most important community is one that supports the land itself, My own idea of land ownership is such that the land is more of a trust than a ownership. The land is a living organism. We must become one with the land and care for it as it is our very selves..

    • John, I am fond of this way of thinking, too. How do you feel about including with one’s feelings of oneness with the land, oneness with the flora, fauna, and our brothers and sisters of our human family, the good, the bad, and the ugly?

  3. Brutus says:

    kulturCritic sez:

    In short, the emergence of unidirectional time-consciousness ushers in a systematic objectification of both human and non-human nature, while articulating the historically determinative concepts of causality, agency, individuality, and alterity.

    My appreciation of these concepts is that our current sense of time-boundedness comes from a mechanical worldview stemming from the invention of the medieval clock, which long postdates the subject/object distinction that emerged in ancient Greece. Indeed, shackling ourselves to linear or historical time is an outgrowth of hyper-rational, abstract objectification and categorization that shortly later gave rise to the scientific revolution and in turn launched the modern technological world. So the cause-effect relationship you draw here seems miscalculated.

    OTOH, your call for a return to a sense of deep temporality as a necessary component of participation in human community and with the world, that makes a great deal of sense to me.

    • kulturcritic says:

      “History, as well as autobiography, is a graphic projection of this inexorable temporal dynamic and the internal sense of time-consciousness to which it apparently gives voice. Reification of an autonomous sense of self – either as passive observer or active agent in a world peopled with entities and other agents – appears as a result of an accretive process springing from our ongoing commitment to this temporal impetus.”

      As you can read Brutus, I never committed to a specific moment when the change in consciousness fully emerged; I agree that the medieval clock was a significant step in lock-down. But the conditions for the direction were laid down much earlier. And the process began with writing of history. sandy

      • john patrick says:

        Clock. Sundial. Lunar tides. The budding of plants. Once the pattern is recognized, the observer is captured.

  4. javacat says:

    When I read ‘deep temporality’ I think of a sense of time than transcends the self, a sense and perspective that resides in the deep core of our being–our DNA, if you will. Temporality on a grander scale. 😉

    I’m not sure I agree that once a pattern is recognized the observer is captured. Many plants and animals recognize patterns and use them to survive. Does that understanding constitute entrapment? Sunrise and tides are periodic. Seasons and lives cyclical. One may move with them, plan with them, even, and yet not be captured. These kind of cycles are deep within us, and let us move in rhythm with the Nature we were once a part of, rather than apart from.

    Having just returned from what I feel is a true community, I found key components to be respect, attentiveness–to one’s needs and those of others–a willingness to yield, sometimes, and a commitment to the good of the whole. This last piece did not demand the sacrifice of the self, of individual needs and goals, Instead, the community allowed a greater sharing of knowledge and understanding by which all could more fully realize their needs.

    The community, to thrive, needs members that share without attachment, simply because it is the right thing to do. Each member must be valued for who and what they are, as well as for how and what she contributes. There must be trust. Trust to reveal frailties and shortcomings, flops and failures. Trust to lead and trust to follow. If there is to be hard work, there too must be laughter and play. There must be a willingness to do what is needed, without judgment about fairness or status. If community is about the gift together, then that is what it must be: the giving.

    • john patrick says:

      Hi JC. The term captured may be a bit too strong. But once something is observed, it becomes part of the observer. I think mutual co-dependence is a fact of life. We all need oxygen.

      On community, it seems that for the past 20-so years the emphasis has been on retirement, 401Ks, medical coverage, etc.. How can one’s heart be on community when their treasure is holed up in the “system.” How come you never hear/see an investment vehicle in real community? It’s as if we’ve invested in the Huns with the promise from them to be taken care of.

      Quinn in his Ishmael book talked about givers and takers. And i agree. But damn, with what has transpired with our culture it’s like being a blood donor in a family of vampires. You can’t force people to share or make sacrifice. And eventually the givers feel they are only enabling entitlement and not growth/responsibility. Just rambling here, I liked what you had to say.

      I am curious. How did the community you observed evolve? Was it always so?


