Tilting At Windmills: Gellasenheit and the Alchemy of Wonder

The legacy of the West is, as I have so often stated, a nearly maniacal pursuit to control external and internal reality, and to continuously enhance or extend that control whenever possible – environmentally, socially, politically, economically, psychologically. This has led the civilized world headlong into an unrelenting pursuit of domination over nature (William Leiss) as well as into never-ending battles for dominion over our fellow man (Saint Augustine). The spectacular unfolding of historical consciousness that coincided with the still muted beginnings of urban life in the ancient Near East nearly six thousand years ago, triggered a hyper-rational obsession to make sense of the recent past and get the anticipated future well in-hand, providing the controlling historical narratives and autobiographies of our lives, collectively and personally.

This overriding obsession with command and control was given first voice – and satisfied in large measure – through elaboration of a highly idiosyncratic mode of reasoning, as I have previously suggested; this led systematically to the “discovery” of controlling natural laws to manage external events, and the enactment of social laws to manage human behavior. The syllogism would emerge as the centerpiece of this methodology, giving rise to both the natural and human sciences.  Control thus lay at the very core of the Curriculum of the West. We are, collectively, born to manage or be managed, going back as far as the late Neolithic.  Even those of us who are more retiring in demeanor find it nearly impossible to live with the apparent uncertainty born of the terror of historical consciousness. Thus, both the anxiety and our need for control emerged simultaneously in that fateful moment.  It began, in part, with the early Israelite belief in a transcendent deity’s promise to his chosen (i.e., historically relevant) people. This very hope and focus on the salvific future would be more fully fleshed-out down through the early centuries of what ultimately became our great cultural legacy – the canons of Western religion, politics, science, and technology.

Just look around you, the signs and symbolism of control are everywhere. They reside in your smart-phone, on your laptop, in your calendars, watches, and your clocks. Control is found on the evening news, in your speculative investments, and in hedging your bets. But that is not all; no that is not all.  Not only do we seek to forecast the weather, we want to manipulate the weather itself, bend it to our demands, our desires, our military needs.  We push without respite to control all that is still wild and yet untamed, to domesticate every inch of the natural, including our feral inclination to shun the very hierarchies that seek to repress and restrain us.

This control is present in news leaks, military hardware, sales forecasts, and loss leaders. It oozes out from your insurance policies and finds its voice in your claim adjusters’ adjustments; it is the assumed authority brandished among the police, the lawyers and the judges; it runs like a vein of fools gold through the army, navy, air force and marines; it is built into the principles of management and leadership – planning, scheduling, assigning and adjusting; everything we do is about control. The very institutions and hierarchies we have erected are the embodiment of this singular and overriding obsession.

One could argue, of course, that this preoccupation with control is not a modern (i.e., civilized) phenomenon at all; that indeed, our Pleistocene forebears themselves sought the comfort and certainty of controlling authority as well.  Some might argue that we can gather this from a simple review of hunting practices, shamanic rituals, or the apparent evidence of primitive magic/art in pre-Neolithic paleontology and archeology. However, I would not jump too quickly onto that bandwagon. I would simply note that if there appears to us moderns what may be signs of the exercise of pre-civilized magic (for example, in controlling the hunt), perhaps such practices could be interpreted in other ways, and not necessarily as attempts to manage outcomes, as we moderns understand it.  Needless to say, such practices (if they were meant to control) would have been minimally invasive to the natural workings of the cosmos, in comparison to our satellite-directed drones or our hell-fire missiles, our enforced economic servitude or our nuclear power plants. In any event, our pre-civilized forbears certainly fit into their landscape, if not the sacred game of predation, far better than we have. Well, you get my drift.

