Master-Slave: Free Will or Primal Autonomy

“The entire point in the human condition is that it forces us to exist in perceived separation, aloneness…”

This quotation, lifted from a commentary by Anarchrist to my last blog post, is the inspiration for my present offering.

Self interest raised to the level of greed led us to a worldwide financial crisis; self interest leads us into war after war for oil; self interest has led to disasters like that in the Gulf of Mexico and wholesale destruction of our ecosystems along with countless species of fauna and flora.

As we considered last month in Religion, Science and the De-Animation of Nature, there was (I wager) a profound transformation in consciousness attendant upon the birth of civilization – in short, urban life – and the development of new modes of thinking about self and nature.  Prior to that time, indications are that there were more fluid boundaries between the “individual” and his or her environment – “my flesh, the flesh of the world,” as Merleau-Ponty poetically stated the case. It seems that pre-historic humanity most likely experienced nature as alive, animated, having a power and motility that was shared with all sentient beings.

It is for this reason that pre-civilized consciousness may be called participatory consciousness (Owen Barfield, Saving The Appearances); tribal members actually could fuse with their totem animal, for example, because from their perspective there was no substantive difference between them and the totem: they were essentially of one substance or consubstantial.  But with the emergence of civilization on the heels of agriculture, there began an objectification of the external world and an increasing interiorizing of subjectivity.  This led to several critical dualisms that crystallized over the ensuing millennia – nature v culture, self v world, body v ego, me v other.  These conceptualizations would come to dominate human experience with profound philosophic, economic, political, and psychological implications.

Principally there was a distancing of the “self” from the “other,” and from the world at large – in effect, the cultural construction of an isolated ego, dressed in all its attendant finery, including the presumption of an innate concern for self, and a rapacious desire to exercise its free will (Sahlins, The Western Illusion Of Human Nature, 42). But such a separation, such differentiation of the individual was not always the case; it has not been proven to be a natural component of the “human condition” so called.

As Sahlins further elaborates:

Ethnographic reports speak of a “transpersonal self” (Native Americans), of the self as  “a locus of shared social relations or shared biographies (Caroline Islands), of persons as “the plural and composite site of relationships that produced them” (New Guinea Highlands).  Referring broadly to the African concept of the “individual,” Roger Bastide writes: “He does not exist except to the extent he is ‘outside’ and ‘different’ from himself.  Clearly the self in these societies is not synonymous with the bounded, unitary, and autonomous individual, as we [now] know him. (Sahlins, 48) 

And this early historical (but not primal) concern for self, this highly avaricious individual, “reigns still in American imperial designs on world history, only that the inherent self-concern that would be thus propagated has been revalued as individual freedom.” (Sahlins, 42)

The entire argument about free will today is grounded in this presumed distinction between self and world, and the identification of self-interest as fundamental to human nature; a nature, moreover, that needs to be reigned in by the hierarchies and institutions of civil society and polity.  Any discussion of freedom today, carries this same baggage, and makes similar assumptions about the nature of man and society, only that it may seek to eradicate society in order to liberate individual license.

I would suggest that any unexamined appeal to ‘free will’ presupposes this same dichotomy between an unrestrained individual acquisitiveness and the cultural machinations necessary to control it.  The arguments both for and against the State are based upon this sole assumption, that human nature is driven by concern for the self first and foremost, as separate and distinct from its surroundings or its fellow humans.

This is a false hypothesis; human nature, particularly an avariciousness nature is itself a fallacious cultural construct.  And likewise is the concept of free will, a socio-politico-religious construct created in order to provide reasons for the institutions of the State.  It was invented in order to justify the king, the dictator, the prince, and the legislators; majesty, monarchy and divinity marching hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder.  It is the assumption behind liberal democracies as well as fascist dictatorships; it is the totalitarian tendency inherent in every form of civil government – hierarchy and control of the licentious nature of evil men seeking free and unrestrained exercise of their wills.  It is the assumption behind Hobbes’ Leviathan, and every other political theorist seeking to explain or justify the organization of the State with the emergence of civilization.

Yet, in pre-literate, pre-civilized social groupings, we have found that the concept of self is not what we mean when we use the word today.  “Rather, the individual person is the locus of multiple other selves with whom he or she is joined in mutual relations of being” – affinity or consanguinity (Sahlins, 48)

As members of one another, kinsmen lead each other’s lives and die each other’s deaths.  One works and acts in terms of relationships, with others in mind, thus on behalf of one’s child, cross-cousin, husband, clansmen, mother’s brother, or other kinsperson. In this regard… neither agency or intentionality is a simple expression of (individual will), inasmuch the being of the other is an internal condition of one’s own activity. (Sahlins, 49)

In conclusion, it is not a condition of human nature that forces us to live isolated lives; it is the product of a mode of experiencing and interacting with the world grounded in a false set of dichotomous assumptions.  The alienation and aloneness we feel in society today is not a result of some misanthropic feral core in humankind.  It is the product of the objectivizing, alienating and legalistic machinations of the State as it seeks to secure its own control over larger and larger population bases.

Any discussion of free will today rests upon the self-same erroneous assumptions about self-interest, and falls prey to the same master-slave mentality it seeks to eradicate.

“Natural self-interest?  For the greater part of humanity self-interest as we know it is unnatural in the normative sense: it is considered madness, witchcraft, or some such grounds for ostracism, execution or at least therapy” (Sahlins, 51).

Free-will, self-determined purpose?  I am not sure what that means anymore?   All I can say is that free will is the construct of an objectivizing rationality seeking further isolation of the self-determined individual from her surroundings and her comrades in order to justify the abstract and alienating mechanisms of hierarchical control.

Primal autonomy, in my view, would refer to the relatively unbounded egalitarian relations of kinship (based on consanguinity and affinity) that connect us to our world, and free us from the abstracted life of an isolated ego, shut up in a bag of skin, managed by a legislator or legislative body politic.

73 Responses to Master-Slave: Free Will or Primal Autonomy

  1. Disaffected says:

    Free-will, self-determined purpose? I am not sure what that means anymore? All I can say is that free will is the construct of an objectivizing rationality seeking further isolation of the self-determined individual from her surroundings and her comrades in order to justify the abstract and alienating mechanisms of hierarchical control.

    Primal autonomy, in my view, would refer to the relatively unbounded egalitarian relations of kinship (based on consanguinity and affinity) that connect us to our world, and free us from the abstracted life of an isolated ego, shut up in a bag of skin, managed by a legislator or legislative body politic.

    Agreed, and very well put. The “shut up in a bag of skin” especially.

    By the way, your ‘Post Comment’ button is now floating and almost always in the way of posts. Might want to fix that.


    • kulturcritic says:

      DA – I am not seeing a ‘floating’ comment button on my end.

