Montreal, August 26, 1999
As Einstein said, ... 'in difficulty, lies opportunity', and in the domain of popular language, ... I see plenty opportunity. It associates with the 'evolution' of words, ... where a word is seen holographically, as a mirror of our consciousness. Actually, I kind of like the view that words are like 'suitcases' we fill up with a current selection from our smorgasbord of experience.
"The American Dream" is one of those difficulties which, in my mind begs further investigation. When it was first voiced, I suspect it inspired people around the world, ... and seems to stand lonely and forelorne now, ... like an unmaintained billboard on the western plains whose paint has peeled and whose boards have fallen out, ... leaving only the ghost of the vitality and happiness of those 'Burma-Shave' days.
"The American Dream" does not have to be seen in terms of blow-jobs in the presidential office, ... but we seem to be held captive by the pictures in words, as Wittgenstein says, ... words which keep repeating their pictures to us inexorably.
I have no doubt that issues of 'space-time' creep in here, ... and this is why this 'difficulty' draws me in, begging me to explore it further, ... rather than have me walk away deceived, ... leaving some much-needed music of openness, honesty and love trapped as the ghosts of deparated vitality, in the political overprinting of our times.
What's in a word?, ... as Shakespeare said. How can we believe that words have meaning in their own right? This has always puzzled me. When I worked and travelled out of North Africa, ... into those places which were troubled by colonializing history, past and present, ... I got a different reception depending on whether or not they thought I was American, British or Canadian. It made the difference between gruff and rude treatment and smiling and accommodating hospitality, and of course, the associations changed from place to place. In fact, I came close to having my ongoing explorations terminated in a mob scene in Tripoli, ... spat upon, jostled and pushed to the edge of much, much more, for being suspected of carrying a passport I didn't carry, ... hey, ... doesn't anyone read Shakespeare anymore? Besides, ... it is not possible to trade in one's passport every time an issue of international import is decided contrary to one's own conviction.
Words make us crazy when we start thinking they have meaning in their own right. When did you start defending American policy?, ... is one of those 'when did you stop beating your wife' questions. 'I didn't', ... is a response which cannot quite reach out and touch one's intended meaning, which wants to say that the question is bogus while answering it. In these situations, where the reach of rational response craps out on you, .. one needs to switch to story and metaphor, ... as they say, "A man's reach must exceed his grasp, or what's a meta phor?" The flaw begins with the formulation of the question itself, and its reification and 'judgemental' imbuement. As Wittgenstein said, many things can happen which we can't speak about, .. which we must 'pass over in silence', .. or perhaps throw out a metaphor or two without seeking to rationally explain oneself. Metaphors open the mind up to 'evolutionary networks', ... concepts in space-time where the containing space 'speaks' rather than its 'thing' contents.
So "The American Dream", or any other word-cluster, cannot have meaning in its own right, ... the meaning has to come from our own experiential smorgasbord, ... our own 'story', ... and what we choose to select from it and put into the 'word-suitcases'. If I am an Iraqi, .. I will have a different smorgasbord to select from for the suitcase 'American' than if I am American. And, of course, I am going to have to match what I put in that suitcase with the adjacent suitcase of 'dream', ... so as not to provoke any indigestion. If I am the Iraqi, ... I will perhaps select a bit of Tonya Harding dreaming, ... wherein dream fulfillment comes more quickly and easily by taking a baseball bat to the knees of your opponents.
So, when I bring my baggage along, in the phrase 'Westerners are not rational', ... based on my experiential smorgasbord, ... of studying the nature of thought and language, ... people are sometimes outraged, and suggest that the world would fall apart if we lost our faith in 'rationality'. As a matter of fact, that's exactly what the Pope said in his recent encyclical, the 'summa encyclical of his pontificate', .... appropriately entitled "Fides et Ratio", ... "Faith and Rationality".
I personally wouldn't sweat what would happen if we lost our rationality, ... since its one of those bogus questions, ... it being clear that we never have been rational. We are 'story' people, ... we make it up as we go along, selecting some rational stuff here, and some rational stuff there, ... a selection which suits our purpose and our emotional equilibrium. Emotional equilibrium is something we protect at all costs, as David Bohm ('Thought as a System') and Henri Laborit (The Biological Basis of Social Behaviors) have observed, ... and it is this 'body of the beast', this need for an emotionally equilibrizing 'story', which wags our selection of rational tidbits.