Even our ancient alchemist, pictured above, sought ultimately not control in our sense, but a restoration of that perfect balance among the various base elements in order to achieve inner tranquility and/or an outer harmony with nature.  On the other hand, we have done so much to exercise control that some scientists predict “imminent irreversible planetary collapse.”  The most absurd of ironies rests in this very fact: that the struggle for predominance has led to the most untenable and uncontrollable of circumstances one could have imagined.  Rather than perfecting our dominion over the earth, we have driven it and ourselves to the unmanageable, even powerless, brink of extinction.  So what are we to do?  How are we to overcome the unsurmountable obstacles we have placed in our own way?

Of course, the problem with any psychological proposal to solving our looming crisis most often rests itself upon the presumption of individual culpability.  The psychologists will always encourage us to take control of the situation and work actively to correct it.  They will encourage us to avoid the easy path of denial, and work diligently to solve the problems we have created.  Again, this leads us into the same trap as the methodology that created our problems in the first place.  It assumes the right to dominion, to self-determination, and an anthropocentric view of life.  Which is more quixotic, tilting at the windmills, or building them in an attempt to escape our chosen fate?

Wei wu wei, the Taoist idea of acting through non-action, is first and foremost about overcoming this obsession with control, manipulation, management, domination and dominion; it is a call simply to let go of the incessant pull on our energies, the will to direct all activities, and define all outcomes. It is about forgiveness, openness, amd spontaneity.  It is reflected in the German philosophical term often used by Martin Heidegger in his later writings: Gellasenheit.  It refers to a state of “openness” to being, of “releasement,” a lack of willingness to control or define the outcomes — a mode of non-interference.  In this condition we can feel the world not as a series of objects for manipulation (things-present or ready-to-hand); but rather as a horizon that opens to us, wherein truth (aletheia) shows itself; where the forgetfulness of being is overcome and we recover our sense of wonder.

Have we lost our spontaneity, the art of artlessness? Becoming attuned to the cycles of nature, the proprioceptivity of our own bodies, the natural balance felt by letting go of attempts to control, learning again to act naturally, with ease and spontaneity; is all of this now so foreign to us?

This is the meaning of wu wei – the undoing of controlling intentionality.  In this light, wu wei, is not just “doing nothing” but rather acting without the intention to master or control.  It is suggestive, rather, of the spontaneity, the artlessness of nature herself.  It simply participates nature; and acts in concert with her.


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46 Responses to Tilting At Windmills: Gellasenheit and the Alchemy of Wonder

  1. Murph says:

    Interesting essay and some tidbits for thought Sandy,

    It has occurred to me that humans are not the only thing on this planet that strives for control. Even plants will try and control their environment, some put out toxins that other plants and insects cannot tolerate. Animal of high and low order try and control their range, habitat and food supply. The difference I see in human control is the high amount of complexity involved. We have been trying for years to control the weather, a sufficiently complex system that our efforts are negligible. We have had some success at controlling human though and actions, but let some additional factor or outside influence of sufficient magnitude come into play and all bets are off.

    My big question for today’s world is are human societies under sufficient control where change for how humans interact not possible? I anticipate that the authority figures are figuring that is so. At least it would account for their blatant efforts of the day. Just maybe we have some surprises of our own to hand them.

    • javacat says:

      Plants and animals do alter their environments, as you mention Murph, for shelter, for food, for mates. The difference I think is that other creatures act directly in the moment for a specific purpose without an oversee of superego. Foxes are not managing herds of meadow voles and robins aren’t building retirement nests. There is a direct interaction with and response to all the environment around them.

      Human efforts at control seem to be geared toward a protective future–whether for the weather for crops or money to hedge those bets. It’s toward a reality that doesn’t exist and so infinitely shifts, keeping us consumed.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Hey Murph

      I think change now is only feasible on a very small scale basis. And the traps that keep you from making those changes are many.

