A Ramble on Negotiations with the Self

I find myself scattered and unable to dive back into the routine I’ve managed recently of regular posts with a certain coherence among them. Underneath it all is a sense of shifts going on beneath the surface that are best left to play out before trying to expose them to the light of day. This isn’t meant as holding thoughts “close-to-the-vest” before releasing them publicly, but an internalized interaction where I’m learning to let these processes work at their own pace and with whatever cloak of “privacy” they seem to require. That’s a privacy from my own consciousness not from any of you.

The need for this negotiation of the self gets more and more clear as these investigations continue. This process is in many ways the direct transference of the thrusts of mastery not control within the self as opposed to only between a persona and the world. “Results” are beginning to appear as I’ve internalized this process. Accustoming myself to the needs of what in the past might have been called “my muse,” what I see as the font of creativity beyond the projections of what I take to be my self; has clarified these relationships and opened doors that had been hidden.

There are a number of citations I’d like to make concerning writers and thinkers I’ve been led to or discovered who’ve corroborated and amplified my thoughts on all of this. Part of my reticence to post lately has been the mixed feelings I have about giving these sources “justice.” I’m loath to get caught-up in an academic exercise that I’m neither that well trained in giving, nor one that I think is a good use of my or your time. It is so easy to go from watching and absorbing the way others swim or surf the seas of perception and becoming a chronicler and producing an inventory of “moves” that are supposed to help, but only provide a false comfort.

One of the differences, perhaps an advantage, we have over Medieval times is the sense of an inexorable and overwhelming quantity of points of information. It’s not surprising that in a time when there was a limited and dwindling number of manuscripts that those who could read them would get caught up in warehousing that information. That this set up the modern notion of an academy and its relationship to “classics” is not surprising. To fall into that trap today is a different story, though I do think that in either case, one of a severely limited supply, the other of an overwhelming but undifferentiated torrent, is the need to gather and tend those influences that resonate. All-the-while it’s important to keep in mind that we may re-enter a scarcity of tracts as collapse plays itself out. I just hope to find some other way of looking at it this time than as some replay of the “Dark Ages.”

For now let me just resort to a, “Shout-out!” to list the sources that are influencing me today. Through Dwight Towers‘ efforts and his introducing me to Johnnie Moore, I’ve come into contact with the work of David Bohm. I’m currently reading his Creativity. This in itself has shaken my foundations. Not because he’s brought up some great divergence from where I’d been thinking, but in the way he has expressed with such clarity and concision many of the things I’ve been blundering on about and trying to get a hold of.

This process brings about a peculiar psychic storm. In part it fuels the Ego. Finding corroboration is a heady thing! But it also strikes with a force of a humbling power. Here is someone else who’s arrived some time ago at what I’m just now conceiving and who’s already put it together and gotten it into print! There are presumably thousands of people who already “know” this stuff from reading this other-guy and, “Now what?”

The next stage for me – this has happened enough times now to have become a habit! – is relief. It’s like cutting through the brush and finding a stretch of clear road already laid out and heading in the same direction! This signifies a burden lifted and frees me to run on ahead.

This seems so different from accounts of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Turf Wars in which High-Academics would find such a place and then entrench to set a claim and preserve their ownership by arguing over who was first or who was more correct. Having “failed” to gain a “position” worth “defending,” I don’t have to worry about that!

The act of perception is a series of readings that lead to the solidification of certain schema that appear to be seamless but which cover great gaps that are completely beyond our understanding. The shifts and tacks we take navigating between bouts of certainty and doubt make up our passage through experience. The dangers lie mostly in “going into irons” – to go on with the sailing metaphor, this is when in the attempt to tack a vessel is caught “back-winded” and loses its momentum making it vulnerable. An awareness of what is involved leads to a familiarity with the process that can lead to a fluid mastery, at least an avoidance of a clunky brittleness that leaves us staggering from one false-sense of stasis to another.

Here in the spirit of this ramble are a few short notes from recent days:

Exasperation versus Contempt: In political terms the “Show” breeds pockets of contempt. Channeling exasperation on all sides and forcing it into expressions of mutual contempt. This is perpetual war by other means. It fragments and neutralizes resistance to the status quo.

 

Wholeheartedness: Bohm’s Creativity is the process by which we engage with our selves and the world.

