The change of the seasons is so powerful…. It is disorienting….
We tend to view this as a collapse of whatever momentum we had developed over the months spent within a circle of similarity that allows us to feel a kind of certainty building. Yes, even for those of us talking endlessly about the pitfalls of certainty. Of momentum….
The last coherent thought before this break had something to do with habit. An attempt to pry the viable aspects of habit from the deadly forms of conditioning. The sense that following too literally on Krishnamurti’s abandonment of conditioning, “Just like that!” We miss the fact that underlying whatever cultural accumulation of habits and assumptions there is a vast sea of habit punctuated by plasticity that is the ebb and flow of evolution, at the heart of what it is to be alive.
Besides this has been a growing and deepening awareness of the value and place of our debt of grief. How avoiding grief we avoid living. How this question is a pivot on which we return from simple misery to numbing suffering. How confusing sorrow with suffering – both appear in a way to be voluntary – we justify running from it and by running from it we fall back into suffering and the compounding of misery it drives ahead of itself, Four Horsemen, indeed.
Life intrudes…. A long standing habit to find solace in thinking attempts to kick in. Life intrudes in a litany of sorrows, punctuated by merely vexing irritations, to puncture the haven of certainty and imagined security we wrap around ourselves as a cloak that turns into a shell that locks us away from the flow of life.
Life intrudes. What do we do?
This question reverberates. The ringing in our ears can at times drown out our conditioned reactions; but at the same time it makes it hard to concentrate….
But here, again, is this a fault? A problem to be overcome?
What if it’s not?
Jeff’s post begins to touch on this point right here. What can happen in these transitions, seasonal or initiated by whatever cycle of change and renewal, is that we see this way forward. It’s what I refer to as finding a next step.
When we fear for our footing we are rooted in place, like Bohm’s childhood incident halted at the edge of the stream, too far to reach the first stepping-stone without leaving the reassuring bank behind, and, How do I get to the other side?
Jeff’s jump into the quarry lake is a related image, focusing on immersion into everything as opposed to Bohm’s navigating a flow of inception where the implicate passes into the tacit in an unending stream: two dynamic aspects of our situation. Jeff’s immersion relates to the surface of mortality presented to us as we float over or enter into an expanse of water.
If habit is defended too strenuously – what is there in life that gains by being held too tightly, after all? We cripple plasticity. What is implied by the discomfort, the disequilibrium, of finding an edge, a limit; is our need to let habit dissolve and allow plasticity to work on us and in us. Otherwise we…. We know where that leads. just look around.
Here is where the debt of grief comes in. If we dare to look around we see so much cause for grief. Let go of the pieties of positivism for once! There is nothing to be gained by defending our ignorance to protect our feelings. Here lies the path to sentimentality and we all know where that leads.
And, we are hurtling down that path and its consequences become harder and harder to ignore.
Our grief is real. It is a debt. All our other debts are resultant from our refusal to acknowledge this one.
How’s that for an Economic Theory! An equation! Misery compounded. Marked as interest and paid out to provide its recipients with a cocoon of ignorance to insulate us from immediate consequences. But no less for that a debt that must eventually be paid in full.
Fantasies of retribution…. We deny our complicity,
“I’m privileged to be a dreamer. I live in a cloud, which rises from the smoke of guns and bombs. My world is made possible by war. We are all here. Our collective voice is the Web and the media. The voice is growing harsher. It’s Narcissus reacting to his suddenly uglier image. He squirms in discomfort. What does he do when he comes face-to-face with his own vain-glories of racism, war and hyper-rational control of nature? How will he peer through the dream, and turn away from his beloved?”
Jeff captures this trap we seek to break out of. He goes on in full awareness of how we cannot escape it. We can only pass through it.
The call of this approaching Equinox is a call to absorb all that shakes the ramshackle shanties of our cobbled-together defenses. Simulacra of refuge that can offer us no more than a self-selected tomb. A place where we wish to hide from what we fear only to be buried in here instead of taking our chances… out there….
Illich hurls contempt, curses with the passion of the faithful, the whole notion wrapped up in a certain use of the term Life. Clearly speaking to his –our – future from out of our past. He cites a certain Cardinal from Austria as the locus for his denunciation. Pointing out the intellectual corruption masking as laziness required for this supremely clever “Defender of the Faith” to embrace this cult of Life that Illich saw through to its ultimate consequences.
We use life interchangeably with living, living things. I’ve used the word above. That’s not what has raised his ire. He speaks of the abstraction that corrupts the heart with the so-called Right to Life. Illich also warns us of the tendency within Environmentalism to talk of creatures without a creator…. Creatures grow out of creation. Creation is created….
These two positions share a mania of abstraction. We don’t need to run full speed into the thought-stoppers positioned as barricades defending Creationism and Atheism. Everything is in the space between these arbitrary poles. Both his warnings point out to us once again how important it is to ground what we say. Achieve some clarity in what our words convey.
The Life in Right to Life is also the Life hiding in Lifestyle. Go ahead and listen to what he has to say. Its impact would only be diluted by my attempts to describe his point and unintentionally explain it away.
“’Negative knowledge’ is what I want to call information that provokes us to open otherwise impregnable ‘clams’ of certainty, which contain pearls of confusion. It’s important to see how this knowledge differs from typical knowledge so that we don’t merely drag the information back ashore as some new certainty.”
Jeff describes this precarious and dynamic place between confusion and certainty. Clarifies how this dwelling,
“Dwelling: From Old English, Meaning ‘to Lead Astray.’”
Is not the same as incoherence or the confusion we fall into as into a fog. Our habit is to seek a conclusion. The collision of hard consonants acting out the violence in such a position. Life, in the sense of living, does not brook conclusions. Even death is only a transition. Conclusion demands of us an Un-Dead reaction.
As hard as it is to speak of this shimmering edge between what can be… not held so much as glanced at. It is essential that we find ways to speak of it that are clear enough. We continue to beat against the rocks of certainty AND confusion. The trouble comes from expecting them both to be solid, in a way. We expect to stand on certainty. We expect to break against uncertainty, to be shattered by confusion.
The habits this maintains are what hold us in the whiplash thrashing between these two poles.
Let us be certain that it is only in uncertainty that we have room to maneuver. That what we fear as confusion is a projection onto our only hope for freedom of action. That we can be clear about this. See how the ritual at the water’s edge, screwing up our courage to act, only delays and obscures what would otherwise be both clear and uncertain. This is what’s missing….