Man’s Absurdity Derives From ‘Culture’
In the sixties, Anthropologist Jules Henry hit the nail on the head in ‘Culture Against Man’ (1963), saying that culture makes us live absurd lives.
Culture has us running around like electrons in a magnetic field. ‘Tensions’ that we can feel, shape our individual and collective behaviour. Racial tensions between ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ (whether they began from intellectual notions of inherent white racial supremacy or whatever) induced blacks to use separate eating places, toilets, seating at the back of the bus and it induced outrage in whites if blacks did not show deference to their (self-declared) ‘superiors’, those of the white race.
‘Tensions’ within a culture shape more individual and collective behaviours than ‘race relations’. They can also trigger actions in the explosive manner that tensions in the earth trigger earthquakes. Powerful ‘tensions’ that we associate with symbolic meaning (the quasi-religious meaning of white and black skin, of a national flag, of a cow in India, or a pig in Israel etc.) suggest that homo sapiens should have been called ‘homo symbolicus’. But since our response to symbolic meaning keeps us living absurd lives, it has also been suggested that homo sapiens should have been called ‘homo absurdus’.
Whatever we call ourselves, the sixties opened up a short window where we explored what it would be like to stop being the pawns of the ‘tensions’ inherent in ‘culture’ that move us around as if we are electrons trapped in a magnetic field flux. In this brief opening, we were not ‘frightened’ by statements of ‘the obvious’, that our acculturated lives (not to be confused with ‘natural lives’ as in a family of wolves/wolf-pack and its place in the ecological scheme of things) are ‘absurd lives’, as in the following statement by Jules Henry;
“Culture is an obsession that flies in the face of contradiction: to engulf the mind so that it will see the world only as a culture decrees it shall be seen; to compel a person to become absurd. … In order not to fail, most people are willing to believe anything and to care not whether what they are told is true or false. Only by remaining absurd can one feel free from fear of failure. Hence the immovableness of the absurd.” — Jules Henry,
How many youths have started off in accord with Henry only to discover how big the price to pay is, to resist becoming absurd?
For those who are intuitively of the same mind as Henry, they eventually find themselves amongst a small minority, when the majority ‘capitulates’ at age 25 and become ‘co-opted’ ‘by the system’ and go on to become pillars of the persistence of ‘the system’.
In our western culture dominated global dynamic, we don’t have a quality ‘culture’. We have a crappy culture. It is crappy like Bill Gates’ ‘PC-DOS’ was a crappy operating system but after a huge public investment in infrastructure that depends upon it, the ‘switching costs’ became formidable.
Economists call this ‘lock in’.
We have locked ourselves into a system of culture that is based on obsession, with symbols. We have become ‘homo symbolicus’ and ‘homo absurdus’ at the same time. We believe in the ‘independent existence’ of ‘local imaginary-line bounded organisations’ called ‘sovereign states’ (not ‘we’ the Amerindian-aboriginals of Turtle Island, but ‘we’ the sons and daughters of white-supremacist imperialist-colonizers who are so fond of symbolism that we say that if we plant a flag and declare ownership of imaginary-lie-bounded tracts of land, then it henceforth ‘belongs to us’ absolutely and forevermore.
Those who participate in this absurd game, which has now risen to a goodly portion of the world’s population (i.e. ‘most of us’) now have forced upon ourselves the job of administering relations amongst a diverse collective of 195 imaginary-line-bounded, self-declared-as-‘independent’ ‘sovereign states’ (whether we like it or not). That is, there has been a huge investment in infrastructure here with all the manufacturing of flags, the writing and learning of national anthems, many with supremacist phrases in them like ‘mein vaterland ueber alles’ (Germany), or ‘bother us and our gutters will flow with your blood’ (France). Since, as legal historians note, white supremacist colonialism gave birth to sovereigntism, sovereigntism serves as a new kind of meta-culture that operates ‘on a higher level’ than culture, as it must, since ‘in the colonies’, multiple cultures live under a common land-seizure defense umbrella (occupation forces-based regime).
‘Becoming absurd’ in this fashion, brings with it a material stake for us in the notional ‘property ownership’ that associates with ‘sovereignty’. ‘All we have to do’ to secure a stakeholder interest is to commit to bearing arms and giving our lives, if necessary, to support continuing belief in the imaginary-line-bounded ‘independent local existence’ of ‘our sovereign state’.