Sure the tidbits we select are 'rational' but the loom with which we weave them into story certainly doesn't attest to the 'rationality' of its own output. Rationality is all about 'what is' and not 'what should be', .. rather than 'rationality' giving us the 'what should be', ... it is the 'weave' of 'story' which must give us that, ... and it is a no more than a wet dream at the end of the rainbow to suppose that we shall ever be able to construct a 'rational loom', ... which is why the describing of our community of man as an 'autistic collective' is not such a bad idea. The leading edge of investment sciences has long since given up on the idea of the community of man as being 'rational' and simply exploits the swirls and coherent flows and trends without ever asking 'should be' questions such as 'why?'. And since investment has no political or religious conscience, ... it has a neutrality in its choice of theory which humans (the kind who bleed) are inevitably lacking.
It seems that in the beginning of the western story, we decided that things had an 'existence' 'in their own right', .... that they had intrinsic meaning beyond what we selected for them and loaded into the word-suitcases. But as Kant pointed out, ... the problem is, that if they do have intrinsic meaning in their own right, we'll never get to it, because its buried under all the stuff we load into the word suitcases. I guess if we emptied our heads totally, if we refrained from filling the suitcases, ... we could come to know what a 'thing' is, ... but then there will be 'no-body home' to find out. Edna St. Vincent Millay put the futility of the 'search for the rational loom' rather nicely, and also bundled in the byproduct 'John Lennon effect' ("Life is something that happens to you while you're busy making other plans"), ... the effect that as you search for the rational loom, you are missing out on your 'story' which is happening to you as you search, ... the trouble is, you never take your eyes off the rational road you're driving down to get a synoptic view of the storyscape in which you are immersed.
'Huntsman, What Quarry?' (excerpt) ... Edna St. Vincent Millay
Upon this age that never speaks its mind,
This furtive age, this age endowed with power
To wake the moon with footsteps, fit an oar
Into the rowlocks of the wind, and find
What swims before his prow, what swirls behind---
Upon this gifted age in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts . . . they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun; but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric; undefiled
Proceeds pure Science, and has her say; but still
Upon this world from the collective womb
Is spewed all day the red triumphant child.
. . .
When Man is gone and only gods remain
To stride the world, their mighty bodies hung
With golden shields, and golden curls outflung
Above their childish foreheads; when the plain
Round skull of Man is lifted and again
Abandoned by the ebbing wave, among
The sand and pebbles of the beach, ---what tongue
Will tell the marvel of the human brain?
Heavy with music once this windy shell,
Heavy with knowledge of the clustered stars;
The one-time tenant of this draughty hall
Himself, in learned pamphlet, did foretell,
After some aeons of study jarred by wars,
This toothy gourd, this head emptied of all.
* * *
It's hard to get around it, ... 'story rules', ... and rationality is just a neatsy and subsidiary piece of the story, which we too often tend to think is the whole story. But evolution, our containing mother and undertaker, is far from 'rational', and she will outlive us and her story will not be denied. Perhaps we should be listening to her more and chasing our rational constructs less?
Yes, ... where were we, ... "The American Dream", ... what is it? There's that 'rationality' thing again, ... the old 'what is' question which implies that things have meaning in their own right, beyond what we put in the suitcases. Oh, ... but you say that the collective meaning we come to associate with such notions induces certain common behaviors in people, and you say that this implies that the sense we make of things goes beyond the personal sense we make of it. But of course, ... that's my whole point, ... on that balmy and memorable night in Tripoli, when I found myself immersed in a sea of trouble on Sciara Istiklal, it was their common 'story' which 'ruled', ... the common story which gave meaning to this unlabelled 'thing' they were looking at. They saw stars and stripes in the weave of my clothing and the accompanying music of political rhetoric, .. they saw it tatooed on my forehead and on my ass. Now I could have pulled down my jeans and showed them my union jack undershorts, or I could have pulled a Canadian passport out of my vest pocket, ... and they would naturally have immediately become quiet;, ... shook my hand, given me a hug, and taken me out to dinner, ... right? ... WRONG! Story is flexible and creative, ... it starts from the preserving of an emotional equilibrium (equilibriums are found in tornados too), and everything else is made to fit. What's down the scale of revullsion and repulsiveness from being the 'enemy'? ... being a spy or pawn of the enemy, naturally.
You say that indicates a deficit of rationality, otherwise known as 'ignorance'? Bob Dylan didn't see it that way when he wrote about people looking for 'commies' in their glove compartment. Little families of commies nesting in hidden places and being responsible for everything which was going wrong in our lives.
