The End of History: In Search of Deep Temporality

A Post-Holiday Offering in Memory of American Indian Cultures We Destroyed

The end of empire? The end of civilization? The end of life as we know it? As the American hegemony continues its genocidal rampage across the globe, apparently preparing to launch an attack now on Syria, Dmitry Medvedev has put Russia’s missile attack early warning radar station in Kaliningrad on combat alert. But this is not the end of history we are considering here today.

There are not a few people today speaking about “the end of history;” not the end of Egyptian, Italian, British, Russian, or American history, but the end of history per se. What could this possibly mean; to what could this possibly refer?  In the opening sentence of his posthumous work, Coming Home to the Pleistocene, Paul Shepard makes a shocking claim, which provides a compelling starting point for today’s discussion.

History is not a chronicle, but a Hebrew invention about the way the cosmos works…

History, an invention? What an odd, but perhaps necessary correction to some well embedded cultural presuppositions, as we explore our commonsense notion of time, historical narrative, and the looming end of history.

The first question that must be posed is this: what precisely is the phenomenon we call time? What constitutes our internal sense of time-consciousness, this unidirectional linear flow of events moving like a river from past to future; what makes up this taken-for-granted substructure or scaffolding upon which hangs all of human history as well as personal autobiography?  Some physicists have even begun to ask if time really exists (See Julian Barbour, The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Physics).  Let us begin with a rather straight forward summation by Dr. Marvin Bram from the foreword to my work, The Recovery of Ecstasy:

We in the West live inside our calendars, wearing our watches. What are the arguments for this recent and remarkable self-relegation to timekeeping as absolutely necessary? Merely a convenience? A full-fledged curse?

We’re happy to make a to-us obvious distinction among the past, the present, and the future.  We look at the present date on a calendar, and it’s a simple matter to find the month and day something happened in the past.  It may have been a pleasant thing that happened, but it may have been an embarrassment we can’t get out of our mind, or something terrible, or something important that went undone.  So it’s a mixed enterprise, looking back at the past.

The future is more interesting.  Its days and months are marked on the calendar too.  It goes without saying that none of those days has happened yet, but we’re especially absorbed with them because our planning involves the future.  On a particular future day, perhaps at a particular time on that day, we want something to happen.  We’re probably making arrangements in the present for that future event; that’s one of our major activities.  So it appears that planning for the future isn’t the mixed enterprise that looking back at the past probably is.  We maximize our interests when we plan intelligently.

That’s not quite true.  The selfsame future in which we plan our next and better job, or arrange for a wedding or for college, is the only site on the temporal scheme past/present/future in which we will cease to live.  We die in the future.  Here is a hypothesis: the more absorbed with planning a person is, the more likely that fear of death will become a continuous presence for that person.

It appears that thinking about the past represents a low-intensity, mixed use of the mind, sometimes rather positive emotionally, sometimes rather negative.  Thinking about the future, on the other hand, is high intensity itself.  Yes, thank God, I’ve arranged for Buster to go to Harvard.  Oh no, I’m going to die.

Something more remains to be said about the middle term of the scheme.  First, the present is the only place we are living, acting, thinking, feeling.  We’re done with the past, and the future hasn’t happened.  And the nature of that living?  It may well be that our present is preoccupied, one way or another, with the past and the future!  The only place we’re actually living has been made thin by two uses of the mind that are in fact recent mental habits taught us in civilizations like our own.  The present, for more of us than we want to acknowledge, can thin out to near-emptiness in this way.  ‘My life is empty,’ means more than it seems to mean. [pp. i-ii]

On the other hand, there are those from traditional indigenous cultures in America, like Lakota Luther Standing Bear, who describes his own lack of familiarity with clock-time when, as late as 1880, his father presented him with a gold watch and chain.

There was a little cross-piece in the center of the watch chain to fasten through my vest button. How proud I was to receive this watch! When any of the boys or girls looked at me. I always took out that watch and looked at it, imagining that I could tell time!! At that day I did not know how to tell the time by looking at a watch or clock (My People the Sioux, 1928: 151).

It is no secret that many American Indians suffered brutally at the hands of white settlers and missionaries for any infraction against clock-time and its requirements. Or, as we read in the words of the Hopi author and teacher, Polingaysi Qoyawayma (a.k.a. Elizabeth Q. White):

For centuries [clock] time had been of no importance to the [Hopi]. The sun rose, the sun set. The Indian worked or hunted, danced or played, while there was light; when darkness came, he slept. No clocks had ticked in the rock homes of [the Hopi]. They lacked the white man’s conception of time. There were changes of the moon, changes of the seasons; but no one counted the hours. Now the Hopi must learn to respect the busy clock and be controlled by the circuiting hands. Not to conform was to be thrown off balance. The old days were gone forever. (Quawayma, 1999, 176)

I think it undeniable that there remain challenging issues raised with the emergence of historical consciousness, inexorably grinding us forward on a treadmill from past to future, and the commonsense view that life’s purpose is somehow tied up with that movement.  Let us consider.  What has such fixation on the future and progress, drilled into us by historical consciousness, done for us, or to us?  Has it not created a disquieting sense of abandonment and a stress-filled, never-ending search for identity and self-fulfillment?  Has it not prompted a vague feeling of emptiness from which we cannot easily extricate ourselves, and as protection against which we need to be distracted through constant planning and novelty, with ever-loftier goals and objectives?  Is not the net result of this being-towards-the-future a thorough hollowing-out of the present moment, a removal of all significance from immediate experience, except perhaps as a stepping-stone to some final reckoning and resting place (being-towards-death)?  But these questions raise yet other concerns.

Has not this framework, the chronological trajectory, filled us all with an insatiable acquisitiveness, a need to compete, to possess and to control, ceaselessly exercising individual acts of will that we conventionally describe as free choice: where to live, whom to marry, what to buy, what career to pursue?  And are not the endless choices presented by the culture but a series of carefully crafted screens that, intentional or not, keep us from facing the reality of having surrendered ourselves to an impersonal and fabricated historical process that can never lead to happiness, eventually culminating in death?  Why should there be this compulsion to look ceaselessly forward, with an ironic sense of resignation, existential dread, and the certainty of death?  How unfulfilling and frustrating!

There is no evidence that our Pleistocene ancestors, including those Homo sapiens of the early Neolithic, knew anything of this irreversible linear timeline and the “burden of history” (Eliade) that has come to dominate our modern consciousness. To the contrary, there is much evidence in ethnography, ethnology and research in the history of religions to suggest the opposite; that our pre-civilized progenitors were – and what remains of extant non-civilized peoples are – fully immersed in an ahistorical, and qualitatively unique present.  It is a present, moreover, made full through mythic participation in a set of primordial and founding events – a ‘deep’ archetypal past – grounding the periodicities of nature. Theirs, it would seem, was a life completely drenched in the generative moment, in closest proximity to the surrounding environment, engulfed in its wildness, and absorbed in its rhythms of periodic return and renewal.

I would characterize the temporal experience of preliterate humans as a consciousness of deep temporality [a powerful, pulsating, cyclical, rhythmic present] for the simple reason that a strictly unidirectional sense of linear time cannot be presumed to have been a central, if even a remote concern, for our prehistorical progenitors.  In the context of this more primal temporal experience, the preliterate gatherer was so absorbed by a power-filled present that he could readily fuse with his environment; she felt at once herself and not-herself, so identified with her totem as to become identical with it, feeling the presence of the clan animal within her.

The question is, can we recover this experience of deep temporality in a world where the unidirectional flow of historical time and autobiographical narrative has come to dominate our everyday experience?

In helping to break the spell of historical consciousness, cast like a pall over humanity for more than six millennia, I would like to turn to the French phenomenologist, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and his analysis of our concept of historical time.  Attempting to loosen the chains that bind us to the treadmill of clock time’s forward march, he writes in The Phenomenology of Perception:

We say that time passes or flows by. We speak of the course of time.  The water that I see rolling by was made ready a few days ago in the mountains, with the melting glacier… If time is similar to a river, it flows from the past towards the present and the future.  The present is the consequence of the past, and the future of the present.  But this often repeated metaphor is in reality extremely confused. For, looking at the things themselves, the melting snows and what results from this are not successive events, or rather the very notion of event has no place in the objective world… if I consider the world itself, there is simply one indivisible and changeless being in it… The objective world is too much a plenum for there to be time. (411-412)

“…Too much a plenum for there to be time?” More than a challenging metaphor, this statement appears to be a clear challenge to Enlightenment hypothesizing and post-Enlightenment reasoning.  This allusion to Descartes and Newton (De Gravitatione) suggests a fundamental overturning of our now commonsense view, recollecting the pre-reflective nature of human dwelling within a fullness (plenum) of the lived-body-world.  Merleau-Ponty later calls this “the thickness of the pre-objective present, in which we find our bodily being, our social being, and the pre-existence of the world.” (421, italics mine)

He reminds us that there is something forgotten (letheia) that lies hidden beneath our mundane experience of this culturally constituted and temporized environment; something linking us to the earth we inhabit and enlivening our presence here — something more primal than the hypotheticals of space and time generated by our scientists and our specialists.

Can this primal experience of deep temporality be recalled or uncovered (aletheia) in a world where  historical consciousness has so fixated our lives that we inhale it with every breath we take?  I believe it can be.  And, I believe that through such unconcealment we can achieve a state of communion (or new integration) with the environment in which we always, already dwell.  I would wager that such an act of uncovering may occur almost accidentally, arbitrarily, or capriciously (as LaoTzu might say), rather than through some supernatural exercise of the will. I would wager, furthermore, that there is nothing mysterious in such an experience.  While it provides a bridge between “my flesh and the flesh of the world” – attaching me with the raven, the cave bear, or the river – it does nothing to deny the experience of the flesh, the senses, or the earthly sensuous, but serves only to strengthen the experience of their interdependence and pre-rational intertwining.

