Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Shadows of Totalization, Part VI

She walks in beauty,like the Night

-John Heartfield,"Forced to Deliver Human Material"


"SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress
Or softly lightens o'er her face,
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek and o'er that brow
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,—
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent."--Lord Byron

49 Comments:

Blogger James River Martin said...

To make everything conscious--to allow nothing to lurk within the shadows of the unknown-- to catalogue everything within comprehensive databases, summonable as needed for conscious purposes--a totality of consciousness--(where there was id, now there will be ego)--to banish the shadows--to drain the swamps--seems both a noble and straightforward aim. I can't find "conscious" "reasons" to not give it my full support.

The mandala is wild. The mandala is tame. The mandala is cooked. The mandala
is raw. All of the Ten Thousand Things are joined in the silence of the Tao. There is a snake in the garden, all right. We're skating on thin ice. Poetry lurks, a hairy little man swept under our bed with the dust bunnies. Angels are there, too.

'twould be madness to sweep the rug and then the floor into the fireplace. "My hut has burned down but now I can see the moon."

Control. We're Control Headquarters. We're here to police the poems. Damn he who would bypass the Executive Editorial
Board! Running naked through the streets screeching! Kissy contamainations! Skin, bones, flesh! Rotating wild Earthlings! >spitting<.

They are sitting quietly and not saying anything for a long time. Silence signaled distress in his childhood home.
He's being consumed by the bear he dreamed of at his East door. Terror! Lightning! Thunder ... real life!

11:26 AM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

Root Cellar
by Theodore Roethke

Nothing would sleep in that/
cellar, dank as a ditch,/
Bulbs broke out of boxes hunting/ for chinks in the dark,/
Shoots dangled and drooped,/
Lolling obscenely from mildewed crates,/
Hung down long yellow evil necks, like tropical snakes./
And what a congress of stinks!— /
Roots ripe as old bait,/
Pulpy stems, rank, silo-rich,/
Leaf-mold, manure, lime, piled against slippery planks./
Nothing would give up life:/
Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.

12:25 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

Taos (ways) are many but The Tao (the way) is one, which remains silent, which has nothing to say--and says it anyway. (Because it has teeth, a tongue, a mouth, and a lot of energy.)

"You start a conversation you cant even finish it. Youre talkin a lot, but youre not sayin anything.
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed. Say something once, why say it again?" [David Byrne of Talking Heads]

When the Talking Heads remind us of the importance of stopping the making of sense, do they remind us that we, too, are talking heads? (With teeth...?) Do we leap into an underwear bun dance out on the porch and dream of a*bun*dance for everyone?

Would David Byrne have us repudiate meaning, or does he merely, coyote like, repudidate The Tao which may be spoken of? When did he ever say that any action isn't also a poem or a dance?

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Old young George finds beauty lurking in the shadows--beauty is like the night. Not like the light, the enlightening light.

"Thus mellow'd to that tender light Which Heaven to gaudy day denies."

Yep, there is something wonderful, sublimely so, in the shadows. The light of "gaudy" day does indeed disquise and obscure some of what is most wonderful.

And yet...

...This adds up to something just as out of touch--and therefore unerotic-- as what it reacted to. It's a further loss of reality.(Why does it have to be such an inspiring loss of reality?)

And the loss of contact can't be remedied by adding a jigger of enlightenment back into the mix.

What happens when the "out of touch" itself begins to be celebrated as the erotic? Clearly, that's an affirmation of sorts. Does the affirmation of "out of touch" give us back our touch? I could imagine it as at least of putting us in touch with our lack of touch--however, decades of experience with this species of affirmation leads me to suspect of even this much.

--Yusef

1:40 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

A letter to a philosophical friend:

[I believe this riffs on the flow of this conversation.]


If a tao is a way and The Tao is The Way, it isn't hard to see why "the Tao which can be told isn't the eternal Tao" -- or the exclusive one, for that matter.

American Pragamatism as American Taoism.

The whole notion of The Tao, for us, becomes a notion of centers, cores, depths, essences.... Mainly, centers. There is the whole periphery which is life and our stories, myths, maps, legends.... And something in us isn't happy to "dance round in a ring and suppose" while "the secret sits in the middle and knows" [Robert Frost). Something in us wants The Tao to proclaim itself in our human language, as your four spiders longed to do while discussing their spider God.

Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac show's mice and hawks thinking about The Tao of snow and of each other. What are mice for, and snow? The mice knows that snow is there to tunnel under as not to be spotted by hawk. (or something like that.)

Who was it that said that we get into all kinds of trouble because we tend to think of langauge as representational while it isn't and can't be, because no-thing can be re-presented?

Centers (which may be taos or Taos, but The Tao must be silent) provide general principles, we think, for constructing universal problem-solving devices. As such, my little mandala machine is self-deconstructing. It is a river to be crossed and the raft is to be left on the far bank, not carried about on the other side. My ladder dissappears upon having climbed onto the Road To Nowhere (Talking Heads).

