The Tao of Christmas: A Phenomenological Interlude

Весна дорога к храму

With great effort, uncle Joe cautiously lifted his 305 pound frame from the old tweed-tufted armchair at the head of the oak  table in the  chandeliered dining room, emitting a short gravelly bark; “Well, I guess I had more than my fair share of that Christmas goose. I’m stuffed,” this last ejaculation sounding more like a question.  Other sighs were heard round what remained of grandma Millie’s table setting. All present seemed in general agreement that they had consumed themselves full to bursting.

Better to stop short than fill to the brim.
Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt.
Amass a store of gold and jade, and no one can protect it.
Claim wealth and titles, and disaster will follow. (Tao Te Ching #9)

Thus ended the big day of consumption in America!  NORAD was still on full alert, even though Santa with his reindeer and sleigh had long since come and gone, all packages delivered and opened, toys scattered across the living room floor, the chubby kids fighting one another for that last bit of Christmas pudding.  Fattened drunks were all perched on assorted couches, dozing in front of the TV, the evening football game blaring, while a lone neighborhood pothead was wandering around outside, stoned, wondering why it was so warm at the end of December.

It seems as though consumption (along with acquisition and the accompanying inertia) is our chief concern in this curriculum of the West.  Despite the fact that we consume more than most, we just cannot seem to get enough – enough food, enough stuff, enough attention; and the more we have, the more we want, until we are consumed with and consumed by the very act of consuming.

Therefore the sage seeks freedom from desire.
He does not collect precious things.
He learns not to hold on to ideas.
He brings men back to what they have lost.
He helps the ten thousand things find their own nature,
But refrains from action. (64)

In Russia, some folks still call tuberculosis by the name “consumption,” just as Hippocrates first identified it in ancient Greece – phthisis, a progresssive disease characterized by the wasting away (atrophying) of the body. There you have it my friends, could it be any clearer?  Consumption, tuberculosis, is the disease that consumes the host until the host is gone!  But, in the USA that is what we do day-in an day-out, and most especially every holiday season… we consume until we collapse!

Perhaps, our notion of consumerism is an appropriate way of describing the very disease that infects us, a disease that is eating us away as we eat away at Gaia.  It is a cultural act of self-consumption as we chew through everything that is at-hand, or belligerently go after all that is not readily at-hand.  It is appropriate that we call ourselves a consumer society, for we are consuming ourselves along with our host (not to be confused with the resurrected one). And as TB consumes its victim, so we are consumed on that celebratory day, thus consuming ourselves with faint hopes of participating in some small way in the event of the resurrected one’s birth.  But, maybe we need not the resurrection of a distant savior, so much as we need an experience of returning.

Returning is the motion of the Tao.
Yielding is the way of the Tao.
The ten thousand things are born of being.
Being is born of not being. (40)

Tuberculosis grabs hold of its victim until it chokes the life and breath out of him.  And as we continuously grasp for more, we become more deeply enmeshed in a trap of our own making, unable to catch a solid breath, spitting blood as we choke on our own bile of consumerism.  We are consumed in the very act of consumption; consuming ourselves as we ravenously consume the world we depend upon. We become the victims of our own grasping, our own consumptive behaviors.  We need to relax that grasp, and just let go, even a little bit.

Less and less is done
Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.
The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.(48)

This is what Lao Tzu had in mind with the idea of  ‘wei wu wei’ — spontaneous engagement through non-controlling, non-grasping action. It is abandoning that hyper-logical mechanism put into effect with the earliest organization of urban bureaucratic life — with legalism and the codification of civilized behavior.  It is, perhaps, a call for the reversal of millennia of linguistic and legalistic hair-splitting, of rationalized self-interest, of acquisition, consumption, and control.

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.
The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.(29)

Releasement or letting go of control was a key for Lao Tzu, not just in personal terms, but politically as well.  In this respect, Lao Tzu may have been one of the first true voices of modern anarchic thought, a rejection of the legalism developing with Confucius and the bureaucratization of feudal China.  It was a rejection of hierarchical relations, of the force of government (overt or covert) and its diverse machinations.

