Self-Cures and Home Remedies in a World of
Hugh M. Lewis
Copyright, 2001, Hugh M. Lewis
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Earth & Nature
The world has become, as far as we are concerned, an increasingly and
almost exclusively human world. Humankind emerged from a world dominated by
Nature, and human civilization became predominant in place of Nature. As human
civilization has developed, Nature has been steadily reduced to a sterile
remnant of what it once had been. Whereas previously human civilization was
always surrounded by and encapsulated by the wilderness, it is now human
civilization, which surrounds and encapsulates Nature. Nature survives only in
the interstitial cracks of human civilization.
Because the world is predominantly human, it must now be measured in terms
of its human dimensionalities rather than in terms of its natural vistas. It
is an artificial world of man made asymmetries, straight lines, sharp angles,
and continuous curves rather than the natural bilateral symmetry, jagged edges
and chaotic twists and turns of natural design. Because of its humanness, it
is a world to be measured in terms of its social differences and human living
spaces, and in the many ways in which humankind has adapted the earth’s
natural environments to its own needs and how it has adapted itself to the
It is futile to try to turn back the pages of history to a pristine period
before the predominance of human civilization in the world. Our natural
reaction to the civilized abominations of our own doing is to seek a
primordial world—a perfect, unsullied paradise—which is both before and
beyond the eruptions of human time. But any such deliberate attempt to return
to a world before time and outside of the confluence of human history is, at
best, bound to end in pathological isolation and social sterility, and, at
worse, in unnecessary destruction and disaster for the human world as a whole.
The most we can hope for now is to try to brake the forward momentum of
modernizing historical change long enough to cause a general shift in its
overall directionality in a way that will prove less costly and devastating
for the natural world. Many human actions and activities which were
unconsidered and done with complete abandon just a few decades ago are now
becoming increasingly taboo and even immoral from a human and natural
ecological point of view. There has been a steadily rising human awareness,
almost a world collectively conscientiousness. This increasing awareness of
the state of the world are the necessary corollaries of our own human sense of
history. We can no longer freely trespass upon the natural world with the
impunity and immunity of its indirect consequences and unexpected
reverberations that our forbearers of civilization had. We are becoming
increasingly subject to the consequences of our own machination in a fragile,
delicately interdependent world.
The human world is one characterized by its lack of balance, its substitute
artificiality, its social and natural asymmetry, its historical linearity and
lack of evolutionary ecology. The natural world is composed of a delicate and
intricate web of living and evolving interdependencies. It is an elaborate
system of checks and balances and of mutual systemic controls, which evolved
over many millennia—gradually and toward increasing stability. Natural
selection worked against the long-term survival of evolutionarily extreme
forms and designs, which tended to threaten or upset the balances and controls
of life on earth. Exceptions to the rule were either modified or eliminated.
Evolution has long had an inexorable kind of selective, systemic rationality—a
natural logic of its own which promoted the survival of the whole and many
over the interests of the part and the few. As humankind wrests control from
the natural world, it would serve as well to heed its ages old, worldly
wisdom. We have developed a civilization, which increasingly beyond our
control in a world that is increasingly under our control. The choices have
long been recognized and available to us, and yet we have consistently failed
to meet the challenge which our own human survival and nature has posed for
the world. The man made logic of our own world system of civilization is
proving to be fundamentally ‘patho-logical’ because, in its own pursuit of
development it systematically destroys the basis of its own growth and
We live in a human world of mass production and mass consumption, mass
media and mass ideology, mass bureaucracy and mass organization, mass money
and mass psychology, mass education and mass mobilization, mass needs and mass
solutions. Our mass oriented world is fundamentally impersonal and alienating
of individual subjectivity, systematically substituting artificial symbols for
natural needs and inclinations. The individual is confronted existentially
with the success imperative of ‘participate or perish’ in the mass
orientation of the world. Few if any alternatives remain viable to the
individual rather than this imperative for participation, which are not
becoming increasingly co-opted and restricted by the mass orienting World
System. Almighty Money, and its pursuit, is becoming the secular symbol of
this mass oriented system in place of the emblem of God, which has been
declared dead. Money buys the passport of entry into the System. It is the
ticket for citizenship and participation within the World System. It is a
paradox that though everyone is engaged equally in the pursuit of Money within
the System, the poor only become poorer and the rich get richer—the only
things that their hard earned money can buy for the poor people are the very
things that the rich profit from—while the entire energy and lifetime of the
many poor is virtually consumed in the processes of production of those very
things which they spend their money on and which earn a profit for the
wealthy, who in turn produce virtually nothing in he world except word, waste
and human want.
The pathos and the fundamental irrationality of our World System is not too
difficult to discover. In spite of the tragic prospects of a world population
bomb, international family planning and birth control policies remain poorly
underdeveloped and even in many cases, blatant disregarded or even resisted in
practice. Though pollution grows at a daily rate in every aspect of the earth’s
environment, the basic processes producing this pollution remain unrestricted
and even accelerated in their developmental promotion. The earth’s finite
base of nonrenewable resources are being quickly consumed, and for the most
part, unrecycled, while viable and more healthy alternatives have long been
known to exist, and the technologies to develop and exploit these alternative
resources long available. Those few resources, which are considered renewable,
the water table and the forest stands, are being consumed faster than they can
be renewed. Perhaps the earth’s most valuable and precious resource of all,
life itself, is being rapidly obliterated in its biological, evolutionary
potential and in its ecological coordination. All this in the pursuit of money
and the corrupt kind of power which only money can buy. These trends in the
development of the World System are continually basically out of control, and
ultimately only a very small minority of humankind are actually benefiting
from these net development. The ultimate madness of the mass oriented system
is that even those who most benefit from its development, will also be the
very ones who have the most to lose from its inexorable breakdown. The madness
of such a World System is its mutually assured destruction—a destruction of
the whole world, which no one, no matter how wealthy can escape.
It is something of a unhappy coincidence that the impending World crisis
lends itself readily to millennial and apocalyptic prophecies. It is almost as
if such prophetic visions were ideologically self fulfilling or were based
upon some fundamental, predictive understanding of human nature and human
history. It is unfortunate because it is liable to be these very analogies
which will bind us to the realities and prevent us from seeking reasonable
solutions to our world problems.
But there is more than a single grain of truth to these prophetic histories
in that it is the very values which they preach—frugality, humility,
spiritual purity, faith and devotion, as well as brotherhood, love and charity—which
are likely to be the most needed virtues, and least common vices, in our
Though Protestant and puritanical, such values are not necessarily laconic
and militaristic. People preoccupied with the production of weapons, with the
power of weapons, with the arts, sciences and strategems of war, have little
time left over for the development of the arts and science of life and living.
It does not need to be reiterated that the production of weapons in the world
has contributed nothing of net and lasting value to the welfare of the world,
but has only led to unnecessary destruction and waste.
To combine a Protestant and puritanical spirit with a pacifistic political
orientation is a much-needed formula for salvation in an increasingly human
world. We have only to witness the modern miracle of Japan to see how well
such a formula works.
It is imperative that we begin teaching our children how to value life and
living, and how to make the most of peace, rather than making of peace merely
the preparation for yet another bloody, useless war. If we do not begin soon,
not only can we blame ourselves, but our children will blame us as well.
We must recognize and acknowledge the intrinsic merit of the cultivation of
any and all forms of artistic production, as well as the intrinsic value of
improvement of human development, no matter how subjectively and qualitatively
defined, and no matter how poorly measured by quantitative indices. It is a
paradox that the vast amounts of human time, energy and money wasted upon the
production and improvement of weapons contribute virtually nothing to the
improvement of the general quality of life of humankind, while next to nothing
is left over for the cultivation of human arts which take nothing from life
and living that it does not give back in a qualitatively improved form. It is
only the military minded and money mongering who fail to see anything valuable
in human arts which cannot be counted and which cannot be used as a means of
controlling, exploiting and destroying others. It only speaks of the warped
values of a modern humanity who sees art as a waste of time and weapons only
as a means for making money and protecting property.
Because it is becoming an increasingly human world, its dimensionalities
must be increasingly measured in terms of the general human condition and of
the consequences of human stress and response, initiative and reaction, within
the world. Old formulas of human nature and of a kind of social Darwinism must
be given up in favor of newer formulas which do not equate the patternings of
human history with the dynamics of human evolution, and which do not confuse
the causes of cultural change with the consequences of biological
predisposition and genetic heritage. It will do us little good to see the
modern developments of the world as a by product of human evolution, and it
may well be the case that these kinds of ideology even promote and legitimate
the kind of status quo and may prevent the positive kinds of historical
changes which may help to resolve our modern world crisis. We can ill afford
to continue promoting ideologies which hold that human historical developments
in the world are basically predetermined by human biological and evolutionary
destiny. If anything, historical civilization had lead to the destruction of
human nature and its own evolutionary base.
The frustration of human creativity must eventuate in human
destructiveness. The frustration of human love results in human hate. The
frightening aspect of modern machineries of destruction and death are not that
they depend upon human aggressiveness and hate for their functioning, but they
are largely impersonal and indifferent in their design and operation. The
tyranny of modern evil is not the same kind of rational tyranny, which
depended upon the promotion of basic human aggression and hate for its
function, but it is a tyranny of the fundamentally alienated and anomic. Its
irrationality is its very rationality. A person can be a creative lover of
humankind and yet still feel compelled by reason to push a button that leads
to the distant destruction of a faceless human enemy. The role of aggression
and hate remain mostly only symbolic and ideological in the cultivation of
popular support for modern machineries of death—it is at best a displaced
aggression and distant hatred, indirect in destruction.
We are faced with a fundamental existential alternative for the future. If
creating order from chaos and pattern from randomness is what is constitutive
of life, and making the ordered chaotic and random is what is constitutive of
death and destruction, then creativity is ‘anti-entropic’ and life giving
while destructiveness is chaos producing and death making. It follows that a
creative world is one in which more is produced from less, and something comes
from nothing. A destructive world is precisely the opposite, where less is
produced from more, and nothing comes from something.
We have a choice to become creative in our world, or to remain destructive
Though we must act in the world, we can never know all of the consequences
of our actions. Nothing that humans do is ever completely condemnable nor
completely condonable. There is no human motive, which is pure and unmixed.
There is neither all good nor all bad in the world, but that people make it
seem so. Because we must act even though we cannot ultimately know either the
causes or consequences of our actions, we must not be too quick to presume to
know or judge the actions of others in the world. It is in the recognition of
the inherent possibility of our own evil in the world that we come to
understand, and to ultimately forgive the evil of others.
Poor motives are frequently thinly disguised, and it requires little
insight of wisdom to see through the veil to the human substance beneath.
Under the skin beneath the veil there is always a veritable mine of human
potentiality and virtue.
Imaginary visions of human possibility always hide in the shadows cast by
Between the black and the white is an infinite field of gray composed of a
rainbow of color.
Those who are blind to their illusions are susceptible to the illusions of
others. Those who are convinced of their importance, superiority, and power of
others in the world. In this way we can say that in a world so composed of
illusion, the blind lead the blind, and the one eyed would surely be king.
When people learn to see themselves for what they really are, they then
inevitably become ashamed of their own nakedness. It is always sobering to
laugh at the irony of the common nudity of the human condition. Beneath all
our clothes and all our illusions, we are all primitive children of nature.
The nearly overwhelming sense of security and solidarity of a mass oriented
society is that everyone seems to be doing the same things no matter how
foolish it may really be. This is an utterly false and dangerous illusion that
justifies the method of social order by the blind madness of the crowd.
Principles of social organization can be simply reduced to the problem of
crowd control. It is obvious where such principles come from—the social
psychology of crowds and theory of behavior modification. He masses of people
across the world are rendered increasingly susceptible to the inducements and
incentives of the System, at the same time being rendered increasingly
predictable and controllable as well.
Human civilization emerged emerged from the darkness of the natural order
of things. It dawned with the light of a new age. Civilization came to
superimpose a human made order on top of the natural scheme of things.
Analogies to these metaphors of darkness and light are the corresponding
metaphors of night and day, the sun and the moon, sleep and wakeful activity,
birth and death, the blindness of vice and the virtue of vision, the darkness
of ignorance and the light of understanding. Frightening unknown creatures of
the imagination stalk the night by the light of the glowing moon, while it is
the human being toiling beneath the bright sunlight who commands the day. Upon
these basic metaphors and their somewhat fortuitous association we have built
a world civilization. What difference might it have made if our mythos began
instead as ‘in the beginning was the circle of fire.’
Sublime beauty can be found in the commonest of things and in the plainest
of faces. To discover aesthetic feeling and character even in human ugliness
and natural decay is an art in itself. From such a superlative standpoint, the
cosmetic, the refined and sophisticated, the conventional and the ‘beautiful’
frequently appear contrived, superficial, meretricious, and even grotesque and
perverse in their artificial exaggeration of the natural forms, lines,
textures and colors of the world.
I have long striven to bring my art into everything I have done—in my
painting, my poetry, my other writing, in my anthropological research and
understanding, in my teaching, in my wood working, in my social relationships
and even in my worldly adventures. Things are hardly worth doing if not done
well with an eye to balance and form and with the extra care and attention to
minor details. It is a paradox that some of my most rewarding aesthetic
experiences have been in figuring out special ways to help or to make others
happy in the world. In whatever I choose to do, the challenge to produce
something interesting, and perhaps even profound, is always an intrinsic part
of the problem.
It is a grand paradox that will not allow itself to die to consider that
Vincent van Gogh was perhaps the poorest, most persecuted, and yet most
productive of artists to have ever lived. Now, barely one hundred years since
his tragic suicide at thirty seven years of age, one of his lesser paintings
will see at an auction for millions of dollars, and a whole multi million
dollar industry has grown up around his family name. And yet while he lived
and worked, the world denied to him even the most basic support. Van Gogh gave
so much to a greedy and ungrateful world, and now even many of his biographers
and fifth generation analysts would deny him even the most basic sanities and
human sensibilities and sensitivities which made him such an uncommon artist.
He was not so much anti social as he was alienated by a world which denied him
a life while capitalizing upon his art. The lesson taught by Van Gogh’s
tragic life is that we must honor the living as much as the dead.
A genuine artist transforms everything and anything she/he touches. A great
name can even turn the crudest of crap into gold while an unknown name can
quickly render the finest and most expensive of materials into worthless
waste. But neither fame nor fortune can guarantee an object of art against the
acid test of time. Reputations wax and wane with the changing tides of fashion
and currents of culture, but among some of the greatest pieces of art of
humankind are many made by anonymous hands. The highest reward of great art is
always in its making.
The relationship between money and art has always been something akin to
prostitution. Propaganda is the inevitable product of such artistic
prostitution—all art produced for such a purpose may be masterpieces of the
art of propaganda, but are rarely much more than minor and mediocre works of
art. Such art capitalizes upon the brevity of the critical Moment, and pays
the price by its ephemeral transience in the world.
While all artists need money by which to work and live, genuine art is
never produced primarily for the purpose of making money. It is a happy
balance any artist can strike between a means of making a living and an end
for which to live.
Even artists must struggle and juggle the contradictions of the world.
I was once told by an authority that art was a difficult row to hoe in the
world. For a few, it is the only row to hoe.
To ask an artist to live without art is like asking anyone else to live
without air to breathe. Art is the food of the soul, and the human soul is the
center of the artist’s being. Happiness is the heart of the possessor.
People who claim that the artist is essentially useless in the world unless
famous or fortunate fail to appreciate the vital role that art plays in the
world and the crucial connection that has always existed between art, culture
and human awareness and adaptability in the world. Art may often be trivial
and superficial, and artists banal and crude, but art and artists are never
useless in the human world.
Though humankind can learn to survive in the world without art, and even
learn to be happy in spite of art, it is bound never to live well in such a
world without art.
Humankind evolved to be artistic—creativity is the touchstone of human
nature. Art is what separates humankind from the other animals in the world.
It is not surprising to see that art had an important survival function in
both the human and natural worlds.
One of the greatest tragedies of the human world is that, in spite of so
much civilization, more people do not learn to become artists in their lives.
It is a capacity most humans share, and yet which seldom becomes cultivated
to its fullest potential. Many social constraints frequently work to frustrate
and interfere with this fundamental human capacity, in order to channel its
basic energies and abilities into more controlled areas of activity and to
induce greater conformity to social norms of belief and behavior. There is
always an aspect of unpredictability and danger associated with artistic
creativity which is often considered threatening to the status quo of social
order—particularly if such an order is especially conservative and resistant
or reactionary to change. This aspect of the association of art to liberal
change, unpredictability and innovation tends to cast the artist in an
ambivalent and somewhat liminal position in the normal social order. This has
not always been the case—artists have been frequently aligned with and
supported by, and therefore co-opted by, the most conservative and dominant
interests of society. Great art has often been the dependent stepchild of a
proud and ruthless despot, but the basic function of art to anticipate and
make aware change in the world has never been altered or co-opted by any
political interest except as propaganda.
