Friday, June 24, 2022

First Confession

The thing is, we all do philosophy. We all decide what's real, and what's important: and we act accordingly -- or, when what we've decided doesn't actually make sense, we rebel against it in mute rage, and act otherwise. But whether we're carrying out our project or sabotaging it -- we have a project. This is how one should live.

I can't get away from it by refusing to do more philosophy. That doesn't leave me philosophy-less: it just leaves me stuck with the philosophy I happen to have now. A tattered collection of inherited prejudices and a few things I struggled to think out in my teens or early twenties, when things were so obviously Not Working that I couldn't ignore it.

And  time passes. And every day new exigencies press in on me, and the box I live in gets smaller. And in due time -- if not sooner -- my health will collapse, and I'll realize that I have no resources to live differently, even if I understood how. At that point, I'll be just a steel ball in the pinball machine, batted from bank to bank. The lights will flash, and the counters will whir, but the numbers won't be tracking anything.


"... the true process of philosophy," wrote Iain McGilchrist, "is to cure the ills entailed on us by philosophizing." 

I think this is right: but it might seem to suggest that the solution is to leave off philosophizing, which I think is wrong. There's no way to back out. Having come this far, I can only go on.


Ugh. I hate the liftoff of this post: that ugly "we," that my friend Jarrett so rightly identifies as "the white male we."  A warning flag for me now, that says: probably drifting into posture and pose, and away from real engagement. So back up a little bit.

The most challenging thing to me about watching John Vervaeke's lectures and dialogues is his insistence on public thought. Extended consciousness. What we computer science types call distributed processing. People are wiser when they are problem-solving collectively. This runs smack into all my prejudices and sense of self. I have always, like a good little American, prided myself on going my own way and doing it all myself. And I recognize this now as stupidity (not to mention a trait that makes me a docile, easily manipulatable political subject): but God it's a hard habit to break. I even imagine having a real conversation in real time and I blanch. That's reinforced by my difficulty hearing, sure: but it predates it. 

My plan has always been to work out my salvation (or enlightenment, or spiritual growth, or even just ameliorated suffering) on my own. That's good insofar as I take responsibility for it: I don't expect anyone else to walk my path for me. Nobody's going to save me. I do it myself or I don't do it at all. So that's good. But then I've never really been tempted to just submit to priestcraft: I'm a stubborn son of a bitch. The real problem with working out my own salvation -- being "spiritual, not religious" -- is that it simply imports and replicates the disasters of Puritanism. One of the main things I need to get free of is the notion that I'm an isolated individual consciousness locked inside my skull, peering out of the grimy windows of my eyes at an alien world. That's not what I am. I'm an intensely social mammal, a product of my world and my time, and to do much thinking -- and in particular to do much transformative thinking -- I need to get the hell out of my head. Transformation doesn't happen in there. The conditions are too controlled: the habits are too strong. I need, if not a church, then some close analogue.


Heh. That wasn't even what I was setting out to "confess," but it seems to have surfaced first. 


am said...

Confession. Philosophy and religion have always left me baffled and feeling alone. A close analogue for me has been finding a sense of community with those who are not allied with philosophy or religion but are not at war with them either and have a sense of both levity and gravity.

Pascale Parinda said...

Maybe not a church, but a community. A chosen community, but sufficiently diverse to stretch one's norms.

Dale said...

am: Oh me too, for sure. What I have only realized recently -- reading people like Iain McGilchrist and watching people like John Vervaeke -- is that there's a perfectly good reason for that: the philosophers I was reading feigned a disembodied, disinterested, unlocatable consciousness, floating alone in the void; and the religious people I read believed in science that was a thousand years out of date. The problem wasn't me, or philosophy, or religion. The problem was the that the philosophy and religion available to me did more to cut me off from reality than to connect me with it.

Pascale: yes, I need to keep thinking and not forclose on any options! Whatever it eventually looks like, it probably won't look much like I'm imagining right now :-)

Anonymous said...

A combination of exploration, challenge, support for change, and accountability sounds like group therapy.