      • Disaffected says:

        I’m using Google Chrome, so maybe it’s got to do with that. Although it’s not floating today at work, so maybe its a Windows XP/Google Chrome thing.

      • Disaffected says:

        OK, the floating ‘Post Comment’ button is only an issue as you fill up the comment window and it begins to expand. I guess in that sense it’s not a button problem at all, just that the comment window expands over the ‘Post Comment’ button, while the address boxes to the left slide down to get out of the way. Once again, Google Chrome, but same issue on Windows XP and 7. Not a major deal.

  2. John Patrick says:

    On free will…
    How can a fish exist apart from water? Fate/destiny is not the prescribed path the fish must chooses to swim, but rather the fact it cannot live without water.

    If you put 10,000 perfect angels on an island, in a short time they’d be bored outa’ their mind doing “perfect” things (you know, worshiping, singing songs, smiling, shaking hands, drinking mocha with Plato, or playing checkers with Jesus.) In time, you’d have bankers, carpenters, lawyers, writers, global warming, nuclear power plants, and wars.

    I’ve come to think that within each of us is the tendency to rule the world “and” be a slave to it. These traits have roots beyond time and space. They will not, cannot, be annihilated. I do think each of us has the ability to transcend one river for another. To put ashore, and try another course. But none of the rivers will be stopped/dammed up. Each is an infinite possibility to be explored, for awhile. Which is why one of the ancient teachers could say things like: “There will always be war,” “There will always be poor,” “To gain your life, you must lose it.” (i.e., remove yourself from the river you are in.)

    While some/many/all of us may be able to propose a perfect world, we truly would be suicidal if things didn’t change (even for the worse). Any change. Something new to explore.

    Like this new river we find ourselves in. I do not like where it is going. There is some shit that is not going to be fun. But it will run whether I paddle upstream or float…

    Thanks for the article, Sandy. And for the great comments by yourself and others.

    • kulturcritic says:

      John – I don’t agree that these tendencies are “beyond space and time;” rather, they are traits that developed (by and large) only recently, with certain changes in the way we came to view the world and ourselves within the world. Humans have a pre-historical record going back over 200,000 years (and 2 million for our hominid ancestors) without so much “change”, and without much suicide. Is it possible to imagine such a state of affairs now… I don’t think so. But such is life.

      • John Patrick says:

        Hey Sandy. My point is, that these traits/events have a source rooted beyond the physical reality that we experience. To try to manipulate them as if we created them recently, is like blocking sunlight and thinking we have done away with the sun. I’m not advocating to sit back and do nothing, but rather understand that each trait/event is not a problem to be fixed in the logical sense. I think of it more as musical “notes”, high and low, that can be realized for a symphony or destruction.

  3. Hasdrubal Barca says:

    Wow. I am going to come right out and declare myself not very bright. My IQ falls within the normal range. I am aware of cetain limitations and admit I have tried to read many philosophical works, including Hobbes, only to get bungled up and thereby throw the book down and leave it there. However, I have been smart enough to keep trying to satisfy my curiousity.

    My intention is not to beat myself up here, but to let you guys (and gals) know that the average sheeple can get this stuff. Many of my working-class brethren are starting to smell something foul in the air and are starting to realize its not just the Republicans, Democrats, Muslims, Commies, etc.– depending on who’s telling on who. Once the bullshit is made crystal clear, as Sandy lays it out here, Joe Sixpack can see the chains that enslave him–if he wants to, and takes the time to do some exploration.

    The juxtapoisition of the current system with the pre-civilized societies has really helped me understand the supposed purpose of hierarchies, government, religion, etc. These are all things I have taken for granted as being the natural order of things. To think that ‘free will’ or ‘self-interest’ are artificial constructs is a mind-blowing notion at first, but after closer inspection, makes sense.

    My big question, which I will now have to explore, is how do we really know what pre-civilized peoples thought?

    • kulturcritic says:

      HB – don’t be modest. You understand plenty, and you know more than you admit. Also, there are many works on pre-literate, primitive groups, in anthropology, psychology, ethnography, history of religions. Several good ones are listed on my Bookshelf. I would recommend Barfield and Shepard to begin.


    • Disaffected says:

      Having just returned from a nightmare trip to “Joe Sixpack” land, I regret to inform you that for the most part, the average “Joes” in this land are, yes indeed, THAT FUCKING STUPID! Believe it or not, it gives me no great pleasure to say that, but say it I must. I’ve tried my damnedest to find something redeemable in the “great swath of middle class” (actually, most of them are no longer even middle class, but they’re too damn stupid to realize THAT EITHER!) that lies across the nation’s heartland and rural south, but, sorry to say, there’s simple no “there there”. After listening to countless breathless stories of how “it’s the Mexicans” setting fires in the American SW so that more illegals can come across the border, to how “that nigger Obama” is purposely selling out our interests overseas so that more illegals from everywhere can invade (for what I wondered, the federal lifelines are being cut as we speak), I concluded that these dumb bastards were just to damn stupid to talk to, and beat the HASTIEST of retreats. YES, the dumb bastards are indeed fucked, and yes they are indeed begging for it and MUCH more. What more can you say about a populace that begs for their own enslavement and then blames all the wrong people, but “HEY, good luck with all that you ignorant fucking bastards!”

      • Disaffected says:

        A followup, I was just thinking about the recently deceased Joe Bageant this morning. A helluva guy and a great writer, but I surely have to beg to differ with him on his propensity for sticking up for the American working class. They’re morons almost to the man, and fully deserving of their fate. Put me firmly in the James Howard Kunstler camp in that regard.

        • Brutus says:

          I’ve wavered back and forth between condemning people for their stupidity and feeling like all men are brothers and deserve consideration and generosity of spirit. Probably still haven’t fully decided. On one hand, there are plenty of people who behave very badly with full self-knowledge of their own corruption, and on the other, there are people who are victims of circumstance who despite their meager endowments manage to be good souls, plus plenty of range between. I can’t fully bring myself to blame the victims (see the movie Precious for one such character profile), many of whom never stood a chance.

          • Disaffected says:

            I think it’s mostly frustration on my part. But I’ve gotta tell you, talking to the people in my hometown is akin to using your head to drive nails into a concrete wall. They’re not very bright, and they’re DAMN PROUD of that fact! It’s all the ‘gummint,’ the ‘spics’, and the ‘niggers.’ Corporate America? They shit gold nuggets and we should all be happy for the little we get. Simply amazing!

      • Hasdrubal Barca says:

        You know, DA, I can’t argue with you. I’m just whistling in the dark. I wouldn’t be here if I thought unicorns shat rainbow Skittles.

        BTW, that was a damn good rant.

