For thirty-five years I’ve been following out the concepts related to “felt meaning” as contrasted with (not opposed to) prefrontal cortex, print-based, Greek and scientific method reasoning. This last was the main product of my seminary experience (1978–82) in Chicago. I had no idea it would be. They did not intend that it would be — quite the opposite.
The decision to attend came from several ambitions, not least of which was to amount to something, to understand the world, and to be irreproachable. Arrogant. Doomed! But it was the kind of stupidity that a lot of people shared, took advantage of, and thought was worthy. Computers and the internet were just dawning. The order created and imposed as a result of WWII (which was based on male thinking and nations as power-bases) was at the very edge of challenge from a newer generation thinking of Vietnam and violence. And about to learn coding and hacking.
Doves and kisses: girly religion
We went from conventional mainstream religious denominations (even treating Catholicism and Judaism as denominations and totally ignoring Islam) to a revaluing of Eastern religions and indigenous concepts smushed into one “spiritual” blob, ignoring their differences. Now the idea was to experience “spirituality” which walked hand-in-hand with magic.
When people got deeply enough into this new/old approach, they began to find the old dark evil that was also in the seminary-informed, rational, power-mongering theologies. Past water-mingling ceremonies, the shadow of sacrifice arose and then forced sacrifice. Like blood and human death. And now sex rolled out into the world — not the reality of bodies but a power-porn domination that said it was stripping disguises but was actually removing all defenses. By this time people were so numbed by confusion and contradiction that they were grateful to feel anything at all. They cocooned.
The flip side
Sitting at an array of screens — using one’s brain to find patterns, connections, if-then relationships — is not the same as learning law, theology, and academic precedence-guided disciplines. Programming offers access to a cleaner, less-doubtful world but it also removes humans, who are the point of courts, churches and universities. At their best, these last real professions are meant to march on evil, torture, the discarding of whole populations, the monetization of the basics of life, and to nail their hides to the barn door.
It turned out that the contemporary crusaders were easy to buy off. They had also turned robotic, meaning they can now be programmed and switched off. Individual “great men” are embraced and restrained by an election system that puts them at the center of a blinding web of dependence with no knowledge of the world except getting in and out of limousines and private airplanes, reading papers produced by others. They live in a web of show-runners. If they object, they begin to be slipped narcotizing substances — like money and admiration. The model is no longer Presidents, but rather what we imagine Caliphs must be like.
Number one is the necessity of preserving it as a place we can dwell. Our increased sensitivity to the tiny details has been a true revelation. Except for our instruments, how would we know that the fibres released into the world’s water from washing our fleece jackets is killing fish? How would we know that Roundup Ready seeds create Roundup Ready weeds, and that chemical fallow fields create cancer, autistic children, and sterility. Sterility is the point. It is not a salvation. It is literal death.
Secularism must concentrate on disempowering the sterilizers, the eliminators, the efficiency-imposers. I would disperse all regional hospitals, all state universities, all private armies and prisons and water systems, in the interest of returning them to the ecological relationships they ought to be serving. I’ve been the victim of medical practice managers, denomination promoters, school system denominators, and alphabetized federal law “enforcement” agencies and art cartels. Therefore, I give precedence to the local, the ecological, and what is called “transparent.”
This is not a transparent planet, even though what is simply apparent is often ignored. We don’t see what is there. As it turns out, with our augmented but barely-beginning-to-be-understood information about things like the unimaginable cosmic waves that wash through every part of our planet from crust to core, or the ability of brainless creatures to “make decisions” and assert preferences, we are gob-smacked. The continuousness and yet the fragility of all our evolved coping mechanisms and sources of energy, and the vulnerability to our own corruption and a plethora of eager parasites make us tremble. (And that’s just looking at the social world!)
Deleuzeguattarian thought (and I don’t claim to really get all that these philosophers say) talk about nodes and nomads, which in the vegetable world would be rhizomes. They are places of concentration and then pathways that connect them. Our brains are patterned this way and so are our societies. They are pruned by apoptosis (voluntary death) when they are not used, when they don’t get enough water, when they separate too far for the paths to be cleared by our passing feet.
Much of the Western world has been kept together by biological relationships: nuclear family, inherited land, male priority, and the deep flesh drives of jealousy, possession, desire, and terror — managed by loops of molecular interactions in bodies who believe they are thinking.
This has only been reinforced by our prioritizing of logic, law, boundaried disciplines, nodes of learning too esoteric for the larger population. Now that the biological kernel of committed couples raising their biologically validated children has been made untenable by economics, unfulfillable desires, government unreliability, and gender politics, much of the world as we knew it has simply dissolved. Men do not make the shift from sex competition to protection of family. Women do not make the shift from allure to nurture. Children are as much free-floating particles as the tiny free-agents of sea molluscs and meet the same fate.
What does a religious/spiritual feeling-and-reasoning person have to say to these sprats in their struggle? Can it be put into print? Can it be put into words at all, or can it be conveyed in images? Or must we go there, experience that, embrace everything? Who has arms long and strong enough? What progress, Pilgrim?