While the world has been inherently ‘multi-cultural’, the placement of multiple cultures under local, centralized systems of organisation, has invited the development of new ‘symbols’ that serve to unify the sovereigntist meta-culture, such as sports (baseball, hockey) wherein supremacy does not have to be race-based, and in terms of the land occupied by the multiple cultures, the ‘national flower’ and the ‘bald eagle’ etc. that symbolizes the beauty and the strength of the nation.
The tensions that accompany cultural and meta-cultural symbology become so much a part of our lives, however absurd the patterns of living may be, that after the passage of several generations and getting more comfortable with ‘being absurd’, it is difficult to contemplate our local world as operating in any other way. It was so in the southern United States with respect to black and white races, and it is so in general. The tensions become separated from the original ‘flawed thinking’ that originally gave rise to them and become simply ‘this is the way that we do things around here’.[[This behaviour is like the story of the psychological experiment where Chimpanzees were sprayed with ice-water every time they touched a distinctive red ladder placed in their cage. The chimps quickly learned to police one another so that there would be no climbing by anyone on that ladder. There was soon no longer any need to spray the ice-water since their mutual policing was so effective. When newcomers joined the group, they were quickly trained not to touch the red ladder, and when the entire group was replaced with new residents who had never experienced the spraying of ice-water in association with touching the red ladder, the new group continued to police themselves so that they did not climb on it. The symbol-keyed tensions had become part of ‘the way we do things around here’.]]
When the Americas were colonized, the aboriginals objected to absurdities of the colonizing culture, such as having to stop and ask permission to ‘enter’ and ‘leave’ imaginary line-bounded ‘states’ which all of nature, apart from the colonizers, could see was unbounded. But the aboriginals have about given up on their protests and demonstrations to the effect that ‘how can the absurd white man buy and sell the sky, …the sacred medium of nature that parented us all and whose spirit inhabits us all?’ They did not to take on the new absurdities of the colonizing culture but the price to pay for resisting was incarceration or death.
While some aboriginals have ‘held out’, each new generation of aboriginals, now influenced by the media (television, radio, music, entertainment), language and educational system of the colonizer, develop the desire to live ‘successful lives’ according to the definitions of the ruling meta-culture, and develop a fear of being marginalized by life on the reserves where the colonizers ways can only be partially resisted yet where they lack the scope to revert to their traditional life styles. Co-option is the result, where ‘success’ within the new culture becomes a driving purpose, and this demands a ‘betrayal of the aboriginal self’ where the core belief that “man belongs to the earth, the earth does not belong to man” must be ‘checked at the point of entry’ into the colonizer’s meta-culture, and the commitment to the new form of absurdity made; i.e.
“In order not to fail, most people are willing to believe anything and to care not whether what they are told is true or false. Only by remaining absurd can one feel free from fear of failure.”
In asking how such an absurdity-permeated meta-cultural system as the ‘Western culture’ could rise to dominance and get ‘locked in place’, one might compare this to the question as to how such a crappy computer operating system like PC-DOS have risen to dominance. This happens by way of ‘lock-in’, where so many people have so much invested dependently ‘on top of it’ that the switching costs become impossibly large.
The absurdity of our culture associates with its belief in symbols, ‘homo-symbolicus’ is at the core of ‘homo absurdus’. His confusing of symbolic idealisation for ‘reality’ is what makes him absurd; e.g. ‘the successful man’, the man who is recognized, respected, deemed a pillar of the community, in an absurd culture, lives an absurd life. If he is not outraged by blacks using toilets reserved for whites, he will not be successful in a culture that demands it. If he does not rise to his feet, salute the flag and sing the anthem of the group within which he wants to build his ‘success’, he will not achieve success.
Those who ‘resist’; i.e. the man who rejects the ‘absurd culture’ he finds himself included in, who contemplates and shares his views about a better, ‘less absurd’ way of being in the world, like the man who refuses to use Microsoft products, must pay the price of ‘being marginalized’ by not ‘going with the absurd flow’. Living on ‘the reserve’ with other ‘réfusées’ is not the same as being in the ‘mainstream’. It is only a ‘free country’ opening to all the possibilities of its powerful mainstream living, for those who commit to living an absurd life on its particular-to-the-culture terms of absurdity.
