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.
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,
We begin to write with a sense of urgency that what comes to us in words must be captured before it slips away. Later, after struggling with all that is required – necessary? – To transform, translate, re-form, recast…, make what we have taken down into something…. We turn leery, reluctant – Is this the place for a simple comma? A new clause? A new sentence? A statement in its own right? We become reluctant to launch anything new. So much as yet undone. Why keep adding to the pile?
Surely, or so we might wish, hope, pray for it to be true, another opening can be found? A place where writing is both simpler and truly – ah, what a concept this truth! – truly more complex?
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….
George Michelsen Foy asks this question early on in his extended ruminations in the form of a record, a log of a voyage. We join him on a quest woven of varied lineaments gathered over decades, facing questions ranging from the intimate and familiar to the latest discoveries of neuroscience. He takes us on a trail of discovery into the circumstances of his ancestor’s loss in a shipwreck that has haunted him throughout his life shaped by echoes of this event handed down in family lore and expectation. He’s found how this event has influenced the course of his life, his concerns, and even shaped his reactions to danger. Foy takes us through time and across space as he navigates our passage through what it means to navigate.
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?
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.
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.
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….
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.
Reading this line Julien has posted on Mirrors of Encountersbrought 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,