Attending Quality

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!”

Through this web of sites I’ve woven and work to maintain I’ve made a few, important, life-changing connections. Their modest number only appears insignificant in relation to the hype about the net’s potential reach. In the real-world this gathering of friends and collaborators would be a fine result. Alas, it can be difficult to act on these beginnings when physical distance is factored in. Each of these people has their own near and far-flung networks of friend’s, collaborators, acquaintances and “followers” – in the Neo-Feudal language of social-media. One’s reach is multiplied. Even just a few strong connections do make a difference.

Across these continental and intercontinental distances we have the global reach of a corporate CEO without the private jet to make the rounds. It’s hard to build vital, as opposed to merely virtual, relationships on our Internet connections. Skype and Google-Chat make up for this to some extent, but there is always a barrier built into the digital.

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

We live our days in what appears to be a random strand of truly prosaic prose. It can so easily come to seem that our lives are rambling stories filled with repetition and whatever sense of a point, theme, purpose, is hidden, if not lost in the noise. To attempt to order all of this requires the imposition of a context. There is an intended context and a context inferred. How the rhetoric of our ordering will be understood is beyond our control. Perhaps beyond our capacity to understand. Presented with the same data people might reach infinitely variable conclusions, although most responses will fit one of a few stereotypical categories.

A site like this can be a way to weed through the crowd. I’m reminded of an analysis of why the notorious Nigerian Finance Minister’s pleas for our help are always so absurd. They are intended to weed out everyone but the incurably gullible. “If they believe this we can get them to do anything!” Is their guiding principal. I have another in mind,

“How do I find someone who cares?”

It’s only recently that this has become clear. It’s one of those realizations that seems so inevitable and obvious in hindsight. It’s the raw and un-embellished nature of the statement that gives pause. It sounds so, personal….

Then, it is.

It is personal.

We wrap ourselves in formal Personae as we would don a suit of armor. All our public endeavors appear in some way impartial. They exist within a framework of limited and pragmatic concerns…. All of this in an attempt to find others who share a view that it is a shame to live a life-deferred. So we can “Do business!”

If we reject this path, shouldn’t we be equally clear?

I’ve been developing a tool-box, a collection of concepts and heuristics that provide a certain clarity and confidence. At the heart of my work is a concept of Quality.

We are adapted to know Quality when we see it. This organic ability has been battered and almost stripped from us by the institutions that make up what we call this culture, this civilization.

It is amazing how resilient this capacity is. Given any chance at all, say unplugging ourselves from the corrosive effects of advertising, and adopting some form of Practice that allows us to reconnect with our own Being. We can grasp that we are a body/organism and a mind. Not fractured into a duality. We experience life as an integrated whole. With this hygiene, we find that we are adept at recognizing Quality when we see it. We find our selves more and more able to relate to Quality and even partake in its creation.

What’s perhaps most exciting about this realization is how this process, this action, is self-evident, “We know Quality when we see it!”

There is a rhetoric involved in our relation to Quality. Not the “empty rhetoric” of Platonic infamy. There is always a context no matter what. Context acts as a holder of Quality as well as as a frame for it. It does matter how we frame things. Framing is rhetoric. It takes on many forms, verbal and written, visual, auditory, and even temporal. Each Art, each Craft, every form of activity, has its relationship with rhetoric. Is shaped by, and shapes, how we perceive and choose to interact with its forms.

Take a hint from that snipe at Plato. Forms is not meant here from within his limited usage….

Because of Plato we are immured in an attitude and approach to rhetoric that sees it solely as the medium of advertising: that amoeba of persuasion that swallowed the more truthful term, Propaganda. In this view, any rhetoric, and therefore all communication, takes place as an effort to persuade using a variety of tools that are all forms of explanation.

Explanation is a tricky term. It sounds so needy, so powerless. It is, but not in the obvious sense. It does not work. When we couch all communication as if it must be an attempt to explain, we come under the influence of a pervasive and corrosive idea. We are left powerless as those who profit from our powerlessness beat us down with persuasion.

If Quality is obvious. What need is there for persuasion?

Let that sink in. Look at any example of persuasion, any explanation, any form of consensus building. They are all attempts, like in The Wizard of Oz, for the Man-behind-the-curtain to get us to look the other way.

If this were not true, why would so much effort be expended on it?

Please don’t say it’s to influence the invisible hand of the market. If that’s what you believe, go talk to the Nigerian Finance Minister. Don’t waste your time here.

As we digest the ways in which we are buried in explanations: As entities and individuals attempt to use us for their own ends. Let’s look at what communication that is not an explanation might look like.

This begs the question, “How could we tell?”

This might be the best way in.

Information exists. It can be of use when it’s not just damned confusing and, even then, our confusion is a kind of information also…. When we interact with information in relation to Quality there is Quality in our relation. And, “We know Quality when we see it!”

Is there any need to explain?

But there is always a need to provide and share information. This is not explaining. It is description. There is always a need to describe. And, our descriptions take the form of this liberated form of rhetoric. One heuristic for the presence of this kind of informative rhetoric is that its form and the content of its messages are holographic. Every part is in the whole and the whole is there in every part. This could be taken as another insight into recognizing Quality. Not to explain how we recognize it, but to describe what happens when we do. Recognition of the holographic nature of an event or artifact is a sign of its Quality.

I have no expectation that this – or anything I present – will persuade anyone of anything. If nothing else, let this be a signpost, intent made explicit,

You will not find anything here that intends to persuade.

If any of this strikes a chord, I’d like to welcome you.

If you discover anything that resonates with you, I’d love to pick up that thread.

Your message is confidential and goes directly to my personal e-mail.

 

 

 

 

 

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8 Comments

  1. Quality is indefinable (as expounded in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance — a work with which I feel sure you are familiar) and yet, inexplicably, it’s evident when it presents itself. Your every word reeks of the stuff.

    1. Thank you very much.

      I wrote this with Pirsig firmly in mind!

      His book has been out there on my periphery all these years. I just finished reading it for the first time.

      Glad I waited! It is fresher and more pertinent today than ever!

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