        • Disaffected says:

          I have my moments. No offense intended if you happen to belong to that class. I sprang from that class myself (and in truth, will ALWAYS belong to that class, as I hate the rich even worse), so I guess that’s why they irritate me so much. But seriously, the shit that comes out of otherwise “adult” American people’s mouths these days is just TRULY amazing. No wonder Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin enjoy the popularity they do (Vote Contrarian 2012! Bachmann/Palin, and Let’s Burn this Mother Down!). The propaganda is evidently working VERY well indeed!

  4. Brutus says:

    Good explanation and unpacking of the issues, Sandy. A few of the details seem to me askew, but nothing to get particularly exercised about. I also find your site navigation problematical, BTW.

    I often refer to the subject-object distinction, which corresponds to the complex of dualisms you cite involving nature/culture, self/world, body/ego, me/other. My understanding is that it/they first arose in ancient Greece, but I could be wrong (and it may not really matter much where or when). But like the hierarchical political relationships that flow from this new mindset, I think it’s inaccurate to say it was invented. Rather, it coalesced out of nothingness, sort of like the emergence of life itself out of lifelessness. To be sure, once established, various historical actors have sought ways of maximizing their outcomes, much like we all now manipulate complex social systems with self-interest being the primary motivator. But purposefulness was an aftereffect, not a catalyst.

    I’ve also pointed out before that we’re largely trapped within our own mental constructs. So while participatory consciousness, consanguinity, and submersion of the self (as opposed to projection) are alternative ways of being in the world, those of us already socialized in Western traditions can only partially approach or understand them. Similarly, just as those other styles of mind are legitimate and in fact have much, much longer histories than the modern scientific-rational mind (the Cartesian Paradigm according to Berman), our current destructive state is just as well enabled by our biology. It may be an example of the parasite that destroys the host, but that’s clearly within the fecund range of nature, not some abominable evil forced upon us.

    Lastly, numerous philosophers, poets, and others have sensed that we’re driving toward a dead end and suggested that our orgy of destruction is really a form of self-destruction inchoately designed to hit the reset button. Some expect that we are headed to something above and beyond, progressing and evolving through technology in the transhumanist sense, but more wizened folks expect we’re going back, not forward, to a more nearly Hobbesian kind of life: nasty, brutish, and short (though perhaps filled with meaning). I think it’s impossible to know which result will obtain, and it might take a long time to get there (if in fact we even survive the mass extinction that’s currently underway), so we’re again trapped within a short timeframe, our human lifetimes or even a few generations, that renders these questions a bit futile but interesting nonetheless.

    • StrayCat says:

      The dualities that are a predicate to our present condition are, I suppose, sequellae to the primary dualism of mind and body. This false division has led to many of the historical idealist constructs that enabled the civilization of people and the theft of their own autonomy in the service of the idealists, the monarchs, administrators and priests of the hierarchy. By dividing humans into two parts, or three or whatever, the rulers then claim that we are at war with ourselves. Whether it be psychiatry, witchcraft or religion, they only become necessary or desirable if we are divided in ourselves into things like body and soul, or ego, id and superego, or mind and body. These constructs are foundational to assumed authority, and underlie the felt helplessness and serfdom of most humans during all of the civil period. The very idea of bureaus as parts of ruling organizations is a direct result of this primary duality. To follow up a little more, I have concluded that all of our consciousness is a product of our whole being, arms legs, hormones, blood, brain, the whole unity that is a human being, and for that matter, all life. The division into parts, while useful for study of functions, and for medicine, has strengthened the duality in peoples minds and contributed to the false idea. The Platonic notion of forms as ideal existent shapes preexisting thought, and only fully appreciable by the wise philosopher kings was probably the most powerful recap of this set of dualities, and the ones, adopted by both church and king, have provided the intellectual sanction for our present situation and course.

  5. kulturcritic says:

    Brutus – thanks for the feedback. I agree with you that the dualisms I mentioned were not invented (I don’t think I used that word or anything similar, though I may be incorrect). But, it is most likely that such bifurcating concepts emerged with the development of thought concurrently with domestication and urbanization. And, yes, purposefulness was an after effect, not the catalyst as far as I can figure. It is obvious as well, and again you are correct, that our destructive mindset was enabled by our biology. The only question there is: was it a pathological accident, a wrong turn, so to speak… yet fully possible given our genetic makeup? Finally, I think there will be a Hobbesian period of transition with collapse. But, I do believe that the conditions for the possibility of the recovery of something more primal have been destroyed.

    PS, what is the navigation problem with the site??

    • Brutus says:

      There appear to be two layers of comments: one inside each post and another on the snapshot of each post on the Posts tab. The only way to get to the commentary action is to go into the post by clicking on the image and scrolling. There is no widget for recent comments. Also, clicking on a post in the Recent Posts widget takes me to the snapshot version, requiring yet another click on the image to get into the post. These embedded structures are not part of typical site navigation.

      As to your use of the word invention, I was responding to this:

      This is a false hypothesis; human nature, particularly an avariciousness nature is itself a fallacious cultural construct. And likewise is the concept of free will, a socio-politico-religious construct created in order to provide reasons for the institutions of the State. It was invented in order to justify the king, the dictator, the prince, and the legislators; majesty, monarchy and divinity marching hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder.

      I don’t believe our various cultural constructs and bifurcations are wholly false. They clearly have enough power to be operative, and so in that sense we create the world through our perception, however limited or faulty. But I would agree that our current medley of mistakes is not the only way to see the world.

      Finally, you say that conditions for the possibility of the recovery of something more primal have been destroyed. I’m not so sure about that. If we truly retrace our steps back to the energy output prior to the Industrial Age but based on a now badly degraded biosphere, the Hobbesian period we both expect will be primitive and much knowledge will be lost and forgotten. More importantly, our entire way of thinking about the world will be forgotten when our priorities shift radically. This already happened once in recorded history with the Dark Ages, which was an age of forgetting, of shuttered minds, following the high points (albeit not widely shared) of Classical Greece and Rome.

      • kulturcritic says:

        To All:

        I have included a Recent Comments Widget on the home page just below the Archives widget!!

      • kulturcritic says:

        Of course they are operative; that is why we continue to use them. But, when they emerged, and were they necessary, is another question. I would say that they lay a screen over the “given,” such that experience is interpreted unconsciously on its (the screen’s) terms. And I would contend that most (if not all) of our concepts regarding freedom, will, culture, nature — derive from philosophical and theological debates that emerged in the early part of the current era (Judeo-Christian/ Greco-Latin origins). In terms of recovery, I was thinking more in terms of a pristine return. That to me seems unlikely, in any event.

        • StrayCat says:

          I agree with you that a pristine return is impossible, but think that such may not be desirable. The knowledge of the history of ideas and beliefs and the resulting social creations, like the state, will be of great assistance in attempts to avoid the same thing in an emerging future. Being in the present will only be possible on a wide scale if the damage of hierarchy is understood on a wide scale.

