It’s not about renunciation. It’s about giving yourself permission to stop wanting things, allowing yourself not to need.
On New Year’s Day 2010, I decided to write not a resolution, but a manifesto. I wanted to set in motion ways of being that would sustain me for the entire year. Looking back over what has been a phenomenal year for me, it seems to have worked. It has been a year of transformation and success. I will certainly take the trouble to write another for 2011.
I dedicated the past year to honing, investing, and cutting. And what I see now is that it has been a sharpening of the instrument, a subtle but deep change in how I create and how I relate. It’s changed how I make what I make with words and it’s changed what I do with the words that flow through me. It’s changed the nature of how I interact with friends and how I conduct business.
As I begin to compose my thoughts for the coming year, I intend to preserve this year’s momentum, but also infuse it with new energies. I will still not leave behind any of the fundamental inspiration with which I launched 2010. So I repeat it, and thank all of the good fortune and good people in the world that have allowed me to live it. May this and every year treat all of you as well.
Now is the time to hone my compassion, my creativity, and my focus. It is a time to transform gifts that I have into gifts that I give, a time to depose petty urgencies from the throne of true priorities.
I will invest more into the essence of what I have to offer: articulating and sharing insights, seeing and creating ways, connecting, forging paths to peace, saying effects as a making of causes. At core, delivering sentences, with all the nuances and multiple meanings that such a phrase suggests.
And I will cut, piece by piece, the worry, the fear, and the sour harmony that comes from false accommodations. I will leave behind nothing but the bare core of what I believe and value, because with every increment of calendar and clock, there’s less time left.
— January 1, 2010
In the light of Lucy shines a new insight of paleo-hamartiology. We were brought down not by Eve but by crazed and weaponized primates. To adapt from de Voragine, Lucy is said of light, and light is blood in beholding. The nature of slaughter is such, she is vicious in beholding, she spreadeth over all without Iying down, she passeth in going right without crooking by right long line; and it is without dilation of tarrying.
“It is profound. We can now picture Lucy walking around the east African landscape with a stone tool in her hand scavenging and butchering meat,” said colleague Shannon McPheron.
“Ape With a Knife Changes Human History,” Newser, August 12, 2010
Scientists have discovered evidence of the use of stone tools to eat meat 3.4 million years ago – 800,000 years earlier than previously thought. The find means that our first ancestor to use tools was not Homo “the handy man” Hablis but Australopithecus afarensis, the half ape, half human, nicknamed “Lucy” when her skeleton was found in 1976.
“Hail Lucy! – the new Queen of the Stone Age,” The Telegraph, August 11, 2010
This piece touches on addictiveness, speed and acceleration, with even a brief parallel between meth and factory farming / industrial food production. I would have gone much further on the food path, unfolding obesity and addiction, why addiction is a lack of compassion, and why American politics are the politics of an obese nation.
“The world is more addictive than it was 40 years ago. And unless the forms of technological progress that produced these things are subject to different laws than technological progress in general, the world will get more addictive in the next 40 years than it did in the last 40.”
Part of the problem with creativity, and what’s killing creativity, is the flattening of the distinction between creativity and innovation. Earlier this month, Newsweek, a magazine in its financial death throes, made a tiny stir in the business innovation community over “The Creativity Crisis.” Yet, fundamentally, the article itself betrayed an absolute misunderstanding of what it means to create. Creativity is not a “product,” not just the raw material used to stoke a commercialization engine. It’s not a natural resource like coal or fresh water. The typical rhetoric around creativity assumes an output always already reduced to nothing but instrumentality. Destroyed in this flattening is any distinction between the recombination of elements, and incremental improvement, and creativity as the true bringing into being.
Throughout the Newsweek article, it’s creativity as consumption, the “creativity” of buying a cake mix and adding an extra egg. This sense pervades wide swaths of the creativity porn one finds among consultants and bloggers looking to give you “Ten Ways To Be More Creative Now” and the like. All of that babble of people selling ways to be more creative (like being more popular, more attractive, a better housewife, a better employee) just pulls us further away from what it means to make, to make things out of the texture of being, to go into being and bring something back. Perhaps the “crisis” merely comes from the fact that such false creativity is running out of things to cut and paste, with only so many remakes to make, and only so many iterations of derivative to sell.
In short, these so-called creativities are merely creativizations of mediatized components. If only they actually were in “crisis!” The notion behind them takes utterly unthoughtfully at face value what Heidegger calls the “enframing” (Ge-stell) of the technological, reducing all beings to nothing other than their availability and manipulability. Such a view drags creativity into the realm where “everywhere everything is ordered to stand by, to be immediately on hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for future ordering.” And further, again, via Heidegger, “radically endangers the relation to the essence of truth.”