The busy buzzing of the different cultural and meta-cultural (sovereigntist) social systems, presents a picture that recalls electrons flowing in a magnetic field. ‘What people do’ is the lesser half of it. Prior to the sixties, we could describe blacks according to the simple scientific model wherein we impute them to be ‘local, independently-existing organism equipped with their own locally-originating (internal process-powered and internal knowledge and purpose-directed) behaviours. After the sixties, we can describe blacks in exactly the same way even though their patterns of individual and collective behaviour are now very different.
How discriminated minorities behave in a highly racist society where the opening of spatial possibility is very unaccommodating is very different from how the same people behave in a less racist society where the opening of spatial possibility is far more accommodating. To conceive of the behaviour of individual as if it is fully determined by a local, independently-existing organism with its own locally originating (internal-process-driven and internal knowledge and purpose-directed) behaviour, is a model that implicitly frames the individual in a notional absolute, homogeneous, non-participating space. But in the real world, space is a non-homogeneous resonant energy-charged medium that participates in all dynamics.
Evidently, there is more to the dynamics of people than can be explained in terms of ‘what they do’. ‘Racial tensions’ are just one example of many tensions (‘fields’) within a culture that orchestrate individual and collective behaviour. Waving a US flag in Damascus or wearing a stars-and-stripes bikini on the streets of Riyadh will not bring the same response as in Santa Monica. There are actions and there are fields of receptivity that range from highly accommodating to highly unaccommodating. There are many ‘tensions’ within a culture and ‘tensions’ are ‘invisible’ and ‘non-material’ but they orchestrate individual and collective behaviours in the same sort of way as the celestial dynamics, through the ocean tides, orchestrate the behaviour of clam-diggers. Sure, we can make models wherein dynamic behaviour seems to start from the internals of the organism, but in ‘the real world’, ‘the movement of field’ always takes precedence over ‘the movement of matter’; i.e. the transforming tensions in a culture always take precedence over the movement of individuals within the culture.
But how important is it to us to be successful? If we are selling something and our customers believe in man-made global-warming, or that an evil force is brewing in North Vietnam that must be stopped at all costs, then we must be willing to believe it also to avoid the risk of failing;
“In order not to fail, most people are willing to believe anything and to care not whether what they are told is true or false. Only by remaining absurd can one feel free from fear of failure.” – Jules Henry, ‘Culture Against Man’
But how is it possible to shoe-horn children into one’s culture, to ‘bind them to the culture’ and thus to get them to give up their natural creativity and original inquiry?
Children do not give up their innate imagination, curiousity, dreaminess easily. You have to love them to get them to do that. Love is the path through permissiveness to discipline; and through discipline, only too often, to betrayal of self.” – Jules Henry, ‘Culture Against Man’
It is clear that children of different cultures and religions are effectively ‘imprinted’, more or less strongly, with the intellectual and physical habits of their culture. This ‘imprinting’ tends to take over that aspect of a person’s behaviour that is driven from his thinking. His/her behaviour becomes ‘culturally powerboated’, and it ‘feels as if’ and ‘appears as if’ it is directed by ‘internal’ knowledge and purpose.
However, to accept this notion of an internal drive, it is necessary to accept that it jump-starts from a ‘thought concept’ that involves a ‘result’ or ‘end’ that will animate the person’s behaviour; e.g. to win a competition or to prevent another from carrying out a criminal action. A human that is animated by such concepts is not, at the same time, allowing his actions to be orchestrated by the dynamics of the space he is included in. For example, if a brother and sister are on the beach and the brother gets into a fight with a stranger who is attempting to molest the sister, the brother’s behaviour is animated by his concept of a desired result (to block an undesired result). Such a ‘results-based scenario’ is in terms of ‘what people do’, the ‘actions/interactions of local material systems notionally equipped with their own local-process-driven and local knowledge and purpose-directed behaviour.
If the trio is on a beach that abuts a vertical cliff and they need to make it back around a couple of rocky promontories before the tide comes in, rocky promontories that the breaking waves from an angry sea are already approaching, it is clear that ‘they are included, at the same time, in ‘another story’, the ongoing story of the transforming space that they are included in, that they emerged from and that they will be recycled within’.
