Dissensus, Hygiene, Quality, Rhetoric, and Integration; a Stab at a Synthesis…

Dissensus is a tough master. If I choose to follow dissensus I pledge that though what I espouse holds no intent to violate any other, I will refrain from destroying anyone, though they espouse my destruction and this refusal might lead to my own death.

I see no other way to make a break with all the business-as-usual that so certainly leads us back to an assured destruction. I refuse to destroy and I cannot insist anyone must agree with me. All I have is my belief that these paths; chasing after power, seeking to control, demanding obedience, violence from its slightest, most hidden form to all the unimaginable Enormity of our situation; that these are mistakes I cannot afford to make.

Those with different ideas may include me in their roll of intended victims; but, to fight them, to wrestle with questions of life on their terms, is to abdicate my responsibility to live the life I have. It would be a surrender of any possibility I have available to possibly create something, anything that might, in some small way, count against the annals of destruction.

Action at any given time is what comes about in response to what is happening as it is perceived and as one’s strengths allow. Dissensus is no more or less than an acceptance that action cannot be premeditated if it is to meet the challenge of the moment. A belief in dissensus is not a pledge of non-violence. Violence exists, and force exists. An organism has the capacity to consider self-preservation and may have the strength to maintain existence in the face of violence perpetrated against it.

What a belief in dissensus does not contain is any justification for carrying out violence for the sake of a scheme of any kind, for whatever nominal reason or purpose.

A belief in dissensus grows out of a long-growing, total realization that following any such path reliant on justifications and seeking solutions to life’s uncertainty can only end badly. They entail the sacrifice of what life offers and condemn one to an escalating complicity in behavior that threatens all life on this world.

Denial is a defense mechanism and it leads those who are stuck in it to be potentially dangerous to the rest of us. Not just as barriers to more enlightened behavior, but as active defenders of the status quo. Denial sets up a dynamic in people that drives them to consider anything or anyone who threatens their belief a threat to them. Not a passing threat, an existential threat. So much of the destruction surrounding and engulfing us comes about in this way. When we talk about fear as a driver, it is a fear of overturning a belief defended by denial that is the specific trigger.

Dissensus puts its believers in a dangerous position since denial and dissensus cannot coexist from the viewpoint of one in denial. Something has to go, and they will fight to insist that it is anyone proclaiming dissensus that will pay.

From a viewpoint that entertains dissensus no corollary can be posited. No prediction can be confidently made that at some future time the life at this moment embroiled in denial will not be of some, even immense, value to the continued existence of life. We have no way of predicting either what someone – anyone – will do at some unforeseeable point in time. We also have no way of knowing what action might be the most appropriate in a situation to come we cannot even imagine. Evolution proceeds along a broad and meandering path. Its river is a braided stream. We cannot know what effect blocking any particular channel will have on what comes after.

This is not a handicap. It is not a loss. To believe otherwise is a mistake, an assumption of certainty that cannot be supported. So for this reason alone it would be enough to view practicing dissensus as preferable to a restrictive view that limits us to a reactive stance. Dissensus frees us from colossal attention-traps so that we can attend to what-is and be open to what can be created. It grows out of a belief that the only counter to a certainty of futility is to be found in a practice of attending to what can be created that does not doom us to trading away our lives for an illusion of some kind.

Dissensus may become a widespread belief. But, this will not come about through persuasion or any other form of coercion. The wager inherent in a belief in dissensus is that it more closely hews to what-is and opens us to greater coherence and clarity of action. These, we believe to be traits with lasting survival value, as well as, habits that lead us to greater fulfillment during any life, however brief, or cut short it might be.

Denial leads its sufferers to seek some external salvation. Dissensus allows us to see that in such bargains everything with any value is destroyed.

Denial denies its victims clarity and condemns them to incoherence. Dissensus refuses the illusions of separation and division. Dissensus is a key practice if we hope to value clarity and arrive at coherence.

Hygiene, Quality, Rhetoric, and Integration

I keep returning to this hunch that the most helpful way to talk about an array of approaches to our condition that has been growing in mind is to speak of hygiene. And, to relate this hygiene to the question of Quality. And, to look at the way Quality and integration feed each other. That this is the way to a culture of life.

The image of the busy surgeon going about his day and unable to interrupt his rationalizations long enough to notice that his conception of hygiene has a tremendous hole in it, wiping his crusty knife on his bloody apron…. This appears to be the most direct illumination of the way so many of us who may have seen that something is very wrong, still cling to ways of trying to change things that simply cannot work. That when we do this we ignore a fundamental sort of hygiene.

A hygiene, as in the example, points to missing links of causation that, if ignored, will nullify one’s efforts to ameliorate an underlying condition. There are holes in how we perceive a situation. There are conceptual holes in how we make sense of a situation. These can be self-evident when they are shown to us. No one needs to follow-up with an entire plan of how to proceed – if only this were not exactly how, failing to understand this hygiene, we always run ahead, half-cocked to do precisely that! A self-evident hygiene takes care of itself.

We would understand this if, we were to take in the consequences of misinterpreting this form of mental hygiene.