  6. kulturcritic says:

    An additional thought on my post:

    I would argue that the more vociferously we proclaim our freedom, the more readily we demand and acquiesce to the controlling and potentially totalitarian measures of the State in order to “secure our freedoms.” Ironic, isn’t it?

    • John Patrick says:

      Hey Sandy. One person wandering in the wilderness is probably the most free any of us could be. Put two free persons in the same room, and a give-and-take must occur. What we hold to be in common interest, in a sense, is Gov’t. Given a choice, I’d rather give up some rights to enjoy civilization (two or more people). Perhaps, we just don’t realize what we hold in common? And the value of it. Still–to be perfectly free, we’d have to carry the whole world/universe in a backpack to enjoy/control it. Your thoughts?

      • kulturcritic says:

        John – Just because you cannot imagine it, does not mean it wasn’t so. There is significant evidence that egalitarian relations grounded in kinship worked for human groups for perhaps 200 millennia. Government is not what we hold in common; we hold our humanity and our tribal relations in common; that is not government. It maybe a council of elders; but that is not government. I don’t think they carried backpacks back then (LOL); and I think they carried very little with them when they traveled; after all, the entire universe was theirs; but they never bothered to claim it… perhaps it never occurred to them that private property was necessary. There was most likely much give and take at the band, tribe and clan level; however, there appears to be little that was mandatory without it being practiced by all. If you could image a looser, less cumbersome sense of self, not independent of others, then the freedom of being in the tribe might make sense. There is much that we cannot even imagine, especially a permeable boundary that enables you to participate (in) the life of another, of a bird, of the sun, of a tree. I can only report what I have researched and have been told. Those are some of my initial thoughts.

        • John Patrick says:

          Hey Sandy. Eh, I shouldn’t have used the word, Gov’t. It carries too many connotations. But really, where where two or more live in close proximity, some form of rules/laws evolve. I suppose it becomes Gov’t when you have paid representatives. The thought I had in mind was that, yes–shared culture, values, and rules for trade, etc..

    • Disaffected says:

      OR, said another way, the more vociferously (good word, deserves to be used more often) we proclaim our freedom, the more we proclaim our imprisonment. Ironic? Indeed! Just part and parcel of the new American ideal – IRONY! Or, say one thing, do exactly the opposite, declare that there’s no disconnect, and continue to live burying that fact. The psycho people have even coined a term for it, although it eludes me at the moment. Schizo… something or another.

    • StrayCat says:

      Yes, very ironic, and at the core of the problem with the notion of freedom as lack of boundary. The state’s notion is that everybody’s freedom ends at the nose of another, as though actions are only proper when within the bounds of a elastic bubble surrounding everyone, and keeping us all separate, and alone. The U.S. is an extreme example, where all commons have been privatized, and all public places swallowed up by signs and regulations. I am at a loss to understand what “freedom” means in this context.

  7. Patric Roberts says:

    I assess you have finally nailed the human condition and situation with pin point accuracy. Very good and thank you for your deliberate grounded reflections. My countering viewpoint to this rather hopeless situation based in powerless subjective relativism of an isolated ego, incapsulated illusion of dead skin, lead by body politic theoretical philosophic, economic, political, and psychological narrow minded cultural historic forces based in the presumption of power? The “natural self interest of primal autonomy” in the end game is the only actual sustainable enduring reality. And I am an optimist because in the midst of this much bullshit surrounding us there must be an opening for realization of the unbounded egalitarian or communitarian relations of our connected kinship with one another that precedes the current mistaken assumptions operating in modernity that in reality are absolutely powerless to the consanguinity and affinity in the unity operating in the human heart felt senses.

    Bless you!

  8. John Bollig says:


    Social isolation is a result of our civilization’ s rat race maze called the city, Nomadic, pre literate bands do not have the issue of isolation because of the tight knit nature of the family relationship.
    I do however, feel isolation of disability, personal and family isolation. but that is a result of the fear of difference.

    • Disaffected says:

      The irony of our increased social isolation in the face of our greatly increased electronic connectivity is profound. Maybe someday all relationships will be virtual and little humans (soon to be referred to exclusively as “consumers”) will spring forth fully formed from the matrix, complete with designer genes to ensure perfect form, health, and intelligence? Perfection in all of its forms must surely be the goal, and springs from the business community’s relentless drive for efficiency, itself nothing more than a form of perfection. And what is perfection? The ability to have anything – ANYTHING AT ALL – for absolute minimum (if not ZERO) cost, instantaneously, and forever (which is exactly as long as the thing is not obsolete, which will also grow shorter and shorter over time). Fortunately, cheap energy inputs are going to put a stop to all that. And it can’t happen soon enough.

      • kulturcritic says:

        I think you meant the lack of cheap energy inputs.

      • StrayCat says:

        Hey, DA, you are getting to a core of our problems. The notions of “perfect” and “Perfection” are false. Such a state or being is not within the realm of possibility. Again, Plato, then adopted by the catholic church, thought up the idea of perfection as state belonging to the realm of “ideas” or later, “heaven” as the source of all of human thoughts, perceptions and epistemology. Humans were thought to be so deficient in thinking ability that inference drawn from common experience were held to be impossible in the absence of some super natural set of “ideas” which we accessed by some mysterious apprehension. Of course, “perfect” is the name for something done or complete, not something that is unearthly in it’s lack of uniqueness.

  9. Jack Waddington says:

    It’s really very simple:- There is only me in my head and the rest is my imagination. But since my imagination runs riot in my head and allI am left with is to express it through language. It’s language that perverts us all.


    • Disaffected says:

      OR, and I’ve said this many times to colleagues just to piss them off: This is MY reality, and YOU are just lucky enough to be living in it. Yes, most of my friends think I’m an arrogant prick. But hey! What are friends FOR in the first place?

      • Jack Waddington says:

        Why I suggest language is the perversion is because we THINK in language. Being that there is only me in my head and the rest of you are a figment of my imagination, then I am, by definition, SELFISH (concerned and operating from self {myself}). That my imagination is running rampant in my head I have to weave around in there to make my life satisfying … to me. My experince tells me that if I am just allowing my feelings to guide my impulses and response, chances are I am getting what I like and want. Why do we make this word “selfish” such a derogatory word … it’s all I/we can be in the end.


        • kulturcritic says:

          Jack, I don’t blame you for your lack of insight or understanding, just your failure to see beyond the bag of skin you imagine entraps your self. The problem, Jack, is that they have you believing you are not your body, and your body is not connected to the world. They have you thinking you are inside looking out, rather than intertwining with the reality that touches you as you touch it. And, yes, language is part of the challenge.