If propaganda has been the corruption and pollution of great art, critics
have been its parasites. While the usefulness of art in the world can never be
doubted, the necessity of the function of artistic criticism can always be
questioned. History has remembered many great works of art and many great
artists, but no critics or works of criticism. If propagandized and
politically co-opted artists have become professional prostitutes, then the
critics have been their whore-mongers and pimps. It is a paradox that the
artist is always her/his own worst critic, and that all-authentic art is also
Perfectionism is the poison of authentic art. It is a paradox that while
all authentic art attempts to improve itself, it never answers the claim to
perfection. Irremediable perfectionism leads to frustration and stagnation of
artistic growth. It is a symptom of artistic immaturity and regression.
The artist is like a fruit tree, not to be judged by the merits of any
particular fruit, but by the entire compendium of the artist’s life work—by
the number and size of the seasonal harvests. Each individual work, like any
particular fruit, must be judged against the overall size, variety and yield
of the artist’s entire production. The artist must learn to cull the lesser
fruit and to concentrate upon the better fruit, and it is the most any artist
can hope for to have a long life with many full and productive seasons.
A single masterpiece never an artist makes, but an artist must make many
Few firm lines can be drawn different forms and kinds of artistic activity
and between art and many aspects of life. A creative artist is by definition a
syncretistic synthesizer of many diverse elements of experience and life.
Artist excellence in one area or domain tends to generalize itself to the
artist’s entire life and to lend aesthetic awareness to many other areas of
activity. Similarly, an artistic society will tend to demonstrate talent and
genius in a relatively wide arc of cultural activity. Restriction and
boundedness is antithetical to an artistic way of life. This tendency must
inevitably sometimes comes to odds with the professional need to focus and
concentrate one’s expertise upon a relatively narrow and well defined domain
in order to achieve the standards of excellence characteristic of great art.
The mark of a true artistic genius is her/his basic versatility—to work with
excellence in a variety of different media, through professionally restricted
to just a few.
An artist is rarely just as asshole.
The amount, variety, and relative quality of art can be taken as a useful
and valid measure of relative health and adaptive achievements of any human
culture and all human civilization. The progress of human civilization can be
indexed by number and productivity of its artistic genius. No society too
preoccupied with the basic human biological survival can find the spare time
and energy to produce great art. The great cave paintings of Lascaux can be
taken as the first evidence of human civilization in the prehistoric world. We
recognize the European Renaissance for what it was, as a great dawning of
human civilization at the end of a long dark night of the middle ages,, by its
blossoming and flourishing of great art. The huge stone megaliths of Easter
Island are a strange archaeological testimony to the power and vitality of
artistic production in determining the course of survival of its Polynesian
people. It an be taken as an important symptom of our modern malaise if fewer
and fewer people can either find the time, means or energy available to pursue
art even as just a part time avocation.
A world in which success is built upon the strict separation of work and
play,, the dichotomization between professional and personal, the alienation
of human labor from the products of that labor, the cooption of human time,
energy and freedom, intellect and the values for the purpose of exploitation,
and the repression of the subjectiveness and will of the individual for the
‘objectivity’ and sake of the System, the artist who manages to make
work play and play work, who fails to separate personal interests and tastes
from professional prerogatives, who is supposed to do what she/he likes and
like what she/he does, who is intimately attached via her/his labor to the
objects of art which they produce, who resists, and must resist the monetary
cooption of their time, energy , liberty, ideas and values in order to avoid
the exploitation of their labor, and who revel in their own and in human
subjectiveness and in their individual willfulness, can only be regarded with
deep suspicion and, at best, great ambivalence by other, more ‘normal’
members of society. At worst the drive of such normative constraints may lead
to the recrimination of the artist and the repression of all art which is not
mandated by service to the System and thus propagandized. It is not unusual if
artists are made to suffer severely for their lot in life, and that they
should be more sensitive to this suffering and in tune with its social causes
and consequences more than the normal run of the mill. Unmitigated and chronic
feelings of guilt, shame, persecution, and of anxiety and hysteria have their
source in the ambivalent status role of the artist in human society. T seems
that little can really be done to alleviate such symptoms and suffering short
of the basic reorientation of our modern System away from mass production and
toward the kind of handicraft production from which all art comes.
Ours is a modern society, which does not value too highly the kinds of
interests and involvements which fosters the cultivation of art. Instead our
society places a premium upon socio economic achievement and status which
translates into ones occupational position and sociability within the System.
For any authentic artist, where one stands within the world hierarchy of
widget or wug production and consumption is at best secondary to the
existential and historical problematics of creativity and culture.
The eye of the artist is to see in each and every image of the world its
own momentary and its revealed potential for eternity captured in the subtle
and sublime interplay of light and shadow, in the tonalities and values of
local colors contrasts, and atmospheric effects, in the synaesthetic effects
of surface textures, intersecting lines, curving depths, and sharply cut
corners, in directional movements and flows of design patterning. The hand of
the artist transforms everything it touches into something vibrant with life
animating, vitalizing, transmitting, moving the inert. Art expresses motion in
stillness, sound in silence, light in darkness and life in the inanimate and
lifeless. For the authentic artist every moment, every scene, every sound,
every act, every word, is pregnant with the vitality of life, and the whole
world presents as endless array of possibilities waiting to be born. In this
sense, we may speak legitimately of the inherent awe and wonder if art in the
In all art, simplicity is the quintessential of virtuosity and the only
permissible style of conveying the sublime, the subtle and the profound. Even
sophistry and unnecessary complexity weaken the form, take away from its
strength, and render its feeling and movement superfluous. It follows that
simplicity can be the source of grand sophistication and sublime complexity,
while the sophistication and complexity of design and execution can sometimes
reveal great simplicity.
In great art, the medium is always metalogical with its message, form
follows function and function fits the form, design determines the execution
and the execution determines the design, and the unique composition of its
elements always and only points indirectly to their ultimate significance and
purpose. The profundity of great art is its embodiment and expression of grand
paradox—its depths are reflected in the shallowness of its surface spaces.
All authentic art is in some strange, unfathomable measure, and in some
secret, mysterious way, prescient of the near future at the moment of its
origination. We welcome new art when we open our doors to the changes that the
future has brought, and new art becomes acceptable only after past tastes have
been replaced by future appetites. In this way, art has always had a wonderful
affinity with the mystical and the prophetic, and artists share similar
attitudes, orientations, life styles and world views as visionaries, seers,
fortune tellers and shamans. The authentic artist has sharpened awareness and
an attunement to the environmental and with the larger world that is lacking
in the less sensitive, the more mundane and convention bound. It is the very
sharpness of the artists sensibilities and keenness of this kind of awareness
which drives the artist to create new forms which are more consonant and
harmonious with the changing world as they experience it. It is through such
creation of new and novel forms that the new ways of seeing, feeling, sensing
and acting in the world is made available to the less acutely aware and those
of duller sensitivities.
The function of art is to mediate change in the world by incorporating it
into more conventionally and culturally acceptable forms. It follows that
indirectly the function of art is to preserve past forms in viable new shapes.
All art works within some convention, tradition, or cultural constraint—even
if only in reaction, rebellion or in destructive denial of such constraint.
Without attachment to any constraint, art is impossible, and what would pass
for art is only counterfeit and trivial. The creation of new forms of art lead
inevitably to the establishment of new conventions, the founding of new
traditions and the inauguration of new cultural constraints. What is born in
freedom and in the breaking with constraint, leads to the restriction of
freedom and the broadening of constraint. The dialectic between art and the
society, in which it is situated and supported, is the dialectic between the
liberal and the conservative, the marginal and the conventional, the
peripheral and the central. What begins in art ends in cultural constraint.
The revolutionary and new of one age is the conventional and old of the next.
No portrait is painted that does not present the disguised face of the
artist. Every painting, no matter what the subject, contains the imprint of
the artist’s unique individuality and the impression of her/his personality.
In however subtle a manner, lifeless symbols and emblems are anthropomorphized
with human traits and characteristics, and everywhere the painter cannot but
help leave her/his signature in paint.
Without art by which to frame our experience, the human being is little
better than an animal or a machine in the world. More than anything else,
besides perhaps Religion, it is art which humanizes the world and which makes
the human being worldlier.
Great Art, like great Religion, springs from the spirit of humanity and has
its common source in the soul of the individual human being. Art and Religion
are the best expressions of humanity and human identity in the world.
Show me an authentic artist and I will show you a basically, incurably,
honest human being. Authentic art always depends upon the virtue of honesty to
always see through the veil of illusion to the substance beneath. Art which
relies upon the illusion and trickery of deceit is nothing more than mere
propaganda. Authentic art always enlightens the human world—to express and
experience the world as it really seems to be by dispelling the deceit which
keeps human experience shrouded in the shadow of darkness.
There has always been a very close connection between art and religion, and
this connection has been foremost symbolic and mythological. Art creates the
symbolic forms which religion then infuses with sacred significance and
spiritual purpose. Art always borrow from religion those mythological
archetypes and elements of sacred significance by which to create its new
forms and symbols. It is to be expected that religion frequently tries to
appropriate the role and power of art for its own services, and that artists
frequently revolt against the symbolic and social dominance of religion in the
pursuit of their art.
Truth and Beauty lies closely connected deep within the human
consciousness. It is in this connection that we can refer to the basic
archetypes of the collective unconscious of humankind. That which is most
sublime also seems to be most true, and that which most aesthetically
gratifying tends to be ethically the most rewarding. This association between
aesthetic sensitivities and moral sensibilities is always close and
inseparable in the human world. We tend to regard that which is ugly as bad,
and that which is bad to be seen as ugly. Without normative astuteness, there
could be no aesthetic appreciation or ethical evaluation.
Learning to sense the basic beauty of the natural world is unavoidably
learning to understand the basic goodness of that world.
We live now in a human made world in which these two basic senses have been
separated and effectively sundered. This split between the aesthetic and the
ethical has been necessary in order for the inference and intermediation of
social control and the socialization for conformity in the world. In our world
it is no longer given or necessary that the things we do well must also be
basically good, and that our goodness must always be done well. Thus we make
modern weapons, which are exquisite from the standpoint of pure, aeronautical
design, and we construct public housing facilities and slums without the
slightest regard to their basic sanities or spiritual attractiveness. Our
world has become fundamentally perverse when we can find beauty in things
essentially evil and ugliness in things basically good.
The only thing worst than poor art is the intolerance and the
discrimination against poor art. The artistically astute will find such art
vulgar, irritating and even insulting, but never threatening enough to warrant
persecution and destruction. In this regard artistic freedom is absolute, and
requires absolute tolerance. The scaring of objects of art is the equivalent
of the burning of books and murder of people. It represents the denial and
the loss of freedom of expression, and the exercise of this freedom, which art
The barbarians who toppled the statues of the Roman world were soon to make
those same figures their own sacred idols,
There is always something deeply symbolic about the violent
misappropriation of art. It is almost as if the beauty of life were trying to
be expressed in terms of the ugliness of death, and natural creation was
transformed by destructiveness.
The source and energy of art is the same as for human aggression. It is as
much emotional as intellectual, as physical in origin and end as mental. Art
is fundamental, ineffable expression of the power of human being in the world.
Artistic production is a form of empowerment in the world, and artistic
representation symbolizes in basic form the importance of such power.
The appreciation of art has its sympathetic appeal in the same source as
its production. Art is not merely intellectually interesting, it is
intriguing, satisfying, and moving to the person’s entire sense of being.
Artistic appreciation shares its source in the same universal sympathies of
being which makes humankind unique and different from all other creatures of
It is this mysterious power and these strange sympathies which makes human
nature so unfathomable and so paradoxical.
One cannot analyze an object of art into its design elements or its basic
materials in order to understand the source of its power over the human
imagination. The power of an artwork is always synergistic and must always be
grasped from a holistic standpoint. It is the unique combination of diverse
elements and the interrelations which they represent in the world, which
confers upon a work of art its special character and capacity to be more, and
less, than it seems to be.
Similarly, one cannot simply analyze the life of an artist in order to
discover how and why the artist works and creates art. Each artist represents
a unique pattern of personality traits, talents and idiosyncrasies, which are
integrated in sometimes-contradictory fashion into the being of the artist and
reflected in the many peculiarities of their unfolding life style. These
patternings are virtually unfathomable from any but a holistic and
synthesizing point of view.
We can live without poetry in life but we cannot live well without it. The
poem frames our world with aesthetic wonder, and fills all the spaces between
our words and deeds with a sublime sense of awe.
All symbolisms in art derives ultimately from nature. The basicness and
power of the natural symbolic archetypes of human consciousness—the circle,
the snake, the bird, the fish, the human figure itself—all have a deep
seated hold over our minds and a deeply rooted influence upon our history.
They serve in our lives as a constant reminder of our own autochthonous
origins from the earth and our common identity with the natural world.
Writing is the crowbar of the mind, prying open the problems of the world,
letting in the light of knowledge and letting out the hidden elements of
I use my words more like a crowbar in the world than a sword or a foil. My
writing lacks the skilled refinement and finesse which is the mark of a good
writer. I must depend upon the brute strength and basis vocabulary to move,
bit by bit, inch by inch, the mountains of the world. Because words do not
usually flow easily from my mind, my writing is usually difficult, strained
and consuming much time and energy. I must count the rewards for my writing
not in terms of money earned, but only in terms of the number of mounds of
meaning that’s been moved.
I would trade off my whole compendium of poetry for a single simple poem
that’s profound enough to be published and read in the world. I must content
myself with quantity rather than quality.
Better a single word to summarize a thousand pages than a thousand pages to
summarize a single word.
Excessive verbosity, verbiage, loquaciousness and ‘logorrhea’ is the
mark of mediocrity in writing—the sign of uncertainty and the lack of
credibility, that the writer does not really know what she/he is talking
about, and it is talking more around the point than to the point.
Written words must be morel like deeds than mere words—they must act upon
the imagination of the reader rather than just communicate intentions or
meanings. Words must get things done with the least amount of excessive
effort. Only in this way will an author be taken seriously enough to be read
with any interest.
Words written for mere self-expression go out but do not ever come back to
close the hermeneutic circle. Such words may communicate, but seldom do much
more than this in the world.
Written words must move mountains, not make mountains out of molehills.
The world is so replete and inundated with written words and printed trivia
that few people can afford to take the extra time required to sort through the
junk to find the jewels of literature. People can hardly be blamed from
editing from their existence so many mixed up messages which their minds and
insult their intellects. Our world suffers as much from the word pollution of
the Mind as it does from any other kind of ecological contamination.
It is wise to wonder whether the vast majority of printed or published
material is worth the paper it is printed upon, especially when the few
remaining trees of the world’s forests are becoming so precious.
There is little intrinsic about my own growing mound of printed paper which
represents the compendium of my writing that should set it apart from this
mountain of mental verbiage. Because of this, it is becoming increasingly
difficult to justify my writing purely in its own terms, especially when its
investment grows more onerous and less rewarding with each additional page.
Making paper mountains may only be biographical and historical compulsion.
But even so, it remains a very human preoccupation and what but history and
biography itself would pass judgment upon what will soon pass away and what
will long remain. My small mound grows daily because soon I can find nothing
better to do with my time.
My poetry is closely like my painting, so close as to lead me to believe
they have a common connection in my creative and active imagination, and
fulfill a common normative need in the expression and external production of
my human beingness in the world.
The purpose of both poetry and painting is not to persuade the human mind,
but to induce the human imagination to experience new states of being and new
possibilities of becoming in the world. Poems and paintings enrich our
experience of the world much more they cost to produce. Poetry and painting is
not merely intellectually interesting, but imaginative intriguing and even
spiritually stimulating in life. The power of the poet and painter is to
convey the same experience and sense of fascination and wonderment of the
world to the reader or viewer.
If I can with my words just open one other mind, jarring it loose from its
prejudices and preconceptions to let in the light of the wider world view,
like a crowbar that pries loose a bent and rusty nail, than my paper mountain
will have been worth the waiting.
The air is free and printed words are relatively cheap—perhaps this is
way so little money is to be made in writing.
Better one word of truth than a thousand of deceit.
The true meaning of a text can never be read directly from the words, but
must be found somewhere between the lines, between the pages, between the
covers, and between the shelves. To live entirely in a world of words is to
live in a stuffy, interior world of illusion without a window to open to let
in fresh air and sunlight and without a door through which to pass onto the
wider pathways of the world. One must learn to read with one eye upon the
word, and one eye upon the world, and with one’s head in the clouds but one’s
feet upon the ground.
Better to be completely illiterate than to lead a life of boredom stringing
together trite clichés. Words can imprison the mind as much as they can
There are no words, which do not reveal as much as they conceal, which do
not tell lies as they speak truth. Words are always half true and half-false.
They are always the vessels of ignorance and prejudice as much as they are the
vehicles if wisdom and enlightenment. This is their paradox and their power.
I started writing because I felt I had something important to say when
nobody else was listening to me. It was my method for dealing with the madness
of my loneliness in the world and became my madness for methodically treating
that loneliness. Now, thirteen years and twenty odd manuscripts later, I’m
still writing and people are still not paying much attention to me. I guess
its time to try to publish something.
