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A Great Wave

At the end of a ride on a great wave we find ourselves gasping and spitting, with the sharp tang of brine penetrating our sinuses, sand in our eyes. Our minds filled by a euphoric kaleidoscopic replaying of the ride’s thrills. Meanwhile, the next wave is about to land on us, pushing us down into the coarse sand, stealing our next breath, whether we’re ready for it or not. We’d like to be able to cherish the moment just passed, riding not just effortlessly but borne along upon the power of wind and water. We’d like to rush back out and do it again. We’d like it all to just stop, even for just a moment, for a lot of contradictory “reasons.”

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An Event Horizon

Most days follow on from the day before and are followed by another in such a way that at any given moment, and certainly in retrospect, the salient sensation we’re left with is of partaking in continuity. This is an aspect of the workings of the mind and is related to; and it might be said it is subsumed within; our sense of a stable personality extending via retrospection backwards through memory to include what we call, “Our Lives.” We feel that we are the same person we were in the past. We expect to continue to be the same person until we die.

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On Coherence, A Manifesto

The broken state of our world has become so obvious that further efforts to list and attempt to convince those who refuse to recognize it are beyond counterproductive. We are easily distracted by nightmare scenarios, psycho-dramas, playing-out alternative doomsdays, whose only purpose is as a mechanism to keep us stuck, helpless, and increasingly incapable of responding. There are two facts, beyond the destruction of the “Natural” World – the home for all our social, cultural, and private worlds – that demand our attention and have received little or no consideration in any broader arena.

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Hypnotized by Desire

If the meditator is seeking an end, a result, he will hypnotize himself by his desire.

Krishnamurti @K__Quotes·Jan 20

This quote pops up on my feed the day after the question of desire arises in a conversation with Jeppe Graugaard. Desire is one of the grand themes, and as such, it is difficult to avoid being overwhelmed by the subject or tangled in the many cliché associations that have clotted around it. What brought focus onto desire this time was two-fold: That money is abstracted desire and that when we seek to find coherent action we need to have ways of recognizing desire with its many disguises and discover how we might be able to let our desires arise in us; see them take shape; and then watch them slip away or dissolve; without being trapped in the compulsion to follow their dictates.

A simple question: Why not continue to be bound by desire? “If it feels good…?”

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On Faith

The question of bad faith begs us to consider, What is good faith? Both of these questions hover around the big one, What is faith?

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How do we distinguish integration from delusion?

Delusion is completely convincing. This point can be difficult to acknowledge. When we suffer under a delusion we accept its rationalizations completely. We simply cannot see any incoherence in our outlook. We are certain.

How then can we tell whether attending to coherence is not just another delusion?

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Interdependence

How do we settle-down into coherence?

We are perturbed and react out of our displacement. Coming to terms with futility, finding an emotional ground by accepting Grief, discovering our interdependence, we come to trust. Following this path internally we integrate our selves. Following this path in company we develop community.

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How do we change? part two…

Whenever someone challenges our valid sense of urgency we are compelled to repeat a litany of real and imagined aspects of the Enormity we all face. It’s as if to hear things are dire and, that for this very reason, we need to slow down; is just too much to bear. Anyone making this claim must just not be paying attention.

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Morphic Fields and the Edifice of Thought

In this post Scott Preston places the Edifice of Thought into relationship within the currents shaping our time in the Chrysalis.

The Chrysalis

Recently, Antonio Dias employed a phrase that I quite like: “the Edifice of Thought”. The painstakingly constructed modern edifice of thought now rests upon some pretty wobbly foundations — the metaphysical assumptions of the Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm that have now become very dubious and uncertain. Chief among these dubious assumptions is metaphysical dualism, or what is called “the mind-body problem”, which has become a major impediment to our resolving many of the crises of Late Modernity.


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The Amazon Is Burning

In case you haven’t been paying attention…

As I write this the Amazon is burning.

How do we respond?

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How Do We Change?

Change begins when we let go and stop defending our existing condition.

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How do we find others?

Ava Osbiston has added this conversation with Jeppe Graugaard on the Dark Mountain website with this introduction:

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To Be Human, a Conversation with Jeppe Graugaard

This conversation, the most recent in a longstanding dialogue, led to my most recent post, The Edifice of Thought.

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The Edifice of Thought*

Thought shapes thinking. We cannot think differently unless we become aware of how thought shapes our thinking.

There is a shape implicit in thought, forming a trajectory for our thinking, that is there as we gather a thought. Right there in the act of thinking itself.

Technological thinking, institutionalized, taught thinking, what we call rational thought is shaped entirely by an Edifice of Thought. It never looks at, is blind to, even the existence of Thought as an edifice, a bounded world. It takes its sense of bounded-ness as being the result of essential limits on what is possible; what is realistic, in its terms. But, even when we question thought and take forays outside these boundaries thought is still exercising control, in the sense of giving a particular shape, to how we think.

