Monday, August 16, 2010

Black Sun

Credit to Julia Kristeva for the brilliant title to her book on the melancolic world experience.
Here I will take her title for MY purposes...
This morning I lay in bed THINKING, one of my favorite occupations now that I have lots of (unemployed) time in front of me.
Incidentally, I get lots of flak for the somewhat stream of consciousness way I think, and write, swallowing OCEANS of philosophical water, covering lots of varied terrain in my musings.
A lot of readers want to be able to... PREDICT ?? just exactly WHERE a writer will take them.
Apparently, a lot of readers want to read with a life jacket on at all times.
Rather logical, in our extremely scaredy cat society, right ?
So... if you feel like you need a life jacket, don't waste your time with me, because we're heading out into deep sea, FAST.
End of parentheses.
This morning I was thinking about the difference between wisdom and knowledge, and wishing that our political and economic leaders had MORE WISDOM, at least WITH their knowledge.
Come to think of it, it wouldn't be such a bad thing for ALL of us to have a little more wisdom, right ??
WHERE and HOW do you get wise ?
If you take a look at the treasure house of human wisdom, which can be glimpsed in a society's proverbs, (and its great literature, too...) for example, you will notice that having a university degree may give you knowledge but it will NOT make you wise.
What do I think wisdom is ?
I think that wisdom is the capacity to know the human HEART, and act accordingly.
That's right. HEART and NOT MIND. (not JUST mind, in any case). Heart AND mind, if you prefer.
While our social body has been concentrating EXCLUSIVELY on advancing its (book) knowledge, it has SERIOUSLY neglected the FACT that wisdom is not "acquired" in the same WAY, using the same method, as knowledge is.
And while our social body has been concentrating on the mindless (!!!) glorification of abstract knowledge, it has been engaged in subtley and not so subtley denigrating and disqualifying what wisdom is, and WHERE it comes from.
Building an enormous tower of Babel, the way all towers of Babel are built : by mindlessly applying the formula "more of a good thing is always better".
So... more abstract knowledge is always better, right ??
Since the last Romantic revivalist attempt to pull us away from the tyranny of an indiscriminate application of the scientific method as the ONLY ACCEPTABLE manner of experiencing the world, ourselves, and learning about it/us, we seem determined to shoot up ever higher in the clouds, while losing sight of our feet, and the earth, below us.
And the MORE we lean in this direction, the more we neglect other sources of experience, other WAYS of looking at the world, and of BEING IN IT.
We lose sight of wisdom.
I wrote on my loony forum this morning that our desire to be "objective" has led us to DESERT ourselves, our bodies, our HEARTS, the places where we could learn to become WISE, while chasing after the Holy Grail of Objectivity.
And.. deserting ourselves has dire consequences for us. As a society, and as individuals, because what we CAN and WILL become as individuals will always remain very dependant on the possibilities and the opportunities that the social body will give us to express ourselves. No man is an island, remember ??
Black Sun. Despair. Hopelessness. Melancoly.
We need to stop assenting to our own alienation to "objectivity".
We need to... wise up.


Toby said...

Well said. You'll not be surprised to hear from me that your piece is a brief synopsis of Eisenstein's "The Ascent of Humanity", particularly that the scientific method is NOT the correct tool for 'knowing' but for analysing. Analysis is essential on the path to wisdom of course, but cannot deliver wisdom. The heart has to be involved, and wisdom will also be subjective, necessarily. He refers to (I think an Italian) alchemical text which equates the head with reflection, pondering, analysing etc.; the heart and lungs to knowing; and the viscera to transformation. I find that very helpful.

Yet another shameless plug from me of someone else's book! ;-)

And yes, we do need to wise up, but it will take demoting the scientific method and re-embracing uncertainty and subjectivity, i.e. those components of human experience which, in the end, make like worth living.

Bring it on!

Debra said...

Go on plugging, Toby.
In that respect, I feel that we resemble each other, and that doesn't displease me..(I'm a rather selfish and self centered person, you know...)
When you like something, and it gets you excited, you want to share it with other people.
The Italian wasn't Ficino, by any chance, was it ?
I think that the great danger we are in right now, is in the DISCARDING of analytic thinking, as the pendulum swings back SO QUICKLY, and with a vengeance.
Witness the reactions of many people in the American Republican party's right, for example.
You can see that if I am coming up with Eisenstein's ideas without having read him, it is that THEY ARE IN THE AIR right now, and that the social body itself is generating them (not necessarily individuals, you know... not exclusively, in any case)

Toby said...

Wisdom is the antidote against the pendulum swinging back too far, that's the hope anyway, as you point it out. America is a real worry though. It's so partisan, so angry, so dumbed-down there's at times nothing else to see but collapse and violence coming out of that mess. That said, I'm getting very frustrated with the excessively controlling restraints the German 'middle way'. E.g. we (my wife and I) can't home school our children because they have already entered state education--you're not allowed take them out again. Also, setting up as a self-employed anything is so difficult as to be hardly worth the effort. Then, they've kept wages artificially low and the rich here are getting secretly very very rich indeed. I can't speak for the rest of the world but the problems I'm sure are everywhere in one form or another.