Why are the people starving?
Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes.
Therefore the people are starving.
Why are the people rebellious?
Because the rulers interfere too much.
Therefore they are rebellious.
Why do the people think so little of death?
Because the rulers demand too much of life.
Therefore the people take death lightly.
Having little to live on, one knows better than to value life too much.

Lao Tzu recognized the State as an artful and artificial construct established to maintain control over the disparate elements within the civil hierarchy; he sees the State itself as an all-consuming structure that swallows all its victims, destroying persons in the very act of consuming them.  He suggests a different kind of relation between those who would lead and those who would listen.

If the sage would guide the people, he must serve with humility.
If he would lead them, he must follow behind.
In this way when the sage rules, the people will not feel oppressed;
When he stands before them, they will not be harmed.
The whole world will support him and will not tire of him.
Because he does not compete,
He does not meet competition. (66)

Hierarchy necessarily gives way to control, and ‘shit’ rolls straight downhill, I’m afraid. He who is managed from above in turn manages those below, each in turn attempting to rescue some measure of self-importance, some sense of dignity, within an ever descending spiral of formalized hierarchic relations.  And ultimately the client, the citizen, pays the price at the bottom of the ordered hierarchy.  Too many would-be kings, royalty, and imperial hegemons already people the diverse State bureaucracies and courts around the globe.  We are overrun with rules and rulers — from starkly impersonal legal dictums to abstract religious proscriptions.

“Thou shalt not!” is not the most effective way to bring-up youth.  Nature will take its course in childhood, as in adolescence, and adulthood. The controllers must give up the control, the consumers… the consumption.  Then, perhaps, we all may return more naturally to the event of life and living.


72 Responses to The Tao of Christmas: A Phenomenological Interlude

  1. George M. Drosdowich says:

    Well done Father Sandy and Merry Christmas!

  2. Macrobe says:

    I see that there are still a few on this globe who acknowledge that ‘consumption’ is a disease, in both body and mind. Notice that ‘consumption’ is the taboo word (and unspoken problem) in most political, economic and social discourse. And why ‘sustainability’ is a myth. Thanks for eloquently breaching the taboo.

    You might enjoy an excerpt from a passage I read the other day:
    “…Today I saw two dead
    pelicans. I heard they were shot because they eat
    trout, crows shot because they eat duck eggs,
    wolves shot for eating elk or chasing
    a bicyclist in Yellowstone. Should we be shot
    for eating the world and giving back our puke?”
    – River Sequence, by Jim Harrison

    • Oh, the “kill everything that eats what we eat, then kill everything that eats what we eat eats” So now we have another mass die off of species, caused by humans consuming the planet. And we still will not stop, its too difficult for the consumers to let go, even if it destroys us. Kind of like Gollum and his “precious” Sad

      • malthus2012 says:

        And still we celebrate consumermass.

        • Disaffected says:

          The beauty of it is, is that it’s a self-reinforcing system. To buy the goods you have to have a job, and to have a job you pretty much have to buy a lot of goods and services. To refuse to buy the goods and services is to cost someone else their job, although lately that point’s somewhat arguable, what with the rise of automation. You’ll cost somebody their profits either way. And what are the average consumer’s alternatives these days? Going off the grid and producing or consuming all their goods locally. Increasingly difficult these days, by design of course. Not impossible mind you, but definitely not for the faint of heart. And should you decide to go that route, you’ll definitely face tough opposition at every turn from local and national government and big business / banking forces, all of which are essentially one and the same now. You do have to stand back and admire the scope and the depth of the current depravity. This was all obviously designed with the end game we’re seeing play out now in mind by some very clever fuckers!

          Unfortunately, a Ponzi is still just a Ponzi. When the music finally runs out – and we’ve already had previews – the losers will finally come to their senses again and other arrangements will have to be made. Unfortunately for all involved, the very bottom of an economic trough ain’t exactly the ideal time to be making new arrangements. Tends to lead to anarchy (not the good kind either!) and rampant violence. No wonder Oh-Bummer’s been so busy building the modern police state. Interesting times ahead!

