Thursday, March 25, 2010

Considering Dilemma

Are you gaining the sense of considering as something very fundamental to Human experience yet? I'm not trying to build a formal system by the word consider, still, compared to words like conscious, mind, brain and the like, conceiving our salient human feature in terms of consideration, rises above the fray of debates over issues of how can a mind effect a brain and the like. After all, any of us who have pets will testify to their consciousness and personality; and as Matt brought out in his comment from the last post, we can witness their ability to "consider" (in a way- I would say).

My Golden Retriever named Sam for instance, loves these two things: meat, and having something in his mouth. (To this day, he won't drop his tennis ball on command without pained reluctance.) One day he came up to me on the deck with an old work glove in his mouth; he held it as a piece of luxury. I quickly grabbed a piece of salami and draped it over his snout (he does this amazing trick of holding, and on command he snatches the salami out of mid-air). There he was, sitting with his two loves and having to choose between them: the grimy glove in his mouth, and the salami on his snout. He froze. The only thing that did move, was his drool which streamed into a puddle before his feet. Having garnered sufficient entertainment value, I ripped the glove from his mouth. Sam instantly snatched the salami from mid air with his usual precision.

In terms of the conventional ways we've come to use the word consider, we would say that Sam froze in his "consideration" between two of his loves. Our conventional use of the word though, is a weather worn statue of its original stature; Sam weighed the glove and salami equally, but he couldn't truly transcend his literal being and "see from the place of the stars"- which is the experience the word Consider was originally coined to carry. I'm often impressed by the depth beneath common words when I look into their etymology....

Okay. We really don't know how it gets here, but our ability to consider I would argue, is what allows us to transcend our biological literalness. The thing is, for us to experience consideration in its fullness, we need environments that let such a muscle flex itself: we need environments that can exist as uncertain.

Think about it: to consider is to experience perhaps our core human feature; but if there were no uncertainty, how could consideration be experienced? Consideration and uncertainty, together form a system that gives rise to an environment where our very humanness is felt, and flexed, and found. And this is the rub: We love consideration as long as it doesn't get too beyond our comfortable perches, and we love uncertainty as long as we can still touch bottom: we like conversations with colleagues and the anticipation of Christmas mornings.

We can't just live with colleagues though, nor can we compress a real future into a morning. No matter how hard we try.... And try. And try.

So if we can't make society homogeneous, and we can't shrink a future to a depth in which we need only wade, what's our next option? We have to develop the ability to understand one another with the same care we understand our selves, and we have to learn to navigate deeper waters.

And with this context in mind, we can get into the ideas of John Ralston Saul- ideas that let us further into our Human Complexity.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Considering Will

I began taking consideration seriously a few years ago while reading an article in the NYT Magazine a few years back which informed me of the fact, that out of the twelve billion or so cells that are in me, only about five billion of those actually are me; the rest comprise other organisms coming along for the ride. That sparked my imagination.

I diverted my eyes from the magazine and gazed upon the nth myriad of critters who outnumbered me and I noticed something: every one of them were doing what they wanted. Hmm- even bacterias are wanting what they want... and what is want? isn't wanting the same as willing? So if even bacteria have will, and then lions have will, the fact that humans have will, isn't a distinction in and of itself. In fact, while we measure will in terms of its power, is ours any more powerful than a lion's chasing down its meal?... I kept watching in my imagination the alpha lion eating his fill, while the other lions, who's standing reached further down the alphabet, were held at bay-regardless of their need. And that's when it hit me: while lions may have wills even more powerful than the human will, what they don't have, is the power to consider. What distinguishes human will from the will that even bacteria posses, is that ours is connected to our innate ability to consider.

By conceiving will in terms of power, we put it on a continuum that bacteria exist on. And after human being in all its will power, annihilates itself, who will still be around? Bacteria. And they don't have the benefit of a frontal cortex.

By measuring human will in its ability to operate through consideration, we posit our measurement on a different continuum, one that doesn't entail from power and freedom, but one that entails from something uniquely human: the ability to look beyond. Human will, shouldn't be measured in terms of power, but in terms of consideration because consideration, is uniquely human. To continue measuring it- thus conceiving it- in terms of power, belies the level of order, Life itself has evolved toward. Human being is the one where Life evolves an ability for a species to experience the power to consider.

Will exercised through power is common to any living organism. Will exercised through consideration however, is uniquely human: we didn't make this reality- but we are required to live within it; whether we real-ize this power to consider, or not. We are free in our ability to consider.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Considering Power

Out of all the concepts we might employ when pondering human essence in contrast to any other species, we cite concepts like consciousness, language, art, tool use and the like. For me, the concept which has become perhaps my favorite is Consideration.