What I would give for the volume of poems that I have dreamed of only to
awaken and arise to suffer a loss of words, or that I have put away for a
later date only to become forgotten and irretrievably lost. One must learn to grasp the moment of inspiration, or else relinquish the preoccupation of
plying poems composed on the fly.
If talking it all out is therapy for the soul, writing it all out is
therapeutic for the mind—relieving it of the mental morass of confused
conceptions, contradictory notions, and nonsensical meanings. Writing
clarifies and sharpens the intellect, exercising the brain’s analytical and
imaginative powers, jogging the memory and one’s power of reason. It is
little wonder that writing can often be frustrating and difficult experience.
Writing mediates the gap between the word and the deed. Writing may either
prove to be a precursor to action or a substitute for it and an excuse for
One person’s fact may be another’s fiction, and there is nothing in
writing it in words doesn’t make it seem so.
If I had a dollar for every page I’ve written, I would have enough to at
least put a down upon a small house. As it is I must content myself with
feeling at home with my typewriter. It is better if one’s words dwell in the
world than to have one’s world dwell in words. Better to live in the words
of the world than in the worlds of the words.
I prescribe heavy doses of writing for anyone who feels the least bit
foolish, ill at ease, or confused with the world. There is no quicker or more
complete remedy for the inanities of the world.
Writing has always been for me something of a transformational experience.
I emerge from the wilderness of a new manuscript somewhat altered in character
than how I entered the forest. It is something like a journey in which there
is never any returning. It is never a journey without some cost or trade off
in terms of one’s time, energy, flexibility, and alternative opportunity in
the world, and too much such transformation inevitably leads to burn out of
one’s resourcefulness and involvement.
Words are the trees of the forest of the world, and books are like maps,
which chart the pathways in small sections of the wilderness. The wilderness
of the world is vast and its trees are too many—writers are but helpless
wanderers of the woods, marking out different trails between its many regions.
It is fitting that my stormy creativity should at last come to rest upon
the rock of writing. More than in any other form of creative expression,
writing provides an anchor to the restless world.
My first manuscript was written on the top of a wooden footlocker in an
open squad bay. It was a very difficult and frustrating process at first, but
soon became an obsession that consumed all my extra energies and spare time.
No one during that year bothered to ask me what I was writing about. It must
have seemed to the lifers such an incredible absurdity that they could not but
doubt its values. For me it was a separate reality, an escape from the
intolerable stresses and strains of the moment.
Now I can complete a manuscript in several weeks and though it consumes the
main part of my time and energy, I have extra to spend on other things.
Writing does not come now as hard as it used to be. But few still bother to
ask me what I’m writing about, and I think most must still not believe in
it. It remains a separate reality from which I can regularly escape from the
vicissitudes and problems of everyday life.
Writing creates a world in which I have supreme mastery. The author always
has the final word, and it is this absolute authority which is both the
corruption and the power of writing.
Ours has long been an age of literacy. We are creatures of the written and
printed word. Our signatures carry the legal authority of our whole life, and
is the basis for all legal transactions, the possession of property and public
authority and identity in the world. Whatever the many implications of
literacy for the transformation of the human mind and world, we cannot now
easily escape the consequences of these historical transformations.
As long as humans remain human, there will always be interesting books to
be written and read.
Books and words have been the building blocks of human civilization and the
flagstones of the way of human history. Without them we would have neither
history, civilization not humanity in the same sense that we know them.
My will to write, and my many unpublished manuscripts and collections of
poetry, have always symbolically represented a kind of intellectual and
spiritual declaration of independence in the world.
My writing has been a way of silently but positively asserting my will and
my own way in the world—speaking our silently without fear or recrimination
or retribution or persecution for my words and thoughts.
If we value the freedom of speech as the guarantee of the freedom of
thought, then we must value equally the freedom of the press as the only
guarantee of the freedom of speech and thought.
Politicians will always depend upon the publication and dissemination of
propaganda by which to persuade and warp the will of the people to the
politician’s own ends and against the people’s own best interests.
People may burn books but their fires can never be destroy the truths which
the words represent, nor take away the freedom of mind such books symbolize
and which led to their creation in the first place.
Though there are copyright laws and patents pending, no human being or
corporate group has a monopoly or a corner on the market of the human mind.
The idea that ideas and thought can be a privilege of private ownership the
same way that material possessions are is inherently antithetical and
destructive to the very freedom of mind upon which the creation of new ideas
depends. Such practices can only be regarded as fascist and anti-intellectual
in the final analysis.
The virtue of the human mind is that it is ultimately and necessarily free
from social control, and the written word is both the primary instrument and
expression of that freedom.
I had a kind of writer’s block for a few years. I felt as though I couldn’t
write well what I wanted to say, and whenever I actually started to write, I
felt as if I had nothing at all to say. Neither the thoughts nor the words to
express them by were available when I needed them, though I had off moments of
literary inspiration. This was a maddening, frustrating, stultifying and
ultimately deadening experience, but I continued to force myself to write as
much as I could stand, in spite of many interruptions and existential interims
in my life, and though finishing a piece frequently proved even more difficult
than starting them, and many things were left unfinished, I eventually broke
free of this bloke and gradually loosened up enough to feel at ease with my
writing and only then did writing begin to be a genuinely enjoyable experience
Looking back upon this period, I am not sure what the sources of this block
really were. One important factor seemed to be a susceptibility to a kind of
authoritative criticism and influence in my writing as well as in many other
areas of my life, by people I then regarded to be my significant others, but
who proved in the long run to be my ‘fair weather friends’ and
acquaintances of circumstance and convenience. I could call them, in
hindsight, more like Minotaurs of the academic labyrinth than real
intellectual mentors. Needless to say, these people are no longer a part of my
life, nor are the kinds of intellectual-emotional-social interdependencies
which our relationships represented. Breaking free of my writer’s block had
something to do with breaking free of the kinds of social bonds in the world
kept my sense of self identity in the world as a writer bound to other people’s
petty prejudices and preconceptions. It is unfortunate that in Academic arenas
of authorship, such dependencies seem to be the norm rather than the
exceptions to the rule. My best writing has never been academic.
My writing over the years has only improved by small increments and has
moved only gradually in some directions while in others it has changed only
slightly if at all. I sometimes read some of my earliest stuff and am struck
by its freshness, directness, its unsophisticated strength and vitality of
style. I must admit that a great deal of my writing has been roughshod and
only first draft, and often not written with the view of the readership in
mind. My writing has represented for me more of a personal, psychological
odyssey through my life than any kind of social trip in the world.
Birds of a feather flock together….different strokes for different folks….the
pen is mightier than the sword….between the cup and the lip there is many a
Books are just like tools. Everybody wants to borrow them but no one likes
returning them. I have lost many books and a few tools this way.
It is necessary that a writer be well read. A person who always writes but
rarely reads is one who remains unable to read her/his writing in the way that
others will read it. It is like a person who believes she/he is experiencing
the world by sitting in front of the television set. I've learned my lessons
the hard way. Reading remains the only counter balance a writer has to keep
from going too far. There are so few good writers in the world because there
are so few good readers.
Anthropology is by definition the holistic study of humankind. The drawing
of disciplinary and sub-disciplinary boundaries in the specializations and
territorial demarcations of professional interest is antithetical to the
general and synthetic basis of the whole field.
There is something wrong with such a field when its professional members no
longer identify themselves primarily as anthropologists with the implication
of disciplinary holism and breadth of interest, involvement and intellectual
understanding, and instead become identified as being primarily one sort of
specialist or another. This has been neither a necessary nor a desirable stare
if affairs, though wholly understandable from standpoint of its structural
relationship with its domain host society.
Professional anthropologists would do well to remember their lessons in
I have been pursuing the study of professional anthropology for almost ten
years now and honestly feel little further ahead that when I began, even
though my understanding of the world has perhaps increased enormously. I have
never been in any anthropology class in which any other student has ever out
performed me or shown more or better knowledge of the field than myself, and
yet I have over the years consistently seen other, younger students getting
ahead with their careers while I seem to be running in place. Many people ask
me why I keep investing my time, energy and money in the pursuit of a
profession, which has given so little compensation in return. With a wife and
a child to worry about, I can no longer give them any honest excuses. In this
matter I can only ultimately blame myself, though I do not thereby condone the
values of American society, the politics of Academia or the professional
prerogatives of the anthropological elite who are for the most part
conservative, classicist and ego-centric in orientation. If there is a great
hypocrisy with the world, then it begins with the basic lack of honesty with
the self. Honesty begets humility and is immune to the disease of hypocrisy.
My minor contributions to the field on their own, and my devotion,
authenticity and sincerity of commitment to the pursuit of anthropological
understanding in the world no longer require the legitimization of the
professional in group or the justification of the power elite. I would
continue to pursue my own anthropological interests, via my writing, as both a
scientist and a humanist, whether anyone else calls me anthropologist or not.
The most pressing problem in the world today are primarily human problems,
and the most intellectually challenging puzzles and paradoxes which confront
human understanding today are basically and irreducibly problems of human
reality. On this anthropological ground, I stake my claim as an
After making A’s in four field methods courses, several general theory
classes, and two or three history of anthropology seminars, not to mention the
host of other, interrelated topics, I seem to still not have gotten it all
right. I’m beginning to wonder whether I ever will, or even if there really
is a right way of going about being an anthropologist.
The most important thing I have learned from my anthropological studies has
been to recognize amongst all the differences of humankind the same basic
common ground and sense of identity and dignity of each human being.
Professionals within the field hardly impress me at all anymore, with their
long list of publications, their self-centered sense of smugness and
self-importance, and their lines and their sea stories. It is the common
person, in whichever cultural corner of the world, with their basic dilemmas
and basic interests and involvements, which I find most interesting. These
things are not found only in a book or in photography. They are to be found
only in other people. How much basic equality can an anthropologist establish
with other people of the world if they do not confront or resolve those
structural asymmetries in their own lives?
If you want to get rich fast, go to law school and become a lawyer. The
world can always use another lawyer. But if you want to remain poor and
persecuted, then become an anthropologist. Though anthropologists have always
desperately needed the world, the world has seldom the need for an
I’ve met many professional anthropologists who think they are perfect, at
least in private, and who would like to believe the are God’s gift to
humankind. They can become quite frustrated when they come to realize that
hardly anyone around is paying much attention to them, and that they are
probably are not, after all, God’s chosen on earth. I used to be a true
believer—a committed anthropologist—until I passed through its back door
one too many times. The view from the rear does not look as pure and sacred as
the perspective from the front. The biggest career disappointment of a
professional anthropologist is not that they have failed to solve any of the
world’s problems, but that the world has failed to solve any of their
The nemesis of Anthropology will be weighed not in terms of its failure to
provide any important answers or solutions to the problem of human reality,
but in its failure to ask nontrivial and interesting questions about that
As to the anthropological question whether there are really any significant
barriers of difference separating one person from another, or cultures, or
nations, or different periods of time, I must say that there are a few if any
that are not made by humankind itself. The most important lesson to be learned
from social anthropology are that rules were always made to be broken. No
human made rule would be worthy if it could not be honored in its breach. But
the paradox of anthropological knowledge does not end here—this is where it
Yuppie anthropology has become the pursuit of anthropology for other ends.
While it may have the virtue of lacking the commitment of the ‘authentic’
anthropology as an end in itself, it suffers the shortcoming of prostituting
the study of anthropology to whatever circumstance of convenience, which comes
along. What used to be a well regarded neutrality of anthropological science,
is quickly becoming a vested interest of scientific territoriality.
Between biology and technology little remains left over for plain humanity.
Between the brain and the computer, there is little room for the mind and its
culture. For the true scientist bent upon closing the gap between nature’s
secrets and technologies power, the interests and problems of the human being
cannot but be seen as an obstacle interfering with progress. The interests of
human science of anthropology will not be well served if all of human nature
and culture is reduced to severe logic of genetic determination, or if the
mind and its social history merely mimicked by computers and ‘systems’ of
structural explanations. While biology and technology may be nothing but a
matter of machines and genes, human anthropology has always been something
Show me an anthropologist who has all the answers and I will show you a
veritable menace to the profession. Anthropological administration adds
nothing to the stock of anthropological knowledge but takes away a great deal
of human freedom. The net consequences of anthropological administration is
political economic mediocrity.
The Mind of anthropology and the anthropological Mentality are not the same—the
former is the collective genius and understanding of the common problems and
paradoxes of human reality, while the latter represents the simple solutions
of a rabid intellectual extremist who foams at the mouth at the thought of
her/his own ego in the world. The Mind of anthropology is to be found in the
field among the peoples of the world, while the anthropological Mentality can
be found dwelling securely in the departmental forums among all the
professionals, hypocrites and pseudo-intellectuals.
Professors of anthropology no longer bother with me because I no longer
supplicate their egos. Students no longer talk to me because they are too
preoccupied with supplicating their professors’ egos. Though I remain
marginally attached to anthropology, I am no longer strictly identified either
as a ‘student’ or as a professional. I don’t know when the transition
actually happened. It was when I lost faith and trust in the authority of all
too human anthropologists and in what too frequently passes for ‘friendship’
between students. It has struck me as a double paradox to become a stranger
among professional strangers who are supposed to have as their primary objects
getting to know other people in the world.
I can no longer identify myself as one particular kind of anthropologist or
another, not even as strictly an anthropologist. The general domain of
anthropology has itself become too confining for my breadth of intellectual
interests. The mind is inherently interdisciplinary and humankind is
It is not too long before one outgrows even the generality of anthropology,
feeling some of the frustrations of its intrinsic and extrinsic limitations.
One eventually begins to wonder whether there is not possible a more general,
embracing and realistic point of view to be adopted beyond the merely
The principal anthropological fallacy seems to me to be the paradox of
inferring a probable presence from a definite absence. Statistics seems to
come to the rescue in this problem, but its concreteness of numerical
quantification always conceals the initial and final arbritariness of its
qualitative and normative evaluation. All areas of anthropology founder upon
the problem of bridging this critical difference between what is and what isn’t
but may possibly be. Whole anthropological mansions are built and entire
intellectual and anthropological empires are carved out from the world upon
the basis of what amounts to the ‘astonishment’ of the anthropological
imagination which must always fill in the gulf between the fact and its
fiction, the ‘datum’ and its idea, empirical reality and rational truth.
Whatever the relative distance between the known and the unknown, it cannot be
but spanned by at least one leap of faith. Between the said and the done there
is always a virtual infinitude of anthropological possibility. If
anthropologists took no risks, they would achieve no gains.
The more I learn about anthropology the less I know about the human world.
The net outcome of an anthropological education can only be a tremendous
appreciation for the variety and versatility of humankind, and a
correspondingly tremendous intellectual humility towards the always
encompassed, but never encompassing horizons of one’s own ignorance and
prejudices. In this regard it is striking how anecdotal so much of the ‘evidence’
in anthropological discourse really is, and how cliché and trite many of its
‘paradigmatic exemplars’. Humankind would do well to be spared the
intellectual hubris and arrogance of the anthropological know it all.
I am more and more astonished by the analogous parallels between the
culture of anthropology and the anthropology of culture. One must have lived
and worked as an anthropologist for at least a year in some departmental
setting to come to fully understand and appreciate how like other human beings
anthropologists really are, and how tribal like and petty such settings can
become in terms of their factionalisms over limited resources, their status
hierarchies and clicks, their gossip networks and background machinations, and
their rituals and myths. The student of anthropology becomes twice born as an
adult child in a strange and alienating cultural world—once in the field and
once in the department. This is so often so much the case that it is to be
legitimately asked if the escape to the field which is so much the
source of anthropological romance and reality, is not also sometimes an escape
from the escape that becoming an academic anthropologist signifies in
relation to the wider real world. Becoming a life long professional
stranger in different world is possibly an adaptive response to the failure to
become very familiar with one’s own world. Anthropology has always been an
acceptable and alternative avenue for the strange and unfamiliar.
If this is sometimes so, then it may also be legitimately asked whether the
emphatic desire of some anthropologist’s to make the strange familiar and to
bring the whole of anthropological enterprise into the more familiar regions
of science in our own society, do not really represent the unconscious wish to
become more normal and familiar with the world. As such it is possibly a wish
to return to the repressed by the repressed.
The history of anthropology has always been constituted by an academic,
question and answer dialectic between the thesis of collectivizing tendencies
of science to see the human world organized upon a common set of universal
laws and the antithetical and contra-posed relativizing tendencies to emphasis
the many differences between people and to play down the similarities. It has
been the basis of this rational dialectic, which has led anthropology to
develop as a coherent and relevant field of human understanding. It has long
been unfortunate that so many professional commitments and involvements for
the advancement of mutually egoistic and egotistic interests has tended to
popularize the profession to one extreme position or the other, instead of
cultivating the kind of attitude and ability to step outside of the entire
dialectic itself while keeping one foot each on both sides of the dividing
line. It is the fact of the dialectic itself, and not the involvement in
either of its extremes, which makes anthropology interesting and authentic in
the world and which links it critically to other general order intellectual
paradigms like philosophy, science, art and religion.
The biggest threat to the anthropologist’s sense of professional
objectivity is her/his own most personal sense of human subjectiveness.