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Breathless

We are infatuated with the idea of The Future™. Breathlessly running through what appears to be a menu of options as if to be a Modern Human is to be able to sit in judgement, weighing our choices with delicate discernment, whether to accept a heaping helping of Techno Fantasy or dawdle over a tasting menu of potential Apocalypse.

Even le nome du jour for the present; The Anthropocene, insists that what will be no more than a sliver of an irradiated film of organic carbon taking up no more of the geological record than the thickness of a fingernail, at most an Anthropopause, must in our infinite self-regard inflate into an entire geological Epoc. Echoes of Homo Sapiens sapiens….

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Notes on Place

Everything comes back to the question of place.

One of the fundamentals of Qi Gong, a practice that is all about fundamentals, is that we attend to where and how we are grounded. Not in some academic manner, parsing theoretical constructs or honing philosophical arguments; in Qi Gong the ground we attend to is this scrap of Earth’s surface directly under our feet. We stay with the facts of gravity and skeletal-muscular resistance that make it possible to stand and move. We disabuse ourselves of willful delusions that tend to destroy our balance while filling our heads with visions of unattainable powers. We repeatedly, in a sustained manner, work to embody our complete dependence on having a place to stand and gravity to resist. Without these, and air to breathe, nothing can be done. We return again and again to these facts.

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In a flood it’s impossible to swim until the water reaches your butt!

The title is a paraphrase of a native Brazilian proverb mentioned by Vanessa Andreotti in her presentation, ClimateExistence Day 1: Existence Beyond the House that Modernity Built

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The State of the Self

From Egoic Identity to an Integrated Self

Cultures create, nourish, and defend modes of identity. An individual’s sense of self is dependent on the pathways to identity their culture allows.

Cultures have always maintained a duality between its members and outsiders. The present dominant culture has blurred this distinction. But not in the way we might assume. It has not become more inclusive. It has created a new class of predatory identity. It celebrates those with no allegiance beyond their own narrow and shallow self-interest. It nurtures, perversely, a Narcissistic self-identity that considers everything and everyone outside this alienated identity to be nothing more than a means to a selfish end. This Winners Mentality is an aspect of the defended identity of all who consider themselves a part of the dominant, dominating culture irrespective of whether that individual benefits directly and materially from this belief. This method blocks any other than an alienated and alienating cultural identity from taking root.

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The question of Bad Faith

I must say that I find myself almost speechless with a sense that there is no form of communication available that has not been buried under an avalanche of disinformation. Like an avalanche this may have been initiated by a single and quite small, relatively inconsequential disturbance. Like an avalanche the resulting destruction has compounded and spread exponentially. Snow falls by the effects of gravity. This avalanche has descended and continues to gain force through the effects of bad faith.

That was a long way around saying that we are buried in lies.

Answering the question, Why? with a plain statement,

Liars act out of bad faith.

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If there’s just one thing…

If there’s just one thing I might suggest to you it is to cultivate your capacity to suspend judgment.

If, as you read this statement your mind was set racing with all the reasons why you should not consider what is on offer then you are stuck in what may be a foundational trap.

What does suspension mean?

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Looking back at looking back, What Drives Me,

I’ve just re-read this essay:

What Drives Me

Confronting the double-bind,

*

Growing up in a predicament we get past incredulity or we take refuge in madness.

This has been a difficult time to find the traction with which to continue writing about our predicament. What Drives Me points at an inkling – too amorphous to be called an insight – that continues to rise to the surface: Our social predicament, and all the horsemen it has unleashed, derives its force from the same sources as our private predicaments within dysfunctional families. Our social dysfunction is familial dysfunction writ large. Or, the opposite is true…. Most likely both are true.

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Conversations with Jeppe Graugaard, Part 3, Dialogue on Wholeness

Jeppe has posted the third and final conversations from my time in Denmark last Fall.

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Conversations with Jeppe Graugaard: Part 2, Dialogue on Craft

Jeppe has posted the second of our conversations from my time in Denmark at the end of October.

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Conversations with Jeppe Graugaard, Part I, Practice

I’m just back from two weeks working with Jeppe Graugaard in Denmark. This recording is the first of a three-part series of conversations resulting from our time together.

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Drawing Desire

However we approach our predicament we face a myriad of traps, evasions, and projections. It’s no different when we come to an opportunity to act within a practice. Except it is….

In a practice we interact with complexity outside the confusing complications that abound in our customary, conditioned state. Living inside our reactions it is difficult to see past the drama. After all, as we flail about we glimpse consequences, fatal consequences. This ramps up our fears and make us more brittle and unyielding. Hardly conducive to arriving at a breakthrough.