  2. Malthus says:

    “Wei wu wei, the Taoist idea of acting through non-action, is first and foremost about overcoming this obsession with control, manipulation, management, domination and dominion; it is a call simply to let go of the incessant pull on our energies, the will to direct all activities, and define all outcomes.” This certainly looks like control also. Controlling ones self cannot be anything but control. It seems we have controlled ourselves into something that is so out of control no one has a clue of what is around the bend. So we will make more attempts to control. A waste of precious time. Very good read Sandy and well thought out and for me I do not see any hope since as you point out we are a bunch of control freaks. Freaky.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Malthus – I do not know if I would call “letting go” an act of control. It is more a matter of simply not responding to the stimuli that we have been accustomed to. But, you are correct, it seems hopeless… but what is hope anyway but the effort to control. LOL

      • Malthus says:

        Response to stimuli is where choice can come in. That little flash of a second where you can choose to react in an appropriate manner or just automatically react in your usual non thinking way. Its taken me years to understand that. And then years to catch myself automatically reacting instead of choosing with the appropriate response to a given stimulus. Then is when you get to be unreasonable and that can really be fun.

        • javacat says:

          That moment you describe, Mathus, is what psychologists who use behavior modification try to get people to use to change habits that may have helped us to cope or survive at some point in the past but are no longer relevant. The experience you describe sounds similar but with a different context: recognizing the habits that have become automatic–or perhaps given to us as the ‘thing to do’–and reminding us that we do have choice. And that unreasonable piece? Good times! People don’t know what you’ll say or do next!

    • Malthus, if we can render the concept of “control” into a metaphor, I would say it’s essentially an act of grasping – of trying to hold on to things, or manipulate them. Wu wei is opening our hands and not trying to grasp.

      We could argue about whether or not this still counts as a form of “control”, but ultimately what’s most important is perhaps not how we define words, but whether the posture and comportment the Daoists called “wei wu wei” offers a different way of “being in the world” than the modern, ‘Western Curriculum’. Zhuangzi wrote a story about the assumptions of control, vs wu wei:

      Confucius was seeing the sights at Lu-liang, where the water falls from a height of thirty fathoms and races and boils along for forty li, so swift that no fish or other water creature can swim in it. He saw a man dive into the water and, supposing that the man was in some kind of trouble and intended to end his life, he ordered his disciples to line up on the bank and pull the man out. But after the man had gone a couple of hundred paces, he came out of the water and began strolling along the base of the embankment, his hair streaming down, singing a song. Confucius ran after him and said, “At first I thought you were a ghost, but now I see you’re a man. May I ask if you have some special way of staying afloat in the water?”

      “I have no way. I began with what I was used to, grew up with my nature, and let things come to completion with fate. I go under with the swirls and come out with the eddies, following along the way the water goes and never thinking about myself. That’s how I can stay afloat.”

      Confucius said, “What do you mean by saying that you began with what you were used to, grew up with your nature, and let things come to completion with fate?”

      “I was born on the dry land and felt safe on the dry land – that was what I was used to. I grew up with the water and felt safe in the water – that was my nature. I don’t know why I do what I do – that’s fate.”

      Or to quote a self-described Daoist “spirit medium” on this subject, “the spiritual path of animism is defined by the willingness (rather than ability) of the practitioner to relax his/her personal story or stream into the Big Story or Limitless Sea of the natural environment (Dao, Heaven). In animism, it is not a goal accomplished by effort but a matter of relaxing into naturalness. Forgetting and remembering become a dance that is not bound by a fixed or hardened sense of “my story.”

      • kulturcritic says:

        Key issue here, drifting cloud. “My story” is the crux of the problem. The construction of personal autobiography, tied to history, is the source of despair (terror)… of not achieving, or not becoming, and launches us onto the drive to control outcomes, make better choices, manage outcomes.

        • javacat says:

          “…autobiography, tied to history, is the source of despair…” Part of the problem with our autobiography is that we did not write it: Our information, impressions, created memories come from those around us, primarily parents and close family who’s perceptions are not ours, and are colored by whatever enculturation has occurred for generations. Another problem is that we start believing our own autobiographical history, and act accordingly. We are delineated and delimited.