Is it even possible with a light to ethics and aesthetics to avoid and evade the whole dream of a Center (The Tao) which connect and make sense of all of the parts of our lives and world--The Tao, ...

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,



Silence.


But it is a silence without opposites, a silence as song, as word, as thought, as life. And without it there can be neither.

1:55 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

Yusef,

It seems to me that the totalization you're criticizing is the totalization which arises as a pretense to having named and grasped The Center which (ostensibly) prevents "mere anarchy" from breaking out.

But there is a positive and a negative anarchism of the individual soul and the soul of the world and these relations. There is, I should say, a good and a bad anarchy. And I think your project is to separate the wheat from the chaff so you can helpfully talk about which is which. Is that right?

2:03 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

I meant also to say there...

"What happens when the "out of touch" itself begins to be celebrated as the erotic?"

For there to be whole touch, real movement, vital experience... presence..., there must be real contact: contact with the real. The real cannnot stand under a sign, exclusively, but must be brushed by "silence" and thus enobled with the potential of actual reverence. What is wrong with us under the sign of Totality is that it is an enclosure which is a pretense to the real which allows no authentic reverence, and thus no real, vital, presence or life. You can't even get a breath in it!

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Something in us wants The Tao to proclaim itself in our human language, as your four spiders longed to do while discussing their spider God."

Exactly. That's why the woman in the Heartfield photograph is so beautiful while simultaneously masking such a perfect inner happiness. She knows the Tao and is wise enough to not want it to proclaim itself in our human language.

She's got the best of both worlds,(or, as you might put it in one of your brilliant formulations--she has the world and doesn't have the world;she has the void and doesn't have the void,) and she knows it.

By being a baby machine, she's embraced Kant's dictum of shucking off her self-incurred tutelage and become productive--she's rational in that she obeys society where her function within society demands it, while yet remaining under obligation to speak out when her reason demands it. She's also regaled by the Byronic romantic lyricism of the beauty, mystery and perfection of womanhood.

Under these circumstances, we are not compelled to speak of the erotic--it just bubbles out of our hearts in its own self-celebration. No problem, no complaints. The ruthless acceptance of everything existing.

--Yusef

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And I think your project is to separate the wheat from the chaff so you can helpfully talk about which is which. Is that right?"

No, that's completely wrong.

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The mandala is wild. The mandala is tame. The mandala is cooked. The mandala is raw. All of the Ten Thousand Things are joined in the silence of the Tao."

I've had an opportunity of 24 hours or so to reflect upon why I am so antagonized by this.

The mandala reference--okay, it is true I have never heard you speak of the mandala before, and in that sense, it is something new. However, the mandala is a symbol from eastern mysticism, and what's even more significant, it is one of the symbols from eastern mysticism appropriated by the counter culture (and 60's drug culture.)Your use of the parts of eastern mystical symbolism appropriated by the counter culture is the oldest and most tediously repetitious tricks you play.

You take these symbols from eastern mysticism and then you "find" things in them which I am very certain you have placed there yourself, for your own "finding" pleasure. The things you place in these different symbols are always the very same things, over and over and over. It is a repetitious, dead, reenactment of NON-DISCOVERY. It is some sort of ritual of projection, solipsism.

Here I am confronted with it again--the same old thing--the same pattern--and I wonder why. Are you conscious of the repetitiveness, the sameness? What do you want from this stuff? What do you want to do with it? How would you expect me to react--why would I respond any differently to this than to anything like this you've hit me with in the past? Wouldn't you be aware of how unlikely it is I would appreciate these thoughts of yours(given a history of seven years of rejecting them)?

The same things, over and over and over--a bland, empty repetition--can this be anything but the sign of deep repression? Anything but a repetition compulsion?

That the expressions of repression --that what's being repeated are celebrations of wild, free nature and eros--does that change, alter, or alleviate in any way the terrible repressed nature of it all? Isn't more like the mordant which sets the dye? The accompanying use of "eros" makes it more counter-intuitive that there is repression here. Relying only on "intuition" of a certain sort, the "eros"-celebration makes the repression that much more strongly repressed--even more unavailable to thinking.

Which worries and concerns me--but why would it make me angry?

We have developed a relationship based on antagonism. We are both using that antagonism. We are both using that antagonism to ward off our own change, growth, "becomings", and-- eros. In antagonism we both remain the same. We both go nowhere. That's what we both want, apparently. No matter how much we might protest this as untrue. You give me the opportunity to be antagonistic--I take it. Through this, I can continue and prolong my repression--you can continue yours.

You have got to break out of this iron maiden of "eros, becoming,and change" you've locked yourself into. On my end, I am not going to react to you at all if the main thing I feel is antagonized by what you are saying.

--Yusef

12:10 PM  
Blogger Carl Sachs said...