That our inclusion in this ‘never-ending story’, the ceaselessly innovative unfolding spatial continuum of nature, takes precedence over the local-object based visualizations we construct in our ‘thought’, is a ‘reality’ that we tend to forget. The victory of the brother over the aggressor is a story that may quickly be ‘trumped’ by the story of three beachgoers who were drowned by not paying attention to the spatial cycles of nature in which they were inextricably included.
WHICH STORY IS THE MOST TRUE STORY? , AND, WHICH STORY IS THE MOST EASY TO ARTICULATE?
As Johannes Kepler observed in ‘Harmonies of the World’ (1619), in the intellectual realm, in the academies, we are in the habit of “choosing not that which is most true but that which is most easy”. And it is far easier to articulate ‘what is going on’ (the ‘world dynamic’) in terms which remove the natural precedence of the dynamic spatial flow we are included in, and jumpstart the story-telling from the backs of the transient flow-features that gather and are regathered in the flow, generously and subjectively (synthetically) endowing them with the absolute state known as ‘existence’ or ‘being’. This ‘pseudo-reality’ that we habitually construct is a fully visualisable reality, unlike the reality of the natural spatial-flow continuum, that is in terms of notional ‘local, independently existing’ material ‘organisms’, notionally equipped with ‘their own locally originating, internal process-driven and internal knowledge and purpose-directed, behaviours.
This ‘pseudo-reality’ story, because it is bounded in time and based on notional cause and effect ‘episodes’, is not only ‘easier’ to articulate than the full-blown continuum, it is POSSIBLE to articulate it, while it is impossible to articulate the never-ending ‘primary reality’. Meanwhile, an ‘episode’ is only meaningful in the context of understanding the ‘story’ as being a ‘progression’ or ‘larger sequence’ of events or incidents which can be understood in terms of these distinct ‘component incidents’ or ‘events’, a decidedly ‘constructivist’ view that invests the evolutionary source of the unfolding reality fully in terms of component events constituted by ‘what things do’, and thus removing the notion that the evolutionary sourcing is spatial-relational in its primary origin.
It is not every day that three people get drowned on the beach. If we seek to understand why this happened in this particular case, we would have to explore all of the preceding influences that culminated in this ‘result’, and such investigating never ends. David Bohm gives the example of tracing back the bullet that ‘caused the death of’ Abraham Lincoln, to the gun from which it was fired (and on backwards to the invention of guns, gunpowder and before than and the hand of John Wilkes Booth and to his personal development and to the development of politics in the United States and to the development of the American colonies and so on and so forth.
To ‘truncate’ the inquiry and reduce the story to an ‘episode’ that unfolds in a form that we can fully visualized and articulate, the convenient spot to truncate it and position ‘the starting point’ is in the interior of John Wilkes Booth. The notion of ‘free will’ and (absolute) full and sole responsibility for ‘one’s own behaviour’; i.e. the notion of absolute local being (existence) is the foundation stone that allows us to notionally present a windowed/bounded-in-time ‘episode’ as if it were a ‘nugget of understanding’ that ‘makes sense in its independent own right’.
Of course it does not deliver ‘understanding’ in its own right, but there’s no denying the convenience of this kind of ‘episodic’ fragmentation of our continuously unfolding spatial-flow ‘reality’, ….’convenience’ with respect to linguistic articulability and thus ‘convenience’ with respect to sharing portions of the never-ending story (e.g. with a judge and jury).
So, the drowning of three people in the beachy cove on the rugged coast is, in ‘episodic’ story terms, ‘an accident’. Something that happened by ‘random chance’.
The notion of ‘random chance’ and ‘probability’ are based on the ‘episodic fragmentation’ of the never-ending (spatial-flow continuum) story, ‘re-telling the story’ in the reduced (de-spatialized) terms of local material systems and their local actions.
There was no ‘accident’ involved in the drowning of the trio, this was part of a dynamical unified reality, the ‘ONE’ reality of the ceaselessly innovative unfolding spatial-relational continuum of nature.
The ‘probability/chance’ based notion of ‘accident’ is made necessary by our artificial reduction of the dynamics of our life experience, into ‘local episodes’ involving only the dynamic actions/interactions of local organisms as if powered and directed from out of themselves. This reduction to episodes based on ‘what things do’ is a technique for ‘de-spatializing’ that breaks the story out of the ONE-story continuum and re-renders it as if it were understandable (it is not) in terms which jumpstart it anew from the interior of notional local systems equipped with their own notional local agency.