I would argue that this experience of deep temporality is perhaps an unexpected, but not infrequent companion to many persons; yet, it can be fleeting and disorienting, and so often frightening to those of us whose lives are tightly circumscribed by our culture’s rigid commitment to historical narrative and the causal outcomes of syllogistic reasoning.  So often, such an experience is simply ignored, in the interests of maintaining a “healthy” attitude to linear autobiographical time, and addressing the exigencies of life in our culture.

But what could be the source of such an event of deep temporality, carrying us beyond the civilized artifices of historical consciousness?  Perhaps we all retain a genetic trace, a feral memory of this elemental intuition.  Perhaps we should call such event a recollection lying just beneath the surface of an otherwise historical experience and embedded obscurely inside our various cultural systems.  However it be characterized, such a memory trace could provide us with the possibility of recovering a moment that dissolves historical time, granting us not a glimpse but, rather, a sensuously pregnant occasion of human dwelling underlying and haunting our civilized life.  Such an event might also be capable of exorcising the isolating, emptying, and alienating demons of historical consciousness in a rich identification with a timeless and irreducible present.

What, then, could trigger such an experience of deep temporality?  Well, I imagine that, since our culture delineates a basic orientation to reality, with hardened prejudices protecting us from any extra-historical experience, then there must be certain limit situations pushing at the edges of this civilized scaffolding — temporally, spatially, and psychically — where such a lingering genetic memory might burst through.

Whether the source of such an event be rooted in moments of great loneliness, despair, suffering, pain, trauma, terror, euphoria, joy, love, or a burst of creativity, the necessary condition would seem to be an experience of marginality or strangeness, an incipient feeling of difference, otherness, or alterity.  It is in this respect that estrangement – either from oneself or one’s culture – may itself become the protagonist in an event of deep temporality, returning one to a new beginning, a primal and non-autobiographical ground. Such experience, moreover, might provide one with a radically different sense of freedom as well – a freedom from the “terror of history” and the fear of death, rather than the apparent freedom of choice that we so dearly cherish and desperately cling to in the West today.

136 Responses to The End of History: In Search of Deep Temporality

  1. B Miller says:

    One does not have to head to the Pleistocene to experience the freedom from the clock. The Hopi quotes may be a bit off the mark since the watch was not part of most peoples expereince until just 30 years previous. And, the clock was not part of the average household perhaps 30 years before that. In other words the poor Hopi was only about 60 years behind the curve.
    However, as we all know, all technology has its own momentum and unintended consequences. The town clocks that began showing up in Eurpoean market towns in the 1500’s allowed mercantilism and capitalism to flourish. Much easier to weld an individual’s labor to a task when you can measure the time spent. Even so it wasn’t until the mid-1800’s in America that the worker finally gave up his artisanal freedom. Coincidentally, or not, that image of himself as a free worker was lost about the same time as the product of time management (personal clocks) became universally available. Easy to understand why the 19th century worker decried the new industrial work as wage slavery.
    I know this is far from your point, Sandy. It is just that I think we can look closer to our own time (curious how that term crept back in, eh) for images and cultures that adhered to a more ancient path. The peasant traditions of Europe survived in all of their pre-time glory relatively intact until the end of the 19th century.
    Well, I have gotten off in the weeds from your post. Thanks as always for sharing.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Mr Miller – You are absolutely correct about the emergence of the clock tower in the town square and its relation to mercantilism’s development as the incipient economic enslavement of new urban dwellers. The problem of unidirectional time, on a much grander scale however, begins to emerge substantively with the Hebrew view of an unfolding historical drama moving forward to a defined (albeit still uncertain) telos (end) in the future. The entire history of the people guided by Yahweh is a forward-looking narrative seeking to make sense of the recent past in terms of its directedness to some salvific event in the future, when the people of God would be justified, finally. But, even before the Old Testament (1400 BC) begins to articulate a solid historical record; the emergence of laws, even as early as Linear B, (2,000 years BC), a script consisting of 87 syllabic signs (including a large cache of ideographic signs) used by a professional guild of scribes serving the palaces of Mycenaean civilization, lays the foundation for this shift in time-consciousness; also we find this shift with the emergence of the earliest written legal codes inscribed for king Urukagina, who ruled over Lagash in ancient Mesopotamia, approximately 4,500 years ago. I guess my point is that we must look back pretty far to see the murky origins of this changing relationship to nature, and the special role that language, and its impact on time consciousness, played in this transformation.

      • B Miller says:

        Thanks for the reply. That helps a bit in understanding the thrust of your missive. I think my point was to say that some of the latent forces that will help in a transition away from our modern industrial way of living have survived until very recently. And, we may be able to tap into them without seeming too much like cultural raiders. (Which is not a reference to you, Sandy.)

        Well, I’m off to slop the hogs.

        • kulturcritic says:

          Some of those forces remained vital (to some degree) for very long, and were still somewhat influential in various cultural modalities until the beginning of the Enlightenment. Even today, the feral memory trace remains.

  2. javacat says:

    Thanks, Sandy, for such an encompassing & provocative essay. It brought to mind for me this poem:


    Il faut être toujours ivre, tout est là ; c’est l’unique question. Pour ne pas sentir l’horrible fardeau du temps qui brise vos épaules et vous penche vers la terre, il faut vous enivrer sans trêve.

    Mais de quoi? De vin, de poésie, ou de vertu à votre guise, mais enivrez-vous!

    Et si quelquefois, sur les marches d’un palais, sur l’herbe verte d’un fossé, vous vous réveillez, l’ivresse déjà diminuée ou disparue, demandez au vent, à la vague, à l’étoile, à l’oiseau, à l’horloge; à tout ce qui fuit, à tout ce qui gémit, à tout ce qui roule, à tout ce qui chante, à tout ce qui parle, demandez quelle heure il est. Et le vent, la vague, l’étoile, l’oiseau, l’horloge, vous répondront, il est l’heure de s’enivrer ; pour ne pas être les esclaves martyrisés du temps, enivrez-vous, enivrez-vous sans cesse de vin, de poésie, de vertu, à votre guise.

    (Les petits poèmes en prose~Charles Baudelaire)

      • javacat says:

        Merci! 😉 The theme has arisen in others posts in different ways, but still addresses the need, the deep-seeded need to escape, step out of, an artificial boxing-in of natural rhythms, energies, and connections. Time, as so measured and applied– enforced–and value deemed because of such measures–has long ceased being a tool for convenience, communication, and consistency, and has become instead a reason for being unto itself, a monster, if you will, that is a barrier we are forced to confront daily. “L’horrible fardeau du temps” indeed. We seek, sometimes desperately, sometimes destructively, ways to break the bonds of time. Be drunken, with your passion.

        • kulturcritic says:

          “Et la terreur de l’histoire” – Be drunk by the passion… of being beside yourself, more than yourself, of being the Other…of being the flesh of the world, the inline of its outline.

          • javacat says:

            Succumb to the passion. Our rational minds (ego or superego, if you prefer) must yield and loosen their fear-filled control of the passion.

            • Cliff says:

              Excellent French. Only if my feral memory could take me back to my French days. Alas I’m frustrated and trying to be HERE only and NOW. To me It seems to appear over and over again that we are mostly separated from this the present(here and now)
              I’m curious to know if maybe most humans, throughout history, at one instant or another, have longed to find union again. As if torn apart by a bitter divorce all of us wandering in search of a dearly departed. I wonder if our search has been misguided and we’ve been missing what may be right in front of us.
              I wonder if this separation from the present signifies something much more profound to human beings then just our INTELLECTUAL understanding(presence) of deep temporality. I find it extraordinarily frustrating to speak of our human connections to nature {flow / timelessnes relationship with few references to the complexities of such clearly human ABILITIES as compassion, love, suffering, gratitude, etc

              • javacat says:

                Yes, the French is excellent, but it is certainly not mine. I left it as it was because something is always lost in translation. Here’s a rough cut, on short time:

                Be Drunk

                One must always be drunk; that is all; it is the only question. Not to feel the horrible burden of Time that breaks your shoulders, grinding you to the earth, you must be drunk without cease.

                But with what? With wine, with poetry, with virtue, in your own way, but be drunk!

                And if sometime, on the steps of a palace, on the green grass of a ditch, you wake up, drunkenness already diminished or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that flees, everything that moans, everything that rolls, all that sings, everything that speaks, what time it is. And the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock will answer you, it’s time to be drunk; for not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be drunk without cease, with wine, with poetry, with virtue, in your own way.

              • javacat says:

                And Cliff, I apologize,deeply, for I didn’t mean to cause frustration.

                Yes, we are missing what is right in front of us. Humans seem to need a quest, to go in search of that which is right there all along. We have ‘a-ha!’ moments that send us leap-frogging from thought to thought, always in search of the perfect one that will supplant and make unnecessary all others. And it never is, and so off we go again, on the search that is no more than a distraction from what we need to know, and what we already know.

                Please take away the limits. Get us started on the conversation about the human abilities and their connection to nature. I have my own thoughts on gratitude and compassion, etc. but not sure where you’d like to go in this context.

                • Cliff says:

                  Hi John

                  I would like to contact you directly outside the blog as I have some creative ideas that I’d like to run by share with you. Would you mind forwarding a personal email?

                • Cliff says:

                  Hi Javacat
                  No your comments have nothing to do with my personal frustrations. My frustration merely reminds me that I have to learn to let go and accept. This journey of creating
                  as you have brilliantly referenced even as you write your thoughts for these writings, I believe requires us to look at feelings of self estrangement/ separation / frustration, and desire to share and express what lies within, within the unknown Can we overcome estrangement with out feeling compassion and humility? To what depths do each of us have to experience before we are truly compassionate toward all existence. Does compassion require a depth of connectedness that might be in some sense what selfless love is? And is it possible to reach this realm and carry on as usual?

                  Anyway, sounds like we may have an opportunity to meet shortly and I’d like to see if you’d like to work on a collaboration maybe with a few other folks from this blog. I have some creative ideas and believe that this will be quite a challenge. I’m looking for a few folks that might want to take this creative (writing) journey together equally. Look forward to speaking with about this further soon.