      • kulturcritic says:

        “…blood donor in a family of vampires” – WOW!!

      • javacat says:

        Hey, JP! Happy New Year!
        Sorry if I’m nit-picking about the language–an occupational hazard with words–but I had the sense from what you wrote that the ‘captured’ was negative, that in the noticing the individual was somehow locked into linear time. I lean toward the view of David Abram and the notion of reciprocity between beings, a kind of communication and understanding that is a dynamic and active exchange, whether the ‘other’ is plant, rock, animal, water, sky, etc. Within the connection is the recognition of the Whole. Your notion of mutualism fits here, too, in the understanding of the necessity of reliance.
        Givers and takers…an on-going struggle! A friend calls some of these takers ‘energy vampires’ for their demands on other people. They must fulfill their karmic destiny or whatever drives their taking. Your comment about the givers eventually feeling as if they’re enabling entitlement–more taking–resonates with me. What’s become increasing clear to me is the somewhat contrarian thought that I must give selectively. For me, this means giving as little as possible to the vampires and finding those with whom I share a common language. I’ve begun to practice this selective giving consciously this week as a means of conserving a limited resource, minimizing distractions, and directing energy where it may be most effective.
        I’m rambling here, too. Let me think more about your questions of community before I reply.

        • john patrick says:

          Thanks, KC, MP, and JC.

          I struggle with all the cultural nonsense around me. And I am part of it, complicit, as another friend would say. And then, when you do understand a little bit about it, what can you do? How can a change to sanity occur? Who’s idea of sanity?

          It makes more sense to me when I realize I am dealing with gods. All of us. And I think only a god, the god who created something, can destroy it and begin anew. With that in mind, a lot of this stuff is gonna’ be with us a very long time… poverty, war.

          The ancient saying, “Do you not know that you are Gods” is attractive to those that want the privilege/power. But what about cleaning up the mess? Who grabs the broom in god’s little green acre? I don’t mind cleaning up my own shit. But do I have to clean up my brother’s room?

    • kulturcritic says:

      Tell us a bit more about your experience, if you like, Java!

      • javacat says:

        Thanks for the offer, kC! Still processing the experience, though I can say with certainty that I was moving outside the normal boundaries of linear time, in a way that was fuller, more encompassing, more integrated, richer with fewer boundaries and barriers between self and other. Surprisingly hard to put into words. Maybe because it’s beyond words. 😉

  5. John Bollig says:

    Most generally, Community exists where people have common interests and a need to come together. One example of the rural community is a rural water district. Everyone needs water so they all have an interest in using it wisely. So, they conserve and plan uses of the water that will keep the system going. People are fined for waste and they are rewarded for conservation practices.

  6. kulturcritic says:

    Borrowed this from a friend on FB… I forgot all the wonderful haiku I read from college years!!

    The temple bell stops but I can still hear the sound coming out of the flowers – Basho.

    • john patrick says:

      I hear that bell in the morning at 5:20 am. Then I hit the snooze button.

    • john patrick says:

      Awful quiet lately. Sandy must be having a steam massage in a muskox barn. Drinking perrier flavored with tundra dandelions. Probably no electrical outlet for his laptop!

      • kulturcritic says:

        My little boy has been with flu the past week; made things very un-ordinary around here.

      • Brutus says:

        I’ve been quiet of late because I fear I’m irritating our host by taking him to task. But in line with the notion of deep temporality, let me offer that I stopped wearing my watch about a year ago and now sense time moving at a more leisurely pace. Other things influence that sensibility, of course, and I wish I had more connection with, for example, forest life as others here report. Instead, I try to get out on my bicycle every few days (even in the winter) to bust out a few miles and work up a sweat. Takes me out of my head and puts me back in my body, straining and groaning through the effort and tuned to a very different sort of time flow.

        • javacat says:

          Take him to task? Sounds harsh! Discussion of thought and content, fair game. We’re all in this together. 😉

          On my last 2 travels, I lost my watch both times–and took it as a sign. Back home, the clock still rules, but I get around it as much as possible. I like your cycling efforts…we all need to find our own means to feel those other rhythms.