NOW we are forced explain the drownings, NOT in terms of the coming into confluence of innumerable influences (as in wave interference phenomena), but in the abstract, de-spatialized terms of ‘repetition’ or ‘experimental trials’; e.g; “how many times does it happen that people go to that beach without drowning compared to the number of times that people go there and drown”. We can estimate the ‘likelihood’ or ‘unlikelihood’ on this basis of repetition (though the unfolding spatial-flow continuum of nature never ‘repeats’) of the drowning. This gives us the opportunity to develop some ‘pseudo-meaning’ to substitute for the spatially-sourced reality that we removed when we broke out this particular ‘episode’ of the drowning, the ‘pseudo-meaning’ being based on notional repetitions of the same ‘episode’; i.e. ‘every one in a while, people who go to this beach drown.’ Or, ‘there is a low probability that people who go to this beach will drown there.’
Note that the focus of the ‘action’ in this extracted ‘episode’ of ‘people going to this beach’ and so-called ‘repetitions’ of this ‘episode’ as if the dynamics of space had nothing to do with it (this view is referred to as ‘ceteris paribus’, all other things [spatial influences] being the same). That is, the forward constructive ‘episodic’ view and notional ‘repetitions thereof’ is IN DENIAL OF THE ABILITY OF THE DYNAMIC SPACE OF NATURE TO ORCHESTRATE INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOURS.
But the drowning tragedy was not ‘by chance’ but derived from the trio allowing their ‘episodic’ thinking mode (unnaturally) take over their ‘directive helm’ so that they let themselves be animated by some kind of cultural ‘programming’, rather than ‘taking direction from’ (letting their behaviours be orchestrated by the dynamics of space they are included in).
IT IS NATURAL FOR THE INHABITANTS OF NATURE TO ‘TAKE DIRECTION’ FROM THE DYNAMIC SPACE (the HABITAT, or, NATURAL SPACE) IN WHICH THEY ARE INEXTRICABLY INCLUDED, ON A FIRST PRIORITY BASIS RATHER THAN LETTING CONCEPTUAL THOUGHT TAKE OVER FIRST PRIORITY AND JUMPSTART BEHAVIOUR PURELY FROM ‘AN INTELLECTUAL IDEA’.
There is no way ‘in reality’ (in the reality of the dynamic spatial continuum of nature) that individual behaviour can ‘really’ be locally jumpstarted from within the individual; i.e. the individual, like the storm-cell in the flow of the atmosphere is ‘part of the flow’ and as the flow moves, so do its ‘flow-features’ such as those dynamic forms we call ‘humans’ and to whom we impute ‘local existence’.
In other words, the ‘reality’ in which life experience is captured in terms of a constructivist sequence of component ‘episodes’, each built from the notion of ‘local material objects with their own local agency’, is a different, idealisation-based ‘pseudo-reality’ that denies the conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation that is inherent in nature.
To put this ‘conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation’ in terms of Ernst Mach’s principle of the relativity of space and matter; ‘The dynamics of the habitat condition the dynamics of the inhabitants at the same time as the dynamics of the inhabitants are conditioning the dynamics of the habitat’.
This Machian or ‘relativity’ based ‘world view’ is in accord with the Buddhist parable of wind, flag, mind, … ‘which moves first?’ (answer, – ‘they all move at the same time’). It is also in accord with the writings of the Upanishad, as pointed out by Erwin Schroedinger, developer of the ‘wavefield-space’ formulation of quantum theory.
So, to re-connect with the earlier observations on ‘homo symbolicus’ and ‘homo absurdus’, we can make this connection by considering ‘cultural imprinting’ and ‘how it occurs’.
The primary reality or the ‘natural reality’ of our living experience is that we, and everything, are included within a never-ending story, the spatial-relational unfolding of nature. Our intuition, along with science and scientific inquiry in its broadest sense, accepts that we are emergent features within this spatial-flow-continuum, and like all other emergent features, we are gatherings in the flow and while the material aspect persists in the manner that convection cells persist, they never escape from being included in the continuously re-gathering continuum of nature.