              • kulturcritic says:

                Then, please, speak of love, suffering, gratitude, Cliff!!

            • kulturcritic says:

              Yes, rationality seems to have the upper hand in this modern hierarchy of control: control of habitat, self, other.

  3. john patrick says:

    As with the others… thanks, Sandy, for the great writeup and imagery.

    On being held hostage to a clock… I think it actually goes back much farther, the realization of a pattern of movement with the stars/planets, and using them to catalog life events. Or the observation of the mating pattern of animals/insects? Something must have clicked as an annual pattern and the knowledge thereafter used for a derivative function. The modern clock/time piece just used wheels/levers to capture an ancient idea.

    Someone mentioned previously on this board, that we invent great things–we just fail to understand the longterm consequences. Again, we invent a nut/bolt, next thing you know we’re being ruled by one.

    • VyseLegend says:

      The difference, I think, between naturally existing signifiers of seasons/cycles is that they exist as landmarks that remind of us the recurring and non-syllogistical nature of reality, at least as it is normally perceived, and also do not exist as signifiers unto themselves – they are surrounded by genuine occurrence.

      What we’ve managed to accomplish with the Enlightenment and modernity, however, is to reduce the signifier down to a distilled mechanism, the clock, and over time have come to worship that signifier as being the source of value itself. Time then becomes a sort of catharsis for the empty soul, granting us a reprieve from an existence often stripped of as much liberty and self-direction as possible.

      I’m not entirely sure it is the fault of the Enlightenment or of science and rationality itself that has caused this, or if our societies have simply gotten off on the wrong direction in our push to hyper-industralize and magnify all of our attitudes at the point in time that we did. The attitudes contained in our society are so often immoral and immature that it is no surprise that given enough fossil fuels, we will destroy ourselves in some misbegotten pursuit of greatness and achievement.

      I think whats needed is a balance between the rational and nonrational aspects of experience, as Sandy often reminds us, but I’m not exactly optimistic on the prospects of our ability to ‘extract’ the incorrect attitudes we’ve managed to institutionalize. I don’t know if we can ‘return’ to our pre-rational modes of life but I do think we’d be better off giving the syllogistic ideals of the Enlightenment some time to breath outside of the confines of statism.

      • john patrick says:

        “the clock, and over time have come to worship that signifier as being the source of value itself.”

        I agree. Something I’ve pondered lately is who am I to lay an expectation, or force an obligation, on life itself?

      • kulturcritic says:

        Some very thoughtful comments, VyseLegend,

        Yes, nature does signify herself, first and foremost.

        It is, indeed, the development of written language, and alphabetic signs in particular, that leads to the abstraction of the natural signifier/signified relation. I would imagine that the ‘power’ of presence (the signified) in natural phenomena and cycles (the signifiers) was a felt experience, recognized viscerally, for our our primitive ancestors. And for our pre-literate cousins, the spoken word was equally efficacious – the power of the spoken word or gesture actually calling up the reality (or power) of the signified. But the linguistic changes that occurred in concert with our changing relation to nature (through agriculture, urbanization,social stratification) laid the foundations for the abstraction of the signifier from the signified, and the development of the types of reasoning that gave birth to syllogistic reasoning, and led to the development of scientific rationality as a means of improving predictive abilities and increasing control and mastery over nature.

        However, I would like you to comment further on this item:

        “…we’d be better off giving the syllogistic ideals of the Enlightenment some time to breath outside of the confines of statism.”

        • VyseLegend says:

          My basic point is that, in my opinion, there is certainly quite a bit of valid ideas from the Enlightenment or ‘pure reason’ mode of thinking, even if we accept that our current societies have taken and extrapolated them to the extreme. For instance, understanding the concepts behind mathematics and moral philosophy would not do a future civilization harm so long as they can reconcile the extant value of experience/happening of, for instance, nature, or any life experience. Experience is, after all, not reducible to a mathematical formula and to do so would be to deny the experience of being human.

          We would do far better for ourselves in terms of health and well-being if we had more of a grounding of these Enlightenment era concepts within ourselves rather than as dictated to us by our slave-masters – in the tribe, the family, or writ large in the state. I think quite a bit of society’s leanings toward the extremism of the ‘left brain’ mode of thinking (obsessed with telos) stems from groupthink generated by fear of separation from the group, something often implanted in us at a young age by an abusive hierarchical structure we are likely born into – the family or the tribe. In other words I think we in large part do not even understand the teleological mode of thinking we are dominated by or why it is important; we are simply reaction to overpowering stimulus from the society which dictates what is important without much input from the individual.

          If we could strike a real balance between appreciation of the sensual experience of the world and understanding how to signify it without reducing it, we would be far better off. But in a society as confused and coercive as ours, this type of balance is extremely rare, as far as I can tell. People in the civilized world are a jumble of half concepts of fears and are, overall, left quite unprepared for a true apprehension of reality by the society that raises them. Without so much external stimulus however, I think people would naturally understand the true nature of the world much more easily as we are not born confused and afraid, but are conditioned to be so.

          So a sort of meta-thesis I’m working on is how we can reconcile the good parts of our pre-rational history with those of our ultra-rational one – for instance, how we can have a nonviolent and truly cooperative local tribe/community, and be able to utilize the power of the left brain to form a helpful telos to actually aid us rather than to overpower our naturally understood experience of life – our urges, desires, and basic ‘awe of what is.’

          • kulturcritic says:


            I too have no illusions about this thing blowing up and us all heading back to a simple life in the caves. Anyway, it wasn’t so simple. But it seemed to work out for a number of years longer than our experiment might. Whatever results from the collapse of this model will surely incorporate many of the modalities that are in place, if there are resources to run them (i.e., energy). Will we ever, as a species, recover the societal and habitat relations we once shared, and the experience of power at the point of our intertwining; will we ever participate the world as we once did, not as objective observers, but as flesh of the world-as-lived? I doubt it. But individuals can cultivate such experiences.

            Regarding the benefits of science, etc. It is undeniable that science and technology (the crowning jewels of Enlightenment rationalism) have poisoned our food supplies, laid waste to the eco and biosystems, contaminated our waters, and sucked the oxygen out of the atmosphere, while exponentially increasing human population and eradicating hundreds of thousands of other species. I also think your project may be looking to reconcile irreconcilables. Not that we may soon have to live with a different balance, but, I do believe the legalistic frameworks (natural law, social law and religious law) fully blossoming on the heels of rationalism, leave us hopelessly entangled in systems of hierarchy and alienation from which we as a culture may never be able to escape. But, I do enjoy very much your contributions to the discussion. – sandy

            • javacat says:

              Earlier posts and responses have touched on the idea that we seem to be unable to imagine what a post-now society might look like. The phrase ‘deep temporality’ resonates as a connection, an intuneness with a more primal, expansive connection to a Universal time. “Temporality’ also has different meanings in philosophy, so I’m not sure if I’m reading the phrase correctly.

              In these thoughts to step out of modern culture, is a yearning to return to a way of being unfettered by layers of cultured norms, to cast off the barriers and limits imposed–intentionally and not–by powers that be. How far can we go in the return to where we began, and what do we give up in the journey? I doubt that we can reclaim a complete state of tabula rasa that would allow us to move on the landscape as ancient ancestors did. Are the ways of being two ends of a continuum, with a balance somewhere in the between?

              • kulturcritic says:

                As a culture, a society, I would NOT venture a guess as to how far back we can go by plan, if you will. But Mama Nature may blast us back all the way to the Pleistocene if she has her way, without our planning. Individually, I would wager that a person can experience a certain critical depth of participation, and exist on the very edges of this social order, or even maintain a balance and live simply in the midst of it. I also believe a powerful experience of self-estrangement (being-outside, -beside, -other then-oneself) can act as a primary catalyst in this journey. Of course, such a personal reintegration does almost zilch for the trajectory of our culture or the looming end of history!

                • javacat says:

                  Sandy, could you describe more what you mean by self-estrangement? I could take it down several paths, but don’t know which you intended. I see the ‘being-outside-oneself’ as a liberation from the bounds we’ve imposed, one that takes away the distinction of subject-object observations. All are subjects, engaged in an interaction without boundaries as part of a Whole while maintaining the uniqueness of each being.

                  Agree with your thoughts here. Even if we succeed in taking ourselves back, we may limit travels by our fear or by our simple lack of knowing. We are incredibly adept are perceiving boundaries that don’t exist! And, if or when the Earth proclaims, “Basta!” and resets our lives, will there be enough left to reconvene? Maybe I’m ignoring the point that humans will simply be gone is such a Earthly upheaval occurs and that is the new world order. 😉

                  Collectively, will we return? I doubt it, especially on the social scale on which we (mostly) now live. Our effect is mostly at the level of the self, and those in our immediate vicinity–those with whom we interact with and communicate with regularly. The impact on singular efforts to return may not change the trajectory, but for those willing to try, I don’t think there’s any other choice except a deadening of intuition, a shriveling of the generative nature of our nature.

                  • kulturcritic says:

                    JC – I guess I mean the feeling of not being who you thought you were, of dissociation from the socialized self, of not being simply a spectator locked inside a bag of skin. But, now the goofy spiritualists among us will think I am talking about some transcendental function of the “real self.” They will think I am denying the significance, the centrality of the senses and the earthly sensuous. That could not be further from my position. I am my senses, I am my flesh; and my flesh is the flesh of the world. Self-estrangement is the feeling that you are not closed in but suddenly attached, connected, ec-static, standing out from interiority, in what Merleau-Ponty called the “thickness of the pre-objective present.”

            • john patrick says:

              “I too have no illusions about this thing blowing up and us all heading back to a simple, life in the caves.”

              Kinda’ hard to unbake the cake to return to original ingredients. Once heat is applied, a new synergy occurs (energy stored in a higher/more complex form) and it becomes un-scaleable in the backward direction. Which is probably why many things go extinct when a change in environment calls for a simpler way of living.

