As soon as I’ve said these three words I hesitate, there is a moment where doubt enters into the stream of my thoughts and I ask myself “What is the point?” This can set in motion a chain reaction which turns thought against itself in an endless series of questions about the validity, correctness or coherence of what I am trying to get at.
Get to the point. Explain yourself. The demand for explanations can completely disrupt my flow.
This is just one of many small ways that we are often asked to justify ourselves. Why is what I do of value? Who or what is it good for? How does what I do bring anyone closer to a desired goal? Even without being asked such questions, I often implicitly proceed from the attitude which they express: focus on the effects, show why doing something entails some personal or social benefit, vindicate how this is better then that.
The rush towards justifying or explaining ourselves has become routine in many of our (inter)actions, the normal way of proceeding. It is there in my feeling that I have to do something today on my day off, I must be productive in some way for this day to have any worth, I need to be able to tell myself my time was not wasted. If I am unable to justify something in this way I can end up feeling inadequate or worth less. This affects both small and large aspects of life in a deep way.Continue reading
I’ve typed the title of this post. It is a concentration of four recent and current preoccupations made in the hope that something will come of attending to them in common. These phrases – a sentence is left implicit, waiting to be discovered – lay out a series of relationships. Initiation is a starting place, a premise? The Subtle is named. It has the place of a center from which to move, outward? An Approach qualifies any potential action as a kind of action that holds to attitudes developed within a practice as opposed to those demanded by a goal-driven agenda. And Quality is placed as an object towards which this incantation is aimed. Quality hangs over the whole. Quality is somehow related to the Subtle.
That’s misleading. Stepping stones imply that the effort is intended to get us from this side of the stream to the other. That our goal is somewhere beyond. A fault/trap of language, one of so many. Why we need to enter into riddles….
How do we confront our predicament creatively? One of the most significant aspects of our situation, a factor that has become increasingly harder to avoid over the years, has been the need to acknowledge the growing futility of so many avenues of action we’ve been accustomed to take for granted.
This has led to frustration, a sense of being hemmed-in. We balk at the edge of disillusionment, afraid of what might be on the other side. Instead of dealing with our situation we end-up increasingly defending our emotional reactions, afraid of what it might mean if we gave-up on our strategies. Strategies intended to provide us avenues of action, but strategies that have become nests of unintended consequences that proliferate suffering while distracting us from the possibility of arriving at any other way of being.
Before this last Sunday’s conversation Jeppe shared a link to Anthony McCann and Dougald Hine’s talk in Västerås, Sweden on Anthony’s Politics of Gentleness. It proved to be a useful… shall I say helpful prod. In no small part by the way in which delving into Anthony’s language provided a different way to look at our own considerations. Case-in-point, the distinction he makes between useful and helpful.
This is not the place to analyze or explain Anthony’s work in depth. But I would like to delve into a few points and how they influenced our dialogue.
The hardest thing – among many difficult aspects – when working within a flow can be in the way we confront the tangle of expectations and predictions tempting us away from where we are into fictions and fantasies. The same old thing, tomorrows and yesterdays. The past and the future.
It’s hard not to ask, “What’s next?”
Uncertainty is uncomfortable, especially when we face it alone, in a seeming void.
The trouble is, once this question intrudes we are not attending to what’s now. This constricts our prospects of what might come next right at the moment we are most concerned with having things turn out better.
One of the great killers, leading beyond mere death into extinction, has been the fragmentation of biological communities. Our networks of communication and trade have cut through its living fabric, reducing undisturbed remnants into scattered scraps too small to maintain abundance and diversity. A death by a thousand cuts. Not as dramatic as harpooning whales or poaching elephants or clear-cutting rainforests, but this has been where the day-by-day work of death-dealing takes place, destroying our ecosystem across vast swaths of entire continents. Its signs, like another dead opossum or flattened skunk on the road, so commonplace as to pass unawares.
Enclosure is the historic term for a great push in this direction. A movement beginning in England and then spreading through Great Britain and then out across the world. Connecting habitat fragmentation to enclosure begins to make a connection between a movement intended to enslave a rural population to the ambitions of a new economic and political elite with a wider form of destruction. This was a culminating triumph of the Age of Reason. A drive to rationalize the world, to rape its bounty, to funnel it into the hands of those willing and able to overturn any previously held compunction towards the sacredness of the physical world. Those ready to put their wildest desire ahead of everything had discovered the power to finalize their conquest.
We’re still in “beta mode.” Not quite ready to take our conversations on-line. More on that soon….
In the mean-time we’ve had weekly sessions among our core group with whoever shows-up on a given Sunday. At the end of last week’s conversation Declan asked me to take another look at Krishnamurti & Bohm‘s final session in a series, The Ending of Time. I haven’t had a chance to share my response with him yet.
This week Declan and Emily and I arrived at the topic of time from another direction. Declan mentioned that many of those who have expressed interest in this project temper their enthusiasm by voicing frustration over a lack of time to get involved.
In their video Krishnamurti and Bohm are two elderly men. Both, most likely, already terminally ill, reaching an apogee on the trajectory of their conversations. There is an air of… well of a lack of air in the last fifteen minutes. A sense they have reached a point, out there…. And they are about to fall to earth. Just shy of recognizing where it all might lead. A striving tone, flickers just at the edge of their words. A striving they would repudiate under any other circumstance. A boyish, awkward, shy, final probing. A latent egocentricity flirting, with a tacit, innocent selfishness as they ask if there might be “more to it….”
We’re unaccustomed to interactions without goals. We expect an agenda. We look to judge worth based on expectations met. This strategy appears to work, on the surface, but there are serious problems if this mode of action absorbs all our attention. It turns us into machines when we treat everything as a cog to be tuned to some high, but arbitrary efficiency.