Maintaining the veil of anthropological authority in the world depends upon
the illusion of such objectiveness achieved by implicit denying and explicitly
controlling the subjectiveness of those people whom the anthropologist studies
and upon whom the anthropologists is supposed to be an expert authority.
Cultivating such an illusion and maintaining the anthropological veil is much
simpler if the only evidence is material artifacts and biological traits and
if the people represented are not allowed to speak for themselves and talk
back to the anthropologist. It sometimes seems to me a much wiser course to
simply make a science of subjectivity instead of trying to transform
subjectivity into an objective science. For so many people who seek simple
solutions and pat answers to the complexities inherent to understanding human
reality, this would render anthropology seemingly too soft, to loose and too
much like a humanity rather than a science. Such a threat of subjectivity is a
threat to their sense of authority in the world and a threat to the kind of
physical science upon which such a sense of authority is based.
I personally have never once doubted the profound relevance, which the
study of anthropology constitutes for the world, though I may have always
misunderstood the relevance. The question of its possible irrelevance in the
world has never once vexed me. It is paradoxical that so many professional
anthropologists who seem bent upon demonstrating that anthropology is in fact
a hard and respectable science, so often strike me as unconsciously doubting
the intrinsic relevance of anthropology and thus in their chronic insecurity
searching for some pat formula, some model, some structure, some law of
discovery, that renders the anthropological profession as predictable,
paradigmatic, and puzzle solving as what the profession of physics has come to
epitomize in the world. They are engaged upon a never ending quest for an
anthropological El Dorado or Fountain of Youth, some elemental touchstone
which will demonstrate unequivocally to themselves and to the rest of the
world their authority as a science and thus their profitability from that
science. They seek some solution to the perennial and common human problem of
selling themselves, and their profession to the world in a way that the world
wants and is willing to pay for. It is a grand paradox that those who would
seek to render anthropology most certain, secure and scientific in the world
are those who may hold the belief in its ultimate irrelevance closest to their
Beware the rise of an anthropological aristocracy. These are the few who
seek to turn their profession into a guild or a union and to prescribe for
everyone the rules of conformity and the price of admission. They are elitist,
hypocritical, pseudo-intellectual status mongers who would do virtually
anything to get ahead and who remain hung up on the horns of their own
authority complex. None of us can but help spill over into the
authoritarianism and asymmetries of the field, or end up distorting
practically anything and everything, which comes back from the field as an
authentic article of anthropological faith.
Otherness is a condition of not knowing ourselves well enough.
There is a way of seeing others—of looking squarely into their faces. It
is as Vincent Van Gogh must have seen others—every line, every feature, the
very character and soul. One does not come by this way of seeing easily. It
takes strength to penetrate the veil, courage to face the darkness, especially
when the face is in a mirror.
First impressions often prove to be the final impressions, but usually for
reasons converse than might at first seem. Knowledge may be power. It may be
power to create or destroy, to exploit or to make equality, to constrain or to
liberate. The paradox of anthropology is that it offers both these sets of
possibilities in the world. To promote anthropological wisdom in the world is
to promote greater realism of worldview by which to temper our ideological
precepts and prejudices. It promises a better understanding of our world such
that it will become increasingly difficult to promulgate illusions which
profit only the few, while it may facilitate the advancement of more
optimistic values which will increasingly benefit the many.
Academia is a paradise of mixed blessings. It has always demonstrated that
nothing that is perfect can ever be had without some human cost. It is as much
the neurotic's escape from human reality as it is the center of the
intellectual pursuit of the ‘really real.’
Academia is a place where people gang up on one another and where the loner
is bound to become a loser. People form cliques and small parties not merely
for the pursuit of mutual intellectual interests but for the pursuit of power
and for the sake of mutual protection. There are always more than a few
academic sharks on the prowl of university corridors preying upon hapless and
helpless victims. It demonstrates how great and ideal humanity really is in
Academia when everybody watches but nobody comes to the aid of the victim.
Unfortunately, I've been both victim and witness.
The values of academic competition and success can only lead to an ethos
and pathos of success rooted in an obsessive fear of failure. In such an
atmosphere, one person’s success becomes interpreted as another’s failure,
and in order to better one’s chances of success and to assuage one’s
anxieties over the prospects of failure, many people become very adept in
making other people’s losses their own gains.
In Academia, there are people in positions of authority whom one will never
meet but who can and will make completely arbitrary decisions regarding your
future success or failure within the system. A person can be shot down without
much cause by someone completely anonymous for a reason that has little to do
with that individual’s life. People can invest many fruitless years of their
life within the Academic System without ever being told that they never had
the slightest hope of success from the start.
Class structures Academia as much as Academia reinforces the class
structure of our society. Academic equality, opportunity and fairness become
empty rhetoric when one takes into account the influence and implications of
class in the ethos and pathos of Academia. The ideal of Academic social
mobility becomes then an exception rather than the rule for the lower classes,
and the benefits of receiving a higher education becomes the prerogative of
the wealthy and well connected. Academics, if they are any good at being what
they are, know what class they owe their allegiance to and who's who among
Academics have been quick to point their fingers in blame and easily
criticize virtually anything under the sun that suits their convenience. A
great deal of their liberalism and radicalism amounts to so much false
consciousness, and in the last analysis becomes mere hypocrisy when one
considers their cooption within the System and where they get their pay checks
from. The espousing of values contradictory to the predominant society can
only be allowed in forums where they make no difference in the world and where
they can be shown to be false anyway. If all professors genuinely practiced
what they so often preached, few would survive very long in the Academic
marketplace or in the world beyond. This academic dichotomization between the
said and the done even becomes more contradictory when some of the most
popular and liberal acting professors turn out to be some of the most
fanatical upholders of the status quo of the Academic System. Almost a decade
of successful academic work has only led to increasingly reinforce these
beliefs, and almost no contrasting evidence has served to disconfirm any of
If Aristocratic values, class snobbery and feudal relations survive in
modern industrialized societies, then it is in Academia where they may be
found most to flourish. In this regard, Academia represents one of the most
conservative social institutions of human civilization. Even military
machines must of necessity reform and renovate their social organization in
order to keep pace with the development of modern warfare. Democratic values
have hardly entered into the way things get done within Academia, and academic
authority, even if severely circumscribed and limited by even more autocratic
administration, nevertheless remains virtually absolute and autocratic.
Academia remains a realm of social contrasts and ideological
contradictions. It combines the best and the worst, the most open and the most
close-minded, the most liberal and the most conservative. Great talent, virtue
and humanity is to found alongside of mediocrity, hypocrisy, minionship and
fanatical true believers. It is frequently the case that things, and people,
in Academia prove to be the opposite of what they appear to be.
It is especially true that in Academia, a book cannot be judged by its
The end of self-honesty and social humility is the beginning of hypocrisy
and egotistical hubris. Academia is the proving ground of human character and
spirit, where everything is only hypothetical.
Any school is only as good as the people who compose it. Great resources,
great reputations, great test scores and great plans can mean next to nothing
if the average student remains disinterested, uninvolved and distracted in the
normal curriculum. A school may be poor, lacking in renown, good students or
high class administrators, and yet still out perform the best and accomplish
great things if its faculty are able to tap into and mobilize the fullest
potential and spirit of the student body. Nothing is more defeating of human
potential and deadening of the human mind than the run of the mill and ‘business
as usual’ routine and attitude in the classroom and corridor.
It is proving to be a grand paradox of my life that though I’ve always
hated and resented Academia, it remains practically the only arena of the
world in which I have much hope of accomplishing anything significant. For me
Academia has always been something of a love-hate relationship—rarely have I
been able to experience its everyday ethos with neutrality and disregard for
the things going on around me. Almost everyday I come home from school I’ve
been extremely upset and angry at something somebody did or said during the
day. Only on rare occasions do good things occur, and it is usually for
reasons which I could never have predicted or planned for. I long for the day
when I can sit through the whole class period without utter disinterest in
what is going on.
An ‘A’ professor is one who invites open discourse in the class, does
not mind criticism or contradiction, and always takes the time to talk. ‘B’
professor expects all students to tow the same line, doesn’t really like too
many questions, and always seem to be in a hurry. ‘C’ professors have a
small following of a group of students, never quite remember your name, never
have the time to talk, and seem to be trying out for popularity contests in
the corridors. ‘D’ professors are young, bright, upwardly mobile, highly
motivated, and seem to be trying to win a beauty contest. ‘F’ professors
are divorced, frustrated and treat all students like misbehaving children. In
my many years as a student, I’ve come across only very few professors whom I
would give an ‘A’ to.
In Academia, the nice person will finish last, and everyone else will come
in second to last.
During the last decade, schools have been organizing themselves
increasingly along the lines of big business. For these schools, the goal of
academic administration is minimizing costs and maximizing profits, and the
job of education itself becomes of secondary importance. It is unfortunate
that in a business world organized around a military industrial complex, the
business models that the schools have adopted for their own administration
come straight from the models of military organization. It is unfortunate that
because Academics have usually not been in the military themselves, and
usually despise the military, that they are blind to the parallels of some of
their own practices. In this regard I found the student rating scale and
evaluations and the file kept on each student by the department in one
university to be very similar to the same kind of evaluations officers of the
Marine Corps regularly made of their men of their command. After about four
years of such evaluations, from at least half a dozen different officers, I
came to conclude that the decisive factor of such evaluations was not my own
behavior, which remained fairly consistent, but depended almost entirely upon
the subjective opinions of the evaluating officer. Evaluations turned on
whether that officer liked you or not, which in turn often depended upon how
many affinities you shared with that officer and how much you kissed up to
them. Now the same kind of thing has been happening in universities, with the
decisive criteria of a person’s grades and evaluations being increasingly
the subjective opinions of the particular professor. More than once I’ve
attended classes in which I knew that no matter what I did, I would receive at
best only a B because I crossed the professor on intellectual issues or there
existed a basic conflict of personalities.
It is unfortunate that universities should fall into a blind routine
following a principle of organization coming from a domain of social order
which has long been noted for its anti-intellectual orientation. The most that
can be hoped for in such institutions is the cultivation of spuriousness,
blind obedience and student sycophancy, and ultimately, the leveling of an
insufferable mediocrity that holds routine operational efficiency as its
supreme value. When professors become more concerned about dead-lines than
with discussion of ideas, we have ended up by putting the cart in front of the
horses in higher education.
The most dangerous intellectual is the self-righteous reformer who has all
of the answers to the world's problems but none of the worldly wisdom to get
us there. Academics may be more enlightened than the lay public, but
they are certainly not necessarily more emancipated.
Nowhere else is the dichotomy between the mind and the body, knowing and
being, ideal ends and practical means, the said and the done, greater than in
Academia. As as nowhere else, it is in Academia that the intellect and ideas
of mind become systematically and purposefully separated from the real world
context in which intelligence and such ideas have their primary reference and
ultimate origin. In Academia good thinkers and true believers do not
necessarily have to be great human beings.
Academic organization is not that much different from military organization
in its promotion of conformity and preservation of the status quo. The main
and most basic difference is that where military organization promotes
conformity of the body and turning off the mind, academic organization is
oriented toward promoting conformity of the mind and turning off of the body.
Besides this basic contrast, the only other essential difference seems to be
that military organizations must occasionally fight wars, while in Academia it
is just an everyday battle of the ego. The thing about aggression is that the
student just doesn’t know quite what to do with it at the end of a long
school day or at the end of a long week or a long semester or year, just as a
soldier doesn’t know what to do with his mind at the end of an exhausting
day of drill, exercises and field operations.
It used to be that higher education was an important investment in one’s
future. In contemporary American culture at least, it seems that education has
become just one more thing to be consumed. We can always use our diplomas as
bumper stickers on our shinny new cars that we use to drive to the end of the
American Academia, like most sectors of American society, has become
characterized by an increasingly top heavy administrative super-structure that
accomplishes nothing except increasing the controls and constraints upon
people’s freedoms and which costs a great deal to maintain. Education for
independent thinking cannot but become compromised by such unbalanced
Thoughts cannot be spoken freely in open forums when everyone is afraid of
her or his job or grade. Fairness becomes a fiction of those who fail.
I have been on five different university campuses in different parts of the
country during the last five years. In all five I saw the same things
occurring—less money in the budget, increasing costs of tuition, the
building of parking lots and new expensive facades of buildings by private
contractors, and the taking over of vital academic services by national chains
and the private sector of the economy. In all this ‘development’ very
little has been done to develop human potential or new teaching techniques
which will better tap into the unlimited potential of the human mind. The
universities may be improving physically in their appearance, but mentally
they are quickly becoming an administrative quagmire and a professional
nightmare. The education of the intellect cannot profit by becoming big
Like the military, Academia is quick to punish and often painfully slow to
Educational equality has been compromised for the sake of enhancing
political economic efficiency of what amounts to pen pushing, paper piling
self-legitimization, instead of meeting the very real and substantial needs
of the ultimately incalculable human mind.
The paradox of this is that educational efficiency has been traded off in
the name of greater social equality, which rhetoric itself is based upon the
blanket administration of double-standards.
My accumulating GPA has been my piling up of special credits to get into
Academic Heaven rather than the piling of money to buy my way into the
establishment. I’ve been waiting at the gates for several years, and no one
has yet come to open them for me.
In education there is always some point of diminishing returns beyond which
the extra effort and investment has decreasing net effect. The trouble has
always been trying to figure out exactly when this optimum point is reached,
and if surpassed, whether one should continue playing one’s hand or just
retire from the game. In Academia it is all or nothing.
I have found little to compare to the experience of sitting in class after
class, day after day, hour after hour, semester after semester and year after
year just waiting for it all to end. Students sit silently, directed towards
the head of the class or in a circle towards its center, constrained in one
place so that they can move about very little, if at all, and can only speak
when spoken to. More often than not lectures are half-baked and boring to
listen to. I have found little more effective than this except perhaps
television, and increasingly, the Internet, in systematically eroding one's
active involvement with one’s effective environment, encouraging passivity
and stultifying the creative imagination.
The best thing that can be done is to open up all key administrative
positions to periodic general election by the faculty. Only in this way can
the real academic interests of the students and their professors be best
served, and the cooption and direction of school policy from above be
effectively prevented. It is a paradox that our society has rather middling
managers who earn as much or more than most national presidents and high level
government officials. The answer to improving the quality of our education and
the freedom of our society has always been in achieving more democracy and not
American academicians and administrators would do well to pay less
attention to the welfare of the ‘student body’ that has always managed to
take care of its own needs, and to give more interest to the condition of the
‘student mind,’ the needs of which commonly go increasingly unsatisfied.
The most rewarding intellectual experiences I’ve had have been when I’ve
been in a genuine dialogue with professors or other students on ideas and
things of the world. I have learned as much from such discussions as from any
monotone lecture or stuffy textbook. The interests of the young students are
not well served if they are not permitted enough quality time in
interpersonal contact with their professors. Administrators impose superficial
cattle classes and distance education with an eye to account books, but do not
weigh the immeasurable. The measure of the quality of any education is
directly proportional to the amount of time each student gets to spend talking
with her/his professors. Not much is going on if everyone acts like they are
too busy to take the time to talk to one another.
The social needs of students are inseparable from their intellectual
requirements. If a student’s body and emotions and psycho-social identity
won’t co-operate with the Academic system, there is little the student’s
brain or behavioral discipline can do to control the situation. Growing up,
becoming an adult and seeking wisdom in the world has always had its own
independent schedule that must be heeded regardless of the Academic deadlines.
The most successful and highly rewarding students are those who are able to
put the maturation of their social and personal life on hold long enough to
get their degree in hand. More than anything else, this requires that the
student have come from a background of socio-emotional and economic security
and stability that fosters a healthy and unthreatened sense of ego identity to
be developed soon enough to keep the student in check and on schedule until
they are able to finally finish their degree.
The best students are returning "nontraditional" students who
have been in the world and have some measure by which to weigh the teacher's
Professors should be allowed to pick their own courses and schedules, and
should not be subject to a popularity contest.
The virtue of having to teach is that we are forced to learn—often for
the first time.
The academic priesthood is but one pathway to enlightenment. It is
very straight, narrow and hypocritical one. There has always been another
avenue to seeking wisdom in the world. This is the way that is seldom
straight, never narrow and always full of disillusionment, but it is always
open and unending. Needless to say, the two paths rarely intersect and
learning to walk along one road in life tends to make one ill suited for
traversing the alternative route. The paradox is that the road less traveled
is the most rewarding intellectually.
One should not underrate the role of serendipity and intuition in the quest
for understanding. Our noses follow our pathways of intuitive interest and
curiosity as much as our interests are led by our noses.
The mark of didactic education, whatever its external trappings, is that it
teaches its students to say nothing rather than to risk making a mistake that
will bring punishment. In any such system, students are encouraged not to make
mistakes, and not to learn anything by making mistakes. In our own Academic
system, the encouragement of conformity of belief and behavioral obedience
goes far in advancing a student ahead of the class. Perfection of performance
is rewarded in competitive contexts versus the acquisition of new skills, and
the fear of failure is frequently the primary motivation for getting anything
done. It is to be wondered that, given such an ethos, our own Academic system
has advanced very far beyond a prescriptive, didactic approach.
