Thursday, April 27, 2017


My “work” as one UU woman calls it, has several different streams.  The umbrella over them all is the shift of world culture that is underway around the planet for a number of reasons.  Thomas Kuhn explained that when the evidence stops squaring up with the official explanation, then people fall away from it.  They rise from the pews and go down to the river.

But deconstruction is always easier than reconstruction, and I say “re-“ because often it turns out that a deeper understanding of something previously cast aside as meaningless can be renewed.  I used to tell congregations when they despaired that the “new” that’s being born or reborn is hard to see and MUST be that way because otherwise the old order would stamp it out.  I offered the image of a pile of old boards and how they provide shelter for new blades of grass coming up between them, until one day the boards are removed.  (They didn't much like this idea.)

So these are blades of grass and where I found them.

1.  Greater awareness and understanding of autochthonous cultures based on ecologies that survived through certain economies and social arrangements.  That is, enduring groups embedded in place.  (Plenty of books and articles.  Most of my attention is with Blackfeet, but I think about ag communities or art communities.)

2.  Neuroanatomy and whole-body thinking — not the brain alone.  It’s a formal research discipline now, though a hyphenated one.  Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that it’s a group of disciplines, neuro-this and neuro-that.  New ways of learning by acting out physically.  Using sensory access to memory.  (Again, an explosion of books and articles following the amazing research on how bodies work, ingenious and exacting techniques like making tissues interact with light.)

3.  Linguistics is leaving the math of argument for metaphoric experience.  There is the matter of tracing language evolution around the world — a spoken version of genomics — but also Whorfian insights about grammar (gerunds instead of nouns) and growing understanding of animal expressed consciousness.  Lakoff et al are major shapers of this discussion. (Insights connect poetry to human science made possible by computers who can examine documents and speech patterns much more closely than scholars working on tabletops.)

4.  Female points of view that value nurturing, creating, and so on, and the various cultures and practices that have grown out of that point of view.  There are layers and divisions from territory and political differences.  (I neglect this field for personal psychological reasons, but the old rigid philosophies of reversal of male privilege are giving way to new insight.)

5.  “Deep” history and space that embeds us as tiny dots in an enormous fabric (see photo of Earth from Saturn. ) and yet impresses us again and again that the tiniest quark or atomic shift is vital; could possibly change everything.  (I follow mostly through website essays like Nautilus, Aeon, the Edge, Sightings, PaleoAnthropology, Cultural Anthropology, Real Stories Gallery, Radical Anthropology, NeuroPsychBMC, Nature, Bioneers, and others.  I use Twitter as a bibliography and table of contents by choosing whom to follow.)

6.  Ways of understanding and being in the world that have arisen from sequestered groups of people, whether in monasteries, remote valleys, or the discarded children who cling to each other at the rotted cores of our cities.  Only lately we’ve begun to listen to them. (See #5)  I am particularly interested in the changes and continuities introduced by sexual matters: the pill, AIDS, fluid sexuality, the morphing of concepts like family and maturity, how we protect and shape children.

7.  The military in the field, interacting with local cultures and tasked with learning them, gradually separates from the back-home adversarial and dominance officials in the interest of true understanding.

These ideas are brought together in various ways and for various motives, some of them nefarious, but they are all driven by a willingness to go deeper, to push horizons back, and to risk change in one’s own personal identity.  These are normally part of youth, but there have been aged people who have chosen to spend their life’s explorations for others.  What do they have left to lose?  If only wealth and status, they may be seen as empty.  If only living on the sidewalk with nothing to eat, what do they have to lose?  If they lose their minds, why do they need their bodies?  (We cherish the bodies of our beloveds.)

Congregations who refuse all this ferment dwindle into empty echoing space.  It’s almost like being the Shaker groups who clung to celibacy as a refusal of change, but that was an exploration in itself since they were making art of life.

In many ways this blog is a narcissism, an exhibitionism, maybe even a self-indulgent whining or meddling.  My vices are feeding feral cats and neglecting housework, both of which are near criminal in this small town.  Townspeople also demonize poverty, but that financial boundary is part of what gives my work structure, forces me to find ways.

The internet is the key to the universe, but not if it is controlled by Big Data.  My Safari search engine censors what it will show me.  If Blogger and Twitter begin to put up paywalls, as both the NY Times and the Washington Post have done, I’ll pull back — if necessary — to a stack of legal pads, because it is the doing rather than the show-and-tell that is my reward.  This is not true of everyone and I don’t criticize them.

Much worse is the use of tracers on my blogs and emails in order to find and destroy people I love.  That may close me down earlier than anything else, but I’ll publish everything I can discover about that practice.  Not just the White House, but the entire extent of civilization on every continent and a lot of islands has sprouted these communication filaments,  They are part of evolution, but the fungi they support can be either toxic toadstools or edible mushrooms.  “Mushrooms” is slang for people who are shot in violent incidents, but who were merely standing by.

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