          We need to find the people and places and actions that reconnect us–even if only briefly–and go back there again and again and again. Keep pedaling, friend.

        • john patrick says:

          I quit wearing a watch a few years ago. It just felt more and more like a slave-bracelet. If it weren’t for a poor memory with birthdays (my kids and girlfriend,) I’d get rid of the cellphone and calender, too.

          • kulturcritic says:

            Yeah, the problem with giving up the watch thingy is that the cell phone also tells the time… so we would have to chuck that as well.

            • javacat says:

              Watch, cell phone, computer, microwave, coffee maker, stereo, car, Google calendar: We’re awash in timepieces. But mostly, it’s in our minds, deep in our minds: how we measure, move through the day, the week, the year. How we value and evaluate. Getting rid of what we can, physically, helps change habits, for sure. Rooting out the deeply seeded habits of time….like weeds in the garden.

        • kulturcritic says:

          You never irritate me. I only wish you would read me more carefully before commenting. OTOH – the bike and watch are great ideas. sandy

  7. Cliff says:

    Enough of this. How about getting back to the original thoughts intent of the blog Why do we feel left out of the feeling of community. What other excuses can we find for not being able to communicate with those big trees, the oceans, the birds, etc. Once initial contact occurs, that relationship will become so profound and be powerful enough to share, absorb others. What are personal limitations, those things that are in the way of our full engagement with ecstatic relationship with all things around us?

    • john patrick says:

      Well, shoot, Cliff. If you want to get serious.

      We walk in the forest and see beautiful things. Or a picture of a tree hanging on the wall. But to “know” the tree one must take part in its creation, nurturing, and its venturing into another form (death/dissolution).

      The painter knows every brushstroke on the canvas and can freely transport themself into it. But, the observer is not granted the ability/authority meld with the tree. It would be like taking/stealing something that does not belong to oneself. Does the tree want to know you? (rhetoric, Cliff–you know me, Sandy, and JC love ya 😉

      Just saying…

      We only truly know, what we create. Everything else is a shopping trip.

      So… we either learn to create, and in doing so are able to “name” and have a relationship with the manifestation. Or, we flit from one interesting thing to another, like taking a tour through the zoo. Just because the animals make noise, doesn’t mean we have anything in common.

      Time for a beer.

      • john patrick says:

        For example… Sandy knows Veronika (story) because he created it. He has a knowing of it that no one else can ever have. He named the characters and set the scene and storyline. Should you/I have the same relationship with his creation as he does?

        He has shared it with us (by no obligation) and we are able to enjoy it. But we can never assume the title of author/creator.

        So we have to do likewise. And then share with others. I figure with 10 billion people on the planet, there really is no room for boredom. If you include all the animals, bugs, and trilobytes, there’s a LOT of stuff that can be created. And shared (if they choose to do so).

        The sharing IS community. Besides, who wants to create Middle Earth and have a population of one.

        • kulturcritic says:

          JP – It might be arguable that we all co-create the world we inhabit through participation. In a sense, H/G creates the world he participates, and we create this world.

        • javacat says:

          Last summer, I walked a path in the north Maine woods by myself, as my family had hiked ahead. I wasn’t worried: the path was clear and daylight long. I was aware, however, of my aloneness, which somehow allowed me to open to the grace of the trees and rocks around me. I felt, beyond words, the care of each tree I leaned on for support, and I was not alone. The relationship came not because I was directly involved in the care or nurturing of these trees–which sounds too anthropocentric for my taste–but because I was open to the reciprocity of the exchange, the communion, if you will allow such a loaded word, between beings.

          With a painting, a novel, a poem, a post, a meal–a few thoughts. None of us create alone. What we generate emerges from so many sources and experiences and influences that none of us can claim sole authorship. We may simply put the final form and shape on the thing. Beyond that, each of us who views that wonderful paintings of birches that Sandy shares with his posts; each of us that reads Veronika interact with that creation to create a new meaning and relationship. We cannot know either in the way that either the painter or writer, but that isn’t the point. We create anew with our individual participation with the art, with the environment, with others.

