Note: While I intend this piece to be readable for those who haven’t also read Fear and Trembling, I suspect that this piece will be a lot more valuable to those who are interested in the text itself, which can be found in loads of places on the internet, but also at least here.
A few months ago I was writing up a storm about Heidegger. The ultimate purpose of this storm was because I find him fantastic. But I like Kierkegaard a whole lot more. I’ve recently been re-reading his Fear and Trembling, and the concept in it I find the most interesting and worth discussing is the Teleological Suspension of the Ethical that he describes in the first main section of discussion.
Whew. The phrase itself is somewhat of a mouthful. Therefore, in order to make sense for you readers, I should explain what a Teleological Suspension of the Ethical is. That would make sense before I start telling you why it’s important.
And once you know what it is and why it’s important, then we can maybe start talking about it. Or perhaps I’ll save it for a later post. We’ll have to see!
Love is also important because of reasons that are non-biological. At least so far as we commonly understand biology to be like, squishy organ or neurological reasons involving things we don’t have control over, or impersonal processes like instinct.
There is a dangerous instinct in educated people to reduce love to biological processes. I tended toward that way of thinking in the past. Just because one position on a phenomenon reduces that phenomenon to its simplest and most non-sentimental possible interpretation doesn’t mean that position is true. I guess you could call that ‘Occam’s Rogaine.’
In previous pieces, drawing on the work of John Vervake and Ian McGilchrist, I’ve discussed the importance of reciprocal processing and participatory experience in enabling insight, wisdom, and implicitly, eudaimonic well being. For the most part, those pieces were theory-oriented. Now let’s talk about applying the theory in practice. These practices are not my own invention. Rather, I’ve adapted them from other sources to match my theory a little better.
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 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.
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.