Over the next couple months I plan to post parts of this essay in progress to spur conversation and receive feedback. I’ll humbly submit its completed form as my “theory of everything.”
I confess to being an autodidact, having only a bachelor’s degree in English, an associate’s in Communication/Media Arts, and enough teaching credits to qualify for a degree in Secondary Education/English [if I wanted to bother]. Notice there’s no science or philosophy degrees. No advanced degrees. I finished formal education forever at age 37. I was not a particularly good student and could only hack the school routine for one year at a time with years off in-between.
So it could very well be I’m blowing smoke, that I don’t know what I’m talking about. So let’s find out. Am I on to something? Let me know.
I apologize for the rough form and lack of links, etc., but this is only a rough draft. Hope you find it stimulating…a useful fiction, perhaps.
An American Reader/Writer Sutra
The Secret to Being a Braver, Happier, Freer & More Flexible Adult via Fiction, etc.
March 9, 2008
I am quite willing to give up the goal of getting things right, and to substitute that [with] enlarging our repertoire of individual and cultural self-descriptions. The point of philosophy, on this view, is not to find out what anything is “really” like, but to help us grow up—to make us happier, freer, and more flexible.
Richard Rorty, Philosophy As Cultural Politics
What do most Americans need more these days than to grow up, think and act freely and be less rigid, to bravely assert themselves in the face of systemic crises?
We’ve become a nation of obese tween-headed nerds, runty capitalists and mean-spirited gun-toting redneck religious fanatics, special interest groups and corporate persons, at least according to the trademarks and logos we use to describe ourselves (notice that not all of us are biological entities—namely corporations).
Much has been written about how we got here (among my favorites on this subject are Joe Bageant, Thom Hartmann, Gore Vidal and Howard Zinn), but little has been offered about how to find our way out of this mess.
Nature’s Ching is my attempt to help recalibrate American thinking so it can better cope with these dangerous, even apocalyptic, which is revelationary times. My aim is not to suggest what to think so much as how one might think. My focus is on process, fluidity and change as opposed to outcomes. The ends will take care of themselves if we focus on the means, excepting unforeseen events, of course, which require reflexive action. Randomness makes things interesting, a challenge…enabling obstacles.
Machiavelli seems irrelevant idiocy in this imagined context, this novel sentience we call reality…
1. NATURE’S FICTION
I’ve had Elizabeth Wright’s Psychoanalytic Criticism: Theory in Practice in my possession for about 12 years, probably having stolen it somehow, I don’t remember exactly, from the Center for Psychological Study of the Arts at SUNY Buffalo. I can’t believe it took so long to get to, but now that I have I’ve found it very interesting and useful.
Although I’d read individual essays by most of the theorists Wright discusses, I had never read anything that wove their ideas into a big picture like Theory in Practice. And what’s more, she connects these dots in a very similar and more concrete way than my own understanding and thoughts on the subject. In particular, her analyses of Freud, Derrida, Foucault, Barthes, and Deleuze and Guattari are analogous to my own ideas about Nature’s fictional processes. I add Raymond Federman to this constellation as it was his work and teaching that largely freed my mind enough to begin perceiving things this way. The common ground among us, I think, is the perception that human reality is fiction since it is imagination which is most essential to the human mind’s adequate dealings with psychic reality and external actualities. In other words, if a human being is to exist in a world that makes sense, it must make something up that makes It make sense.
My imaginings about Nature’s fictional processes are a hodge-podge of evolution, string and chaos theories; quantum physics; cognitive science; linguistics; deep/spiritual ecology; existentialism; Taoism and a fair share of life experience.
I’m by no means an expert on any of these subjects, including life, nor am I an –ist of any kind. I’ve only been creatively titillated by a few books and some people, and the ideas I perceived while reading/writing them. That’s all. I’m professing nothing but my own way of approaching fiction, that is Nature or Life in general and human life in particular, as I’ve observed it and experienced myself at work within Nature.