I share your feelings about James' use of "Eastern" "symbolism" here.

But my attitude here is to take what I can use in what James gives me, and ignore the rest. Whatever I can't use -- that is, whatever I can't move with -- I put to one side.

And I assume -- that is, I hope -- that he takes the same attitude towards the endless parade of names and texts that I send in his direction.

Non opposita, sed diversa!

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you Yusef and Carl,

Talking about Totalization (!) I cringe at "Tao", "Mandala", "The Center" etc, just as we should be wary at "The Enlightenment" as we have been (or try to be).

But it is hard. Maybe we NEED totalizations (also in the sheer naming and totalizations of philosophers like Nietzsche, Foucault, Deleuze etc) why is this so?

Orla

7:26 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

I am not happy to receive all of this projection.

I am happy to receive all of this projection.

Get real! I mean, you gotta be kidding! Do you really believe the mandala is strictly a thing of "eastern mysticism"?! Sure, the name of the thing is of Indian origin, but that's as far as that goes. As I mentioned previously, mandalas are essentially universal: archtypal, as Carl Jung would put it -- but one has to be carefull in using Jung references that a reader may interpret me as one who has swallowed the whole Jungian coolaide. People will often do that: project onto you and call it a conversation, call it thinking, name it antagonism, and dance with that....

As I said, the native american medicine wheel is a mandala. Did I mean to say that the precolumbian native american called them "mandalas"? For christ's sake, our English language has borrowed thousands of words from French, German, various Indian languages...! Be careful, Yusef, that you call all of those fries "freedom fries" or I will accuse you of stalking frogs and snails in your backyard only to steam them for dinner. Gross!

Now... who wants encounter? Who will think with me rather than against me?

1:01 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

My appropriation of mandalas as a motif in these conversations was meant to be of service in thinking about language and the world. I never said, "Hey, man, here's a joint and some LSD, baby! Smoke up, and stick it to the man."

>sigh<

1:04 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

Orla said:

"Talking about Totalization (!) I cringe at "Tao", "Mandala", ... "

Orla, too, appears only to be interested in prepackaged "philosophical" thought which has already been approved by the American Philosophical Association or some sort of international equivalent.

Why? Because Orla, as with Yusef, totally misses the point of my use of references to Taoism, mandalas, etc. My point is not to impose a symbolism or a cultural bias or any such thing. Rather, my point has clearly been that "a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon." That is, the objects our language points at have an existence independent of our language, and yet our language will necessarily color our encounter with those objects.

My "move" in using a guiding motif, the mandala, was to proffer a plausible, valid, and probably very true theory of language: that "silence" is crucial to it and that if we are to avoid totalizations of all kinds we will require an approach to things and the world which exposes things and the world to the solvent forces of "silence", which break down precisely those fixations and fixities which crystalize into... you guessed it: totalizations.

1:12 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

... why all of this antagonism, at root, I've been wondering?

Probably I am being so completely misunderstood that what I say appears to some as complete nonsense. But sense is a large part of what I'm getting at! Our encounter with the world is largely sensual, and that sensual encounter ought obviously to involve a quality we might call "silence", by which I mean to shorthand: non-mapped, non-languaged. But not quite that, since we're dealing with a Venn diagram, some overlapping of "silence" and the world of langauge and maps.

To speak is to take up mapping (or "tracing"). What on the Goddesses green earth should prevent me from offering up a classical mandala as a map for discussing the enfoldments and circulations of raw experience and our mapping-naming-conceptualizing logos-mind? Nothing at all. Nothing. But if my style isn't approved by "official" philosophy and philosophers and if what I suggest seems "nonsense" because it has too much sense in it, well wouldn't it be handy to project a monster onto James' mandala, maybe have it reek a little of marajuana and masturbation fantasies? Yeah, that'll work. Flush an original thought in a new package before it rips a little crack in everything!

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The mandala is wild. The mandala is tame. The mandala is cooked. The mandala is raw. All of the Ten Thousand Things are joined in the silence of the Tao."

The only way I can react to statements such as the above is with my own projections. That was precisely my point.

I can only react to them by putting things into them, and the only things I can find in them are things I've put in them, and so forth and so on.

They tell me very,very little about Rivertree I didn't already know--or perhaps they tell me nothing at all about Rivertree or anything else. I'm not sure. They are like ink blot tests. They invite me to read into them, but that's about all.

I can offer to describe my personal associations to "mandala",(What Jung said about mandalas did at once come to mind,so?) "silence", "tao," "raw and cooked",etc.--the emotions I feel when I reflect on these associations, what I think you MAY mean when you say such things as the above, etc. I never really ever am sure just what you DO mean by them, if anything.

When you attempt to elucidate, it is often by giving me more of the exact same thing. Mandalas provide a way to a true theory of language? Mandalas shows that silence is crucial to language and is a solvent force which breaks down fixations? Mandalas show that a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon? If I found it a hard swallow in the first place, what's being offered in the repetition which makes it any easier now?

