"Philosophy was, precisely, the organizational system, the system that allowed knowledges to communicate with one another--and to that extent it could play an effective, real, operational role within the development of technical knowledges." Foucault, Society Must Be Defended, p182.
How can Foucault make such a bold claim? Is philosophy not impractical, circular, and elitist?
The larger work I pulled this quote from demonstrates how knowledge did not evolve in a linear fashion from simple (or dark, archaic or primitive) to complex (or light, honed or advanced), but rather as a network and competition of political and economic struggles. The bodies who created the laws (ethics, or right and wrong), who had the money to purchase resources, and had the more aggressive military, had the power to determine was knowledge was, and eagerly did that. In essence, he showed that knowledge as we know it is not a Platonic Form floating in the heavens waiting for us to recall or intuit it, but is rather a technology that is fabricated through socio-political competition. It is easy and convenient to think that facts are "uncovered" and truths are "revealed," however facts and truths are always changing on a socio-economic level. Which makes it really suspect how each successive regime believes it is privy to the truth.
Okay, fair point, but still, what does Philosophy have to do with any of this?
Because understanding, revealing, investigating, reasoning, etc., were never a part of the social body-in-powers ideal of how knowledge was achieved or accumulated. This is why Socrates was put to death. He was critiquing the popular/approved perception of the origin of knowledge through posing provocative questions whose answer did not rely upon socially approved methods or systems. Granted there are thousands of years separating Socrates from the socio-political events that Foucault was referring to, but both these thinkers shined a light upon the weaponization of knowledge, or in other words, how knowledge was not about objectivity or understanding the world around us without our involvement, but was about how the social body in power used the self-serving determination of knowledge--and thus monopolization of knowledge--to increase its range and protect itself from harm. It was not about "knowing things."
Knowledge on a socio-political level is thus an artificial technological process of preserving hidden ulterior motives rather than revealing neutral facts and truths. No, Philosophy does not "help one uncover hidden clusters of facts and truths," because they do not exist. That is a Platonic ideal/assumption. Philosophy does not exist to deal with particular facts or truths; that is too finite and micro in scope. Instead, Philosophy exists in the macro-sense, in that it exists to provide clearer categories, or as Foucault said, "was, precisely, the organizational system, the system that allowed knowledges to communicate with one another--and...could play an effective, real, and operational role within the development of technical knowledges." You see, the discipline of Philosophy is designed to clarify the indistinct or unknown boundaries of other disciplines (aka: process of ordering chaos), which in itself creates new knowledges, or distinctions of known reality. Our predecessors were so wrapped up in power and war that the abstract process of delineating categories into distinct disciplines did not happen until then end of the eighteen century, according to Foucault.
But how can he make such a claim!? We have not lived in caves for thousands of years! Well, think about the hundreds of years spanning the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Religion and Philosophy were mixed, and the same goes with science. Having an intellectual thought that was against the grain almost certainly got you killed, and if not, put you into lifelong house arrest. Why? Because categories and disciplines were not though of as separate or distinct; an intellectual apathy and paralysis maintained by those in central power. That body of central power, according to Foucault, therefore did not just act as the military or economic force, but as the knowledge-compass. (This is most likely where Orwell got the ideal of the Ministry of History and the Ministry of Truth for his novel 1984.)
Philosophy is thus an organizational tool that does not centralize anything or have any predetermined motive. It a perspective and an attitude rather than a discipline with canned premises.
Now, can a Philosophy have premises? Yes, of course, however those premises are designed to continually clarify reality in abstract terms, rather than concrete terms. It is not about behaviors or perceptions (that is psychology), but about further exploring what is real, and how we can interact and draw meaning from that reality. Thus, it is a general category clarifier, or as Foucault said, "an organizational system" that helps humans establish boundaries between their inner world and outer reality. Its primary business is exploring and exposing How this goes here instead of there. It qualifies.
For this reason Philosophy is extremely practical. The reason it is believed to be impractical is due to the fallacious conceptual attachment of money with self-sufficiency. This fallacy is a leftover of the power-based socio-political mutation of knowledge that Foucault exposed in his book; we just modernized it and marketed it with materialism and relativism.
When we as modern humans devalue and scorn Philosophy, not only do severely limit our ability to know our world and our history, but we essentially turn our back on the tool that helps (and helped) us clarify and create whatever tools of organization and categorization we know--and exploit--to this day. Other complaints directed toward it, that it is "elitist," or "circular," are merely smoke screens enabling people to avoid the very real individual effort and raw self-revelations that a neutral reality-clarifier like Philosophy is bound to do. In other words, it neither favors or entitles anyone. And that is a very significant qualifier between Philosophy and other disciplines: Since other disciplines are not tools to organize categories, but are systems and campaigns comprised of the most current/approved premises, they favor the individuals who are most up-to-date with those current/approved premises.
For this reason, real Philosophy--not academic Philosophy, which is the institutionalization of approved philosophical premises--is innately anti-elitist, and progressive. Scorning Philosophy is thus a form of parricide.
"I have no time to wonder who is reading me." ~Faulkner
My mentor--Kristhoffer--made a similar argument to me over the years, telling me that no matter how well I write, I cannot control how people will misinterpret my work. That no matter what, some people will always get carried away and mutate my meaning, and I just have to deal with that because I will not be there physically to correct their interpretation. As a writer I hate this advice because I want to write clear enough for any reader to understand, but ultimately he is right--they both are--I cannot control what people bring to the table when they read my work so I cannot control what interpretation they bring away from the table.
The Self is the wild card in our engagements because it brings in our unique experience of reality, which is comprised of our inner thoughts & feelings and outer physical interactions. I am not saying this to relativize our every engagement, yet to show that the quote is not just some egotistical rant about not having time to think about who is reading our work. Hemingway knew people were going to interpret his work in their own nuanced way, so he figured he would write toward his audience, though for himself.