          These thoughts go back somewhat to some shared by Cliff a month or so ago about the power of creating each moment, with each breath. This idea suggests to me an openness, an ability and willingness to give and receive, and a strong sense of being alive in the moment. FWIW.

  8. john patrick says:

    KC and JC, I agree with both of you.

    It is a process. For the dance to occur, two (or more) have to participate and the result is greater than any-one could do.

    What comes to mind… is that even baby-gods need to be taught how to create, their role and responsibility, and fixing/dissolving their mistakes. And, to what purpose? The role of the teacher is to get the dove to fly on its own. And it seems, that even the trees participate in the parenting.

  9. Angie says:

    Hi all,
    Have you considered joining/instigating Transition initiatives? These are local communities preparing for the shtf scenario, collaboratively, utilising permaculture principles. David Suzuki, and many others see this as one of the few constructively adaptive approaches to the harsh realities we face. Read also David Holmgren’s stuff.
    There’s hope if thinking people, like you guys, get busy in the material – as well as cyber – world.
    I agree with those that believe that these crises could catalyse the organisation of some of the best of our human potentials, and that this will commence at the grass roots level. So do please investigate these movements, explore their rationales, get involved and spread the word.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Angie – thanks for the heads up; I am already transitioning in Siberia!! We have it all. sandy

      • Angie says:

        Thanks sandy.
        Should I be encouraged that even in Siberia one can access and participate in a community Transition initiative, and that this is what you are doing? I’m curious. (Apologies if you have mentioned involvement in the Transition movement, and I’ve missed it.)

        • kulturcritic says:

          The older generation Siberians (anyone above 50 years old without new found wealth, does not need transition communities. They have been living that way for hundreds (nay thousands) of years. With lots of love, sandy

  10. Angie says:

    My mistake. We should definitely look to the non-western traditional elders for assistance in preparing for the collapse and rebuilding functional communities. I will read your Apocalypse with interest.

  11. John Bollig says:


    Community exists only if the community allows all to join in the community. One of the most heartbreaking examples of the coming contractions of the welfare state. A woman who I know quite well has a child with profound disabilities. Her home state will not provide the procedure to allow the child to live a decent life. The parents are left with an agonizing choice. Move to another state, wait 2 years for medicaid to cover the procedure or institutionalization of the child for life. These decisions to cut spending do not occur in a vaccum. Community is more than the physical or spiritual, it is the function of the community to care and take care of one another. For all of the so called values that one should have, the most important is the value that comes from life itself. Everyone has value, everyone can teach us a lesson and that each human being has a right that no national leader, no economic system and certainly no religious theocrat has a right to snuff out, that being the right to life.

  12. troutsky says:

    In my opinion, the first impediment to Oneness, Wholeness, Harmony, Unity, etc.. are the sub and un-conscious. This is another Other, the big Other. I’m not arguing with your assertion that more community is possible and desirable Sandy, or that other cultures do a better job of communing but I respect the limits of space and time and prefer to accept rather than struggle against the tension they create for modern human existence. Antagonism is ok for me. Dissonance is ok. I go with Claude Lefort in anticipation of “a society in which Power, Law, and Knowledge are exposed to a radical indeterminancy, a society that has become the theatre of an uncontrollable adventure.”

    This means no single conception of the Good and not worrying about a mystifying Unity. I hang with folks who want to build “intentional” community and many involved with the Transition thing but it is only one (the less weighted in my opinion) aspect to confronting material power. Their tendency to take this non-confrontational road I find problematic.

    • john patrick says:

      “but I respect the limits of space and time and prefer to accept rather than struggle against the tension they create for modern human existence.” Thanks, Troutsky.

      The State of being. Even the atoms/molecules have a State that must be acknowledged, worked within, but–with the ability to transmutate/evolve beyond it.

      We have the State of self, family, community, and the larger construct–civilization. Before dismantling it, I think the goodness of it has to be accepted at least temporarily until one is able to go beyond it. And if one desires to go beyond, to what new state do you have in mind?