To know is something of an illusion concealing all we don’t know.
Learning always dispels that illusion of our own ignorance.
The more I learn the less I know. The more I know the less I learn.
The hardest part about living is not knowing that we will eventually die,
but in not knowing how best to use the limited time we are blessed with in
Everyday I sit in class, I learn something a little more about the world I
didn’t know before. Every school day is a lesson in my own ignorance and
narrow mindedness. Everyday I sit in class, is a day I miss in the world.
Thoughts are absolutely free until they are voiced. Once spoken, thoughts
become imprisoned in the words that speak them. Words are the chains of the
free mind. That is why a loquacious professor is often one who thinks the
It is a small person who counts success by other people’s failures, and
their strengths by others weaknesses. These same people will regard others
success and strength as their failure and weakness. Unfortunately, the world
is not lacking in such small people.
The slave owner may be harsh and unforgiving, or kind and generous, but
remains still a slave owner. A slave may be a good worker or a worthless one,
but still remains a slave.
Fear is always irrational, though it may be put to extremely rational ends.
First we fear, and then we fear our fear and feel guilty and ashamed
because we are afraid.
It is one thing to preach tolerance in the world according to one’s own
standards of right and wrong, but it is altogether something else to become
tolerant in the world of others standards. Each new generation on earth must
learn this lesson anew, and each generation must be taught it over again by
The greatest human capacity that can be acquired is the capacity for
tolerance of human differences in the world.
Authoritarianism is the ‘dis-ease’ of authority. It is due to the
inevitable human corruption of power in the world. All Authority casts a dark
shadow of authoritarianism. Americans have never been immune from this
disease, and it has frequently been of critical influence in the perpetration
of injustice in all spheres and phases of social life.
Humankind must take seriously the appellation ‘Homo auctoritas’ as
indicative of a universal proclivity towards the power and corruption of
authority in the world. If evil comes from the arbitrariness of Authority in
the world, then no human being is completely free of its possibility, and even
the notion of an Arbitrary God must cast such a shadow.
Self-skepticism is the only antidote to such disease—the possibility of
our own evil in the world must be discovered and recognized in everything we
think, say and do. It is when we begin taking ourselves too seriously that we
are led to trouble with others in the world. Being too serious about ourselves
in the world leads to an incapacity to deal with others in a realistic way.
The practice of regular self skepticism leads to becoming equally skeptical of
others in the world as well—the proclivity to accept ourselves too seriously
leads to our taking others in the world too seriously as well.
The quest for perfection in the world must always end up in frustration.
When the need and drive for Perfection becomes an obsession and a compulsion,
it becomes dangerous. When we cease making mistakes by always doing the right
thing, we cease to learn anything in life, and we become then anti-human by
definition. The intolerance of imperfection leads to a need to stomp it out
and deny it wherever it is found.
Show me a perfect person and I will show you a perfect fool.
One person’s vice is another’s virtue. One person’s failure is
another success. One person’s weakness is another’s strength. One person’s
folly is another’s wisdom. For each action, there is an opposite but equal
When we fear failure we then need to find it in others we do not know. We
then need to avoid getting to know those others who we treat as our own
symbolic failures lest such knowledge refutes our own preconceptions. We end
up avoiding what we fear and fearing what we avoid. We fear the unknown and
end up avoiding it instead of taking the only route, which would ultimately
dissipate our fears in the first place. We even go so far as to collectively
set aside and systematically segregate certain categories or ‘types’ of
people as socially sanctioned symbols of failure. Because we are taught to
fear such people, we learn to see them symbolically in terms, which are
dangerous,, dirty and unpredictable—terms, which then in turn justify their
social discrimination and control. There is a self-reinforcing closure about
this kind of belief and behavior in life, which remains effective until we
experience such discrimination ourselves. When we must walk in the footsteps
of failure, we come face to face with the projective possibilities of our own
Inordinate fear of failure leads to an obsession with failure, which begets
a gambling compulsion—the uncontrollable need to take inordinate risks that
are normally unnecessary.
It is not coincidental that any society, which highly prizes and rewards
well achievement and success at all costs, should beget a great many failures
who have unwisely gambled away all their resources for the unrealistic promise
Unfortunately, the very values most worth living for are those that are
also most worth dying for. It is a tragic irony of human history that so many
have died for values and causes that prove to be hardly worth living for.
It is not too uncommon or too difficult to face death bravely—but it has
been unusual and extremely hard to go on living bravely in the face of death.
The weal and wicked fight with weapons and fear—the courageous and faithful
fight with words, freedom and peace.
There is no person so perfect as not to be in need of some improvement.
There is no human strength without its hidden weakness. There is no armor so
complete as to be without its vulnerable spots. The best protection in life is
the well kept illusion that hides the bestial nakedness of humanity beneath
the veil of greatness. The best weapons are truth that pierces the armor of
illusion, and honesty which lifts the veil of ignorance.
As surely as the night must follow the day, and the moon must rise in the
shadow of the sun, great weakness must accompany great strength, grand
mistakes must follow great successes, great depths make great heights more
pronounced. Without the darkness and shadow, life and light would be flat,
uninteresting, and without the necessary contrast that gives it depth.
Life is meant to be taken seriously, but never too seriously. When we begin
to take things too seriously we lose sight of the fact that though life is
serious business, it is also a grand joke we play upon ourselves.
It is difficult to find it in ourselves the same kinds of negative
qualities that we so facilely attribute to others, but seeing such
similarities can be a sobering experience to the ego, and having the romantic
illusions we ascribe to others fade and turn ugly can have a chilling
influence upon our hearts.
One person’s illusion is another’s reality. One person’s destiny is
another’s fate. One person’s myth is another’s history.
It is easy to envy what others seem to have and we do not. But to have
compassion enough to find in each person what is most valuable is compensation
for our jealousies.
The fear of failure frequently leads to a Pyrrhic victory, for in our
desire to succeed at any cost, we become willing to risk everything.
When we fear, fear, we end up denying our fears, and in our denial we
become trapped in our own vicious circle of deceit.
We fear that which we do not understand, and because we fear it, we tend to
ignore it, to avoid having to face it and get to know it. Then we fall victim
to our own prejudices. We end up avoiding our own ignorance and blaming others
for the fear that is in ourselves.
The first lie begins a long chain of deceit, when we have to cover over one
lie with another until we’ve forgotten what the original lie was. Lying is
inevitably a self-defeating strategy. It many be effective in the short term,
but it eventually backfires upon the chronic liar who must cover lies with
other lies until reality is lost sight of.
Lying undermines trust, which is the basis of mutual respect in
interpersonal relationships. Without respect, there can be no love or
Those who live by fear of the truth learn to become liar, and those who lie
learn to live in fear of the truth. Fear and lying are always closely
connected, where one is found, the other is sure to be nearby.
Fear is the fate of the coward. The courageous cannot live well with fear
and are too troubled by lying. They must sooner or later grab the bull by the
horns and wrestle it to the ground.
The world is full of fools. To be foolish takes no special talent or skill
at all, but to call the fool’s bluff takes wisdom, and to free ourselves
from the fool’s spell, takes strength and courage.
We develop a need not to know that which we fear. To confront our fears
face to face entails a challenge to our own sense of identity in the world. We
would rather bury our heads in the sand and believe whatever lie and illusion
we need in order to keep us from having to face, and learning to live with
what we fear most.
No other person can know better than ourselves what it is we most need and
want in life. Sometimes another person can help us to see what it is in
ourselves that we fail to see, but it is only upon ourselves that we must lay
the heavy burden of responsibility for success and failure in our own life. It
is all too easy and common to seek solutions to our own dilemmas from others,
and then to blame them when they prove to be wrong.
People see what they wish to see, and cannot be made to face that which
they do not want to.
Authority tends to blind people, creating its own aura of power until
inevitable contradiction reveals the human being underneath the badge and
When we hate, we become imprisoned by the thing we hate. In our attachment
to hate, our hate comes to control our consciousness and undermine our own
sense of freedom. To not like or care for something does not mean that one
must hate it. One does not have to love that which one does not hate, or hate
that which one does not love.
We blame the world for our own weaknesses, and blame ourselves for the
faults of the world. The only salvation is the release from our sense of
guilt. But such release is not found in socio-pathic absence or freedom from
responsibility, but in its saintly embrace.
The sense of security in a mass oriented society is that everyone seems to
be doing the same thing no matter how foolish and nonsensical it may really
be. This is a false and dangerous illusion that justifies the method of social
order and behavior by the madness of the crowd.
The mass mind is an oxymoron—the crowd has only a herd mentality.
It is never wise to underestimate the deliberate cunning of people who have
the quest for power as their primary motive and ultimate goal in life. They
will be the first to attack and the last to retreat, and will go to any end
imaginable to accomplish their designs, and though utterly defeated, they will
never relinquish their goals.
I am proud to claim that I have never treated another person in the same
ugly way that so many people have felt appropriate to treat me. I have come to
have little patience for the kind of deliberate ignorance and prejudice by
which others misappropriate one’s identity in the world for their own
convenience. I no longer regard with great compassion people whose sense of
success feeds upon the feelings of failure by others. It is saddening to know
how many different kinds of people in the world do this very thing without a
sense of self-conscious guilt or shame.
People only feel ashamed or embarrassed when they are afraid of the
consequences of their actions and the reactions of others.
We choose our own values in life and then judge others in the world
according to those choices, without realizing not everyone makes the same set
of choices, or even that if they seem to share similar values, they may well
have chosen them for very different, even contradictory reasons. People either
choose the values they live by, or if failing to choose, then inevitably have
them chosen for themselves by others.
The fear of persecution is the source of guilt. Freedom of the mind demands
freedom from fear and guilt, which depends upon not been threatened by
persecution or violence. The only way to gain such freedom is by becoming
non-violent and non-authoritarian oneself, and by seeking out and cultivating
non-violence and non-authoritarianism in others. Fear, violence, guilt are all
social chains which imprison the mind. A prisoner of the mind is still a
prisoner even if the body is emancipated.
It is unfortunate that authority and legitimacy is increasingly co-opted
and mandated within the World System, and is measured in quantitative terms
which frequently has little or no nothing to do with human qualities and
The world will become more human and humane, more subjectively satisfying
and less alienating, when there is less mass and impersonal exploitation and
greater individual equality and interpersonal compassion.
If we have a certain existential investment in our illusion in life, no
matter how ill founded they may really be, we will tend to act in ways that
will maintain our illusion in spite mounting contradictory evidence.
If the investment in the illusions of our own identity is very strong or
dear, then we may perseverate in reinforcing our fictions in such a manner
unrelentingly, piling illusion upon illusion and denying anything which does
not support our identity in the world.
In such a manner, we will suffer an unending chain of crisis, each
connected to the next, and how we manage to resolve these crisis, or fail to,
will determine the net outcome of our realistic adjustment to the world.
We take advantage of whatever opportunities we can get, even if it is often
at someone else’s expense. We pay attention mostly to those who receive the
same advantages as ourselves and disregard the rest. We call any person a fool
who passes over opportunity for another’s sake, and honor as heroes those
who take the most advantage of any situation.
If aggression comes from and leads to the need to proclaim and reaffirm one’s
identity in the world, then authoritarianism is a consequent and a cause of
the need to control that aggression in the world.
The illusion of authority is always some superhuman ideal, idea or idol. We
cannot value the lives of others too dearly when we subordinate the value of
our own. If we hold as most sacred that which is beyond our own lives and
humanness, then we cannot regard the lives and humanness of others as sacred
enough not to be violated.
Predictability is the primary weakness of the authoritarian.
The authoritarian is married to her/his unconscious obsession with
authority. All other relationships in the world are secondary and subservient
to this. The authoritarian is the most adulterous monogamist and monogamous
adulterer in the world.
Authority is the only religion of the authoritarian. It does not matter
really what the symbolic trappings of the ideology and ritual really are, as
long as they feel the perverted power and violent force that authority
represents. One religion’s prophets and saints is another’s heretic and
No human being is free from authoritarianism of others but remain blind to
the possibilities of our own authoritarianism. This blindness is the very
symptom of our own authoritarianism. When we say emphatically 'Screw Authority’
we are really announcing to the world a love hate dependency upon the very
thing which we must so emphatically renounce and deny.
Authoritarianism is the obsessive preoccupation with Authority. Can we have
authority without authoritarianism, and power without moral ethical
Authoritarians are blind to their own Authority. Authorities are blind to
their own authoritarianisms. For them it is more a matter of routine and of
regimen—a taken for granted matter of course. This transparency of authority
and authoritarianism is rooted in the unconscious control which
authoritarianism has upon our lives. We act without being fully aware of the
unconscious causes and consequences of our actions. Because it is mainly
unconscious, our preoccupation with authority becomes expressed symbolically
and transforms our lives into a vicious circle of obsession and compulsion. We
seek to find and control in our external world what we cannot face and control
in our internal world. Because authoritarianism controls us, we seek to
control the world.
It is amazing how conscious like and deliberate what is basically
unconscious authoritarianism can seem. This is so perhaps because unconscious
authoritarianism seeks to frame and constrain the conscious mind which
therefore cannot act independently from such control, but which must then act
in such a manner that is consonant with and reinforcing of the unconscious.
Though authoritarians are fundamentally closed minded, their unconsciousness
can be read like an open book.
A person can serve only one master, and can be master of only one person.
Our World System had long promoted and reward a kind of political economic
authoritarianism. Colonial fascism has always been the dark side of the coin
of Imperial Capitalism. When we are successfully authoritarian, we call it ‘high
achievement’ motivation and fail to acknowledge the dangers of its
exploitative, victimizing, aggressive, competitive, and acquisitive
Authoritarians are quick to dismiss the liberal attitudes of others as a
problem of authority. Because they themselves lack much imagination or the
ability to entertain questions or tolerate doubt, they find people who have
such capacities as a threat to their own sense of order, and people who
exercise their freedoms as ‘breakers of the law’ and irresponsible.
Authoritarians see their restricted version of authority as being necessary to
their sense of the world and therefore as fundamentally unquestionable.
Non-authoritarians regard such blind faith in Authority to be basically a
personality problem of freedom.
The most significant factor about modern ‘mass’ authority and
authoritarianism in the world system is that it is impersonal. Victimization
and violence have their own logic in the world which is not fully logical but
pathological. The pathologic of violence and victimization is that the victim
is regarded as guilty, responsible for the violence, the cause and not the
effect of the violence. The kind of pathologic is the ultimate repression of
one’s own responsibility and projection of guilt onto others.
Being born an American may have been a mixed blessing, but a blessing
nonetheless. Americans grow up under the deadening weight of crude
materialism, and must later in life unlearn many of the trite truisms they
were taught to believe in. Americans typically have egos several sizes too
large, a bottomless stomach and an insufferable gullibility to swallow almost
anything fed to them by others. Americans walk the way of the world only to
wake up from their naiveté to learn that they are not immune to the evil of
the world. Americans may have been spoiled by too much affluence, convenience
and freedom to pursue their own pleasures. But Americans are not the only ‘ugly’
people in the world, and not necessarily the worst, the first or the last set
of imperfect human beings to have come along. Indeed, in spite of their own
attitudes of over achievement and others' criticisms of their life styles and
their weaknesses, it is amazing that Americans have accomplished anything at
all in the world.
Most people do not learn to prize their freedom until after they have lost
it. Many others never have had the freedom to lose. The weak and insecure
would just as soon sacrifice their own freedom as well as that of everyone
else for just about any spiritual illusion that promises their salvation. For
them, freedom is not a prize to be won, but a prize to be paid for by the
false promise of their protection.
Freedom is having the opportunity to learn from one’s own mistakes while
taking heed of the advice of others.
We cannot be genuinely free until we have learned to grant to others their
freedom, even if it means forsaking our own. Learning to give for other's sake
is just the beginning of the long pathway to freedom.
The first step taken, all else then follows.
It has not been military might, political power, economic achievement or
scientific or technological success that has made America a Great Society. It
has been the promise of its freedom, human rights and equality that it has
offered to anyone seeking a better life and to escape persecution. It has been
this promise that has made the United States a model for worldwide emulation.
And it has not been either a false or an empty promise.
It has been unfortunate that so many new Americans have forgotten this fact
in their pursuit of the unprecedented power, prestige and personal
aggrandizement that success in the American system rewards. Young Americans
cannot be blamed for having been raised with a false sense of values and
unrealistic expectations and thus failing to adapt themselves to a quickly
changing world. Nor can they be faulted for failing to carry the torch and
catch the baton when their own leaders have extinguished the flame and lost
It is this fact of its freedom and its promise of equality that has long
made America different from the rest of the world. It has been a difference
that is rapidly diminishing, not because the rest of the world is catching up
with the United States, but because Americans are falling behind in its own
promise to the world.
In this sense we can say that its Empire has come back home to America, and
it has come to stay.
