Friday, February 15, 2019

COYOTES DO NOT STAND ON ALTARS

Mythic.  Misty.  Ubiquitous but vaguely seen.  Smaller than a wolf.  More clever than a cat.  Not various like a dog.  Not solitary like a tiger.  Not indolent like a lion.  North American.  (First sighting of a coyote on the other side of the Panama Canal in 2013.)  Every continent has its signature canid.  Coyotes are ours.  We feel them.


The distance between a coyote and a religion is much greater than the distance between a coyote and the Sacred.  It is this latter difference that interests me but it is less studied.  Most people don't even understand the distance between a church and the Sacred.  More likely to feel the Sacred when NOT in church.  Church is the business of the community.  Religion is incorporation and the door to scholarship.  They have quickly monetized the coyote.

Shape shifter, biological coyote has survived by staying the same always, but changing his behavior -- learning from experience.  Like humans, they fit themselves into the ecology.  They are random, but relevant.  This irony fits humans and is the source of the Sacred , for the animal on the great parched spaces of the West, filling the moonlight with song, is nothing like the predator trotting down the elegant avenues of LA suburbs with the limp corpse of someone's pet in its jaws.  But it is.

Predator coyotes frame as death and danger, but not confrontation.  So many attempts to wipe them out -- guns, poison, traps, fire -- and yet they persist, seemingly the same coyote we exterminated yesterday, ineradicable because they are a phenomenon of the land, close to the ground.  Those humans always at war with them, escalating into violence, become callous and cruel, beginning to enjoy suffering.  Hanging the stiff and bloody bodies on the nearest fence -- upside down.  Believing this shows power.  For the coyote has shifted their shape -- I mean the human killer shape -- and now they will look for more chances to kill.  I mean the human killers beginning to kill other humans.

But the coyote also tells stories, wordlessly, about survival which is the key to survival.  If something does not offer survival, it is Sacred in an evil way, which some call Devilish, always wanting forces to be anthropomorphic.


The topaz gaze of the coyote, level and sometimes blinking, follows us in town and across land.  Only when the sun showers wealth and passion on them and they roll over to sleep, only then do they close their eyes.  They have no special concern for us, except as they must accommodate us.  But in our deep metaphor lives, we seize this canid and make it ours, all about what is hidden and powerful, Sacred -- even though there are no coyotes in the European, African, Asian incorporated religions.  No church controls the coyote.  They are deeper and more autochthonous than that, at the root of the North American Sacred.   Running together, howling to each other, laughing -- when we sight them, we are them.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

ACADEMIA IS A MIXED BLESSING

Animal Control had a case to prove about a guy who shot a pesky dog.  We had the dog's corpse and the shelter supervisor, a young woman, was trying to find the bullet but not succeeding.  Mike Burgwin, the supervisor, asked me to go out back to the concrete slab to give the task a try.  He knew I had been married to a taxidermist sculptor in Montana.  I had skinned coyotes.  They often have wonderful fur.  I admire them.

I had never read a book about how to skin a coyote or about coyote anatomy, but the shape and arrangement of their sheets and ties of flesh had been seen and felt.  After a minute of groping around in this dead dog's wound, I found the problem.  Once touching the first little bb of shot, it was easy to detect other pellets and carry a palmful of them to Mike's desk, proof that the killer used a shotgun.  I put them, still bloody, on a clean sheet of typing paper so he could see their size and count their number because those things tell you about the gun, which tells you something about the shooter.

This was literally embodiment thinking.  To academics used to working with printed thought-about-thought, no matter how clever the virtual version, it's hard for them to even locate their own embodied information, their own feelings.  One can't learn how to ride a bike by reading, though there are many rational reasons to do it and to believe you can.

Academia.com is a website trying  to make a profit from connecting and transmitting academic papers.  One posts a paper.  If others read it, Academia tries to feed one other related papers.  At best it can create a community.  Mostly I suspect it doesn't.  At least for me, because the ideas are literally unthinkable -- based on feeling.  Feeling around in the animal.

So far they have offered these:

"The Biology of Religious Behavior: the Evolutionary Origins of Faith and Religion." edited by Daniel Lietchy.

"Why Our Brains Love Arts and Crafts" by 7 women.

"Brain, Body and Culture: a Biocultural Theory of Religion"

"The Cultural Evolution of Religion"

"Cognitive Machinery and Explanatory Ambitions: the New Naturalism" by Barbara Herrnstein Smith.

None of them are remotely relevant to what I'm doing because all of them are "apologetics" in the Christian sense of rationalizing old pre-existing theologies.  They all define "religion" as a cultural phenomenon with social power.  I'm talking about the basic neurology that makes a physical body live, sentient embodiment.  They start with what is.  I'm starting with zero sum existence. 