That your fixations all revolve around your anti-fixationisms of various sorts...It's disturbing.

--Yusef

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But if you were being consistently misunderstood, and if your real intent was to BE UNDERSTOOD, why would you keep expressing yourself in the same way?

Why keep trying the same thing which isn't working? Isn't that stupid,(or mad?)

"What on the Goddesses green earth should prevent me from offering up a classical mandala as a map for discussing the enfoldments and circulations of raw experience and our mapping-naming-conceptualizing logos-mind?"

Probably nothing is going to prevent you, no matter what. But if what you want to do is reach someone else,someone who doesn't necessarily think exactly the way you do, someone who doesn't "grok" you, you might want to try to explore what goes wrong for example when you use/mention "mandala" and think you've communicated all this other stuff thereby.

How is a mandala a map? How does it facilitate discussion? Of maps, of minds? How does a mandala relate to enfoldments? How is a map an enfoldment? What's the relationship of maps,enfoldments, and circulations? How does a mandala show circulations? What's unique about the mandala as a map of circulations(because certainly I can imagine a map of circulations, eg a map of ocean currents.) How come "mandala as map" as a concept isn't offensive to you, given your general disdain of "maps"?

"Flush an original thought in a new package before it rips a little crack in everything!"

But you see, James, it is not clear to me there is an original thought being offered.

But you see, James, it is not clear to me there is any "little crack" being offered. It's just more of the same old, same old.

In pointing this out, I am TRYING to get away from antagonism, not prolong it.

--Yusef

2:10 PM  
Blogger Carl Sachs said...

River wrote:

"my point has clearly been that "a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon." That is, the objects our language points at have an existence independent of our language, and yet our language will necessarily color our encounter with those objects.

My "move" in using a guiding motif, the mandala, was to proffer a plausible, valid, and probably very true theory of language: that "silence" is crucial to it and that if we are to avoid totalizations of all kinds we will require an approach to things and the world which exposes things and the world to the solvent forces of "silence", which break down precisely those fixations and fixities which crystalize into... you guessed it: totalizations."

I find it hard to fully convey how I want to think and feel in relation to this.

My initial reaction here is to say something like, "Ok . . . so what next?" I mean, the point being made by River here is not something that I would dispute.

But therein lies my difficulty -- because the point being raised here, insofar as I understand it all, strikes me as simply obvious, as no more than a necessary point of departure for any kind of thinking or writing that deserves to be taken seriously.

Of course there are lots of people for whom these points are not obvious, but the dialogue as its taking place here is not one with them.

Another difficulty I find here is that while River makes some important observations about the importance of silence to speech, the impossibility of totalizations, and so on, it's not so clear to me how much of what he's doing creates something new.

Creation is difficult and requires discipline, attention, love, and collaboration. That's why I'm interested in taking up what I can use from River -- what there is in his tool-kit that I can use in my tool-kit.

Here's what I've been able to do with River's rivers of words --

Clearly there's something right about the mutual reinforcement between the seductions of totalization built into our assumptions about conceptuality, on the one hand, and the socio-historical achievements of late capitalism, on the other. (Adorno is one of the very few philosophers who gets this right. Foucault might get this right, too.)

And in both cases, River has emphasized, the "link" seems to be something like pathological narcissism -- a refusal or failure or inability to acknowledge, to respond to, to fully see, what is other, or outside, of the frameworks in which identity is libidinally invested, whether this other is understood as another person, another cognitive framework, another culture, an animal, the environment, indigenous peoples, etc.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:03 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

That was excellent, Carl. And that's all I wanted, a moment in a conversation. I wasn't writing an essay!

[more later]

12:03 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

Carl said:

And in both cases, River has emphasized, the "link" seems to be something like pathological narcissism -- a refusal or failure or inability to acknowledge, to respond to, to fully see, what is other, or outside, of the frameworks in which identity is libidinally invested, whether this other is understood as another person, another cognitive framework, another culture, an animal, the environment, indigenous peoples, etc.

Yes, something like "pathological narcissism," as defined by Carl here, is
being addressed in my posts here.

In this respect all of us here are faced
with a similar challenge. Each of us has differing associations with different particular words, images, symbols, concepts and so forth. And each of us has different attitudes toward differing
styles of communication. Our "libidinal investments" differ. Some of us are at least a little inspired by what we see as the bright and good parts of the "counterculture" movements of the 60s. Others are repulsed and turned off by the same. Some of us have almost a knee jerk reaction to references which are reminiscent or resonant with mysticism, Western or Eastern, and associate mysticism with mystification and anti-philosophy.