So what does this mean? Are we bound to conversationally flail and only connect with others via accidentally? Not at all. Hemingway came up with a very simple solution, which involved positing a lack of control over others and routing all energies into his creative process, but that was limiting because it only applied to writers. As we know, the inability to fully control another extends beyond writing, so although Hemingway developed a great insight about humanity in general, his solution was wanting. This is why I find Kristhoffer's treatment of this issue more effective, because it provides an insightful cycle allowing anyone with a brain to prevent interpersonal nihilism, or the fatalistic belief that because we cannot control how others will interpret us, we cannot arrive at a common meaning and understanding.
This cycle has three general steps, which are honed and developed each time we fulfill them. I say that because the point is not to be perfect on the first go-around, but to improve with practice so that we can become better at interacting with others over time, or in other words, not letting our affairs spiral into chaos, bullying, relativism, or apathy.
The first thing we need to do is dilate our world by relaxing the impulsive filters we apply to things. We do this through specifically identifying what is in our control and what is out of our control. This is not something that only applies to special activities. It applies to everything we do: When we brush your teeth in the morning, we can control how much toothpaste we put on the brush as well as our technique, but we cannot completely prevent a cavity from developing. When we go grocery shopping, we can control what is on our list and how much we will spend, but we cannot control the inventory of the store, or how long the lines are. Or parking spaces available. Get it? Identifying what is in our control and what is out of control in our daily, domestic lives calibrates our mental compass toward reality, making us check ourselves against reality, rather than dictating reality based on what we want.
This first step does not only apply to outward domestic activities though, it applies to our faculty of language. Yes, this may take a long time, but if we are going to maximize our clarity, both in thought and in spoken word, we inevitably need to focus on the way we give shape to our inner ideals, and communicate. Language is about nuance. Ask yourself, "Why did I choose to say it that way?" Or, "Why did I choose that one word instead of that other word?" You may not always have an answer, but this questioning process inhibits the strong locomotive force of confirmation bias that is so easy to get caught up in once it gets rolling. Inspecting the language we use in our moments allows us to understand our thought processes outside of the physical activities. So this first step has both an inward movement and an outward movement, both geared toward slowing down our impulsive or compulsive thoughts and behaviors.
The second step is strikingly simple, but the reason it comes after the first is because our minds need to have built up somewhat of an objective self-check ability to identify categories distinctly and be alright with not being the center of every affair. In other words, without being objective, this step is not capable of being fulfilled, despite its simplicity.
Identify a causal linkage. What this means is that we need to identify a multiplicity, or network of causes and effects. This whole step is worthless if you stop at two causes or effects. Isaiah Berlin explains this masterfully in his book The Crooked Timber of Humanity by exposing how history is a densely branched network instead of a simple ladder. This insight directly applies to causes and effects because history is literally a network of causes and effects. In causality, there is not one thing that attributed to one action, nor is there one product of that one thing. So the labels cause and effect are not concrete, they are simply directional models; flexible tags, if you will. For example, if your car's engine blows on the highway, it was caused by how you drove, what oil you put it in, the wear of the parts, the behavior of the previous owners, if there were any, the atmospheric conditions, and more factors. But it also caused other drivers on the highway to compensate for your vehicle's breakdown, which effected the rest of their day and possibly week. If you made it late to work because of it, someone else's life had to shift, etc. It is the Butterfly Effect. Point is, causes and effects are fluid, so if we want to understand basic causes and effects in our conversations with others (which helps bring meaning instead of fostering shallow platitudes or placing blame or bullying), we need to get on board with taking responsibility and identifying them in our daily personal lives. This is why normal, everyday life is excellent training for our more demanding, intimate affairs.
The last step of the cycle is judgment, and it is last for good reason. It is so easy to think we are being thinking people when we are really being opinionated bullies. I have written a bit on judgment because this step is really what colors our lives. Do you lace up your shoes instead of walking with them untied? Either way, you judged that. Do you prefer to eat food, or to let yourself starve? Either way, you judged that. Enjoy having sex with others? Whether you participate or not, you judged that. Judgment is in essence a deliberate choice arrived by comparing and contrasting multiple things. Judgment is indeed about quality, however quality is not always subjective (feelings, moods, affects, tones, etc.). Judgments of quality can be objective if we embrace a multiplicity of things, investigate how functional they are, if they are short-term lived or long-term lived, or any question not making the Self the center of the affair. There are many excellent objective questions to ask when investigating quality, which is actually redundant because objectivity is open-ended and by definition embraces a myriad of non Self-centered questions. Subjectivity, on the other hand, is based in confirmation bias and doesn't ask open questions. Sidebar: Severe relativists believe that if another does not conform to their subjective beliefs or ways of doing things, there is no reason to interact at all. Talk about egotistical. So in order to judge well, we need to welcome evidence, which is why the soundest judgments are produced by the largest amount of evidence.
Clearly Kristhoffer has a more complex way of avoiding relativism and apathy (aka nihilism) in our daily affairs, yet his approach--although challenging--is available to any and everyone with a will to embrace conflict and come to a resolution with others whom you cannot control. It is true, life would be so much simpler if we could control others, but the reality is that we cannot, which is why the previous cycle is significant because it forces us as individuals to put our ducks in a row, or in other words, take care of our own faculties and affairs. In challenging ourselves to engage objective cycles likes this, we increase the probability of being understood within shared moments because our non-Self centered world becomes bigger.
Clear communication and connection is therefore not impossible, but it is indeed challenging considering we do not have a hive mentality and people do not "just know" what we are thinking or saying. Our Selves are individuals, but that does not mean they are ordered, practical, or consistent. I will not lie about this or soften this truth. So instead of avoiding interpersonal conflict due to an inability to control what others think or how they will interpret us, reorienting ourselves to objectify our own abilities and capacities with insightful cycles like the one listed above will help avoid an interpretive nihilism that seems to be sweeping across not just the literary world, but the interpersonal world.
As humans, we are born with a basic imagination giving us self-awareness, awareness of three frames of time, and language. This imagination does not afford each of us with creativity though--despite what common teachers want to think--which further complicates the understanding of the human condition because even though we each have the basic faculties of imagination, not all are restricted to those basics. In other words, some are creative and some are not. The following is an exploration into the intricacies of the three general types of creativity, and how two are natural and one is socially fabricated, to help us color our understanding of both imagination and creativity.