Evolutionary theories are those that attempt to describe the multidimensional grammar which, over time, produces complex systems. These valid speculations share a specific scientific focus on the emergence and development of Life from the atom to the Eukaryote to Gaia this very minute, applying chaos theory to biology and studying the effectual narratives of randomness over time. There are all kinds of competing theories, including Intelligent Design (which childishly replaces randomness with God’s mysterious, unfathomable intent, which is analogous to a baby consciously “intending” the development of its genitalia or skin color), some of which are fascinating and others, well, less so. What my favorites have in common is the concept of cognitive (not necessarily conscious, yet communicative as in stimulus-response) equilibrium among autonomous functioning entities which are forming, and being formed by, the ecosystem over time.
Life responds to systemic requirements and growing complexity, temporarily sustaining Itself against the second law of thermodynamics, which is entropy, and that leads to individual death and eventually the general extinction of a type. Evolutionary scientists track Life’s survival processes and Its ever-changing productions over time.
Literary texts emerge from cognitive evolution, which is a localized creative awareness. Languaging is their most essential process. They exist as products of reading/writing and might even be considered “alive” in that they are taking part in the evolution of Life as long as they are being written/read. While actively engaged by reader/writers texts maintain their fluidity, serving as flexible permeable membranes between one consciousness and another, evolving an ever more complex we/oui: Systemic cognition.
Who could possibly say that literature isn’t necessary if human evolution isn’t at least partially cognitive?
Recursive symmetry across scale, which is wonderfully projected in the arabesque, is this theory’s central image (at least in my mind). Basically, string theory suggests a common mechanism (a kind of coaxial esemplasy—see Barth, Further Fridays) is at work in each dimension allowing for an apparently coherent pattern to evolve that can be perceived by the human mind.
For instance, consider climate. You have a global climate that seems to operate according to chaos theory, physics and thermodynamics, etc. It manifests itself in ever-changing weather patterns emerging via various feedback loops. Then you have hemispheric, regional, local on down to microclimates, manifested by various parts of your own yard, in which some parts are shaded more than others, while some are lower and get more moisture, etc. Each dimension, or scale, has its own feedback loops functioning to maintain equilibrium amid the chaos, and there are also feedback loops across scale as illustrated by the “butterfly effect,” where changes in the conditions of a microclimate due to the shifting variables of a butterfly flapping its wings, to the hemispheric scale of hurricanes and the global scale of altered weather patterns, which in turn has effects that trickle down to that pricker bush behind your garage.
Now consider how, as the human mind has evolved, its imagination and potential of perception has expanded into increasingly larger and smaller scales, as if perception were a simultaneous ripple effect inward and outward. At one time we were mentally stuck on the pricker bush scale. The fact that human beings have exited Earth and entered space and looked back at Earth, that human beings have, in their struggle to survive, examined the depths inside the atom Plato could have scarcely imagined, reveals that Earth itself has also done so. When you or I look at a photograph of Earth from the moon, the Earthling looks with us and sees Itself. The biological system has reached a level of complexity where it is experiencing the first glimmers of sentience, or global consciousness.
In theory, this planetary consciousness is an aspect of cosmic psychignition, which is working in each dimension to the infinite macro and infinite micro scales to perceive Itself as a unifying, universal order.
Supersymmetry is the grail of string theory, addressing this vision of multidimensional feedback loops that also include quantum mechanics. The “string” is the feedback loop, fascia, membrane stitching/joining these dimensions together as they flow through time (or as time vibrates them in its passing). The ultimate particle has been replaced by the image of a vibrating string whose pitch varies and harmonizes with the pitch variances and harmonizations of other strings, which ravel together forming an infinitely large string and infinitely small string harmonizing one to the other. It’s the difference between music and noise, language and gibberish. It’s a unifying theory, a titillating big picture and useful fiction.
Complex systems arise from a simple set of initial conditions (a continuous stream of incidents emerging from a few basic rules). Again, as in string theory, weather patterns are the best known example of chaos, but it’s much more than that. The best book for laymen like me on this subject seems to be Chaos: Making A New Science by James Gleick.