There is, as always, room in the market for innovation; raw materials and prior works all equally veins to tap for economic growth. But to muddy the issue of fading innovation with a sloppy view of creativity—that serves no end at all.
In many cases, the cheaper something is to buy, the higher the cost in human or animal suffering somewhere along the supply chain. Especially so with food and personal care products. As with any debt, you do get what you don’t pay for, but after a while, those debts run up.
I often find myself resisting the void of a concept such as one’s “life,” the normative narrativity of viewing a “life” as sequence of events with story-like structure, and story-like meaning. Generally, I don’t like imposing that artificial logic on whatever it is I am wherever and whenever I happen to be. I prefer to let moments be moments, without the whole associated apparatus.
Galen Strawson’s “Against Narrativity” really helps crystallize this episodic, non-narrative mode, a mode of being-around-the-world without being-about-the-world.
I take it that many people are naturally Diachronic, and that many who are Diachronic are also Narrative in their outlook on life. If one is Episodic, by contrast, one does not figure oneself, considered as a self, as something that was there in the (further) past and will be there in the (further) future.
One has little or no sense that the self that one is was there in the (further) past and will be there in the future, although one is perfectly well aware that one has long-term continuity considered as a whole human being. Episodics are likely to have no particular tendency to see their life in Narrative terms.
I have a past, like any human being, and I know perfectly well that I have a past. I have a respectable amount of factual knowledge about it, and I also remember some of my past experiences ‘from the inside’, as philosophers say. And yet I have absolutely no sense of my life as a narrative with form, or indeed as a narrative without form. Absolutely none. Nor do I have any great or special interest in my past. Nor do I have a great deal of concern for my future.
I’m well aware that my past is mine in so far as I am a human being, and I fully accept that there’s a sense in which it has special relevance to me* now, including special emotional and moral relevance. At the same time I have no sense that I* was there in the past, and think it obvious that I* was not there, as a matter of metaphysical fact. As for my practical concern for my future, which I believe to be within the normal human range (low end), it is biologically – viscerally – grounded and autonomous in such a way that I can experience it as something immediately felt even though I have no significant sense that I* will be there in the future.
People can develop and deepen in valuable ways without any sort of explicit, specifically Narrative reflection, just as musicians can improve by practice sessions without recalling those sessions. The business of living well is, for many, a completely non-Narrative project. Granted that certain sorts of self-understanding are necessary for a good human life, they need involve nothing more than form-finding, which can exist in the absence of Narrativity; and they may be osmotic, systemic, not staged in consciousness.
As for Narrativity, it is in the sphere of ethics more of an affliction or a bad habit than a prerequisite of a good life. It risks a strange commodification of life and time – of soul, understood in a strictly secular sense. It misses the point. ‘We live’, as the great short story writer V. S. Pritchett observes, ‘beyond any tale that we happen to enact.’
Galen Strawson, “Against Narrativity”
Thinking of the mixed blessings of Revolution on Bastille Day. “Let us be ardent and obstinate in our anger against conspiring tyrants, imperturbable in dangers, patient in labors, terrible in striking back, modest and vigilant in successes.”
The day forever fortunate has arrived, which the French people have consecrated to the Supreme Being. Never has the world which He created offered to Him a spectacle so worthy of His notice. He has seen reigning on the earth tyranny, crime, and imposture. He sees at this moment a whole nation, grappling with all the oppressions of the human race, suspend the course of its heroic labors to elevate its thoughts and vows toward the great Being who has given it the mission it has undertaken and the strength to accomplish it.
Is it not He whose immortal hand, engraving on the heart of man the code of justice and equality, has written there the death sentence of tyrants? Is it not He who, from the beginning of time, decreed for all the ages and for all peoples liberty, good faith, and justice?
He did not create kings to devour the human race. He did not create priests to harness us, like vile animals, to the chariots of kings and to give to the world examples of baseness, pride, perfidy, avarice, debauchery, and falsehood. He created the universe to proclaim His power. He created men to help each other, to love each other mutually, and to attain to happiness by the way of virtue.
It is He who implanted in the breast of the triumphant oppressor remorse and terror, and in the heart of the oppressed and innocent calmness and fortitude. It is He who impels the just man to hate the evil one, and the evil man to respect the just one. It is He who adorns with modesty the brow of beauty, to make it yet more beautiful. It is He who makes the mother’s heart beat with tenderness and joy. It is He who bathes with delicious tears the eyes of the son pressed to the bosom of his mother. It is He who silences the most imperious and tender passions before the sublime love of the fatherland. It is He who has covered nature with charms, riches, and majesty. All that is good is His work, or is Himself. Evil belongs to the depraved man who oppresses his fellow man or suffers him to be oppressed.