At first glance, consideration smacks- or rather touches upon- politeness. "One is to be considerate in the presence of their elders" Miss Manners would implore her pupil. Its etymology however, points to a realm of power not of domestication- that of being able to look down from the vantage point of the stars: com (con) is the prefix that denotes with, and sider comes from sidus, meaning heavenly body. I think this capability to shift our perspective to the vantage point of heavenly bodies, is an ability unique to Human Being, and perhaps forms the very basis of our experience of I-self, I-Thou, and broadly put, Subject-Object. Without our innate ability to consider, we couldn't transcend our biology and its singular drive toward biological success on biological terms. A grizzly bear will remain a grizzly bear because it has no way out of its literalness. The only way out of the bonds of literalness is the power of Consideration.

The poets of the Eden story described this ability to consider as being made in the image of GoD; on the seventh day of rest, only those who could consider were able to join GoD for a conversation, while everyone else merrily fulfilled their biological literalness (which is a different kind of satisfaction).

In the context of Evolution, I would put it this way: As Life pushes itself along the arrow of time, it pushes toward more complexity. And in the quest for survivability in nature, it evolves a pinnacle like the grizzly bear which is nature's version of a tank. But Nature continues its march toward complexity and reaches a different level of order that is a -whole something else- than a grizzly bear; a level of order we call Human being. What is this something else we embody that no other species does? I would vote that it's our ability to Consider.

So what shall we do with such power? Argue over how the power arises in the first place, or imagine together how we can put such power to work in the making of our world together?

Through our core ability to poise our looking from heavenly bodies, we can theorize about reality in frameworks of religion or science or any number of ways. But the funny thing about Consideration, what makes it so beguiling, is that after all the theorizing is done, and its dust has settled, we have to consider a fresh moment. All our frameworks can really do, is advise us: they can't consider in our stead. That is unless we abdicate our ability, and ride along like lemmings in a herd of ideologies. But if we surrender our identifying ability of consideration, do we also surrender our very Humanness? And what does such surrender engender?

It's natural to fear heights, and things don't get much higher than the heavenly bodies. What's the difference between thrilling and terrifying? I don't have a ready answer, but I do know that Consideration entails both.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

In the Meantime

My next post here will transition from our thinking of Faith to thinking over John Ralston Saul's ideas. In the meantime, I'm presently writing something to form the basis for a movement to create a voice to contrast the Tea Party. Not on the basis of policy against policy, but on a basis of approach against approach when it comes to making our Society together. I'm calling it the Tavern Party. (America was born in Taverns- not ransacked ships).
Clicking on my profile gets you to the actual blog site. I have the domains secured as well.

Let me know what you think, Mike

A New Common Sense (beginning draft)

America, as history shows, wasn't born in a ransacked ship. America, was born in Taverns. Taverns where people from their walks of life took time to discuss with one another, the idea of giving Democracy another try. The last ones to try it on such a large scale, were the Greeks. They themselves gathered together in "Symposiums" to figure Democracy out; invent it we might say. Think of their Symposiums, as something very akin to our New England Taverns- rather than the dry academic lectures that comprise symposiums today. Maybe the only real difference came from the fact that the climate of Greece favored grapes and wine, while the climate of New England favored grain and beer. In either case, whether from the Greek Symposium, or the American Tavern, Democracy emerged when ordinary people such as you and I, gathered together in a manner that believed in the best of themselves, and of Life- and celebrated the prospect of living into the ultimate form of Society: Democracy.

And who wouldn't get excited at such a prospect? After all, most of human social history is the story of societies forming themselves by a hierarchy of some sort- which most likely funneled most of the flourishing to the top. The top in return, justified their privilege as due them, through some rationale involving God: before Christ it was Caesar; after Christ it was the Church. Democracy was our chance to break up the humanly sculpted irony of some people usurping God for their private gain on the backs of their neighbors.

Democracy (and what Christ really said about neighbors). Democracy's not bound in an ability to vote. It's bound in an ability to make together, a Society that supports diverse Human Life in ways that don't impede Life's innate push toward complexity- the complexity that Life needs in order to flourish. Societies that depend on precise or even vague homogeneity to form themselves, are not Democracies; we call them country clubs. The Tavern Party is formed today with the belief that America is about pursuing real Democracy once again, and that today, we have it backwards when we think ( like the Tea Party) that Democracy is about pursuing America. The America made larger than Democracy, is in reality, a mere ideology- a club of sorts. As for any of us longing for real Democracy know, ideologies exist in minds, and that real Democracy laughs at our puny attempts to domesticate it into some homogeneous geniality that can fit neatly between two ears.

