Austerity’s Place

Following the last post, Crafting Awareness, here is a series of statements that arose as the result of that insight. The following is no more than a listing of these points as they came up. They are suggestive of directions of inquiry implied by the assertion that craft has roots beyond civilization and that these roots go back to, and connect us with, the rest of creation, with the Plenitude of Being, by putting us into right-relation within a relationship of reciprocity with the World, with Being. Each of these statements also has an implied critique of civilized practice as it has twisted and subverted these inherent traits.

The title is more of a provocation than a sign of what’s here. The next thrust may be to expand on austerity’s relationship to craft, and to a life that has abandoned all-consuming desire….

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Everything we take from the World for our own use already had one. It was crafted in quality and is filled with its own meaning.

To use another for our own purposes generates a great responsibility towards the World, a debt to the World, to invest our purposes with quality.

Respect for “materials” is a sign of respect for Being. Nothing exists primarily as a “resource.”

Quality is an intrinsic attribute. It is not a veneer. It is there all around us to be seen, to learn from, and to emulate.

In its root, manufacture – making by hand – is craft. In its reality, manufacturecommodified production – is not and cannot be craft.

No thing can be made that has value distinct from the spirit of its making, the history of what led to its making.

The products of slavery and of abuse and exploitation are weighed down by their mode of production. No “qualities” they may have will cleanse them of this taint. Yet, a Tiger is made of the deaths of countless gazelles. The difference is that the Tiger exists – is “made” – within a nest of relationships that make it possible for gazelles to exist as well, and for gazelles to continue to partake in evolution incrementally. Loss of the Tiger leaves the gazelle in a precarious position with overreach and extinction its only connection with evolution. In human endeavor this becomes an incredibly tangled set of relationships. The easy part is that in almost every case –every case – the way civilization handles them, the reciprocity and embeddedness has been stripped away and replaced with a linear process leaving us all without access to incremental evolution, waiting for overshoot to lead to its inevitable conclusions.

The term “made” when applied to creation does not imply a “Maker” in the traditional theological sense. Something is made when it is formed through the processes of evolutionary forces acting throughout the fabric of Being. It connects what we make to this universal process as directly as possible. We are “made” as much as any tool or structure is made. We are involved in the process in each case. We do not direct this process, we partake in it. The same is true of every aspect of the World. In this way everything is made, and nothing is a sole “Maker.”

All made things express what they are made of and how they were made. We can see this, if we are aware.

Our awareness is crafted in-the-act-of-making and of use. The objects we craft, and those we use as tools, shape us as we shape them. We cannot have a mature sense of quality or judgment independent of a practice of crafting the elements of our existence, of mediating between what we find and what we need or use.

We cannot have discernment without undergoing this iterative process of building awareness and judgment through a give-and-take between what-we-find and what-we-craft.

There is a distinction to be made between art and craft. Art is an open-ended exploration that occurs within a space of privileged attention without any need to achieve any level of direct utility. Craft is the making of things that have an existence within our world that has some connection with utility. Art is a practice that works on the same questions of perception and issues of folding desire and intention into action without striving. This feeds everything we do including how we craft. It does not feed our bodies or shelter us or move us from place to place. Craft takes the insights of art and folds them into utility. There is no hierarchy between the two! Each is essential. Each is an aspect of a well-crafted life.

Following desire as an end-in-itself is an aberration. It is a fixation and obsession upon a natural urge taken out of context. Desire plays a role in craft, but not a predominant or directing role. It is a point of departure, a declaration of intent to head in a particular direction in full awareness that the resulting production may stray far from that initial wish. AND it is right that it does so. Desire does not hold trump! The capacity to recognize the limits of desire and to value the bending of desire to meet conditions is the way in which we learn to craft a well-crafted life. It is the Hallmark of maturity, a maturity we see reflected in all adult creatures, things, and places.

Crafting is the act of expressing quality to the best of one’s capacity for awareness and ability to carry through. It is judged on the broadest possible scale of how all of its consequences are woven within the fabric of its result.

These judgments are nuanced and particular, but they follow from general principles – starting points – and reflect an Ethos of Life. These can be used to navigate meaning and validate or invalidate judgments as more or less successful at how they fit these underlying principles.

All of the terms co-opted by civilization; elegance, grace, quality, beauty, strength, etc., have their valid sources in this process and once freed of their doppelgangers they can steer an Ethos.

The blunders of civilization radiate from this central error, replacing an ethos based on an active engagement with what is, based on a reciprocity of quality within craft with an ethos built on following desire along channels of power into an escalating psychosis of alienation, disconnection, and denial.

Civilization is an illusion of power that actually actively guides us away from a state of awareness that is capable of confronting reality. It is founded on displacing effects and hiding consequences behind distance and hierarchical structures.

Civilization has not failed. It has succeeded. We have failed to see that its purposes are not our own. This failure was apparent in Gilgamesh’s dreams right from the start. Our failure to address them has generated our fate.

Civilization has used mimicry and simulation as mechanisms to draw us in to do its work. It disrupts and distorts our perceptions and numbs our awareness, not as an unintended consequence. But as its main strategic thrust.

We identify with civilization above our personal and collective self-preservation because of civilization’s core ability to parasitize us. The process of disillusionment we find so hard to embark upon leads us away from our current state as hosts to a parasitic set of behaviors. As we progress on this path it becomes easier and easier to see through civilization’s tricks and traps. Following the clues provided by craft is a way through this process and powers the propagation of a new ethos to take us forward into whatever comes next.

In this characterization of civilization it is taken to be a set of behaviors, not a gathering of people. It is a particular form of conditioning that has grown up and dominated people and all of the World. I speak of it as if it is personified. I reject the reductivist notion that attempts to invalidate the personification of forces and other beings. Person-hood exists as a characteristic of Being. All of creation can be perceived in a context of personification and doing so reveals more truth than the brutality of reductivist ideals ever could.

We face horrible odds. None of this materially improves our chances. I don’t believe anything will and that the pursuit of such answers is an illusion that holds us within civilization’s destructive pattern of behavior. What this does is allow us to inhabit what remains of the World from within an ethical perspective. It gives us a way to hone our awareness to be witnesses to the World. It cuts through the anesthetic of civilization’s manipulations so that we can inhabit what life has to offer us while we have life. In this way we are not unique, our time not extraordinary. Clear of civilizations intoxication we realize that this is the razors edge upon which all of Being exists and has always existed.

Civilization tempts us with the supremacy of desire. How do we wrestle desire into its rightful place within a mature outlook, as is evident in the actions of everything else in creation? How do we grow out of our dependency as adult children, children of abuse, the parents of abusers? These are some of the questions surrounding the crafting of awareness.

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