Breaking the Cycles Collectively

Let’s have a bit of a philosophical discussion! I have noticed that more and more people are making an attempt to break free of the programming that binds them, in essence trying to cease the constant loop of life and give more meaning and freedom to their existence. I see more conscious parents actually making an effort to raise their children in ways that break through generational cycles of abuse, neglect, or lack of consciousness. People actually trying to reason and think and doing it alongside of caring passionately for others. All this happening, though, while society as a whole seems to be getting worse.

So I have been thinking lately, is it possible to break the bigger cycles? If enough individuals break their personal ones, process past traumas, take control of their lives, stop playing the game and feeding into the mess, can society as a whole do the same? Do civilizations always have to follow a similar script in their rise and fall, or can we actually create something entirely new and step aside? What are your thoughts?

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A Schopenhaur Quote about Machiavelli’s The Prince

I started reading Book 2 of Schopenhaur’s The World as Will and Idea last week. I had read Book 1 earlier in the year (late last year? don’t remember clearly now) and taken a break because I wanted to fully digest what I had read and have it working in the background of my brain for a while. So as I’m reading Book 2, I came across a footnote on Machiavelli’s The Prince, and it was one of those ‘aha’ moments for me. It’s a somewhat lengthy passage, as Schopenhaur can be very verbose, and I may do an even longer quoted passage on my next post from Book 1 about art and the artist next time, fair warning.

By the way, Machiavelli’s problem was the solution of the question how the prince, as a prince, was to keep himself on the throne in spite of internal and external enemies. His problem was thus by no means the ethical problem whether the prince, as a man, ought to will such things, but purely the political one how, if he so wills, he can carry it out. And the solution of this problem he gives just as one writes directions for playing chess, with which it would be folly to mix up the answer to the question of whether from an ethical point of view it is advisable to play chess at all. To reproach Machiavelli with the immorality of his writing is just the same as to reproach a fencing master because he doesn’t begin his instructions with a moral lecture against murder and slaughter.

The ‘aha’ moment was the bit about the notion of the prince playing chess with people’s lives at all, but there is a lot to chew over in this passage, isn’t there?

Ethics and philosophy and deep thinking in general have been kind of swept to the wayside, almost as if by design. But if you stop and consider our relationships to ourselves and each other, the only ethical pawn you should ever control in this game of life is yourself. You can argue that you can control your children, but really that is more of a stewardship of their own free will and all choices for their lives should be toward making them capable of controlling and exercising that free will for themselves. One ought never to seek to control other pawns. One ought never to seek for another to control them in order to shirk the responsibility of playing the game as a fully participating piece on the board.

Other thoughts I’ve been considering. Are we, as creators, responsible for our creations and how they are used or abused after we have birthed them into existence? The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh is a play I read in grad school that delves deep into asking this question. How does that align with personal responsibility? And then where do we as the general public take up the mantle of responsibility for how we allow outside work to influence us? Because in the end, what most of us seem to say is “screw this, I don’t want to think about this” and that is how we end up with the mess that we’re in as a society today, where too many people try to control the pawns on the board (ie. us the general population).

What are your thoughts?

Exploring the “Tension of the Opposites”

After posting Walking the Inner Balance Beam last week, a dear friend of mine suggested that I look into Jung’s views on “Holding the Tension of the Opposites”. So, being me, I did a little digging around. Here is an essay on that from the Jungian Center for the Spiritual Sciences. And then I contacted another friend of mine who has a background in depth psychology to get her point of view. She filled me in on what she knew and then also mentioned that there is a similar idea in Buddhism, that Buddha was in this space of being that Jung describes and was able to laugh and lift himself above the tension. So then I did a little more research. And I have decided to explore this idea a little more deeply during my meditations and morning pages.

In brief, the idea of the “Tension of Opposites” is to hold two opposing viewpoints in your mind simultaneously and not only acknowledge the validity of both, but experience the tension between the two. That moment of experiencing is supposed to produce a third something that is “part synthesis and part transcendence” (to quote my friend). And I don’t think that I’m necessarily searching for transcendence, but being able to harness the creative energy that could potentially come from working in this vein would be really good.

I think I’ve all ready begun some of the initial groundwork I need to do, just in living with the opposites within me and trying to walk a middle ground whenever possible.  Also, back in 2006, I did a lengthy paper on The Woman Who Slept With Men to Take the War Out of Them by Deena Metzger, a novel in play format that was actually my first introduction to Metzger’s writing. And the bulk of the paper dealt with exploring the language of dualities in our society, and how the either/or mindset (or the you aren’t in my group mindset) is at the root of most of the conflicts we have as a species. Man or woman, good or evil, war or peace – I posited that having the or strongly set in our minds gives us little room for negotiating through our lives with those who differ from us, and I briefly touched on how it is especially difficult for those who don’t feel they belong to either side in the dichotomy being examined. My conclusion was that a lot might be accomplished simply by raising a future generation and training ourselves to keep and instead of or in thinking about opposites. It would be an interesting social experiment to run, but an impractical one for many reasons. And having come to that decision, I just sort of left off thinking about it except when events would happen in the world to force me towards philosophical thoughts.

So I have my work cut out for me, in my eternal quest to expand myself. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Going Within

I’ve been undergoing an inward shift in my philosophy these past few weeks, which is why I haven’t been posting.  I’ve had to spend some time in my head, sorting things out.

And what is the shift?  I’ve begun contemplating my own, and our species in general, animal nature.  Not in a nihilistic way, but in a very open, questing way.   How much of my life is guided by instinct, by the very make up of my body and mind?  And how much by the trappings of civilization?  Which is a healthier and better way to live?

There is a lot to consider here.  Mankind has long tried to prove what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.  But perhaps the most marked separation remains that we are the only one to torture and kill both other species and its own.  We are the only one that uses imagination to create living nightmares.  So is that part of our human instinct or a fault of civilization?  I’ve been finding it fascinating to think on this.

What has contemplating my own animal nature done for me?  I have become accepting of living in the moment more.  I have become intensely sensual, in that I’ve become more aware of each of my senses and my body as a whole.  And I want to fill those senses to the brim til I feel like I’m going to drown.  I’ve been wanting more human-to-human contact too, so I’ve been much more “huggy” of late.

I’m not sure how this will come out in my creative life, but I’ve got some more sketches to share this week.