An amazing illustration of this theory is Michael Barnsley’s “chaos game,” which Gleick lays out in his book, writing how Barnsley, when considering:
…the patterns generated by living organisms…turned to randomness as the basis for a new technique of modeling natural shapes…he called it “the global construction of fractals by means of iterated function systems.” When he talked about it, however, he called it the “chaos game.”
To play the chaos game…You choose a starting point somewhere on [a sheet of] paper. It does not matter where. You invent two rules, a heads rule and a tails rule. A rule tells you how to take one point to another: “Move two inches to the north-east [for heads],” or “Move 25 percent closer to the center [for tails].” Now you start flipping the coin and marking points, using the heads rule when the coin comes up heads and the tails rule when it comes up tails. If you throw away the first fifty points, like a blackjack dealer burying the first few cards in a new deal, you will find the chaos game producing not a random field of dots but a shape, revealed with greater and greater sharpness as the game goes on.
Barnsley’s essential insight was this: Julia sets and other fractal shapes, though properly viewed as the outcome of a deterministic process, had a second, equally valid existence as the limit of a random process. By analogy, he suggested, one could imagine a map of Great Britain drawn in chalk on the floor of a room. A surveyor with standard tools would find it complicated to measure the area of these awkward shapes, with fractal coastlines, after all. But suppose you throw grains of rice up into the air one by one, allowing them to fall randomly to the floor and counting the grains that land inside the map [think Gravity’s Rainbow, Jackson Pollack]. As time goes on, the result begins to approach the area of the shapes—as the limit of a random process. In dynamical terms, Barnsley’s shapes proved to be attractors (236-237).
When I played the game, if memory serves right, after the first dozen or so coin tosses on my sheet of paper a fractal shape began to emerge, and then every time I did it, at about the 23rd toss, the shape was completed, the point didn’t move in two perceived dimensions any more, but only one dimension or segment. A piece of coastline at one scale appears straight, but from another aspect has many angles.
The point is you have the initial conditions, a two-sided coin and a toss, adding the element of chance or randomness. As the results are charted, you see a pattern of increasing two-dimensional complexity until it reaches a perceptual limit in that aspect and apparently simplifies into one-dimensional static. However, this is an illusion. Magnification of the process would reveal only greater complexities as more conditions involve themselves initially. Perception, therefore, is the only limitation for a random process.
The implications for reading/writing are that if one begins the process with a few basic rules for this “game” of random limits, various meanings will arise from the text, increasing its complexity, until at some point meaning collapses into an apparently ineffable singularity, what we perceive as the individual human aspect of Life Itself.
The movement toward a visible spectacle proportionate to scale, by the way, is provocatively described as being lured by some “strange attractor,” which might be similar to black holes in the physical “dimension” and “death” within the organic aspect, which is opposed by the “life force” or desire/eros for a while, right here, right now…Or it may be akin to some Platonic ideal, reverberating with the Myth of Ur in Book X of The Republic.
But nonetheless, this strange attraction to a particular singularity is always ineffable to the individual human being with regards to itself and that aspect of itself it perceives in others.
The particle-wavelength paradox and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle are the key concepts here, at least for me.
This paradox, in my opinion, is wonderfully illustrated by Thich Nhat Hanh, in Cultivating the Mind of Love: The Practice of Looking Deeply in the Mahayana Buddhist Tradition:
When we look at the vast ocean, we see many waves. We may describe them as high or low, big or small, vigorous or less vigorous, but these terms cannot be applied to water. From the standpoint of the wave, there is birth and there is death, but these are just signs. The wave is, at the same time, water. If we take away the water, the wave cannot be; and if we remove the waves, there will be no water. Wave is water and water is wave. They belong to different levels of being. We cannot compare the two. The words and concepts that are ascribed to the wave cannot be ascribed to the water. (110)
The ocean is water and wave, but one cannot say the ocean is wave or the ocean is water. The wave is the particular aspect of the ocean as it is perceived by the human mind in a particular place and time; whereas the water is that wave’s length and pattern as it actualizes itself across space-time. In other words, water is a wave’s beingness. We perceive one or the other according to our mode of seeing and being. We essentially find what we’re looking for, and we can only look according to the parameters Nature has evolved for us to look with—our mechanisms of seeing.