The secondary reality is one which we construct in ‘thought and language’ (symbolically) by imputing ‘absolute being’ to dynamic forms and thus portraying them as ‘local objects’ that we impute ‘local being’ to by way of the ‘invariable solids of geometry’. These dynamic forms that are included features in the flow (as storm-cells are to the flow of the atmosphere), thus become seen as local systems with their own local agency (as with a ‘hurricane’). As John Stuart Mill notes, when we give a dynamic form a name-label and define it, we implicitly impose, axiomatically, the notional state of ‘local being’ on the dynamic flow-feature which sets the stage for imputing to it ‘its own local agency’. In Mill’s words; “Every definition implies an axiom, that in which we affirm the existence of the object defined.”
“Homo-symbolicus” is thus the man who re-renders the world (fluid-) dynamic in the ‘idealised’ terms of ‘local existences’ and ‘what locally existing things with their own local agency’ ‘do’. Symbol-based thinking is a ‘tool’ that need not be allowed to ‘run away with the workman’ (Emerson).
“Homo-absurdus” is the man who confuses this synthetic re-rendering of the world dynamic, of our natural experience, for ‘reality’.
In the story of the three people on the beach, it is easy to see that the tensions that arise between the three; i.e. the aggressor, the innocent/helpless potential victim, and the ‘protector of the helpless’ (notionally ‘three local beings, notionally equipped with their own locally originating behaviour) and the dynamics of their interactions, can be confused for ‘reality’ when such dynamics are in fact ‘idealisation’.
These local-objects-with-their-own-local-agency that interact with one another have their own implicit local space-referencing frame and have nothing to do with the ‘incoming tide’ and it is clear that the incoming tide is the ‘greater reality’. In other words, ‘the greater reality’ is that they are inextricably included in a spatial dynamic that is greater than them, that they emerged into and which can and eventually will subsume them. The ‘secondary reality’, the product of ‘thought’ that appears to animate their behaviours from the interior of their own local being, rather than that which comes to them from their experience, shuts out their awareness of their inclusion in the dynamics of space. This is because the secondary reality implies that ‘space’ is ‘absolute’, a fixed, infinite and empty container, the operating theatre for ‘locally existing material systems, notionally equipped with their own locally originating, internal process-driven, internal knowledge and purpose-directed, behaviour.
This highly idealised understanding of space and the follow-on understanding of the dynamics of local material objects that is based upon it, is pure ‘idealisation’ that does not accord with our experience; i.e. the experience of the three people, as they are engulfed by the rising tide, is that the spatial dynamics they are included in is a reality that takes precedence over the reality of their language-based conceptual thinking. Their experience of drowning or ‘being swallowed up’ by nature is real enough, but there are no words of the standard ‘what things do’ type, to describe it.
The notion of adversarial dynamics and competition which leads to ‘game theory’ analysis of human social behaviour is constrained to what goes on in the beachy cove, as if amongst ‘local beings’ with their own ‘local agency’ (internally-driven and internally-directed behaviour). It is a model that ignores the natural primacy of the spatial dynamic that the dynamic forms (taken to be locally existing beings with their own locally originating (internally driven and directed) behaviours are included in. Crabs fighting over the remains of a fish on the beach do not let their adversarial dynamic take precedence over the tidal dynamic. That is, they ‘take direction’ on a first priority basis, from the spatial dynamics they are included in.
Unlike humans, most organisms lack the symbolic conceptualizing aptitude to engender for themselves a ‘self-image’ that informs them that they are local, independently-existing organisms with their own locally originating, internal-process-driven and internal knowledge and purpose-directed behaviour.
The classic example in which humans invent absolute local existences with their own absolute local behaviours is the sovereign state, symbolized by its ‘flag’, which believers in the imaginary-line bounded ‘local state’ salute and sing hymns of praise (anthems) to. These invented ‘islands of being’ notionally equipped with their own locally originating internal process-driven and internal knowledge and purpose-directed behaviours, are conceived of in the same manner that culture tends to have man conceive of himself, as a secularized theological concept. Instead of being understood in the terms “man belongs to nature, nature does not belong to man”, the tables are turned by implicitly attributing God-like powers (absolute local existence and absolute locally originating behaviour) to the sovereign state, as man has attributed to himself. (see, for example Peter D’Errico et al http://www.umass.edu/legal/derrico/nowyouseeit.html )
As with adversarial episode based modeling of the trio on the beach, one can use ‘game theory’ to model ‘social’ dynamic of the 195 sovereign states presently ‘believed in’ on the earth. An approach to understanding that is characteristic of ‘homo absurdus’ and which invests all ‘direction of behaviour’ in the internals of the states (or organisms) and none to the dynamics of space that the states (and organisms) are inherently included in. This kind of modeling, originating from Western man’s ‘sense of self’, a sense of absolute local being and absolute locally-originating behavioural direction, fails to acknowledge the natural precedence of the spatial dynamic in the ‘sourcing of local being’ and in the ‘directing of individual and collective behaviours’.
