Preface to the Essay “The Stupidity of Greatness and the Absurdity of Conflict”

I’m tempted to apologize for the difficulty of the next essay. There are too many links between seemingly unrelated and perhaps even initially uninteresting or irrelevant ideas. For instance, there are links between the potential for abrupt psychological shifts, self-generated extinction, relativity and evolution. I don’t operate by rationally trying to link these disparate issues. An amorphous lump of loose ends (a chaos hiding an implicit order) involving these various issues grows into an uncomfortable tumor of churning thought. And it’s only when I sit down to write (or contrariwise, if I stumble into an alert and wordless frame of mind) that this amorphous conglomerate of disjointed issues begins to unravel and sort itself out into a more orderly arrangement.

Why not avoid all this trouble and wait for the wordless frame of mind to appear? Because learning is needed in different contexts. When the silence ends and I walk out into this chaotic human society, accosted constantly by stupid ideas, wars, cut-throat economics, buffoons in high places or waiting to regain high places, triggering me until sometimes I’m on the verge of fisticuffs, admittedly, I’m essentially confronting a system of thought in me and in the world around me that is insane and needs healing. Writing is how I heal the tumorous ganglia of loose ends that compose each of us, that make up my very notion of Self and Other. I’m not separate from this madness. It churns in any obsession with myself (and a self-obsession is not a self-inquiry, but a resistance to inquiry).

So if these verbal and imaginary structures of thought aren’t also addressed then our silent moments of clarity are compressed by these pressures. And then the flow of understanding that emerges from silence fails to share its bounty. This can lead to a haughty dismissal of rational thought, which leaves the left brain and all rational processing excluded from everything the cool right brain is learning. (I don’t usually use the terminology of left and right brain, but it works. Ian McGuilcrist talks about things from this angle in a very coherent way. It’s the equivalent of a distinction between negative and positive thought (as I use the terms). Both are needed, but the right brain (the negative awareness) has to remain primary, otherwise the left brain operates as pure cleverness, without the least trace of wisdom).

In other words, we can’t suppress rationality and simply leap into a meditative relationship to the world. The structures of thought also need to be made supple enough to accommodate this larger intelligence. Therefore writing has its place.

But this isn’t a rational project. That’s why I allow the essays to come out in one swift flow, although this can span a few days, giving time for inner reflections and deepenings of meaning, but swiftly enough, so that I begin to trust the performance of learning itself, demoting planning and control to a very subservient role. This means the essays retain a good deal of their idiosyncrasies, quirks and inefficiencies, with only enough rational editing to sustain a certain order and clarity, invisible to most, but visible to those who dig into what I’m saying a little more seriously.

I write in order to learn, not in order to teach, even if teaching happens by association.

So my focus isn’t trying to make this clear to anyone but myself and the few active readers who are already engaged in this kind of inquiry of their own. That’s my apology in short: I’m not inventing the complexity; I’m unraveling the complicated mess that I and human beings as a whole have made of life on earth. (Later me interjecting: this sounds high-falutin’, but it’s my prejudice to think that every human being is doing this, or forced to do this in order to survive, one way or another, from their own starting points). And it’s not worth simplifying and editing and honing (dumbing it down) for the benefit of a larger readership, who by and large won’t be interested anyways. (Later me interjecting again. Yes, this is arrogant but it’s also legitimate, not because people are stupid. But because none of us really listen with much interest to anything. And trying to talk about something with someone who is uninterested is deadly dull and futile).

Don’t get me wrong. I need and love readers, but not numbers of readers. Still, there has to be a light flow to this readership so that I’m able to constantly imagine someone I’ve never imagined before – someone who will stumble on these inquiries with an unusually active mind and heart, who will in effect rain down upon these essays by their mere presence a vitality and honesty that germinates seeds of learning in both of us simultaneously. I can’t learn until I imagine someone who understands.

This doesn’t mean that I need feedback. I love the merest indication that someone felt something authentic, that’s all. I’ll welcome all feedback but am less interested in feedback that simply descends into an intellectual game of tug of war. (Tony Dias, Jeppe Graugaard, Nick Williams (Zippypinhead), Hal Rager, Kaat Vander Straeten, Brian Shampnois, Susan, and a few others have been tremendous presences throughout).

But I see these essays more as travelogues into an inner wilderness, a fictional reconstruction of something honestly encountered; honest fictions that serve almost as diaries of a madman’s journey towards sanity. In this kind of inquiry there is no argument between different vantage points; these idiosyncrasies add information to the whole of human learning, as long as I’m being honest.

All I really need from the active and intelligent reader is the permission to believe in them – in a larger mind than my own. That’s why I write, so that a window can be opened into what would otherwise be a stagnant, claustrophobic and lifeless solipsism.

So take from the next essay what you can. These essays are less and less concerned with creating a finished product that shines in the sun and more concerned with performing (giving form to) an honest encounter with my own stupidities, and with the stupidities of human thought as a whole. Because if we don’t stop to face our stupidities and delusions we are essentially committing suicide by indifference.

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