              Just pondering here…

              Infinity has its own synergy, and as much as it might like to do so, it is impossible to return to “just a small slice of time.” Unless it pretends. Or dreams. If our true nature is something much higher/complex than we currently experience, then… this pretend/dream will surely come to an end. But I don’t think it involves us making life smaller, but rather accepting our role in a much bigger/wonderful (and horrible consequences from “bright” ideas).

              • john patrick says:

                More, as I drink coffee and wake up… Sandy is probably getting ready to go to sleep!

                I think there is a “revolutionary” force in the universe/current reality that prevents us from being swallowed up in our dreams/creations. Yes–create and enjoy (and deal with the knucklehead ideas) but you are more than the sum of ingredients of the little widget you made.

                Deep down, none of us like being limited or forced to stay within the manifestation of our thoughts and ideas. We bake a cake and become one with it to enjoy it. But there is this power, guidance, whatever you want to call it, that will not allow us to stay trapped in it. Trimming the dream/cake back to a smaller size, does not mean we are free of it. The art of sharing seems to break this attachment and realize our potential to create even more. Which is probably why many of the ancients told others to give stuff away.

                • javacat says:

                  JP, could you explain what you mean by “infinity has its own synergy”? I get the cake analogy, from a molecular standpoint and energy stored in bonds. But what is infinity interacting with to create a synergy? What is the ‘revolutionary’ force you perceive? I’m just having trouble following your thoughts. Maybe I need more coffee! 😉

                  • john patrick says:

                    Hey JC, the notion I had was, we know/accept synergy on a small scale. But–what if it existed on an infinite scale? How would it possibly scale back? I am assuming a sentient infinite universe.

                    The “revolutionary” force could be none other than a fundamental law of the sentient universe refusing to be reduced/captured beyond the learning phase of the observer.

                    I really don’t know. Am just exploring some ideas…

                    • javacat says:

                      Explore away. I often feel like I’m exploring as I’m typing.
                      I was just trying to get a handle on what you were saying, and your response helps. Thanks. JC

                    • Cliff says:

                      Yes john I’ll certain follow that creation too and it is probably a good spot to end up in:
                      the “place of not knowing”. Isn’t this our paradox. And What about the act of surrender to this place. and to what depth of surrender is required to understand? So When we are empty can we once again receive? How does one get so empty?

                • kulturcritic says:

                  That power is the excess of being… what Merleau-Ponty calls a fundamental “pouvoir” of embodied existence, a capacity to be and to act, that underlies and intends our relations with the world as lived.. later he calls it the intertwining, my flesh, the flesh of the world.

              • kulturcritic says:

                One of the taoist sages, Chuang Tzu, once said, “I still don’t know if I am a man dreaming I am a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming I am a man.” You mean that kind of synergy, JP?

                • john patrick says:

                  Don’t think you can put an “English” name or any other language to describe it. As language itself is derivative. Thomas Covenant would call it, the “force that preserves.” Lewis would call it, “that hideous strength.” It has an infinite synergy, and yet–capable of reducing itself to atoms/space and even a non-entity. I call it the “glue” that holds everything together. I really don’t know. Which is the wisest thing I can say about it.

      • javacat says:

        Excellent thoughts, VyseLegend. Points well made about the natural cycles not being signifiers unto themselves, and grounded in real occurrence. Our cultures–whether speaking of the rational, the scientific, the religious–tend to push through to extremes, so that the benefits of a culture–aspects of technology or medicine, for example–are overridden in the drive to do even more. We seem to get so caught up in the rush of the doing (Think research on the atomic bomb here.), that long-term effects aren’t considered.This impulsiveness strikes me as an immaturity, magnified to the point of perversion in the current culture of the United States.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Ruled by a nut!! I am in agreement. LOL

  4. Dean says:

    Hi Sandy
    Great post as usual! I have been trashing time for about 30 years! As a young adult at our cottage I would force everyone to remove time pieces upon arrival. Most people would hesitate until I explained my feeling about it- that they could sleep, eat, and party whenever they felt like it. It was very liberating! Now I have my own cottage and kids and I tell everyone the same thing! Even the appliances with clocks get changed to random time settings. Anyway thanks again.
    Dean in Oilberta

  5. “I also believe a powerful experience of self-estrangement (being-outside, -beside, -other then-oneself) can act as a primary catalyst in this journey. Of course, such a personal reintegration does almost zilch for the trajectory of our culture or the looming end of history!” –Sandy

    “Kinda’ hard to unbake the cake to return to original ingredients.”

    Yes, that old, limited, conditioned ego-self has a way of troubling us, individually and collectively. Thus, sincere truth-seekers, nearly always “stumble” upon the inner path and pursuit of self-forgetfulness, self-sacrifice (love), ego-annihilation, and selfless service. Since we are connected at our core, we do influence one another in every way toward truth, courage, or goodness vs falsehood, fear, or selfishness. A culture is the consolidated mold of the individual attitudes that comprise it. Changing one’s attitudes, thinking and behaviors, is the most effective means of participation in creative problem solving, again, individually and collectively.

    Unbaking the cake is a good one, JP. Yogis go in for this approach in their search for meaning and union with the Infinite being. This is the not this/not that, self-denial austerities approach. A different practice is to come into an experiential understanding of the cake’s ingredients and the processes these must go through to bring about the results. One might even become enthusiastic about getting to know the baker, himself, and even offering to assist in the baking.

    • Cliff says:

      The path and the journey is likely a personal creation for all. The clear pure water is also likely always present but needs to be discovered in order that we can drink. The best assistance is to not assist but to accept. And what does it mean to accept?

      • kulturcritic says:

        BTW Cliff – I think you and Ron would make great writing buddies!!

      • john patrick says:

        Thanks, Ron.

        Hey, Cliff. I do not think there is anything we can “do” because even this is ego-centered. I know, it all sounds stupid and futile. I prefer to just be “open” to change. In the past, I’ve “asked” for wisdom. But, I gotta’ tell ya. I quit doing that after a few times. (just kidding) To understand something means to be placed below it. Any new paradigm of thought can cause great discomfort because it showed (at least for me) that I am not dressed for the wedding feast, so to speak. What I have learned is that our current way of thinking, the correlations and patterns, are barely enough to go a few steps in any new world. No different than taking a trip to RU and only knowing English. So, new ways of thinking are required, mostly taking a path rooted in compassion, love, etc.. That said, I have not mastered it. I poke along, explore, learn a few new things, get dragged into things and start anew…

  6. Hazen Walker says:


    As one who’s admired your essays for a good while, I feel this is the “time” to comment. The question of time has been one of my life-long interests. It wasn’t until I read Maurice Nicoll’s Living Time that I discovered a new way of looking at temporality, a view that seems to share many parallels with the discussion at hand.
    Several ideas are central to Living Time. One: time is created whole; the arbitrary divisions of past/present/future are illusions dictated, shaped and reinforced by our sequential sensory impressions. All of time exists now, and has existed since “the beginning of time.” Past events have not vanished but continue to occur; Napoleon, in Nicoll’s example, is forever invading Russia; Shakespeare is always writing Hamlet.
    Along with the wholeness of time, and the eternal now, equally important was the idea of recurrence—the repetition of all life and its events, micro and macro, everything fitting together, cycling through seconds, years, eons; circling like the metaphorical “wheels within wheels” that Ezekiel saw in the sky. Nicoll believed that each of us lives and dies and lives again inside our own circle of time, itself revolving within greater circles of time. Every life repeats and everything belonging to that life repeats. When we lack awareness, each life tends to be like the one before. Here, the overarching idea of consciousness enters in. For Nicoll, self-awareness means we read the landscape better, seize the moment with attention and compassion. Or maybe just avoid getting smacked upside the head, or destroying an ecosystem or three.


    • kulturcritic says:

      Hazen Walker – welcome to the discussion. You are outspoken by your silence. I am gratified you have been reading and enjoying the essays. It is “high time” you commented. So, Nicoll, Ouspensky, Steiner. Certainly an impressive lineage. In fact, I have come across references to Steiner in some of the works I have read. However, I am not much on exploring systematically these systems of anthroposophy, theosophy, and the like. It often gets too weird for my tastes. I tend to back away from anyone who speaks about spirituality, and the like; there is such a perverse history of the use of such language. I find it difficult to overcome the religious and corporeal denials built in to such discussions.

      Having made my objections known upfront, I will agree that many of Steiner’s insights are well grounded psychologically. And I also agree that recurrence (return/renewal) is a phenomenological dimension of deep temporality. And we do, indeed, live and die many times within the cycle of life we occupy. It is just that many do not recognize these cycles within cycles. And I must say I like your reference to Nicoll’s idea of self-awareness as “reading the landscape better.” By the way, HW, when was that “beginning of time.” LOL warm regards, sandy

    • kulturcritic says:

      Hazen – Actually, you should also look at the book I referenced below to Martin. Owen Barfield, Saving The Appearances. He was a follower of Steiner…

  7. Martin says:

    Perhaps time, if it exists at all, is not a river and therefore does not flow at all but is (if it exists at all) rather like an undefined meandering, many-coursed multi-dimensional pathway made up of an infinity of potentials and probabilities along which our consciousness (both individual and collective) travels, bumping along, colliding and colluding with other consciousnesses to form consensus-based ‘experiences’ that we interpret as minute-to-minute-hour-to-hour-day-to-day-to-week-to-month-to-year-to-century ‘realities-in-time’.

    On the other hand, “…linear autobiographical time…” is, of course, a construct for the convenience of operating within a ‘civilized’ culture and has nothing whatever to do with “…deep temporality…” or the ‘realities’ of time itself.

    I have had the good fortune to have experienced deep temporality (as I understand it), if only for a very brief period, on several occasions as a student of and practitioner of neo-shamanism. Among other things this practice provides a process for exploring other ways of being through shamanistic trance work or journeying, which I suppose many here will think of as being the use of an over-active imagination. While there is some of that involved – of necessity – in my experience there are occurrences that have no other source than plugging into the collective unconscious directly, dropping into “…self-estrangement…” and allowing one’s self to be moved into other dimensions and ways other than those one is accustomed to. Not unlike a good drug-induced ‘trip’ you say? Not at all – and I’ve experienced those too.