Yet despite the fact we find what we’re looking for and only what we’re capable of perceiving, randomness makes sure that no two things we perceive are exactly alike. They share recursive symmetries in their relationships with us, but they are autonomous objects and we can never be fully certain of anything about them. Often enough, we’ll set out looking for a “particle” and end up perceiving a “wavelength.” Nothing is certain, that is, we cannot permanently freeze the meanings of what we perceive and must avoid certainty at all costs. The observer changes the observed by observing it; the observed changes the observer by being observed. The actual nature of the relationship between observer and observed can never be really certain.
The evolution of feedback loops between autonomous objects that, over time, produce ever more complex systems from which eventually emerges cognition (psychicignition—sic), then awareness, and perhaps eventually at least token sentience and, maybe even a general sentience, wherein Nature is aware of Itself becoming apparent in the processes of language. One must admit that if “we” seem to be conscious beings aware of each other as separate biological entities and that together “we” are functionaries cooperatively forming, via language, an ecosystem that, on the global scale we call Nature, then Nature is Itself composing Its own awareness. This is a psychic form of recursive symmetry across scale, functioning to maintain an equilibrium/meaning amidst the perceived chaos/confusion of Its own processes. What might begin in the center of the sun perhaps evolves randomly into a psychic-ignition as it is pulled through existence by some strange attraction (or, perhaps, existence lured through It). Either way, reading/writing, or languaging, the very processes of fiction, are essential parts of cognitive science.
In Closing the Genotype-Phenotype Gap: The New Argument, a section in a chapter called “Minds, Genes and Morals” in Owen Flanagan Jr.’s The Science of the Mind, the author describes Charles Lumsden and E.O. Wilson’s Genes, Mind and Culture: The Coevolutionary Process as claiming to be the “grail of a unifying theory of biology and the social sciences” that proposes “to close the genotype-phenotype gap by way of the mind.” Flanagan describes their argument this way:
1. Human culture is the interactive result of all the artifacts, behavior, institutions, and ideas mentally or physically deployed by some population.
2. The “perceivable features” of the integrated cultural system are called culturegens. For example, telephones, calculus, seventeenth-century English literature, Judaism, marriage, divorce, professional wrestling, international espionage, and the space program are all culturegens.
3. During socialization the culturegens are processed by what are “loosely labeled the epigenetic rules.”
4. These epigenetic rules are “the genetically determined procedures which direct the assembly of the mind.”
5. The epigenetic rules bias their owners to choose certain culturegens over others [Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle—the unsure tension between psychic reality as fiction and external actuality].
6. Collective choices in behavior and cognition “create the culture and social fabric.”
7. “Genetic variation exists in the epigenetic rules, contributing to at least part of the variance of cognitive and behavioral traits within a population.”
8. Individuals whose choices enhance their inclusive genetic fitness transmit more genes to future generations, “and as a consequence the population as a whole tends to shift toward the epigenetic rules and the forms of cognition and behavior favored by the rules. The coevolutionary circuit [comprising the individual and culture] is thus completed.”
…together [Lumsden and Wilson] support the view of the mind as being comprised of a set of genetically determined rules that favor certain interpretations of the physical world and certain social and cultural choices over others.…Primary epigenetic rules are “the more automatic processes that lead from sensory filtering to perception. Their consequences are the least subject to variation due to learning.” The secondary epigenetic rules meanwhile act on “all information displayed in the perceptual fields. They include the evaluation of perception through the process of memory, emotional response, and decision making through which individuals are predisposed to use certain culturegens instead of others.”…The primary epigenetic rules are similar to Kant’s forms of sensibility; they are the ways we necessarily construct the sensible world. Furthermore, they constrain us as much as they liberate us. (264-271)
The coevolution of culture and biology is not mere fantasy. As Stephen Jay Gould points out: “We have no evidence for biological change in brain size or structure since Homo sapiens appeared in the fossil record some fifty thousand years ago…All that we have done since then—the greatest transformation in the shortest time that our planet has experienced since its crust solidified nearly four billion years ago—is the product of cultural evolution.”
