Monthly Post

Returning to the Commonplace

There are times when the twilight of the American century takes on a quality of surreal absurdity I can only compare to French existentialist theater or the better productions of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and this is one of them. Over the weekend, in response to a chemical-weapons incident in Syria that may or may not have happened—governments on all sides are making strident claims, but nobody’s offering evidence either way—US, British, and French military units launched more than a hundred state-of-the-art cruise missiles at three Syrian targets that may or may not have had anything to do with chemical weapons, damaging a few buildings and inflicting injuries on three people.

James Howard Kunstler, in a recent and appropriately blistering essay, termed this “kabuki warfare.”  It’s an apt term, though I confess the situation makes me think rather more of John Cleese and the Ministry of Silly (Bombing) Runs, or perhaps a play by Camus in which Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin sit around talking while they wait for the endlessly delayed arrival of an American cruise missile named Godot. What, exactly, was accomplished by Donald Trump’s red-faced bluster, the heavily rehearsed outrage and cringing subservience of our European lapdogs-cum-allies, and all those colorful photo ops of missiles blasting off?

To be sure, there’s nothing even remotely new about the latest skit from this transatlantic flying circus. For most of a decade now the US military has been carrying out a similar sort of warfare against jihadi militias in Syria and Iraq, pretending to fight Islamic State in much the same way a mime pretends to be trapped in a phone booth—a habit pointed up by the way that the Russian military, which has a less ineffectual notion of warfare, pushed Islamic State into prompt collapse by having their cruise missiles and bombs actually hit something.

There’s nothing uniquely Trumpian in this sort of silliness, to be sure; the mock war against jihadi terrorists was launched by the younger Bush and pursued with unflagging enthusiasm and utter fecklessness by Obama, and indeed such futile gestures have been standard bipartisan practice for American presidents for a good many decades now.  For that matter, the maximal theater and minimal effect of our military gestures in the Middle East are arguably par for the course from a nation whose health care industry doesn’t care for anybody’s health, whose education system long ago stopped even trying to educate, whose Democratic Party has nothing but contempt for democracy, and whose Republican Party displays an equal contempt for the res publica, the public good from which the entire concept of a republic derives.

At the end of an age of abstraction, such absurdities are par for the course. At some point in the not too distant future, as I pointed out a few years ago in my novel Twilight’s Last Gleaming, it’s pretty much a given that the US is going to run face first into an opponent that takes war a good deal more seriously than we do, and by the time the dust settles it’s anyone’s guess whether the United States will have the same system of government—or for that matter, whether it will still exist as a single nation. (When the Russian Empire sent its huge, expensive, and ineffective military lumbering into a major war in 1914, the Tsarist imperial system was terminated with extreme prejudice and replaced by the Soviet Union; when the Austro-Hungarian Empire did the same thing with its own equally overpriced and underperforming military in the same year, it ended up partitioned into half a dozen new nations.)

What John Kenneth Galbraith called the twilight of illusion—the inflection point at which the end has arrived, but is not yet in sight—plays a massive role in today’s world. While we wait for the inevitable moment when realities finally get a look in, though, it’s useful to keep pursuing the project set in motion on this blog some weeks ago: the exploration of ways in which individuals can haul themselves up out of the swamp of abstractions in which our society is so deeply mired just now, and catch their balance again on the solid footing of things that actually matter.

Let’s summarize the historical dimension of our present predicament; it will make what follows a good deal clearer. In the course of their life cycle, societies pass through a series of predictable stages, and these stages shape—among many other things—the way people in those societies relate to knowledge. In very broad terms, we can speak of an age of faith, an age of reason, and an age of memory, or (to put the same insight in different terms) an age of narration, an age of abstraction, and an age of reflection.

As we look back from the present along the historical trajectory that leads to the modern Western world, that cycle can be traced three times—two complete, one not yet complete. The classical world went through all three stages along the historical arc that leads from the mythological consciousness of archaic Mediterranean societies, through the flowering of Greek philosophy and culture, to the long slow reflective twilight of the Roman world. The medieval world—centered in the Middle East, but influencing Europe as well—went through the same cycle thereafter, from the mythological consciousness of formative Christianity and Islam, through the flowering of scholastic philosophy and culture, to the long slow reflective twilight that wrapped the Byzantine-Muslim world after the Mongol invasions and kindled the Renaissance in Europe.

The modern world then launched itself on the same trajectory. Though it’s considered impolite to point this out in many circles, the high intellectual culture of medieval Europe was never much more than a pale reflection of cultural stimuli from points further east—the dependence of medieval European scholars and thinkers on translations from Arabic is very well documented, and so is the massive role played by the fall of Byzantium in 1453 and the westward flood of Byzantine refugees that followed it in launching the high Renaissance in Italy.

In the western and central European nations where our civilization had its origins, interest in the high culture of the Muslim world and its European echoes was an upper-class affectation, and never put down deep roots. The age of faith that followed the end of the western Roman empire thus continued effectively unbroken straight through the Middle Ages, and attempts to spread a different cultural mentality in the Renaissance generated the violent pushback of the Reformation era. So our age of faith ran its course in the usual way, and gave way to an age of reason, which (as ages of reason always do) started out with perfect faith in the supposedly limitless power of the human mind to make sense of everything that matters, and (as ages of reason always do) proceeded to bog down in a swamp of abstract generalizations increasingly disconnected from the actual circumstances in which people live their lives.

It’s that swamp of abstraction that’s on display as the US and its European client states lob petulant flurries of cruise missiles at arbitrarily chosen Syrian warehouses, and brandish an assortment of equally arbitrary verbal noises to justify their actions. That, in turn, is why—as we’ve discussed all through this series of posts—it’s crucial for those of us interested in a less abstract and arbitrary approach to the rising spiral of crisis of our time to get to work on the foundations of the next stage in the cycle. That, in turn, brings us back to where we left off at the end of the last post in this sequence.

Two weeks ago we talked about the ancient and Renaissance study of topics—that is, of the truths we have in common, the figurative places from which discussion can start when there’s no overarching generalization to provide a basis for reasoning together. One detail we didn’t get to is the way that topics were divided up back in the day. Every specialized field of study had its own topics, and we’ve still got some of those in fossilized form today: behind the modern classification of chemical elements, for one, and the Linnaean system of taxonomy for living things, for another, lies the ancient quest for topics, for a set of mutually accepted truths from which discussions within a given field of study can proceed.

Those are the special topics or, as they were called once upon a time, the special or particular places. Those stand over against another set of places which serve a more general function as starting points for conversations outside any one specialty. These are the common places—or, as we tend to write the word nowadays, the commonplaces.

That’s one of the Rodney Dangerfields of English vocabulary these days, a word that gets no respect. To call something “commonplace” is to dismiss it as obvious, boring, beneath mention. Yet the term didn’t start out as a dismissal. Before our civilization embarked on its age of abstraction, the commonplaces were literally the common places, the places that didn’t belong to any specialized field of knowledge, but were at least potentially shared by all.

Please note: potentially shared by all. At the end of an age of abstraction, communication grinds to a halt because no two sides in any controversy have the same abstract generalizations in common, and abstract generalizations have become so central to thinking and conversation that next to nobody knows what to do when they fail. It’s the failure of abstract generalizations to provide a shared basis for communication that drives the search for some other starting point, and counterproductive as most of the attempts are, sooner or later they find their way to the same enduring resource of the commonplace, the experiences most of us have in common.

In an age that’s confident of its command of vast truths, the little truths that belong to the realm of the commonplace are dismissed as unimportant. It’s when those vast truths start to fall to pieces that the little truths come into their own. That was what sent thinkers of the Renaissance back to the old Greek study of topics, the things that are true most of the time, the matters of common experience—and the same resource has just as much to offer now.

So how do we find these commonplaces, these matters of shared experience?  That’s where things become interesting.

One of the technological achievements that set the Renaissance apart from previous ages, at least in the Western world, was the availability of paper: a cheap, convenient, readily produced writing surface that allowed huge amounts of information to be stored in a compact, portable form. The technological revolution of papermaking set off a giddy assortment of consequences across Europe—newspapers, lending libraries, a torrent of cheap broadsides and pamphlets that had the same wildly uninhibited, inaccurate, unfair, and frequently obscene nature as the internet does today—but one that had a much bigger impact than people generally realize today was the cheap paper notebook: a bound volume containing some hundreds of blank pages, on which individuals could write their own content.

Does that seem like a little thing, dear reader? Until then, across the western half of Eurasia, writing materials were either expensive or sharply limited in content. In ancient Greece, for example, your literate person who wanted to write something down had his or her choice between expensive sheets of parchment or papyrus, on the one hand, and less costly materials that wouldn’t hold much, such as broken scraps of pottery, on the other. (There were also wooden tablets with a layer of wax on them, for temporary notes.) The notebook made it possible, for the first time in the Western world’s history, for individuals—and not just rich individuals, either—to make an enduring record of their own thoughts and reflections, and the things they encountered that set these in motion.

Thus one of the standard uses for cheap paper notebooks, from the late Renaissance straight through into the nineteenth century, was that once-familiar phenomenon, the commonplace book. Children were taught to start such a book as soon as they could write legibly, and a fair number of them kept at it straight through their adult lives. A commonplace book was a place to write down things you encountered that interested you, or set you thinking, or struck you as unusually true, or valuable, or beautiful. Short passages from books would go into a commonplace book; so would poems, your own or others’; so would recipes, household hints, useful facts; so would your own reflections on these things and others.

Notice what was going on here. These things were commonplaces, but they weren’t anyone else’s commonplaces.  The standard practice was to encourage, even to require, each student to do the work himself or herself, so that each person ended up with a unique set of commonplaces.  No doubt every single entry in a schoolchild’s commonplace book was shared with at least one other child in the same school, and a pretty fair number could be found in most—at times when books were still quite expensive, and students read a small number of them very carefully rather than reading a vast number superficially, the sources of raw material were rather more limited than they are today. Even so, each commonplace book turned into the anchor for a unique inner life, shaped by influences different from those that shaped any other person anywhere.

Many of the other common habits of the period from the Renaissance to the mid-nineteenth century had the same effect. One I find particularly intriguing is meditation. Since the rise of Theosophy in the late nineteenth century, most people in the western world have thought of meditation as something exotic, spooky, and foreign, practiced by mostly swamis in funny turbans and Shaolin monks seen through lenses smeared with vaseline. They’ve also thought of it as something that works by turning off the thinking mind, because that’s the kind of Asian meditation that the Theosophists publicized. (There are many other kinds that work the thinking mind rather than trying to amputate it, but those methods aren’t what H.P. Blavatsky and her immediate followers wanted to talk about.)

Yet the word “meditation” is good English, and existed hundreds of years before Blavatsky launched modern alternative spirituality (and invented modern fantasy fiction, but that’s another story). It didn’t originally have anything to do with turning off your mind, either. When we say that a crime was premeditated, after all, we don’t mean that the perp chanted a mantra before committing it; we mean that he thought about it.

That’s what meditation used to mean. Christians practiced it all the time, back in the days before most varieties of Christianity capitulated to modern pop culture and let their faith be redefined by its enemies. Joseph Hall, an Anglican bishop of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, wrote several hugely popular textbooks on the subject. His method—which was standard at the time—was to calm body and mind by any of several methods that would be highly familiar to your average Zen monk, and then take a brief passage from the Bible or some other source, hold it in your mind, and think about it, keeping your awareness focused on the theme (the subject of the meditation) and the thoughts that unfolded from it.

The technical name for this kind of meditation is discursive meditation—so called because it very often takes the form of an inner discourse. (Something very similar, interestingly enough, was practiced by the Stoics back when the classical world’s age of reflection dawned—you can find the details in Pierre Hadot’s excellent works The Inner Citadel and Philosophy as a Way of Life.)  It has the same benefits as other kinds of meditation, but it also feeds the same process as keeping a commonplace book: the nurturing of a uniquely personal inner life. Because you’ve taken the time to think through things that matter to you, turning them over in the silence of your mind, you aren’t dependent on the people around you and the chatter of the media for your opinions and your values; your inner life is your own, not just a wholly owned subsidiary of your neighbors’, or of the big corporations who get to decide what you watch on television.

Does it seem to you, dear reader, that we’ve gone as far as possible from the theme of mutual communication in an age when all abstractions have crumbled? Quite the contrary, we’ve finally reached the point where that becomes an option. Let’s say you and your neighbor want to talk about some issue that matters to you both, and let’s say both of you have your own unique inner lives, stocked with a set of personal commonplaces that might not have anything in common with each others’, and that you also both have a habit of thinking thoughts you didn’t get off Twitter or the evening news of your choice. What’s more, you both know this.

Given that background, do you come on strong with some abstract generalization that you insist is the only valid frame in which the whole issue must be discussed? Or do you lead with a factoid that serves as a stalking horse for some such generalization? No, Socrates, you do not. You don’t do this because you know better—because you’ve measured the distance between your inner life and those of other people, and know that the presupposition of consensus that underlies those bad habits is a baldfaced lie.

Instead, you offer a commonplace that you think, on the basis of whatever knowledge you have of the other person, the two of you might be able to use as a mutually acceptable starting point. If that doesn’t work, you don’t throw a tantrum (or a cruise missile), you let the other person try—and you assess the commonplace that’s offered as though you were considering whether to put it into your commonplace book or use it as a theme for a meditation. Very often, because this works far more often than not, you start with your own experience, granting from the get-go that the other person’s experience may be different from yours. Bit by bit, the two of you build a foundation of shared experience from which you can discuss even a controversial subject in a thougtful, reflective, and constructive manner.

There’s a name for this kind of reflective exploratory conversation, too; it’s called dialectic. (No, this has nothing to do with Marxist babble about “dialectical materialism.” One of the many reasons that Karl Marx deserves to be posthumously slapped is his role in making it harder to talk about classical dialectic.) It’s a fragile thing, and can easily be disrupted by people who want to do that, which is why it usually thrives best in formal or informal institutions specifically set up to foster good conversation and exclude those who won’t follow the rules. We’ll be talking about such institutions as we proceed; we’ll also be talking quite a bit about dialectic—but before we get to that, it’s going to be necessary to trace things back another way, and talk about how the robust and unique inner life we’re discussing gets its raw material.

225 Comments

  1. I think I might almost be starting to get it. Or maybe I am so far off the track that I might as well give up and keep hacking my way through the wilderness. When abstraction reigns is this when ideologies are all people can talk and think through? If it doesn’t fit my ideology I don’t want to know.

  2. Sadly, the USA is by no means unique in doing things that make precious little sense lately. Canada appears to have gained a Ministry of Silly Pipeline Excuses.

    (Canadian PM) Trudeau is currently insisting that we need to build the Kinder-Morgan pipeline to export bitumen from the oil sands in order to reduce Canada’s CO2 emissions. I kid you not.

    I think the idea is supposedly to increase government revenue (mostly going to Alberta), thereby increasing the government’s ability to fund CO2 reduction elsewhere. The trouble is that if the pipeline succeeds in encouraging more oilsands production, the CO2 from that is going to eat any CO2 reductions elsewhere.

  3. John–

    One of the things that I believe I am hearing you say, in so many words, is that “the system cannot be saved.” That is, we have to allow the faulty structures of abstracted excesses (excessive abstractions?) tumble down and build anew from the ground up. We’re not going to be able to introduce an art of conversation to a society who rejects the very premise on which that art is constructed. Am I understanding this aright?