      Perhaps this is the infinite struggle, to immerse oneself in physical reality or potentiality but retain the ability (and learn the rules) to go beyond. I do not think we can learn anything without trying on the cloak of an “other.” How does it fit? You can always take the loose blouse in. But if it is too small, either adding new material or exchanging it for another seems to be the road to take.

      Time for a shopping trip.

    • kulturcritic says:

      I too find it problematic, Troutsky

  13. javacat says:

    kC and Troutsky, Could you both speak to your concerns about the “non-confrontational road” of the Transition group? I know little of the movement, and so wonder whether it’s their premise your find off or their methods.

    • kulturcritic says:

      JC – Troutsky is a Marxist/socialist, so he has a particular political agenda to carry through. I think he believes direct confrontation is necessary. I don’t particularly have a problem with the Transition folks. I guess I am transitioning myself.

      • john patrick says:

        You’ll have to explain this one, my radar must be on the blink. Am pondering the confrontational aspect.

        • Brutus says:

          I haven’t pondered this one at length, but the options appear to be two: (1) work within the system but get nothing done because the true possessors of power will never relinquish their hold, and (2) agitate violently and criminally against TPTB until change is forceably achieved, creating of new (cyclical) cadres of power holders. Option 2 has been the historical standard, as revolutions and revolts reveal with alarming regularity. Option 1 is the new meme, which makes a certain sense since consolidation of power has gotten so complete that the traditional force vs. force approach no longer works. Additionally, there is growing recognition that existing control systems (BAU) are destroying themselves anyway, so one rational response is to transition away and leave them behind, since they’re already doomed to fall into the dustbin of history, perhaps sooner rather than later.

          • john patrick says:

            I think I like what you mentioned in a prior post, Brutus, of walking away (where possible). Conscious non-participation is an act. If the cook puts a shit-sandwich in front of us, we refuse to eat it. And, work toward making our own meal with fellow diners. The cook may have taught us valuable skills in the past, all well and good. But the new recipes have little nutritional value–a feeling of fullness with no energy.

  14. Bret Simpson says:

    Instead of debating philosophy,live it.And you may find that it’s all bullshit.

    • Brutus says:

      Pretty nasty thing to say to someone who describes himself in the About link as a philosopher. I’m sure Sandy can defend himself.

      Only a clod would think that what is discussed as philosophy has no bearing on or meaning to life as actually lived. In fact, it’s all so deeply embedded that it’s impossible to escape. The discussion uncovers a lot of it but may not have direct applicability or power to change much. Nothing about that is bullshit, though.

      • john patrick says:

        I enjoy philosophy greatly. But I agree with Bret, that until one lives their “beliefs” one does not know what is applicable and pertinent. And, how much of it will change over time. I wouldn’t say it’s “all” bullshit. There are gems to be found. But much of it has to be taken in context with the writer and their life/goals/aspirations. Much of what I’ve learned from individual teachers/philosophers helped greatly in the moment. But at some point, having “women keeping their heads covered” has to be taken for bullshit. Or, perhaps a fashion statement. Growth does not occur unless the path is walked. Even if it is a deadend. Or as Sandy would say, the map is not the landscape…

        • javacat says:

          “Women keeping their heads covered” is religion, not philosophy, deeply controlling and deeply fearful of the power of women, so it uses force and restrictions to create the sleight of hand. Respect and honor do not exist there.

          Like all areas of study that become cloistered or stuck in the Ivory Tower of academe, the study of philosophy can be insular, tangled within itself, with no connection to real experience. Ditto that for academics in education, journalism, etc. If it’s not practiced, it’s not known. My sense from reading this blog over the months is that each person is living as best he can the philosophy he believes or is trying to understand or create.

          It’s hard to know what triggered the angry comment above for it offers no context or alternative.

