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.

We Are Like Squid: The Gift of Shape-Shifting

“He explained that [shamans] see infant human beings as strange, luminous balls of energy covered from the top to the bottom with a glowing coat, something like a plastic cover that is adjusted tightly over their cocoon of energy.

He said that glowing coat of awareness was what the predators consumed, and that when a human being reached adulthood, all that was left of that glowing coat of awareness was a narrow fringe that went from the ground to the top of the toes. That fringe permitted mankind to continue living, but only barely.

As if I were in a dream, I heard don Juan explaining that, to his knowledge, man was the only species that had the glowing coat of awareness outside that luminous cocoon.

Therefore, he became easy prey for an awareness of a different order; such as the heavy awareness of the predator. He then made the most damaging statement he had made so far. He said that this narrow fringe of awareness was the epicenter of self-reflection where man was irremediably caught. By playing on our self-reflection, which is the only point of awareness left to us, the predators create flares of awareness that they proceed to consume in a ruthless, predatory fashion.

They give us inane problems that force those flares of awareness to rise, and in this manner they keep us alive in order for them to be fed with the energetic flare of our pseudo-concerns.”

Carlos Castaneda — “Active Side of Infinity”


A prismatic perspective changes the nature of a conversation. When we realize that thought is not actual, but fictional, then answers, and the deceptions necessary to defend those answers, both go extinct. They become archaeological artefacts of a world that has ceased to exist.

We stop trying to compete to be right the moment we realize that nothing we say is right.

In fact, nothing we say is even Close to being Right, because what we Say about life and life itself are composed of utterly different substances.  The map can’t get closer to being the place itself, no matter how precise it tries to be. They are different substances entirely and never the twain shall meet.

But in this case, we’re making maps of a world that becomes more complex and profound as we learn. So beliefs are essentially out of date and primitive the moment they’re formed.

Out of date if they’re proposed as answers, that is. But they become more profound as metaphors – freer to experiment with angles and stories, because we’ve discarded the burden of being right. So we’re no longer being pressed into working towards a singular conclusion.

And then discussions stop being debates over who is right. We stop acting like prosecutors of one another. We stop trying to undermine an “opponent’s” point of view, because it would be self-limiting. So argument dies and questions become subtle requests for directions to the vantage points being discussed, because every new metaphor adds interest and color to everything.

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The Predator is Real: Learning to See Prismatically

By a prismatic perspective I mean realizing that nothing we think is actual. I think most humble human beings accept that their ideas are not perfect.

Now look at the same realization a little more intensely, that’s all.

What that means is I can only observe a small bandwidth of stimuli even at my best. And from what I Can see, I only remember a smaller fraction. And of those memories, I can only stitch together the few that make the most sense to me. So all I ever know are fictions.

That’s not what we usually think, but it’s the same thing as realizing that our ideas are only interpretations. Interpretations are fictions.

And they can be honest or dishonest fictions. But facts that aren’t the product of some interpretation are few and far between. And they’re usually negative, such as “the emperor has no clothes”. But in this case the negative discovery is that thought is not actual.

So ideas are only at best insightful, not literal.

Without the delusion of absolute truth there’s no motive to lie. Think about that. We lie when we’re trying to convince someone of an absolute truth, even if it’s only the absolute truth of Selfishness, the need to lie to protect my sense of Self. But if we see that nothing is conclusively true, including our sense of Self, but only at most a helpful way of distorting an otherwise ungraspable whole to make it meaningful, then there is no competition between points of view. They all add information, that’s all.

And if nothing can be taken literally, then thoughts become more creative, conjectural, metaphoric, prismatic.

Each word is like a different refraction of an unknowable actuality. Each word provides a slightly different slant or insight into qualities of the world.

So I could have called this a “metaphoric mentality” instead of a “primsmatic perspective.” The word “prism” emphasizes the ability to spin the issue around to get insights into different qualities. When I use the word metaphor, this emphasizes the suggestive nature of thought, the absence of Literalism. But neither of them are the actuality. They are merely different qualities that each metaphor reveals in what would otherwise be a mysterious, ungraspable whole.

So when thought stops trying to be actual, it becomes more creative, trying out different angles to discover wider potentials in the world. We shift from a narrowing search for answers to a widening, adventure-loving exploration, which can’t have an agenda because it doesn’t know what’s coming next. But in this spirited exploration of the world we begin to discover new powers, like the freedom from competition that this prismatic angle provides; the creativity it encourages.

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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 »

Negative Knowledge and the Eruption of a Metaphoric Mentality

aurora

This essay is fictional. Not in the way fiction is usually defined. But this voice – anyone’s voice, even a scientist’s voice – is the invention of a framework that puts experience in a particular slant and color. And there’s no way to avoid this.

Nothing can be discussed or known without being painted in some fictional color. Even the colorless voice of a realist is a fictional application of colorlessness.

Phrases like “everything is this…” and “nothing can be that…” sound reductive and dogmatic. But in this case I’m talking about what can’t be known, not what can. Reality is unknowable. Stories are all that’s known.

In other words, claiming to know anything conclusive about the nature of reality is a sign of bullshit.

And knowing what is bullshit is a fundamentally different kind of knowledge. It’s not reductive, but expansive, because this discovery releases perception from cages of certainty, and awakens a questioning or metaphoric spirit. Read More »