Long ago I began to see language as some sort of field phenomenon, in which the relations of the parts (individual words, sentences, paragraphs, concepts...) form a dynamic whole which has no single, right, correct center. A center would tame language, but language
must also be wild. Wildness is necessary to langauge in a fundamental structural way. Langauge is wild and tame, centered and decentered, openning and closing, as
sound is comprised of waves, as molecules are made up of atoms. It's just how it is. Perhaps it is this way because language mediates communication about things in the world which both are and are not mind/s? Think of the classic
philosophical "problem" concerning the quesiton: How do minds relate to the world? Part of the answer must be that mind is comprised of world-elements and,
but differingly, world-elements are comprised of mind.

Because mind and language are openning and closing, "silent" and "speaking/writing" (mapping?), it only makes sense that there would be differing minds, whole differing maps of self and world -- whether as cultures, subcultures, persons, or some other.

I believe that totalization is indeed a huge problem. Likewise, I believe our attitude to what I'm calling "silence" has much to do with this problem. Totalization simply DOES constellate around the motif of a center which connects parts of a whole.: A person, a culture, a world.... Totalization is, in large part, a crystalization of a fluid,
a tendency to close the dynamism and wildness of language: to tame it, often in a universalizing way, and usually around what ultimately may be understood as a metaphor or a myth.

As an armchair psychologist, I suspect very strongly that all of this has very much to do with "libidinal" (affective, emotive) attachment to image/s. And so it is exactly right to evoke the image of Narcissus, here.

A question which intregues me very much is, How then should we relate to these images, myths, metaphors and the dance of language which makes cultures and institutions and gives structure to persons, etc.? And my answer is the same as always: We should bathe them in "silence" whenever they begin to harden into crystalizations with centers which behave as narcissistic totalizations: frozen life, dead poetry. If our poetry is to come alive we crucially need to find another somatic pattern, process or flow in which we do not feel terror and horror at the deep realization that our world has no single organizing principle which we ought to trust and obey and invest all of our "libidinal" energies into.

What this doesn't mean is that we should, therefore, invest all of our "libidinal energies" on some supposed "opposite" of the frozenness of crystalized social or personal narcissism! Fixation on flux, "Dionysis", "becoming," "openness"... etc. (the polar IMAGE) is also fixation and fixity and a surrugate for thinking and living, both. It is this latter which Yusef repeatedly accuses me of. Perhaps he is right. But in my better moments I realize that the cosmos really
is largely a language-phenomena, so far as I may begin to open to it as the zoon logon that I am. The world is silence and speech, word and emptiness, both. But in my better moments I neither rest nor attach, grasp
nor refuse grasping. For the world isn't
language at all, but silence. And it is speech/language.

What were to happen were philosphers to generally agree that language isn't actually representational? How would that change our attitude toward our philosophizing? Wouldn't this open another dialogue, altogether?

1:12 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

"Wildness is necessary to langauge in a fundamental structural way. Langauge is wild and tame, centered and decentered, openning and closing"


I would not normally associate wildness with a structural aspect.

A structure is tame, because it is ordered.

9:02 AM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

That is a good point, Christopher. However, I believe there are many examples
of structures, including artificial structures (cognitive, institutional, physical), which depend upon wildness in order to exist as structures. For example, all of modern capitalist industrial civilization! Another example would be a hiking trail through the wilderness.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

I think what you are talking about is the good old relation between structure (system) and event (genesis, becoming). In language, as
langue and parole (Saussure).

9:56 AM  
Blogger Carl Sachs said...

I wonder if language, as River means it here, has peculiarities and problems that are not found in other forms of animal communication . . . would we say that honeybee dances are both "wild" and "tame"?

"Perhaps it is this way because language mediates communication about things in the world which both are and are not mind/s? Think of the classic
philosophical "problem" concerning the question: How do minds relate to the world? Part of the answer must be that mind is comprised of world-elements and,
but differingly, world-elements are comprised of mind."

In these matters I find it helpful to keep in mind a quip by the analytic pragmatist Robert Brandom. As he puts it, "the problem" of the "relation" between "language" and "the world" is like "the problem" of the "relation" between me and China -- that is, there are many relations between me and China, and which one we're interested in depends on what sort of question we're asking.

2:52 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

" ... depends on what sort of question we're asking." (Carl)

Good point. I wonder..., would it be unhelpful to attempt to craft--or use--a general theory of "the relation of mind and world" for general application, then? Could we even ask more specific and finer grained questions about particular instances of mind:world relation without some sort of general theory? I don't know, I'm just asking.

I'm very much interested, now, in keeping what we might call "real world" problems, practical problems, very close at hand while contemplating philosophical conundrums of a more "abtract" sort. The "abstract" questions are interesting and worthy of attention, but I have often found that we who have caught the philosophy bug can neglect the practical application dimension of problem construction.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[I wonder if language, as River means it here, has peculiarities and problems that are not found in other forms of animal communication . . . would we say that honeybee dances are both "wild" and "tame"?]