    The private spaces of which you speak make me think of the “gardening in the cracks of empire” metaphor Varun and I have used in our correspondence. It is this “shadow work,” out of sight of the authorities of the age, that lays the foundations of what will come. I pray for patience 🙂

  4. Jill, yes, exactly. Notice that ideologies are all about grand abstract principles that are supposed to be universally applicable. As the gap widens between what the ideology insists is true and what people experience in their own lives, it’s very easy for people to double down on the ideology and insist that any experience that doesn’t fit the ideology doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter.

  5. That is so well done and informative, JMG, I am going to have to go meditate on it. When the time comes, I nominate you for the Duke of the Republic of New England.

    And Thank You,

    mac

  6. I really don’t understand what’s going on in Syria recently, and just wish that it and all the related stuff would stop. The whole situation between Russia and the USA, too. The more I learn, the less I feel I understand, beyond being unable to trust anyone involved to both know the truth and tell it.

  7. Corydalidae, to my mind that’s not a silly pipeline excuse, it’s a baldfaced lie. Clearly Trudeau has learned plenty from the Democrats on this side of the border, who are constantly using slogans from the left to justify behavior indistinguishable from the Republicans they pretend to oppose.

    David, I’d phrase things a little differently: t’s impossible to fix the system by using the tools the system wants you to use to fix it. Quite a bit can still be done, and many existing institutions can be repurposed once the changes are under way, but you can’t start the changes within those institutions, because they’ve evolved a hefty collection of tools to render your efforts useless. Instead, actions from within carefully chosen institutions (such as local government) need to be paired with actions entirely outside existing institutional structures, to build the momentum that will make change possible.

  8. I find it funny that asking why I should trust the intelligence agencies when they’ve lied so many times before is espousing a “conspiracy theory” according to a lot of people. On the bright side, since the response are so repetitive I can come across far wittier, just by remembering what will be next, and having a witty response.

    This leads to a rather interesting question: has anyone else noticed that a lot of ideologues sound exactly the same as each other, even down to using the same wording, and even when they don’t know each other?

  9. Tangentially related to this article (probably more pertinent to the “Truths” article earlier this month), I stumbled upon this article today…

    http://quillette.com/2017/10/06/misunderstanding-new-kind-gender-dysphoria/

    It was written by a mental health professional about “rapid onset gender dysphoria” of predominantly 16-18 year old patients (just happens out of the blue!), and the response from the medical community is rapid treatment. Start hormone therapy within a week and gender reassignment surgery within a few months with dubious long term results. Often the patients had a prior history of mental health issues which continue after the “treatment.”

    Personally, I find the whole thing to be just another variant of special snowflake disease, with the medical industry empowering the whole thing (while making quite a few bucks in the process). I have heard the suicide rates of people who’ve “transformed” to be 3x above the average.

    One commenter mentions another issue:

    “Another very serious issue is that trans people have severe problems finding dating partners willing to accept their invidual version of genitalia, with or without medically induced transition. A slurry of trans writers have recently started to attack people for their transphobia, simply because e.g. cis heteronormative people do not feel attracted to them.
    Those writers – usually on the intersectional, leftist team – demand cis people to “unlearn” their transphobia and finally date trans people.”

    Yup. Not for me. Put lipstick on the proverbial pig… Wait, what if I identify as a pig, can I get species reassignment surgery??

    Apologies for the rant…

  10. Hi JMG et al,

    My father kept such paper commonplace books, which he labelled Garbage Log, and shelved each as they filled, spanning a narrow bookcase by the time he passed. Most of my family thought he was silly. Without thinking about, I have done the same, although for the last decade mine are kept electronically on my laptop, where no one notices that I too am silly. Also without thinking about it, I sometimes meditate (in the sense you describe) on some of the topics in it, often inspired by your essays (thank you!). Ironically, one outcome of this is a well developed sense of my own (abstract) personal values, which I seem to more easily articulate than most of my friends and family.

    Favorite topics in my Garbage Log (albeit not really commonplaces- yet) are examples of ancient myths and other tales, once though to be fiction, which turn out to be ‘proven’ by modern research. Among the more famous where I live is the story of the sudden and violent flood which carved features around the Columbia river basin, now recognized as the outpouring of a vast glacial lake at the end of the last ice age, and more recently, the existence of an ice-age Heiltsuk village site in British Columbia, identified by archeologists exactly where First Nations oral histories said it was. In Hawaii, where my wife was raised, traditional tales of the rivalry between the goddesses of fire and snow bear remarkable similarity to the modern ’scientific’ explanation for the formation of the Big Island.

    Do you, or do any of the commentariat, know of a book or other collection of such examples?

    Cheers-

  11. Thank you for this essay. It covers a lot of ground, and I will have to think about it. You have finally made it clearer why you speak of two different cycles within Spengler’s Faustian civilization.

    If I understand you correctly, a rather small part of Western Europeans participated in an age of reason ca. 800-1300, and an age of reflection ca. 1300-1600, while the large majority remained in an age of faith until at least 1600 and only then entered the age of reason. That is a complicated setup. How far do you see a connection between the reflective Renaissance and the beginning scientific revolution? You mentioned before the Rosicrucian Renaissance, which sounds very interesting. What makes me scratch my head is that in certain intellectual milieus, people would have moved “backwards” from reflection to reason, instead of going the full cycle through an age of faith.

    I would be very thankful for references to original texts from the Renaissance that

    – early on, plead for reflective thinking, thinking in topics and its application in dialectics, as opposed to the dialectic method used in Scholastic disputation

    – later, mark the change “backwards” from reflection to reason

  12. John–

    Re rebuilding

    Ah. Yes, I see your point. That makes a good bit of sense — and makes me feel somewhat better, too. Having to wait for all to be laid waste would be difficult. Local government, I can tell you, has its challenges — as its powers are circumscribed (and arbitrarily altered) by its state-level counterpart — but it is one possible starting place, I’d agree.

    On that note, I had an opportunity the other night to talk with one of the other council members who had voted against my front-yard gardening proposal, trying to understand the basis for his decision. He essentially said that he wasn’t against it personally, but wanted to hear support from the public (a reasonable request, I’d say) before changing the ordinance and the fact that we had no one show up for the public hearing on the matter swayed him to vote as he did. That conversation gives me a path forward.

  13. Thank you for this post and for the series as a whole. A few thoughts–

    1. “At the end of an age of abstraction, communication grinds to a halt because no two sides in any controversy have the same abstract generalizations in common”

    I hear an echo of Alisdair MacIntyre.

    A few years ago there was an incident in which the graves of the Jesuit missionary and now saint Junipero Serra, and those of other Europeans buried with Indians in a common cemetery, were desecrated by activists. I still had, at the time, a number of friends from my old days as a Left radical, and I discovered one of them promoting the desecration on social media. It was a very fine thing, she said, that the graves of Europeans had been desecrated, and the idea that the desecrators would be charged with a hate crime was ridiculous. Why? “Because we know this guy [Serra] was an a–hole.”

    I tried to argue, but I soon realized there was no point. For my friend, and the standard-issue swarm of Internet Allies that rushed to her defense, “We don’t like this guy” was justification enough for any crime. For me– and, thankfully, for the law– “the right to not have one’s grave desecrated” is common to all, even if 22 year old anarchists don’t like it. Also, for me, the dead have a continued existence, and should not be bothered. However, my opponents shared neither of these perspectives. From their perspective, they are fighting against oppression, and if a source they regard as an authority– though they wouldn’t use the word– labels someone or something as an oppressor, then they are permitted to attack that oppressor, using any means available. The law protecting graves from desecration has no moral authority; it is an obstacle which must be worked around. Since we were both reasoning from completely different starting premises, there was no possibility of communication, and thus the matter boiled down to one will set against another. I’ve seen this every time I’ve attempted to argue with someone of a different political persuasion in recent years, which is why I try to keep myself from doing so, and why I’ve been afraid that increased political violence is on the horizon.

    2. “Let’s say you and your neighbor want to talk about some issue that matters to you both, and let’s say both of you have your own unique inner lives, stocked with a set of personal commonplaces that might not have anything in common with each others’, and that you also both have a habit of thinking thoughts you didn’t get off Twitter or the evening news of your choice.”

    Whenever I actually do argue with somebody I find that it quickly becomes an exercise in figuring out who is doing the other persons’ thinking for them. That sounds arrogant. I don’t care. I constantly find that most people do nothing but repeat things they’ve read or heard on the internet or the television. Moreover, people immediately assume that I am doing the same thing. I voted for Trump and prefer him to Hillary Clinton, but I think that the MAGA party-line is beyond laughable; I expect to see America “made great again” sometime this side of never. Despite that, whenever I’ve been foolish enough to argue with a Clinton voter– foolish, because it nearly always amounts to subjecting myself to verbal abuse– they act as though I was saying whatever they’re saying on Infowars or Breitbart. Or, what is more accurate, whatever Salon.com or the Huffington Post says that they’re saying on Infowars or Breitbart. What is disturbing to me is that I sometimes then fall into the habit of defending myself as though I were, indeed, a card carrying repeater of the MAGA party line, and then have to catch myself and say “Wait, no, that’s not my opinion at all.”

    3. The Commonplace Book–

    This set off a minor explosion in my brain.

    I’ve often thought of having a book like this. I have about 15 journals on my shelf. Most are full of the records of magical practice, or else they contain pages of practiced geomantic charts, Hanzi, geometry and the like. But there are two or three in which I’ve sporadically written down things that strike me– thoughts on this or that topic, rules for living that I want to remember, quotations from other sources, particularly powerful dreams and, yes, poems. I’ve often thought that I’d like to have one book just dedicated to that sort of thing, but I’ve never made a coherent practice of it. I am going to start doing so now.

    4. Returning to the first comment I made… It seems to me that I was right in seeing the matter was unresolvable– because we were both reasoning from abstractions. I personally think that “equality of individuals before the law” is a much better abstraction than “fight oppression by any means necessary,” but the point is that, as long as we’re in the realm of abstraction, we are unable to speak to one another, and there is nothing left but will to power. They, of course, also preferred their own abstraction. How could the introduction of a commonplace have allowed us to speak to one another? And is it even possible to engage in dialectic with someone who has no developed inner life?

    5. I just got one of the journals that I had used, unknowingly, as a commonplace book down off my shelf. It turns out I haven’t written in it since 2013. One of the last commonplaces I recorded was Richard Tarnas’s description of the Saturn Return:

    “For some, the years of this transit near the age of 30 marked an end to the more creative, adventurous, open-minded and free-spirited youthful self and the establishment of a more rigidly conservative, constrained and risk-averse personality identified with the status-quo and unquestioned conventional values. By contrast, many others seemed to resolve this archetypal transition through the strenuous forging of a synthesis of the aspiring, creative impulses of youth with the structuring, stabilizing, disciplining, foundation-building impulses of maturity.”

    I would have just turned 30 when I recorded those lines, with the goal of reminding myself to follow the latter path through maturity and adulthood. Is that how commonplace books work?

  14. It seems almost as if two strands of thought that I had never thought were likely to coincide are doing so – yours, Archdruid, and a school of thought called Metamodernism.

    Metamodernists tend to believe that after a person “passes through the postmodernist fire” and realizes that (although you don’t have to treat every belief as if it’s equal) no one has previleged access to the truth, the only option that is left is to switch from an either-or default mode when considering two poles to a both-and default. This isn’t taking the middle ground between them or taking only the best from both or reaching a compromise – it’s creating a synthesis.

    That said, metamodernists tend to believe that the real spawning ground of this new direction will be the Internet, which will fulfill the role that the affordable pad of paper fulfilled during the Renaissance. Whether the Internet will survive the next several decades intact is anyone’s guess, and I think that this is certainly one of many areas in which you would differ.

  15. Canada’s CO2 emission-reduction plans have been based on lies for years. We have never succeeding in achieving our goals, ever.

    The situation with the pipeline is serious, but it’s also farcical, and seems to become stranger every few days. This is some of what has happened so far this year:
    -BC saying we may slap a limit on the amount of oil we’ll allow through the new pipeline
    -Alberta boycotting BC wine
    -BC saying they’ll refer the issue to the courts
    -Alberta removing the ban on BC wine
    -major protests in burnaby, with nearly 300 arrested, including two members of parliament from the BC coast, also sympathy protests elsewhere in BC
    -Kinder-Morgan saying if things don’t get sorted out by May 31, they are pulling out
    -Alberta tabling legislation to cut oil supply to BC (of oil to the refinery, as opposed to the new pipeline’s oil for export. Possibly unconstitutional, but anyway)
    -Alberta and the Federal Gov’t saying they may take a stake in the pipeline
    -a meeting of the premiers and the prime minister, in which Trudeau came in solidly on Notley’s (Alberta) side, and nobody gave any ground.
    -the two MPs look like they’re going to be charged with criminal contempt of court.

    Incidentally, the CBC’s coverage of the whole mess seems horribly biased against BC, and is noticeably different from the coverage in BC coast media, and from what I’m aware has actually happened. Feels a little surreal.

  16. The next meeting of the Green Wizard’s Association of Melbourne will be held on the last Saturday of the month. All interested parties are invited to attend.
    For those who are unsure about the nature of our meetings, imagine a long descent support group with some intentional living discussion mixed in.

    If you are interested to joining, meet us on Saturday the 28th of April 2018 at 12:00, for lunch. The venue is, Vapiano, 347 Flinders Lane, Melbourne Victoria, Australia.

    Send queries and comments to limitstogrowth1972[at]gmail.com.

    P.S. I have created a webpage where I post the details of the next meeting and any further details for those who don’t frequent the comments here. The webpage can be found at wormlamp.com/gwam, where you can also sign up for the mailing list.

  17. I am trying not to take on too many new projects/habits, but I may have to add some elements of the commonplace book to the more matter-of-fact, daily log type diary I have been keeping of late (which does seem to motivate me to use my time better). You mention the Stoics; I have been reading Seneca, and came across a few maxims that struck me, but which I did not bother to note down, and which I now miss; if I could ever manage to get the habit of meditation, they would be ideal fodder. And the tone of my diary would certainly be elevated from its current form, which mostly includes such noteworthy events as, “Finally mailed package after two months of it sitting on the coffee table. It’s the post office, not Mount Doom. Why am I like this?” and, “Ate an entire bag of Dove chocolates while also devouring The Woman in White. Need more Wilkie Collins and better chocolate. But must not spend more money on books or food!”

    I could also stand to read fewer books more carefully, actually; I have managed to sell off or otherwise eliminate my huge reading backlog, which was a relief, but I still feel that I read too superficially much of the time, especially when glutted on my libraries’ Overdrive ebook collections, which I can conveniently download for free to my phone in an instant. I don’t own or watch a TV, but ebooks are a problem for me in the LESS quest.

  18. (Just for exactitude’s sake, “En attendant Godot”, is a play by Samuel Beckett…)

  19. A wonderful, fascinating, actionable essay. I have come to a point where I consider the greatest privilege to have space, time, and remaining life force … to think. I have often remarked on the growing realisation that painting, the activity that occupies my days, is fundamentally an excuse to be left alone to think, and to do so with, and without structure or indeed objective. Totally at my leisure.