          • kulturcritic says:

            The rigid ego construction that takes place with the individual’s narrative history is what makes the recent past and especially the future so important. It is what also triggers the despair of not succeeding, and the terror of death, giving birth to the need for some control to help us cope.

            • javacat says:

              Agreed. A healthy ego–in the sense of self–is flexible and fluid, maintaining boundaries while recognizing to connection to the not-self. The rigid ego is a joint construction project between society’s desire to control and shape and the individual’s efforts to cope and survive the confines of that structure. I think rigid self is doubly isolated: from the rest of the universe and from self, creating a profound loneliness. From there, we search for meaning, pursuing those avenues of achievement and future that you address.

              • kulturcritic says:

                I think the loneliness is a product of this civilization. I think where real kinship has died… been cut off, in favor of social contracts and legal relations, you have a world full of lonely people.

                • javacat says:

                  Social contracts and legal relations separate rather than unite, agreed. Both are externally imposed from a defensive posture, instead of deeply communal kinship. The social and legal contracts are superficial, and work by constriction rather than kinship, that strikes me as moving from the individual out. In these times and in this place–if we’re lucky and alert–we can sometimes make such connections.

  3. Gordon Cutler says:

    Sandy, discovering your blog a few weeks ago was one of the highlights of the year for me. Because of a book project of my own, I don’t yet have the time to join in the discussions,

    But I am curious if you chose the Amish spelling of Gellasenheit instead of the standard ‘Gelassenheit’ on purpose; perhaps to further underline the ‘letting go’ of environmental control that is a corollary of Amish religious practice?

    Just hunted a bit further and what I know as the Amish spelling is probably also an older spelling that if not archaic, certainly hearkens back to a time when humans had much less secure grip on the carotid arteries of the Earth’s ecosystems.

    Cheers!

    • kulturcritic says:

      Gordon – No, I did not think specifically of the Amish at that point; but they certainly have maintained a distance from this culture. I would love to hear about your book project sometime. best, sandy

      • leavergirl says:

        What a fine essay, Sandy! Love it.
        I am glad someone brought up the Amish link to Gellassenheit. It is at the core of their culture. If they spoke of it much (which they don’t) they would probably describe it as yielding, humility. It can cut both ways, of course, as yielding can be manipulated to mean accepting the patriarchal control of the community by a few ministers without demur. On the other hand, it can mean (at its best) the mutual yielding of all to all, and to the natural forces that surround each particular Amish community, and to divine guidance.

  4. Nichole59 says:

    “Even our ancient alchemist, pictured above, sought ultimately not control in our sense, but a restoration of that perfect balance among the various base elements in order to achieve inner tranquility and/or an outer harmony with nature.”

    Control is much with us, embedded in most of our professional endeavors and categories. We attempt to control disease, weather, land, mineral, landscape, life, death, thought, emotion, experience. Although, as javacat, Murph and Malthus point out other species of life, viruses, crystals, plants and animals as well attempt to exert some control over the parameters of their existences.

    Hence, I imagine, suffering. The upshot of both aletheia and of Dasein. One can imagine Heidegger being struck by the suffering inherent in der Nationalsozialismus regime he supported for some time. Perhaps the result was Gelassenheit. I suspect that wu wei wu also comes about through sorrowful learning of that sort as well. We appear to move individually through various nodes of “o-my-god-did-I-do-that?-learning.”

    I found you essays Monday. I have enjoyed browsing through the past and appreciate the present. Thank you, Sandy.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Nichole – glad you found me; and I am pleased you find it stimulating. The only thing Heidegger got wrong was the necessity of historicity. Could be it is just a construct of literacy, not fundamental to human experience. I do not think my three year old son has a real sense of unilinear time yet; and he doesn’t know how to write yet either. best, sandy

  5. “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.”
    I take that to be the primary reason why we have these conundrums to deal with. It is simply too difficult at this point to remove oneself from the beast if one is born and acculturated into it. In order to move freely again we would need to break the backbone of civilization – which in my mind is the cultivation of man. It’s almost like we all need to drink the Kool-Aid at once for it to work.