          • kulturcritic says:

            JC – I agree about the control factor of Islamic sharia law, but as you suggest, they do it out of weakness (the men); they are afraid of their own attraction to women and the power of the feminine. PS – don’t think Bret is angry, just frustrated like most of us. best, sandy

            • javacat says:

              Ah, I think this is the situation in most major religions, kC. There are few is which both sexes are considered equal, granted equal power and respect, or in which the person is seen without her gender.

              Frustration? Yes, rampant among us. 😉

              • kulturcritic says:

                But, you understand of course that the major world religions are patriarchal, all products of historical consciousness. Looking at the pre-historical and very early historical record, there is much evidence of mother goddess cults alongside more pantheistic and “pagan” experiences of the sacred. World religion, patriarchy and civilized (historical) consciousness seem to go hand in hand. Before the birth of the major world religions, people looked down to the earth for a sense of purpose and connectedness; after that, people began looking up into the sky to discern divine purpose. It is also there that the more modern conception of spirituality, transcendence, enlightenment come into play. These are all metaphors aiming high and beyond the earthly realm, not focused within the spell of the sensuous, the earth, the mother. Just some thoughts. sandy

          • john patrick says:

            Hi JC. For the purpose of discussion (only), where does the boundary lay between philosophy and religion? I remember a course in college, “The Philosophy of Religion.”

            I tend to think that most philosophers/teachers would “revise” their writings as wisdom is gained. I have to wonder how many of them are squirming in their graves over something they said, that may have applied for a distinct moment, but no longer hold true.

            • javacat says:

              Goodness, I certainly hope we all revise our writings and living as wisdom is gained! Each time we write, we are changed, and the moment our thoughts are down, we have already moved on. No argument here about revision.

            • kulturcritic says:

              Philosophy of religion is the attempt at a systematic reflection upon religious belief, institutions and language. etc, etc

    • kulturcritic says:

      Is the philosophizing the bullshit, or is living it, BS? Or, is everything bullshit, thus making your statement irrelevant? Great reflections, Bret. Keep up those profound thoughts. sandy

      • john patrick says:

        Life can be bullshit 😉

      • john patrick says:

        Philosophize or live? If one knows all the wisdom of Solomon but never leaves the throne, to what good is it? What credibility does a captain have if he/she never leaves port? Better to shipwreck and be able to write about something real, than philosophize about sailing.

        We fool ourselves. Or, as Goethe says, “We are never deceived, we deceive ourself.” The brain “thinks” that image-ing something is the same as doing it. That’s okay for play/pretend. But it isn’t real. It’s okay for design, but it’s not a skyscraper. The elevators don’t work, nor do they have graffiti on the walls or a smudge mark on the button for ground floor. The image is just a photograph.

        And what of philosophy? One can paint from a photograph. But is it the same as making/living what the photograph portrays? I wouldn’t say we deceive ourselves because we want to. We just get trapped in a dream, and forget we are dreaming. The gods think they are living. What is real wages war against the dream.

        • javacat says:

          What started this was a claim that kC (and all of us posting here, I guess) were merely dribbling philosophically without the direct action and interaction of walking the walk of living. I don’t see the evidence to support that claim, or many of the subsequent comments. This is a blog, so we write. That doesn’t deny the existence of living.

          At other times and places, we’ve discussed the need for direct interaction and engagement within our living Painting, photography, art: all distance us from the actual, even as art and music and writing can move us and reveal deep meaning. Even the earliest objects and efforts, which were believed to hold the power of the thing depicted, were not exactly the same as the living being.

          While I agree with the thought of action rather than imagining, the sailing the boat rather than thinking about sailing, I’m not sure of its relevance here.

        • kulturcritic says:

          Chuang tzu (Am I a butterfyl dreaming I m a man, or a man dreaming I am a butterfy.)

  15. javacat says:

    Thanks so much, Sandy, for your thoughtful reply.

    I know my discussion of the religions is a digression. I was considering only the major modern religions that look to a distant outside force to control and dole out grace and punishment–which strikes me as an abdication of responsibility on the part of the human beings. You’re absolutely right about the earlier connections to the Earth, a very cyclic and vibrant connection to a living force that was touchable, knowable and direct.