The purest form of creator is the type who pulls things from thin air. The DaVinci's. The Socrates'. The Newton's. They do not reassemble, assimilate, or reorganize, but create something that has never existed before. Their minds naturally operate independent of the need to consult pre-existing templates. True creatives operate on a plane that makes their inner world a flexible, apt tool of understanding the outer world, allowing stimuli in from the outer world but not needing the established or accepted methods of interpreting that stimuli. Thus, true creatives can be locked in a room by themselves and create. Their imagination certainly functions differently, and I will further explain why after we visit the other types of creators.
The more prevalent type of creator are those who assimilate. Instead of creating from thin air, this type of creator's imagination is fed by what they are exposed to in the outside world. They are like sponges. Picture it like this: Ticks need blood hosts to survive, but they need to find them first. What they do is climb upon a tall piece of vegetation and extend their front legs, which are actually modified pheromone receptors. When these legs detect the scent of a blood meal approaching, the tick seizes the opportunity to hitch a ride. From there it crawls to a spot with a blood vessel near the surface, and then it feeds. The assimilator-type of creator works the same way: They open their spongelike mind in order to detect stimuli that could feed their creativity. This is why assimilator-type creators need to actively find the best piece of "vegetation" to perch themselves on in order to catch the type of stimuli that fits their wheelhouse. Yes, each assimilator has a wheelhouse, which is another way of saying natural inclination. This does not mean they are necessarily deficient in other things, it just mean they have certain strengths, which if they play to, will help them assimilo-create in the best way possible.
Since these two types of creators have a natural inclination to create, they have a responsibility. No, not a responsibility to their family to make money, or a responsibility to their town or city to put it on the map, or a responsibility to create for the good of humanity. They have a responsibility to their creative faculty to put themselves in the right position to help that creativity flourish. I say this because I have spoken with--and read about--enough creators to realize that if the natural gift of creativity (no matter the flavor) is not exercised or expressed, that person will experience a void in their life. Creativity is thus part of a person's makeup, and while it is certainly possible to physically restrain them from expressing their particular creativity, it is not possible to completely quell their need to create.
I ought to reiterate that up to this point I have spoken of individuals with a natural compulsion to create, with one type being the true-creatives, or "out-of-thin-air" creatives, and the other type being the assimilators, or "sponges." Just because I made a binary distinction does not mean that there is an underlying or impending good-bad distinction. These two types of creators exist independently of human moral and social value-judgments like this.
Which leads us to the third type of creator.
On a social level, people can be taught to "create," so this type will on the surface be more like an assimilator than a true creator because they require the intake of outside stimuli. They in no way create out of thin air. So what separates them from the assimilators? This social-type utilizes pre-established criteria, formula, and methods for re-presenting the stimuli they learn from outside sources. Also--to bring the ticks back in--they do not have particular pieces of vegetation that are more in their wheelhouse, because as opposed to the other types, who are natural creators and thus have natural bends and propensities, they are purely social and do not have a particular type of vegetation (natural inclination) that exists in their mind that is compelling them to create. In other words, this third type is the concrete creator, or fabricator, for 3 reasons: 1) They require outside stimuli to provide them resources and content, 2) Their creativity is dependent upon re-presenting or reorganizing concrete objects within reality, and 3) To finally broach the topic of imagination, they have a non-circuited imagination.
It should be clear by now that not all imaginations are the same, and not just because of our varying familial upbringing or financial advantage.
The fabricators' imagination is non-circuited because not only do they need outside resources and content to operate, but since they lack the natural creative drive that the other two types have, they need outside influences to continue fabricating. They are not self-propelled. Think of this type as segmented creatives: They fabricate one thing, and then the process is over until something outside of them drives them to fabricate another thing; so on and so forth. This is why their imaginations are non-circuited; their fabrications are not connected in an abstract or meaning sense to one another, nor do they have an inner compulsion (read: something they cannot not do) to fabricate. This is why they generally do it for entertainment or income.
The assimilative creators' imagination are semi-circuited because although they have an inner drive that compels them to create with a certain vision, they are dependent upon absorbing information from that outside reality to feed this vision. Their imagination is thus a mixture of what they have perceived and what they have intuited, allowing them to creative wonderfully striking pieces if they do the legwork, since they have the ability to use a creative imagination to re-present common everyday things in new and fresh ways for both their own understanding, as well as others. (This is how many artists and artist-advocates are led to falsely believe they have a responsibility to humanity, when really their only responsibility is to cultivate that inner creativity, because--as I said earlier--they always feel something is missing when they do not express or engage their creativity). This is why the individual with this type of imagination is drawn to art or soft sciences, because they are the bridge between what is in their mind, and what comprises the outside, resource-laden world.
Lastly, we have the true creatives' imagination, or the "out-of-thin-air" creatives. These are the individuals who could exist as a brain in a vat because their creativity does not carry the requirement of physical engagement. (Stephen Hawking made this argument when someone asked him if his disability impeded his science. He said it did not bother him because his mind was the only faculty of his he engaged anyway.) The true creatives thus have fully-circuited imaginations because they rely on nothing but their own vision, explorations, and reasonings. Yes, they learn outside material, but they think and process all on their own. It sounds odd, but these individuals cannot help but think and create. They do not need to go to school to learn and often thrive when they do not, because school merely trains and indoctrinates the individual in the common/accepted understanding of knowledge and information. Isaac Newton created Calculus because he needed a more advanced science than algebra to push his personal scientific pursuits further, not because the industry asked its brightest to create it. Hence, these individuals are anything but common, and certainly do not need to learn the common way of doing things to know that theirs works well, and hence have a type of imagination that creates, feeds, and checks itself. Or in other words, is completely self-sufficient--or fully-circuited--and why they are generally drawn to math, science, or some other abstract pursuit.
Even when we are sitting, we are in motion. Can we ever be still? Even when we try to be still, the world pulls us along like specks of dust in its wake. Is change therefore inevitable?