  6. An old Chinese sage well acquainted with wei wu wei offered these remarks on the ideology of “control”:

    Those who wish to take the world and control it
    I see that they cannot succeed
    The world is a sacred vessel
    One cannot control it
    The one who controls it will fail
    The one who grasps it will lose

    It’s a shame nobody seems to have gotten the memo.

  7. Martin says:

    Although I had studied Taoism and other eastern philosophies for some time, I did not come to a personal realization of wei wu wei until I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Judging from the lab report things looked pretty serious and, according to my MD and the oncologist, rapid action was necessary – they both wanted to schedule me for a prostatectomy RIGHT NOW!! I almost went for it, seeking to control my destiny through surgery. But then, something went off in my brain that told me to relax and wait – to do nothing

    I told the docs that I wanted to do some research first, which I did and discovered that things might not be as dire as they at first seemed, so I opted to ‘watch and wait’ – or practice some wei wu wei on a very personal level. It’s been fifteen years now and I have no symptoms; nor have three subsequent biopsies shown any cancer. It may come back and bite me, but so be it.

    As for control – and part of that I think is seeking and pursuing one’s ‘purpose’ in life – I seem to have pretty much let go of that, realizing one rainy morning while drinking a cup of good coffee and watching the rain from my front porch that my only purpose is to be.

  8. derekthered says:

    Morpheus: What is the Matrix? Control. The Matrix is a computer-generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this.
    [holds up a Duracell battery]
    Neo: No, I don’t believe it. It’s not possible.
    Morpheus: I didn’t say it would be easy, Neo. I just said it would be the truth.

    oh, the windmills in the mind. of course any self aware creature will objectify the world around them, it’s unavoidable, the next step is control, control of the spear, control of the fire, the gift of prometheus? but that is not really what we are talking about, is it?

    perhaps we should see what leavergirl has to say.
    Mechanical alien
    http://leavingbabylon.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/mechanical-alien/

    i would argue that we are no longer exactly human, we are as a species symbiotes with the machines we have created, but that’s not what worries me, oh no, it’s how they do it, and that nagging feeling that we are not in kansas anymore……………………

    it’s one thing to partake in the hunt, it’s entirely another what has happened to the zeitgeist since einstein wrote his fatal equation. we had a glimmer of the sub-atomic world with brownian motion, but we have gone way beyond that. seems everyone likes to quote the eastern philosophies, but what we have is a false zen, it’s all good, it’ll work itself out, a viral equivalence with no real standards whatsoever, all things being equal…………

    it’s one thing to figure the odds of getting a bone broken taking down a mammoth, quite another to wonder whether some machine in some factory will take your arm off, and then quite another to have so internalized the ethos of objectification that human beings become collateral damage. what has really happened is that we suffer from a sort of mass stockholm syndrome, and have internalized the controls to such an extent that we don’t know which way is up.

    we are separated from nature, we do not know how to survive on our own, gun owners are looked upon as suspicious, not quite right, why would somebody need 10,000 rounds of ammo? well maybe so their descendants can hunt mutants 200 years from now, “The shelf life of modern smokeless propellant is virtually indefinite, given proper conditions.”
    http://www.exteriorballistics.com/reloadbasics/propstorage.cfm
    but that kind of talk is suspicious, get you on some kind of list.

    just started reading barbour, but suspect that a schism occurred between plato and aristotle, the two greek world views, we went with aristotle which has led us down the path to where we are. for the record? i don’t own firearms, but i do want to get a wrist rocket and lots of ball bearings, good for small game, and quiet. can’t kill you if they can’t find you.

    geez, i hate to take such an elevated conversation down to such a basic level, now what were we talking about? objectification is inevitable, but we have gone way too far, hopefully there will be a few survivors. when this planet really starts heating up we will be in real trouble, one small asteroid could cause world wide famine, a veritable smorgasbord of extinction level events. i heard that phrase in a movie, armageddon was it?