    • javacat says:

      If time more meanders without bounds, perhaps that helps explain the experience one has upon meeting a person, then feeling that one’s connection to that stranger is very old, that you have ‘met’ somewhere else in time. Or perhaps it is simpler than that, the synchronicity of intersection (in a place in time) that allows us to reveal ourselves.

      As for neo-shamanism, I think folks here would be less concerned with an overly active imagination than the biological effects of psychotropic substances. 😉 Some may ask, fairly, how we distinguish journeying in another dimensions from a mere creation of our mind. But trances may be reached through different means and do result in moving in other realms. I’m curious–if you’d like to share: what have been lasting changes of the shamanic journeying? What do you carry forward or see differently as a result?

      • Cliff says:

        Hello Javacat
        The lasting effects of my personal experience when once recovering my deep temporality have assisted me in letting go, not holding on to fears thoughts, etc. Something as simple as surrendering to the unknown. I still remind myself that it is in the not knowing that much is revealed. I’m continually reminded when I feel estrangement that humility and compassion reconnects and unites me to who I am now, have been in the past, and will be in the future. These are just some things I recall now.

        • Martin says:

          Exactly so… Well said, Cliff.
          And, to Javacat, I do not utilize psychotropics to ‘journey’; my trance inductions are driven by rapid drumming. As for deja vu with another person – I believe it has more to do with interconnected soul-histories, if you will allow that, than anything else. And, with regard to distinguishing between inter-dimensional journeying and constructs of the mind; there is no difference, since we make it all up anyway. If there is a difference, I believe it lies in the realm of acceptance or non-acceptance of one’s own powers and capabilities.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Martin – great points. And of course, the original shamans had no problem using natural substances to assist in entering trance and sensually experiencing the raven or the bear, or some other concrete instantiation of power, in order to effect his/her healings or communal repair. I have not been familiar with this neo-shamanic practice, but look forward to learning more. BTW, I think you would very much enjoy Owen Barfield, Saving The Appearances – my best, sandy

      • Martin says:

        I have tried purposeful journeying utilizing substances (both natural and un-) to perhaps deepen the trance and have found the result, while usually pleasant, to be too scattered to be of any real use – I think it may well be that such usage requires a lifetime of experience to become effective.

        I used the term ‘neo-shamanism’ to distinguish what I (and many others) practice from traditional shamanism, which I believe is something one must be born into. For more information on the former I would recommend the works of Michael Harner (Foundation for Shamanic Studies and Hank Wesselmann.

        And I have added Barfield’s ‘Saving the Appearances’ to my growing list of essential reads – thanks.

  8. Tom Gibbs says:

    Excellent. Very insightful. “…….rooted in moments of great loneliness, despair, suffering, pain, trauma, terror, euphoria, joy, love, or a burst of creativity, the necessary condition would seem to be an experience of marginality or strangeness, an incipient feeling of difference, otherness, or alterity. It is in this respect that estrangement – either from oneself or one’s culture – may itself become the protagonist in an event of deep temporality, returning one to a new beginning, a primal and non-autobiographical ground.”

    • kulturcritic says:

      The insight is almost embarrassing for me Tom, because it comes from personal experiences of suffering, pain and trauma. But, it certainly acted as a fulcrum, a wedge, to dislodge me from the illusions of this highly-constructed and well-maintained world we try to keep here in USA. Although, it appears that the infrastructure is starting to crumble all around us, and many more people might begin to see behind the veil created over the centuries, and be witness to something long hidden. And, obviously, there is nowhere to run for cover because Europe, UK, Australia, Canada, all of the usual haunts are also crumbling, and many more of us will be exposed to the terror of that loss. Hopefully for some it will lead to joy in recovery of a more primal integration with the world, but that is a big IF, because we really are not prepared for such conscious reintegration.

  9. john patrick says:

    @ Cliff (started a new thread so we don’t get scrunched)
    “So when we are empty can we once again receive? ”

    I’d like to thank Sandy for plowing the field so that others can discover treasure and discuss it.

    On being empty… I don’t think anyone has to pursue emptiness. It’d be like requesting sentience to become non-sentient to understand the situation. Seems rather impossible. My observation is, that good things come to an end so more good things can come our way. (I know, it sounds stupid) But, as the observer changes/grows, the object takes on a new appearance. Or disappears!

    • javacat says:

      Thanks for starting the new thread, JP.
      Is emptiness a state of non-attachment? One in which we experience the World in the moment as it flows through us, but we do not attempt to hold onto the ‘now.’ And through non-attachment to experience, do we open ourselves, allow ourselves to be more receptive to the moment of each interaction, each giving and taking from all beings?
      Just thinking out loud.

  10. Hazen says:

    I haven’t read much Steiner, but, like you, Sandy, I’m a skeptic on matters of theosophy etc. Religions give me the willies, including, at times, the religion of the scientific method and its volatile “certainties”. Nicoll and Ouspensky were followers of Gurdjieff, whose chief idea was that human beings are in a state of waking sleep, and as such are a danger to themselves and all life on the planet. If we were asleep in bed, Gurdjieff observed, only half joking, we would do far less damage.

    “It is just that many do not recognize these cycles within cycles.” Exactly right. Waking up is hard to do.

    Nicoll, a neurologist, preferred the word “psychology” rather than “spirituality” when discussing human efforts to understand what might lie beyond the material, manifest world. I doubt he was using the word in order to slip one over on the naïve and the credulous.

    I’ll look into Saving The Appearances. And Paul Shepard’s writings are part of my library too, especially Nature and Madness. Barbour’s views on time, I noticed, have some similarities with Nicoll and Living Time.

    • john patrick says:

      “human beings are in a state of waking sleep…”

      I often think much of our daily communication is that of two people talking in their sleep. To an observer, it might appear that a conversation is taking place. But, what is truly being transferred/shared?

      • javacat says:

        If they’re talking in their sleep, then they’re not really aware of what the other is saying, or what the self is saying, either. What is shared, what is taken in?
        In daily life, moments of true communication are sadly rare. Most interactions–and I participate in this regularly–involved words that don’t matter, at the surface of what doesn’t matter. Even something as relatively simple as speaking honestly when asked, “How was your weekend?” can generate discomfort or disorientation in the one asking. We are mostly saying empty words, not wanted or expecting authentic responses, and unable or unwilling to wait, to listen patiently for what the other is trying to share. Hell, we can’t look each other in the eyes, most of the time. The very normal expression through touch is just about off-limits because it is so misconstrued and perverted in this culture.
        Modern conversations are much like modern diets: junk-filled, fast, and unsatisfying. Getting beyond the junk-talk is possible. It means being willing to forgo the easy answer. It means being willing to have others uncomfortable with your questions and your answers. It means embracing silence. It means letting the superficial fall from you like scales so you can move again in greater meaning.
        This topic is deeply important to me, and I struggle to move myself and others into the deeper realms of conversation, even at times with those with whom it should be easiest. Sometimes, one must just get to to point of there being no other choice.

        • Cliff says:

          Hello javacat,
          I have heard from a previous post that estrangement if taken to an extreme,
          as when feeling very frustrated with surface words and rarely any depth with ones interactions, may be the catalyst needed to move toward deeper meaningful communication. At least from my point of view and experience: I have found at one point in my life I too have been very surface in my communication. So as I discovered my own frustration with this superficiality, clatter, and insignificance around me, I would go into my place of silence and draw on compassion to help interrupt any of the personal frustrations projections I had toward people around me. In the silence, the more time that I spent ACCEPTING that I am no different then those around me, the more strength, depth,compassion I received and consequently, simultaneously transmitted this around me. Silence is very powerful If we do the work required.

        • VyseLegend says:

          Completely agree about the emptiness of typical, modern interactions. In society we’re all assumed to take the basic tenets of ‘how’ and ‘when’ things operate – business, family, government, education, what have you – at face value, as separate from the ‘why’. Likewise we are discouraged even in personal matters of asking questions of real importance – whether a given relationship, system, idea is legitimate and should be thrown away. Instead we are trained to commodify ourselves and act like human credit cards peddling our predetermined, linear value in one-dimensional and prescribed interactions in a very narrow set of designated settings.

          We are trained to feel a sense of dread and fear at the unknown when any thought or feeling that threatens this ‘matrix’ is brought into life in any realm outside of fiction – movies or other entertainment. For some reason, questioning the confines of our current model of temporality can only take place in pre-packaged, commodified doses of ‘escapism’ through media.

          As Sandy describes, I don’t think its possible to force a realization of deep temporality upon people, but for those who are well familiar with it through their own personal epiphany there is a strong sense of alienation in regular society, but a sense of kindred spirits when they manage to find each other in real life, often finally revealing the potential depths of real camaraderie which exists outside the bounds of ego, linear temporality, imposed social requirements, etc. – in other words, a ‘deep temporal’ relationship. These are rare but I have an intuition that they were much more common in past eras where we had to rely on each other much more than rely on our impersonal, hierarchical net of law-prescribed network of life support. This is the difference between a ‘Facebook friend’ and a real friend – one is a signifier, like money, and the other contains actual value.

          I could go on and on, but I’ll spare everyone, just some thoughts.

          • kulturcritic says:

            “We are trained to feel a sense of dread and fear at the unknown when any thought or feeling that threatens this ‘matrix’ is brought into life…” Excellent observation VL!

            And they even want to shame us, embarrass us, for going beyond their matrix, or gawd knows, arrest us and put us in jail or in a mental institution. Anything to shut us up, label us and, in the worst case scenario,… commodify us, and sell our ‘lunacy’ at a profit… maybe even on the silver screen, or on the ‘tele’…

            And I love your comment re/FB! One can garner a following, but not real relations.