The physical world is irrelevant. Of course we are in motion due to the earth's rotation on its axis, and its revolution around the sun. It is our inner world that flexes and shifts whether or not we like it because as greater reality ruthlessly presses on, we are cast into new experiences. We are our experiences. And our experiences of life are constantly changing. So we are change.
Hating change, or even resisting it, is therefore a futile effort. Yet our civilization does because it compels us to cling to things like tradition, monetary vocations, and the past because they provide comfort. Is comfort therefore our enemy?
In essence: Is it even possible to comfortably change?
Resentment is not about resolution because it subjectively romanticizes a past that affirms what the subject believes ought to have happened in the first place. This is a false form of retribution, because resentment is inward and self-enclosed and retribution offers some kind of compensatory payout for transgressions. Resentment offers no payout whatsoever, and only prescribes a cycle of negativity.
Mentally travelling back through time, or reflecting upon the past, is not detrimental in itself because it helps us discover and understand things we missed, which can help us enrich our future meanings and make better choices. The problem with resentment though is that it is so self-enclosed and emotionally festered that the intellectual mind is prevented from reconciling the emotional experience with actual reality. In other words, resentment is so entrenched in me-affirmations and confirmation biases that when we reflect upon the past, we mutate reality to fit our subjective models, rather than the other way around. So unchecked resentment ultimately inhibits our ability to see the actual future (instead of a merely palatable future) because our intellect is what is needed to extrapolate those future, realistic variables.
This actually answers why we resent. Humans (barring the severe mentally handicapped) have the ability to imagine the past and future, in addition to experience a variable-rich present. It is one of our strongest gifts. However, if we do not strengthen our minds and our ability to intellectually understand these realistic variables--which exist in all three frames of time--then we are left with operating subjectively across these time frames, forcing all the variables we allow to serve or affirm us in some way. (This is why a subjective perspective avails us to a tiny sliver of reality, and why an objective perspective avails us to a much larger one.)
Since our modern culture:
1) Encourages immediate gratification,
2) Tells us that we are not of nature but above nature,
3) Concludes that if history turned out this way, it "couldn't" have turned out any other way, therefore must be the "best" way,
the subjective perspective dovetails seamlessly with this modern culture, despite all its limitations.
Resentment is destructive because it offers a no-win scenario, and due to this socially-encouraged subjective perspective, its not trying to see a bigger picture. It is literally the self waging imaginative war on something else without intending to ever outwardly engage it to reconcile it. The risk of being wrong through engaging something outside of its self-enclosure--or greater reality--is too great. Thus, resentment is a rudimentary cost-benefit equation which by default prioritizes the safety of the subjective self-enclosure over the engagement of--and resolution with--greater/outer reality.
Plenty of people exist who do not subjectively operate: they are called objective. (I feel the need to say this because many believe subjectivity is the only way to operate.) Kristhoffer teaches objectivity through telling individuals to "prove themselves wrong." This search for our wrongdoings releases us of our subjective shackles, allowing our minds to operate more freely, searching for those variables that exist whether or not we are there to acknowledge them. Reality is indeed much larger than we are, and is home to a plethora of variables of resolution.
Ultimately, resentment prevents resolution, and those who resent engage in such a strong me-affirmative cycle that the very possibility of objective, reality-based resolution turns into a myth. So when we participate in resentment, not only do we inhibit an ability to be objective to non-human reality and other humans as well, but also to ourselves. It is that damaging. But each of us has the ability for self-objectivity, and despite some thinkings going around, will not make us robotic. It will simply help us develop more self-sufficiency because we will be adapting to reality instead of making it fit our ideal, as resentment does.
For many people in our culture, it is so much more fun and satisfying to watch television than it is to read a book, even though it is just as common for people in our culture to refer to books as being better than their cinematic recreations. Since these two statements do not exactly jive, though exist simultaneously, they either represent two distinct populations of people or a curious blending of contradictory premises.
Book and movies are both forms of art because they express a vision with the intent of transposing the artist's reality, even if only momentary. Hence, both convey meaning. When dealing with conveying meaning though, if we become too comfortable with our way of doing it, we become stagnant to our familiar and comfortable direction of conveyance. In other words, when thinking about art, it is commonly accepted--and thereby, expected--to think about it in terms of how the particular medium presents itself to us. Essentially, this an attitude of reception; an embodiment of a surveillance camera attached to a life-support system. Granted, when dealing with art, we will in some way need to think about what it presents to our senses, but that is only one part of the conveyance of meaning. A lot more goes into understanding and engaging meaning, so accordingly, much more goes into understanding and engaging art.
Hence, art is a lot more intellectual than we may be led to believe.
If we make a practice of thinking with our mind rather than with our emotions, then we will discover what deliberate and latent filters we apply to the reality we engage. Filters are the principles and guidelines that our thoughts and behaviors. Humans operate via filters all the time, though not all filters are determined by the individual because social influences are plentiful. Still, from traffic, to relationships, to bills, to athletic activities, to art, filters determine what to do, when to do it, who it will affect and effect, and if we want to repeat it. Filters are thus elemental things that determine how we function because they provide order and organization for whatever stimuli we run across. If we establish clear, consistent filters for the information and knowledge we experience and process, then that very information and knowledge becomes compared and contrasted to the end of reconciliation, instead of enabled to exist compartmentalized and hypocritical. (This is one way of explaining self-judgment.)
So why should we care? Because expanding and honing our filters allows us to experience reality more fully instead of merely perceive it. Placing art back into the equation, if we choose to experience art rather than merely perceive it, we can reveal more than just the artistic vision presenting itself to our senses, but the very filters we use to understand it. And since art is all about experiencing meaning more fully rather than more limited, intellectually embracing art is an excellent way to increase the breadth of one's perspective if they are unpracticed at balancing intellect and emotion.
So how exactly do we practice experiencing things rather than merely perceiving them, or in other words, understand and strengthen our filters? Well, we can do three things: 1) Ask ourselves what qualifiers we are applying to the things we perceive, 2) Identify the multiplicity of effects, and 3) Ask yourself why at this one moment we chose to do the thing(s) we did.
