Thursday, August 11, 2016


Fingerpainting is a direct way to relate to the world.

I don't like this post very much because it's not digested enough and it's really lists until the end.  Probably I'll end up using the content another way later, but I've become convinced that institutions are hurting us but escaping reform because we so take them for granted.  Particularly when it comes to religion, institutions have fossilized and are preventing us from by-passing all the written commandments in order to get to the spirit of their meaning.  Instead they have become reasons to hoard and punish.


1.  Neanderthals had no institutions, but they did have art that was based on small communities of shared ideas.

2.  The first institutions were phenomena of towns which were the result of grain and herding domestication of wild sources.  They are organizations based on containers (grain bins, houses, temples, defensive walls), ownership, and allegiance, enforced by storage of resources and the defense thereof.

3.  Domestication as a survival strategy arose in several places at the same time and are related to irrigation, which ties into weather.  We’re still doing that in Valier, though far more elaborately — well, maybe not when you consider Peru or Egypt.

4.  Math and writing arose in response to the need to record, to predict, to find patterns, to confirm ownership and make contracts (particularly those related to interest from borrowing and assigning profits.  They’re for surveying land.

5.  Class specialization and privileged knowledge emerged about this time.

It is at this point in history that “religion” separated from indigenous spirituality, awareness of the sacredness of place and ceremonies related to that.  Religion was an early institution that “owned” sacredness and the power to appeal to whatever forces caused safety and even profit.  

Religious institutions became powerful by the use of writing, particularly written ideas on paper like a scroll or eventually a book with pages and cover.  Religious leaders claimed they were the only ones able to properly interpret writing, and worship ceremonies in some traditions were centered on certain writings.  History, self-management, theology are a primitive form of science, justification of privilege.

Most people today think this IS religion and cannot think of anything outside these perimeters.  

(Brittanica):  The Axial Age (also called Axis Age) is the period when, roughly at the same time around most of the inhabited world, the great intellectual, philosophical, and religious systems that came to shape subsequent human society and culture emerged—with the ancient Greek philosophers, Indian metaphysicians and logicians (who articulated the great traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism), Persian Zoroastrianism, the Hebrew Prophets, the “Hundred Schools” (most notably Confucianism and Daoism) of ancient China….These are only some of the representative Axial traditions that emerged and took root during that time. The phrase originated with the German psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers, who noted that during this period there was a shift—or a turn, as if on an axis—away from more predominantly localized concerns and toward transcendence.”

This means moving towards the abstract, the universal, the cosmic, the humanly shared strategies and interpretations of how to survive.  Most of this was happening in the first millennium Before the Christian Era (BCE) and seems clearly to have evoked major figures we revere today:  Zarathustra, Buddha, Confucius and even the definitional Jesus the Christ who may have arisen (in an abstract sense) out of Judaism interacting with ideas from Buddhism — the practical result of the Silk Roads bringing ideas across the Eurasian continent along with material goods.

Ideas take on political overtones.  Groups try to justify themselves with religious institutions.  The struggle among them may cause destruction and loss like the “Dark Ages” after the horseback invaders from the steppes destroyed the Roman Empire, or COULD evoke a way to reconcile strife by going to a higher, more inclusive system.  Right now our advances in technology may by themselves so change our understanding that we can create a “new world.”

Those who will be displaced from power (those who are uneducated, unskilled, and unconnected) have already begun to try to destroy any advantage.  These are their weapons:

1.  Emptying education so that it is only a tic list of attendance instead of a certification of achievement at a high level of thought.
2.  Emptying wealth into bookkeeping so that it is fungible, fakeable, transferable in the abstract — no longer the interacting actual solid resources of the world but rather another tic list of credits and debits, arbitrarily arrived at and enforced.  It makes minus balances possible and creates overwhelming sums like the total owed by student borrowing.
3.  By pretending that corporations are people and that “share-holders” actually own or control anything, and that the only good is growth, we have justified terrifying abuses of people, animals and land.  In fiction narratives we have already begun to explore the ways people can possibly survive the unsustainable imaginary conventions that are controlling our lives and threaten to trigger violence.

These are some of the unhappy surprises that may tip the balance:

1.  Catastrophe, beginning with climate turbulence and shift.  Drought and high temps in the tropics are as devastating as were the great glaciers that ground over the northern continents.  Rising sea level is erasing land.

2.  Disease, often the direct result of changing climate and population density.  Some bug will eventually hit the balance between traveling so quickly that it’s self-snuffing and infecting so deeply and ingeniously that its cure will be very slow coming.  HIV is still doing well.

3.  Interruption of fertility.  There are hints of this and fiction has been following up.

4.  Gradually achieved toxicity of the land itself and the major water sources so that our food and water supplies poison us.  This is already happening.

5.  Violence and terrorism are likewise already sanctioned by institutions both religious and secular.  The fire is there -- so an accelerant will be what sweeps our lives.

6.  Destruction of power grids and the internet.

How can we achieve innocence enough to escape the prescribing and limiting institutions that are strangling us?When designing experiences intended to reach for and maybe even touch the sacred, to kindle meaning from inside the people, one must first sit down and feel with one’s own guts where those people are in themselves.  Are they scared?  Are they exuberant?  Are they confused?  Are they depressed?  Are they enraged?

Ira Progoff was a journal-keeper who taught a particular procedure very much in line with this kind of thinking.  In his workshops a person would make a list of the turning points in that person’s life: a death, a birth, a marriage, a divorce, a graduation, a decision to leave a job, a house burning down — maybe things that no one else even noticed or thought was important: starting a garden, wallpapering a bedroom.  He called them Stepping Stones.  They were like Turning Points. Then one went back and thought about the intervals.  What might be the metaphor that captured the feeling of that period?  Was it a flower blooming?  Was it a tractor harrowing a field?  Was it a night of falling stars?  Was it an old rotten floor in an abandoned house?

So what is the metaphor for beginning a designed experience?  A tightrope?  A well?  A kite?  A scalpel?  Not literally, but metaphorically what suggests the FEELING you want?  The idea is to be totally separated from everything you already think of as church, institutional church.  Go to art.  Finger paint the sacred.  Start new.

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