            Thanks for your input. I love the way you think. sandy

          • javacat says:

            A mix of dread and fear…Yes, a conditioned sense that something is wrong with us if we cross the artificial, unspoken, but well-known boundary to speak beyond the canon of accepted pleasantries that pass for conversation. That fear and dread run deep in our bodies and is so powerful that we stop ourselves, unconsciously, before we even begin to speak. And yes, Sandy, there is the risk, at many levels, of such social ‘otherness’–being marginalized, labeled a ‘risk’ (which indeed, we are), for simply speaking honestly. We make others uncomfortable, awakening a nagging feeling that ‘something is not right’ that most aren’t ready to embrace for it means change and uncertainty. It means taking active and direct responsibility for how one moves through this life instead of being a passive, numbed victim.
            We do have the power to dive from the superficial to the meaningful. It must be deliberate before it becomes habit. We must be willing to wait out the confusion or silence that may result. Most will not respond in kind, but then, some will.

            Good thoughts, VyseLegend. Please go on.

        • kulturcritic says:

          JC you said-

          “I struggle to move myself and others into the deeper realms of conversation;..”

          As I writer and thinker, I often wonder why I do this. It seems to me that I do it for myself primarily. It allows me the freedom to give voice to my experience and my feelings. I do not believe it is important for me to try and change other people’s minds, just important that they understand me fully. If I disagree with them, I will say so; but I have no illusions of making them change. My intuitions also change as I experience more and read and think and write more. But, I also recognize that I am a product of this culture, and my needs, my changes, my intuitions are not necessarily representative of mankind writ large. You cannot undo 6,000 years of indoctrination, it is now in the genes… (I suppose). Just look at Walmart on Black Friday!! LOL

    • kulturcritic says:


      “that human beings are in a state of waking sleep,” I have trouble with this and similar statements. It makes no sense to me to make pronouncements about human beings or human nature when this is not something that may be proven applicable to pre-civilized humanity. These are judgements and distinctions created by civilized humans, about civilized people. The very distinctions we draw in making such claims, those distinction cannot even be said to have existed for pre-literate humanity. Let us call a spade a spade: perhaps civilized humanity is in waking sleep.

      • Cliff says:

        Thanks for clarifying that clear difference between pre literate and civilized literate humans. I also wonder to what extent, if any, our sense of interpersonal language communication could offer any real understanding of preliterate human communication?

        • john patrick says:

          How is written history any different than a compilation of emails? Both are one-dimensional unless a person was there. Does the age of an email give it credibility?

          Perhaps, that is why history is repeated. Because what we learn from it, is not a complete experience.

  11. Cliff says:

    John and Hazen thank you! all excellent points!

    Unfortunately the pain, suffering, political prostelization associated with “religions” down thru the ages, on consciousness, has severely corrupted our ability to remain neutral to things not easily grasped by intellect or rationality. it is easier and much more comfortable to to remain skeptical then it is to dwell in uncertainty, the unknown long enough till we see beyond our past pain and fear associations to discover within that is not stored in fear but what might be dislodged from our compassionate core. After all, for whom might be seeking fear or compassion? And for whom will this discovery effect the most. It is also much easier to be skeptical then to empty out the old closet and setting up a new shelf for discovery.

  12. Cliff says:

    Martin also great comments and thanks!

  13. VyseLegend says:

    Hi Sandy, continuing our discussion on the reconciling of Enlightenment philosophy and ‘pre-rationality.’

    I’ve re-read my comments (which are always relatively capricious and incomplete) and your responses, and come up with some new takes.

    Maybe we’re approaching the entire problem from the wrong perspective? For instance – from what I gather from your position and my own understanding of human history and biology –humanity has it within him to take upon the journey of life in a fully rational manner even in a pre-historical state, in other words – humanity’s nature is essentially rational and explorative rather than teleological and limited.

    The project of the Enlightenment did good insofar as it elucidated what humanity is capable of – however, what it did not do was to liberate man from the yolk/burden of hierarchical civilization, but offered – due to circumstantial and historical reasons – all sorts of new ammunition to those who would manipulate the eager and wanting people into conforming to their systems of control. For instance, the Enlightened monarchs, the push to achieve a ‘more egalitarian’ society through the French Revolution, the American experiment, the drive to standardize, categorize and put everything possible into neat classifications, locked away in tomes only occasionally to be revised in the future, so that they may be commoditized as used as currency in our new, ‘more logical’ system – an attempt to create ‘ideological currency’ if you will.

    I think your criticisms of the misdirection of the Enlightenment are all valid, and we are living with the results. Therefore I’m asking if the Enlightenment was simply a historical anomaly; in our fervor to liberate and understand, we created ever more burdensome systems of control which, as we can all attest to by reading this blog, are pathological. So the ‘proper enlightenment’ I’m seeking is probably similar to the goal of finding and holding onto our natural sense of egalitarianism, derived from ‘freedom from history’ rather than being chained to it. The process of stumbling upon that egalitarianism is akin to discovering ‘deep temporality’ or a large sense of intuition of purpose, a sense of eternity and possibility in the universe and in our experience, as rationally discovered and acted upon rather than violently implemented through some sense of ‘responsibility’ to abstract notions of human nature, society, or the state…

    The Enlightenment attempted to free us but quickly converted into more sophisticated forms of terminal control. So maybe the ‘new Enlightenment’ we need is one where we take rationality as being self evident, and endeavor to throw off all forms of bondage – to the state, the family, the hierarchy, and to science and rationality – all of which can be easily co-opted and perverted if we remove our natural sense of intuition, rationality, and ultimately responsibility from the equation.

    So in essence, I’m making a call for an end to humanity’s drive to ‘offshore’ personal responsibility and accountability for his actions and attitudes, a real end to the laziness brought about by the faux-efficiency of the ultra-scientific dogma of Enlightenment rationality, Since in all cases it leads to estrangement and despair, consuming even entire civilizations. So yes, the two are irreconcilable. We need to stop trading one yolk for another.

    • VyseLegend says:

      Another way to look at it would be to say that rationality – reason and evidence – are not fuel for the train of some project like industry, but rather a beacon emanating from each of us, with which to shed light upon the world.

      • kulturcritic says:

        Sorry, VL, just too many assumptions burried in that aphorism. Rationalism’s project was to clear up all the darkness, the superstition, turn on all the fucking lights and control every centimeter of the world, now objectified as a series of things for manipulation and consumption. Just my opinion.

    • kulturcritic says:

      VyseLegend says:
      “Experience is, after all, not reducible to a mathematical formula and to do so would be to deny the experience of being human.”

      VyseLegend – that is the nature of the rationalist project as it emerged from the enlightenment, the complete mathematization of nature, even “human nature” if only they could achieve that.

      “…humanity’s nature is essentially rational and explorative rather than teleological and limited…”

      I do not see any “human nature” per se; I read that as a construct of the modern era. Certainly we have some basic instincts (limits, in your words); but I don’t buy-into your divorcing of reason from teleology. Certainly, I understand what you mean, that something with well-defined instincts has an fixed (limited) inner purpose (your – teleology). But I see the drive for teleological fulfillment, for ultimate purpose, as a project of unilinear thinking, itself based in a syllogistic model of causality, coming straight from the Greeks and before them the earliest laws of the Western cannon (Mesopotamia).

      “I’m asking if the Enlightenment was simply a historical anomaly; in our fervor to liberate and understand, we created ever more burdensome systems of control…”

      The enlightenment seems to me was just an extension of what preceded it in the burst of reason emerging from Greece and Rome before the fall into the Middle Ages. The desire for liberation and understanding grew from the darkness of the middle-period; but it was simply continuing on the trajectory set in motion by Aristotle and then taken up by Aquinas. It could not help but lead to more burdensome systems of control!!!!!

      Anyway, just some quick thoughts under the influence of Russian beaurocracy and Irish whiskey (-20 C outside)!!

      • VyseLegend says:

        “VyseLegend – that is the nature of the rationalist project as it emerged from the enlightenment, the complete mathematization of nature, even “human nature” if only they could achieve that.”

        I don’t think there is a ‘rationalist project,’ only the accumulation of likewise errors. I don’t mean to talk about any such project, I don’t think it exists. The errors leading to the m istakes in every age can be pretty easily boiled down to simple ones writ large, and I don’t believe in historical cycles or what not. I’m trying to talk purely about what happened in a retrospective sense – on the other hand I think rationality is applicable to humanity in even a pre-civilized state because its part of his evolved brain, that is what I’m talking about here.

        I use plenty of ‘hot’ words laced with bad history so I apologize. By ‘human nature’ i mean the experience of living without pre-constructed systems of coercion. Sure they might not exist but that’s just my take on it. Can we attain that level of freedom? Only by removing the guns to everyone’s heads wherever they are, so I think this necessitates a collapse of corrupt systems everywhere. (and I think corrupt/immoral ideas automatically collapse because they are untenable).

        I agree there was a certain re-introduction of freedom during the Middle Ages but as you say, we caved in to control systems once again. This isn’t because of some neverending historical cycle or project or whatever pattern we try to draw. The people who rediscovered Aristotle and the Romans in the Renaissance and subsequent periods were in no real way connected to those original works, and each persons experience is generally fresh from the time of his birth, in my perspective. So the fuel that ignited the engine of statism was coercion, violence, control, and subservience to authority on the individual level, which was never really ameliorated by the project of civilization (as we can see…)

        That is why the great strides made toward freedom in the middle ages and renaissance were eventually co-opted and made into tools of the state. What i’m saying is, the state and our understanding of human relationships in regards to it is the problem. This probably stems to childhood abuse and neglect, which would exist even in smaller communities if the parents are themselves corrupted…which goes back to my previous criticism of re-introducing ourselves to a HG state, because if we do, how do we know our tribe won’t be just as violent and limiting as the state?

        And likewise If mathematics or reason were evil, we would be waging battles against numbers and performing lobotomies left and right, instead we destroy and conquer to justify our childhood abuse and to avoid facing up to the real cause of our problems. Like Brutus, however, I do not think this leaning tower civilization can be righted. Let it fall!

        Just my thoughts.