  3. Greg Knepp says:

    I’m a big fan of Taoism. I keep Thomas Merton’s ‘The Way of Chuang Tzu’ on my night table, along with the Bible (NIV) and ‘The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe’. Somewhere in the midst of these three volumes lies something approximating the truth – at least for me. [Poe’s short story, ‘Ligeia’ is a spiritual tour-de-force – if that’s not too much of an oxymoron].

    Additionally, you’ve opened a real can of worms with this tuberculosis thing. I’ll get back to you on it, as I have some background in this area.

  4. seawriter88 says:

    Great post! Thank you!

  5. Disaffected says:

    Consumption is the disease that is killing us and we are the de facto consumers. Go figure. Industrial capitalism consumes it’s own. And everything else in the process as well of course.

    Might have figured that when everything came full circle as it always does that we’d be right back at an ancient non-religious philosophy that’s been right there waiting for us all along to find its simple truths again, lost in all of our hyper-rational western hustle and bustle. Although, we’ve certainly still got quite a journey ahead of us, certainly as a society here in the west, and likely for our species in general, before we find that elusive primitive peace again. Should be an interesting century on tap for what remains of the earth’s species, and you know what the Chinese had to say about interesting times.

  6. I watch teevee a few times a year, when I am visiting someone who consumes enormous emounts of it, and I swear, every time I expose myself to the tube, Americans are fatter. And dumber. Or should I say, more willfully ignorant? What is the cure for consumption/consumerism? One would do well to spend some regular, reflective time, with the likes of Lao Tzu (and Sandy, though that doesn’t seem to have rubbed off on Uncle Joe, LOL). Otherwise, for the vast majority, it seems clear to me at this point, Humans will consume Gaia at an ever increasing rate, until such time as the fuel that facilitates such hyper consumption is no longer available. So I quess the most pressing question is, do we destroy the biosphere and ourselves, quite literally cosuming ourselves out of house and home, killing the majority of species and perhaps even the sea, before the fuel runs out?

    I guess I’ve come to see just about everything about my country, as some aspect of a vast death cult.

    • derekthered says:

      “I guess I’ve come to see just about everything about my country, as some aspect of a vast death cult.”
      this conclusion is arrived at from different angles. Baudrillard gets there thru the Marxist assumption that capital is a collection of dead labor (Symbolic Exchange and Death, Das Kapital), said collection having precedence before all else, hence an idol, the worship of death. if you look at our entire edifice of value it is all just symbols standing for some claim against labor, or resources, many times against something that does not yet exist.
      never-mind that any system of value depends upon the seasons of nature and what can realistically be stored and consumed; we now have “synthetic financial instruments”, “futures”, and such, a doubling down of arrogance.
      hey, don’t ask me half what i type means, hell if i know, but i am a very good driver, in the driveway………………..

      • Disaffected says:

        if you look at our entire edifice of value it is all just symbols standing for some claim against labor, or resources, many times against something that does not yet exist.

        That pretty much nails it, right there. Although, with the rise of the financial credit culture, I think it’s fair to say that most, if not nearly all of said claims now are against future labor and/or resources yet to be exploited, and which in many cases, are only speculated to even exist in the first place. Financial capitalism is nothing more than consuming tomorrow’s labor and resources today, with a price paid to the enablers of course. The only real fly in the ointment is that while the labor and resources are physically real, and in the case of most of the resources either non-renewable or not easily renewable, the financial credits are entirely make believe and are easily created out of “thin air” (sorry for using that phrase. It’s soooo overused!) over and over again ad infinitum. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this state of affairs amounts to little more than an ultra sophisticated Ponzi scheme and cannot be sustained forever. And lucky us! We’re the generation that gets to witness it’s ultimate demise!

        • derekthered says:

          or as Baudrillard said “hyper-realism”, simulation.

          in other words, sophisticated bread and circuses. maybe sandy is attempting to help people let go of this mirage, mental preparedness. sort of a spiritual exercise, another overused expression.