You are correct to term it animal communication, and you would have been incorrect if you had termed it "animal language." A honeybee does not possess language. A honeybee can communicate the location of a flowerbed to other honeybees;however, these other honeybees cannot then communicate the location to yet other honeybees.

I don't really understand what type of question or problem is being posed here, though. There might be some sense in which everything could be called wild and tame, and some other in which nothing could be. So?

I can call a chicken wild if I want, or a grizzly bear tame. So? I've seen roosters with wild,crazy fearful looks in their eyes pecking away at hens and anything else that comes along;I've seen grizzly bears appear to patiently examine a situation to see what's going on and how to react. So?

--Yusef

7:52 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

At bottom, Yusef, what I'm concerned with is our attitude toward "silence," "openness," "indeterminateness," "un-mappedness," etc. I am choosing terms,
which I put in quotes which are intended to have a lot of Venn diagram overlap, to be similar.

When I say "our attitude" I am not emphasizing any individuals here, though I
do think my concern concerns individuals. But, mainly, I'm concerned with culture. I'm concerned about our culture's attitude toward these which the quoted terms refer. Let's just call it "silence". Or, if you prefer, offer up another name.

What is this silence? Classical Taoism is an important touchstone, for me, when
discussing "silence". In classical Taoism (Chuang Tsu, Lao Tsu - mainly) there are taos (ways) and there is The Tao (The Way) and ways certainly relate importantly to language and the practices and perceptions (etc) which take some clues and cues, directional flows, or what have you, from language.

Classical Taoist texts insist that "the tao which can be told is not the eternal (ultimate, heavenly) Tao. What this means is that ways (taos) of which we speak may be in accord with The Tao, but
are non-identical with The Tao. There is
a Venn overlap, but some part of The Tao must remain silent. And in that silence even our Venn maps are known to be slippery and imperfect, as if exposed to a solvent which dissolves maps, which wants to expose everything to its raw and wild intensity.

Poetry, perhaps? But it would be poetry which at time looks like experimental theatre, in which some of the actors are in the audience; they leap up at some point and shoot an actor on stage. But that was only the beginning of Neo-Taoist Poetic Terrorism. That was its early history. It has evolved. Some poets don't write, nor perform as an actor. They may, instead, engage in guerrilla gardening - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guerrilla_gardening -, cafe meme hexing, shamanic barefoot slowwalking, or the sourcery of bright eyed enthusiastic presence. They will know that more important than the written poem is the lived poem, and they will cultivate a magical space around that real and living dream-field. That field will not be "irrational" it will be trans- or hyper-rational: awakenning. (Poetic terrorists refuse the metaphysics of awakeness for the raw invitation of awakenning.)

But I have digressed. I was saying that I was concerned with our attitude toward silence. I think we all fear silence to some extent, and that this is a terrible
trick -- black magic -- we perform on ourselves, which hexes us with bad dreams and bad poetry. Our lives become flooded with cheap styrofoam and instant
coffee substitues. Cell phone towers become actual trees. Wooden veneers are more real on television than in fleshy presence.... Without "silence" there is no novelty, no discovery, except in the particulars and details. Lives never turn inside out. Nothing much ever happens without "silence" which enables de-hexing novelty to penetrate our thick heads and skins. Our problem, when we are silence-phobic, when we always seek to enclose silence at a safe distance from what we take to be ourselves, is that we keep repeating ourselves. We keep repeating ourselves. We keep repeating ourselves, like a stuck record, a narcissistic self-image. In these repetitions things are included and excluded. What is excluded?

A whole class of novelty and discovery is impossible in our Narcissus bubbles, and these are the constituant particles of such like as (importantly, especially) reverence. But not just any kind of reverence, not reverence toward particulars. If anything valuable is destroyed by
our insistence upon repeting ourselves repeating ourselves repeating ourselves
as if in a bubble of repetitions it is reverence toward being, toward life, toward thisness, suchness: being, presence. Why? A repetition is a non-presence!

"Silence" opens us to presence, is what I'm trying to say. But the silence I speak of is not to be taken literally, for the best written poem, the best lived poems, the best music, is saturated in silence. Ultimately, all of this simply *is* silence, The Tao of which we cannot speak (in a definitive, conclusive, direct sort of way).

Reverently,

James

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you explain the irony of speaking this much about silence? Is your ministry to make silence speak?

--Yusef

11:22 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

I have noticed, that some of the music I enjoy the most, is full of "holes" between the notes.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Carl Sachs said...

I've come to think that River is on the right track in paying attention to the aversion to silence, to listening -- which is also an aversion to thinking! -- in an age of constant communication.

What I'm not sure about is what philosophy, whether "Western" or "Eastern," can do about it. Philosophy is a style of speaking, or of writing.

It's not clear to me that speaking about silence is an effective technique for disclosing silence. But maybe, if disclosure is fundamentally linguistic, then silence cannot be disclosed without speaking about it -- in which case it would seem that silence cannot be disclosed at all. The condition of possible experience cannot itself be experienced.