And, lo . . . Academia put me in touch with Armin Geertz and his whole community.  Now to think and feel.  I'm a little distracted by the torn and bruised sheets and ties of muscle in my smashed shoulder which is why this is short,

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

FRONTLINE AND DR. WEBBER

The 1961 entering "class" of teachers at the Browning rez school was young, maybe a half-dozen beginners.  There were almost no Native American teachers.  The group hung out together which was easy since most of them lived at Moyer Motel when the tourists were over.  One handsome, intelligent, easy-going English teacher was teased a lot because he never had a girl-friend.  He and I worked together happily.

Finally a student complained to the school board that the teacher made unwanted advances.  The student was white, blonde and blue-eyed, but not from the bridge-playing, shop-owning class.  Many years later the superintendent described what happened.

He had known what homosexuality was, of course, but not so much pedophilia, which he chose to ignore.  He called the school lawyer and asked for advice.  That fellow said, "Call the teacher in, tell him what evidence you have, and suggest he is gay.  If he is not, he will punch you out.  If he is, he will resign."  He did resign and moved to Australia.  

The most recent scandal was the white female drama teacher who was sleeping with a cast member who was male.  She left also but I never heard the terms.

Last night I watched Frontline on tv, another version of an old story.  This time it was about Dr. Webber, a slight-built pediatrician who specialized in boys.   Suspicion of the Indian Health Service is always high and you can form your own opinion of the management interviewed except for one person: Mary Ellen LaFromboise who was managing the Browning hospital when Dr. Weber was found out and moved on.  Now she is the head of Child and Family Services.  I've always admired her.

There was a loose cohort of good students not much younger than the teachers.  You might recognize the names of Elouise Cobell, Darrell Robes Kipp, Curleybear.  There were more than that.  They were at the heart of the Blackfeet Community College, unimaginable in 1961.  They linked with Canada and national indigenous movements.  They struggled hard with how to renew the old ways.  They kept getting smarter.

The BIA tries to manage by assigning respected tribal people but then undercutting them, giving them no power, using them as fronts.  Now the tribal people have been out in the world, building networks and figuring out power structures.  They are taking their sovereignty back, but we are all old now.  I've been watching for more than sixty years.  Some of us have died.  I was only able to stay because I tucked myself under the wing of an old prestigious sculptor born there who pulled both of us into a tiny circle of old people born in the 1880's.

No one wants trouble but often the only way to force change is violence.  All is image.  The additional problem is whose image?  Missionary respectability, romantic liason, D.C. suit warrior, never-never land, or simple survival?

Journalists come if the weather is good, often through help from academics.  They're Progressives --they think -- trying to see into the heart of the matter, but they're a little scared.  Yet they don't know what it is to "perform" toughness for the sake of simple preservation.  Too nice to "get it."

I write a lot about this stuff but think about it a lot more, even though I'm white.  During the years Dr Webber was in Browning, I was at the Heart Butte High School.  By then we had a lot of tribal teachers. HB was considered rougher than Browning, but that was fantasy.  I never heard rumours about Webber, but there were rumours about the HB priest. Sex seeped into everything.  Several tribal women very quietly confided childhood abuse.  Murder stories passed through our days.


And yet the transcendence of the land endured.  The reporters called it "beautiful."

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

AS ABYSSES GO

People who haven't done the background reading, esp the scientific research, keep jumping to conclusions about what I'm saying and running off with parts for their own purposes, like dogs finding an open-doored butcher's delivery van.  Mostly they want to force some part into the familiar war between science and humanities.  If I talk about the underlying atoms and molecules of objects, they say it's all a dream.  If I talk about attachment through the senses, they say only what we feel actually exists.  No one will say "we don't really know -- we're only guessing."  OR everything counts.

The thinkers who first figured out that language is code that carries a deeper and contradictory point of view followed the same oppositions between men and women, the same privileging of logic.  Elite society sends their children to schools that explore this and people fighting stigma go "up" through tech.  

My thought is radicalized more than what's above.  I'm finding it hard to explain.  Old friends think I'm just baffling.  An old roommate now retiring can't see why I wouldn't be pleased to know the best thing about college was that she was being fucked by a famous old man on his office floor.  (She claims to be a feminist.)  A wife doesn't understand why I want no contact with her because she so valued her dead husband's money and status that even he was impressed.  Followers and enablers of the Western Art cartel can't see that it is a justification of empire and white supremacy.  They know nothing about the many other histories of the West because that stuff doesn't sell.  Anthro fans who read too many books can't see anything outside libraries and think that boiling out their captured "friends" bones to mount behind glass is Science.  Others are hooked on battles and massacres though they weren't ever there, they weep and mark the date, because they crave the thrill.