First, asking ourselves what qualifiers we are applying essentially exposes our thinking through the language we use. When we have conviction for something, we feel and think of it as being true, however, our inner reality--whether it be our thoughts or emotions--relies on language to bridge the gap between our inner world and outer reality. Our language is built upon symbols and ideals that have meaning built into them, so regardless if we believe a certain way, if we use nuances, cliche's, adages and clauses that inherently indicate an ulterior (or variant) meaning, then we unknowingly have condoned and preserved that original meaning, which can obscure the meaning of our transmissions that we think is so clear. Hence, dissecting the very language we use, rather than relying on our loud-and-immediate thoughts and emotions, will expose the raw and latent inner workings of who we are as an individual, helping us refine our meanings.
Second, identifying a multiplicity of effects makes us search for things that are uncomfortable or not obvious. Driving toward a wider breadth of effects liberates a perspective that is limited to a predetermined (comfortable) reward system, which is a type of reward system that causes a stubbornness to change or an addiction to familiarity. Everything we do sets of a chain reaction of effects, some of which we can predict, some of which we cannot. Point is, this chain reaction of diverse effects is as natural as weather, which is interesting in-and-of itself because weather is a system of causes and effects within the natural world. Identifying a multiplicity of effects is simply becoming a storm-tracker to our own lives, searching around to discover, order and label things, to learn what led to what, and figure out what we can and cannot control.
Third, asking ourselves why we did that specific thing in an event helps us stop enabling ourselves, or engaging in the addiction to familiarity I mentioned in the previous paragraph. This type of questioning grinds the gears of a mental transmission that is subjective because it prevents blind, feel-good momentum from acting for us. Thus, when we stick to what we know, and feel-good momentum, we place ourselves in the center of the perceptive process, rather than include ourselves in the larger, more naturally networked process. This may seems like nit-picking, but it actually represents the seeding of the subjective perspective and the objective perspective: A subjective perspective makes our ego the primary filter of operation, and an objective perspective makes larger reality and the breadth/multiplicity of effects the primary filter of operation.
If we endeavor upon a more objective path, as I stated before, more options, opportunities, and variables will avail themselves to us. And since objectivity is (by definition and distinction) not subjective, our self is not the criteria reality must immediately fall in alignment to, nor is it the test reality must pass to be validated or legitimized at any rate. This all boils down to us being more aware of the breadth of reality, earning us the capability to bring the variables introduced to our perception into alignment. Not a predetermined alignment, but an alignment produced by the extensive body of evidence uncovered. (This is another way of explaining self-judgment).
Meaning thus pertains to our engagement and interaction with the extensive body of effects and entities that comprise our world. If we have issues understanding or reconciling our world, or if we make blithely hypocritical statements, then our statements or opinions about the world (or in this discussion, art) are not a testament to a broken system or nebulous concept as much as they are a testament to our lack understanding and honing the filters we use or inherently cling to. Viewing our mental filters as adaptable, and ourselves as participants in a much, much larger reality will allow us to embrace change, but more importantly, to see what is out of whack in our own lives and how to bring it into order and make it more consistent. It is at that point that we will rarely make contradictory statements about art (or much else), and just as importantly, be able to identify them when others make them.
Mark Twain has a brilliant quote about conformity. He said, "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect." Majority is one of those concepts that has become so loaded by popular culture that we need to jettison what we think about it. Statements like, "I am not part of the majority," or "I know what the majority is," or "The majority is not necessarily a bad thing," or "I can be a part of the majority but still make unique, individual changes," are striking popular, though bias and taint any discussion or investigation into the matter, relinquishing the possibility of neutral and objective realizations or outcomes.
Jettisoning our ideals of majority is key, but we need to ask the right questions. These types of questions are plentiful and can explore the concept without any assumptions. Hence, they will be How questions, rather than Why questions, because How pertains to the mechanisms that bring the concept to life, and Why pertains to the subjective intent placed upon the concept. This may sound like a frivolous and overly formal distinction, however, the concept of majority (as well as other concepts) become loaded because a subjective Why-qualifier is applied rather than an objective How-qualifier.
Objectivity is complex, because it involves asking a How question even if the very word How is not in the question. Thus, a simple but significant demarcator between subjectivity and objectivity is that objectivity gives no particular treatment or entitlement to human thoughts, feelings, or perspectives. So instead of searching for that one word in our search for objectivity (How), adjusting our perspective to acknowledge things on their own terms, without human use or affect, is a good start. This perspective will give us a clearer perspective of the concept of majority because it separates our opinions and teachings about the concept from what the concept truly entails and means.
Ironically, this initial clearing of the conceptual water (objectifying) partially answers how the concept of majority was originally granted such amnesty, or in other words, not socially perceived as potentially toxic: Modern civilization has only permitted us to think and talk about this concept if we have some kind of social safety net, or subjective affirmer. So it is perfectly socially acceptable to talk about not wanting to be in the majority, or that everyone is in some sense a part of the majority, but it is not acceptable, tolerated, or thought as beneficial or possible to argue that we may have the ability to discover and maintain objective means of judging ourselves and others, since objectivity does not grant any subject amnesty or social safety net. Thus, whether or not we agree with the current majority, if we demand there exist a subjective requirement (in any capacity) in each and every one of our affairs, then we are applying a Why-type qualifier, or the subjective mentality, which fundamentally prioritizes and affirms people, their experiences, and their affairs over objective and abstract reality. Hence, we are marketing majority-think even if we say we do not like its product.
We have become so de-sensitized to the harms of subjectivity that it is now socially acceptable to make the conflicting assertions that "No-one can be self-made," and "I am an individual / I know who I am." Listen around, you will hear it. Believe it or not, these two assertions are made in tandem very often in this culture, which will bother anyone asking How-type questions because not only are these statements in conflict, but the realities they bear are wildly different. It is not like saying you like milk both with and without ice, because neither one of those inhibits or implicitly denies the existence of the other. Making the two previous quoted statements literally represent and entail different fundamental perspectives. If it were more popular in our culture to apply objective qualifiers, these statements would immediately be found wanting.