          • Jack Waddington says:

            Words words and more words and they are all irrelevant. Word/language is merely an agreement amongst us humans as to what we hope it all means. In the end it’s all FEELINGS. I feel therefore I exist. I can ONLY, by definition, feel myself. I can get a sense of what you might be feeling from my own experience of my own feelings; BUT in the final analysis it is MY FEELING.

            There is nothing else I have to go by. Since I feel my very being the rest is ONLY WORDS, WORDS and more WORDS. Before we had words (not that long ago in our evolutionary time) we just felt like all the other creatures on the planet. We THINK cos we can THINK that we are the superior being.

            No! we are the INFERIOR creature on the planet. THINKING is the perversion.


            • John Patrick says:

              Hey Jack. I can certainly agree, though i don’t see thinking as the perversion, only a limitation that each of us much push onward/outward. I’ve realized for some time that you can’t understand the infinite with a 26-letter alphabet language. Similar to thinking a 286-computer can understand a 486-computer. Life (and its events) are much larger than our anthro-centric viewpoint. Doesn’t mean we should sit back and give up (tempting as it is) but rather value universal wisdom as greater than knowledge of our human-centered experience. Finding like-minded thinkers (as on Sandy’s blog) brings a certain amount of peace/comfort, but we only scratch the surface of the infinite. The ever-expanding experience there for us to explore.

              • John Patrick says:

                Thinking versus feeling… I’d have to agree that feeling seems more real than thinking. We feel pain/joy before we understand it. Or can fully understand it. If feeling is tied to our physical existence, then does it pass/dissolve in time? I do not know. Though, I suspect what we experience here/now is just a shadow of a greater reality. The trick (as a Buddhist would say) is not to dis-own/repel the present, but realize that it is conditional and passes away.

        • Disaffected says:

          Agreed. And well put. Love thyself first before all others, for only in the love for self FIRST, can ANYONE EVER comprehend love for another.

          OR, if you hate yourself, I GUARANTEE you hate just about everyone else as well.

          Someone, sometime, somewhere must have said this.

        • kulturcritic says:

          Jack – I would agree that language is chief among our challenges; particularly the written word. In fact, the transformation of language from an oral to written traditions wrought incalculable damage not only to the fullness of words, but to the fullness of experience as well. Univocality replaced polysemy. And the power of the spoken word was emptied out in the interests of clarity, disambiguation and legalistic adjudication. Scientific control of nature and people took precedence over everything else. And life became similarly emptied as a result. Specialization in how we interacted with one another was a further qualification on this specialization in language – at the semantic, syntactic and logistic levels of communication. This was the ground work for the curriculum of the West. Excellent observation, Jack!

      • kulturcritic says:

        Solipsism is certainly a standard philosophical position on many of these issues. Of course, I disagree

        • Disaffected says:


          Solipsism. Had to look that one up. As skepticism is my “raison d’etre,” I have to disagree, momentarily at least. That said, I’m open to persuasion. Keep in mind, I’m Disaffected of course.


  10. Anarchrist says:

    Well now that was an interesting post, and educational to say the least, I’m a little clearer now on why you objected to my overuse of the phrase ‘free will’. But still, I can’t help but feel somewhat misunderstood, given your use of some of my own post, and rather out of context as I see it:

    “The entire point in the human condition is that it forces us to exist in percieved separation, aloneness…”

    Firstly, there is no denying that the human condition – that is, what is means to be a human being – is to be separate, distinct, and unique from your fellow beings. By a simple fact of biology you are an entity unto yourself, contained within your very own vessel, complete with your own organs, senses, and very subjective perceptions. That is the context in which the statement was made – I would never suggest the human condition is one of loneliness.

    Secondly, I should elaborate on my distinction between the state (and FACT) of aloneness, and the condition of loneliness. We are human THEREFORE we are alone (due to the aforementioned biology), but when we GRIEVE over this fact, and FEAR its occurrence, we are experiencing loneliness, something which occurs in the mind. The disjointed, disconnected world we now live in is very much conducive to mental isolation and loneliness – of that there can be no question – and a ruthless ruling class of is very aware of how easy it is to control us once we feel isolated, and could seek to perpetuate that status quo – also undeniable – none of this changes that we do in fact make a CHOICE, conscious or unconscious, to feel this way or that about the set of physical circumstances in which we find ourselves. And that, I feel, is an excellent demonstration of ‘free will’ at work.

    Thirdly, the overall gist of the posts I made last week was to suggest that we as human beings must begin to accept that the condition of our biological isolation is not the be all and end all, because there is clearly a deeper truth beneath what we see and touch: That the cells of our body demonstrate a set of self-determining set of goals, and that we are nothing more than a complex collective of said cells; that the planet itself behaves like a macro organism upon which we are akin to individual cells, the only difference being that we have evolved a functional self-awareness, and seem to have gotten rather hung up on that. So I posited that it was time we moved past ‘me v other’ dualism because it has naturally mutated into a self-destructive evolutionary dead-end. My hope is that in our acceptance of these facts we might strengthen forgotten areas of our consciousness, sixth senses (and beyond?), that could better reveal the futility of the the PERCEIVED isolation of our condition as what it is, a tragic side-effect of the limitations of our (culturally conditioned) perceptions.

    What I felt was implicit in my general ramblings, but admittedly never quantified specifically, is that I feel there are decision-making capabilities in humans OTHER than the brain. All the complex ideas you are breaking down here on this blog are fascinating, but I feel you are lacking a certain dimension of the ‘primitive’ experience. That when people describe a ‘gut-feeling’ or ‘following ones heart’, while not literally accurate, both expressions belie a profound truth: that the brain fulfils a set of necessary biological functions, from regulating breathing to motor control, as well as (when working properly) allowing us to reference memories and bookmark our current temporal location (etc. etc. etc.) BUT, due to its inherent limitations, it’s not actually all that shithot living your life for you. I’m sure there could be much debate over that statement, but my point is this: part of you just knows, or rather FEELS what is best for you (when you are listening to it), and I don’t think this process is realised in the brain. I’m stating, for the record, that I believe there’s some sort of collective consciousness amongst all the denizens of this world – animal, vegetable AND mineral – and that we only need REMEMBER (as our ancestors did) how best to tap into that collective, networked consciousness, to find our ‘will’ at any given time.

    That really was the entire gist of my conversation with Disaffected, and it seemed at the time that he at least saw what I was getting at, mainly because the process as I explain it requires a degree of faith and suspension of judgement, and because I feel this is a process of MOVING FORWARD from where we are now, because going backwards, however appealing the concept may be, is in my opinion, unlikely to work out in reality. If anyone else doesn’t see what I am getting at, try watching ‘The men who stare at goats’. Though obviously I’m not talking literally about ‘Jedi Powers’ here, the movie says a lot about being ‘fearless’, and what it means to find or loose ones own soul, it is also both hilarious and informative.