As Nietzsche proposed, Western (popular, mainstream) science is ‘anthropomorphism’ since it tends to ubiquitously impose this model of absolute local being and absolute locally-originating behavioural-direction. Western medical science (but not Eastern medicine) sees the human body in this manner, and the notion of ‘man-made global warming’ implicitly imputes ‘absolute local being’ to the earth-system and assumes the locally-originating, internal process-driven (climatic) behaviour of the earth. This view fails to acknowledge that the earth is a dynamic form within the resonant-energy charged spatial medium. In climate science terms, the question is whether climate (global temperature) is dominantly ‘celestially forced’ (by nonlocal processes such as solar irradiance, orbital wobbles etc.) or whether it is dominantly ‘locally forced’ (by local internal processes such as CO2 emissions).
This is the same question as arises in trying to understand the behaviour of the trio on the beach. If we see ourselves in the absolute terms of adversarial ‘local beings with our own local agency’, then the space we share inclusion in is denied its natural role as the creator of these ‘local beings’ that inhabits them and directs their behaviour (as with convection cells that share inclusion in a common spatial flow, or interdependent strands in a common web).
The ‘choice’ is not an either/or choice in the sense of ‘which is really the case’, but is instead a question of two realities that we can fashion for ourselves and use for the directing of our behaviour. If the brother is defending his sister in the sense of sustaining balance and harmony in the sacred web-of-life (nature), he will abandon his personal confrontation (which was never a ‘win/lose’ but rather a ‘restoring balance’ issue) with the stranger and commit himself to getting his sister to safety before the incoming tide makes that an impossibility. If the brother believes in absolutes (win/lose, good/evil) that apply to the individual such as ‘death before dishonour’ or his being there to ‘do God’s will on earth’, then he is likely to put the resolving of the moral issue first. That is, he is likely to let his behaviour be internally directed by ‘doing what is good and righteous’ regardless of consequences, as in a war between good and evil where the possibility of mutual annihilation should not be a deterrent since ‘God will ultimately reward the good and punish the evil’.
Adhering to ‘moral codes’ becomes an imperative where we conceive of the human organism as a local, independently existing being with its own locally originating, internal process-driven and internal knowledge and purpose (moral code etc.) directed behaviour. On the other hand, in the case where we believe that we are strands-in-the-sacred-web or convection-cells-in-the-sacred-flow, morality is ‘built in’ to the system through the recognizing/acknowledging of interdependence of all things.
Culture ‘imprints’ us at an early age with symbol-related understanding that ‘occludes’ the dynamic spatial continuum of nature from which the symbols derive. In order to be in phase with our culture, we must ‘start from the symbols’ rather than going back to basics (e.g. we must accept that our nation is an imaginary-line-bounded ‘tract’ of land that enjoy ‘independent existence’ and is capable of ‘its own locally originating behaviour’). The result of cultural imprinting is that what we perceive as ‘common sense’, as Einstein observed, is ‘the collection of prejudices we acquire by age eighteen’.
At the heart of Western cultural imprinting is the reduction of the dynamic spatial continuum of nature to a notional collection of ‘local material beings’; i.e. local material objects/organisms/systems notionally equipped with their own locally originating, internal process-driven and internal knowledge and purpose-directed behaviours. The elements of this collection are identified by symbolic names and definitions that help to affirm their notional ‘independent local existence’.