    • kulturcritic says:

      Your level of discussion is just fine, Derek!

    • Malthus says:

      ‘i would argue that we are no longer exactly human, we are as a species symbiotes with the machines we have created.” Interesting phrase. To me it has a meaning of how close the species is to their machines and are becoming automatons which of course leads me to the question why would we have the desire to become like the machines we create. The answer is probably very simple in the sense if we do not have some type of struggle to overcome we have to create it just so we have as you put it a purpose in life. Letting go of that need or desire is a huge step for most. Somewhere we developed the concept of the need to have a purpose in life where in actuality there is no purpose. So we invent our purposes to feel worthy of being a being? I end that with a question because I am groping for a answer that by definition doesn’t even exist or ever will. Keep em guessing JC.

      • Brutus says:

        Being without purpose is essentially the existential abyss, which terrifies most people. Accordingly, the dominant religions all rely on notions of progress and personal salvation in an afterlife or perpetual/cyclical return to provide goal-setting. The means we have adopted unwittingly to achieve those goals (industrial civilization and the techno way of life) have arguably done far more to destroy inner life and spirituality (not the same as religion) than they’ve awarded in material abundance and longevity. The comparative calculus is not obvious or objective, of course, but more than a few cultural critics have observed that modern man is significantly self-hating and intuitively desires to both escape from himself and merge with the objects of his own creation. This is the dream of transhumanism: better living through cybernetics. But all it really does is extinquish gnawing existential terror by rendering the mind basically comatose.

        • kulturcritic says:

          “But all it really does is extinquish gnawing existential terror by rendering the mind basically comatose.” – Love it

          Your cynicism is showing, Brutus. In fact, all of the distractions we have created and continue to create keep us from addressing that existential terror of historical consciousness. Truly, we can say that before history, our forebears all feared for their lives, but that was a clear and present danger (LOL) tied to the daily issues of predation. Ours is a more vague sense of ennui, tied to the sense of lack or emptiness that forever haunts historical (i.e., future directed) consciousness, and generates our constant search to fill it up with new stuff and better living.

        • derekthered says:

          seems i just don’t have the capacity for deep thought anymore, but enough about me, what about me? you say “The legacy of the West is, as I have so often stated, a nearly maniacal pursuit to control external and internal reality, and to continuously enhance or extend that control whenever possible – environmentally, socially, politically, economically, psychologically.” the psychological manipulation of societies has been chronicled by naomi klein in “the shock doctrine”, this is done by physical acts which traumatize the subjects.

          in this quest for control we, i speak generally of societal trends, we seek control of everything, we do not wish to be subject to chance anymore, we don’t want to roll the dice. i would be interested in your thoughts on this. the other aspect of this control situation that is interesting is the tendency to break things down into units, the tendency to look at the world as flat, unless it suits us to make a mountain out of a molehill.
          now, much is made of patriarchal systems, the old ways, value judgement based upon supposed antiquated religious ideas, whatever the dogma applied. so, we are all nihilists now, revolting against the old ways, does revolt against something take us anywhere? or is it just reaction?

          what i am getting at is how much have we been taught to objectify ourselves? to look at ourselves as expendable assets? of course we have probably always made risk assessments, the aforementioned mammoth hunt being an example, but to what extent do we look at ourselves as the other? lost not in space, but in our own minds, wants, and desires.

          that old time religion, as misguided as it may have been, at least claimed that humans were somehow special, that we had intrinsic value, how much of this has been lost? by what metrics do we judge, or for lack of a better word, compare?

          “Have we lost our spontaneity, the art of artlessness? Becoming attuned to the cycles of nature, the proprioceptivity of our own bodies, the natural balance felt by letting go of attempts to control, learning again to act naturally, with ease and spontaneity; is all of this now so foreign to us?”

          must we have a reason for everything? must we justify our existence and/or opinions? or is it just good enough to think what we think? anyhow, that’s about the best i can come up with right now, so to speak, whenever this now happens to be…………..