This is not some academic, esoteric exercise available only to those with expensive educations or naturally high intelligence. Each person with a mind can produce objective thoughts, they just need to put the effort in. That is not to say every person will wind up the same, yet quite the opposite, that people can create their individual selves based on objectively judging who they want and need to be. In other words, an objective perspective will stave off the ubiquitous subjectivity and the relativism it has produced.
It is not popular yet to speak about relativism because relativism is on of our culture's primary methods of making subjectivity seem morally and socially marketable. It has resulted in these types of thinkings:
If you want to have an important conversation with someone, wait until you are in the right mood.
Not very good at fixing things? Hire someone. Why learn when you can easily pay someone else to do it?
Things do not seem to "go your way?" Just your luck, right?
Did you catch the subjectivity? It is hard to miss when you are looking for it. Yet, this culture's majority defers to subjectivity--and its progeny, relativism--over objectivity. Why?
Because it is so cheap and easy. Anyone can do it at any time because it is not entailed like an objective How process. Objective processes are highly entailed because they require us to discover and identify causal linkage, produce multiple forms of evidence, and ask open-ended questions to produce more arguments and even better questions. Objective processes are about exposing a larger reality, but subjectivity, on the other hand, is all about making our reality smaller, more palatable, and user-friendly to us. Hence, we adapt it to suit us, rather than the other way around.
Relativism has become natural and ambient due to how it suits and promotes a subjective perspective. Objectivity is nowadays marginalized to mathematics and other hard sciences, but even then our culture attempts to subjectively infiltrate it with Ultimate assertions. Point being, understanding Twain's quote is not as easy as just agreeing with it as if we knew it all along, yet understanding how a majority perspective may be unknowingly infiltrating our morals and relationships. The only harm in raw, objective honesty is that other people around you may not agree with you or support your objectivity. Which is essentially embodies the modern majority.
Dave Ramsey said something the other day regarding people's contradictory responses to making positive changes in different areas of their lives. He said that if someone makes a public statement about wanting to lose weight, others will openly and honestly support them. On the other hand, if someone makes a public statement about wanting to get out of debt, then others will openly and honestly discourage them, or respond with bewilderment.
In this culture, we certainly prefer easy, short-term fixes over long-term harvests, but both losing weight and getting out of debt are long-term projects. Both affect your mind and your body in some way; losing weight changes your energy level, resulting almost all the time in a happier, more satisfied disposition, and getting out of debt reduces stress levels which again, almost all the time, results in a happier, more content disposition. We could get into the biology of the matter, citing dopamine, serotonin, etc., but that is not necessary because this chemical cascade is an effect rather than a primary causes we deliberately initiated. Why the varying social responses?
Well, it does not take much to discover that these life-changing mechanisms sit on opposite ends of the social-reward/scorn tether. At this point in our society, we are very concrete in our evaluating of success, our rewarding of that success, and our communication. Again, we are encouraged to select immediate gratification and physical artifacts over long-term harvests and abstract artifacts. (Abstract artifacts are things like loyalty, trust, clear communication, and reciprocity; concepts that cannot be physically materialized, but guide and enlighten our interpersonal affairs). I need to be clear that this particular culture did not create these concrete leanings, yet it adopted them through generations and generations of historical and economical developments. Point being, our preference of concrete cues and artifacts over abstract cues and artifacts has set us up for wanting to participate in debt both as a process and product, because debt allows us to hold and experience that concrete object today, rather than saving up for it and having it some time in the future. Ever watched Star Trek and saw their matter replicators? Well, consumer debt is a concrete culture's matter replicator. We are waging sacrifice and sufferance genocide. And since a high FICO score has been marketed as being as healthy as your daily vitamins, then socially, there is very little downside to debt! It is healthy debt! Take your debt vitamin as often as you can because it allows you to be financially viable and healthy!
This concrete confluence of mechanisms makes me weary. Just the other day my mentor was talking with me about how it took him five years to reap the horticultural and landscaping effects of the effort he sowed. Five years. Who does that anymore? Well, people who are willing to put in the effort and suffer a little. And have patience. If you try and tell me that this concrete culture values patience and sufferance, then I will not believe you, nor much of anything you say. Thus, if Dave Ramsey's quote highlighted anything, it was that this culture is allergic to hard work that produces no immediate, concrete effects.
How can I say that? He highlighted that losing weight would be socially supported! Well, it is popular to lose weight right now because that fits this culture's image of beauty. Gyms are social cornucopias. Cross-fit is to today what aerobics was to the late 80's and early 90's. Getting rid of debt is not popular right now because debt has been marketed so well as both a process and a product that people actually forget how consumer debt was not created to exist on this level. Sixty years ago people only bought what they had cash for. No cash = patience. The whole point is that we are encouraged to think and act according to society's image of things, even though it may not reflect our own personal short- or long-term goal. I am not denouncing getting in shape, but I am posing the question as to why you are getting in shape, if you are. You say you do not want to be fat and out of breath all the time? Okay, I understand. But then I am going to continue that premise and ask what non-physical things you are doing to increase your well-being. Plant a garden? Meditate in nature? Talk with a friend or lover with cell-phones off? Become more intelligent so you can think more clearly?
Both losing weight and getting out of debt will make you healthier, but it is scary how we support one of vehemently, and respond so lukewarm or negatively to another. The fact that this hypocrisy exists means that we are not yet as a culture thinking for ourselves, using a compass that is not ours. Hence, you can lose all the weight you want and talk about health and long-term affects, but I am not going to believe you if you are addicted to, sympathetic to, or plan on encouraging the production and normalization of debt.
If it is one thing adulthood has taught me, it is that the pathway to taking myself more seriously as a writer and intellect is nothing how I originally believed. I used to operate on the belief that maturity--whether it be emotional, intellectual, or artistic--involved being stoic, humorless, and sacrificing the little delights that flavor life. True, maturity does filter out some delights, but that is exactly what helps us transition from adolescents into adults. Thus, taking ourselves seriously is in part the product of knowing what is most advantageous for us to think and experience, and in what proportion. So how do we learn how to take ourselves seriously?