I'll stick with the 'too much rationality' view, .. the view of madness emanating from the belief that rationality is bigger than 'story', ... the belief that we are progressively moving towards the intrinsic meaning of things, .. the ultimate knowing of the 'what is', ... rather than just unpacking our own suitcases.
Hey, I'm not knocking rationality, ... I'm just trying to put it in its place, as a lesser thing than story, and trying to expose the madness which comes from a belief in innate meaning in things. Story is what allows us to resolve the inclusionary character of our reality, wherein conflicting absolutist states such as 'truth' and 'falsehood', 'good' and 'evil' cohabitate 'things', ... 'cohabitate' not in absolutist terms but in evolutionary terms, ... where the incomplete sense of the short term view is subsumed by a deeper sense over the longer term. The sense that 'things' mean something in themselves, implies that they mean something out of the context of evolutionary 'becoming', ... out of the context of inner purpose which can only be grasped in an evolutionary, story, context.
'All killers of innocent people are evil' sounds like it might be meaningful in its own right, ... something that many people might agree with, ... but if we took a list of such people and dropped their names through the selective filters embodied in different 'observers', ... names like saddam hussein, harry truman, winston churchill, adolph hitler, menachem begin, yasser arafat, slobo milosevic, ... they might not all fall into the same 'binning'.
Space and time? .... or 'space-time', ... that is the question. The 'what is' of being ... or the 'what should be' of becoming?, ... to 'be' or 'to become', ... that is the question. The euclidian 'thing-and-void' view of 'being' will give you one answer, ... an answer with a hard metallic twang, ... and the curved-space-time view of 'becoming' will give you another answer, ... a softer and more ambiguous answer, ... not really an answer even, ... just a 'sense' of natural order and proportion which you can act upon, .... a fibonacci-feeling invoked by bringing a multitude of stories or experiences into connection in your mind.
The curved-space-time story is what mother nature uses, ... the mother nature which spawned homo sapiens and which will doubtless re-embrace them in her story potion as she mixes up a new batch of 'things'. to flesh out her continuing 'story'. Edna St. Vincent Millay, speaking on behalf of 'the mother' got that right,
" ... ... let's give these homo sapien creatures 'rationality' and see what they do with it. ... What's that? ... they might get locked in, in a 'runaway feedback' loop and start building a new world out of rationality which they think will be big enough to 'contain' the story world?, .... no, such an inversion would constitute perversion and wouldn't be rational. Oh, I forgot, 'rationality' only handles questions of 'what is' and cannot deal with 'what should be'. If they miss that point, ... they might think that the rational is also giving them the 'should be', and forget that they are quietly loading the 'should be' into the words they are using, in the process of sharing the 'what is' with one another. If this happens, their lesser story-thoughts might start getting infused in the their informational transfers. Damn, ... I have put the input too close to the exhaust once again, and the unsoiled integrity of information-sharing is absolutely essential to a self-sustaining ecology. ... What the hell, ... let's go for it anyway and see how it plays out."
hmmmm. .... how do I pick up on and carry that baton, ... let's see. ...
.... "Things in their own right" is a Euclidian production, ... produced and directed by, and for, rational homo sapiens. It is the gripping story of truth versus falsehood, of the battle of good versus evil, ... of the innate meaning of the material 'what is' and the innate meaninglessness of the reciprocal void, ... of inert and empty space.
"Hey, wait a minute. This is not going to fly,.... 'things' against 'void', matter against mind. The battle's over before you even start, if you describe the reciprocal of 'things', .... the domain of 'mind' as being 'empty' and 'void'."
"No, no. You haven't heard the whole story. We're going to give the material 'things' the ability to 'think', to realize that they 'exist', .... to leverage some space-time 'story' into pure timeless 'being' such as 'cogito ergo sum', ... and therefore to spawn some 'should be' opinion, ... some arguments and fighting, seduction and love, out of static 'being', ... to give birth to new things and, ... and, ... so on. Space doesn't come into it."
"But how can you not give a role to the 'container' of things', the space which looks down and in upon pure being, which must give story voice to the words 'cogito ergo sum', ... the theatre within which this story is being played out? Didn't these 'things' emerge from their containing space and won't they go back into it? Isn't the containing environment continually interacting with its contents, ... just as the audience interacts with the play?"
"I hear ya, man, ... but last year's production of "The Connectedness of Becoming", by Curved Space Productions, ...an emergent offering by and of the Relational Representatives of the Whole acting guild, didn't score at the box office."