          • kulturcritic says:

            “we do not wish to be subject to chance anymore” – what is chance? where does this idea come from? how is “self objectification” related to “chance”? Do we objectify ourselves in order to become concrete (determinate) beings, above the tides of change and chance? Is that why the terror of death is so overwhelming; the object of our enjoyment, the social-historical self, vanishes?

            • derekthered says:

              where does this idea come from? warmed over baudrillard, chance occurrence being the ghost in the machine of linear thinking, which if ignored leads to all types of misconceptions, whether in provable physical phenomena, or the more subtle territory of human culture. it has to be unavoidable for any self aware creature creature not to objectify itself as we compare ourselves to the cosmos and the forms within it, so yes, we differentiate, we discriminate (so to speak), we determine this and that, which would be the syllogisms from earlier posts. as for fear of death, the self, and such, isn’t that just an inevitable part of the deal, the way we perceive the world in the first place?

              as for the legacy of the west? and the rest? taking the long view, say the last million years? human history is so jumbled up, out of Africa, couple of near extinctions, a second coming out, the Polynesians, the Asians, and the rest of us, “and who knows which is which, and who is who”, with the odd Aborigine hanging out (our word probably). best i can gather is that the wheel and metallurgy were first brought to europe from south asia or something, you know after the neanderthals “disappeared”, whatever.

              all this being said, the facts on the ground, if they are to be believed, certainly support your view about “the agenda of the west”, when you look at defense budgets, fuel consumed, every aspect of the famed MIC of my country, but that’s hardly news to me as you can gather from my nom-de-plume, but enuff about me, what about me?

              i’ve already read “notes from the underground” way back in the day, don’t recall a bit of it, i do however remember a certain parfyon…………………myself always reading more fiction, but always keeping the keen eye out for fromm, hoffer, skinner, anything utopian, dystopian, cornucopian, ………….so, my recommendation, which i have to get another copy of, having given my last away, is mr. jean’s “symbolic exchange and death”, purge all the residue of all that old idealism, and become acquainted with ‘The Kandy-Colored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby’ human civilization has become, know your enemy sort of thing, ha! so funny.

              still, all your points stand, and what i read, civilization is a giant fuel burning machine, coal trains from wyoming every 20 minutes, radioactive debris, with no end in sight. maybe all these posts on here about finding piece inside and all? probably “right on target”. unfortunately being a product of all this massive psy-op which passes for contemporary culture, it’s hard to tell where the NPD stops and reality steps in, not complaining mind you, it’s not so bad, besides the blurred vision, and short-term memory loss. but then that’s part of the point of a blog like this, isn’t it? the sort of thinking that makes us all so smart? homo sapiens?

              it really has boiled down to survival politics, power politics, i of course agree with the marxist critique, lot of good that’s ever done, but the “fix” for society becomes ever so complex with the technical complexity layered on top of human problems, that, (if i may indulge in a conceit), for someone like me who has thunk-a-bit-aboudit, it looks hopeless, so here we are, the ennui, the weltschmertz?

              • kulturcritic says:

                True poetry Derek… and almost as readable as it is impenetrable. In Notes from Underground, he was disgusted with himself for being one of them and not being one of them. He saw through the BS but was a complicit underling of the State and its machinations. Not to worry about the blurred vision and memory loss; it goes with getting old in the culture of excess. And I am not sure who is intelligent; and how the posts are received. I just write what pops into my sick little mind. LOL

  9. derekthered says:

    following links around the web came across this
    The Barbaric Heart
    Capitalism and the crisis of nature
    BY CURTIS WHITE
    http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/4680/
    i really like his allusion to the greek tragedies and how everything plays itself out. what is happening in the world if it could be viewed from on high like some olympian gods, or in a bag of marbles as in “men in black”.