To this add the Santiago theory of cognition as described by Fritjof Capra in The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems:
Since cognition traditionally is defined as the process of knowing, we must be able to describe it in terms of an organism’s interactions with its environment. Indeed, this is what the Santiago theory does. The specific phenomenon underlying the process of cognition is structural coupling [see coaxial esemplasy, John Barth, Further Fridays, discussing the arabesque]. As we have seen, an autopoietic system undergoes continual structural changes while preserving its weblike pattern of organization. It couples to its environment structurally, in other words, through recurrent interactions, each of which triggers structural changes in the system. The living system is autonomous, however. The environment only triggers the structural changes; it does not specify or direct them.
Now, the living system not only specifies these structural changes, it also specifies which perturbations from the environment trigger them. This is the key to the Santiago theory of cognition. By specifying which perturbations from the environment trigger its changes, the system “brings forth a world,” as Maturana and Varela put it. Cognition, then, is not a representation of an independently existing world, but rather a continual bringing forth of a world through the process of living. The interactions of a living system [a biological entity] with its environment are cognitive interactions, and the process of living itself is a process of cognition. In the words of Maturana and Varela, “To live is to know.”(267)
For myself, as wise and true as I find these words, I would substitute language for life in the above statement as an addendum or modification, not as a refutation.
Therefore, I’d say language selects what is expressible and gives shape to the ineffable, or inexpressible, which is the experience of awareness. Cognition is the continuous bringing forth of awareness through the process of language. The cognitive interactions of a living system with its environment are linguistic interactions, and the process of languaging itself is a process of cognition. In other words, to language is to know.
First of all, I don’t think of language as something unique to humans. Linguistics as a field tends to focus almost solely on human communication. But what is communication actually, and what is it really?
As an actuality, communication is the sending and receiving of signifiers that represent information about specific signifieds via some common language between the sender and receiver of a message. Birds communicate with mating calls, ocean mammals use complex signals to convey complex messages. Primates read body language and facial expressions. Female mammals convey readiness to mate by emitting an odor during estrus. Actual communication is always more primal than real communication, relatively speaking.
As a reality, communication seems a perception of actual communication. Due to my being human, I’m going to focus on real human communication as opposed to actual human communication. In real human communication, metaphor and figures of speech are essential. Someone hears that someone has died, and says “Great.” This creates a split between actual communication, the literal understanding of symbols, and real communication, the figurative use of symbols. The person who responded to the news with “great” may very well have said it sarcastically, and the receiver of the real message would perceive it that way. I don’t know if real communication is unique to humankind, but I do know it is essential to our species’ existence. First and foremost, real human communication is a necessary fiction.
Now let me digress a bit to expand the subject. Take something we don’t consider to be alive like an electron. It’s an autonomous body that humans apply language to, one of its symbolic descriptors being a “negative charge.” It is called “negative” because of its perceived interaction with the contextualizing atom’s nucleus, which has a neutral but relatively “positive” charge. Of course, there are all kinds of other particles interacting to compose the particular atomic system composing our electron and nucleus. Scientists, in attempting to describe these interactions, to make sense of them and by extension themselves, apply language to what they perceive. The very fact that they’re applying language (see quantum physics) means that the atom will thus be perceived operating within some kind of linguistic system to be itself, at least according to our best sense of it.
Grammar is the imagined and thus usefully fictive communication rule book by which these systems maintain themselves, at least as we can perceive them, making their feedback loops possible. This understanding, or sensibility, however, only exists in the cognitive dimension, as one must be aware of the constant uncertainty regarding the adequacy of descriptions for what’s actually going on, as opposed to what’s really going on. What’s really going on is what we imagine, or what we think and feel is going on; and what’s actually happening is beyond that.