"Well, the producers decided that to be true to curved space, which is relativistic and self-referential they had put the audience in immersed mode, and this got very tricky"
"What's immersed mode?"
"Normally, people stay in voyeur mode when they go to a play. This means that while they exploit what they see, ... by associating with the hero or lover or whatever and vicariously or parasitically getting off on the 'good bits', ... their participation does not change the play. This is consistent with the Euclidian assumption where the container or 'space' which they imagine themselves to be in, is inert, so that they can be who they want to be, without effecting the space that they are in, ... the things which are around them. But as you know, .. curved space is self-referential, like the game of pool. In pool, each ball is associated with reciprocal order, ... or reciprocal disposition, as Einstein put it. Simultaneous with the movement of a ball, the reciprocal disposition changes, and the patterns of reciprocal disposition constitute future opportunity for each and every ball. Thus, each move of the ball towards its own purpose impacts the future opportunity for itself and everyone else."
"That's easy to discern from real life, ... the complexity folks describe one such opportunity shaping effect as 'lock-in'. If I get my VHS tapes established in the infrastructure first, ... then the Beta people will have a tough time dislodging me."
"Yes, well, this effect sets up some options, ... you can either pursue your 'dream' out of the context of reciprocal disposition, as the 'rational' or 'euclidian' model encourages one to do, where there are only 'things' and 'void' and so you build up supportive alliances and 'co-operate to compete' against others, or, ... you can do as the curved space model suggests, taking into account reciprocal disposition and the 'co-opportunity' effects which emanate from it."
"That sounds like the "Native American" dream where they see themselves as being all part of a unity, ... of the common container in which they are immersed, and must therefore follow this ethic of 'sharing' in the sense of cultivating 'co-opportunity', rather than 'co-operating to compete'."
"Precisely, .. you can see how the notion of being immersed in curved self-referential space makes the cultivation of co-opportunity the reasonable thing to do. The effects of self-referentiality continue to evolve over time, as in the pool game, ... so the situation cannot be defined solely by 'what is' or 'rationality', ... as it will instead be determined by the purpose of the players and their interactions with themselves, their own containing space which lends 'order' and 'reciprocal disposition' to them. We could say that in curved space-time, 'things' cannot be defined in their own right because every 'thing' is associated with a 'reciprocal disposition' or 'ordering' which characterizes its relationship with its curved, self-referential containing space, ... just as in the case of the billiard ball and its containing configuration."
"It would seem that there is no way to 'judge' what to do from a static distribution, then, and that one must continue to monitor how the 'story' plays out so as to comprehend how the story will further unfold, ... one's own actions, of course, feeding into the development of the story. I can see how this notion of 'co-opportunity' becomes very important. I think its the same as what I've been calling 'legacy-leaving', ... whereas the strategy of 'co-operating to compete' seems at first glance to suggest the cultivation of 'co-opportunity' but it soon becomes clear that it's just a shift from a 'real' to a virtual 'thing' which is operating, still based on the euclidian assumption and the ignoring of 'reciprocal disposition' effects."
"Well, you might imagine what happened when we went on the road with this curved space production in which the audience were to consider themselves as immersed participants and interpreters in the play. The stage area of the theatre had two floors on it, and the audience was in a gallery over top of the stage so that they could walk about and express their opinions to the actors. The actors were wired for sound in a way which captured only the actors voices, and the camera views, which were displayed on large screen monitors on both floors, showed only the actors in their sets. In the premiere, the first and last performance, ... everything started off ok, and the gallery audience started to get the feel of how the self-referential cycling of their interpretations and advice to the actors could influence things, and it was truly stimulating. Then one of the male actors, whose seamy portrayals had suggested some opportunity to a guy in the gallery, 'groped' a very attractive performer on this basis of this 'inductive' pull from the audience. The groped actress had heard the guy who had egged the actor on, and she yelled up, ... 'get that fucking asshole out of here!', .. and a stagehand that she had been going out with, went over and got into a scuffle with the guy whereupon they both fell out of the gallery onto the stage. Well, the actors were trying to work it into the story, but someone called the police, and when the police came in, angry voices from those in the gallery who were really getting into this started shouting 'pigs!, ... get the hell out of here!'. The yelling was loud enough that it got picked up on the sound system and so it was coming out in on the screen monitor presentation. Since the acting troupe was prepared for anything, the actors currently on the stage thought it was part of the evolving storyline and, in trying to work it into the story, determined to drive the police off. The natural 'resistance leader' amongst the actors on the stage, confronted the first police officer who reached the stage and feigned a punch to the nose, ... but the police office was so discombobulated by the whole scene, ... seeing the whole crowd as insane and out to get him, ... that he pulled his gun and shot the actor. Well the actors were professionals and they seen good work and their stuntmen were unbelievably convincing, ... but this would've been about a thousand times better than the best performance their fellow actor had ever given as he fell to the floor writhing and moaning with very convincing red fluid spilling out of his chest, ... and they just stopped and stood there stunned, kind of catatonic-like as the police flooded onto the stage, beating them across the head with their batons."