Within a practice we must still confront our reactions. The drama this unleashes can be intense. But, if we….

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Communion with the Sacred

Art and craft, these two simple words do a fine job of naming two of the three realms of living. I’ve had some difficulty finding an equally straightforward and simple term to describe and name the third. For a while I’ve latched onto John Michael Greer’s “Theosphere.” It is literal enough. It describes a realm centered on our relation to the holy while studiously avoiding any of the abused and overused terms like religion or even the holy…. But it has a harshness to it. It’s not direct enough. Too disconnected from what it attempts to describe.

Recently it struck me that what I’d been aiming at is already covered by a word like sacred. Sacred is specific in the feeling it describes while remaining totally inclusive, embracing all of the ways we can approach whatever it is we may call sacred. It appeals because it does keep the emphasis on the feeling and keeps us looking at how we acknowledge and act on these feelings. This works in much the way art and craft do. Each describes a realm of activity and a broad aspect of what it means to be alive.

Of course, if we push to build an opposition between the sacred and the profane we do begin to lose some of that inclusion. Perhaps if we can see this more as a distinction than a division? We could also say there is an anti-art or an anti-craft. These attitudes and modes of action exist and form the same kind of distinction with their pairs as sacred does with profane. Technology as an attitude and an approach could be called anti-craft. Maybe “entertainment” could be the comparable anti-art?

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More and more… it’s fragments…

More and more it’s fragments that feel true.

Fragments show their edges. Edges that intrude into the illusion of completion. Edges that cannot be ignored.

Fragments insist there is more we don’t see. Can’t see.

Fragments show us how we “piece things together.” Even the smallest, most torn fragment leads us to fill-out its story. This shows us our contribution to what we make of things. Shows us that we’re building a story not consuming some outside totality. Shows us. Insists that we not forget that what we build on it has shaky foundations.

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A Question of Purpose

My thoughts have been circling around what may best be described as questions of purpose. This might be considered central to any life led with some degree of introspection. As with most things of value this pursuit has been short-changed by our culture’s dominant modus operandi. It’s taken quite a while to sort this out.

Not that it is sorted now; but certain features are coming into focus. I’ve known for a long time that working creatively in isolation is a frustrating business. It’s also an incomplete business. While a certain and even a prolonged apprenticeship may be required; until what we do has connected with others; it is not quite complete. We have not quite done what needs to be done. Doing what needs to be done is a definition of Purpose, Isn’t it? So we come full-circle.

That my calling has had so many seemingly disparate elements has not only confused others. It has confused me. Sorting out how the parts are to fit together – an activity central to all art, craft, to the workings of communion – has been a central focus in all I’ve done. A qualification, I guess, to tackle this job!

My work is on the cusp of a new phase. I can feel a fledging taking place. A plumage developing. A new competence. Not the confidence of tackling a familiar task; but a confidence that comes when we feel ready to do what we have not done before.

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Queequeg’s Coffin

Atlantic Right

I was fifteen when I first read Moby Dick in a 48 hour long marathon sick in bed with a bad cold in a hotel in the Northeast of Portugal, reading, sleeping, then reading some more. It deeply affected my world view. I’m still finding out what it means….

Queequeg’s Coffin is a thought experiment. It is an intriguing image around which we might connect a conceptual stance with a pragmatic call to action. It does not presuppose what that action might be. Queequeg’s Coffin is a container transcending the motivation behind its origins.

Queequeg was Ishmael‘s bunk-mate aboard Moby Dick. As the juggernaut of Ahab‘s obsession takes Pequod’s crew further and further into imbalance and dis-ease, Queequeg becomes convinced he is dying. He commissions the ship’s carpenter to build him a coffin. Chips protests at this waste of his specialized talents; but relents and builds the harpooner a wonder of a casket, watertight, and ship-shape in every regard. Preparing himself to meet his maker Queequeg carves its top and sides with signs and portents beyond the crew’s understanding.

Ahab drives the Pequod to its destruction. Ishmael is the only survivor. He finds himself floating  upon the vastness of an inhospitable sea. Queequeg’s Coffin rockets to the surface. Its inherent buoyancy could not be thwarted. It breaks free of the vortex threatening to suck Ishmael down with the ship.

Ishmael hangs on and then climbs atop Queequeg’s Coffin. This odd thing, begrudgingly crafted to carry a savage to another world, saves our hero, our witness, and carries him to safety.

I find this story eerily prescient. It has so many points of contact with our present condition.