First off, let me specify the meaning of the clause "Take yourself seriously," because operating otherwise would be like building a house on an unsturdy foundation. In our busy, over-complicated, and highly technologized modern lives, it is very easy to bypass or misconstrue the raw meaning of Self (or yourself). One of my first advantageous steps to take myself more seriously was rephrasing the clause to read: "Take my Self seriously." See how differently it reads? It shines the spotlight on the Self, instead of just seriously. Sure, seriously is a significant part of this clause, however it is not the apex.
When we think of statements like "take yourself seriously," it is easy to assume we know the meaning of self because our complex modern lives package our identities and ways of viewing/defining ourselves in socially-affirmative ways. Unfortunately, I--like most people in this culture--fell for the socially-packaged paradigms in my intellectual youth in thinking that taking myself seriously meant believing maturity was being humorless, stoic, and the typical type of professional person! This limited my ability to see and be the real me.
What I really need to make clear is that I am pro-judgement, or in other words, anti-relativist. We can and ought to observe, debate, and reason with one another, because that is the way to understand, communicate and categorize our lives. (Thus, "Just because" is intellectually and emotionally detrimental to adult interactions.) That being said, we can each build a unique Self based on our experiences, natural gifts, and associations (relationships). We just need to separate our natural/raw Self from the self we are indoctrinated to be through social platitudes, obligations, and traditions. No, this is not a new issue I am raising, but when I look around to see how it has been answered, it is always--if not always, then most of the time--packaged in a way as to not offend greater society. This brings things like cliches and hot-button topics come to mind. What is a hot-button issue? Well, how about religion or politics! You "cannot" talk about these, right? But are these not pertinent moral and ethical issues? I say talk about them boldly! What can be lost? And in terms of cliches, if we eliminate their use, we make ourselves communicate meaning in our own, unique way, which helps us not simply parrot social platitudes. These are simply two mechanisms to buck the socially-affirmative paradigms of Self; there are many to be uncovered along the path to true Self.
Am I anti-society? Am I an anarchist? No. Instead, I am a proponent of individuality and independence, which lends itself to having multiple informed choices. When I was in my intellectual youth I did not think I had a choice as to who I was or wanted to be, which made me buy into certain false premises about maturity, professional life, communication, and relationships. Now that I have developed a more independent mind, I can choose as I please. This does not mean I never make a mistake, just that I recognize there are multiple alternatives to choose from. Just because one does not pander to society's paradigms and obligations does not make them an anarchist! Extremist thinking like that does not help anyone.
Bucking the socially-affirmative paradigms can and will help any person take themselves more seriously, because it clears the moral muddy water. In other words, it puts you in the actual position to take your Self seriously, because you take your raw self in mind, rather than the socially affected/fabricated you. Yes, this means being b-r-u-t-a-l-l-y honest with yourself. You cannot take yourself seriously as an individual if you do not look at the uncomfortable and ugly parts, as well as the comfortable and shiny parts.
This is one of the big delineators between a socially-affirmed paradigm of Self and a raw/authentic paradigm of Self: The former--since modern culture has an allergy to interpersonal judgment (relativistic)--requires us to highlight and stick to comfortable, feel-good traits, premises, and predictions. I am sorry, but that is just not a realistic modus. I understand the significance in staying positive, however, positivity does not demand blindness to negativity. It means positive despite negativity. BIG difference. So a mental way of starting a productive chain reaction of finding ourselves is through embracing the discomfort and judging the people we are today, and not making excuses or blaming others. Society does not endorse voluntary moral sufferance because, to quote Kristhoffer, "It does not believe that moral conflict can be objectively resolved." A raw paradigm of self thus embraces both ugly traits and pretty traits, because they both comprise who we are. And if we strive to bring as much of ourselves to the table as possible, we have a better chance at constructing the true self we all claim to want. We need to judge ourselves, though.
Thus, socially-affirmative paradigms of determining self are built upon loaded and ulterior premises because they include the condition of social lubrication and affirmation. I am actively endorsing separating these social conditions and giving yourself a fair, honest shot at looking at your ugly and beautiful facets so that no matter who you are, you can construct the Self you desire. I am not talking about actively destroying society, or to vehemently argue with others till you are blue in the face, but to aim your observations (and will) onto yourself, so that you can discover and clear up who you are. Society says you need others to help you change, should you want to change. I (and many others) say that it merely takes a few requirements: The will to be brutally honest, a positive outlook, and an orientation toward untainted alternatives. You are going to choose what you wish, and you ought to because you are an individual, however that does not mean neither you nor others cannot judge your thoughts and actions. Judgement is not a four-letter word, and one of the first--and continual--steps toward determining and maintaining an authentic Self is a willingness to judge and be judged. Otherwise we remain comfortable, unchecked, and socially lubricated.
In my intellectual youth, I was exposed to many painful (read: realistic) lessons, but the one that comes to mind right now is Take a Breath. I hated this advice though because I wanted to improve right now! To change for the better! To attack all weaknesses right now!! On top of needing patience when dealing with ourselves though, we need to maintain somewhat of an even keel so that we can operate well. It is similar to what you see in a professional tennis match when a player loses multiple consecutive points because they are "tightening up." They still have the ability to play well, but stifle themselves to a point where they cannot perform optimally, let alone effectively, due to anxiety and tension. As someone prone to tightening up in tense situations, I can tell you that in the beginning of the process of finding your true Self, viewing and judging yourself will be much easier if you approach it calmly and collectedly. Not apathetic or without passion or conviction, but relaxed and open to what you perceive. Because if you start blaming yourself or becoming disproportionately critical, or making excuses, you will mentally and emotionally tighten up and the exercise will bear no fruit.
Relaxing so that we can obtain the ability to take our true selves seriously may sound paradoxical, but the road to authentic moral progress is not linear. Nor should it be. We are complex creatures, so the paths to our goals and futures will most definitely not be linear. And if they are, well, you are being socially affirmative, because another one of modern society's basal premises is that life ought to be like electricity: Follow the path of least resistance.
Once you discover and construct the raw Self of your own choosing, then taking that Self seriously will become as second nature as breathing, because you will have pride in what you built, as well as an intimate and authentic understanding of that Self's present and future.