OK, now that I've re-invented Derrida's wheels . . .

1:40 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

I do not see any problem in regard to speaking about silence. We are always 'delivered into the hands' of language. Unless of course we remain silent, which will take us no where. Which I assume is not where we want to be. It would also seem obvious that silence or "holes" or "space" is already present in language, so it seems that silence is not a dichotomy to speaking. If we stop treating it as an opposition to language, we might be more able to say something about what it is.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see this as a specimen of Enlightenment reaction similar to the one which urges us to keep about us a sense of mystery, of wonder. And I see some kind of analogue between this and some very positive policies for which I am grateful, eg the national park system, where, in our advanced industrial society we leave open places for "the wild." However, I am ultimately cynical about the ultimate prospects of these policies. At the present time we hear renewed cries for drilling ANWR, for offshore oil development, etc. In the case of ANWR, we've heard these several times before, and they've been resisted. Keep in mind,though,the charter of ANWR was for its preservation in perpetuity. One wonders, how well in perpetuity is going to hold up when each ten years or so a call comes up for ANWR's development.

My idea is that the efficacy of these thoughts relies on convincing people to strike a certain attitude, to keep up, through a mental resolve, a will to a certain kind of behavior. As long as people are able to keep up this mental resolve, things will indeed be fine. However, this reminds me too much of the philosophy of "New Year's Resolutions," and we all know how well those work.

I don't believe the mechanism behind what's happening to us is peoples' unwillingness to behave in a certain way. People are forced by something else to behave the way they do, to go along with what they don't necessarily desire. Consciousness is determined, not determining.

--Yusef

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[I have noticed, that some of the music I enjoy the most, is full of "holes" between the notes.]

I think this is a valuable observation, and I appreciate it. However, I wonder what kind of modification of the concept of silence, thus far unvoiced in the conversation, this observation withholds. There is, it seems to me, some major difference between the holes between notes silence and what we would ordinarily call silence.

I think that upon further examination we might find music with holes between the notes which you didn't like at all; or, music with no holes between the notes(and of course, there is no such thing as such music,)which you liked more than you liked some holey music.

I also think there are silences which are utterly execrable. One such silence was Heideggers during WWII during the Holocaust, and ever afterwards--he never spoke on it. There must be some accounting of these execrable silences...And if these come, I don't think we'll be able to continue talking about silence as it has been talked about here.

--Yusef

3:01 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

Yusef, I am concerned about the quick identification and fixation of silence as the opposite of speaking.

I sense a tension and a resolution to this tension, in Carls quick attempt at dismissing silence as something we cannot speak of.

Silence may be the opposite of sound/noise, but it certainly is not the opposite of speaking.

What Heidegger chose to speak or not speak of is irrelevant to this discussion.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess that my concern here can be stated as simply as this: I don't think silence is the outside or other of thought or of language. I think the consequences of treating it that way are ultimately authoritarian in nature.

--Yusef

3:40 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

I think you agree with Heidegger.

1:13 AM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

Dear Friends,

I beg you to remember and to be mindful that the "silence" I spoke of was placed in quotes most of the time. This was to call attention to the fact that while there may be literal content, carefully construed, to my intentions in using this word, I am primarily using "silence" as a metaphor for something which isn't exactly
"silence" in the literal sense and common usage.

Carl Sachs was right, though, to indicate that this "silence" I speak of creates "space" for better listening and also thinking. I'm in agreement with this!

Christopher is right to emphasize that this "silence" I speak of is not in opposition to its various so-called opposites, such as speaking, mapping, writing, thinking, and so forth. Also, Christopher's mention of music is very apt, since it is very possible to hear "silence", both literal (in this case) and anologic/metaphoric as the backdrop and container for music.

When I approach my use of "silence" in this metaphorical sense, wanting to more fully explain my intention in sculpting this metaphor and its anological associations, one crucial metaphor/analogue comes repeatedly to mind, and that is the analogy or metaphor of "solvent". A solvent is that which dissolves stuff, breaks it down. I think too often we don't allow for breakdowns which are opportunities for breakthroughs, creativity, novelty.... Sure, sure, our world is pumping out all sorts of novelties, but how novel is most of it really?

"Silence" is a solvent in relation to the "molecular bonds" of conceptuality in language. So to speak. I think concepts are very useful and good, but that it is often necessary and useful to
allow them to dissolve in "silence" so we may form new molecular structures--and to experience these!

I'd also like to remind participants and readers that I believe there is an important connection between our culture's "silence"-phobia and our individual and cultural narcissisms. Remember, Narcissus is trapped, caught, unable to break free of an image. Images, here, related very much to these
conceptual molecular structures I speak of, which Carl rightly points out have "libidinal energy" (affect, feeling, desire, attachment) as the energetic "glue" in these molecular bonds. It is our narcissistic attachment to our "molecular structures" (images) which prevents us from being and becoming in the world in a more whole and dynamic, ultimately happy, way. Our self-images and our world-images are complex molecular structures bonded to one another in DNA fashion, a long strand.