    • kulturcritic says:

      AC – I think I see where you are trying to go with this, albeit, with some cumbersome grammer. But, generally, I would agree that there is a feral core, a power that connects us to the world in its myriad forms. And true, we have forgotten that connection. Specifically, I think civilization has worked tirelessly to insure that we would never again recall it. For this reason alone, I believe you own remarks in this respect contradict your earlier conjecture that our biology mandates our unique seperateness from our fellow beings. I think you are mistaken there. Our mental image of ourselves as it developed over the past 5 millennia dictates that; but, nothing else does. As a matter of record, precivilized consciousness did not see such discreteness. We have put too many screens between our senses and the earthly sensuous; they are as intimately connected as you could imagine. They are not the source of our aloneness.

      • Anarchrist says:

        Ha! ‘Cumbersome grammar’ – yes I am a hack and I do struggle to express myself in this medium, especially when in a hurry – fair constructive criticism. Indeed I also may appear to have tied myself in knots in an effort to be understood, I see no contradiction however, as DA suggests below we are separate skin tubes with diverse agendas. There are infinite dimensions of existence outside our physical vessels which connect us all, and suppressed awareness of that fact makes us open to the selfish state in which we are now encouraged to live – disconnected by the brain, our intuition atrophied by ‘reason’. Ancient peoples did not live this way, but we do, so now what? Regardless of our ancestry, here is where we are, and 5000 years of history has moulded us into what we are, there is no escaping that at this point.

        Evolution is a powerful natural imperative and it will not be denied, that’s why I’m so keen to embrace it; because it is happening within you whether you wish to accept your participation or not. At this point there is no way for us to return to these ancient ways of being, not without turning away from all that we have learned from our exploits, and that simply would not work; people couldn’t do it. I think I saw you describe your hope above as a ‘pristine return’, though you yourself don’t seem overly certain of its likelihood.

        My suggestions here are contributed in an effort to pin down a new functional consensus that might have an actual shot at working, or perhaps to at least to outline a set of goals that while potentially unattainable, we might gain something by aiming for. I maintain that integration is key in all manner of successful endeavours; you find something that works and add it to your repertoire. I don’t think there is anything to be gained from denying who and what we have become, trying not to be ‘that way’ would is a lot like ‘Good Christians’ trying not to have sexual thoughts and desires, it’s unworkable. To succeed we are going to need to accept both the dark and the light capabilities within ourselves, to transcend the duality of our being as both Yin & Yang, and attempt to find a balance point as we waver between the states in a dynamic condition of perpetual instability. To achieve this we first need to stop being so complacent and to accept that change is both inevitable and constant.

      • StrayCat says:

        Kulturekritic, I think that there is a sense of something like trust, but something more powerful and immediate than what we think of as trust, that allows an immediate affinity between and at times among individuals. This sense of connectedness is of course at odds with a hierarchical social structure. But this sense is, I think, at the root of strong friendship, marital binding, romantic love and other non structural relationships. While hierarchical social structure seeks to diminish or destroy these feelings of “trust plus” they are still strong enough and fundamental enough to have survived 6000 years of erosion. These trust related feeling can survive decades of separation between individuals, and still enable immediate reconnection at an intimate level upon reconnection of the individuals.

        • kulturcritic says:

          SC – your observations are truly illuminating. They just struck the right chord. It has been noted that there is a mute principle of trust that exists in the predation relationship between the human hunter and its prey in H-G societies. It is further argued by one author that this trust is constituted by a combination of autonomy and dependency in the relationship between hunter and hunted. This trust moreover is destroyed in the transition from HG organization to pastoralism, domestication and hierarchy; and the relationship of trust is thereby replaced by an attitude of domination… bringing under control both nature, animals, and man’s own nature.

          I think it is this same trust that you so brilliantly refer to above; that the bonds of kinship and affinity are based upon this type of trust, again constituted on a mutual experience of autonomy and dependency between individuals, ultimately making kinship and afinal relations work so strongly. If this is in fact the case, it would lay the groundwork for understanding primitive anarchy; not that it is pure license to do as one pleases, but that it is a state of affairs whereby human beings in concert live not under the thumb of a ruler, but in trust to one another, grounded in a natural respect for one another’s autonomy and dependency. Please see The Perception Of The Environment, Tim Ingold.

          • Patric Roberts says:

            When hunter’s in Native American culture went on a Buffalo hunt there was both warrior autonomy in living realization and connectedness in natural law (momentariness) within the activity of the hunt to feed the village, not just oneself. The coordinations of coordinations of the hunters was a precise pointed game and the hunted participated in a sacred play, not killing. The harvest was blessed and prayers were immediately given in appreciation for the gift of a shared life. If an autonomous hunter in the tribe claimed the buffalo harvest for himself, he would receive an instant severe correction that would eliminate any notion of elite private ownership permanently as a member living in trust preserving the community good and welfare. Even in a battle a warrior hunter chief leading the fight never commanded others, and anyone could decline without explanation. So autonomous decision making was always preserved in free choice.

            Trust is a social phenomena and our ancient biological notion of trust that SC points to is still operating in the domain of real friendship’s. Trusted friends are informal relations, freely chosen, and not about buying and selling one another in a drift of cultural power, position, titles or publication. Friends are relations who care, feed and nurture social relations over power. When a friend exerts power in the relationship, it ends the relationship of friendship, and we struggle in who holds power over one another. The fundamental human ethic in friendship is that the other is appreciated as a legitimate other in social relationship (= love) with no demand for obedience or negation of the other’s free will. The social relationship is not based in power, exclusivity or appropriation of another as an object of ownership or possession in living.

            As far as romantic notions of marriage, families and other non structural informal cultural behaviors, I assess there is deep blind spots occurring in psychological senses of self operating within powerful currents of collective historic drifts of ignorance based in dualistic perceptions.

            Friendship is present in feel and communicated in a shared essence even with strangers, and is trusted based on presencing of person~to~person heart felt trust that cares for a shared condition or situation arising in living. I assess that ultimately that is the intention of my friend Sandy’s posts.

  11. Disaffected says:

    Another take:

    We as humans, embodied forms of consciousness in “bags of skin”, are indeed unique and autonomous, but unfortunately, doubly imprisoned, in that we have been historically/culturally conditioned to forget our community heritage (the fact that we are all ONE), AND remember that we are all, in fact, OPPOSED (the fact that there is simply not enough to go around, and that we must all fight each other like dogs to claim the scraps). From there, Capitalism, Communism, Socialism, FillInTheBlankism, surely follows.

    Gonna take a major break through to escape this state of affairs. I’m not optimistic at this point at all.