"Phew, ... where was John Lennon? ... talk about 'life is something that happens to you as you're busy making other plans' ... ok, I get the message, one needs to make a 'safe' and respectful container if one shifts into this curved-space self-referential mode, where 'spitting on the container amounts to spitting on yourself'. When you come to think of it, the 'voyeur' view of reality, in which one sees oneself as 'detached' from the world one is looking out on, ... is no more than a euclidian illusion. Every move we make changes the 'order' in the container, just as every move of the billiard ball changes the order of the containing whole in which each ball is a constituent, .. a participating and interpreting constituent whose actions inseparably and simultaneously characterize the containing environment. We 'are' our environment, as the water molecule is to turbulent river flow, ... we are a simultaneous unity and plurality as Heraclitus said."
"That's was also the 'take' of the Curved Space Productions staff. They realized that the 'voyeur' approximation depended on an instantaneous interpretation, 'things' and 'space' selectively taken out and fully detached from the context of time and evolution, ... it was like being 'parasites of the visible' and in so doing, forgetting about one's own story, ... the story of 'life' that we are immersed in and cannot detach from. They reckoned that our efforts to interpret life in the voyeur terms of what's 'out there', ... out of the context of our own ever-evolving and metamorphosing containing story, was driving us all to madness, ... a common and therefore non-statistically diagnosable madness, ...... and instead of seeing the dysfunction induced by this madness in terms of our disregarding of our self-referential connectedness to our container, ... we were seeing it instead in terms of a euclidian 'things in their own right' interpretation, ... as a growing 'defectiveness' of the contents, .. the people who were immersed constituent-participants of the evolving container. In other words the dysfunction was viewed as emanating from 'things in their own right', ... rather than from self-referential feedback from our own story-telling, ... our own emotionally-loaded suitcase packing."
"I can see the problem. If we don't accept curved space self-referentiality, ... our simultaneous impact on the 'order' in our container due to reciprocal disposition, we are headed for Edna St. Vincent Millay's scenario. Will the last euclidian-rational homosapien nutcase, the last believer of things-in-their-own-right, please turn out the lights, ... ... But you know, ... isn't this what the 'Native American Dream' is all about, ... a kind of Camelotian dream of 'by serving others we liberate ourselves?'
"Perhaps this was also the original sense in "The American Dream", ... the idea that you could become who you were meant to become when you were immersed within a community of like-minded others who wanted to help you achieve that even as they strived to achieve it for themselves. An environment wherein the achieving of your dream was inexorably tied up in the containing community achieving their dreams. Come to think of it, ... how can you imagine yourself as achieving your dream without at the same time thinking about the environment you will be immersed in? Your feelings and emotions are not 'things in themselves' but are the co-evolutionary offspring of your containing environment. If your dream sees you as being a 'feeling' person, then you will be 'co-determined' by your containing environment. The 'life' or 'containing environment' you are reaching out to embrace is the you who are reaching out to embrace it."
"That certainly rings bells with me, ... the founding fathers of the United States had slaves just like the native americans had slaves, ... they knew that many things had not yet 'come right', ... but they dreamed of an environment of becoming which could satisfy the aspirations of all individuals who were participating constituents of such a containing community, .... individuals whose own sense and context drew from the 'container' of community. The one thing that gnaws at me, though is this native american notion of 'Who Shall Speak for Wolf'. In shifting our thoughts into curved-space self-referential mode, ... we must not limit the notion to homosapiens, ... since it applies to all of space-time, ... to all constituents of the cosmos. We are talking here about the 'simultaneous unity and plurality of Heraclitus and of quantum physics and relativity. .... the curved-space eco-centric view which gives a higher-dimensional view of co-operation, sharing and opportunity.
"Right on, ... a dream of 'sharing' which seeks to cultivate co-opportunity on all fractal levels."
" .... yes a kind of self-referential sharing or 'goodsharing', by investing in 'eco-opportunity' "
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