Happily, the exposure of these images/complex molecules to the solvent of "silence" does not destroy them. They
can be immidiately re-bonded, if that's what we want. But "silence" does reveal, as Carl thought maybe it would. It reveals our freedom. Including our freedom to form novel "molecules".

But even more importantly, I think, "silence" reveals the mystery of 'presence' which Morris Berman calls "paradox" in his great book, Wandering God: A Study in Nomadic Spirituality [A book which Carld and I heartily recommend]. That is, with some attention on "silence" in the midst of all of its analogic/metaphoric "opposites", we are available for the fullness of lived life. Otherwise, we are not. And in this sense, we are neither real nor present without it. How satisfied, then, are we?

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess my question is: who here is this addressed to? (I don't believe we have a "readership.") How specific is it to the matters at hand, under discussion? (I can't accept that it could be adressed generically to the matter of "totalization." This is because a generic "totalization" isn't under discussion. If you were to say you were speaking generically it would be an admission you weren't speaking to us.)If you aren't talking to us, why? Give reasons why we not be allowed to expect mutuality from you--why we should be expected to listen to what would strike some of us as a sermon.

--Yusef

2:51 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

Such hostility.

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My own sense of a growing but unstoppable thunderstorm is now so great I can't even accuse anyone else of quietism. But why, in the midst of this, I have to listen to someone speak over my head about silence is beyond me.

It's like being huddled in a bunker with someone else in there who keeps yelling at me to make the bombs stop--make them go away. But how? By being more sincerely and authentically anti-bomb (except,no--one mustn't be anti-bomb because that's too literal)?

For some reason, the thing most decried about the bombs is they are noisy. If the bombs were silent, wouldn't this be even more horrific? Think about it.

As a matter of fact, I myself never liked the bombs. I never liked the bunkers, and I sure as shit never liked being hunkered down in one. But whatever misery I was feeling about the bombs and bunkers was never enough, I guess. Somehow, it was uncaring misery.

--Yusef

9:49 AM  
Blogger Carl Sachs said...

If the best we can do is hunker down in the bunker, then (a) we'd better hope "they" don't have any bunker-busting bombs; (b) it seems that it's too late for us to anything else besides hunker down next to each other, and at any rate, too late to stop the making and dropping of bombs.

I don't know where we are, or what we're doing, but I don't think that being in a bunker conveys it. I think it's more like we're in a train heading off a cliff, and it's an open question whether the train is going to suddenly become an airplane at the last possible second, at least for a few of the passengers, or if we're all going to hurdle to our death on the cliffs below.

Golly geez, but I'm a cheerful mood today. Must be the lack of sleep and crappy airport food.

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel lonely and somehow unable to reach anyone else...I think Rivertree's contribution to me is to remind me it is IMPOSSIBLE to be anything but lonely and unable to reach anyone else...In other words, to teach me over and over and over of the futility of even trying...Thanks so much.

--Y

12:36 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

I think it is now appropiate to call in Orla, to cheer up the mood with some happy and go-lucky becoming philosophy!

12:50 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

Carl, if all the passengers are in the same train, just how do you imagine that it could turn into an airplane, for just *some* of them?!

That would indicate that the change that took place, did so inside the head of a few of them. That would not exactly help them, taking into account their situation (plunging of a cliff).

In other words, it is a poor metaphor. Or maybe it is the poor fellows that are screwed.

1:00 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

Yusef,

I had trouble posting on this Blogger thingy over on Carl's blog, and am unsure that I will have any more success over here, so I'll be brief and yet hope to help from my side to build a bridge to real communication between us.

It matters not to me that we haven't a "readership", here. And it ought to be clear by the sheer number of my words that I do hope to communicate with the folks who ARE present, here. That my style, approach, etc., differ from others here is no reason for you to abandon all hope of meeting and sharing with others, as you seem to fear it does. This I don't understand. I don't understand the extreme reaction to me, nor the obvious pain I somehow engender merely by opening my mouth and sharing some of my thoughts.

As for The End Of The World As We Know It..., I've spent a lot of my life trying to understand how to turn a train-going-over-a-cliff into a burst of
shimmering cliff swallows in flight. I lived, ate, sleeped and dreamed that problem for half of my life--more. And now I'm finally off the hook. I'll carry my weight but not one ounce more. And now I am VERY happy, to "letting the days go by" as the Talking Heads instruct. One beautiful astonishing possible moment after another, the whole catastrophe, the vivid astonishing sublime ordinary is so delicious that it
can neither crush my hope nor thrust me into an impossible future.

12:36 PM  
Blogger Philosopher of the Future said...

es la cosa mas bella que ya he leido...

http://philosopherofthefuture.blogspot.com

1:06 AM  

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