America has never been a perfect society, but it has also never been a pig
sty. The progress of enlightenment, social emancipation and the realization of
human equality has been slow but steady—a step backwards for every two
forward. Americans have rarely been as pure of heart as they would like to see
themselves. Paradise cannot be had except at great human cost, and if it is
founded upon the pleasure principle, it is liable to be a paradise for the few
and a living hell for the many. It is fitting that America should move slowly
and be short sighted in its prospects for paradise—anything too far and too
fast is bound to end in disaster for everyone.
America’s lesson in Vietnam, one that it has seemed to quickly forget, is
that it is never necessary to destroy the village in order to save it. Freedom
does not follow the path of bullets and bombs, broken bodies and burnt homes.
The only thing found at the end of a gun barrel is fruitless destruction and
the involuntary servitude to one’s own possibility of evil in the world. Too
many paid too dearly for the mistakes America made in Vietnam for us to forget
too soon the lessons that our own history has taught us.
The road to freedom leads through a vast, drought filled desert. The
promise of spiritual salvation from all human troubles hovers above the
far-off horizon like a mirage of a blue ocean shimmering above the hot, dry
sands. People thirst for freedom but do not know what will quench their
thirst. The source of freedom flows deeply underground.
The tyranny of aggression is that it compels the peaceful to defend their
freedom. Though aggression is frequently promoted in the name of freedom,
freedom is seldom won in the name of aggression.
If the best defense is a good offense, the best offense if none at all. The
prize can only be lost if it can only be won by war.
Calling the vast American military machine the ‘Department of Defense’
barely disguises its offensiveness to the rest of the world. Freedom gained
through ‘enforcing the peace,' whether this be a Pax Romana, a Pax
Brittannica, or a Pax Americana, can only be freedom for the few at the
expense of the many. At best it can only lead back to the corruption of the
very society that created such unfreedom of violence in the first place.
Common virtues have given way to contemporary vices. In the name of
modernity and civilization, basic human values have been forfeited for empty
symbols of strength solidarity, security and superiority. Fashion and status
dictate people's behavior, and these are manipulated by the large commercial
interests and by government itself. Americans have had their basic character
altered and modified by a mass media and a warped, uneven and exploitative
incentive structure, to become gross materialistic consumers and media
junkies. We are brainwashed to feel guilty for being Americans, and compelled
to rush to the shopping malls to temporarily alleviate our guilt feelings.
Freedom and salvation will not be found in a Sears mail order catalogue.
Americans value the possession of private property more than they value
their own freedom or even human life itself. Inordinate physical attachment to
physical things in the world is precisely the opposite of the definition of
human freedom. Freedom is the license to spend one’s own time and energy in
one’s own way—owing someone else lots of money or paying rent for the
possession and use of property can only be a vital restriction of human
freedom. Any freedom upon which our society is founded can only be in name
only if its promotion is ultimately based upon practices and principles of
possession, unbridled profit and private property that must lead fatefully to
The only ultimate bottom line is that there are no bottom lines in human
reality. One must always beware those who claim to know and to have the bottom
line—especially if they are trying to sell it to you.
A man may only speak for himself, but no human can justly speak for any
other. We must beware those white men who claim to speak for all white men, or
those black men who claim to speak for all white men, or those black men who
claim to speak for all blacks, or those women who claim to speak for all
women. In any such claim exists a dangerous and tacit denial of the freedom
for other people to speak, and ultimately, to think, for themselves.
It is only the simple minded who seek simple solutions to complex human
problems and who chronically claim to speak for others when they are only
selfishly thinking of themselves, and who unconsciously and uncontrollably
choose symbols of solidarity and strength over antithetical symbols of peace,
compassion, love and tolerance.
People, who are themselves exploited, must find someone else to exploit in
turn. People who allow themselves to be used and dumped upon must in turn find
someone else to use and dump upon. People who live beneath some shadow must
themselves cast their shadow upon other’s lives. What goes around comes
around, and we eventually reap what we sow. No matter how hard we may try or
wish, we can never escape the lasting consequences of our own choices.
To deny the role of class in American society is to deny the very basis of
social inequality itself. In our ideology the very basis of social inequality
itself. In our ideology of natural rights, we ascribe psychopathology to the
poor and the failed, and psychological spirit and virtue to those who are most
successful, all the while blatantly ignoring the background social context in
which both success and failure are situated and configured. This being the
norm, it follows that the predominant social collective consciousness is class
consciousness—and unmarked but very deliberate awareness of an individual’s
social background and relationships in the world, and these preunderstandings
more often than not form the criteria of our attitudes, projections, opinions,
beliefs, values, and judgments regarding both ourselves and other people in
our lives. Class forms the basis of social significance and human valuation.
It follows that class always tends to reinforce, and reproduce itself.
People make deliberate decisions in relation to what will promote their own
class interests over those of other classes and individuals who comprise these
classes. He rich help one another to stay rich, and the poor keep one another
poor. It also follows that upward mobility will be the norm for the upper
class—that no matter how mediocre and average a person might be, if they are
born into the upper strata of a society the availability of opportunity and of
rich reward and positive social reinforcement will tend to keep them afloat no
matter how personally failed they may really be. On the other hand, a person
born into an impoverished class background may demonstrate superlative skills,
steady and unbending drive, and superior talent and abilities, but will
nonetheless be consistently driven downward in society by the many, more often
overwhelming, checks and controls arrayed against that person’s chances for
The undeniability of class inequality and function of class in perpetuating
social structure in America makes American society fundamentally not very
different from any other national or multi-ethnic society in the world. The
elites of one country have more in common with the elites of other countries,
in terms of their interests, prerogatives, values and views of the world, than
they do with their own poor people. This commonness among the elites is
recognized internationally as human virtue. Being born poor in a world of
increasing social inequality is to have been born with a social disease—a
‘corruption’ of class.
People, who live by appearances, judge others on the basis of appearance.
To live by the principle of appearance is a sort of magical formula for social
success—that like produces like. One must dress in the most expensive
clothes, drive the most stylish car, and talk to all the right people in the
right way, and social success will follow. The surprising thing is that this
formula sometimes works. One can possess all the talent in the world, but
without the appropriate style of social presentation, will be foredoomed as a
social failure. But to live by the basis of appearance alone is an empty,
shallow, and eventually self-defeating strategy of social mobility.
Ignorance, prejudice, repressive discrimination and deceit, to the extent
that these policies in life reinforce inequality and unfairness in social
relations, will lead to success. But any such success will be ephemeral and
short lived—those who live by the lie, die by the lie, as there are always
bound to be competitors with superior advantage in the world. Honesty, though
slow and inefficient, still remains the best policy, and tends to make one
immune to the arbitrary vicissitudes of merely meretricious appearances.
Class-consciousness is the normal form of social consciousness informing
our experience with the subtleties of social difference, solidarity, and
significance upon both conscious and unconscious levels of understanding and
feeling. Try as we might, we really cannot escape its structuring influence
upon our attitudes, values and worldviews, either in how we see and treat
others, or in how we are seen by and are treated by others. It also tends to
constrain in decisive ways how we see and feel about ourselves—tending to
invade, interfere with and eventually take over and control our private, inner
subjectivities. It is class, which thus tends to simultaneously and
contradictorily both socially revitalize and collectivize everything we see
and do in relation to others in the world. It is perhaps the ultimate paradox
that because class consciousness is based as much upon the illusion of
appearances as it is upon anything substantially real, it becomes both the
dialectical antithesis to which false consciousness is compared, and a basic
form of class consciousness itself. The complicating fact of the matter is
that there are few if any non-arbitrary standards of alternative or genuine
consciousness by which we can compare and evaluate the concept of class
consciousness. We can claim that as a social phenomena it exists in the world,
but we can ultimately never prove it and may only indirectly ever point to it
and say—this attitude is true and this one is false.
It is this paradox which makes such consciousness so easy to deny and to
Charity and equality do not go very far in America. Few gifts are given
which are not penny-ante, nickel and dime, token or without strings attached.
The American Indians learned this lesson well in their transactions with the
White Men, summing it up when they said ‘White Men speak with forked tongue.’
American society is the greatest consumer society to have ever existed. It
typically aggrandizes Greed and makes of selfishness and egotism a reward
virtue of personal success and achievement. The formula for success has been
reduced to competitive striving for one’s own profit at someone else’s
expense, and the American legal structure promotes and protects the property,
profits and prerogatives and privileges of the wealthy while systematically
discriminating against and dispossessing the rights of the poor. Americans
love any and every winner, and hate a loser. As Edgar Allan Poe well knew,
Americans especially despise the poor. The trouble with this twisted social
values are that ultimately only one person can become a winner, and that
person must live in a very lonely and empty world.
Freedom must always be fought for, as there are always enough people in the
world who are deliberately trying to take it away, the best of intentions
Beyond any other inventions or feats, human rights remain the most
important contribution American society has made to the world. Few other
societies in history have ever made the democratic doctrine of universal human
rights the foundation stone of its social order. It is unfortunate that this
foundation is being undermined and eroded by the pursuit of power, pleasure
and personal aggrandizement. Foreigners in America frequently have low regard
or little appreciation for such a doctrine so alien to their own hierarchical
values, and Americans who grow up in the fold of freedom and the lap of luxury
never suffer its loss enough to appreciate what they have.
One important factor in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire was its
persistent failure to pay back the debt it owned to its own citizen soldiers
who literally built Rome by their toil and sacrifices only to return from
foreign campaigns and conquests to find themselves dispossessed and
impoverished plebeians of the streets. The Pax Americana can learn an
important lesson from this Imperial History.
The real loss in America is in terms of its rapidly deteriorating quality
of life. The limited availability or relative lack of opportunity among any
but the upper rungs of the class structure means that there has become less
and less to go around for everyone. When people have talents, skills,
abilities and energies that are going to waste or left unrewarded because
there are fewer and fewer job opportunities to utilize these capacities, then
we must ask who has been most responsible for the loss.
The political economic and socio economic shortcomings of our Great Society
are due in part to the general loss of cultural confidence in our own values
and orientations. The complex of inferiority and failure should never be
underestimated in terms of its power as self-fulfilling prophecy in our
collective life. When we see foreign competitors who, by strength of their own
social organization, cultural confidence and solidarity, seem to be getting
ahead of us in the market place, it is almost automatic that we should begin
seeing ourselves as born losers and them as born winners. When we begin to
believe this, we begin behaving in ways which tend to reinforce these ideas,
as if they were true, and little can then be done, short of complete reversal
of roles, to change our attitudes about ourselves.
People sometimes seem to be subconsciously aware of these attitudes and
their consequences upon our lives, and will almost deliberately set out to
attack our self-confidence and to undermine our basic faith in our values,
abilities and beliefs.
POWER AND PEACE
The best defense is a good offense. The best offense is none at all. The
prize can only be lost if it can be won by peace.
The balance of power can only be upset. Peace cannot be permanent if it is
promised by the threat of war. Any weapon has only one purpose in the hand of
its wielder, and this is to murder. Once forged, a weapon will eventually be
The Power of Peace is the appeal and appreciation of what is most commonly
and mutually human in all of us. The Power of War is the threat to what is
most common and mutually human in all of us. War and Peace have the same
source in the human heart, but in each the heart serves a different master.
The cowardly of war are the courageous of peace, and the courageous of war
are the cowardly of peace. We honor our war dead as sacred heroes, and think
of those who wish to continue living in peace as fools. The coward dies a
thousand deaths, the hero dies but once.
Our earthbound age is discovering the preparations for and consequences of
war are increasingly expensive, unaffordable, and destructive. We are learning
indirectly the hard worn lesson learned and forgotten on thousands of fields
of battle that no one wins in war and everyone loses. War, and its machineries
of death, are quickly becoming barbaric anachronisms in an earthbound age,
which in the long run has no net profit for anyone and yet which is
increasingly costly for everyone. It is a grand paradox that permanent and
lasting peace in our earthbound age will not be won by victory in war, or by
its threat, or over the bargaining table of the powerful military nations.
Peace will be achieved when the common soldier simply throws down her/his
weapon to let the earth and the sea reclaim it.
Better more mouths to feed and more babies to breed than buttons to push
and triggers to pull. The world might become an over populated place, but at
least it doesn’t have to be a violent one.
Militarism is ultimately an anti-human disease in which the social
preoccupation with the fear of death leads to a compulsion to project and
cause death upon others. The main problem with this social pathology is that
it is extremely contagious and pernicious—the need to beget death in
ourselves leads to the same needs in others.
The thing the military mentality fears most is peace and freedom. Peace
depends upon the realization of freedom in the world, and freedom depends upon
peace. In a world that is peaceful and free, there is no room for the military
minded, and this is the worst possible threat to the warmonger.
As long as we seek to define empowerment in narrow and unequal terms which
divide humankind into different groups, such empowerment can only lead to its
own corruption and the perversion of violence and war. Only when we seek
panhuman empowerment through the realization of human rights, freedoms and
equality, can we speak legitimately of our own empowerment as well. Such
empowerment can only be had through the promotion of Pacifism in the world—a
live and let live ethos of love, charity, tolerance, and forgiveness in a
world of evil.
It is a paradox of Pacifism that its power can only be had in the
individual’s renunciation of the pathos and nomos and obsessive-compulsive
preoccupation with empowerment in the world. The power of pacifism comes from
the renunciation of power hence its dialectical transcendence in the
realization of the power of the human heart.
It is also a paradox that such empowerment also constitutes the ultimate
connection between panhuman interests and rights and individual interests and
rights. The pursuit of our own rights, freedoms and responsibilities in the
world is concomitant with the pursuit of universal human rights,
responsibilities and freedom in the world. One cannot be had without the
other, and one cannot be taken away without taking away from the other.
Those who pursue the path of pacifism cannot but help be led sooner or
later to the same conclusions regarding the paramount importance of human
rights, responsibilities and freedoms in the world defined in both the
broadest, panhuman sense as well as in the narrowest of individual senses.
To relinquish the preoccupation of power and violence in our own personal
lives, and to gain the upper hand in the control of our existential fears and
uncertainties, is to gain access to and release a vast hidden reservoir of
human potentiality in both ourselves and in everybody whose life we touch.
The cultivation of creativity, in ourselves and in others, goes hand in
hand with the promotion of Pacifist values and world view in the world. Human
creativity is the opposite of human destructiveness. That which is creative,
if frustrated, must become destructive. That which is destructive, if
constrained, must become creative. Peace is to war as creation is to
If we wish to diagnose the extent of evil in the world, and to understand
the fundamental irrationality of its pathology, then we have to look no
further than our own Pentagon which promotes global militarization in the name
of the ‘Defense’ and ‘World Peace’ and our CIA which threatens, with
all its secret psychological operations, to destroy the foundation of the
freedom of mind and will in the world. We must see the fundamental madness of
the intellectual rationalization of MAD, which has sought to secure a lasting
‘Pax Americana’ by threatening the ‘mutually assured destruction’ of
virtually all life on earth. When the Pentagon wins a victory in the world,
humanity loses another battle.
If we wish to find our worst enemies and our most dangerous threat to our
freedom and future security in the world, then we have to look no further than
on our own neighborhoods, our own backyards and on our own mirrors. The threat
is there, like a shadow we always cast in the light.
The preoccupation and fanaticization of violence and aggressive power in the
world is a symptom of our own immature and regressed development. It is to be
well wondered how much the promotion of aggression in the world doesn’t rely
upon the repression and frustration of human sexuality in the world, when so
much violence of obscene proportions is replete in our television programming
while even the most innocent and natural images of sexuality are taboo and
perverted. Human development can only be advanced when as both individuals and
as a world society, we learn to give up our dependent and neurotic attachment
to such violent and immature forms of power in order to cultivate more human
capacities and pursue more worthwhile interests in the world. In our global
militarism, humankind has become like dependent and retarded children in the
pursuit of its own developmental interests.
MAD-ness equals ’In order to save the world, it was necessary to destroy
the world.’ In order to assure peace and freedom, it is necessary to control
peace and freedom by the threat of war. The madness continues to grow unabated
in the world.
The victimization of children in war is parallel to and an extension of the
victimization of children in peace. The former relies on weapons to amputate,
burn and break the bodies of children, the latter relies on poverty to
amputate, shock and paralyze the child’s soul and spirit. In this sense it
can be genuinely said that war is a kind of politics of enforced inequality
between different classes and categories of people. There is no greater or
sobering lesson in the horrors and unnecessary realities of war than to see
and smell and hear the screams of a child that’s been burned head to foot by
white phosphorous or napalm. This is a tragic if sometimes-necessary way to be
taught the value and virtue of pacifism.
Too bad that no one has yet thought up a kind of inoculation to the horror
and violence of war which would render humankind immune to the threat of its
infectious disease. It seems that sometimes we can only get pacifism under the
skin when we can become sensitized to the suffering of others and aware of our
human heart of darkness in the cause of such suffering.
If war is the pursuit of politics by another means, then peace is the
pursuit of war by another means. In war, there is always a better way.
There is only one kind of development, and this is human development. Any
human action, which does not ultimately contribute to the improvement of the
human condition in the world, either directly or indirectly, must be
considered as unnecessary or antithetical to the long term interests of pan
human development. In the human world, there are no neutral words or deeds.