We evolve complex levels of diction within language by dealing with the repetitive situational randomness and complexity of our perceptions. In my opinion, the best understanding of human language is to understand its inadequacy while still appreciating the methods and dictions we develop and employ in our production of meaning, which is a recursive symmetrical part of the universal on this scale. The desire for meaning, or cognitive unity and autonomy, combined with the physical limitations of being biological entities, create patterns in harmony within the universal arabesque, and the randomness involved with the perceptions of individual organisms within this context allows for fluidity and change over time…the evolution of meaning. The more that humans produce meaning in Nature by languaging, ever-honing more precise and complex descriptions of It, the more aware Nature will become of Itself, as the perception of humans communicating among humans can be imagined as Nature communicating with Itself…or “thinking”…be-ing mind perceiving matter and energy organizing Itself.
The deeper one’s understanding of human language, the more deeply one might perceive Nature’s cognitive processes and realize we are not the world’s supreme consciousness when it comes to percipient contact with others.
The Earth is experienced as a living organism. Therefore, our deepest and greatest necessity as autonomously functioning sentient biological organisms is to cooperate with this system’s living body/mind/spirit, establishing feedback loops with It in all three aspects to maintain an equilibrium and context that produces pleasure from time to time. In other words, we as a species may be a superorganism functioning as an organ within possibly infinitely expanded mega-organisms currently existing, or be-ing. As individuals, we are organisms comprised of organs helping to comprise the superorganism that is our species, which is an organ helping to comprise the Earthling as It’s living now—as the Organism (relatively speaking, of course).
These dimensions seem to seam in all directions simultaneously, enriching infinity. To be deeply spiritual in the ecological sense is to perceive one’s place and function within the organic system then be it, and the only way to be it is to live in communication with Its mind and seam with it…noster with Its being. Otherwise, one’s functioning may serve another purpose.
And this, of course, is a choice for humans: to noster or not to noster?
For the “good” among us, nostering is a result of acting upon our deep-seeded desire for oneness—at-one-ment—with Nature. It is an increased awareness of ourselves as natural beings, and thus Nature becomes conscious of Itself, at least partly, in a human way, by nostering.
For the “evil” among us, not nostering is a result of acting on our superficial desire for quantity and comfort for ourselves at Nature’s expense, is an increased delusion of ourselves as chosen people, and thus Nature is equated with the subconscious wilderness that must be tamed for the sake of Empire and the Promised Land, and thus wages war against Itself, perhaps even committing suicide out of self-hatred and calling it “manifest destiny” in the suicide note it leaves behind, something it would have called “history” had it survived.
The apparently clear separation between humankind and Nature is made ambiguous by the apparent randomness of individual perceptions over time. Humankind and Nature being, in reality, useful fictions, wet surfable waves to catch on the ocean and ride for awhile…heading to shore. To perceive this separation or bifurcation, is to evolve a language that allows one a complex enough sensibility to consciously rub up against Its membrane [see “M-theory”].
Consider this from Jim Nollman’s Spiritual Ecology: A Guide to Reconnecting with Nature:
Our artists seem to have become as disaffected as the rest of us, yet they could be trying harder to reconnect [with Nature] than they are. After all, the aboriginal idea that culture is one vast poetic construct suspended in space and time, and incorporating all aspects of life within it, may still be radical to the sciences and social sciences, but not to the arts.
We need a new aesthetic of natural interconnectedness that is able to swallow up every one of us. Yet any aesthetic that actually succeeds at connecting humans to nature is going to be resisted because its driving metaphor is participation by every faction, nation and species. Thus, it must also be compelling, engaging, incredibly unifying, and gentle all at the same time—it must noster. I am you. They are us.
As noster biology may be defined as the study of interconnecting to nature, nosterart may be understood as the art of interconnecting to nature. It is an art that depicts a nature that we exist inside of, and that is simultaneously inside of us. Nosterart functions as a promotional message, an advertisement as it were, for the seventh generation. (200-201)
But there’s also a darker side. Nollman’s an angel, at least in his writing. The fact is nostering with nature can be terrifying, it’s not all a bug free picnic with your lover in the meadow. Imagination being a prerequisite for the human mind to adequately compose and confront reality necessitates the possibility that one’s perception of Nature will be founded on one’s state of mind. That perception can indeed be terrifying, as the actuality of Nature as a whole is an inhuman thing, existing prior to humans and extending way beyond us in space-time.