    • StrayCat says:

      Well, DA, I have to disagree that we are all one. The very notion of community is a gathering together of individuals into a group for personal as well as public (community) purposes. The problem as I see it is that the word purpose is limited in scope to what really happens when people come together. The word “purpose” is too objective in connotation to encompass all of what happens when people join together. There are “reasons” that are spoken of and objects of the community’s attention. However, there are often, or usually, unspoken but recognized needs and feelings that are as powerful as the spoken agenda. It is this set of unspoken or sub-vocal needs and wants that give dimension to the public agenda, and give it meaning. Unfortunately, the spoken set of needs often takes over the communication, and sucks away the richness and intimacy of the community experience. The “problem solvers” want leadership and authority to fix the “situation”. Thus, the community’s needs get stripped of the intimacy, and the “problems” get put on a chart for solution, leading to stasis, and thus to a diminution of community.
      I also must disagree on a factual basis that there is not enough to go around. The fract is that even with our badly overpopulated planet, the pols and generals, the bankers and casino owners on Wall Street and the City of London have arrogated to themselves and their flappers and toadies more than half of the production of the world, and of the efforts and hard work of 80% of the world’s human population. All of this gets sucked up into the maw of the towers of Babel, the Towers of Gondor, and the war machinery that is the necessary consequence of our system.

  12. John Patrick says:

    On being human… why do we accept/perpetuate the boundary defined with its limitations? Who says we are “only” human. I say this in jest. We could just as easily say we are a bag of molecules with only a few types of bonding/orbits. We have the ability to subscribe to any definition we like. But with each definition comes boundaries. Maybe this is why many of the ancients (and some moderns) prefer silence and isolation. Not because it gets one closer to the truth, but rather it distances one from the self-limiting definitions of others. Perhaps, we should write our own dictionaries that explain our experiences. Then choose to share/overlap a bit with others… because we enjoy both states of being.

  13. Anarchrist says:

    Sandy, further thoughts on the subject at hand, I’d have offered them earlier but it simply didn’t occur to me…

    I think there’s a chance that you may have perceived my posts here as peddling religion (I am an Anarchrist after all), really not my angle at all so apologies if it looked like I was stinking up your blog with Jesus fever. In reality I’m really just trying to integrate all possible points of view into one big picture, and I won’t utterly exclude anyone from that, even Christian literalists. What’s your take? Doctorate in Religious Studies and all, was I waving a red rag in front of a bull? For my part it irked me somewhat that you not only took my little quote out of context, but abridged it also, as it originally read:

    “The entire point in the human condition is that it forces us to exist in perceived separation – aloneness – but my position is that it’s high time we moved past that view as the be all and end all, because the arrogance and terrible emotional grief of it it has given rise to in our species is fixing to kill us all.”

    Don’t worry, no apology necessary, I’ll take it as implicit. I mean, what could you possibly argue with in there? Clearly we are separated; into individuals, into sexes, and even divided as each human entity by our hemispherical brains. I feel it is our job as ‘hopeful’ humans to attempt to transcend any apparent duality, any artefact of the schism within our very being, in part by rediscovering our forgotten depths and re-integrating them. I’m sure we are as one on this subject.

    Don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to refer to this video earlier, but no regrets as it was probably a healthy experience for me ‘swimming upstream’ in clumsily trying to make myself understood. Anyway, this lady’s non-academic offering from real personal experience is clearer than any explanation I can offer of my feelings about this life…

  14. kulturcritic says:

    AC – I am not sure if “integrating all points of view” is a good thing. After all, it will not necessarily lead you anywhere in particular, or particularly desirable. Well, unless all you want is some form of forced unanimity. For what reason, I would have no idea. No I did not take you for a Xian or peddling religion. I understand you as a confused by seeking GenXer. That is your personal cross to bear right now. I have my own. 😉 My point in cutting a piece of your quote was to address this notion of the “human condition” or “human nature” and the assumptions we make about it.

    • Anarchrist says:

      Yes, I get that, but it should have been clear that I was making no such assumptions. Rather than responding to the whole sentiment, you got lost in that one tiny snippet and spectacularly missed the point of my post.

      Have to disagree on integration here too, the point is to integrate ELEMENTS of wisdom wherever you may find them as you move through the world; why not movies, music and chance encounters as well as heavy philosophical tomes? If you are overly fussy about the ‘packaging’ you can and will throw the baby out with the bathwater; I sense you may be doing this with my contributions here, hence my opening statement. Furthermore, I find it is very necessary to accept other people as they are in order to communicate with them, of course this doesn’t mean one must accept what they say as ‘gospel’ truth or personally adopt any of it. If we are to build new communities what good would it be to exclude anyone at all, as long as they are participating whole-heartedly? I find one needs only to accept people, warts and all and without judgement, and then attempt to build bridges upon any shared territory you might find; to meet halfway on terms that both parties can accept. When challenged many people will shut down and exclude themselves (refer to my Jehovah’s Witness story), so you come as far as you are able, and if you still can reach no consensus then so be it, but if you make the effort to think laterally and to search for the cracks, some folks will often surprise you with how easily they can be prised open. This is something that has to be exercised one-to-one however, on a case by case basis, as most people simply are not what they first appear to be, this becomes doubly clear as their own sense of self begins to fall away in the turmoil of trying times.

      I find this belief in people essential in my day to day now, as I have to ‘handle’ characters from very diverse backgrounds in my various social and professional capacities, and I can only imagine it is likely to be doubly necessary in the testing times ahead. Society is highly schizophrenic even here in deepest Cornwall, but it is obvious that communities must learn to come together in joint endeavours as this ‘thing’ progresses. In publishing my missives here and engaging in discussion I hope to add to and strengthen a set of values, encompassing all that I have learned from my experiences to date, and all that I hope for, excluding nothing and no-one as POTENTIAL contributing factors. Clearly this includes your good self.

      You are correct in that I am confused by many things, though as a side benefit uncertainty allows one to remain open to possibility rather than to grow confidently complacent. You are dead right that my cross to bear (Anarchrist :D) is that myself and others of my generation have no compass at times. Due to this fact and because personally I also refuse to surrender entirely to the consensus or the ‘guidance’ of others, I’ve instead spent my life trying to create a personal belief system (not the best description for it) from the scraps I find compelling, and to use that as an anchor to which I can bond the core I think of as ‘me’. This is an on-going and ever-evolving pursuit, but I do find that some phases in life are about turning inward, others outward. I’m using this ‘quiet’ time, these fleeting moments of relative peace – the calm before the storm hits and all hell almost literally breaks loose – to try to stress-test my personal core and to reinforce this centre within myself so that I can later trust it as my reference point at times when things might seem hopeless, or when I may need to make sacrifices that could threaten to shatter my sense of perspective. I am testing myself, in advance of the busy times I face.