    It strikes me that I’ve been starved of this activity since modern education made certain I would no longer have time to think my own thoughts. The very fact that Renaissance schools encouraged the use of a commonplace book, perhaps as the core activity/homework required, denotes that more emphasis was placed on assisting a young person to define his own values through observation of the anecdotal world of his circumstances, and relationships, and his own response to these. That burgeoning self-awareness would encourage the creation of a set of personal values, as well as the ability to respect others’. Furthermore it would acclimate the student to observe how his own mind functioned, differentiate between whim, and imperative. That would translate into an ability to define personal objectives that are aligned with his values, nature, and limits. Ultimately he would also need to exercise the ability to communicate these, and negotiate with others to achieve his objectives.

    Thanks also for raising the tone after that initial, depressing section regarding the tragicomical depths world affairs have sunk to. And knowing that historically we’ve been this way before, will only partially dispel the quizzical disbelief with which I follow them.

  20. Samuel Beckett.
    I have learned that conservatives and I share the proposals to get out of debt and to localize democracy. Beyond that we do not share anything from Ayn Rand (other than she and I got/get socialized medicine and government pensions – she as Ayn Connor!). I find Marxists too arcane to listen to for long, whether in person or in writing. My very Liberal friends do not want to do anything in a personal way to show that they are ‘environmental types’, but my grandchildren do seem to recognize, though not in such a way as to articulate it yet, that their futures will be not just different from the expectations of their parents, but that they will be worse off. So yes, there are starting points for learning and conversing even for an old fart!!

  21. Excellent post John.

    I fully agree with you the futility and madness of the Syrian strikes and am relieved that the hawks didn’t get what they wanted which was a much more widespread attack with the aim of regime change.

    Will be interested to know your thoughts on how we get to an age of reflection.

  22. Thinking about it, the off-again, on-again journals I’ve written from the age of about 14 on do bear some similarities to a commonplace book… although with a good deal of unimportant or trivial stuff thrown in as well. I find it useful to write things down when I’m having trouble thinking things out, or am getting overly stressed.

  23. Mac, thank you, but I’d decline the position! Eccentric intellectuals are the last people you want in political office. That’s why Merlin did the smart thing, and got some brash and handsome kid good at pulling swords out of stones to do the Pendragon schtick… 😉

    Corydalidae, unfortunately power politics never stops…

    Will, dear gods, yes. A fantastic number of people these days — including talking heads on the media — are basically tape recorders pretending to be people, spouting whatever they’ve been told without any sign of thinking about it at all.

    Joel, ouch. The people I know who’ve done successful gender transitions took their time and were very, very sure of it before they did hormones, much less anything more drastic. Mutilating teenagers — who are of an age when very little is fixed in place — strikes me as extreme malpractice. And the insistence that sexual desire has to follow somebody’s politically correct mandate is a typically idiotic demand of ideologues — if I may be blunt, what gets people hard or wet (as the case may be) is not subject to conscious reason, much less the dictates of authority.

    I think a new catchphrase may be worth putting into service here: “The world is not whatever you want it to be.”

    Yves, I wish! That would be a great book. One example I know is the story of the flood in Puget Sound Salish mythology, which turned out to include accurate details of the flooding of Puget Sound after the end of the last ice age.

    Matthias, good! What we’re dealing with, in the earlier European ages of reason and reflection, is what Spengler called “pseudomorphosis” — the process by which a young culture imitates elements of an older one. The presence of European cultural forms here in the United States is another good example of the species. What makes pseudomorphosis complex is that it tends only to affect the educated elite, and them to varying degrees — in some cases very deeply, in many more just a surface veneer. The jump backwards from reflection to reason certainly happened — look into the “battle of the books” in 17th century Britain, in which protagonists of the emerging scientific worldview took on practitioners of the Renaissance way of reflection in a no-holds-barred intellectual quarrel over whose view of knowledge was the more valid and relevant.

    As for your question about texts, why, now that you know what to look for, you should have very little trouble finding it. 😉

    David, excellent! And so there’s another commonplace — “if nobody shows up, nobody’s that interested” — that gives you a basis for action.

    Steve, it’s not arrogant at all. Most people in the US nowadays don’t think, they simply repeat what they’ve been told. That’s what they’ve been taught to do in school (you don’t pass standardized tests by having your own ideas), on the job, and by the media. The task I’ve taken in hand just now is that of teaching at least a few people how to build the kind of robust inner life that will enable them to think, feel, and decide for themselves in a world that makes the famous bit from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” look like a simple statement of everyday fact.

    And yes, that’s one of the many ways that commonplace books work.

    Spicehammer, interesting. It seems to me that the metamodernists are still stuck in abstraction. It isn’t the case, to my way of thinking, that every divergence of opinion is best settled by a “both/and” approach, or by any other single gimmick. Knowing the widest possible range of the things that have worked in the past, and attending to each situation from the knowledge that you’re only making decisions for yourself and nobody else in the world has to listen to you, you can face each situation as the unique, anecdotal reality it is, and do your best to deal with it in a way that works. That’s my approach, at least; it doesn’t make for a snappy philosophical label, but it does seem to work.

    Corydalidae, fascinating. Sounds like you’ve got a fine Monty Python skit of your own up there…

  24. Yes, its been quite a week. Spring finally sprung at our door having been stopped in its tracks for 5 weeks. Although we have been busy, it has been jarring at times. The rhetorical cliches over here were and are, wince-making: the ongoing wars real, very close. ‘Foreboding in the Spring’ – sounds like a title for something or other.

    I used to say of Science it was just writing things down until they made sense – those careful notebooks! As it turns out, it seems when you keep writing long enough it can’t make sense anymore.

    Could I have got the idea from you a while back: something about cultivating a hermitage, a willing mind? The old guys sometimes got interesting visitors and conversations traveled far.

    best
    Phil H

  25. I’ve been keeping commonplace books for years now, though I only found out they were called that a couple of years ago. Not quite a journal, not quite a scrapbook. I’m very happy to see them mentioned on Ecosophia! In re-reading them, I feel they also helped me define my values and priorities, as wel as protecting against peer pressure and getting caught up in hypes and what not. Can truly recommend the practice to everyone, though it pays to be somewhat picky about what gets to go into them – I have boxes upon boxes of notebooks to sort through now! (not to mention all those poor trees…)

    kind regards,
    Brigyn

  26. I can relate to this post. More and more I refuse to argue with people who are fixated on belief systems. I’ll say something like, “Look, I am not interested in the Democratic-Republican thing, I am just interested in what is happening” or “I am not interested in the Capitalism-Socialism thing, I just want to know what is happening.” If I really get frustrated with someone who insists on an ideology, I’ll say, “Look go argue with a padded cell.”

  27. So what you’re trying to teach people is that they should meditate on their views, be willing to consider the opinions of others and to make time to live their own internal lives? Am I the only one who’s disheartened by the fact that most people aren’t capable of this by themselves? I guess I knew already but seeing it in front of you brings it into bleak focus. And I know you’re talking about the finer points of this JMG and the historical methods for it, I’m not trying to malign your work because I really enjoy it and see it as genuinely valuable…but jeez people.

    A long time ago I had this group of friends who enjoyed in depth discussions on everything, music, history, politics, religion, money, culture, anything, no taboo subjects. And one of my favourite phrases, that was spoken quite often was, “I don’t know, I haven’t really looked into it or thought it through yet, give me a few days.”
    The next week after a bit of reading, research and consideration (meditation) you would bring up the topic again and have a discussion about it, not trying to change the other persons’ mind, not from a place of preconceived prejudice, just a level discussion about the various points of view and their merits and how they affected your personal opinion and how that compared to the opinion of the person you were talking to and why and then from there expand on each point, turn it around and consider it from all sides in all configurations.

    Now it is a long time since I heard, “I don’t know, let me think about it before I answer. . . “

  28. I kept a ‘journal’ sporadically as a teen, for important ‘learnings’ 🙂 I remember being so excited when I discovered the one-word solution to all the world’s problems… ‘understanding’ : ) And the NPR interview (in the 80’s?).. with kids in the N.E. being bussed to desegregate the schools… ‘why are your parents against it?’ .. answer: “maybe we’ll get to know them and like them…”. Even kids could figure it out 🙂

    And lately, I’ve had such a ‘journal’ in an email Draft folder. Most of what I write down seems to me, to have just ‘come’ to me… even the most mundane problem solutions. I don’t think ‘my mind’ uncovers much of anything…. stuff is ‘infused’ (to use an old scholastic phrase)… and I really can’t take credit for it. Darn! 🙂 It seems to be mainly a source of the neurological ‘default mode system’s’ regurgitated, mostly negative, un-useful ‘advice’.

    ‘Discursive meditation’ reminds me of the Roman Catholic history of control… first the crotch issues and then the mind/spiritual issues… banned books, St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, laity didn’t get a vernacular missal til 1907, etc. Raised a pious Catholic, I have a stack of old devotional books with a prayer/practice for every occasion…absolutely no need to approach God directly : )

  29. “US military has been carrying out a similar sort of warfare against jihadi militias in Syria and Iraq, pretending to fight Islamic State in much the same way a mime pretends to be trapped in a phone booth”

    Made me laugh. Such an excellent analogy. So good, I think I just appropriated it. Excuse me.

  30. Hello JMG and all,

    In thinking about the commonplace book, I am reminded of diaries, sketch journals, and other kinds of personal chronicle. In you opinion, is there a qualitative difference between writing one’s entries out long hand and typing them into an electronic journal?

    I favor paper and graphite or ink when I want something down for the long term because it feels more “real” to me. I was told long ago by a teacher that copying things out by hand, required for the task I was completing, was an important magical exercise and that I wasn’t to cut corners by typing it. Whether it felt more solid because it was a kind of test of commitment, or if the information really did sink in deeper I don’t know.

    Bonnie

  31. If I am grokking* this right, the concept behind the original meaning of commonplace is akin to the current phrase of common ground, although the usual use seems to be getting to common ground, as opposed to starting off on common ground.

    (* – Even before I found your blog, I certainly found the more famous of Heinlein’s works. I’ve been reading books older than I am since I was old enough to read. I suppose I managed to learn a few things despite the education system.)

  32. Oh, and regarding current events: My newsday will be complete once I finally see a headline screaming that either Putin or Assad has said, “I fart in your general direction!”

  33. Okay, European culture went from the reflection of the Renaissance back to the abstraction of the industrial age … but doesn’t that pretty much shoot down the strict cyclical hypothesis? After all, we only have 2.5 cycles to consider and the last one doesn’t follow the pattern.

  34. I don’t know where the poster from last week got F.UK.US, but that is a classic. FUKUS indeed. (Don’t know if this will slip past JMG’s censor) Sigh, I was already thinking kabuki before I read Kunstler’s article

  35. For about 45 years now, I have always had a 3″ x 4″ notepad in my pocket for jotting down just the sort of things that would go into a commonplace book. When I fill one up, I put the date range on the cover and throw it into a giant storage bin. Sometimes I want to look at an idea I previously wrote, and if I can remember what year I was thinking about that thing, it narrows the search to 4 or 5 notepads.
    Thanks for validating one of my eccentricities! 😉

    Jordan Peterson tells us (in the context of his opposition to compulsive gender pronoun use laws here in Canada) that we formulate our opinions as we talk about them with other people. In this way, laws against hate speech may actually prevent people from changing their minds on these topics–The opposite of what was intended! The mechanism of having calm discussions about difficult topics strikes me as a _very_ healthy and needful thing just now.

    The Bansai Tree and the Gardener have a similar conflict–The tree has a goal in mind, but the Gardener also has one. And so They have a long conversation made up of pruning and counter-growth–And the end of it is beauty, even though it may not be the beauty that either of them had in mind at the start.

    In other news, you have all continued to expand my
    ‘List O’ T-shirt Sayings!’
    Are these Commonplace Conversation starters? Hopefully I have

    You are not your opinions
    You are not their opinions either – JM Greer

    The [Pharmacy] Business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good people die like dogs.
    There’s also a negative side… –Hunter Thompson

    God, Grant me the serenity to know that I can’t change others,
    the courage to change the only one I can change,
    and the wisdom to know its me

    “The real world is just a special case of the Theoretical
    and can be considered trivial and ignored” –Jaz Nights

    How I found Jesus, lost weight and improved my sex life through Witchcraft
    –display as a book cover

    The plural of anecdotes really IS data

    Front of T-shirt; All generalizations are wrong…
    Back of T-shirt; … but some are useful.

    One should always remember never to say, “Always,” “Should,” or “Never.”

    In Theory, Theory and Practice are the same.
    In Practice, They are not.

    Religion–Not belief in a doctrine
    but orientation toward a quest.

    Who are you to tell me to Question Authority?

    Facts without theory are trivia.
    Theories without facts are Bullsh*t. – Ed Beiser

    Believe
    Half what you see,
    A Quarter what you read,
    Nothing what you hear –Peter’s Dad (QC)
    [Display with 3 monkeys, 1 watching TV, 1 reading a paper, the third on a cell phone.]

    There is no God but Man
    And Sagan is his Prophet
    (too dangerous to wear in New York, Los Angeles and Mecca)

    Front of shirt: Sagan always wanted to be the Pope of Rationalism
    Back of shirt: Tyson always wanted to be Carl Sagan.

    Only YOU can help yourself.
    No one else will. – Robert Lustig

    “If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.”
    –Professor Rutherford

    “I fly 20 million dollar jets so I know and trust engineering. Science I’ve come to distrust.”
    –Mike D

    Greer’s Criterion of Possibility: it’s invalid to claim that something’s impossible when it’s actually happening.

    Society is an anonymous enterprise for living a life of secondhand emotions.
    –Joseph Peladan

    You either learn to chew humility
    or get served plates full of humiliation.
    –Varun

    The world is not whatever you want it to be
    –JMG

  36. I tentatively have a new job as a full time environmental activist in the Amherst area – Regarding your response to Will’s comment about “[A good many media heads sounding like tape recorders]” I’m afraid if I take the job that I’ll simply be repeating what I’m told all day. On the other hand, activism/campaigning seems like a good idea for bringing about change; dialectic conversation seems like it would be a handy mental tool to keep in mind for that. Right now, I feel like going out there and repeating what I’m told will be like running into a brick wall again and again. Should I have at it?

  37. Well there is a coincident. I think I inadvertently started a common place book with the listing of the taxonomy of thought stoppers several posts back. It is just an open document that I have been cutting and pasting comments and responses from this blog and a few other sources. They were things that caught my attention and something I wanted to think about. I think I should be a little more systematic about this and get the meditation habit securely installed to reap the harvest of ideas. What a wonderful idea.

  38. I was working with a group kids today– ages around 6 to 8–and asked them (in a discussion of climate) “Without looking outside, could it be snowing right now?”

    Their response was a loud, enthusiastic chorus of “no!”

    Why not? Well, two reasons: first (and foremost) was that they did not want it to snow. Very human, that. The second (more germane) reason was that it was spring, silly, and snow happens in the winter, not spring! It snowed yesterday. It was spring yesterday, too. The pre-eminence of abstraction is drilled into our young early, isn’t it? The snow on the ground is less important than the calender. Hopefully our little discussion of weather and the patterns thereof helped shake lose the stranglehold that particular abstraction had on their developing consciousnesses, but… !

  39. Many thanks for this post, especially the short discussion on discursive meditation. I am happy to report to you that it’s not a lost art. I regularly attend retreats organized by a traditional (although not traditionalist) Catholic group where they have a dozen or so half-hour “meditation” over the three-day schedule. It works in this manner: a priest leads the meditation, bringing a copy of the Bible or another book, reading a couple of sentences, and then thinking out loud about the matter. The rest of the participants are encouraged to do the same, you can bring your own reading material and not follow the priest if you like. After the retreat everyone is encouraged to do this in private every day, with the goal of fostering a prayerful inner life.