Thoreau knew this all too well: “Generally speaking a howling wilderness does not howl: it is the imagination of the traveler that does the howling” (Maine Woods, 288).
To be deeply spiritual in the ecological sense is to be deeply adult in the human sense…detached yet connected, involved but aloof, kind but cool, cruel but loving…having the time and gumption to work on one’s karma by being one’s dharma running with the Tao…having found the middle way and time by putting away childish things for the sake of our children, and their children, and their children’s children, & hopefully on to a seventh generation, should we get there, etc.
For me, however, existentialism isn’t so much a philosophy of social engagement as it is a descriptor for a certain feeling or sensibility, the emotional fallout and alienation resulting from the individual human being’s cognitive confrontation with an apparently meaningless or absurd modern and/or postmodern civilization.
It’s the “nausea” of one who’s derived deep meaning from Nature via a complex understanding of language confronted by the asininities of those in political-economic power, who seem to be forces of entropy, agents of that strange attraction toward death.
It is the feeling of being Eros in an age of Thanatos.
It is the human mind expressing itself… “I can’t go on, I’ll go on”…understanding that now it is up to the individual human mind, that peculiar psyche’s singular responsibility, to construct meaning from the absurd spectacle of chaotic phenomena it’s perceiving.
It is the life force rubbing its queer shoulder against the forces of oppression…
It’s being aware that you are alone amid all the togetherness, longing for the true togetherness of a lone…
It is the autonomous sensitivity of interrelatedness…a longing for the “return of the repressed.”
…to puke and get it over with.
Insist on nothing. There is a true way, a universal flow, which is described by Dharma, the grammar of the way, or Tao.
The primary text of Taoism is Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, according to which following the Way, or Tao, is like “going on a cosmic trek” (Huston Smith, 132).
The Way is the eternal and immanent, fluid autonomous unity of the universe from which everything emerges and eventually dissolves back into.
“Te” means integrity, signifying the quality of traits of an individual organism as it relates to the system as a whole.
Te concerns itself with how well an individual is functioning within the inhuman system, whether it is aiding or hampering the system’s operation.
“Ching” means scripture, or in my view, the text. Its essence is that of a texture/membrane/interstice warped by cognitive feedback loops, in which the ideas of transacting, experiencing and passing through occur.
Ching also signifies the threads or “strings” that hold manuscripts and pages together in a subjective intertextuality.
The Sanskrit word for Ching is “sutra,” which literally means “thread,” from which the English “suture,” “stitch” and “interstice” are derived.
Among my favorite lines of the Tao Te Ching are:
The Way gives birth to them and integrity nurtures them.
Matter forms them and function completes them.
For this reason,
The myriad creatures respect the Way and esteem integrity.
Respect for the Way and esteem for integrity
are by no means conferred upon them
but always occur naturally.
The Way gives birth to them,
It gives birth but does not possess,
acts but does not presume,
rears but does not control.
That is what is called “mysterious integrity.” (20)
What it comes down to, at least for me, is that Taoism is a cognitive tool that can provide someone with an existential sensibility a means to continue surviving without “committing suicide.”
I look at it as philosophical and spiritual judo against ignorance and spiritual death, allowing for a little jouissance along the trajectory of my life.
So…Taoism is my philosophy and art is my religion. That is I think I should insist on nothing, which includes insisting on not insisting. I also feel God is best experienced in the creative process (God being Life, or more specifically, Universal Cognition), which includes science, mathematics, psychology, music, painting, drama, mythology, sociology, anthropology, the arts and humanities, etc.
The Earthling’s creative process and human thought are inseparable. They are one and the same thing.
“I” “think” “everything” “human” “is” “fiction.”
Next Part 2, “Humankind’s Fiction.”