Science has to be demoted somewhat because we worship it, not because it has no use. It is a beautiful and very potent methodology that keeps us humble (potentially), if deployed with wisdom, and if we are culturally capable of recalling how embedded we are in nature. There's the intuitive recognition of this truth of the hunter-gatherer which has its own beauty, but there's the slow scientific arriving at the same truth which is also wonderful and humbling. Being western I prefer the scientific path because I see the chance of ending dehumanization and expanding our circles of reciprocity to encompass all life. Hunter-gatherers are still suspicious of the other. They are non-differentiated, less conscious than are we 'civilized' types. We have 'won' much on our path, but it has brought us to the edge of self-annihilation.

I don't recall Eisenstein mentioning a name, only that it was an Italian text, and even here I could be wrong. I'll look into it later...

Debra said...

The questions you raise about feeling of sacredness expanding to INCLUDE all life, natural life are big ones, that have excited me since reading Freud.
Freud sets up the creation of human identity THROUGH the mecanism of exclusion (sticking what we primitively judge to be bad OUTSIDE of us...) and if THIS mecanism is the most basic principle behind identity, then I doubt that we will be able to get rid of it.
I don't know if you can home school in France, but I'm willing to bet it's not even THINKABLE, given our system here, and the ideological power that devolves to Education Nationale in the creation of the French (republican...) citizen. (No actually, there is a French organism called the CNED, which structures all schooling at a distance, as they say, but the infamous "programmes" are sacred here. "We" cram the kids' heads chock full of stuff to retain (!!!...), rather than try to foster their intellectual curiosity, autonomy, and ability to solve problems.
Salaries have been maintained at an artificial low here too, but that is a global phenomenon, I think.
But it is easy to set up shop as an independant here, and there is probably LESS bureaucracy in this domain in France than elsewhere. But I'm not at all an expert in this area, I'm giving you my impression.
You're going to laugh, but this summer in England, and going through Germany several years ago, I told myself I could never live there because... there is little fruit and few (green) vegetables.
Gotta have my fresh fruit and veggies. I must have rabbit genes, anyway.
Back home, we have at least two kilos of peaches, nectarines, apricots, and a melon downstairs.
And you, Toby, in Germany ??
(Hope I haven't depressed you...)
At least one better thing in England though : luscious berries...

Toby said...

Fruit and veg are not that great here. As for melons I don't crave them, and am sadly allergic to nectarines, peaches, apples, cherries and just about all other fruit you bite through the skin. Oranges, bananas, lemons etc are ok and I eat lots of them (or drink lots).

Freud's ID and the polarization of bad/good and self/other are fascinating areas of study. In the ego we perceive and understand by drawing distinctions, which came out in one of your posts on linguistics. I think this duality is necessary but has 'higher' and 'lower' expressions. I truly believe we are transitioning to a 'higher' level, and to be Jungian for a moment, a more conscious level, and that the transition, inescapably, is very bumpy. The sociopaths who get their fix from power and control won't let go without a bloody fight, but they can't stop change. The new is like roots pushing up through concrete, slow but insistent, and they come from everywhere. They come from the soil that also supports the 'bad' guys, so you can't nuke the soil. So I think Freud position is narrowly correct, but that expanding reciprocity is palpably happening, and will continue to expand until all life is encompassed as part of self in a new way, what I'm increasingly calling (in my head) neoegalitarianism, or neoanarchy.

Debra said...

Very interesting Toby.
I'm really sorry you can't eat peaches, nectarines, etc, though...

getyourselfconnected said...

As a scientist I live by that method. All can be explained via the scientific method. Most argue, but it is what it is.

Toby said...

Hi getyourselfconnected,

I don't agree that everything can be explained by the scientific method. Science poses falsifiable hypotheses which it proves or disproves with experiment-based evidence. Simple things like 'my holiday in Spain this year was great' is unprovable, since it is unrepeatable, even with the same people in the same location at exactly the same time next year. Most of life is unrepeatable as experiments, as, having to be repeatable pretty much to the last detail, experiments necessarily leave out plenty of life as they narrow in on one aspect of it. Once you get out of the laboratory things get very messy indeed. Climate science is a good example of this, as is economics; try as it might to be a science, economics just can't get there. And explaining things in retrospect is like history, also not a science.

And check out Chapter VI of Eisenstein's The Ascent of Humanity for how mathematics itself is unprovable in its inner predictive logical cogency, shown through the work of Gödel, Turing and Chaitin. Really interesting stuff. I think this subsection is the right one...

Debra said...

To me, the basic assumption that what is "science" is what can be repeated in a laboratory setting, for example, is way out in left field.
Some questions about the playing ground above...
Heraclitus said that we never go into the same river twice, or something along those lines, and repetition is extremely... complex phenomenon, if we allow it to be, that is..
The laboratory setting ??
Um... SINCE WHEN AND HOW did THAT become any kind of guarantee for ANYTHING in terms of "controlling" variables ?
Somebody obviously forgot the ENORMOUS IMPRINT that the laboratory setting itself as context imparts to any results that will come out of it...
And proof ? I will get back to that some day.
Proof is always in the eye of the beholder, my friends.
It is always a question of.. FAITH.
Getyourselfconnected, your remarks are, to me, an indication of how far we STILL need to go to get beyond scientism as a religious experience.

Toby said...

"No man can dip his foot is the same river twice. The second time he is not the same man, and it is not the same river."

Something like that I believe. Great wisdom in there...