Margaret Mead used to say that children born after the atomic bomb would be standing across an abyss from everyone earlier.  She was attacked for being too emotional.  The change introduced by neurological discovery, long time, and deep genomic relationship will be a deeper abyss.

Monday, February 11, 2019

MASSIVE CHANGE IN THE THOUGHT WORLD.

Right now what is most pure and interesting intellectually, logically, scientifically is thought about people thinking -- the architectures and patterns in, outside, beyond people.  There is so much!  I discovered that the "reality tunnel" belongs to a whole point of view and system that I never knew about before.  It never occurred to me that RAW might be someone's initials!  Let alone a whole system of thought.  Interesting but irrelevant.

We are hard at work eliminating much that was "first guess" categories and labels developed in the 19th century.  Or earlier, like Indians.  The use of the genome has changed everything.  Did you know that when scientists analyzed parrot genes, they turned out to be evolved from hawks?  

Whole disciplines, made up centuries ago, are disappearing.  Look at this description of change in thought about "therapy": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muDW2RO89uw   It starts at about 20 minutes and compares physics (pretty much Sam's home ground) to the "helping professions," a much softer and more slippery enterprise, easily distorted by money and the internet.  (Grannon DOES therapy and works with schematics -- not so much fancy stuff.)

Sam Vaknin describes how today's therapies will keep writhing.  (I think he is wrong about some of this,  Oppositional Defiance Disorder for instance, which is now considered a child's behavior and not respected.)  He still misunderstands embodied thought.  He would sort the problems as 1) biochemical neurological problems that are properly medical, 2) social disorders requiring negotiation between the person and the community.  But he says outright that often the problem is in the society -- not the person.  Think about the present American stigmas like racism, when race is an invented category in the first place.  The madness is in the community.

But anyway I'm "over" systems -- of doctrines.  As well as disciplines, siloes, and lanes.  I see us as being in the midst of a great and productive chaos.  I've never liked the idea of tunnel vision.  The idea of boxes with boundaries became even more transparently game material when universities realized that by re-labelling, conflating, and redefining they could drop those troublesome departments like women, indigenous or LGBT.  It had been too troublesome to dismiss individuals.  But my old BS degree from 1961 was in the NUSchool of Speech, which evolved from "elocution"and went on changing into cutting edge categories I barely understand.  They were careful to include science because arts and humanities don't get no respect.

One thing that has never lost its value was an NU 1957 class taught by Dean Barnlund in which the binaries of debate were replaced by the open and process-based practise of discussion. I remember the student who was stunned and offended by the loss of right v wrong, in v. out, male v. female as mutually exclusive.  His reaction was so totally physical that he turned red and shook.  He could have killed -- well, raped anyway.

I spend so much time turning this over and over  because the biggest change in "English" white thought is invisible to most people.  The deeper issues were bigger than the modernity creeping around the edges, barely kept at bay by corporate money.  One of the biggest went back to the Greeks and their love of binaries which they engaged in logical duels.  They assigned this to the brain and only the brain.  But the scientific methods of today show us "embodied cognition" and brain plasticity,

"Embodiment is the surprisingly radical hypothesis that the brain is not the sole cognitive resource we have available to us to solve problems. Our bodies and their perceptually guided motions through the world do much of the work required to achieve our goals, replacing the need for complex internal mental representations. This simple fact utterly changes our idea of what “cognition” involves, and thus embodiment is not simply another factor acting on an otherwise disembodied cognitive processes."

Here where I am it has been double-digits below zero for two weeks with enough snow to close the roads now and then.  I'm not safe to drive yet anyway. The nearest hospital is thirty miles away.  My shoulder was dislocated by a fall, tearing and bruising a lot of tissue.  I'm taking handfuls of Advil.  And the cat had kittens.  


Screw your algorithms.  This is a reality I made for myself and inhabit alone.  In a few months it will be only a story.  Sometimes even funny.  It's neither architecture nor schematics -- just anecdote.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

FEELING THE SACRED

The ability to perceive the feeling of the sacred is a survival plus.  We are unsure whether it can be learned.  Some people never feel it -- maybe don't believe there is such a thing.  It is not the same as supernatural because it is perceived in the natural human.  One might reason that secure attachment, welcoming the future, and happy experiences would predict awareness of the sacred, but maybe not.  Some argue that these qualities, including empathy-enabled communication, are the source of our humanness and likely the best predictor of our evolution in the future. 