The Author of Nature has bound all mortals by a boundless chain of love and happiness. Perish the tyrants who have dared to break it!
Republican Frenchmen, it is yours to purify the earth which they have soiled, and to recall to it the justice that they have banished! Liberty and virtue together came from the breast of Divinity. Neither can abide with mankind without the other.
O generous People, would you triumph over all your enemies? Practice justice, and render the Divinity the only worship worthy of Him. O People, let us deliver ourselves today, under His auspices, to the just transports of a pure festivity. Tomorrow we shall return to the combat with vice and tyrants. We shall give to the world the example of republican virtues. And that will be to honor Him still.
The monster which the genius of kings had vomited over France has gone back into nothingness. May all the crimes and all the misfortunes of the world disappear with it! Armed in turn with the daggers of fanaticism and the poisons of atheism, kings have always conspired to assassinate humanity. If they are able no longer to disfigure Divinity by superstition, to associate it with their crimes, they try to banish it from the earth, so that they may reign there alone with crime.
O People, fear no more their sacrilegious plots! They can no more snatch the world from the breast of its Author than remorse from their own hearts. Unfortunate ones, uplift your eyes toward heaven! Heroes of the fatherland, your generous devotion is not a brilliant madness. If the satellites of tyranny can assassinate you, it is not in their power entirely to destroy you. Man, whoever thou mayest be, thou canst still conceive high thoughts for thyself. Thou canst bind thy fleeting life to God, and to immortality. Let nature seize again all her splendor, and wisdom all her empire! The Supreme Being has not been annihilated.
It is wisdom above all that our guilty enemies would drive from the republic. To wisdom alone it is given to strengthen the prosperity of empires. It is for her to guarantee to us the rewards of our courage. Let us associate wisdom, then, with all our enterprises. Let us be grave and discreet in all our deliberations, as men who are providing for the interests of the world. Let us be ardent and obstinate in our anger against conspiring tyrants, imperturbable in dangers, patient in labors, terrible in striking back, modest and vigilant in successes. Let us be generous toward the good, compassionate with the unfortunate, inexorable with the evil, just toward every one. Let us not count on an unmixed prosperity, and on triumphs without attacks, nor on all that depends on fortune or the perversity of others. Sole, but infallible guarantors of our independence, let us crush the impious league of kings by the grandeur of our character, even more than by the strength of our arms.
Frenchmen, you war against kings; you are therefore worthy to honor Divinity. Being of Beings, Author of Nature, the brutalized slave, the vile instrument of despotism, the perfidious and cruel aristocrat, outrages Thee by his very invocation of Thy name. But the defenders of liberty can give themselves up to Thee, and rest with confidence upon Thy paternal bosom. Being of Beings, we need not offer to Thee unjust prayers. Thou knowest Thy creatures, proceeding from Thy hands. Their needs do not escape Thy notice, more than their secret thoughts. Hatred of bad faith and tyranny burns in our hearts, with love of justice and the fatherland. Our blood flows for the cause of humanity. Behold our prayer. Behold our sacrifices. Behold the worship we offer Thee.
Robespierre, “Speech on the Festival of the Supreme Being,” 1794
Shopping for food and keeping a good conscience is hard. To help you out, the team at the WONDER-TONIC Organic Approval Committee have released a downloadable set of 16 stickers to let you label your favorite foods, books, and appliances as organic. Just print them out, stick them on, and start feeling good about yourself!
To trace a culture or its products is, in fact, to refold their unfolding, to trace folds, to smooth back to their blank sheets, and then to re-mark them.
I think one of the fundamental mistakes of the human race has been to say that when you have finished with a thought, it’s gone. But it hasn’t gone — it has “folded back” into the rest of consciousness. You don’t know that it’s there any more, but it is still there; it may unfold again, or unfold in another form. So there’s a constant process of unfolding from the background of consciousness into the foreground, and then back again. There could also be feelings that unfold as thoughts. And then the thoughts go back and give rise to more feelings, and movements of the body, and so on. It’s a constant process. Perhaps we could say that it never “began” and will never end, because it goes back into nature, all the way back, as far as you can go. The human race, and all living species, have “unfolded” from the environment.
David Bohm, “Participatory Thought And The Unlimited,” On Dialogue