    The practice was such a revelation for me the first time I encountered it. It’s certainly helping me every day, and I’m not as perturbed as I used to be by everyday annoyances. The modern world seems to be going in the opposite direction, being outraged at every little thing that could be construed as offensive. Just now the news is Starbucks closing temporarily in the US for political re-education, err, unconscious bias training, because of some dispute about a couple of black guys not being allowed to use the restroom. For the record, I think it’s the wrong decision; Starbucks needs to close _permanently_. 😉

    Christianity (including much of contemporary Catholicism), as you point out, has mostly capitulated to pop culture. We’re wondering why people are heading for the exits in droves. The various approaches to attracting them back are predictable in their unimaginativeness: mostly whiplashing between “more cathechism” (i.e. dry academic lectures and rote memorization) and corporate style marketing seminars. We could use more meditation, people need to learn how to _think_ nowadays.

  40. Apparently, according to a couple of people I know, the fact the world doesn’t make sense is proof we live in a simulation. Apparently someone changed the code in 2016, and that’s why things are going wrong. I have no idea how to respond to that other than walking away….

  41. Corydalidae and JMG,

    The Monty Python sketch we’re having is far weirder than that: Trudeau is attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and apparently intends to talk to other countries about how best to protect the environment.

  42. Joel:

    There is a support web site for parents whose children have suddenly decided they suffer from gender dysphoria, which states that it is, “a community of parents & others concerned about the medicalization of gender-atypical youth and rapid-onset gender dysphoria.”

    https://4thwavenow.com/

    Some teens have reported feeling pressure from peers to declare themselves transgender, no doubt because it’s trendy now; having raised three teen-agers, my first thought was, “duh” – teens are herd animals. It’s a frightening thought that this may be the newest fad, one that has the potential to be far more damaging than swallowing goldfish or pole sitting. I think it may have been Rod Dreher who observed that children who have gender realignment surgery have also been sterilized.

    I can’t find it right now (of course) but I read an article about a gender dysphoria clinic in Australia that had to close because of lawsuits from clients who claim that they were given insufficient mental health therapy before being hustled off to surgeons. I would not be surprised to see more of this.

  43. Will, you might find this rather amusing. The presenters obviously do ‘know’ each other in that they all belong to the same corporate parent, but it’s quite revealing nonetheless.

  44. @Joel,
    As a tangentially OT aside to your observation, it was my generation of girls who started wanting to be like the boys. Junior high in the early 70s. There had always been the occasional tomboy, and that was me for sure, probably genetic, but then there also was a popular demand to be allowed to wear pants like the boys that came from the class one year older than I. They applied pressure and got the deed done.
    It was about 20 years ago that I read Our Stolen Future, by Theo Colborn on endocrine disruptors, and I began to wonder if some of the emotional problems I had as a teenager may have been exacerbated by that. Our lady teachers and others in the older generation couldn’t relate to the level of emotion I and others in my age group were experiencing. Those feelings were not acceptable. I struggled with this all my teenage years, and I reckon quite a few others did. It sounds like that trend really intensified, until it led to a clear realization that they wanted not just to cross-dress, but honest-to-goodness be the other gender.
    Being away from America, I was totally unaware of the trends in transsexual issues. But recently I heard that the same thing is occurring in Japan, with some elementary school aged children not wanting to use gender-appropriate restrooms because they feel out of place there. Some might say this is due to the influence of social media making such ideas popular, but I doubt this. The language barrier is quite high here, and these are children who had not yet started surfing the Net, but were at most sending texts to each other at all hours within their peer group. Nor has this become a meme in Japanese society as far as I know. I was given the information by a retired school principal, and it seems to have come out of the blue. For decades here, people have noted the prominence of passive, feminized boys and aggressive girls, but tended to blame it on parenting by assertive mothers with absent corporate-slave fathers. My generation (I’m assuming the first affected) are now grandparents, so their parenting style could have had an influence.
    In other words, I think the transsexual issue has its basis in biochemistry, undoubtedly fanned by social factors, and as you note, preyed upon by the medical establishment.

  45. I’ve lived in Japan about half my life, and Japanese patterns of thought are much *less* abstract than those of the US. It’s really amazingly difficult to try to explain or express how, but the end result is that Japanese people are much, much less likely to get worked up like Americans about abstract notions, and to let those abstract notions divide them.

    The image I always keep coming back to is chess. In Westen chess the pieces are black and white, and immutable. In Japanese chess, pieces are all the same color, and only orientation sets them apart. In fact, you can use pieces of your opponent’s which you capture. In other words, pieces have no abstract, immutable identity. This is of course just a fragment, but to me it’s illustrative.

  46. I love landscaping, and one particular kind of it that I would compare to the industrial form as massage compares to surgery. I love to find a place, and by interacting with it, using my hands, and maybe some crude tools, to enhance certain patterns in the space, to change the feel and character of a place with out adding anything from elsewhere or halling away any excess. Unless one counts the particular aestetic I bring to the place, and the experience I take from it. If working were thinking then this would be thinking for myself, with my environment, direct environment, using the tools that are part of my very being, intimate with the place.

    There are other interests that charm me, recently working on my electric bike has been a major interest. The part of my life teathered to worldly acheivment in society, by needfulness or by ambition, lonelyness sometimes, is needful to travel several miles in a go, and my community is devoid of public transportation. It would be useful to have a 20 mile radius for the particular ambitions which move me, and with what time I can afford for travel, a speed of 20 miles in an hour would be agreeable. My legs, with or with out a bike, cannot do this. So I am saving for new bike components to reach 20 miles per hour; for context the energy consumption at that speed is 20 watt/hours per mile; the same energy it takes to heat a litre of water to showering temperature. Working on the bike is a frustration, it is public in a way, a thousand chattering humans have opined on how my bike show be what tools we should use, and because of its complicatedness , I am compeled to use tools that are based on the ideas of others, to work with the ideas of others made material. Because frankly I could picture any given step to go from Gilligan’s island to an electric bike, but just as clearly see that there would be a million more steps than I could walk in a lifetime. Still living in the society that I do with the tools and the resources and the obligations that I have, the bike is a valid responce. There are a couple alternatives to it that might be more attractive down the road, but a ways down the road it seems to me. So I buy parts that other people made using equipment that other people made in factories that other people made with equipment that other people made from parts that other people made down a long long game of telephone which constricted the message a little with each telling.

    As a brief asside biology and natural history is the same narrowing as selections that othe eons made slam the doors of the biological possibulit of today, but give us the limits and the structure which open the possibulities of today. It gave me the hands that are part of what I am, part of what the world can be to me, opened that space as a land scaper, and taken to the extremes of a dead end the frustration and confinement of trying to find a reliable source of components for a planitary geared hub motor for my bike. So it goes, on a lone enough time line all evolutionary paths are dead ends.

    My thinking is just like my working. There are something that are intimate, that I think really for myself, mostly informed from the inner expression of my own nature into the domain of thought. But really this is a tiny fraction of my total thoughtishness. In this post I am giving an origional line of thinking, but at every step I am pulling at a dozens of thoughts I have cabbaged off of Greer, Trelogan, Cope, Grundy, Peterson, Lucas, Duncan, Nietzsche, and others, which inturn they formed on the bases of thought other people thunk, playing off of ideas that other people thunk to deal with ideas that other people thunk to respond to circumstances that other people thunk would be a good idea. And again this chain of thought goes back into deep time in a plethera of inseperable strands.

    Complication of a problem comes to mind. When I think for myself, going from situation to experience, I have such a tiny datum to make something of, and much be humble about what I do with it. To make sense of a given complication requires building a solution of complimenting complexity. Landscaping, I am using solutions that biology and my play instinct gifted to me, cabbaged from billions of ‘selective gifts’ in deep history, and thousands of corrective feed back of my own litle mistakes. Also from inspirations what are mysterous in source. Complications tend to be things like, how to break a stick, how to dig up this rock, where is it sunny, where is it wet, can I find the seeds that plant dropped. I need not go to an expert or consult theoreticals, except in a roughly aestetic sense. Figuring out how to make a battery pack for the bike means learning to calculate the resistivity of various components, principles of electricity, but the nature of electricity and the conventions of making tools which enter it domain, doing alot of calculations. Thinking and emense amount, even very origional thoughts; for instance the specs I am trying to get for my bike are very very different from the specks that are considered desirable by many of the sources I research; because I am making a tool to fill a different niche that the more urban niches most of my sources focus on. So of course thinking other peoples thoughts doesn’t at all preclude origional thought, instead in is a prerequsite, and you own personal element is added to that which is received in the act of making.

    P.S. In another space I mentioned the tactic of talking frankly about environmental cargoism to will enthuasim among those who are tribally seperated from environmentalism as an ism, but can see the writting on the Earth as clearly as the next person. It is smashingly effective; Biking 20 miles to an event which uses the word ‘sustainable’ in the title against a 20 mph head wind is very difficult thing to do, but it earns one blank check to use such tactics. I am sure there are many other deeds which would have the same effect, but do something that makes a good story and is impressive in the values of who you are talking to. There is a new sustainabulity club in the area, and it is intentionally taking a very redblue mixed cultural vibe, with hippieisms and pearlsnaps. You might be pelased to know that one of the three present conduct guideline is a prohibition on shaming others for not choosing to be sustainable in the same way that you choose to be.

  47. To anyone in the Tokyo area, the Asakawa Kompira shrine in Takao is having its annual big festival on Sunday, April 29, and it will be a lot of fun with singing ad dancing. We have quite a group and it will be rather crowded, but come along!
    As a result of this, the picnic on the first Sunday of May (May 6) will not be held, so the next meeting of the Kanto Green Wizards will be on June 3…and indeed, I will not be attending that, because it coincides with the biggest festival of the Fuji Faith. But a whole lot of other very nice people will be there, so come along anyway!
    For details, see the “MeetUps” section on the Green Wizard blog: http://teresamcguffey.com/greenwizards.org/?q=node/34926

  48. Excellent article as always. I also liked Kunstler’s post, and I was taking the time last week to wish the kids goodbye and giving my family hugs in the real expectation of waking up to ‘a sky of mushroom shaped clouds’ as Kunstler put it.

    In trying to find a commonality, things couldn’t be worse right now. The internet is abuzz right now with the ‘Q Anon’ leaks which have been proven to be either a military source close to Trump, or even Trump himself leaking cryptic tidbits of upcoming events to anyone watching online. The Q Anon phenomena is a case in point. The talking points are presented in bullet form, many with bizarre and seemingly random pictures which are all open to wide interpretation.

    https://qanonposts.com

    A whole legion of disaffected persons have taken up the seemingly impossible task of interpreting these quirky statements and then giving their viewers their own take on the events. Nothing is so bizarre in my living memory. I am familiar with most of the long standing conspiracy therories around, Roswell, JFK, 9/11 ect, ect, many of which have troubling implications, but they are well established. Since Q anon has been publishing their inane comments daily, a person can’t even keep up with all of the kooky ‘News’ that keeps popping up. Even if only 1% of the stuff is true, a lot of it is really scathing; and it represents a new cultural schist unfolding in our society.

    We are far and away from a reflection commonality.

  49. Jen, picking out useful maxims from what you read is a very common use for a commonplace book! Give it a try and see how it works for you.

    Philippe, true enough!

    Marco, exactly. The point is to develop individuals, rather than cogs in a machine.

    Forecastingintelligence, it’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here.

    Corydalidae, apparently unimportant stuff can be valuable down the road, and many commonplace books included quite a bit along those lines — so you’re very much in the tradition.

  50. Kabuki warfare indeed.

    When the strikes were going down, I followed the discussion threads on several major military related blogs. Judging from the comments being made by the so many of the resident chicken hawks and keyboard rangers as they were having multiple wargasms, it occurred to me that bukkake warfare might have been more apt…

  51. Here are a few more for the “List o’ T-shirt Sayings” (h/t to E. Goldstein):

    — Eschew obfuscation!

    — Subvert the Dominant Paradigm!

    — He who heeds not the murmuring pine must drink the deadly hemlock. — W. Freeman Twaddell

    Aha! — W. Freeman Twaddell, again.

    Also, the original form of Ed Beiser’s “Brass Tack” was a little more symmetrical than the version in the list:

    — Facts without theory are trivia; theory without facts is bullsh*t.

    (Twaddell and Beiser were colleagues of mine at Brown University.)

    Twaddell had a legendary collection of rubber stamps with such sayings on them, which he delighted to stamp onto various administrative memos and questionnaires that came across his desk before sending them back to their authors. A couple of them were perhaps too lengthy or (nowadays) too cryptic for a T-shirt, such as

    — Let us regard this memo as a waypoint on the road to real clarity.

    — Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin.

  52. I read the first four paragraphs with a smile on my face. Probably also because of the wonderful climate-warming-induced weather outside.

    About meditation: I recently took part to two rosaries because of a funeral (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosary).

    Rosaries were certainly meant as meditations, and until a couple of generations ago, women in my family would do them regularly, in company of others or alone. Now Catholics only do rosaries when someone dies.

    After that I felt that I, too, would like to “turn things over in the silence of my mind”, and rosary beads are a fairly inexpensive to do it.

  53. I like all this – except your use of “from the get-go”. Your vocabulary is usually so good that an outbreak of teen-speak glares incongruously from the screen. As if you had said, like, you know, “A profound truth occurred to me while I was taking the woof-woof for a walk this morning…” – innit?

  54. One good question I’ve seen asked about the alleged Syria attack: Chlorine and sarin detonate as they should. But if they’re bombed, do they detonate and release their deadly vapor cloud? Is there a bomb that completely incinerates the deadly vapor cloud?

  55. Daniel,

    That’s pretty good! I rather like the topic being biased media too, the optics there are awful…

  56. Lore co:

    I know! Things would be much better if people didn’t feel the need to have opinions on everything, even where they don’t know enough, or haven’t thought about it.

    Joel,

    Having had a few days to think this over, I am against gender reassignment surgery, or hormones, before adulthood. There’s too much flux happening to begin with, and so I don’t think it safe to let someone make such a drastic decision.

    I also think mental health counseling is needed first. This is not something that should ever be rushed, since it doesn’t seem like it’s reversible.

    patriciaormsby,

    Endocrine disrupters seems disturbingly plausible. I know there’s a lot of chemicals out there that would fit the bill…

  57. By the way, JMG, when I mentioned going to meditate, I should have mentioned that your writing on the subject in this post was some of the savviest I have seen in a long time. The contemporary western spiritual materialism and resulting marketplace have done much to muddy the waters concerning that honorable practice. I hear that the main import in Mumbai, these days, is western spiritual seekers.

  58. Greetings all!

    Has there been, in the past any civilisation which came close to balance out, narration, abstraction and reflection? Or is it a hopeless exercise, meaning that there is some sort of fatality in the unfolding of this triad?