 

“No two countries that both have a McDonald’s have ever fought a war against each other.” This encapsulates the rationale behind neo-liberal globalism and neo-con corporatism. It’s at the bleeding edge where these two ideologies merge. All of the violence done to the world hides behind this kind of truism. Anyone smart enough to postulate this and blind enough to believe it cannot be trusted.

 

The certainty that the Ego is selfish is useful as a relative compass bearing. It’s one of the few certainties we have!

 

Fossil fuels are an extension of slavery. The two are derived from the same impulse to achieve similar ends with similar consequences. They are extensions of commodification to concentrate power and remove the constraints on power so it may be leveraged. The impulse now satisfied by fossil fuels will soon – if it hasn’t already begun – be turned to re-legitimizing direct human slavery to meet the “needs” of those who have seized “control.”

 

The root of commodification is the desire for routine. Ritual is how we do things again the same way without losing sight of the mystery behind creation. Routine seeks commodification. Ritual reminds us of the sacred behind what we do every day.

Now ritual is debased into empty gestures and routine has been fetishized as the source of “efficiency.” This paired set of mechanisms erode our ability to see clearly and make sound judgements.

These are some of the thoughts rattling around and bubbling to the surface. I’m reminded of how long it took for my desire to write On Berger’s Moment of Cubism to materialize in a series of recent posts. It took well over a year and then none of what I’d originally had to say was worth keeping. There are constant demands to behave like a predictable commodity, even in this under-world of post-everything discussions. We internalize these expectations and desire to be machines even as we talk about the dangers of seeing things, each other, ourselves; as machines. Even in this tempest-in-a-teapot of barely-read blogs there is a tension to maintain “market-share” and not lose….

Underneath this is a genuine desire to connect. There is an appreciation of our need to connect or to perish. This is then a microcosm of our general predicament. How do we meet our needs without destroying the font and the meaning, the very existence, of all that we value most?

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13 thoughts on “A Ramble on Negotiations with the Self

  1. “We internalize these expectations and desire to be machines”

    That reminds me of my decades long struggle to become a person who could abide schedules and plans, and mostly failing. Wish I had known you then… :-)

  2. Thanks for this.
    Often you write things that remind me how good it is to feel that I am at least a small part of a sub-community here. I feel like we are learning to live in way that suits the future, all the while managing to pay our rent, and go to each others’ houses for potlucks, and all that. There is something about creativity, a meaningful livelihood, etc that wants to be shared, the same as how ritual is often more effective in a group.

    “Ritual is how we do things again the same way without losing sight of the mystery behind creation. Routine seeks commodification. Ritual reminds us of the sacred behind what we do every day.”

    Something like that, anyway.
    Thanks.

    1. So good to hear this has touched you. Your comment returns the favor!

      Sharing is a big part of it, although even what we do in solitude can be a ritual sharing with a wider circle.

      1. Precisely.
        Your post got me motivated off my butt in front of the glow-screen and down to the basement to get back to work on that cargo bike for my friend Jessi.

  3. Hi Tony,
    you might enjoy (perhaps you’ve already read?) Terence Ranger and Eric Hobsbawm’s “The Invention of Tradition” – an edited volume of essays about how customs were transformed into useful “traditions” for the benefit of the ruling classes (the arguments are more subtle than I am giving them credit for here!!)

    Best wishes

    Dwight Towers

    1. As always you’ve come up with a great bibliography! I used to think I was fairly well-read!

      I haven’t seen Ranger & Hobsbawm’s work. That sounds about right, “traditions” displacing living ritual, fossilizing the impulse, and siphoning off a “profit!”

  4. […] In fact, our entire appetite for convenient answers, for ways to sidestep having to face hard truths, is another symptom of living in an envelope of lies. Our exhaustion in the face of difficult thorny problems and deep seated predicaments is a sign of our confrontation with the futility we cannot suppress in the face of our systemic revulsion at a world constructed of lies to maintain the domination of the many by the few. That we are entertaining any of these questions at all is a sign that the entire edifice of exploitation and deceit is imploding around us. If its effects had remained at a toxic chronic level instead of spiking to an ever more alarming critical stage, we would remain caught up in the fog of struggling with what we instinctively reject but cannot see a way around. Such are the rewards of a moment of clarity. […]

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