There is always a tension between the individual and his cohort, which makes a tradeoff, a sacrifice between one or the other, but this risks a crash of all survival.  Now we enter into discussion of one's cohort: family and friends, neighbors, genome category, nation, or ecosystem.  Would you die for a honeybee?  All honeybees?  Let your ag profit in your canola crop shrink by not using herbicides that kill bees?  But there is not much question about giving to one's children.

Everyone who exists has survived all those who came before.  Many of those who will follow are in your hands.  Your understanding of how to survive -- which derives mostly from the ecosystem and what it offers for shelter, food, water, and reproduction -- develops a pattern and opinion of how to survive.  Eventually this may be widespread and long-standing enough to become a pre-religion.  If there is enough wealth and stability to support writing, buildings and experts, then what we call religion appears, but religions keep the flavor of their birth, so the three warring brothers  (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) came to being in a time of ecostress which gave them deep awareness of competition. To them it means survival, access to the only oasis -- which is the monotheism.

When the ecosystem, either natural or fabricated, is hostile, we can sacrifice whole categories of people, and invent reasons.  Both nature and culture conspire to be hostile.  People too poor to live anywhere but on the street die when the temp goes to forty below and stays there.  People rich enough to build fine houses near the river are washed away because of Chinese coal power.  Cause and effect are not always obvious.  Industrial revolution gases are submerging entire nations.  Money replaces other people.  This is a recurring mistake of people who cannot feel the sacred.

Eliade and others have said that the sacred is best felt at doorways, transitions, transformations.  To resist change is to shut out the sacred.  And to endanger survival.  But change is also risky.  Ask the remnants of the neanderthal that is in some of us,

Most people find the sacred through harmony, love, arts and other aspects of life -- including time -- that we neglect.  Some people feel that the sacred must be lovely and happy, but sometimes it is overwhelmingly ghastly and destructive -- satanic.  Can the sacred be evil?  Can evil be sacred?  Certainly evil can be splendidly gorgeous, a sinuous bejeweled seduction.  But is it a biological snake from the local ecosystem, connected to other lives in a thousand small ways?  Or is it a version of your reality tunnel?  Roll the damned dice.


Saturday, February 09, 2019

REALITY TUNNEL

"Reality tunnel" is a counselling phrase used by Richard Gannon that is also a model for physiological organic neurology.  It's even a pretty good concept for understanding religious commitment.  But is NOT religion.  In our time religion is an institution with a bureaucracy and a name.  This phrase is just a suggestive idea.  The concept really was developed by Robert Anton Wilson.  It's a pretty good example of using metaphors as extended at length by Lakoff and Johnson.  It is embodied thought.

https://www.refinethemind.com/reality-tunnels-robert-anton-wilson/

"Through his writings and lectures, Wilson became—alongside the likes of Timothy Leary, Alan Watts, Terence McKenna—a giant of American counterculture. He described his work as an “attempt to break down conditioned associations, to look at the world in a new way, with many models recognized as models or maps, and no one model elevated to the truth”. His goal being “to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone but agnosticism about everything.”

Before Wilson, Timothy Leary used the phrase.  He suggested that LSD had the power to break open "reality tunnels" and that is what users describe.  If a person were not a drug user, two phenomena could open up the tunnel width.  One is experience and the other is story.  Both are powered by curiosity and empathy.  

Time and the close metaphors of path or way are what can be construed as the tunnel, pushing us through the darkness along whatever the track our families or schools or jobs have laid out under our wheels.  We cannot explode the tunnel entirely without risking madness but we can make it wide -- or "put in windows".  Humans can only take in and manage a limited amount of information and does it by filtering, suppressing and ignoring a great deal,  What remains is our "reality,"

Humans hate change.  Since time brings change, people resist both, even as their own bodies morph.  One of the other deep primal metaphors is that of the axis mundi of ourselves and our consciousness as the center of all consciousness.  Around us is a kind of circular area, mapping what we know.  Everyone has a boundary, the same as everyone has a tunnel.  They are our reality.  Outside that boundary are the dragons.  Some of us would like to interview them.

Mircea Eliade discussed the idea of a center (nucleus) in a circle as a more natural schematic than a cross on a hill, the Christian schematic.  If one adds attachment to the center, one has the three primal elements of story.  Imagine a girl so attached to a life in a small circle that she would die rather leave, so she remains a child.  Imagine a boy whose unreliable mother taught him to always move on, so that his only satisfaction is in war.


Now try to imagine what might break through the wall of the tunnel and give them a new reality.  Such an event might be considered sacred.