        • kulturcritic says:


          At least since the time of Thucydides (Peloponnesian Wars), and certainly clearly articulated in the writings of Hobbes (Leviathan), the state and its correlate, civilization, have been assumed to be both “rational and necessary.” As Diamond writes in his work.
          “Law is its touchstone, or as Tyler put it, ‘if there is law anywhere, it is everywhere’ — and civilization is accepted as a rational contract negotiated by sane men aware of their limitations. So goes the capitalist view of the nature of civilization, which reflects the accumulating 7,000 year-old-myth of the state.” (In Search of the Primitive, p.11)

          Otherwise, you and I are in close agreement: how do we overcome the limitations imposed upon our experience and upon our natural autonomy (feral core) by the institutions (systems) of the civilized state?

  14. troutsky says:

    One of the most powerful metaphors in the movie the Matrix was when Neo was able to stop the bullets of the Agents telepathically. This relates to the question Sandy poses : Can the mind/awareness/consciousness “abstract” the bullets (civilization/Enlightenment death- drive) so as to render them harmless? Remember also that you could be killed in the Matrix, that is the “real” bullets of the simulation could kill those sitting in the Mothership in the Real world. This is where we are today.

    From the Shamans to Don Juan to Tim Leary people have tried to deflect the material through the transcendent. (remember sensory deprivation chambers?) I am suggesting that even if we dosed everyone on the planet with LSD and dismantled every clock and watch, antagonism would not be replaced by compassion and instant Karma. Signifiers would remain floating and there would still be a need for something called the political to mediate that antagonism. So there is a project we can be working on now, while waiting for the New Enlightenment to take hold. The “bullets” are real, hierarchy, power, exclusion, expropriation, exploitation, but in my opinion we can’t wait for NEO to stop them or for everyone to Wake The Fuck Up. I appreciate the chance to de-construct time, but I am not waiting for it. (pun intended)

    • kulturcritic says:

      Like I’ve always said Troutsky, we are already fucked. It happened one night. sandy ha ha ha! So let’s just see what the wind blows in with the political, but in the meantime (pun intended) let’s deconstruct the reality of time. In solidarity, comrade, sandy

  15. Hazen says:

    Seems some clarification is in order, Sandy. It is precisely “civilized humanity” that is asleep. As for hunter-gatherers (“pre-civilized humanity”), Shepard et al found them more attuned to their world, balanced both within themselves and in relation to the natural world. As I see it, hunter-gatherer culture was the apex of human habitation on earth. They weren’t driven by neuroses to extremes of aggression and destruction such as litter the pages of history. Once they were pushed out, the jig was up. The Holocene has been ten a thousand year trip down hill. You seem to have misconstrued my comments. I think we are on the same page (more or less), otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing here.

    I’ll drop another bomblet and say that I have my doubts about the ability of the rational mind alone to find solutions to the problems that beset the planet. There have been some pretty rational fascists applying their bloody programs to humanity.

  16. Brutus says:

    I’m late to the party again. Lots to read and absorb. I appreciate the new voices and what they bring to the discussion.

    I’m puzzled, however, about raising, say, HG cultures or rationalism to idolatry, or for that matter, condemning entire cultures as meaningless. We can think in very broad terms, projecting our minds across spans of history and bodies of knowledge, but we don’t live that way. Nor can we uncover or establish irrefutable human nature nestled within everyone for all of human existence. These are fool’s errands. I wonder, too, if there is even an optimal expression of human life on the planet to be found in transcendence of time and/or unity with nature. We struggle with these ideas quite a bit and bring considerable learnedness to bear on the issues, but all these projects proceed from the starting point that there must be an ideal way to exist in the world and that perhaps we can move toward it.

    Well, no one thinks to question the house cat lying about in idleness, nor the busying about of drone insects. They act according to their natures. So do we, though our nature may have some increased range and pliability due to our expansive cultural overlay. For instance, other species don’t create art. Is there a point to human society? Sure. But we struggle to know it in an idealized and objectified sense and certainly can’t direct the mass of humanity toward optima in any constructive way. That’s been tried; it always ends in despotism.

    Last bit: I used to think in terms of what is desperately needed to fix or at least improve things. If only we could …

    unite the rational and irrational
    rejoin nature as more modest participants
    bridge the mind/body divide
    all be more intelligent/thoughtful/compassionate
    apply rational thought to everything
    remove rational thought from everything

    You get the idea. None of them are panaceas and all of them can be poked and punctured all too easily. The ultimate undeniable truth that still plagues me, however, is akin to Sandy’s statement that we have “poisoned our food supplies, laid waste to the eco and biosystems, contaminated our waters, and sucked the oxygen out of the atmosphere, while exponentially increasing human population and eradicating hundreds of thousands of other species.” So while we wait for it all to come crashing down, we amuse ourselves with explanatory narratives and possible future scenarios. It’s all very interesting, of course, but I’m still left a little slack jawed.

    • john patrick says:

      Good point(s) Brutus.

      Have you ever wondered (to all)… why some of the sharpest pencils in the box never wrote a damn thing down on paper to be passed down to others?

      • kulturcritic says:

        I never use such words, but I will now. I am BLESSED to have such thoughtful partners to dialogue with on this blog. I will have some responses in the next day or two, to all of your latest comments. I have been struggling with Russian immigration issues all day, and I fly to the USA on Thursday. I beg patience on my replies to all of you. sandy

    • kulturcritic says:

      but all these projects proceed from the starting point that there must be an ideal way to exist in the world and that perhaps we can move toward it.”

      I am not sure I proceed from that starting point, Brutus; more that I just reference the fact that HG apparently lived differently, and experienced his being-in-the-world differently than we do in some significant ways. If so, than can we recover whatever that was that has been hidden, because it still must be part of us, albeit, hidden beneath accreted layers of enculturation to this Novum Organum which found real life in Francis Bacon. sandy

      p.s. Novum Organum was Bacon’s reference to Aristotle’s work Organon, which was his treatise on logic and syllogism. Need, I say any more?

      • Brutus says:

        Because it’s so much a part of the culture, most of us cannot avoid thinking in terms of growth, development, recovery, righting injustices, rearrange our percepts, etc. To me, these are Utopian projects focused on the future, hatched with the hubris that we can now finally know what’s needed. Your project as I understand it is to escape our time-boundedness and relearn how to experience (more fully) not just our own embodiment but our flesh as part of being-in-the-world. I’m extremely sympathetic to your views, which is why I read and comment here. However, as I said in another comment, we’re already ruined people by virtue of having been born our particular time and place. Whatever windows of opportunity ever existed for us to enter into different relationships with the world are now only letting in enough light and air for a glimpse of what mankind once had, which may still be lingering at the fringes.

        I’m also inclined to hatch projects for men — in my mind at least. It’s seductive to think that way. On a more mundane level, I seek to understand what’s happening to us and the world, best I can (which is limited). For me, it always goes back to stripping Mother Nature bare. What happens to mankind is interesting, too, but as a thoroughgoing misanthrope by now, I shed no tears over our self-destruction. All that is in aggregate: large populations and huge sweeps of history. But that’s in my head. Day-to-day, man-on-the-street life is affected by it, absolutely; but that’s not really how we live. Instead, I’m still excited by a good pot of chili.

        • kulturcritic says:

          Gotta love that chilli!! Going to bed now Brutus, will think more on this as I dream. Til tomorrow. sandy

        • kulturcritic says:

          Brutus – I have no points of contention with your remarks above. I think they are fairly accurate. However, I do believe there is a unique opportunity for individuals to reconstitute their sense of the world in a more participatory, less objectified and rationalistic manner. It is not something that can be “rolled out” to the masses, like a new corporate marketing agenda, but it can affect the way in which you feel yourself participating the world. And, as you say, we are already fairly well ruined, and can only handle such experiences of recovery on a personal albeit, limited platform.

          • Brutus says:

            Absolute agreement from me. Thanks for acknowledging my points.

          • VyseLegend says:

            Isn’t it true that we can’t ‘introduce’ greater freedom, but only discover it? If so, doesn’t that necessitate a collapse of the current system? Just my intuition.

            • javacat says:

              I think we can recognize the false limits imposed by the system and discover the greater freedom we have. Enough people discovering and acting on that choice may collapse the system. I think the collapse may come after the discovery, not before.

              • kulturcritic says:

                VL – I think JC has a good point, above. And yes, I do think the freedom is a given. It has been repressed and hidden. But, the problem we face is more intransigent. A globe filled with 7 billion people, living by and large in urban environments, under the deluded search for safety and security, cannot possibly coexist without these manufactured constraints. Especially given the competitive nature that has become embedded in the species, it looks to be a war of all against all…. per Hobbes.

              • VyseLegend says:

                Sure, those of us here might see what’s coming, but not the world at large. Most people cannot afford enough wealth and leisure to even contemplate the possibility of freedom, much less type up essays about it on the net. In other words, you can’t possibly evacuate everyone in the building if its X stories high and the bomb is going off in 3…2…1….

  17. Hazen says:

    Love the artist you feature here, Sandy, especially the shipwreck painting at the top of this post.
    Happy Trails to the Unstable States of America.

  18. Hazen says:

    “ . . . the way in which you feel yourself participating in the world . . . we are already fairly well ruined, and can only handle such experiences of recovery on a personal albeit, limited platform.”

    Sounds like a plan. It’s a place to start. It could work. The only part of existence over which I can hope to exercise any control is myself, specifically my response to what happens to me and around me. We are such creatures of reflex and reaction that we are often “out of control,” driven by impulses, fears, prejudices—all that we have been conditioned to be. And put a lot of question marks around “I” and “me” and “myself.”

  19. kulturcritic says:

    Well, folks, I just landed in Moscow after a five hour flight from Barnaul, Altai Krai. I have a five hour layover, then I pick up my flight to the gateway of Empire – NYC. I will be posting this weekend’s blog from within the belly of the beast itself!! best, sandy

  20. Bret Simpson says:

    The two greatest commandments…love God with all heart,mind,body and soul…and love your neighbor as yourself.I give you this…love the yourself.Pilate asked Jesus..”What is Truth?”His reply was???Matthew 6:5.