The statement Every Creature Must Kill to Survive is a cold, hard truth regarding the subsistence of all living entities. It is simply the basis of natural processes and organic substances because in order for something to be metabolized and digested for another's sustenance, it needs to first exist on some plane of the biological spectrum. Creatures cannot survive on rocks. Or dirt. Or dust. Or air. And despite what science fiction leads us to believe, any one-hundred percent artificial diet is not feasible because nature is an intimately connected cycle of birth, consumption, reproduction, and death. It is a network, rather than a ladder or hierarchy, which is why there is no top or bottom of the food chain. It exists ubiquitously, serving as the world's greatest equalizer.
If you had eggs for breakfast this morning, and those eggs were fertilized, then you partook in killing a chicken. Steak? You killed a cow. Fish? Dead because of you. Further, I am aware that many vegetarians and vegans believe their diet is inherently more ethical than a carnivore's, but I would point out that the grain, berries, fruits, vegetables, and nuts they consume are indeed living before they become sustenance. Drink coffee? Those beans grew because they were living things. So it is really relevant that they did not have eyes to look at us with as we killed them, with the intent of eating them?
A large part of modern consumer commercialism attempts to avoid this statement, or simply rhetorically justifies it's way around it. Well, eggs in the grocery store are not fertilized, right? However, that unfertilized egg is chock full of bacteria that you are wiping out when you cook and eat it. You may draw a sympathy line at bacteria, saying "They have no consciousness or pain receptors," and although you may be correct, that response is a red herring. In other words, it is answering a different question than the one raised. Something still had to die for you to gain sustenance.
Well you're just nitpicking, you may say.
Am I? Well then I never received the memo regarding the threshold between life forms and organic matter we should and should not give the time of day to. I am not saying I do not eat living things, or that you should not eat living things, or that any of us should feel bad about eating things that were once living. My point is that we ought to face the reality that in order to survive, we need to kill in some way, shape or form, either physically with our hands or economically with our wallets. (Subsidizing someone else killing our food for us so we do not have to see it.) No matter if we go to a super-healthy farmer's market, a commercial grocery store, or eat genetically modified "food", death still needs to happen to extend our life. We feed on death. We can only digest stuff that qualifies as food. That is what makes us whatever -vore we choose to be!
It think part of the unpopularity of this quote is due to the lack of distance between cause and effect: (Cause) Creatures must kill, (Effect) To survive. Due to the quote's simplicity and directness, it is very hard for a rational being to misinterpret the meaning, so people avoid it because it is such an uncomfortable premise. Since the cause and effect are so tightly linked, and because the topic is not socially palatable or polished, it is not going to be normal barber shop talk, or sittin'-on-the-porch talk, or coffee date talk, unless you are someone who lacks certain social sensitivities. (A minority I always applaud.) Many would call this statement grim or morbid, thus bypass it in "civilized conversation" for more lubricated, concrete content.
Call me crazy, but I do not call the quote grim or morbid at all, and not because I am a contrarian or social rebel. (I do not enjoy confrontation or heated debates anymore than others, so no, I am not just picking a fight to watch people squirm). It is just that I have come to terms with the quote because I read it even keel. In other words, due to the quote's socially-sensitive subject matter, I think people read and say it like this:
Every creature must KILL TO SURVIVE.
But I read it like this:
Ever creature must kill to survive.
Note the tonal difference? I do not focus on the killing aspect because due to the lack of distance between cause and effect, I read it as it is meant to be read: All as one clause. I do not focus on Creature, or Kill, or Survive, because in themselves their meaning is incomplete and not an accurate representation of the holistic clause. All the words together create an ideal which has validity, but due to the quote's ruthless candor, people will generally not allow themselves to take it as a complete ideal.
Thus, if the quote sounds Fascist or power-driven in any way, that is because you are breaking up the direct line of cause and effect. Get out of the way! Let the insight speak; it has much to say. It wants to teach us about nature and ourselves and our pasts and futures.
Hence, the quote is not about legitimizing senseless war. Pacifists argue that they do not want to kill or maim another because violence and destruction simply escalate problems, rather than create solutions. That is a sound political premise but leads to misguided evolutionary/biological premises when transferred over. Humans are not at the top of the food chain, and even though I tend to think vegans, vegetarians, and pacifists understand that, their health and overall subsistence is dependent upon ending another thing's life cycle to prolong ours. The truth is, and always will be, ugly. Some ways of prolonging our subsistence are certainly more balanced and long-sighted than others, but I am not here to argue which qualities and programs are inherently better. I am here to point out the stark truth that every creature must kill to survive, and to hopefully get the common person to integrate a guttural understanding into their daily lives.
What is the worst that can happen if we intimately embrace this statement? We take longer to determine if we want that extra glass of milk? We eat our apples more carefully, wasting less of the core? We eat the crust of our bread rather than discard it? If we use one tissue to blow our noses rather than two? I am not sure there is a legitimate detractor from integrating this quote into our daily lives. The only detractor I can think of is the social detractor experienced within those who are so emotionally unstable they cannot boldly face the reality which is already present in their daily lives. And, to cite the philosopher Kristhoffer, "If social-comfort is the only detractor, then that is not a good reason to continue that mindset and behavior."
Once again, we are a child of nature. It is our parent. The rest of nature are our siblings. Due to this, we can learn about ourselves through observing our siblings. Do you see any other species going on a hunger strike or abstaining from certain foods? No. They operate on survival, which is harsh, unforgiving, and dirty. While I am not suggesting that we outright stop shopping at grocery stores or washing ourselves or our food, I am suggesting that we lighten up our civilized sphincters to admit to ourselves that just like our natural siblings, 1) We need to kill things to survive, 2) Have been doing so for millenia, and 3) Will continue to do so. Whether or not we do it with our hands or with our wallets.
Finally, admitting this raw truth to ourselves will inform us that we are not bad people for doing so, either. That it is in our nature, as is being a creature with the capacity to understand our natural compulsions and bring them into proportion, rather than be ignorant to them and allow them to go unchecked.
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