  10. josh slingerland says:

    So long as we remember that the core of daoism is “action,” we don’t just drift with the current…we react to the forces of the current in wise and mindful ways, and here is the very heart of the matter…there IS a right and wrong way to react to our environment, but logic and endless reasoning will not differentiate the one from the other, which puts us in the West (I’m not referring to geography here) in a terrible position at the git go. Well, that’s more than I intended to write, I wish everyone the best.

    • kulturcritic says:

      So how do we ascertain the right from the wrong way, Josh. I would be interested in the distinction you raise, and how one alights on the “right” (i.e., ethical) choice/path. best, sandy

  11. Ricky says:

    A tomcat spraying his territory certainly seeks to control it. A dog seeking to purge the house of his masters of another dog’s scent will pee all over it, looking guilty but unable to help himself. The lion eats first to show the lioness who her boss is. Farming is a human activity that forcibly interrupts the natural way of doing things, which is more aggressive plants aggressively taking over space that milder-natured (and edible) plants might want to occupy. Nature is ALL about control. Anything else, including, but not limited to, passive observation, is human, and human only.

    The reason civilizations find themselves on the brink of self-destruction is not control but greed; the peasant’s as well as the monarch’s; the most arrogant CEO’s as well as the lowliest jalopy owner’s. Greed is, in fact, a LACK of control (of one’s own impulses, through spirit and reason).

    The only salvation is, of course, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Just so you know.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Glad you straightened us out on this deal Ricky… Pleased that someone as knowledgeable as you stopped by to enlighten me. I was lost, but now I am found. So tell me about the greed of the Catholic Church, the conquests of the Crusaders, and the terror of the Inquisition, not to mention the genocide carried out in the name of your savior in the conquest of the Americas.

    • josh slingerland says:

      Slow motion discussions are never easy, but what the hell. Humans as individuals, and it is all done on the individual level, have a long way to develop before they en mass begin to look inside themselves and understand exactly “who” they are…I’m not speaking about “what” an individual identifies with and the resulting belief systems and reality constructs…I’m talking about spending at least as much of one’s conscious time exploring what will truly be good for oneself in the here and now as is spent fantasizing about future pleasures (escapes from reality, as reality will never exist at any time other than right now). I posit that acting in my best interest RIGHT NOW, rather than acting in the interest of some web I’ve woven with a view to increasing future pleasure, will always result in actions that are compassionate and right minded. However, before taking action in the present, an individual has to know WHO she is, for without that question first answered she is left pondering “For whom am I acting?”

      For example, as an environmentalist (this works for any “ist” actually), I envision all of the damage being visited upon my planet by present human behavior, meaning I know great harm is being done now, in this moment; however, I also (if sane) am aware that I cannot in this same moment alter the behavior of all of my fellow humans. So what I do instead is construct an image of a very painful future (rising sea levels, mass extinction, severe weather, crop failures, etc.) whereby I hope to get them to act now, in this moment, from the motivation of escaping future pain. Will this work? I know humans will alter present behavior to gain future pleasure (what I call escaping from reality to plan future escapes from reality), but will they alter present behavior, in order to mitigate future pain (such as not consuming mass-produced antibiotic-laden beef right now at lunch in order to avoid a potential pandemic in 2050)?

      In contrast, if we do what is in our best interest now, assuming we know ourselves and therefore cannot help but also know what IS in our best interest, our actions will be kind and compassionate. The key to all of this is realizing who you are. The simplest and yet most difficult of tasks…what I call the mother of all paradigm shifts. This is tough stuff to convey across the Internet, as this medium is fully reliant on words and labels, and words and labels are tools in the service of the civilization in which we’re living, a civilization that by all accounts does not speak the language of “find and be true to thyself.” Yeah, Nike pays for those words to appear on the subway walls, but it’s all Orwell doing the writing.

  12. craig moodie says:

    Sandy,
    Great retort to the Ricky contribution. The song ‘The last resort’ by The Eagles comes to mind.

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