  21. Bret Simpson says:

    Lived in the Arctic for the point of gettn’ stir crazy..(sensory dep.).Came back to this crap..sick society.This is connected..most of these discussions don’t intrest me..take care.


  22. James says:

    All of the orchestrated movements of technological society require the conception of time. At the molecular level of organic life Brownian motion mixes organic participants until bonding surfaces interact. Body temperature and the concentration of molecules become important parameters. Too hot and the bonds break, too cool and the bonds are never formed.

    At the scale of human technology, the multitude of interactions that must occur cannot be accomplished by Brownian motion, heat. Instead, we must mine the earth of its fossil fuels and motivate our oversized vehicles to make the equivalent connections that constitute a living metabolism.

    To accomplish these complex interactions, the mind had to evolve an analog mind (space) and also a standard of time and conception of the future. We cannot rely on chance or random collision to insure metabolic reactions. We humans must have evolved space/ time minds or none of the essential connections are made. The evolution of our minds in this respect was just as essential to our technological society as the evolution of our hands and eyes. I’m sure hunter-gatherers used this ability to their advantage.

    We are living appendages of our gametes, existing to be resilient, take up space and time and fulfill our metabolic requirements. That’s pretty simple, isn’t it?. Just be. But unfortunately energy and space are limited and “to be” often requires behavior that usurps others opportunity “to be”. Who will be? A band of technologically equipped hunters or a Mastodon? We cannot live unmolested lives. We are both predator and prey and can only exist in a struggle with others to exist, or to get that new waffle-maker at Wal-Mart. Competition is good, or so they say.

    This is a good reason to find a sparsely populated area with peaceful inhabitants and a large carrying capacity. Where is that?

    • kulturcritic says:

      Some live too much in their head, James. I would just quote Goethe, and say: “The highest wisdom would be to recognize that every fact is already a theory” Answer: Siberia!

    • “We are both predator and prey and can only exist in a struggle with others to exist, or to get that new waffle-maker at Wal-Mart. Competition is good, or so they say.”

      James, again you call it as you see it. It is true that man has for ages struggled to satisfy his own cravings for control, comforts, pleasures, honors and the other self-aggrandizing aims. However, does one freely chose this attitude or is it upheld as a result of indoctrination and ongoing addiction? Real freedom requires being receptive to a greater perception and understanding of the true purpose and nature of existence. We chose to exist in cooperation more than we think because we take it for granted and allow our focus to settle on the competition. Look at organized sports as an example.

      When you have the President of the USA constantly stating how our country’s goals are related to our performance in a “competitive world,” this only enhances our addiction. “They say” is the collective cultural paradigm of the day. Competition is good (healthy? maybe not the way it is playing out now), greed is good, lust, pride; all of these and other human weaknesses and perversions are sold to us subtly through media advertising and other propaganda.

      If one has the courage, one can chose to embrace radically different attitudes, experience alternative perceptions, understand things more deeply and broadly, beyond mere intellect, and gradually get unhooked from destructive addictions. This choice to transform one’s self can happen for anyone, anywhere, at any time…

      • Brutus says:

        I wrote about competition as a universal metaphor about five years ago. Finding this aspect of culture in evolution, metabolic reactions, and Brownian motion is plausible, I suppose, but not very enlightening considering how discontinuous are the paradigms in which these functions operate. On a human level, competition becomes at some point a hall of mirror, like economic activity, that justifies itself on its own terms and renders many people blind to values that lie beyond the supposed unified theory.

        If you want a really breathtaking argument that economic competition is what lifted homo sapiens sapiens out of the muck, check out this preposterous article in the NY Times.

        • kulturcritic says:

          “This is history’s greatest theme: the metastasis of exchange, specialization and the invention it has called forth, the ‘creation’ of time.” – Time as an invention, where have I heard that before? Oh, that’s right. I have been saying that for years.

        • James says:


          I’ve bridged the gap between the two paradigms. The evolving organic and technological systems greatest differences are mostly of scale. I would elaborate, but I don’t want to give away insights even though they’re not marketable and generally most unwelcome. Sandy and others have probably had parallel thoughts on evolution.

          Maintaining wealth and comfort is difficult in this world. Any wealth gradient that is obvious will be coveted and eventually turned into dopamine in someone’s brain, probably not the original owner. Immoral and devious competition is natural and common. I would prefer something more cooperative, but that’s not the way the evolutionary ball has bounced.

          The United States, led by a band of men well connected to the MIC, have only to rationalize their greed (terrorists, the Chinese threat, Muslim extremism) before stealing resources from abroad. Actually, everyone in the U.S. is in on it with the Petrodollar reserve currency. It’s good to be 5% of world population and consume 25% of the resources, or is it?

          These wrongs are committed by cowards that send hormonally imbalanced young males to do the face- to-face shooting and murdering on their behalf and then collect the loot. If we all had to go to the Middle-east, stick a gun in someone’s face and say “Give me all you’ve got.”, most of us would be repulsed.

          The U.S. military is the greatest example of competitive evolution ever. The nuclear submarines, ICBMs, jets, satellites and so on, developed in competition with our rivals. Why? Because, overall, we are vicious competitors. It used to be manageable, a skirmish of clubs and spears hear and there, but usually not an exterminating event. It seems that equipped with technology and seemingly unlimited energy we will compete ourselves into oblivion. Maybe we’ll run out of energy first, which will probably be just as bad.

          • kulturcritic says:

            James, your theories are pleasant imaginings, but I don’t see the research to back them up. For example:

            “Immoral and devious competition is natural and common.” This has no basis in reality and is simply ludicrous.

          • john patrick says:

            “…greatest differences are mostly of scale.”

            Thanks, James. And, not just the scale of reproductive amplification, but psychological scale, i.e., some thinking they are much higher/greater than their interconnected place in the natural world.

          • Brutus says:

            James sez:

            I’ve bridged the gap between the two paradigms. The evolving organic and technological systems greatest differences are mostly of scale.

            I rather doubt that. Like Sandy, I’m just not buying what you’re selling, and even if you’ve got it all figgered, hubris notwithstanding, it only goes to reinforce a corrupt and misguided worldview, described by our host elsewhere as the Curriculum of the West. You can have it; it’s all yours.

          • I heard an interview with Alfie Kohn on the radio years ago that impressed me a great deal. James, your statement that “Immoral and devious competition is natural and common,” I think is half right–it is all too common. And “I [too] would prefer something more cooperative.” The mere fact that both of us woyld prefer it points to its not being natural but a learned perversion. Scientific studies may get published that indicate this limited observation regarding competition being natural or positive. Other studies are far more rational and less presumptive. Here is a portion of an article by AK.

            NEW YORK TIMES
            April 26, 1991

            Competition versus Excellence
            By Alfie Kohn

            The very word “competitiveness,” lately a favorite of educators, economists, and politicians, suggests a fundamental confusion between excellence, on the one hand, and the desperate quest to beat people, on the other. These two concepts are not only distinct in theory but often antithetical in practice.
            Excellence is in short supply in our nation’s schools – not only because so many children are graduated without basic skills but, more important, because they are not encouraged to think critically or to exercise their natural intellectual curiosity. By contrast, there is no shortage of competitiveness: The American infatuation with being Number One already suffuses our classrooms, as it does our workplaces and playing fields and families.
            Mr. Bush’s plan offers a pointed lesson in the consequences of blurring this distinction. It reminds us that there is a trade-off between learning and winning — and perhaps between education for the benefit of the student and education for the benefit of business.


  23. James says:

    I’m not trying to sell anything or push any particular view. Just sharing observations and ideas. The main themes of human existence, good and evil, do not come from a wholly virtuous animal. I will grant that civilization, such as it is, does give the Id greater opportunity for mischief, as it is no longer restrained by the moral code and taboos of a small tribe, but is rather free to roam and set up shop in new locations.

    Religions reinforce the Superego, the good, by promising everlasting life in a heavenly setting. The individual is encouraged to bottle up their earthly desires and greed in exchange for everlasting life. The church knows that they will not be fully successful at controlling their desires and offers them forgiveness for their sins as many times as is necessary. The church grows in influence and wealth with ponzi-like growth while encouraging an environment conducive to cooperation and civilization.

    Under these circumstances the intellect is suppressed or dedicated to narrow technical specialization that promises financial compensation, or if fully aligned with the Id, is scheming to reward itself and further the corruption of society.

    Neither force can ultimately win. The more evil that is removed, the more opportunity arises for it to evolve and spread again, to take advantage of naïve and trusting populations. Good and trusting populations are like an energy gradient waiting to be exploited.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Actually James, you are not incorrect in asserting that in primitive, tribal cultures there was greater emphasis on cooperation, less emphasis on individual ego satisfaction. But, most likely, this was not some defensive reaction out of fear of not conforming to the “moral codes and taboos” of the tribe. The difference in experience and demeanor most probably lay in a certain relation to rituals of growth and maturation and their proximity to a living and natural environment. Your Freudian theories, based upon an alienated ontology and epistemology of the 19th-20th century, are already infected with the severe bifurcations characteristic of post-tribal, i.e., civilized, life – self-world, body-subject, self-other. So, any pronouncements we make based upon such theories are only applicable to modern man at best, and highly dubious in any event. I can very well argue that the ID is an epistemological fiction, a phantom product of civilized repression, a response mechanism to the loss of meaning, the loss of connectedness to a natural and nurturing place in the world (what we disparagingly call an ‘environment’). This would lead in Freud’s terms to sublimation of natural (not destructive) feral energy into civilized processes of economic and social value. But such repression might also cause deformed expressions of an otherwise neutral feral energy; the greater the sublimation and the intransigent cultural restraints, the greater the destructiveness of the expression, in acts of greed, acquisitiveness, jealousy, etc. This would also explain why the more “developed” we get, the more destructive are our negative reactions to the societal constraints.

    • john patrick says:

      “The more evil that is removed, the more opportunity arises for it to evolve and spread again…” Nicely said. Thanks for the insight, James.

      I’d like to add: It does no good to set anyone free, if they are unwilling or incapable of acting responsible in their new-born state.

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