          • Disaffected says:

            Agreed, although reality itself is the only true teacher. And that’s gonna be a hard lesson to learn indeed for the generations born after 1990 or so. Ain’t gonna be no picnic for most of the rest of us either, as we’re all wed to the illusion of cheap and plentiful energy and all of the advantages that follow from being card carrying members of the first world hegemon by mere accident of birth. As I’ve said before, I think a great many of my fellow baby boomers will actually welcome their deaths in the coming years. And a great many of them are gonna receive an “assist” on their way out by those doomed to stay behind for no extra charge.

  7. I have seen the name Lao Tzu translated as Venerable Master, Old Boy, and Eternal Child.

  8. Martin says:

    “The Tao of heaven is like the bending of a bow.
    The high is lowered, and the low is raised.
    If the string is too long, it is shortened;
    If there is not enough, it is made longer.

    The Tao of heaven is to take from those who have too much
    and give to those who do not have enough.
    Man’s way is different.
    He takes from those who do not have enough
    to give to those who already have too much.
    What man has more than enough and gives it to the world?
    Only the man of Tao.

    Therefore the sage works without recognition.
    He achieves what has to be done without dwelling on it.
    He does not try to show his knowledge.” (77)

    So, one wonders, where are the men of Tao?

    • Collapse Watch says:

      That’s the beauty of it. They’re utterly unrecognizable. Acknowledgement of their existence, even their own self-acknowledgement, would preclude their existence and any effect they would otherwise have on reality. So they carry on not even knowing they are carrying on, and they move amongst us like a silent breeze mediating a balmy dusk.

    • George Drosdowich says:

      There are none

    • Martin, the “men of Tao” are aspiring to live in accord with the Tao or the highest Truth they have recognized thus far in their sincere search and practice. As this can be achieved in the routine and duties of daily life, they are hidden from view.

      Sandy offers, “It is, perhaps, a call for the reversal of millennia of linguistic and legalistic hair-splitting, of rationalized self-interest, of acquisition, consumption, and control.”

      It is a matter of not doing what we have been doing for ages and doing what we have not. Which, correct me if I’m wrong, is to serve one’s own self-centered wanting for, perhaps: not only control and consumption, but also comforts, convenience, certainty, much of which is sought in the form of cash or credit. [What’s with all the C’s.] All of these are sought to attain self-satisfaction, which does not last for long, but instead does an excellent job at enhancing the limited ego-mind and its addiction to illusions.

      Many things are recommended by sages and teachers for disentangling from this web and the miseries it creates for one’s self and for others. I think of two examples to combat this habit of mindless consumption. One, is to acknowledge (and practice with keen attention) that more of what you like and want is not the goal. The wise goal is “just enough.” Another practice that is gaining some acclaim these days, thank God, is gratitude or appreciation. It is only through this exercise that one unlock the treasure in whatever one might consume, save, give, etc. Ultimately one can discover this appreciation everywhere and in everything, the good, the bad, and the ugly, all have a meaning and purpose. There are so many stories that attest to this truth.

      I saw a marvelous program on PBS where a scientist talked about the research he and his colleagues had done in the field of happiness. His idea was that through concerted efforts with certain practices one can change ancient habits, behavioral, thought, emotional, and so on. He explains how to do this.

      The wisdom exists it is a matter of putting it into practice that remains unfulfilled.

      Great subject, Sandy. Thanks for setting it for those attending your forum.

  9. Brutus says:

    Seems you hardly need my comments anymore. But I’ll throw another log on the fire anyway.

    I’ve written before about consumption in these comments (back in March) and elsewhere. Sandy now ties the issue to Lao Tzu and tuberculosis, which are interesting for what they add to the wild mix of ideas. Although the complex of forces (the Curriculum of the West) is indeed quite a complicated matrix, if one gets enough remove from the question, it’s pretty easy to see that it boils down to simple biology and the drivers behind the life force. In short, everything (alive) eats, everything poops.

    We humans are hardly the only organism or species willing and able to consume ourselves into oblivion. We’re tragic, perhaps, in that we have just enough wit to know we’re doing it but not enough apparently to stop ourselves. The designers of the Curriculum or the current set of Ponzi schemes may have black, rapacious hearts, but the remorseless consumerist algorithm evolved blindly on its own even without the predations of the ownership class laying claim to all present and future resources (natural or labor or creative). Human ingenuity may have followed on and catalyzed the process of consumption — especially after the development of exploitation of the energy density of fossil fuels — but the foundation was already laid long before.