Neutrality is only the guarded disguise of the pursuit of power. The best
index of human development in the world is the relative health, happiness and
opportunity of the average child.
Though there are many consequences and causes in the historical and
cultural explanation of how and why war happens, within context of the modern
World System we cannot overlook the central importance played by the history
of political economic development in creating the conditions as well as the
means for virtually every major war in modern earth history. Economic
affluence at home has often entailed economic imperialism and exploitation
aboard. The promotion of capitalistic development is interdependent with the
control of colonial underdevelopment. When armies are marching and whole
nation states are mobilized for war, it is the captains of the armament
industry, weapons manufacture and the military industrial complex that profits
the most and wins. Capitalistic enterprise often makes alliances with
fanatical fascists and bureaucratic officials.
There will be peace in the world when so few are no longer allowed to
profit from the suffering of so many.
Peace depends upon the realization of human freedom in the world. The
realization of such freedom depends upon the education for responsibility to
realize such freedom. The realization of such responsibility depends upon the
promotion of the values and views of non-violence, which entails the
realization of human equality in the world. The basis of violence in the human
world is the creation and promotion of human inequality, by class, race,
religion, nation, caste, age or sex. It follows from this chain of
associations that if we want to attain peace in the world, the best thing we
can do is to promote human equality.
For closely related reasons, it takes money to make more money just as
poverty begets yet greater poverty. Similarly, and still related, we may say
that just as violence leads invariably to more and greater violence, so too
does peace promote more peace.
The escalation of world war has been a vicious cycle of the growth of
global militarization, which has been fueled primarily by the capitalistic
interests of the armaments industries. It is the epitome of evil in the world
that so many should have been made to suffer so terribly so that only a small
proportion of humankind can have its cake and eat it too. Outlawing all
weapons would not stop these parasites of human pain, but it would prevent
them from acquiring the prestige, which they do not deserve so well.
Our earthbound age is one in which many things stand for there opposite. We
promote war in the name of peace, aggression in the name of defense, fascism
and totalitarianism in the name of freedom and democracy, death in the name of
life, deceit in the name of truth, poverty in the name of affluence, hierarchy
in the name of equality, underdevelopment in the name of development. It is a
testament to the power and authority of official verbiage and the mass media
that can turn black to white and white to black, and obscure all colors in the
world beneath the veil of gray. It is the epitome of the evil and unfreedom of
the human mind when such instruments and devices as the television, radio,
newspaper, education, magazines can be used to rationalize away any problem or
paradox, no matter how fundamentally nonsensical, irrational or inherently
pathological it may really be. It is all the more remarkable when it is
considered that what is taken as the basis of social scientific fact is really
fiction, and there is no such thing as the average John and Jane Doe Public.
We have created an illusion of world power by the make believe magic of paper
realities, and as long as it seems convincing and credible enough to the
uninquisitive and gullible, the world will continue to conform to the lie, and
turn a mythological prophecy into an ideological history.
Educating our children for peace and teaching no-violent and pacifistic
values in the world has never been an especially problematic or not
efficacious proposition except that we’ve made it seem so. Because it has
rarely been tried, it is believed that it cannot be done. But if we can
prepare our youth to be good warriors then it seems possible also to be able
to be able to prepare them for being good peacemakers of the world. He means
for such pacifistic education has long been available, but the motivation has
always been lacking. Its benefits for humankind far outweigh its costs.
War is a situation for which everyone is responsible for their own small
part that is played, and yet no one is to blame for the entire thing. Whether
we work in a munitions factory, buy war bonds, or we pull the trigger, or drop
a bomb on an anonymous enemy, we are all ultimately responsible for our acts
in the war. Nuremberg has instructed humankind that it is no longer merely
enough to blindly follow one’s orders without ethical consideration of the
moral consequences of our own involvement. If all participants and combatants
accepted their fullest human responsibility for their own involvement in the
perpetration of its violence, then there would be no war in the world to
judge. The tyranny of aggression and violence is that it forces the innocent
and the good to commit evil and atrocious acts. In war, as in peace, the buck
stops at the center of each and every person’s soul, and we cannot
legitimately point our fingers at our enemy to blame for our actions and
Though in war everyone is responsible for their own part that they play,
and no one is ultimately to blame, some people share more responsibility and
blame than others because they play a bigger and more critical role in the
perpetration of violence. In this regard, we must look to the politicians and
high ranking military commanders who are most influential of the decision and
directions of violence in war, but who rarely if ever suffer the first hand
consequences of such violence. Only naïve and gullible young men can be made
to readily die for a false cause. It has been unfortunate in history that the
arena of conflict and combat cannot be confined to include just those
instigators and war mongers and profiteers who are most responsible for the
war and yet who suffer least from its consequences. Such leaders might be less
likely to wage war and dissuaded from entering armed combat if they had to
confront the very real prospects of their own possible death from such a
Peace comes from the capacity for compromise. The world will not meet us
halfway if we are not willing to meet the world more than halfway. Compromise
is an art, which is learned in life. Its capacity comes from patience,
tolerance, and the willingness to adopt the point of view of one’s
opponents. It does not come easily. It does not come without struggle, risks
The groundwork for war is laid when people raise some symbolic form to a
level higher than their own. It comes when people who are otherwise good and
common to commit acts that are evil and uncommon because they are not held
responsible for their own actions, but are able to defer that responsibility
onto something beyond themselves, superhuman, absolutely and ideally good.
The foundations for a secure peace cannot be laid in the preparations for
EARTH AND NATURE
It is the earth that will adapt humankind to her needs, and not we who will
adapt the earth to our needs. In our transformations of the world, we have
become transformed by the world. Neither we nor the world can go back to our
original separate states of nature.
Because of humankind’s predations, the evolution of life on earth has
once again entered upon a contraction phase. In every concrete crack and
crevice of our civilization, nature is struggling for survival and return. We
must not underestimate the recuperative and regenerative power of the natural
The never ending forces of erosion work steadily away on the edges of our
grand civilization. They work so slowly and gradually that they are
imperceptible to our great vision. It is the great and certain patience of
Nature’s ways that will eventually conquer over the insolent impetuousness
of our own human progress. Human Greatness and Evil, vice and virtue, will
make no difference when lying side by side in the grave of the earth, covered
over by the sands of time, buried beneath the regenerative soils if
Archaeologists and paleontologists of the distant future, if there are any,
will dig beneath the earth’s soils to discover a layer of irradiated
concrete rubble and piles of broken and shattered bones. They will have
discovered a worldwide base line for early human civilization, and wonder what
forgotten historical events caused this massive level of destruction. They
will discover the ages old lessons of human nature and human history that has
been learned the hard way in one age only to become forgotten in the new age.
Hopefully our remote heirs of humankind will have learned these lessons by
then well enough not to repeat the same old mistakes. This will be evidence of
humankind’s real progress.
Nature has a sense of order, and a mysterious mind of its own. Our
involvement in the processes of nature can only interrupt and interfere with
these patternings and their products in a dissonant and destructive way. The
best we can hope for is a neutral relationship between our civilization and
the natural world upon which it depends.
What a curse upon the earth it has been that the spirit of humankind should
remain perpetually insatiable, and its soul always searching for salvation in
How is it that one species among all the forms of life on earth has come to
so dominate the earth and destroy most of the other forms of life in its quest
for power and security from the forces of nature?
We cannot escape in anything we do the ecological imperative of our
earthbound age, that the human destruction of the world’s natural habitats
and ecosystems are the most consequential problematic of survival which has
ever confronted humankind except our earliest era of evolutionary adaptation
and struggle for survival against the forces of nature. Could it be that
humankind learned its first evolutionary lessons too well, and adapted too
Could it be that the needs of humankind’s own destruction are too deeply
rooted in the first evolutionary steps of human nature? Historical
civilization may have been humankind’s elaborate way of postponing the
inevitable—a sophisticated way of usurping nature’s control over our
destiny because we are maladapted from the start to fit into the scheme of
Humankind evolved as a phylogenetic freak of nature, and human civilization
has developed as an infection upon the living tissues on the earth’s skin.
The few brief millennia which this disease is playing itself out is but a
momentary episode in the natural life span of the earth—an episode which is
nonetheless producing catastrophic consequences.
Destruction is always a faster, simpler, and easier process than
construction. Creation takes time, patience, trial and error. It is a sign of
our earthbound age that despite all our rapid developments of world
technological civilization, we are accomplishing in a few brief moments of mad
destructiveness what required many millions of years for nature to achieve. We
are taking away so much from nature after she has given so much to us.
Our war making tendencies, violent and aggressive capacities and our basic
destructiveness towards nature can only be taken as a sign that as a
biological species, we are like children who have not yet grown into place in
the natural scheme of things. A fully-grown species does not destroy its
environments because such ecocide leads to destruction of the species as
maladapted. A more mature species has incorporated into its nerves and veins
the organic experience and evolutionary wisdom of natural karma, and has found
and seeks to maintain a fragile balance of power in its relation with the
natural order of things. The development of our civilization has been but a
premature precociousness—as a species we are trying to grow up too fast, and
cannot feel at ease in our childlike condition.
It is possible that nature itself is yet young on earth—that in its
evolutionary exploration of its own possibilities and limitations, in the
dinosaurs, in the great mammals, in humankind, it is slowly and steadily
trying out and figuring out the most suitable arrangement and patterning for
its myriad diverse elements. When it hits upon a correct answer—like
cockroaches, sharks or other primordial species--then it stops and moves on to
the solution to other elements of its grand design. If it frequently makes
mistakes, it does not hesitate to tear things back down and start all over
again. If this is true, then we must begin to see our own presence and purpose
upon the earth as constrained by perhaps ultimately controlled by the designs
of nature. Our existential being upon earth may well prove to be extremely
Death is meaningless to nature except as a natural process in the
representation of life. It is inevitable because it is necessary and so
natural. To humankind, death has come to mean everything, as the ultimate
thing we cannot avoid no matter how hard we may try. On this basic difference
rests all the problems and paradoxes of the human condition on earth and of
the natural condition of an increasingly, exclusively human world.
Time has purely been a human construction in the natural world. Nature has
its rhythms and cycles of birth, regeneration and death, which have been
happening time immemorial, but it knows little of the timing, which we ascribe
to her. It has its schedules and its seasons, but it has always been a never
ending, continuously changing moment of the present. Nature remembers little
of its own past, and thinks nothing of its own future, except, as these become
organically incorporated and consequential to the development of its own being
on earth. Otherwise the pathways and trajectories of past and future have no
meaning that they have to us. Perhaps we measure time so carefully and exactly
because we are so aware of our mortality and ephemeral presence upon earth.
We must not underestimate the delicacy of the balances, which have evolved
in nature. Minor causes regularly lead, however indirect and extenuated the
chain of linkages, to major and long lasting consequences. The complexity of
nature’s interconnections, webs of relations and pathways of change is so
great and so random as to be unpredictable by our science. There is no telling
exactly what or how our actions of today will reverberate and resonated upon
the earth and rebound upon us tomorrow. We can only be sure in our
understanding that consequences will come.
When the earth shakes, the wind blows, the waves rise, and the rains fall,
there is little humankind can do to stop it. It is in these moments that we
are most reminded of our own beingness in nature and of our own natural
helplessness before the forces and elements of nature. It is in these moments
that we are reminded of the real power that moves the world and all things in
To see our sui generis origins in the earth itself is to remind ourselves
of the primordial volcanism and fundamental electromagnetism of our bodies and
beingness. It is possible that our bodies, as all life on earth, has a kind of
force field or natural aura of life which all life is sensitive and remotely
aware of. The common hysterias of our uncontrolled aggression, violent
perversion, and crowd madness has its roots in the mesmeric power of these
autochthonous of life. In our transformation into civilized human beings, we
must deny and tune out this kind of hypnotic spell of nature, which becomes
cast, over our beingness. It is a power, charismatic and violent political
leaders have learned to master.
Earthboundness is a modern condition of existential awareness of and in the
human world. It is a collective consciousness of our own ecology of being upon
the universal earth. It is a way of discovering ourselves in our environment.
Earthboundness is a human state of being which has become increasingly
bound by the earth. It is a paradox that earthboundness did not really rise in
our collective conscience until after humankind first escaped the imprisoning
pull of the earth’s gravitational field. The view from space offered
humankind a conception of the earth as a lonely and solitary, but living
planet in the vast depths of space. As long as we had our feet firmly planted
upon the ground, we took the boundaries of the earth’s horizons for granted.
Like being culture bound, earthboundness has come to mean dialectically its
own contradiction upon earth. The previous geo-centrism of our imaginations
and our conscience in which we say the earth exclusively in our own terms—put
there for the sake of our own development and aggrandizement, has given way to
an enlightened appreciation of the importance, and limitations, of the earth
as an entity itself, in its own right. The paradox of earthboundness has come
to ultimately usurp and relativize our own anthropocentric world view and
value orientation towards all life on earth. We are no longer the dominant
species, the apex of the hierarchical pyramid or the top link of the Great
Chain of Being. We are becoming better able to appreciate the point of view
and intrinsic importance of all other life forms on earth, especially when our
civilization has plotted their destruction and extinction. Other plants and
animals have their own separate evolutionary purpose and reason for being on
earth which is separate and not subordinate to our own narrow human purposes
and designs, and because the water and force of life which flows through all
the veins and channels of the earth also flow through our own veins, the loss
of any and all life on earth, is our loss as well.
The wind blow for our own being, and the waves roll and crash upon the
rocks with the vitality, which flow through our veins. The distant, strange
sounds hidden in the conch shell are the echoes of our own beginning on earth.
The yelps and howls of the coyotes in the moonlit night are the beckoning and
calling of our own primordial nature. The owl that hoots in the darkness of
nights shadow talks of our own darkness and our own destiny. The silent beauty
of a flower and the rolling landscape is the silence of our own death. In
everything, Nature calls us back to our own being and our own beginning.
Humankind has become earthbound as never before—the existential
uncertainty of our own condition upon earth is the direct consequence of the
development of our civilization running head long upon a collision course with
our own earthboundness. We may speak of our earthbound karma and our
earthbound dharma, our earthbound imperative and our earthbound ecology and
ethos, in a relevant way that would have made less sense even a decade ago,
and utter nonsense a century ago. But now earthboundness is coming to
increasingly shape and define our own identity upon the earth and to have an
increasing influence upon many elements of our everyday lives. Nothing we do
anymore does not have some kind of indirect effect upon our world in long
chains of relation which we barely comprehend, and we can no longer afford to
ignore these indirect kinds of consequences of our daily activities and
involvements, as they will eventually come back to us in unexpected ways. The
circularity of the earth’s surface and the seasonality of life has become
our own circularity and our own seasonality.
Earthbound enlightenment is the dawning of a new consciousness in the human
world. It is an awareness of our environments and of the dependency of the
human conditions upon these environments in new and revolutionary ways, ways
which our own being and becoming upon earth, in terms of human development,
has hardly caught up with. The most valuable resource we now have is the human
resource, and the most critical constraint we have upon this resource is the
limitation of time. If we can learn to just slow down the pace of our changes
in everything we do, then we can give to ourselves, our children and our world
the extra edge of time that is most needed in order for us to resolve our
In our earthbound age, less is more, small is beautiful, and the slower the
better. There is no need to do today what we can safely put off until
tomorrow, or the day after.
No one really knows what the carrying capacity of the earth really is, or
what the long term promise and potential of our scientific progress will
really prove to be. It is too son to tell. But it is certain that the most
pressing problem and predicament of our earthbound age is that of global over
population and the corresponding depopulation of the earth of other forms of
life. In bringing evolution on earth to a standstill, is stopping nature’s
clockwork, and in continuing to reproduce our own kind at an exponentially
uncontrolled rate, we are creating for ourselves a global crisis and climax of
unprecedented proportions. The prospects of our world cannot be bright if we
continue along our way as blindly as we have so far been. It is perhaps too
late to reverse the wheels of history or to prevent the impending holocaust,
but no one has the bottom line on this either.
We are upon the verge of a new era, the dawn of a new epoch, the birth of a
new age on earth. In the twilight of our earthbound awakening, we do nit yet
know if we are at the dawn of a new day or at the dusk of a new night. We can
no longer afford our old values and worldviews in the same naïve and innocent
way as before. We have become bound by the ecological horizons of a round
earth. In its roundness, we have always implicitly understood that the earth
was a finite resource, even with the infinite progress of our science. Our
earthbound awakening is upon us, and it influences everything we think and do
in our common world. It has come to increasingly frame the external contexts
of our everyday life, constraining our beliefs and behaviors in ways, which
were rarely understood before now.
Earthboundness is the only bottom line of our modern moment and our
contemporary human condition. Earthboundness is the key conceptual metaphor of
our moment, our nature, our world, the earth and our condition upon it. We
might be able to escape the gravitational pull of the earth, but we cannot
escape the prospects of our own earthboundness.