Which is the larger, America or Democracy? When I listen to the war like rhetoric from the Radical Right I could conclude that America is. But I'm not fooled- I'm more intelligent than that; I'm more courageous too- as most of us are on both counts. All it's come to take to be an American it seems, is to do a few simple things: fix a narrow view of the world; wave a flag over it- (or at least wear one on your lapel); reduce complex ideas to taunting rhymes; stand to a side and puff up: things that we first learned to do on our childhood playgrounds, things that our parents and teachers worked so ardently to drive out of our budding characters: for the cause of growing up. Obviously, Democracy is the larger. And as such, is complex and demanding of all our intelligence- and maturity. Not just the kind of intelligence that builds expertise, but the kind that seeks to share in common, the sense of complexity found in Life itself; Life's innate Complexity I would offer, serves as the basis for our new Common Sense.

Basing our new Common Sense on the like of Nature's complexity takes courage though, because Courage faces the large as large; the complex as complex: anger in contrast shrinks things down to size in order to bully it; anger is too easy to come by, and sadly- is often mistaken for Courage. Ideology simplifies reality's innate complexity to bite sized pieces- and sound bites- and reduces Society to a play ground, where ideology bullies all who won't play its game of make believe. Ideology and anger are a natural boy-girl relationship; the kids on such play grounds look for the Alfalfa's and the Darla's for leadership.

meant to continue

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Art of My Parents, Sally and Jerry.

At heart, I'm an Artist. My parents on the other hand, at heart- are not. Sal and Jer are conventional in a way they aspired to: a stable home life, dinner at five of a meat and potato, and a kindly relationship to their world. Today is their fifty first anniversary and I couldn't be more pleased or more proud that I get to call them Mom and Dad. Sal and Jer accomplished convention valiantly, and I along with my two brothers (twins not quite a year younger than me) and our families (six grand kids) thrive from their convention so valiantly achieved.

So at heart, what is an Artist? I would offer this explanation by way of my own experience and the descriptions of others who share in this experience: an Artist is one who can no longer be bound by convention. Not because convention itself is the problem- it's not; we need convention. It provides the ease required for society to form and create itself; with such ease in place, we become free to spend our energies on real tasks instead of having to also spend it on making up game rules and the like. Convention is utterly important. But it's never permanent: the Life that beckoned an earlier growth, having become satisfied, moves ahead and once again beckons us to grow again and create new convention. Artists are the ones who hear the Call before the rest of their Society; and as such they are the pioneers who willingly leave the finery of Bostons and Philadelphias- conventions so elegant- for the next frontier. And then after living in Life's next frontier, and developing a felt sense of it, Artists return to their place of conventional beginnings with maps. And hope. A hope that the maps will be both cogent and inspiring, as both are needed for people to be willing to risk the Boston they know for the one they'll have to make. To be sure, there are plenty who go by the name artist, but since all they really do is make a carnival of laughing at convention, while remaining within a convention's city limits, these people could more aptly be named jackals- not Artists.

Cogency and Inspiration is a serious responsibility.

This then is the rub: Sal and Jer gave birth to an Artist- one who's called to move past the very thing they not only aspired to- they spent their very selves in valiantly accomplishing: How do real champions of convention- at its best- understand a son, who through nobody's fault or planning, hears that beckoning call from our new frontier, and try as he might, can't ignore it?

The cliche' says that an artist's parents were establishment dolts who bought into capitalist dreams and strove for material riches in a way, that any one with a "right mind" (anti establishment) would rebel against such a travesty of authentic human being. But Sal and Jer didn't participate in the cliche'. They took convention seriously and embodied it in the way Life means it to be lived. They didn't give me anything to rebel against. Instead, they gave me something to aspire to; a life who's convention seeks decency in any way it can.

I say this now, in honor of my parents and their anniversary because over the last few years, I have been able to again take up my Artist responsibilities of leaving the likes of Boston for our new frontier and map making, because my own two sons are happily involved with the women they will make their lives with. They are living into convention in a style that began with their grandparents; a style that I could only duplicate, a style to which Ben and Jake are now aspiring. My Dad, who began from a life of smoldering violence, joined with my Mom and created a home where I got to flourish ( in their home, anyone would); because of Sal and Jer's commitment to convention, our family history has a new trajectory that is now embodied in their grand kids. How far can such a trajectory of complete decency reach?

Your reach, Mom and Dad, is the very basis from which I'm willing to trust Life's beckoning into its frontier and leave the finery of Boston and Philadelphia- and your Convention. Not because I find some fault in the Convention you accomplished so well, but because Life has a way of growing and then beckoning us to grow along with it. And when its time to grow, it falls to the Artists to make the Frontier and ways into it both cogent and inspiring. I hope for you to see that my work doesn't contradict you, it comes from you.

Happy Anniversary- I love you more than you could know.