  59. The most important consequence of your cyclical model is that we, at this point in time with abstractions piled on abstractions, can expect to participate in a useful swerve to reflection based on concrete experience. Spengler prophesied that his contemporaries (and us even more so) were doomed to pursue natural sciences and engineering, since the time for any literary, artistic or philosophical fruits had already passed. Actually, when I was 17, trying to make my mind up between studying biochemistry and historical linguistics, I may have been influenced by my repeated reading of Spengler to choose biochemistry. And I do think that ours is not, overall, a good time to study liberal arts in a university! Literary theory and analytical philosophy have always made me go to sleep…

    Now, what do you base your more hopeful perspective on? You have mentioned the end of the materialistic, secular, rationalist outlook in Hellenism (as far as I can tell, about 200 BCE) and the return to religious forms. However, that return took a long time if you look at, say, Plotinus (3rd century CE), which is why Spengler considered it to belong to an entirely different culture than Plato did. You evidently don’t expect us to wait 400 years in order to participate in an age of reflection.

    Your other example is the Renaissance, and here you diverge even more strongly from both conventional historiography and from Spengler, since in your view the Renaissance is, in a way, ahead of where we are now and therefore an example to consider. If I understand you correctly, furthermore, the scientific revolution and enlightenment are not legitimate fruits of the Renaissance, but rather something like a step back (or at least sideways) from reflection to the abstraction that had been left behind three centuries earlier.

    Furthermore, you draw a sharper line between medieval and Renaissance thinkers, and between medieval and modern thinking, than many people have been doing for the last decades. Illich, in “The Rivers North of the Future”, talks a lot about the 12th century, Hugues of St. Victor, Aelred of Rievaulx, and the age of tools and instrumentality that began then and, in his view, stretched all the way to the 20th century. Charles Taylor, in “A Secular Age”, also traces many lines from Franciscan nominalists and voluntarists to modern secularism.

    I am not yet completely convinced of your model, which places the Renaissance on a “sideways track” from the overall development of our culture. You told me to look for original texts on my own, and the points of investigation that have occurred to me so far are:
    – the first use of the term “humaniores litterae” for the turn from medieval abstraction to Renaissance reflection (and an example for what we might try to achieve now)
    – Francis Bacon’s and Descartes’ espousal of utilitarian reasoning, and more especially reading what their adversaries had to say on this.

    Since you are far more widely read in Renaissance literature than I am, I would again like to ask you to point out what material led you to propose your model, as against common historiography and against Spengler. I do read Latin, though more slowly than English.

  60. Hi JMG, I’m struggling with the way you’ve framed the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria. Writing that it “may or may not have happened – governments on all sides are making strident claims but nobody’s offering evidence either way” leads me to believe that you simply haven’t seen the ever-growing body of evidence contradicting those who claim the attack occurred. I feel obligated to share that evidence with you and your readership.

    From Caitlin Johnstone:

    “Now that the jihadist-occupied suburb of Douma has been retaken by the Syrian government, western journalists have been allowed in to poke around and start asking questions, and so far it isn’t looking great for the propaganda machine.

    The Independent’s Robert Fisk has published a report which affirms the story so many Westerners have been dismissing as Kremlin propaganda after interviewing a doctor from the hospital of the area where the Douma attack was supposed to have occurred. Dr. Assim Rahaibani told Fisk that what was in actuality an outbreak of respiratory distress among occupants of a dusty oxygen-deprived tunnel was made to look like the after-effects of a chemical weapons attack when a member of the White Helmets started shouting about a gas attack in front of a bunch of video cameras. Everyone panicked and started hosing themselves down, but in the video, according to Rahaibani, what you see are people suffering hypoxia – not gas poisoning.

    This report was independently backed up by a reporter from One America News Network named Pearson Sharp, who gave a detailed account of his interviews with officials, doctors, as well as many civilians on the street. Sharp says he deliberately selected at random in order to avoid accusations of bias. Many people hadn’t even heard that a chemical weapons attack had taken place, and the ones who had said it was staged by Jaysh al-Islam. The staff at the hospital, including a medic-in-training who was an eyewitness to the incident, gave the same story as in Fisk’s report.”

    Despite the fact that we live in an era when almost all news (excepting a few genuinely alternative, radical sites) is “fake news”, we still have more than sufficient information to make numerous judgements.

  61. After typing out a lengthy comment my computer erased it! This is my second go of it, now being done in a word file.

    Since the topic of transgenderism has come up, I can’t resist putting in my two cents. Transgenderism provides a clear place to see the distinction between the abstract and commonplace modes of thinking, and since I am now almost a decade into being publicaly trans, this distinction may be clearer to me than to most.

    As a set of abstract principals transgender ideology can be defined as thus:

    1) Anyone who falls outside of the gender binary in anyway is likely transgender.
    2) Transgender identity is eternal, it exists outside of time. If one is transgender, one was always transgender in latent form.
    3) If one does not transition one is doomed to a life of mental degradation, ultimately ending in suicide.
    4) The sooner one transitions the better the outcome.

    Taken together, these abstract principals act as a very powerful curse against people, especially young people, who don’t fit into the neat categories of gender. These ideas give the tenure of transition a desperate quality, where people seek to transition as quickly and thoughtlessly as possible to save themselves!

    Furthermore, more covertly, there is a secret principal to transgenderism, that is, effectively, transitioning acts as a form of baptism. One finds new life in trans, the former sins are expiated and explained away. “I was in the wrong body! Of course I was depressed/behaved poorly/was cruel! Now that I’m in a new body I am better! Someone else was responsible for my past, not me!” The redemptive aspect of trans certainly attracts lost souls.

    This may read as a ringing denunciation of transgenderism. But note, I am only making mention of the abstract principals. As Patricia O. points out some people are apparently trans!

    In the commonplace of experience, some people have cross-gender identities that work for them better than anything else. Some people have life long gender dysphoria that is permanently relieved by medical treatment. As much as I dislike the abstract foundations of transgenderism I can’t honestly deny that after medically transitioning I felt the most profound sense of relief I have ever felt in my entire life. For well over 6 months I had felt a profound glow in my “uterus.” This was also the time I began to have a genuinely active spiritual life. If I were to deny these experiences I would by lying as much as if I were to say I’m on board with the abstract principals.

    So after much reflection I’ve had to make my peace with transgenderism; I dislike immensely the ideology and acknowledge the negative impact these ideas have had in my life and yet I can’t deny the ways that physically transitioning made my life better. Furthermore, it doesn’t limit me unduly; my family, friends and coworkers treat my trans, more or less, on the same level as my bookishness and herbalism.

    I suspect that Patricia O. may be right about endocrine disruption. In my studies on ecology I’ve noted that with over population of several species (sheep and rabbits specifically) there can be a tendency for some of the population to become infertile with cross-sexual behavior. Also, there are third gender traditions across the world and I wonder if transgenderism will eventually evolve into the Western equivalent. Of course this remains in the realm of speculation.

    Lastly, if I may respond to Joel’s comment: I am in full agreement with you about the reprehensible nature of the activists you mentioned essentially demanding sex. It disgusts me, and also angers me since I may be associated with such ideas by nature of how I look. That being said, I think it bears noting that trans-radicals are hardly unique in their attempts to control other people’s sexuality. One may feel particular abhorrence towards them for aesthetic reasons, but anywhere you look on the fringes are political ideologies that seek unearned authority over other people’s bodies. I in no way wish to excuse the views of said trans-radicals, but instead to contextualize them; they are hardly alone.

  62. Wait – you mean I don’t have to sit in the lotus position and clear my mind of all thoughts to meditate?

    Hehe. Nicely said JMG.

    Off topic for this post but I think on topic for the general point of much of your writing I came across this:

    https://mailchi.mp/climatenewsnetwork/long-lived-civilisation-may-be-a-dream?e=18a0ac2c7c

    These people are just now catching on to the fact that civilizations, or at least human ones, don’t last long. They could have just referenced some of your writings and saved themselves some work.

  63. Wow. Thanks, JMG! Some big things just snapped into focus. You state that the way to approach a discussion is to lead with the particular — your personal experience. As a fairly well educated person, I find that my tendency is always to start from, you guessed it, some general abstraction, downplaying or even downgrading my actual exposure to it. Just to take one example, desegregation in the United States. If I was talking to somebody about it, we would probably both begin with our ideological perspective, placing the issue within a larger moral context. If I understand you correctly, it would be more useful for both of us if I started by talking about what it was like to experience desegregation first hand in South Carolina schools in the 1970s. Yes, it’s “only” my personal experience, but that’s the point — it is my experience, not some theory or ideology. Someone else may well have had a different experience. We can discuss, and compare, and maybe even reach some conclusions based on what we ourselves encountered. But then, as you noted two weeks ago, reality is anecdotal.

  64. @Will J & Daniel, regarding talking heads:

    I’d heard about the Sinclair story too. Apparently the script-writers (string-pullers?) forgot to tell them to ad-lib a bit… Whoops. I’m sure they’ll cheat better next time.

    @Steve T,

    Also late breaking news, a tenured professor in California said this about the late Barbara Bush:

    “PSA: either you are against these pieces of s— and their genocidal ways or you’re part of the problem. That’s actually how simple this is. I’m happy the witch is dead. Can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million Iraqis have”

    Thankfully, Fresno State actually took off their neolib blinders for a minute…

    http://www.newsweek.com/fresno-state-says-tenure-does-not-protect-professor-after-calling-barbara-bush-892936

    @JMG,

    ‘I think a new catchphrase may be worth putting into service here: “The world is not whatever you want it to be.”’

    Certainly not a new idea, but probably one that’s never needed to be stated before!

    @corydalidae,

    Apparently it never occurred to anyone that the best thing for the environment is to leave it alone…

    @Mike from Jersey,

    I had a similar “discussion” with someone on Facebook (I know, I know) who claimed that taxation is theft. My response was to point out all the services that our taxes pay for and they should stop using them if they want to not be a hypocrite. Deaf ears…

    @Beekeeper,

    That website was mentioned in the comments of the article I originally referenced. Not going through this personally (though it is actually possible since my 15yo daughter is autistic), but good to know about. As for the lawsuits, I agree, and it wouldn’t shock me if the whole transgender thing goes the way of the dodo. The fact that they are rendered sterile by the procedure is also a feature not a bug, in my opinion.

  65. Can you elaborate on how and why the Renaissance went wrong into the Reformation and into the Enlightenment? Common wisdom says that the Enlightenment was the culmination of the Renaissance (common wisdom also says this is a Good Thing).

    Related to this, you have recommended a while back reading Thucydides. I’m slowly making my way through, and I’m struck by a few things. He has no use for gods and mythology, and holds oracles in particular disdain. He is very much into treating human history from a rational, cause-and-effect standpoint.

  66. @Workdove,

    I hadn’t heard of the Q anon thing before, but I read up on it for two minutes and came to the conclusion that it’s basically a 21st century version of Nostradamus. Just make the message cryptic enough and you’ll never be wrong.

  67. Hi JMG,
    I was wondering what you had to say about the West´s detestable behaviour; I wholeheartedly agree. One shimmer of hope is that, at least in respect to the Syrian-Russian business, a lot of people here seem to have realized that they are bombarded with propaganda of the worst kind and that our so called leaders are not acting in Europe´s/Germany´s interest by constantly antagonizing Russia.
    As for talking to people when ´´no two sides in any controversy have the same abstract generalizations in common´´: I´ve recently met a guy on a party who is a carpenter and is now doing some work for me. I rather like him as a person, and we visit each other and are planning to go to some good jazz concerts together.
    The thing is, we also had some heated discussions that kind of lead nowhere and which I felt I had to end saying something like:
    I think we just have to agree to disagree on this one.
    I sometimes simply don´t know what to say or how to react when during a conversation he says things like: ´I dont believe in evolution´ or ´I don´t believe in climate change´. Those two things, for example, are rather central to my worldview.
    I find it even harder to say something to that because he is really not the kind of person who you would expect these statements coming from, in fact quite the opposite: he lives in a gypsy-style caravan, doesn´t watch TV, is very concerned about what we call nature, grows vegetables and lives a non-consumerist life which he finances off his trade, being his own boss. In many respects he is much further on the way to ´´collapse now and avoid the rush´´ than I am.
    I think it would be a shame if our relationship suffers from these difficulties and I hope this series of posts will help me to avoid the worst traps one can fall into in this situation.
    Thanks again for your time and consideration.
    greetings
    Frank from Germany

  68. I just read the article on rapid-onset trans teens. Yikes! That sounds like a recipe for disaster.

    The person I know best transitioned back in the 1990s, was an adult at the time, and had to fight for it. They also had to spend a year living as the opposite gender before being allowed to do anything medical. They are still very definitely their new gender. I know several trans people, and have never heard any of them express a desire to go back once transitioned. I also know one person who thought as a teen they might be trans, then decided they weren’t… and hadn’t started transitioning, so no problem.

    I hadn’t realized the current situation in the USA is so different.

  69. @Shane W: F.U.K.U.S. was first used by B at Moon of Alabama. It already seems to be a commonplace here. I’ve been trying to get Lardbucket into general circulation.

  70. @Patriciaormsby,

    I often wonder myself if there’s “something in the water” that’s causing men to become more effeminate and vice-versa. In other blogs that I follow, soy is considered dangerous for men to ingest because it has growth inhibitors and phytoestrogenic compounds.

    https://www.mercola.com/article/soy/avoid_soy.htm

    Slightly different note, but this was a shock to my senses…

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/update-kindergarten-teacher-denies-legos-to-boys-in-name-of-gender-equity

    If the article is TL;DR, this excerpt provides a nice summary:

    ‘Rather than finding a way to encourage girls to play with the blocks, Keller decided to bring down boys. By Keller’s own research assessment, she is actively working to hinder the development of the young boys she is tasked with teaching — all in the name of “gender equity.”‘

  71. Very good post JMG (as usual)

    About the syrian attack, there is a joke circulating in internet:
    “When your enemy is nearly defeated, and final victory is at hand; gas your own people so that nations greater than yours will intervene and destroy you.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War (Page: None!)

    This is my tale around the case of the Skripal poisoning:
    “Once upon a time one of the most efficient intelligent agency in the world use an extremely powerful nerve gas agent at full day in a restaurant in the middle of an english city and at the end they even cannot kill the two unprotected targets…”

    In both cases both sides lie but some lies are more naked, childish and dangerous than others

    And as Disraeli said: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

    Cheers

  72. JMG, there’s a lot to digest in this week’s post. Initially, I would dismiss the events in Syria simply as theater (and part of the required script) to support more profits for the puppet-masters. But I fear that’s another trap of binary thinking, and hardly useful (even if true) in addressing the challenges we face.

    I used to believe that grass roots movements were limited by their inefficiency and lack of scope, but I’m now beginning to see that dealing with change without civilization going full Mad Max is possible from the bottom up, and commonplace ideals can be a great starting point. Since the well-intentioned benevolent dictator is nowhere in sight (and rather rare in the historical record), we’ll have to take matters into our own hands down in the trenches.

  73. @Robert Gibson
    I like all this – except your use of “from the get-go”.

    That is a perfectly respectable phrase, and has nothing to do with teen-speak, or your other examples.

  74. @Robert Gibson

    “From the get-go” is an old, old idiom in English. I’m 75, and I’ve heard and used it from my childhood onward, as did my father and his parents before him. If ‘teens are using it now, it’s nice to see them keeping up an old idiom.

  75. John Michael, I am thrilled to discover that my life-long practice of haphazardly accumulating the detritus of a terminally prejudiced culture is part of a great and storied tradition! My commonplace “book” as often takes the form of scribbled book quotes on scraps of paper bound together with nothing but my fervent intention to one day collate and assemble them.