    • Martin says:

      “We’re tragic, perhaps, in that we have just enough wit to know we’re doing it but not enough apparently to stop ourselves.”

      Well put, sir, well put…

      • Disaffected says:

        I second that opinion. I’ve often thought of late that in the end, we amount to little more than just another herd of deer, biologically speaking. Allowed to overpopulate by our own devices we did, and the rest was all too predictable after that. The gross inequities regarding wealth distribution and all of that might have mattered to us who experienced it, but to the rest of the bio-sphere – whatever their stage of conscious development – it was all just so much who gives a damn. In fact, maybe that was the whole purpose of evolving self-awareness in a biological organism in the first place – to see if we could handle it. Unfortunately for us, the early returns are not promising.

    • Macrobe says:

      I think that is the curse of most biologists; knowing our inherent drives as any other species posses (as population dynamics illustrates), yet also aware that we as a species have the capacity for reason and to control those drives. Which is what separates Homo sapiens from other species. Although H. sapiens are capable of abstract thought processes, we certainly don’t seem able to attain the full self-awareness we are capable of.

      • Disaffected says:

        Although, back to Sandy’s original point, and the point of Tao”ism” in general, is that we have as a species, at least in some decidedly small way before, demonstrated the ability to transcend such parochial concerns. The kernel of an idea as to the path forward DOES exist among those who are still living. Not sure if we can sustain that admittedly still very small flame at this point; but then again, I’m not sure we have any choice in the matter either.

    • Disaffected says:

      I might add, simple biological determinism seems a bit too neat and tidy even for my jaded ears to describe the human condition at this point. Just sayin’.

      • kulturcritic says:

        Mr Brutus does like his biology classes, does he not. I am afraid he really believe those who says there is something called human nature. But, that’s his albatross… NOT MINE!

      • Brutus says:

        Reread my comment. I acknowledge the complexity of the Curriculum before I comment about basic biology. The point of following the former with the latter is that we get so caught up in the fascination of the details that we overlook the underlying bedrock, core constraints that provide inherent, instinctual, unavoidable motivation. So no, it’s not sufficient to be pat or glib about it, but neither should we lose sight of the obvious.

    • Ivy Mike says:

      I’m throwing-in with Brutus.

      “Wolves…commonly gorge, eating as much as eighteen pounds of meat in one sitting. Then ‘meat drunk,’ they may lay out in the sun…”

      Barry Lopez, Of Wolves and Men

      Predatory hairless great apes do the same thing for the same reasons.

      “The closest approximation to human morality we can find in nature is that of the gray wolf, Canis lupus.”

      Wolfgang M. Schleidt & Michael D. Shalter. (2003) Co-evolution of Humans and Canids, An Alternative View of Dog Domestication: Homo Homini Lupus? Evolution and Cognition. Vol. 9, No. 1, p.57-72.

    • Greg Knepp says:

      Brutus is right; given the natural human propensity to survive through environmental manipulation (tool use and all of its manifestations) intra-species competition (usually tribal but easily morphed into national, religious, etc…) for gene-pool dominance via control of resources, and the use of our hyper-cleverness (not exclusive to, but dominant in humans) our current predicament was inevitable.

      I simply don’t understand people who will bow to the power of instinct in animals only to deny it in humans. It is as natural for humans to build skyscrapers as it is for beavers to build dams. I believe that the assumption that humans are generalists is nonsense; we are driven by relentless inherited urges. If anything, we are overspecialized. And, as you know, over-specialization in any species earmarks it for extinction. I see no reason why nature would give humans a pass in this matter.

      After all, “Man has no pre-eminence over the animals” Ecclesiastes

      • kulturcritic says:

        I refer all of you to my quote from Kingsnorth, below. However, while I would agree without objection to our instinctual needs, and would also suggest that “culture” is part of that mix, any particular culture is not genetically determined, as we witness by the multiplicity of samples we see and/or have crushed. And to suggest that building skyscrapers is as “natural” to humankind as building dams is to beavers, that a patently ludicrous and foundationless suggestion.