      You are a father are you not? What do you truly hope for, and aim for in your dealings with the world? I have two small boys, 2 and 4 years of age, and for their sake I try to always aim high; for the best achievable outcome for all concerned, knowing it is not always possible to reach such an outcome but always learning and improving my lot as I strive for it. As a rule I do not ‘write people off’, they do that themselves. I am doing my best to sustain some kind of balance, as (I am told) in the Tao, between all the competing forces at work in any given moment. Outwardly I am a practical man with many skills, too many to list here, but they count for little if I am unable to participate alongside others with a shared purpose, regardless of who they are and what that purpose may be. What of yourself and your family? You are an academic, yes? What else are you? Do you yourself not exist in different states of consciousness at different times, while doing different things? Can you forgive others their ignorance, selfishness and blindness enough to ‘see where they are coming from’? Or do you feel, learned as you are, that you are different – a finished article, all knowing and complete in your composition? If so I encourage you to examine your own motivations for doing what you do here; if not to broaden your horizons and similarly assist others to do the same, then why post anything at all?

      • kulturcritic says:

        AC – The only reason I question global integration (of peoples or words or ideas) is that it becomes a superficial activity. To pick and choose what you like will alienate those who believe in an entire system. And globalization itself will further add to the alienation of all concerned. That is my belief. I certainly do not ignore music or myth or literature or philosophy as potentially donating.

        I further believe that this eclectic approach of yours is already guided by a certain pre-thematic understanding of what you wish to prove; and so you sort through the world of ideas picking and choosing the pieces that suit your preconceived idea of truth.

        I think the dialogue on my site is great. I enjoy hearing well formulated responses to my posts. Of course, as a blogger, I believe that everyone has a right to MY opinion. Otherwise I wouldn’t blog.

        Quite frankly, I do not strive or aim for anything more in life or from the world. I have already been given, seen, and achieved too much in this life. And I believe that striving after some future completion or happiness is a vicious parade that simply locks you into THEIR curriculum. I wish nothing for my son, because I have no idea what may happen in this world. I will prepare him to take care of himself and try to help him enjoy what nature there is left in the world we now inhabit.

        I was an academic. Over twenty five years ago. I taught history of religions and philosophy. I was a business man for 20 years, working for some of the largest multinationals, at very high levels in the organizations. I have worn many hats over the years. I was a musician, a taxi driver, and a record producer, among other things.

        Ignorance I can forgive, even though I usually don’t forgive myself for my own ignorance. And I try to understand all commentators, although I don’t always agree or understand what they say.

        And as far as the Tao goes, the following should be remembered: The ‘way’ (tao) that can be named is not the true ‘way’ (tao). And the most effective action is through non-action (wei, wu wei)!

        best, sandy

        • Anarchrist says:

          Thanks Sandy, that was informative and there was passion in there too. I realise I am being provocative here as I agree completely with your stance, but who said anything about global integration? I’ve been going with the assumption that everyone here realised that the globalism beast is in its death throes. What I’ve been describing here is a personal process, mine, yes? It can’t be superficial if it’s personal and heartfelt. The whole point is for me to put all these little lessons into practice somewhere down the line.

          I am also definitely trying to ‘prove’ some pre-thematic truth, to myself at any rate, so you have me there, but it’s ultimately based upon what I feel is true in my gut, what I was in fact born into this world feeling, and yes I can truly say that by a bizarre trick of fate involving recurring nightmares I do, in a sense, ‘remember’ being born, so I promise you it’s not just about conditioning or even ideas as such, just raw feelings. Nonetheless there is a continual internal process of probing going on there as I try to examine my motivations as honestly and clearly as I am able.

          It seems you do think of yourself somewhat as a ‘finished article’, perhaps you feel that you’ve had enough of all that changing and growing, and perhaps you are entitled to that in light of your many works and experiences – only you are qualified to judge, and I certainly do not, I only urge caution here as you are not yet dead and who knows what tomorrow holds?

          I think the Tao describes well my feelings about the fundamentals of the universe, but I suppose you could probably guess I don’t really hold with non-action as a rule – I’m an impatient, impulsive man capable of vindictive acts that have occasionally shocked even me – but coming from a thousand year long bloodline of butchers and mercenaries I’d say it’s in the genes, can you blame me? Ghandi may have made his point and still been a saint, but I’m simply not capable of that level of tolerance. What matters most to me is not that I strive not for completion (how pointless would that be?) but for ‘fairness’ (whatever that is) in my daily life and not blunder through life hurting all ‘the wrong people’.

          Right, enough, lest I become irritating 😀 . Truly Sandy, I thank you for your time and your indulgence, I do appreciate your engaging with me thus far.

          Sincerely, Steve

  15. Pingback: The Word « The Spiral Staircase

  16. Patric Roberts says:

    I am very thankful for your comments. I am a grandfather (60) and appreciate the way you formulated the self discovery journey and articulation of your identity. More to say latter and a note on appreciation and encouragement.

  17. I feel appreciation for this discusussion as it helps give explanation to why what has mattered to me as an antidote to alienation has mattered so much.

    To wit:
    I’m a school teacher and take energy from the fact that seeing and identifying with, and assisting children allows me to be free of the sense that everything is objectified in the name of a brutal competition of wills to advance self interest at the expense of others. The irony is, that children in our culture often do try to do just that, but at least in the classroom of a caring teacher, some other possibility begins to open up.

    Another thing that I keep being drawn to is music and music community. The expression of idea and feeling in the form of song feels fundamentally different than the assertion of mind in writing (even the kind of writing I’m doing right now), as music requires a joining-with (according to the commonly and physiologically understood rules of harmony, tempo, structure, melody) -in listening in order to be pleasing to a listener, even when playing alone for the person with the instrument.

    In my town, I found myself in a role of helping to provide a forum for people to make music and celebrate music and spoken word performance, three hours a week. These three hours are among the most purely nourishing and satisfying times I know of. All times where through appreciation of the qualities of someone or something, I find myself acting to honor or support that person, even if it is just to appreciate something about them, feel like freedom, feel like happiness, feel like a gift from the universe back to me.

    I just read a wonderful book called, “A Paradise Built in Hell” by Rebecca Solnit which illustrates the concept that times of supposed disaster, such as the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 2005 opened up a glimpse of what MLK, Jr. called “the Beloved Community” in which people moved selflessly by loss and identification with common helplessness found ways to give, ingeniously, creatively, and esctatically. By the way, Barbara Eherenreich has also written a book about the need for celebration called: “Dancing in the Streets
    A History of Collective Joy” (which I also recommend) which also gives a historical picture of this kind of trend in Western history.

    The way out of the dead end of alienated objectification in a seemingly meaningless world lay in ecstatic, and joyful dissolution of self concept into a loving identification with being a member of a Beloved Community. Of course there are dangers in this (cult members think they are doing this, which is why they join), but unauthorized generosity and service really work for me.

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