    Then there are the scattered lists of songs that somehow touch me deeply — a bit of French Musichall, a Heavy Metal piece here, a Conjuntos there, lots of Zimbabwean Gospel, a number of Pop ballads, and the entire canon of forgotten Ciaconnas and Folios. Whatever happened to variations on a ground bass? Depending which list I come upon when, forgotten pieces of myself and my history come back to life courtesy of Youtube. Plus new discoveries to add to my memory lists in the hopes of remembering my current self at some later date.

    The only part of my jotted remembrances that regularly go into an actual book is my dreams. Going back through one of my dream journals is the best way I have found to catch a glimpse of who I was and what thoughts my psyche was pondering or struggling with at that time. Dreams also provide an amazing common ground from which to talk with others about their experience, no matter how irrational. I have often found that the vulnerability in recounting an unresolved dream to another can break through otherwise tenacious ideological abstractions in both of us. Eventually it tends to inspire a reciprocal vulnerability on their part, allowing us to become living commonplace “books” for each other. I don’t know whether the intimacy of sharing dreams leads to trusting the other’s sincerity or whether trust in the other’s sincerity builds enough intimacy to share dreams. Whatever the order, common ground for communication grows.

  76. On a related note, I notice that there is a general tendency for any kind of unorthodox thinking to be shut down, seemingly by fair means or foul. This article on the BBC website today called “Syria war: The online activists pushing conspiracy theories” is a fine example:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-43745629

    The title is already quite remarkable; the phrase “conspiracy theories” is like a dog whistle to the cognoscenti (i.e. those of us fortunate BBC readers to recognise fake news when we see it) so we’re all “in the know” now.

    The article goes on to talk about a certain twitterata who is pushing messages which run counter to the official narrative about what’s going on in Syria. However, the article does not attempt to refute any of what she says, instead it seeks to undermine the writer’s credibility. Having done that, then obviously what she has to say can be safely ignored.

    It’s a classical, if rather blatant, straw man tactic.

  77. I usually keep a diary. Wish I had actually kept more, while growing up. Once it is in the diary, I need not remember the events, unless I want to do so. Really neat.

  78. Phil, whether you got the idea from me or someone else, it’s a useful one.

    Brigyn, glad to hear it.

    Mike, hah! I like that.

    Lore Co, people have been taught, bullied, and pressured into not doing it; they’ve had their capacity to think their own thoughts drowned out by television and Muzak, and they’ve been harassed nonstop by their peers and a gallimaufry of authority figures if they had the temerity to try to make some space for an inner life that wasn’t a clone of everyone else’s. Given that, it’s amazing that so many people still try to do their own thinking.

    Nancy, one of the interesting differences in human mental style is that some people think consciously and others think unconsciously. I gather that you’re one of the latter; so am I. the ordinary processes of thinking go on below the threshold of consciousness, and the answers simply pop up when it’s done, as completely formed thoughts — does this sound familiar? Discursive meditation still works well with that kind of thinking.

    Zhao, by all means spread it around. 😉

    Bonnie, it seems to vary from person to person. I keep my journals longhand, for what it’s worth.

    Dfr1973, you’ve grokked the fullness. As for the headlines, I’m quite sure that Trump’s mother was a hamster — it would explain his hair color — and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that his father smelled of elderberries…

    Dewey, no, you’re missing the point. The cycle that ended in the Renaissance was reflected from another civilization. That’s also normal, and it doesn’t impact the overall cycle much, since it’s limited to the educated elite of the younger society.

    Shane, I’m perfectly willing to let off-color puns slip through. Just make it witty…

    E. Goldstein, I’d like to have t-shirts with some of those!

    Austin, only you can make that call. One possible option would be to treat it as a learning experience, and then take the skills you gain from it and see what you can do with them.

    Kay, glad to hear it. Have fun!

    Dusk Shine, in my experience, children start out thinking entirely in high-level abstractions — think of the way that “goggie” to a toddler means any animal with four feet — and only over time work things down to concrete particulars. You may well have helped some of them make useful steps in that direction.

    Janitor, no doubt!

    Carlos, I’m delighted to hear it. The Catholic church used to have an extremely rich tradition of discursive meditation on the scriptures, which I believe was mostly practiced in monasteries and nunneries but also saw quite a bit of use in tertiary orders. Here in the US, Catholic devotional practice focused for many years on the kind of thing Nancy Sutton mentioned above, which fills the mind with predigested material that functioned to stop thinking rather than encourage it. If the discursive way is being practiced in your church, though, that strikes me as a very good thing, and potentially a step back from a very deep abyss.

    Will, oh, I think a horse laugh is a good answer. That, or something on the order of “that is to say, you finally noticed in 2016 that your beliefs about the world don’t actually make sense. Got it.” As for Trudeau, no doubt; the kind of unconscious hypocrisy by which people insist earnestly on ideals that they’re betraying every minute of their lives is very well developed these days.

    Zak, most interesting. I suspect, for what it’s worth, that people in the US are much deeper into toxic abstraction than most other people in the planet.

    Ray, excellent. I used to get the same effect by taking the train to ASPO events in DC. All the people who’d flown there, or driven alone in their SUVs, got very quiet when I talked about how I’d ridden on the train. Of course I hadn’t grasped in those days how much of what was going on was class snobbery — “You rode the train, with all of those people?” — but it still helped me get certain points across.

    WorkDove, and while all those people are busy chattering about Q Anon, they’re not paying attention to other things. This is old hat; did you by any chance follow the MJ-12 disinformation campaign in the UFO scene, which helped provide protective camouflage in the mid-1980s for the testing and deployment of US stealth aircraft? It’s the same thing — “leaked” information that panders to a range of existing presuppositions among those who might otherwise notice the wrong details. I suspect that some significant foreign policy realignments are in process, and Trump’s people have got to be aware that keeping the ‘Chans and other internet venues distracted is one way to help keep things from being made too public too soon.

    Armata, that’s a stickier metaphor than I’d care to use. 😉

    Discwrites, I’m appalled to hear that rosaries are only used in your end of the Catholic scene at funerals. Prayer beads are first-rate meditative tools, well worth using.

    Robert, your Britishness is showing. “From the get-go” is a common idiom used by adults on this side of the water; if anything, it’s a bit old-fashioned, and you wouldn’t hear it from a teen these days. I’m also constitutionally averse to language policing, and so will probably use it several times in upcoming posts just for the sake of principle!

    Jennifer, did you think Trump, May, and Macron care in the least whether a bunch of Syrians choke to death as a result of an air strike?

    Max, you’re welcome and thank you. As for Mumbai, they’ve been importing those in vast numbers since the 1920s…

    Karim, I don’t know of one. Individuals manage to strike that balance, but societies? It doesn’t seem to be within our collective reach.

    Kay, you’re not the first person to forward that to me! It’s a worthwhile article, and if you want to write the Second Law of Thermodynamics in your commonplace book, that strikes me as a good idea.

    Matthias, no, I’m not going to put three or four hours into chasing down details for you. If you’re interested in these things, do the research yourself; if you come to a different conclusion than I did, that’s fine, too.

    Richard, if you’ll go back to the post, and perhaps take a deep breath, you might notice that all I said was that none of the governments involved had offered significant evidence for their claims about the alleged incident. At the time I wrote, furthermore, that was quite true.
    It’s entirely possible that the truth of the matter will come out sooner or later, but, er, who did what to whom wasn’t the point of that discussion, you know.

    Violet, good. The distinction you’ve drawn — between the abstract ideology of transgenderism and the anecdotal fact that some people these days feel alienated from the physical gender of their bodies — is exactly what I’ve been trying to talk about, and the point you’ve made about accepting the anecdotal reality without embracing the ideology is one of the places this discussion is heading.

    Greg, I meditate daily in a chair, wearing pajamas and a bathrobe. It’s always worked for me. 😉 As for the link, I wonder why common sense is finally starting to trickle through the cracks in the myth of progress. Hmm…

  79. Indeed Joel, sometimes I wish society was more open to the idea of making sure that the right kind of people have children.

  80. Hi JMG, thanks for the response. I thought it to be a good opportunity to share some truth with your audience about something you had mentioned, but to me was left ambiguous. I hope my intention was appropriate for the conversation.

  81. The recent cruise missile strikes, just like the ones last year, were very effective at keeping the warmonger faction in Washington satisfied until the next regularly scheduled alleged chemical attack rolls around, which is what Trump wanted the whole time.

  82. In addition to “The world is not whatever you want it to be.”, I suggest another aphorism. Others will refuse to be what you want them to be.
    Borrowed from that great messianic leader Bob Marley.

    We refuse to be
    What you wanted us to be
    We are what we are
    That’s the way it’s going to be,

    My feeling after 66 year of living is that more and more peoples emotional lives are consumed with trying to make others what they want them to be. I think this is mostly due to modern communications which is devoted to organizing people against others, to make others what they want them to be, fueled by resentment That motive being driven by profit.

    I’ve got little time for such things, but it’s a fight to avoid it I admit. Up to and including gender issues in recent post adolescents. Nor do I have any illusions that this growing obsession with groups trying to reform or dominate other groups is going to end, or end well anyway. Admittedly that’s easy enough for me as by choice and luck I have stayed out of harms way, so far. I do sympathize with those in harms way, under the bombs or dreading ICE at the door.

    PS. I suppose it would be impossible to assign a number to posts in this forum which is a shame. Even finding ones post or noting others you would like to see the response to is tedious to nigh impossible.

  83. Thank you for this, one of your best essays for a long time.

    I have kept a commonplace book for many years and have a continuous set going back to 1998. They include notes on some of your articles and books, notably The Long Descent, which have influenced me deeply. The process of reading, reflecting and note-taking is a meditative practice that – along with others – has helped to sustain me through some very hard times.

    A Christian book on journalling I read early on offered good advice, notably to avoid too much ruminating and tail-chasing – it is easy to becoming solipsistic or plain depressed – and the importance of bound notebooks (not spiral bound) and numbered pages, to avoid the temptation to edit and purge. For this reason alone, electronic devices are not a good medium for commonplace books. Other reasons include the the many tempting and addictive distractions they offer and also their short product lives. I seem to remember that back in 1998 we had something called ‘floppy disks’…

    Alan Paxton

  84. I am interested in some of the elaborations in this post on the interlocking of historical cycles. It is a bit tricky that their are several difference cycles, and they don’t seem obliged to stay scyncronized with each other to a high degree of precission. The notion that the Renassance was to a significant degree a non-western phenomena makes plenty of sense to me; I mean the fracking name is a clue enough that its roots were older than that; the various early meaning of ‘romance’ in art, literature, and philosophy is another strong hint. That being said even in the intelectural hights of the renassance I feel as though the Faustian foundation was already showing its effects, for instance perspective in painting.

    But even as the bulk of the upper class took of the values of the Near Eastern centers of learning, there must have been an updraft of pollination from the masses, as the Faustian was taking form.

    This makes me think ever so much of America. Any person of class is to a great degree Faustian, European in affect, but toward the bottom there is a cut off where immitation of those values and traditions loses it’s charm, and there is emmense creativity and experimentation.

    I tend to think of cultural sessession like that in a forest. The old oaks will only live so long, and there is constantly new sprouts germinating. Who is to say which sprout will be left each new spring?

    So much the art that captivates me gradually moves toward being rap and hip-hop; as opposed to punk or metal. Punk and Metal I think both have a more Western origin, a late and deeply ironic and layered, sophisticated nature. Even in vulgarity there is a wink and a nod about the whole thing. And of course the same can be said of many many works classified as rap or hip hop. Or even Rock and Roll, which decended from blues is very difficult to abstract about. But, blues and rap both have a deep root into something that isn’t passed down, but is sprouted up. Obviously times being as they are race is often inserted into the conversation, and it has a limited place, very limited, but class I think works better. Consider Detroit, post automotive era, it produced several white rappers, Emenem and ICP being the most notiable for my purposes, because it was a city where white parts of the population were whammied to the critical mass that can give birth to a dancing star. ICP in particular has a semi religious flavor to it, for better and for worse; and it is a harsh world there, and a rough place to be; but there is a spark there of something that might grow. Or might not. Music as it puts down roots is quickly transplanted into it places assined by the culture, getting signed they say, but the magic of the whole thing keeps playing and struggling for a shape that is true to its soul. Individuals as listeners or players of music participate in this at a level the conscious mind grasps about in, like walking through a pitch black night. To me I see two main non western threads. The first is a continuing aftershock of the Romantic, on desplay in ‘folk’, ‘new age’ and ‘hippieness’ even if a psudomorphious romanticisn is a deeply integrated in jection into Westernism as a whole. On the other is novel to the current era, and too young to clearly classify, it hasnt’ ossified enough to classify. You feel it in many places, that by catagories ought not over lap; and yet they do.

  85. Joel:

    I’m appalled by the kindergarten teacher who keeps Legos from the little boys in her class. What a stupid, stupid idea. I have three sons and well into their teens they lived and breathed Legos; we had buckets full of the things. Best toy ever. I can’t imagine taking such terrific toys away from any kid in order to score ‘woke’ points. Apparently, conforming to faddish ideology trumps common sense these days.

  86. As a gay man who came of age in the 90s, right before protease inhibitors came on the scene, I’m kinda saddened that a lot of “butch dykes” and “flaming fags” aren’t comfortable in their own skins and feel the need to transition. I had the opportunity to transition around ’04, and am glad I didn’t go down that path.

  87. Thanks JMG for your reply. I had already copied one or two other things out of that article as well to paste into my commonplace book. 😉

  88. @Frank,
    umm, regardless of what the guy believes or doesn’t believe regarding global warming, fact is, his carbon footprint is way lower than most westerners. That makes him head and shoulders above any jetsetting, SUV driving climate activist. Maybe you should just ask him where his beliefs are regarding those issues, and listen when he tells you.

  89. It seems to me that Trump was caught between a rock and a hard place, with the hardliners in his own government demanding military action against Syria for an incident that may or may not have been a false flag, and the Russians threatening to retaliate if their forces we’re put in harm’s way.

    So Trump carried out a missile strike that was just enough to appease the hardliners while avoiding a confrontation with Russia or an escalation of US involvement. I’d say he did a pretty good job of running the narrows on that one. He’s a lot smarter and more clever than his detractors give him credit for.

  90. @Shane W, April 20, 2018 at 2:59 am:
    Yes, I agree; actions definetely speak louder than words. It´s not that I want to convince him of my views or that I can´t tolerate his beliefs (he also believes in chemtrails, which I think is nonsense…), it´s that I want to get along with him without our conversations becoming those discussions that lead nowhere. How do I find and stick to the common places between him and me?
    greetings
    Frank from Germany

  91. Re: Q-Anon:

    I listen regularly to a podcast where the two hosts have a deep interest in conspiracies (amongst other things), and at least one of the hosts is of the opinion that Q (at least the present Q) is a psy-op done to turn Mr. Trump into a messianic figure. And, having checked out Q, I can see that as true.

  92. Re “from the get-go” – I honestly never knew it was old hat in America. I reckon I’ll have to get used to it, though curiosity makes me wonder what motivated the change from “outset” to “get-go”. Anyhow, for the record, I’m not the slightest bit anti-American-idiom; indeed I am well aware that you Americans in one important respect have a better command of English than we Brits do – namely, you grasp that the words “mile” and “inch” fit better into the cadences of an English sentence than do the gross cacophonies “kilometer” and “centimeter”. Apologies for going off-topic, if it is off-topic.