        • Greg Knepp says:

          Traits that are common to the vast majority of societies throughout the millennia – no matter what specific form such traits take – may be regarded as instinctually motivated. This is especially true of those traits that are manifested in manners that defy any reasonable practical purpose. Viewed through this lens, the skyscraper must be seen as a prime example of human instinct carried to extremes.

          Consider the history of the skyscraper going back in time: the outrageously tall office tower (age of commerce) the lofty governmental dome (age of the state) the castle spire (age of royalty) the Gothic steeple (church dominance) the ziggurat of the ancient near east, the stacked pagoda of Asia, the pyramids of Egypt and pre-Columbian America, and the Tall Houses of tribal ‘big men’ in Africa and New Guinea.

          What these examples have in common are: (1) they are as technologically advanced as their cultures could muster, (2) they are enormously expensive given the scales of their host economies, and (3) aside from providing a high vantage point (a plus for any visually oriented species having had its evolutionary groundwork laid as an arboreal creature) they serve no rational purpose whatsoever.

          They act as symbols of power and hierarchy – plain and simple – both within the host society and to potential competitors from the outside. This is why the dominant institutions within a society have always sponsored the construction of outsized buildings. The “mine is bigger that your’s” drive is as old as mankind. True, the construction is rational – even scientific – but the motivation is pure fang and claw.

          • Macrobe says:

            These compartmentalized structures built on top one another (skyscrapers, apartment buildings, large structures, etc) are also an association with population density. One example: looking at the history of the multistoried cliff dwellings and pueblos of the American southwest, this type of shelter was adopted as group populations of people increased in a given area and region of resources. Smaller populations, such as nomadic and semi-nomadic groups, built small individual and portable shelters. Their local population growth was self-restricted due to their mobile lifestyles and widely fluctuating availability of resources. Whereas, those with larger populations usually adopted sedentary and pastoral lifestyles, building compartmentalized shelters, often on top of the previous, and eventually consuming everything around them until their civilizations collapsed (due to various climatic, sociological/political and religious issues), sometimes killing each other and/or dispersing to other areas in smaller groups. And then the cycle begins again.

            Even the Navajo people recognized this when they immigrated into the southwest from their northern homelands. When they came upon the massive empty cliff dwellings of the Anasazi they recognized the results of overpopulation, when groups of people become too large for their territory. And they adopted a decreed tradition to remain semi-nomadic in small family groups.

            Reminds me of termites, and the viruses I studied over the years. Ours is more complicated: biology and culture. A sometimes difficult dance.

            (Interestingly, moving to the remote desert, the typical home here is on the average less than one-fourth of the size of a typical ‘home’ in American suburbs and cities. One local lives in a cave, many renovate existing rock and adobe ruins. And we consume significantly less, dictated by our limited resources.)

            • kulturcritic says:

              Better to be a macrobe than a microbe

            • Greg Knepp says:

              “And they adopted a decreed tradition to remain semi-nomadic…”

              Great stuff, Macrobe! This is exactly what the early hebrews did. Abram and his clan rejected life in the cities of Ur and Haran, and moved their livestock to the hinterland where they prospered as nomadic herdsmen. According to Genesis, God blessed Abram solely for his rejection of civilization. There is no evidence that Abram was particularly righteous in any other respect. In fact he seems rather ordinary, if stubborn.

          • kulturcritic says:

            Tribal “big men” were more of a Melanesian, Polynesian phenomenon, not African. And the concept was based upon skill and the ability to distribute resources equitably… therein lay his status.

            • Greg Knepp says:

              A minor point at best. But you’re right about Africa; those folks enjoyed the beneficent leadership of guys like Shaka. Oh, I forgot to mention the edifice complex as evidenced in pre-history. Stone Henge and the American Indian burial mounds (some of which are quite impressive) come to mind.