    • john patrick says:

      Hey JC. (excuse my intrusion for the sake of conversation) I didn’t take your comments as a digression. I agree with you. It’s hard to get unstuck from anything where it’s all connected. Religion is in bed with math when you start thinking about infinity. And, how about imaginary numbers (sq.rt. of -1). How’s that for religion. The belief/use of something that doesn’t exist.

      One thing I remember from some Anthro classes (of which others and Sandy, are more adept at) is the idea that culture is ALL about expectations. We expect people to stop at a stop sign. The Japanese expect people to take off their shoes when entering the house. And on and on… Religion, math, science, writing, philosophy, all have their expectations. Nobody would follow anyone into the great abyss without an expectation of something. Who would get grant money for getting lost in the unknown? What is the lesson learned? (do we always have to learn something?)

      The only thing that doesn’t have an expectation… is vodka. Maybe.

      • javacat says:

        Hi, JP. Thanks for your words. I thought I was digressing from the original topic of kC’s post. I was feeling strongly that most modern religions and cultures create a tiered society in which women are lesser: limited, controlled, etc. If one is to build and cultivate community, than all members of the community must be honored: all must have a voice; all must be respected; all must be considered for the good of the group.

        • john patrick says:

          Hey JC. I’ve pondered this issue. And others feel free to jump in. But I think what nurtures the unfairness is the nine-month period where a woman is vulnerable and dependent on a partner/male to hunt/work (whatever) while the unborn child is present. And, the years following this when childcare is crucial. This biological “situation” automatically sets the woman up to be co-dependent and “could” be what causes longterm disparity.

          You would think the nine-month period would be considered an investment in community and longterm survival. But if comes down to “the guy who kills the buck is king”, well…I can see how the woman would find herself at a disadvantage to compete with this mindset. More evolved/caring communities might compensate for this. But, I do not know.

          Your thoughts?

          • “…at a disadvantage to compete…”

            The paradigm that life in the world IS a competition or a struggle for “happiness and peace” currently prevails. It is a delusion and a foolish choice, that choice most often being unconscious. The beauty and practicality of community is overwhelmingly fostered through cooperating, caring, and equal consideration for the interests of all concerned. Competition is like the adding of a bit spice to a dish. It is not where where the life-giving nutrition lies.
            As simple and as reasonable as this is, to me at least, it still requires a thorough overhaul to one’s unconscious programming to establish it being truly and reliably learned.

          • javacat says:

            Thanks for the invite, JP. I’ll share thoughts. From the stats I’ve seen, a woman, at least in the US and in modern times, has the greatest chance of dying when she is pregnant. Not from the complications of childbirth, but from violence at the hands of her partner. My pop-psyche mind tells me that this is from the threat that parenthood presents to men, embodied by the pregnant woman.

            I’m not convinced of the dependency-on-the-buck-hunter idea. I think in more traditional (i.e., h/g) cultures, the roles of both sexes were essential to survival without one or the other being dominant (Those more in the know, please jump in.). I would also hazard that in this smaller, more intimate setting, a pregnant woman would have the support of other women in the community, and that there would be greater shared childcare and child-raising than we see now.

            I see the current disparity between respect for and equality for women as deep-seated efforts by TPTB to maintain control. One may look at current politics in the US, especially the efforts of Congress to cut funding to women’s health clinics, Medicaid, and support programs such as TANF, as attacks on those without power, or at least with less money and power: women.

            By observations, and personal being, I think that women, in general, are more naturally drawn to form relationships and connection. Collaboration, if you will. These skills aren’t always value by the dominate male culture, or are often only used when it’s for their own use or relegated to some role deemed unimportant.

            i could go so far out on a limb that the twig breaks: maybe because men have looked to the sky, to the heavens and the sun gods for so long that their own connection to the Earth has grown especially distant and faint, and that they sense, at some genetic level even, that women, at least in part because of our generative being, are more attuned and connected to the Earth and its energies.

            Don’t know. Just musing pleasantly by the wood stove on a dark winter night.

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