  93. @Ezra,
    I wouldn’t be so sure. I saw a lot of neocon hawks in the headlines clamoring for more. Lindsey Graham coming out of a Senate committee saying our actions in Syria are woefully inadequate. Dubya coming out of retirement to say that Putin needs a firm response and is a serious threat, and an editorial by a well-known talking head clamoring “to dust off shock and awe”, in her words.

  94. Rapier et al
    Your comment – it has been mentioned before – finding your way up and down among the many comments on this blog.

    We should mention from time to time the tip that someone supplied a while back. Ctrl + f then type in the name (unless it is phil – there is quite a lot of philosophy writing on this blog. Smile). There is even a little bar column on the far RH side of the page

    best
    Phil H

  95. JMG
    Just a thought about the future of paper. When I started it was war-time British rationing and scarcity and we saved among many things string and brown paper and soap remnants. White paper notebooks were scarce and high value and sharpening a pencil an early skill. Paper making on an industrial scale – low unit cost – had been, a generation or so before, a highly destructive process and required much flowing water. Forty years ago wife and I lived on – almost literally – the South Esk near Edinburgh. The river had just about recovered from the Victorian paper-making episode. ‘Civilisation’ is going to need carefully rethinking paper otherwise mass literacy if we retain it is about slates and sand trays and the family Bible.

    bet
    Phil H

  96. Hi John Michael,

    You know, I reckon people can know something in the abstract. But then I reckon it is an entirely different thing to have experience with the realities of the abstract concept. Like look at gardening, I can read gardening books until the cows come home, but until I’ve chucked the seed in the ground, watched it grow, harvested the produce and saved the seeds for the next season or five, well mate, I can’t really say that I know something about the plants story, and that is despite having heaps of abstract knowledge on the subject. I read an account of an old school farmer complaining bitterly to a group of folks about that very matter and he said something along the lines of: “I don’t see anyone ’round here with dirt under their fingernails”. An astute observation which may perhaps have been lost on the assembled folks?

    I note that mystery schools also employ the commonplace book. Hey, I’m with you too, in that I love the long form mode of communication and dialogue. I should get to half a million words this year (excluding the extensive comments), although I’m not counting, well maybe not… Hehe! How the heck complex subjects could ever be discussed in easily digestible sound bites is something that is well beyond my understanding. 😀 I reckon sound bites are easily recalled and possibly full of emotional content, but not much else. Alas for my awful cynicism…

    It is heading towards winter here, and the nights are becoming cool and clear. There is not much light pollution around so when I look up at the sky on those dark clear cool nights I can see the Milky Way Galaxy in its glory, and also the little blob off to the side that is the Andromeda galaxy. Of course I realise in the abstract that those little pin points of light in the sky are stars and the fat one is a galaxy, but other than that I couldn’t tell what would possibly be seen from a planet circling around those stars. The only star I can speak of is our own sun. The rest are abstract, although that doesn’t make them any less real, it is just that I’ll never know more than that about them – and being a planet dweller with no desire to head off into space, I probably don’t need to know more about them.

    Incidentally, I’m frankly curious. Over the years you have had people commenting about all sorts of apocalyptic endings and I do realise that you have written an authoritative book on the subject. Has anyone ever suggested to you in all seriousness that they are worried that the Andromeda galaxy is predicted to crash into the Milky Way galaxy in, oh about 3.75 billion years? I’m not suggesting that people do this, but still I have seen a few wacky worries commented upon over the years!

    Cheers

    Chris

  97. I have indeed started to look at some original Renaissance texts, such as Pico della Mirandola’s Discourse on the Dignity of Man, but I’m not sure yet if the texts I am looking for do in fact exist. The Batte of the Books seems to have been a dispute about the merit of ancient vs. contemporary literature, not about abstract vs. reflective thinking.

    Overall, it seems to me that you are more interested in using models of history as metaphors or images than in discussing their intrinsic merit, but that is your right, of course.

  98. First, re: the tangent on health care that doesn’t care about health: I spotted a relevant article a little while back: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/04/curing-disease-not-a-sustainable-business-model-goldman-sachs-analysts-say/

    Not exactly surprising, per se, but I’m not used to seeing it so baldly stated.

    JMG, Dusk Shine:

    in my experience, children start out thinking entirely in high-level abstractions — think of the way that “goggie” to a toddler means any animal with four feet — and only over time work things down to concrete particulars.

    So… children start off in an age of abstraction and slowly develop to an age of reflection? *impish grin*

    (That would be consistent with some of my musings about taking the life cycle of egregores and cultures a little more literally – the late development of cultures in particular has been reminding me of senescence in biological organisms.)

    Ray: The transition between Faustian culture and a more native American culture is going to be interesting, especially since I suspect it’s going to be somewhat of an outlier. (To grab one of my preferred frames, the big patterns are running into historical contingencies.)

    In particular, one major historical contingency in the case of America is that the local culture that the Faustian is overlaid on is extremely nascent; only the Apollonian-Magian transition comes close in terms of how new the rising culture is. Exactly how nascent the Fractal? culture is is an open question, and I think depends on whether Christianity mutates or is supplanted – I suspect it will develop faster in the former case. Either way, I suspect it will start manifesting in earnest during the next burst of American spirituality (~2040-2050), probably in Texas.

    (I think I can feel at least part of one of the rising North American core myths, at least dimly: I’ve seen a *lot* of works lately tapping into what I’ve been calling the Assumption into the Alien arc (person meets {surrogate parental figure/love interest} from the Otherworld and follows them home, becoming a full member of the Otherworld). Christ becoming the protagonist of that myth is a distinct possibility, especially since I’m apparently not the only person tapping into “Christ married to the goddess of death” lately.)

  99. Ray Wharton-if you’re a rap fan, have you listened to Gilbert and Sullivan? My older son likes rap and was quite charmed by the old version called patter songs. (I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General was a particular favorite-I think because the same topic could be satirized in the same words today-though there’s the bonus of the shock value of telling his friends he loves Victorian Rap Music.) It’s a shame modern rap lyricists are not as articulate as that!

    In regards to communication, perhaps the best use of this finding of common ground is to get away from politics entirely! We need new fences. North neighbors also need new fences. South neighbors’ fence needs replacing, but they have no need for a fence. North neighbors are easy to talk to-fence must exclude livestock but allow our children: shared values are our livestock not in each other’s gardens and children not going next door via the highway we live on. South neighbors have neither livestock nor children-the youngest grandchild is in his early twenties. Aproching them about splitting the cost of the property line fence-which does improve their property-is thus harder than North Neighbor, where we’re currently discussing materials and gate location.
    None of this discussion necessitates political topics, however, as we chose to live in an area where the county doesn’t give a darn about fences and there’s no other authority who may.

  100. Yes, John, the thoughts ‘appear’ from ‘somewhere’… I can’t say what the ‘where’ is … in fact, my ‘ruminative/discursive’ process seems to not be especially helpful to my ‘learning’… apparently coming from my ‘default mode system’, which seems to do a lot more than drive the car when my mind wanders. The neurologist Carhart-Harris’ hypothesis for the effects of psylocibin, at the end of this long article, resonates with my regular (non psychedelic 🙂 experience.
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/09/trip-treatment
    In addition to Jill Bolton’s experience with left vs right brain function…

  101. What I find happens when I write things down is an impoverishment of the original experience or thought. When I live a special moment, or am struck by something I read or hear, there is a sea of connotations and potentials, meanings going off in all directions like endless possibilities that one is free to follow at will. When something is written down, it constricts the experience into the prison of the few, inadequate words possible because I must choose one or a few of the possibilities.

    When I reread things I have written down, the original feeling I had is lost, and I think, No, No, that’s not right, that’s not what that was about! There is some usefulness in wondering why I chose that perspective at that moment, I suppose, though that is all I have and the rest is lost to poor memory, and there is no doubt a meditation in there on the act of creating from the source of endless potential, but when I review my writing much later, I am invariably disappointed at the narrowness of it all. Maybe I need to become a better writer… Maybe a poet?

  102. So the standardization of school textbooks and curricula in the 1960’s, aka modernization they called it at the time, and the rolling out of Common Core in the 2010’s was all about our bureaucratic overlords dictating the commonplace. The standardization of curricula has certainly limited the conversation and made us impotent in creative problem-solving, and inventions.

    Scientists don’t make scientific breakthroughs, except by accident. Children in science fairs have more breakthroughs than people with PhD’s it seems like.

  103. Since the issue of transgender has come up…. The casualness with which transgender surgery is viewed now reminds me of the popularity of lobotomies back in the 1950s. One physician, Walter Jackson Freeman II, traveled the country in a van doing lobotomies for a small fee, sometimes on children. What people in one decade view as grotesque or bizarre, can become “the norm” more quickly than we realize, and vice-versa. Are people who disdain lobotomies “lobotophobes”?

  104. Since Britain’s invasion of Iraq in 1914, right when coal in Britain peaked in 1913, the Middle East has hardly lived a peaceful year.

    Couldn’t the World find a solution since then for the predicament of energy and leave the Middle East and its resources alone?

    The problem is, actually, in Physics: Humans require more fossil fuels energy than the useful energy their processes ever produce. This means we’ll never have enough energy.

    Now we’re after the Middle East since 1914. In the future, we’ll be after the Middle East of its Sunshine!

  105. Joel,

    I’d be rather hesitant to blame soy for the issues with transgender individuals becoming more common, since as I understand it has been a staple of East Asian cuisine for centuries. If it truly messes with humans in such a way, East Asians should have a very large number of transgender male-female individuals.

    I think it’s an excuse to explain the problem, without addressing the most likely cause: industrial pollution. It’s part of a broader pattern I’ve noticed: people seem determined to avoid admitting anything that affects human beings is the result of pollution. I’ve seen plenty of people talk about how pollution is messing up animal endocrine systems, producing similar results to transgender individuals, but suggest humans might be affected to and there are any number of dodges to explain why that’s impossible.

  106. Regarding transgenderism and Violet’s comments.

    Any time they use urgent tactics to hurry people into important decisions, beware. This goes for a cancer diagnosis and the way people are hurried and scared into taking chemotherapy (a fraud in my opinion).
    There are obvious reasons why immature people should not be making these irreversible decisions but the main one is that 90% of those with gender dysphoria outgrow it and puberty is the cure.

    It was for me. I was deeply disappointed to have been a girl as a child, and my interests were male. I found it frustrating that even though I fulfilled my goals of being strong, fast and brave, it never really mattered because I was a girl. I thank God that no one got ahold of me and told me falsities about the ability of modern medicine to make me a male.

    Oddly, I was romantically attracted to boys in a way that most girls are not. I also knew I wanted children some day, perhaps because it never occurred to me to entertain the idea that I was not a girl.

    I outcompeted the boys (as was my goal) in the above traits until I hit puberty. I watched as the hormones kicked in and overtook my feeling nature and reconciled my dysphoria. I loved boys and like I said, always wanted children, so perhaps it was not so difficult, but it was a bit weird.

    Of course people occur on spectrums, so no doubt my male identity was more than compensated by some sufficient amount of biological normality and this is no doubt precisely why puberty solves the issue for 90% of gender dysphoric children. But to build up feelings of dissatisfaction, to propagandize young people that they OUGHT to feel permanently cheated by life will prevent that nice, smooth resolution from occurring.

    Motherhood has been far and away the most fulfilling aspect of my life although I can’t really divorce that from who I am intellectually. I feel almost as compelled to preside over the upbringing of my grandchildren as I did my own children.

    I keep returning to the thought that a belief in reincarnation could do more to help people reconcile than physical changes. It will not work for everyone of course, but I wish that as a child I had had the understanding that I had probably recently been a male or perhaps had a tendency to incarnate as a male and that this life was a balancing on a longer soul journey. That if I had a strong desire to fulfill myself as a male it was not closed to me, but could be done at the next go round.

    I’m not at all negating that perhaps I had more exposure to testosterone in utero and am quite interested in endocrine disrupters and other modern problems that may be increasing gender confusion. But I think the psyche should be taken into account also.

    Violet, some time ago you had expressed some regret and used the word castration. I suppose in the end you’ve got some ambivalence about it?

  107. JMG, I wonder what your thoughts are on Jordan Peterson. His 12 Rules for Life are presented as an antidote to chaos but they sound to me like an antidote to modern abstractions and the foolishness that ensues. He brings numerous discussions back to facts, although many may not agree with his description of the facts. Still, I detected more than a little Burkean conservatism there and wondered if you might be kindred spirits. What’s your take?

  108. Hi JMG,

    Thank you for a very interesting and insightful post. One of my thoughts, as I was reading through, was the last thought of your essay – how is a person mired in the swamp of abstraction, where one’s thoughts are largely just recycled content from one’s society, supposed to develop a unique inner life? How does one learn to reflect if all one has ever known is how to parrot back abstract concepts that someone else has told them about?

    I didn’t realize it until I read your post, but I’ve kept a commonplace book for as long as I can remember. I attribute that habit, at least in part, to having a lot of difficult feelings to deal with as a child, and nobody to talk to them about. I took to writing everything down, and it became so helpful that I just never stopped doing it. Over time the content changed and it became less about my own angst-ridden personal feelings and more about stuff going on in the world around me, and about the intersection of those two things.

    I laugh a bit when I think of my daughter, who has I would estimate about three or four commonplace books going on at any given moment. She literally will not leave the house without one of them. We were on our way to karate at the YMCA last night and I noticed she was lagging a bit behind the rest of us, so I turned to find out where she was. She was walking down the hallway writing in her book not paying any attention to where she was going; people were dodging her and giving her some looks but she just kept on writing. She will not only write about herself, but write stories about people like herself, and also draw pictures and cartoons to illustrate her thoughts. All I ever remember saying to her, at some point when she was younger, was to write down her difficult feelings if they were overwhelming and she didn’t quite feel like talking about them. She seems to have really run with that idea.

    So I’m guessing that the world of feeling is where the raw material comes from, at least in part. Feelings coming up that are upsetting or interesting to the subconscious mind for one reason or another. This is what would result if instead of just burying feelings, one chose to explore them instead. The subconscious seems to be the link to one’s higher self; to the symbolic language of archetype and myth. I get the feeling that my higher self would very much like to talk to me and teach me things. If I’m too busy watching TV or otherwise not paying attention to my inner world, I won’t be able to hear it. But if all of a sudden I was taught to actively seek out the guidance of the higher self, and to pay attention to its little subtle cues and messages that are communicated through my day-to-day life, that would be most interesting. That’s what seems to be the underlying message of the commonplace book: there is great value to be found in paying attention to yourself, your feelings, and the things going on in the world around you.

    I think kids start off being very open to their inner world and the guidance of their higher self, but are usually taught to ignore it all as they grow up, to the point where they become largely numb to that kind of inner guidance and wisdom. That’s probably the main thing I hope to teach my own kids about – how to keep in touch with that inner world. How, like we talked about last week, they each have the capacity for greatness – a unique gift to discover, nurture and hopefully eventually embody with their whole life.

  109. Dear Frank in Germany,

    Hmm. I do believe in some sort of evolution but not the Darwinian sort, and I do not believe in climate change. And I am puzzled that this would stop you from talking with me. I rather think it ought to give us something to talk about. You say that you cannot speak because they are so central to your world view. This to me says you cannot mentally entertain that there might actually be aspects to these theories that you do not know.

