It’s really easy to get down about the state of collective discourse on the internet. It’s easy to think that the only consequence of our increased inter-connection is an increased capacity to be ass-holes to each other.
That’s true. I’m pretty sure the internet has a polarizing effect on people, because it’s easy to be a shit-head to someone behind a screen. It’s easier to demonize someone you don’t have to meet after you dox them and ruin their lives.
At the same time, I’m not convinced that wasn’t always the state of human collective consciousness. That didn’t stop us from doing some other really beautiful things, like all of the art in history, for example.
As promised, I’m about to give an account of social dancing as instantiating my requirements for a peak spiritual practice. In my case, the social dance is Argentine Tango, though I’m certain this applies to other dances such as Salsa or Blues. With that in mind, I’m going to focus specifically on how I see the spiritual aspects of social dance manifest in Tango.
In my last piece, A Statement of Purpose for The Modern Spiritual Seeker, I explored some neuropsychological concepts alongside some practical routes to experience of the religious; or at least some authentic experiences of the self. I promised a piece on ‘authentic writing’ and that is still definitely forthcoming.
In the meantime, I’ve been getting deeper into my study of what could be called a ‘wisdom tradition’, which also meets the practicality criterion and at least apparently meets the authenticity criterion for a good wisdom tradition. This is occultism/magick.
The problem is that it also seems to completely lack something that we really can’t do without, which is a criticality component, or I guess, a dialectical component. It doesn’t make much sense to have only a producer, but no constrainer. Without that, you don’t get growth.
In his book The Master and his Emissary, Iain McGilchrist argues that Western society has been oscillating between periods where cognitive-behavioural tendencies associated with the activation of the intuitive-melancholic right hemisphere of the brain, and periods where society was ruled by the approach and methodology associated with the optimistic-rationalistic left hemisphere.
For McGilchrist, the paradigmatic periods of Western thought which illustrate the function and approach of the right hemisphere are those of the Medieval Period and the Romantic Period. On the other hand, he presents the Enlightenment and subsequent Modern and Post-Modern periods as writ-large instantiations of left-hemisphere modes of being and thinking.
In case you doubt that post-modernism is rationalistic and optimistic, McGilchrist has an explanation: post-modernism for him is a consequence of a radical decoupling of left-hemisphere modes of being from right-hemisphere modes, and a subsequent domination of the right by the left. He argues that the left brain– thinking in terms of parts and unable to appreciate somatic or holistic gestalts– is running amok, fragmenting and alienating us from the bare facts of being.
I’ve never rough slept, though I’ve had plenty of friends who were rough sleeping at one point or another. For the most part, they were the types you would least expect to need to. Two of them were one time students at Cambridge. Sometimes I laugh a little bit internally whenever I hear anyone describe Oxbridge students as ‘poshos.’ They are ultimately people, just like any other person. I’ve never gone to an Ivy League school, but I think that’s probably a generalizable sentiment.
In my past professional life, I’ve worked at a charity for what we term ‘the homeless.’ Even now, my day to day experience mostly amounts to holding people’s hands while they’re burning in hell. Let me assure you, this is an experience that makes you ask questions.
Let’s talk for a little bit about academia. Specifically, let’s talk about the academic apparatus surrounding Philosophy, and let’s talk about why it seems to have made the pursuit of Philosophy in an academic context into a complete waste of time at best, and at worst, a fantastic way to abuse yourself until you’re unable to pursue philosophy at all.
Today, what I want to talk about is how to balance knowing that something is the case and knowing how it is to be something, in important practical ways. I also want to talk about the danger of not minding your knowing how it is. That way lives evil and madness, I suspect.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with the idea that experts in a certain skill are some of the least likely people to be able to explain how to do it well. I’m sure you’ve seen a friend do something amazing, and then when you ask her how, she’s unable to tell you. This means that it’s possible to be able to do something without being able to describe what you did to get the result.
When I opened the text editor to start this piece I was 100% certain that this piece would not be about death. I guess that’s just not my karma, guys.
More thoughts on cancer: if things don’t die, then nothing works. That sounds horrifically vague. I guess what I mean is that nothing in life can be completely free. Limitation seems like it might be a necessary condition for existence.
Two characters, Fear and Laziness, sit on the beach after dusk. They pass a two litre bottle of beer in green glass, one to the other.
Fear: You know the worst thing of all?
Laziness: What? What’s the worst thing of all?
Fear: It’s my absolute certainty that I’m going to die alone. I don’t know why I have it. All indications are actually to the contrary. I’m most likely to die surrounded by nursing staff, in a chaotic hospital ward for those on the near edge of being.