By this imprinting, we leave behind the notion that the dynamics of space both inhabit and create the dynamic forms of nature (Emerson), a reality that implies a relationship between the ‘LOCALLY APPEARING’ dynamic form and the flow it is included in, that recalls such relationships as the ‘storm-cell’ with the spatial-flow of the atmosphere. The collection of storm-cells are inherently interdependent in the manner of strands in a web set into vibration by the dynamics of the wind. In the aboriginal tradition, this interdependence is implied by the ‘six directions’ of the ‘medicine wheel’, four in the plane of the wheel (North, East, South, West) and two orthogonal to it (Above/Sky, Below/Earth).
“In our worldview time and space are perceived and experienced, that is a key word, ‘experienced’, differently. Time is not a linear progression extending into infinity and divided into fragments that appear, pass and then disappear never to be seen again. In the Indigenous worldview time is cyclical and patterned, appearing and disappearing into a constantly shifting and changing flux. Space is perceived as the flux. A chaotic wholeness existing within and around us, of which we are a part and within which, we have duties and responsibilities for maintaining, renewing and restoring balance and harmony. Ours is a relational universe and our relationship with that universe, with the interconnected web of life is the heart of our way of living, of what we see and of how we know. The Creation and that which created it lives as part of us and we understand that we belong to it. This is why our spiritual life is integral and present, never outside of us and can never be set apart. Spirit resides within all that is and therefore commands the respect and all of the kindnesses that follow respect. Our languages reflect and express these relationships.” — Cherokee, Tuscarora tradition
Within a cultural imprinting that reduces the spatial flux of nature to local material existences, behaviour is seen to be fully internal knowledge and purpose-directed, or in other words ‘absolute’ (relative to an absolute space). Since ‘space’ is reduced to absolute empty void (all dynamic sourcing is invested in ‘locally existing material systems’), ‘spirit’ is something that now has to originate within the local beings, rather than being immanent in the spatial flux of nature. Also, rather than conflict arising from attempts to restore balance and harmony in the interdependent web of life, conflict appears binary opposition or as ‘win/lose’ competition.
Dual soft/hard interpretations of ‘competition’ arise in intramural school sports day meets which illuminate some of our cultural imprinting issues. In the school that designates ‘four houses’ for the sportsday meet, Red house, White house, Blue house, Green house etc., the populating of the respective houses with members is by drawing names from a hat. A week after the competitions are over, the membership in the ‘houses’ is forgotten. The purpose of the competition is about the cultivating of ‘spirit’, … ‘to bring the best out in everybody’. Winning or losing is secondary as indicated by the invention of the Red, White, Green and Blue houses to be temporary owners of ‘winning’ and ‘losing’, the real value being in the cultivating of spirit, courage and character through competition. In aboriginal societies, the courageous warrior that was brought down in battle and the animal that was killed for food, were respected by the ‘winners’, who sang, danced and prayed that the spirits of the fallen would rise up and become active again. Such is the view that arises when we consider us all as brother strands in the interdependent web.
Is it out of the question to think of our sovereign states as organisational expedients as with Red house, White house etc, rather than as secularized theological concepts? We have NGOs whose views are that global harmony must prevail over the self-interests-driven competitive winning of local sovereign states.
The symbolic view of the world dynamic, in terms of local material existences with their own local agency, the world view of ‘homo symbolicus’ is not to be confused for ‘reality’. The competition of a trio of humans on the beach is, by symbolic logic, synthetically broken out of the spatial-flow continuum of nature. The over-riding spatial-flow dynamic of nature is occluded from the symbolic-logic picture, but not from the reality of the trio’s experiencing of nature.
Insofar as we put the symbolic logic front and centre in our mind and have it direct our behaviour on a first priority basis, we become ‘homo absurdus’, the one that confuses idealisation for reality.
Insofar as we accept that symbolic logic is a secondary support tool and acknowledge that our behaviour is orchestrated by the dynamics of space we are included in, we avoid the confusion that would otherwise have us live absurd lives.
As Jules Henry noted, the prevailing culture is one which imprints us and otherwise puts pressure on us to live absurd lives. It infuses in us a fear of failure, ‘failure’ in terms of not being accepted by our peers, the condition necessary for ‘success’ within the culture (in ‘culturally defined terms’).
This cultural pressure is the source of ‘lock-in’ whereby we have, as in the case of PCs, locked into a crappy system by inducing investment in infrastructure that depends upon it, thereby making the switching costs extremely high.
So it is with our Western culture that is the source of ‘homo absurdus’, the ‘homo symbolicus’ that confuses symbol-based idealisation for reality.
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