Why Honesty Is Not a Moral Value: Conclusion (let’s call it) to a Series of Essays Inspired by the Book, “The Dawn of Everything”

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

But the cosmic vision can’t replace the narrow vision or the mid-range vision. We need to move freely between all three vantage points in order to scan the world as honestly as possible. So it’s a nested hierarchy of perception, where the cosmic puts the narrower communal and personal vantage points in their proper place. Without this fluidity of perception, our limited stories lose that tether to reality and become deceitful to the point of self-destruction.

Refusing to see the world honestly is the quickest way to be killed.

For instance, we could call this a dangerous world or we could call this an evil world. Both would be fictions. But the first one is more consistent with life in a wilderness, and we’re always living at the edge of a wilderness, because life always exceeds the idea, because they are two different substances, and never the twain shall meet

As in any earthly wilderness, it’s best to approach the unknown as a danger, but not as an evil. If we were to live by the fiction that the woods are evil, then the animals we encounter would increasingly live up to that billing. This is how schizophrenia becomes so convincing. The world responds to our stories, whether they’re honest or deceptive stories. Even positive thinking is deceptive. What it produces is a false front, a positive deception. Even if we’re not technically schizophrenic, the same principle exists. An “evil” interpretation would corner the beings we encounter into living up to that billing – they’d sense our fear aggression and respond in kind, seeing us as a threat — or they’d simply refrain from helping the flailing and drowning world (Chomsky’s Martians, for instance) and let it drown.

But if we approach the wilderness as dangerous, but not evil, then we’ll be able to notice other non-aggressive qualities in our fellow animals, and learn to avoid provoking them. We might learn to become friends with some of them, as we did in befriending wolves and wild cats.

The world responds to our stories. The deceptive stories can be too rose-colored as well. If we approached the wilderness as a paradise of love, we’d blind ourselves to the dangerous potentials that are also there and not live long either.

The problem with the bullshit of “positive thinking” is that the naively rose-tinted glass-wearers end up eaten.

But – and this we don’t acknowledge enough — the same is true for the cynics, for the ash-tinted glass-wearers (who think positively still, but only in dark directions). We give the cynics far too much credit for a “worldly intelligence” they Do Not Possess. They also end up provoking a world that eats them. It’s the naïve Literalism, the ignorant certainties, the stupid belief in something called “non-fiction”, which is the deeper problem. The problem is a lost perceptual fluidity. 

Somehow the breath-taking significance of this is lost on most of us most of the time. We don’t see the implications of what we’ve discovered here. This discovery of a prismatic capacity to see everything as honest fictions erases the need for conflict. And this relationship to fiction shows us how it’s possible to move through the world as blindly as Helen Keller, knowing nothing in a positive sense, tapping the canes of our metaphors and stories to obtain negative information (tap, there’s an obstruction, tap, there’s a limit to our metaphor, tap, change direction), and from that negative flow of information, we re-design our theories, stories, myths and metaphors, with no intention of finding conclusion, except perhaps in limited fields of inquiry, and even these may alter radically as more dots of data emerge, and this underlying uncertainty allows us to “keep going” deeper and deeper into this weird, miraculous and unfathomable world.

A New World Is Only a New Mind

I’m picturing a mostly unconscious human being – a mind occupied all day by video games, food, sex, drink, and sleep. Or I could picture a corporate executive who has utterly surrendered to the sociopathic profit motive, perhaps somebody at Shell who has helped to bury the science on climate change. Or even myself more often than I care to admit – my thoughts like mice constantly scurrying to the higher end of a perpetually sinking ship.

But it’s all the same state of mind in one fundamental way at least – a mind perpetually busy trying to outrun itself, trying not to notice the unfathomed compulsion that keeps it busy. In this state of mind (if there aren’t sufficient distractions available) the tendency is to feel subjected to thought, tossed and turned by thought. To avoid the sensation of drowning in this tumult, an inner director, a thinker in charge, a focus of Self, is created, which seems to be a retroactive gloss that thought itself compulsively places over its own shenanigans to retain an illusion of order and control. But in this state of mind there is only a running script (though ad libbed) in which this fantasy of a director (a Me playing the starring role) ends up organizing what is still only a compulsive escape from its own unfathomed turmoil.

I need to emphasize this distinction between people and the habits of thought that hold them captive, otherwise I fall into the common misconception that people who think and do ugly, evil things are inherently (in their blood and bones) ugly and evil, and not merely ill with thought. If I blame the person — even my own starring Self — too much (and I often do) I become susceptible to the illness itself, willing to injure that person just to stop the ridiculous ideas driving them (or me). Then the distinction between these dimensions of life (between the actual human being and the thoughts driving them, between territory and map) is lost, and then I’m driven by the unfathomed compulsions of thought, and capable of ugly, evil things.

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Starving the Tree of Racism: How Seemingly Benign Values and Beliefs Feed Racism

Strange Tree

Dear fellow white men, but I hope others stick around as a Greek chorus.

An honest recognition of this culture’s history of treachery, kidnapping, torture, and murder is needed to read this. This is my fundamental starting point. So I’m essentially only speaking to those white men who recognize this and want it to end.

I’m arguing that if this is really our passion, then we can’t solely focus on stopping overt racists, or eliminating the racism and sexism baked into our institutions. These are necessary goals of course. But ultimately we won’t be very helpful if we don’t simultaneously (and primarily) work to expose the subtlest roots of racism in ourselves. And if we dig deeply enough we discover that we’re contributing to this violence through our identification with many of this society’s seemingly benign (but in fact toxic) values.

Magnification, Not Abstraction

I feel that poisonous minerals of racism seep into our bones microscopically through values that often appear innocuous and beneficial. But it might not seem practical or relevant to talk about these subtleties at first, because this can feel like an escape into abstractions from more pressing racial problems. But these are magnified examinations of the subtle roots of racism, not abstractions.

Nevertheless, it feels like I’m asking readers to pause for a moment in rescuing the drowning people downstream. But I don’t feel anything can be resolved downstream. I think we need to discover the deepest source of the problem, which remains hidden in us.Read More »

Two Notes: David Bohm and Negative Knowledge

Krishnamurti and Bohm

Listen starting at about Minute 14:30, here:

Here’s the key quote, which is a perfect summary of what I meant by 1) Negative Knowledge and 2) the positive movement of thought, which can result in a swing towards Literalism and all the vicious circles this confusion and self-deception inevitably generates; or it can swing towards a swifter, metaphoric mentality, as long as negative awareness keeps the positive aspects of thought in check (not controlled, but stripped of self-deception perhaps):

Bohm: “… in physics you could use a measuring instrument in 2 ways, the positive and the negative. Like an electric current, you can measure. You can measure the current by the swing of the instrument. Or you can use it in what is called the Wheatstone Bridge, where the reading you look for is a null reading; a null reading indicates harmony or balance of the 2 sides as it were. So if you are using the instrument negatively, then the non-functioning of the instrument is the sign that it is working right. Could we say the brain may have used thought positively to make an image of the world… K: which is the function of thought … B: …One of the functions of thought. The other function of thought is negative, which is to indicate non-harmony….”

I have no memory of Bohm saying this, but it obviously made an impact because the entire Negative Geography project is based on that very observation above. Interesting to me, and worth noting as a matter of record.

2nd Note:Read More »