Calling this a hygiene question is a slap-in-the-face, intended to get someone’s attention and hold it. Keeping the conversation from being derailed by all the mechanisms of maintaining our delusions as if our lives depended on them.

We enter the realm of rhetoric. How something is shaped. The context that adheres to a parcel of information, to an attempt to communicate, is important. While all Propaganda is rhetorical, and all advertising, every attempt to persuade, is Propaganda. Not all rhetoric is Propaganda. This inferred ubiquity is a cog in the mechanism that short-circuits our attempts to break free. Rhetoric is important. It matters. The kind of rhetoric employed does signal whether the act of communication is Propagandistic or not and this sets the stage for how the entire effort comes to be/comes to be perceived.

Unless we are clear about rhetoric, its forms and its effects; how it frames and how this framing shapes not only the effort to communicate; but also the perceived realities that cascade from the original impetus provided by a piece of rhetoric; we are unable to act with effect. This is a basic understanding-of-our-tools question.

And, today we rarely understand our tools. In this confusion of the most fundamental dynamics of how our tools work we reap so many of our unintended consequences. Not looking deeply enough into the interface between our tools and our organism’s perceptual/cognitive dynamic – our sense-making and meaning-making apparatus – we rush on to miss-apply what could be powerful tools by asking them to do what they cannot do. Or, expecting them to work in a certain way when they actually work in another, even contradictory way. This brings to mind the cross-control issue behind so many airplane crashes….

Rhetoric is a fundamental tool. We associate tools with Craft. Craft is one of three domains we have access to. Three realms of practice and action that together constitute a culture. The other two being Art and the Theosphere, the realm of belief.

In the Theosphere we have a space independent of any effort by anyone else to deny us a place to attend and act within. This space is not bound by three-dimensional Cartesian coordinates and therefore no one can refuse us its occupation. No need to fight to Occupy this space. We create it and we can engage with it. External forces can make this inconvenient, even to the extreme, but they cannot invade it unless we let them in.

Art today only exists within ghettos. As with Craft. There are pockets of mental and physical space that have evaded their outright destruction. In many cases they have done this by appealing to those in power and in return they are kept as curiosities, as pets. This is the mechanism that enforces any ghetto-ization. A condition of their continued existence at any time is an awareness of their own precarity. Unlike the powerful they cannot afford to be stupid. So these are refugia from which traditions, habits of mind, and people who are not bound so tightly to the prevailing delusions can be found.

Art is the realm of engaging with how we intercept the world through perception and how we practice this engagement. Art opens us to questions of meaning that have a home in the Theosphere. Craft is where these approaches and attitudes to meaning confront and are confronted by the rigors of physical existence. In the Theosphere the physical cannot enter. In Art, physical constraints are grappled with but only in the way they interact with the questions of meaning within their practices. As physical beings with physical needs we require Craft as a realm in which to work to meet these needs – needs defined in large part in the other two realms. We only kid our selves when we assume a need is actual just because we want it to be. In Craft tool-use is central and in this way Craft and Art overlap. In Craft we deal with attributing meaning to objects by the care and the Crafting of them. In this way we are acting in relation to the Theosphere in that attributing value to that which is not merely utilitarian we are performing ritual.

In this cycling dynamic a culture interacts with Quality. If a culture is clear and coherent in these interactions it binds with Quality. Quality in this sense – as Pirsig uses it – overlaps with our conceptions of the Universe and of God. In this Quality is a powerful heuristic of how well we are attuned to what-is, to how our cosmos unfolds, to our sense of wholeness. When we attend to Quality we are integrated in all.

We could say that the traction for this view of a new hygiene is connected to the way our organisms respond to integration and disintegration. This is a knowing that occurs within each of us. We have direct contact with a passage of knowing that requires no external authority. It cannot be turned away from its certainty by any outward force. Once we are aware of how this hygiene – this relation to health and sanity – works we have all we need to continue to use it as a guide. There is no need for a manual. No need to remember any code. We find that we can connect with Quality at any time by letting it in.

This integration is as much a reflex as when a plant turns towards the light. This is another way of saying that its lack is something that needs a hygiene-change to restore it. The lack of such a fundamental instinct is a sign of dis-ease.

All of this is a question of attitude and approach. No prescriptions or prohibitions are implied. Any potential action can either be helpful or cause harm and it is only through the lens of appropriateness as it is discovered within this attitudinal lens that we can determine what to do. This determination is tied to the moment of action and cannot be pried free of this matrix without destroying the whole.

It could be said that it is in this way precisely that our destructive drive destroys everything it touches. If we tear Quality out of its context we destroy it. Quality is all that is. Destroying Quality, we destroy everything.

An E=MC2 for our time….


Published by Antonio Dias

My work is centered on attending to the intersection of perception and creativity. Complexity cannot be reduced to any given certainty. Learning is Central: Sharing our gifts, Working together, Teaching and learning in reciprocity. Entering into shared Inquiry, Maintaining these practices as a way of life. Let’s work together to build practices, strengthen dialogue, and discover and develop community. Let me know how we might work together.

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