Loose threads united.
- An old saw of mine, Joseph Campbell‘s many works, which circumscribe the edge of the rational, known, and the boundary of the mystical, the unknowable (yet present and sensible, in that it can be entered and traversed with some consistency, by those who practice such things). JC’s intent is always here, framing my point of view like eye lashes, always there, mostly unseen.
- Speaking with my cousin Linny: the courage to embrace the dreams and passions in our hearts, and to leap forward, even (as usual) we don’t know where we will land (the fear being, that we won’t land, but rather dash our brains out against the crags of irrationality).
- While listening to Seth Godin‘s “Startup School” podcast, not more than two weeks ago, hearing him ask: “Why do we do these things (start businesses)? … I believe it is because human beings are happiest when they are dancing on the edge of the precipice.” i.e. People tell themselves they want to start businesses for a myriad reasons, all the while, as Seth puts it, the real reason for working on a business is that the entrepreneur (when working “in the zone”) gets to succeed while dancing at the ever changing cusp of failure.
- Returning in the last few days to a book I’d never finished reading, Mind and Cosmos, by Thomas Nagel, I find myself thrilled at his deconstruction of what we (the “enlightened masses”) consider to be the ultimate foundational explanation of our existence – evolution from in-animus to animus*. This undercutting being not the work of a heretic4, but of a herald high upon the gleaming edifice which that very evolution produced. The man is using the saw of Mind to cut away the crutches which a feeble heart put under it when it knew not what held it up, or whence it came.
- Pondering what happened: why it feels to me that these writings I used to undertake (i.e. this website) seem to have slowed to a trickle, then a drip, then gone dry. The refrain that has been coming back at me seems to be “no new big ideas”. It seems that what served as motivation, as grist for the mill, was that I wrote most while I was making connections between ideas that excite me; and that since roughly 2011 my day to day experiences had moved away from an environment rich in grand abstract ideas, becoming more about the trivialities of terraforming for the life of my marriage1.
- On our near constant nudity in photographs (where “our” means: Roxanne, Noah, Rumi; “near constant” means: the prevalence or penchant for nudity in our images as opposed to clothedness; and “photography” means: photography). What is it about the state of being disrobed that attracts us. What does it mean, subjectively, that we are not wearing clothes, and how does that all work together within the representational form of the pictures we make and share.2
The above melange of thoughticles have been swirling through my mental dialogue for three or four weeks, never simultaneously, and not particularly structured in relation to one another – no “this thought leads to that thought” … and suddenly today, while reading Nagel, the relationships between them emerged.
1The past few years have been more and more about gaining the tool set to exist in this world as a married couple, as partners in Love, as parents, as a fiscal unit, as a logistical unit, as an amorous unit. It has been like needing to grow teeth and claws, a thicker coat and interpreting inherited instincts in a highly malleable environment. It feels a little like I’ve had to grow a new heart where my old one had turned out to only be a pump, like having to grow a new brain where my old one had run dry and could only produce the same old formulaic dictums.
The thread that unites these strands of my experience, is the returning of my mental framework to an embrace of living, nay – thriving – closer to the precipice of failure. The acceptance that life is a grand bubbling soup of things; not to be frightened of that, not to be attached to too much… to much at all.
The struggle to secure a place on earth ( I might as well say, “a place among the living”) for that which is precious, be it my life, or the lives of my Loves, seems like such a fraught project, so fragile and impossible to safeguard in the long run. As it should, for it is!
Living is beset on all fronts by complications, by calamity, by pain, by suffering, by quite possibly the worst threat of all – by insignificance and tepidity of experience. The endeavor is, however, completely reoriented when we see that just about every new step is also brimming with possibility, with freedom of will, with beauty – if not from without, then from within. Fear comes from projecting some narrative onto the oozing mess of existence, and then saddling yourself with the obligation to see to it that the narrative plays out faithfully.
I don’t want to disparage rationality, planning, or the marvelous results of long term growth which come from preconceived goals that have been achieved – these, after all, are the very stuff that separates us from the dust.! Our collective technological progress is, however, not what make us happy in and of itself. That kind of work expands our possibilities, without ensuring that the lives lived out in those newly potential worlds will be … good. 3
The error, the root of fear, is to not enjoy that the messiness of life will rail against our projected narratives; but rather than the obliteration or erosion of our path, what there is to be found are unforeseen truths, unimagined paths, of ever newer and radically different realities. In essence, the struggle to shape a Life and its experiences is a bit like the struggle between the rational and the irrational, the land and the ocean … the constancy of what is known and understood versus the erosion of that into the as-yet unknown and unformed.
It seems to be a false banner behind which to rally, that which stands for the permanence of our known environment. All of Being is beset by Non-Being, and yet being continues to arise from the thrashed corpses of what has demised. The redeposition of those remains form new structures on which life once again takes hold, and persists in retaining, even expanding the margins, foolishly maligning the darkness that surrounds it.
Here then (this returns to Joseph Campbell), run not to the heart of the land and bemoan the erosion of the edges, but rush to the cliffs, there to dance and sing, make fires, make babies, make wild eyed plans, achieve some of those plans and celebrate that you ARE, just every so slightly more on the rational edge of existence than the irrational edge of existence. Yield not to fear of the process – for it was here before you were, from it you and all you know sprang, and into it you and all you know will fall. Take heart that It is a good thing in and of itself, your heart, your offspring, your Loves all stand as testament to that. What a wondrous odyssey it all is.
My wife sent me a text the other day… “success is a well curated gallery of failures”.
2 I knew going in that I would not be able to tie that thought back in to this discourse. It is, none the less, something that has been a topic of present inquiry, and which I hope to be more articulate.
3 There is a common fallacy there, that says that material progress itself is “an end”, but it is nothing other than a means. The ends still matter. What we do on the ever evolving stage of Life is more important than what that built stage looks like.
4 More here.
* the latin root