We have at hand, unwittingly so, bits and pieces that might come in handy when our Pequod founders. Queequeg’s Coffin shows us that we cannot predict what will be useful when circumstances pass their tipping point. What had been an odd frivolity upon the sturdy deck of a powerful vessel may very well become the serendipitous bit of flotsam that saves us when our vessel plunges for the bottom, threatening to take us down with it.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Queequeg’s Coffin is that it demands humility. It dramatizes the impossibility of knowing. Keeps us from over-committing in advance. Reminds us to be on the look-out. So that when the time comes we may discover a confluence  —  another of Melville’s constructions  —  of Necessity, Fate and Free-will. It is this confluence that puts Queequeg’s Coffin within our reach.

If we remain alert. Absorb our act of witness and maintain our buoyancy of spirit we may be able to take advantage of what falls to hand. Queequeg’s Coffin may see us through.

Originally posted on Open Salon in January, 2010

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Confusion is part of the message

Let’s be clear. Confusion is part of the message.

This fact has been elusive. One effect of confusion is that we struggle to find some simple way to untangle it. The real lesson of confusion is that it is a sign we are perceiving complexity as complication.

Linear thinking and the Machine Model lead us to want to eliminate complication, or at least manage it. In this mode we don’t even see complication for what it is: Complication is a condition of perception. It is not inherent in what we are looking at. When we see something as complicated we have misunderstood complexity.

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Pointing out futility

“That’s what I like about you… you are always able to show me the futility of everything. Well, the futility of everything except Nothing.”

Julien Matei

Reading this line Julien has posted on Mirrors of Encounters brought a smile. I’ve never been complimented, even sarcastically, for doing this. I have been accused of it, even in so many words, over the years. It has cost me friendships and closed off acquaintances before they could develop. For decades I felt this as a curse, part of the corrosive self-criticism and aggressive disappointment that fueled a chronic depression and its underlying anxiety. It was another cudgel I could grab hold of and use to beat myself – and others – “…whenever my hypos (got) such an upper hand of me….”

Over the years I’ve found my need to chase down futilities has not abated. It outlasted the depression and the anxiety. It has become indispensable. It has reached a point where if someone were to ask me what I do, I would claim just this,

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Abandoning persuasion

It’s becoming more clear every day that our predilection to interact by means of identifying with ideas and then battling to have our ideas prevail does not address any of the dire circumstances we find our selves in.

I see this as it touches on each of us as individuals. It divides us from each other, even as it divides our own selves. It promotes a view of the world and how it works that does not function. If it did, no one would need to convince me. It would be clear. Problem solved….

Instead, this view that we are separate and surrounded by problems in need of solutions that we then argue over and attempt to gather adherents for, has led to an escalating worsening of our conditions by any measure we care to take.

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Attending Quality

"Daisies" 12" x 16" oil on canvasboard, © Antonio Dias

A personal website has many functions. It can be hard to sort them out. Most often they are advertisements for a Persona, a means to find a job, or a signpost in an attempt to reach a cohort of the like-minded.

Sometimes they are attempts to sort things out. The effort of presentation becomes a path of self-discovery. “Here’s where I’ve been.” Can be a good way to find where we might be headed. Or, at least to discover that we’ve been pointed in a certain direction. If it’s to be more than just a vanity project there needs to be an honesty, a sense of precarity, that what is chronicled is a journey and not just a triumphant parade.

The promise of the web has been inherent in a lessening of the friction – and cost – of making information available. It is easy – if we can afford to keep the lights on and have the time and predilection. We can place almost any kind of information on the web and send it out there.

Whether and how it is found is another story. The ease of entrance, the web’s widespread adoption, has flooded us with information. With the loss of authority of traditional gate-keepers, we’re on our own as we struggle to filter what we will spend our attention on. Everyone else is doing the same, and so, the chances of our actually being found are no where near as high as they might appear. Having been at this web-presence game for nearly ten years, I’ve lost any naive dream of “Going Viral!”

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A Welcome Review

Over on his blog, PatternWhichConnects, Jeppe Graugaard had this to say about my work.

Last year we co-published three of these conversations which delved into some of the processes that underpin the sense of isolation and fragmentation we had both experienced (albeit in different ways) as well as the ways in which we were beginning to find community. As a way into approaching and practicing dialogue and proprioception my interactions with Tony have been, and continue to be, immensely helpful for finding new inspiration/insight and for clarifying my own thought process.

Recently, Tony has been distilling a lot of the insights he has come to in an encouraging series of blog posts which both deepen his conceptual vocabulary and anchors it firmly within a wider community. In A Space for Community, he opens up for ‘anchoring’ community within the wider movement of life. This connects directly with some thoughts I’d been having about community as relationship (see Lines of flight in a time of endings) and suggests to me a way to begin gauging whether thought and action align with a deeper sense of community. This feels like a major step forward.

I’m grateful for his close-reading and for the opportunities we’ve had to collaborate in the past. Looking forward to continuing and broadening our connections in the coming year.

In the meantime, if anyone is interested in a “second opinion” on what it is that I do. I recommend you read his post in full.