  10. kulturcritic says:

    “Civilization has always been a project of control, but you can’t win a war against the wild within yourself.” Paul Kingsnorth, Dark Ecology

  11. derekthered says:

    what jumps out at me are these passages
    “The universe is sacred.
    You cannot improve it.
    If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
    If you try to hold it, you will lose it.(29)”
    combined with
    “Why do the people think so little of death?
    Because the rulers demand too much of life.
    Therefore the people take death lightly.”

    in the military they call it “failure to adjust”, and what is the military? just the most regimented sector of our civilization, and an analogy for what has happened to the species as a whole in a cosmic blink of the eye. a few hundred years out of several billion years of biological processes, or ten thousand, makes little difference, our species in traveling uncharted waters, so to speak, albatrosses and all.
    so the more we as a group, or as individuals, try to grasp this thing called truth everybody keeps going on about, the more it slips thru our fingers.
    old mr. jean, he would babble on about closed sets generating their own antibodies, natures way and all that

    ” It is the excess of reality that makes us stop believing in it.
    The saturation of the world, the technological saturation of life, the excess of possibilities, of actualization of needs and desires. How are we to believe in reality once its production has become automatic?
    The real is suffocated by is own accumulation. There is no way now for the dream to be an expression of a desire since its virtual accomplishment is already present.
    Deprivation of dreams, deprivation of desire. And we know what mental disorder sleep deprivation induces.”

    i think we are in a deeper hole than we think, or? maybe? i am out of my depth. nah!!!!!!!!
    get to thinking too much, just get yourself in trouble, an old expression around these parts.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Yeah, there are too many who still believe in the infinite ability of the techno-fix. Even if true, the effects are disastrous because it only extends the problems inherent in the systems we have created. My own addiction to this notebook computer and the internet is only one small example.

  12. Greg Knepp says:

    I think the problem is one of ‘Nature vs. Nuture’. I obviously come down on the Nature side. I came across an odd piece of literature which was left here by one of my ex-wives, that speaks to this dichotomy rather succinctly. The quote is from a text of the Twelve Step movement. There is no author listed (anonymity and all that) but I assume it was penned by Bill Wilson – a mad genius of the mid 20th century credited with the invention of AA (based largely on pre-existing formats) and the perfection of insider trading.

    “…these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceed their proper functions. Powerfully, blindly, many times subtly, they drive us, dominate us, and insist upon ruling our lives. Our desires for sex, for material and emotional security, and for an important place in society often tyrannize us. When thus out of joint, man’s natural desires cause him great trouble, practically all the trouble there is. No human being, however good, is exempt from these troubles. Nearly every serious emotional problem can be seen as a case of misdirected instinct. When that happens, our great natural assets, the instincts, have turned into physical and mental liabilities.”
    chapter 4, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 1952

    I would add that what applies to the individual may also apply to society – though this dose not seem to be a part of Wilson’s thesis

  13. Terry David says:

    I’m going to go a little simplistic here, cuz that’s sometimes all I can muster.

    I think it comes down to the Tao’s effective admonition against self worship. While ego is necessary to find oneself important enough to survive, once out of control (and empowered by cheap fossil fuels), trouble ensues. Those in control thrive off the energy of others to bolster their “importance” and the consumers thrive off the control that power derived from from fossil fuel provides.

    My Great Depression era parents (themselves children of Carpathian mountain village immigrants to the US) instilled a sense of moderation, circumspection and conservation. Today’s core values seem to expressed by the word(?) “Xtreme.”

    In light of the decline of cheap fuel sources, it seems our culture is shifting to the “grasping and denial” phase of self worship, made visible by the rise of the most unapologetic form of selfishness -the sophistry of Ayn Rand.

    I have long hoped that rational, cool heads would prevail as we sit perched on the precipice of decline, lest an era of unparalleled suffering and misery occur. But from my vantage point in the current milieu, Consumption it will be.

    Great essay. Thanks.

  14. bmiller says:

    Take a look at this link on the Guardian. It shouldn’t be a surprise but all the same fairly disturbing report on the collaboration of the banking system and the FBI on the suppresion of the Occupy movement. Not relevant to the topic at hand but….

  15. Pingback: Doom and the Spiritual Path | Doomstead Diner

  16. Pingback: Doom and the Spiritual Path | Doomstead Diner

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