It is not ourselves or our father figures, leaders, commanders, statesmen,
capitalists, and parental authorities who will inherit the earth ad all the
problems of our human world. It will be our children and our grandchildren who
will inherit the future earth and who will hold the key to the future of all
life on earth. If we cannot instill in them a new respect for all life on
earth, including human life, and teach them the lessons we ourselves have
learned the hard way. Our failure will become their failure, and we can only
BEING and THE WAY
A bamboo is more supple than a gnarled old limb—the bamboo bends in
whichever direction the wind blows, while the limb is sure to break in a heavy
storm. But the old twisted limb is sure to make the more dependable walking
Truth resides in the undichotomized whole, and is revealed in the relations
between the many parts. The way is always a paradox—a dilemma of alternative
We seek what we cannot know and know what we cannot seek.
When we exhaust all our answers, only questions remain. There is no
solution that does not give birth to yet a new set of problems.
Every path leads to the way, and the way follows every path.
In a world of proud princes, it is the humble pauper who is king.
In a world of big Chiefs, it is the little brave who would carry the day.
In a world full of captains and commanders, it is the peacemaker who
In a world of the beautiful and sophisticated, it is the plain and simple
that is most sublime
In a world full of the unusual and the extreme, it is the commonplace and
average that is most outstanding
In a world of prophets and visionaries, it is the blind mute who points the
In a world full of many winners, it is the loser who counts success as a
lesson well learned.
In a world full of complicated words, it is the simple deed that speaks the
Nothing is, that also is not. Everything that seems to be, is really
something else. The art of living is always an art of indirection, and the way
of life is never a straight line.
It wasn’t until I walked the way of the world that I came to understand
how much of a home-body I really had been. But, upon returning home, I soon
realized how much of a discontent wanderer I had become.
A never ending source of paradox is that although our illusions must always
be dispelled, our life is full of illusion that sustains us in the darkness of
The way lies in waiting for the hapless wanderer who come stumbling along
searching for it. It is ever patient and ever present and ever silent. It
never tells the wanderer when she or he has found it.
There is only one way, though it comes from many corners of the world and
leads in many directions. If you happen to meet someone along the way going in
the opposite direction as yourself, neither traveler is wrong. Both are just
upon different parts of the same path.
The way that is, is never the way. The way that isn’t, is always the way.
Neither this way nor that way is the way, nor is the other way. The way that
isn’t the way always winds between the other ways.
The way has no beginning and no end, but is always between both beginning
and end. It is an eternally moving moment that never comes to rest. To follow
along the way is to make a journey without ever reaching the journey’s end.
The destination of the journey is to be found along the way.
There is no wrong way, because there is no right way. There is no best way,
because there is no worst way. There is only one way, but it leads in an
infinite number of directions. Though there are an infinite number of
directions, they all lead in the same way. We cannot lose the way that we
cannot find—we can only lose the way that can be found.
The way always leads in only one direction, and the way is without any
direction. We cannot turn back along the directionless way. The way is always
forward, though there are many dead ends. The directionless way is always long
and winding, twisting and turning in many directions, and though each
direction is the way, the way remains only one directionless direction.
To follow the way is to lead the way is to follow the way is to lead the
way….until we’ve finally lost our way. And once having lost the way, then
we will finally find it. And finding it, then we eventually lose it forever.
The directionless direction cannot be found by any map or compass. It is
the direction that the wind blows and the water flows. It is the direction
that the earth moves through the universe, and the direction the human takes
through the forest. The way is always a grand circle within a circle,
encompassing yet other circles. The directionless direction of the way is
infinitely roundabout and circular.
We cannot ever change our way, though the way is always changing. The power
of the way is its paradox, and the paradox of the way is its power. The
direction without direction leads in all directions and yet goes nowhere. The
directionless direction leads nowhere, and yet can be found everywhere. It is
somewhere and anywhere. And there is here and this is that.
The way is silent, and silence is to be found along the way. Words are like
stones in the way—they mark the path but make the path difficult to follow.
Words are strung together by silence and the way of silence is strewn with
words. Words may need the way, but the way does not need words.
The wise person knows the way though s/he has never seen it. The fool is
blind to the way though s/he may have long lived beside it.
The way passes through this world, but is not of this world. It is of
another world. This world is full of petty people who think they are
important, but travelers along the way are few and far between. The way begins
at the end of the world, and the world begins at the end of the way.
The way ends at the end of the day. The way is not a matter of distance,
but of duration. It is not a sense of place, but one of process. Where the sun
rises, that is where the way begins.
Night overshadows the way, and clouds our senses. We fear the night because
we lose our way.
To lead the way is to follow the way. To follow the way is to lead the way.
To see the way is to seek the way. To seek the way is to see the way. To find
the way is to lose the way. To lose the way is to find the way. To learn the
way is to travel the way. To travel the way is to learn the way.
Like a long tunnel that never ends, the way always leads through darkness
to a distant source of light. Which star in the nighttime sky is not the way?
We cannot ever know what is in the minds of others, but only what is in our
own minds. We can know what is in our minds only imperfectly and with
uncertainty, for our minds area always playing tricks upon us and fooling us—hiding
and changing. And if our minds are always hiding and changing, then knowing
the minds of others is thus doubly treacherous. It is a miraculous wonder that
we may know anything at all except our own illusion.
Humanness is the source of our being, and our being is the source of our
humanness. As human beings, the evolution of our experience and the experience
of our evolution has gone hand in hand with the creation of the uniqueness and
paradox of our condition. With each new generation born, this evolutionary
experience of humanity is recreated and relived in both the parents and their
children. As such, our species are but one linkage in a long chain that
stretches back time immemorial to the very beginning of life on earth. And
each generation is the next and newest link.
Being is a frame of mind and mind is a state of being. It follows that if
the sense of being is environmental in nature, then so too are the senses of
the mind. Both mind and being are organically rooted in the evolutionary
experience of the natural world.
Being is always decentered. As such it chronically lacks the sense of
balance that only comes from the possession of the center. Being is always
upon the outside looking in, and never upon the inside looking out. The state
of being and the frame of mind of the view from the inside is fundamentally
different from the being of the view from the outside. The view from the
outside is subject to the vicissitudes and vagaries of nature—to its changes
of weather and the predation of the wild. It suffers the cold and wet of
winter and the heat and sun of summer. The view from the inside is one based
upon the control of nature, the protection from elemental forces and hazards.
It is an artificial point of view.
The sense of being is not to be gained through vicarious experience.
Vicariousness substitutes illusion for the reality of being. It is difficult
not to live vicariously in a world that so conditions our experience by
vicariousness and illusion. The existential problematic of modern living is
not the same imperative of survival that made earlier humankind’s sense of
being in the world so sharp and acute. It has become the imperative of
learning to live non-vicariously by seeing through the illusions that come
between our experiences of the world and our own sense of being in the world.
It has become the imperative of recovering a lost sense of being in our world
from the flood of illusions that inundates our experiences.
Being begins in the bare bones of basic experience. The raw state of its
reality works its way from the surface of our skin deep down underneath like
an infection that spreads throughout the body. Being begins in honesty. It is
free of illusion because it cannot lie.
Along the way of being, we give up our innocence for wisdom. Being does not
come with disillusionment, but before the illusion. Disillusionment suffers
the loss of being upon the road to becoming. It represents a return to the
place where we started, with the experience of what was left behind, without
the original innocence with which we started.
Our return to natural being can never be complete. It must always entail a
sense of loss, of imperfection, of unfinished business, and of unfulfilled
feelings. The recovery of our own natural innocence can only be had through
the discovery of the darkness of our own hearts from which the possibility of
our disillusionment and the disillusionment of our possibility both spring
Nonbeing is to be found in the denial of death, as something dark,
unnatural and evil. Being is to be found in the embrace of the existential
inevitability of death, in the ephemera presence and mortality of our own
Being begins in the experience of death and ends in the experience of
birth. In each birth is the beginning of another death, and in every death is
the ending of another birth. We cannot be and deny our own mortality at the
same time, not without delusion and self-deception.
Our being in the world has become increasingly defined and constrained by
the earthboundness of our contemporary condition on earth. Because we cannot
escape our earthboundness, we cannot escape the existential consequences of
its ecological imperative upon our lives. It is a paradox that the salvation
of our own being in the world is based upon and in turn forms the basis of the
salvation of our world itself, just as the destruction of our world is rooted
in and leads to the destruction of our own sense of being in the world. Human
reality and being are inextricably related with its earthbound environment.
Human destiny will be the fate of the earth.
The way changes with the world. What it was yesterday is not what it will
become tomorrow. Today it takes us this way, and tomorrow it will take us that
way. The way is always some other way.
The way is not well served by hurrying along without smelling the flowers
and seeing the picturesque sites. The way is therefore always slow and steady,
sometimes stopping and often turning. It is made for walking and not for
We may sleep and rest, and yet still journey along the way. Our dreams area
always a journey along the way. We may spend all the day of our lives working
and traveling to one place or another, and yet never once make a single step
along the way. We may journey along the way by standing still, and we may move
unendingly and yet go nowhere. The way moves mountains closer to our feet, but
it does not move our feet closer to the mountains.
The way is always the vision of a mountaintop hovering above our horizon,
and it always leads through a dense and dark forest that never seems to end.
The way ends at a still and silent lake at the bottom of a mountain valley
that is hidden somewhere in the forest. When we come to the end of the way, we
will know its view not from the mountaintop but by the clearness of its
reflection upon the surface of the water.
Of the many different paths to follow, which way does not lead back home to
where we began?
All ways lead finally to the same end—that is death.
If there is a will, there is a way. The heart can have only one master, but
the way can have many hearts. Being serves the human, the human serves the
will, the will serves the heart, the heart serves the way, and the way serves
the being. To follow the way is to lead the way, and the way always leads from
and back to the human being.
ODDS and ENDS
(Children, Migration, Mixed-marriage and other Marginalia)
I find most children quite interesting and enjoyable. It is their parents
whom I find too snobby even to say hello, and too hung up on their own egos to
really enjoy life. It is too bad so many children have so little choice in the
matter of their parents.
Growing up is learning one has choices to make. Better to remain an eternal
child than to have to become a frustrated and repressed adult.
In their innocence, children are without the pretensions of the adult
world. In their ignorance of the world, they are without the prejudices that
make the adult so sure of their world.
It is the natural openness and unabashed inquisitiveness that makes
childhood such an interesting period of life. Children do not become
embarrassed or ashamed of themselves as adults have learned to become, though
they may be shy or become confused. Children meet the world with one hundred
percent of their being, adults with less than half.
The world of the child is not just a simpler version of the world of the
adult. It is a different kind of world in which the quality of experience is
very alien to the adult world. Children do not make the kind of normal
distinctions that so order the adult world and that are usually taken for
granted. For a child, it is very possible that a dinosaur could be in the
backyard, or that Bambi can be in Snow White’s forest. Cartoons, in their
Carroll like animation of normally inanimate objects, capture some of the
sense of the child’s reality very clearly.
It was not until I became a father that I really grew up. It is not until
people have children of their own and become full-time parents that they
become full-fledged adults, and give up the illusionary vanities of their own
lost youth for the sake of their children’s future adulthood.
My daughter has taught me so many things I never really understood before.
She has taught me the joy of simple pleasures seemingly inane from the adult
point of view. She has taught me the meaning of patience, tolerance,
responsibility and selflessness. She has taught me the true meaning of love,
friendship and companionship. Most importantly, she has taught me many of the
neat things of my own childhood that I had somehow forgotten in my struggle to
Children learn about the adult world by tearing everything they can touch
down to their own level. By tearing apart the adult world, they are learning
how to eventually put it all back together again. Though they may make many
mistakes, they will also compose a new sense of order much different, and in
many ways, far better than the world of their parents.
Mixed marriage really puts to the test the faith that, in the face of
universal human nature, differences of race, culture, language, and history
are of little importance. We frequently fail this test in our own faith.
When we were first married in my wife’s homeland, rumors spread quickly
that I was a "California Abalone Diver," or a "Confidence
Trickster," or a "CI. agent," but nobody ever came forward to
see if these claims were true or false. The people who started some of these
rumors were people bent on exploiting my wife for her money and labor before
she married me.
By being married to a Chinese wife it has reaffirmed my faith in
anthropology. Chinese are not that different from Americans, as both can be
rude, mean, selfish, prejudiced and ignorant.
Though there is little romance about mixed marriage, romance is sometimes
the only common illusion that will save the marriage.
Mixed marriage is a funny situation, everyone seems curious about you, but
after their curiosity is satisfied, they seem to feel uncomfortable to be
around you. Being married to a person from another culture is to live between
two cultures, and to become a full member of neither one. It is truly being an
odd couple. About the only way out of this situation is to become quite
wealthy, and then you can become honorary and privileged citizens of either
culture, rather than just outcast pariahs.
There are some facets of my wife’s Chinese character that I shall
probably never really understand. There are some traits of my own that I have
little doubt seem quite strange and abominable to her. These differences can
sometimes be quite subtle and on the surface at least be covered over by
similar resemblance, but they can become major stress points in the
relationship for the slightest, most petty reasons.
When you are an odd couple, everyone stares but few speak, and though
everyone is quite polite, few are very friendly. So many who think they are
superior to you for some reason or the other can become quite rude and
arrogant towards you. Everyone talks behind your back, and few talk in front
of your face.
Our daughter, the product of "miscegenation," knows little about
the differences between "Chinese" or "American." If left
on her own she and her kind would quickly create a new hyphenated
"Creole" culture that was genuinely "Chinese American,"
and perhaps she really will anyway in spite of her parents’ purposes and
prejudices. It is good to know that, though she will never be just one or the
other, she will always have a choice between both worlds. When she fills out
an employment application form, she can check herself off as either one or the
Mixed couples are citizens of a country of their own making. It is a
country whose only territorial boundaries are the earth’s oceans that
separate foreign shores. It is a "multicultural" society in which
racial differences are effectively undermined.
My Chinese-American daughter is living proof that the ideology of racial
purity is a myth that defies the natural reason of evolution. She has brown
hair, almond eyes, tan skin, my wife’s toes, and my stubborn disposition,
and she is about as cute as can be. She is the proverbial dragon lady.
Our Chinese-American daughter shares the best and worst of both worlds, and
she will be free to choose between them.
Mixed marriage and children of miscegenation form a new racial and ethnic
category in the world that has little to do with any previous distinctions.
When the world becomes one, people will be free to move about as they please
and to marry only those who come closest to their hearts. Their children will
inherit citizenship to the world and keys to the future.
The migration experience involves an unending sense of personal
displacement and estrangement in a foreign land that is often threatening and
sometimes hostile. The migrant never fully resolves these feelings, but
represses them in the interest of adapting to demanding new situations. The
migrant longs for a return to their homeland like an old person longs for lost
youth, or an adult longs to return to childhood, or an unhappy "has
been" longs to return to a more glorious past. It is in the existential
paradox of the migrant’s life that the world that was "home" will
have subsequently changed in such a way that things no longer seem the same
and there is little room remaining in which to fit.
The child the migrant has adapted to the new environment as if it were
their home. Lacking the experience and wisdom of the old world, these children
grow up to out-perform their parents in a world that’s largely taken for
granted. This is often the source of an intense kind of generational conflict.
Migration has been the rule, and not the exception of human history.
Migration has been going on time immemorial. The portrayal of humankind as
permanently settled in one local region and as home-bound in world view defies
the anthropological wisdom of human culture history. Humankind has long been
getting around and mixing things up much more than we, in our semi-sedentary
existence, would give them credit. The rise of human civilization has always
depended as much upon the "exogenous" influences of trading,
trafficking and traveling, as it has upon "locating" the individual
to a permanent and fixed place.
Human beings are prone to move about and to be over the long term quite
transient, because the grass always seems greener on the other side and in
their perennial unhappiness they are always left unsated and unfulfilled in
what they have in their present circumstances. This need to move on is
fundamental to human nature, ingrained in our evolutionary experience.
There is a tendency for a host society to exploit, ridicule, discriminate
against, take advantage of, and to stereotype the newest immigrant. Immigrants
are often seen as childish, ignorant, barbaric, dirty, dangerous and immoral,
and even though they often begin at the bottom of the social ladder, they are
seen as a political-economic threat to the status quo. This kind of paranoia
toward the newcomer happens even among people who were them selves previous
newcomers. Everyone at some point in history has descended from immigrants.
The American Academic and Professional "Brain Drain" has been
going on for a long time and represents a curious kind of capitalistic
conspiracy of international class that neatly cross-cuts other racial or
ethnic boundaries. If America used to be the land of the free and the home of
the brave, it has since become the marketplace of the international elite and
the technocracy of the professional class. If there have been many ugly
Americans abroad, there have since been many more "ugly Foreigners"
in America, with the only thing being on their minds the getting ahead at
everyone else’s expense. This "Brain Drain" effectively helps to
maintain the political economic structure of poverty both domestically and
abroad, and effectively undercuts upward social mobility among the lower
classes both at home and abroad. "Amerika, Inc., the Beautiful Only"
has long played the friendly fool who nevertheless manages to take full
advantage of foreign labor and domestic conformity.
Blanket Copyright, Hugh M. Lewis, © 2005. Use of
this text governed by fair use policy--permission to make copies of this text is
granted for purposes of research and non-profit instruction only.
Last Updated: 08/25/06