    I’ve no idea what sort of person you think ought to think as I do. I have a very low carbon footprint, do not own a television, and I garden. I’m not capable of being held by any religion by I think we live in a divine universe in which all things are connected. I think that consciousness precedes matter. I read a lot and think a lot. I’m neither conservative nor liberal.
    Perhaps my problem is that I never, and I do mean never, accept anything upon authority but only once I think I understand it. Therefore, I tend to delve. When I find that there are disagreements on topics of interest, I start to investigate.

    I do realize though, that there are just too many rabbit holes.

  110. Robert Gibson,

    I could google it, but I am going to guess that the origin is:
    On your mark,
    Get set,
    Go!

    We used to say this as kids when we raced each other.

    As to mile and inch, oh dear, I had not considered the mangling of some good expressions that converting to the metric system would entail.

    Give him an centimeter and he’ll take a kilometer.
    Walk a kilometer in his shoes.

  111. @rapier: if you use a browser that allows you to opt out of the Page Style, the posts ARE numbered. I use the key sequence View–> Page Style–> No Style.
    Also, if you save the post for offline reading, you can open two windows each with the same page. Search Page One for ‘Greer says” to pop to JMG’s responses; on Page Two, search for the use-name of posters.

  112. JMG “Nancy, one of the interesting differences in human mental style is that some people think consciously and others think unconsciously.”

    I do both. What was it you were saying about either/or?

  113. Myriam “What I find happens when I write things down is an impoverishment of the original experience or thought. ”

    How are you writing? If written in a way that brings back the experience instead of ossifying ideas could it help?

    Concision is my preference. Only the essential. From that extend. Any when (except before, rules you know).

  114. Our Stolen Future, by Theo Colborn is pertinent.
    http://www.ourstolenfuture.com/

    In classical toxicology one toxic is studied alone. Variables are few and can be controlled, statistics appear to work.

    If more toxics are present (typical pharma) variables extend logarithmically and “science” becomes improbable.

    I prefer anececdotal science. It is more difficult and requires honest less biased observation. It is not bound by statistics. It is seldom taught.

    <<<>>>

    I was in the high Arctic north of Canada and Alaska for the summers of ’67 and ’68. There was ice everywhere, polar bears were common. Now I look at pictures from that area and it is upsetting, I shiver not because of the reminder of forever cold but because it is so strange to me. This change is now what has become common. I read
    http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/
    and the Inuit don’t even mention it any more, it is the new normal. They do mention the ice on the roads and the floods that just didn’t happen because it was too cold but no longer say it is new because it isn’t.

    I’m not to sure I care much about the why of the change but I strangely deeply miss that lost universe so foreign to here and now.

  115. In my despondence over “losing” dyke friends to FTM, I’m kinda baffled because at least two of them were not really that butch in the first place. One friend, who I introduced to his wife 20 years ago–who was a childhood friend of mine, was not the most butch one–he likes needlepoint and other handicrafts, has a much more feminine voice and appearance than my childhood friend, who played softball. I must admit, I was kind of baffled when he told me. Funny thing is, he is a very buttoned down, anal retentive attorney, and it’s very interesting to me, I can’t help feeling like it might be his mid-life crisis, cis males buy metal penises, I mean sports cars and have affairs w/20 year olds, and my friend is now FTM.
    Oh, and straights aren’t the only one who have issues w/trans genitalia, penises are A BIG DEAL for me and a lot of the gay guys I know. While I’ve been attracted to FTM’s and would be involved w/one, penises are still important to me.

  116. My commonplace books are mostly full of my poetry, some made it to songs, along with a bit of my history. The songs that I like are typed with the letter of the chord, and I remember the melody. I am listening to Holly Bowling play Grateful Dead songs on a grand piano. I saw her name in a recent notebook for this music, which came today. I like the coincidental nature of your writing, the comments, and my own processing of this mood. My songs often had references to magic, insight, seeking, and nature, among other topics. I would write them to teach and remind me of what I am about, in my best moments, and what to aspire to, when I need help. One of my major topics is the study of consciousness, begun at an early age. Another is my version of paradigm shifts, from the size of the universe during my lifetime, big and small, to the changes in our imaginations as well. I started noting in my recent poems the wisdom and knowledge that I notice here and a few other places on the internet. Along with the shadow and my day to day experiences, I record, longhand. In the past year, I have finished two notebooks, almost two hundred pages, only one or two with chords, a huge backlog of walking through and reading to find the rhyme and/or rhythms, enough to see if I like it enough to sing. It is much the same with folk songs, and folk music has braided strands of songs through time, which put my own attempts into perspective. The common place for much music is in playing the way of the genres of the instrument, and all the kinds of music you hear. Having lived with the music of the second half of the 20th century, I find I can listen to listen to the Beatles White Album and be amazed at all the influences alluded to in it, and it can be woven into what I see today in this part of the arid west. I like both kinds of music, country and western.

  117. This post sounds a bit like negotiation 101. When you’re trying to reach a deal, you settle on the facts everyone can agree on first, and the sources everyone views as trustworthy. I’ve always felt like that’s a useful skill to have in any conversation, not just in negotiations.

  118. @ onething, I do feel ambivalent. I certainly wouldn’t choose to transition now knowing what I do, but if there was a method of restoring what was lost I don’t think I would go for it either. I actually am deeply alienated from my physical gender and my altered body is a relief in many regards. That being said, I think transgenderism, as an ideology, is incoherent and extremely harmful. I believe that learning to live with oneself in wholeness is better than cutting off parts of oneself, literally or figuratively. That said, my choices are already made, so I can give them all sorts of post-hoc rationalizations but can’t change them.

    Of course this is all rather ghastly; like bad sci-fi. I imagine there are people reading this in utter disgust and I am sympathetic to those people. What I’m saying is weird, extreme and highly questionable. That being noted, I’ve discouraged many people from transitioning based on my experiences and have let many others know that I have serious misgivings and regrets. The thing is, I don’t only have misgivings and regrets; there are parts of my trans experience that I have loved and still love, and very deeply and affectionately. It is what started me on the spiritual path in this life and through this suffering and irony and identity issues and admitting I was utterly wrong to everyone close to me, I have learned a great deal and grown as a person. I laugh more now and am more courageous. If I deny these aspects of the experience I am lying as equally as if I deny the problematic and grotesque aspects. Ultimately I think that life is strange, people are complex and things don’t have to make sense.

    Do I think that the bad outweighs the good or vice versa? Honestly I don’t know; I take some comfort in my faith in reincarnation and more in experiences of mystic union. My experiences of youthful folly are what they are, and are no more and no less. I hope that in future lives I may be free from returning to this experience, but if I were to return to transgenderism or being third gender or a eunuch so be it. Life is still beautiful, worthwhile and rewarding even with suffering, limitations and mistakes.

  119. @Pretentious

    I dig what you are seeing too. I have been noticing that there are alot of popular alternative narratives that seem very much like a mutated Scientology. Which it bears mentioning has certain overlaps with Mormonism as a North American religion. In fact if I were betting on Christianity to transition into the new culture I would guess that some of the Alien metaphophiouses of Mormonism as leading strains in the Anglo derived cultures. I think of the early phase of a culture alot like a log being colonized by a species of mushroom. At first there are many spores, each a different child, over time they develope into a single organism with a particular character distinct from others of i’s kind. So, there are a thousand threads becoming something I know not what, and there are certain feelings that are clues, but the symbolic on our world, including the words and imagery you and I have access to in order to communicate are all so strongly flavored by the Faustian overlay that it is hard to get to the common place common people that might give birth to something new. A feeling I can point to is the sense I get from being in a rural white communty, and its overlay with a feeling I get among the Navajo, and a feeling I get from certain blue collar black men I know. I am devoid of words but there is a feeling that is the same. A certain humor, a certain feeling for the world. Something religious, but not yet timed to our speaking of religion.

    @Boysmom

    Oh yeah, Gilbert and Silivan are my jam. I could actually do a pretty good recitation of Modern Major General a decade ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seGpYa8UO0E is a reinterpretation of some comedic value. I think in both cases it is an interest with poetry, which in todays world might as well go along with a beat. Rap is, among other things, a stage where modern poetic meters are rapidly evolving. The amount of play with off rhymes is particularly interesting, it interests me that so many words which don’t rhyme proasically will do so in a good bar. Makes me question the strength of historical research on pronuciation. Also, you are on point about avoiding politics, the group I mentioned with the guideline against eco shaming has a second rule against party politics.

  120. Out of town, have not caught up on the comments yet, but it came to me today that a Book of Shadows is simply a specialized Commonplace Book, pretentiously presented, just as a Grimoire is simply a Magical Cookbook.

  121. Jen – know where you’re coming from. I tried to mix my grocery & to-do lists book with the more serious notebook and it just did not work. Now I have one of little spiral-bound one-subject notebooks for the lists etc, of a size that slips into my purse, and anything worth noting will go into the commonplace book at the end of the day.

    Pat

  122. Myriam, my sense of writing is similar to yours: I find that writing hugely diminishes the original experience. “Words get in the way!” to coin a catch-phrase. Others seem to find that words and sentences smooth the path to understanding something. For me, they make that path noticeably rougher and harder to traverse.

    There are probably several reasons for that, at least in my own case. The main reason is that I don’t habitually do my own thinking in sentences at all (nor in pictures, for that matter), but in things like schemata, diagrams, charts, networks, movements, and other patterns. There can be labels placed systematically on these patterns and movements, of course, and labels are symbols; but often as not, the symbols I use to label things are not words, either. These patterns can be static, but more often they are dynamic; they change and develop as thought unrolls. Memory, too, the same character for me: it is primarily non-verbal. The only long-term memories I have that are primarily verbal are memories of stories that I myself have carefully crafted over the years, telling and retelling them when the occasion has arisen, until they becomes effortless to retell. Verbal memories, when they do form, fade out far more rapidly than any other sort of memory I have.

    When I want to have a thoughtful conversation of any depth with others, of course I need to use sentences; but as I converse using language, inside I am very rapidly “translating” some part of the labeled pattern before my mind’s eye into sentences. As a professor, I earned my living partly by lecturing, but my usual way of lecturing was (a) to build a labeled pattern in class on some sort of surface such as a blackboard, or (b) building a verbal narrative as I allow some previously constructed “scenario” to unfold before my mind during the lecture — in effect, a labeled pattern that unfolds and develops as I “watch” it.

    Even as a child — I was a fairly solitary and self-sufficient child — I naturally thought in labeled patterns, not in sentences. Sentences and words always struck me as malformed, slightly “anti-natural” things. They had an unpleasant “stench” to them. I have always needed significantly more silence every day than most people seem to. Processing too much noise, including conversation that is basically just “phatic communion,” wears me down, and I become all “talked out” and “peopled out” far more easily than most folk I know.

    A strong subsidiary reason was that the single most important, most “real” experience of my entire life so far was a truly ineffable one, that is, it was wholly beyond the power of any words or sentences in any language I know to even hint at its nature. For such an experience, too, “words get in the way”!

    (I was about 13 at the time. It lasted about seven hours, from about 8 am to about 3 pm. A tiny part of me dealt competently enough with the business of my school-day; the rest of me–a “rest of me” that I had not known existed until then–was perceiving, without the use of any recognized bodily senses, the whole cosmos in every fine detail as more “real” than our reality, perceiving all of it without any limits of time or space. I would misrepresent and severely diminish this cosmos even if I merely said of it that it “exists” or that it “is.” I was wholly unprepared for the experience. — My perception of this cosmos seemed hugely “muted,” and yet its impact and power and “brilliance” and “life” were far greater than anything I had ever experienced, or thought possible. If I had perceived it in its fullness, I suppose it would have disintegrated me. I would have gone “poof” in an instant, my dust would have blown away on the wind, and no one would ever know what had become of me. — And that’s really about all there is to say about my experience. It was rather like trying to drink from a fire-hose in full blast without getting one’s lips torn off. There was so much there, and I I could drink none of it, and I carried away with me not even one tiny piece of specific knowledge from all that was laid open to my perception during those hours.)

  123. OT, but regarding the recent news about Allegiant and Southwest, I’m wondering if we’re hitting some sort of peak oil critical mass regarding airlines. Of course, for years, people have been unwilling to pay the cost for a decently served airfare, and airlines are notorious for fees and poor service. Ah well, you get what you pay for, and no one’s entitled to cheap airfare that comes w/1960s airline amenities, but now, I’m wondering if we’re entering a whole nother ballgame whereby discount airfare doesn’t even pay for basic maintenance of the planes to keep deadly accidents from happening. All the crapification of everything that peak oil and Limits to Growth predicted.
    @pretentious…
    Living in the Bible Belt, my vote is for a collapse of Christianity in the coming decades as we go through a political/liberal cycle in the fundamentalist/liberal cycles of religion that JMG has discussed going back to colonial times. Evangelicals are all over the map w/their beliefs, and very fickle, and evangelical leaders are very alarmed by this. Not to mention the backlash among a lot of younger evangelicals about their elders playing Ayn Rand politics for the last 30 years. My vote is for Norse paganism–it is very popular among the working class, and very vibrant and alive spiritually in a way that Christianity isn’t, even, if not especially, here in the Bible Belt. Norse I know have real, vibrant relationships/connections w/Thor, Odin, & Freyja that most Christians don’t. The passion is there.
    About gender, I just wish it was okay to be outside the gender norm without needing to undergo gender reassignment and hormone therapy. Yes, I may pass as female on the phone and have a feminine mindset at times, but I also like having a penis and red body hair, thank you very much. That should be okay.
    I wouldn’t underestimate Trump’s understanding of his base. I think he knows that his base is battle fatigued, and tired of their children coming back maimed and mentally scarred. I think he knows that the next war will be that terminal war that jeopardizes the nation, which is why he’s pushing back against the neocons establishment. I wouldn’t put it past him–he seems to have his thumb on the pulse of his base.

  124. @onething, April 20, 2018 at 7:11 pm:
    I think there is a misunderstanding here: it would not (and does not) stop me from talking to you, it just stops me discussing these matters with you beyond stating that I take these things as facts (that does not mean that I think these theories are flawless), because I cannot see anything useful coming out of that: as much as I do not want to convincve others of my views, I do not want others to try and convince me of theirs (as I feel my new acquaintance is sometimes trying to do). I think it´s a bit like discussing religious beliefs: there is no point in trying to convince someone else of your own beliefs.
    I accept the scientifc method (properly done) as a tool to find out how (a part of) the world is working. If someone rejects that, that´s fine by me, but there will be a whole lot of subjects that I cannot productively talk with them about.
    Like I said to Shane, I simply want to find the common places between him and me.
    greetings
    Frank from Germany

  125. @Shane W, April 20, 2018 at 2:59 am:
    as a p.s.: I did listen to him. As for climate change he thinks it´s a conspiracy of the alternative energy industry to sell their wind turbines and solar panels. It doesn´t convince me.
    greetings
    Frank from Germany

  126. There have been interesting takes this week on gender, maturation and orientation in the USA. Is it becoming an issue also in modern Japan? In Britain, the 1950s attitudes of my own era can seem a world away – for both good and ill – even if I am not sure of the actual gender realities, or the extent or range of orientations back then, to compare with now. Traditionally there were separate male and female cultures.

    I’m prepared to believe that it might be ‘something in the water’ – after all, physical matters can change rather mysteriously. In Britain, our teeth as children tended to uniformly appalling, but, apparently for most segments of the population there was later a massive change for the better. Different levels of ‘dietary sugar’ as an explanation for that change seem too simplistic. And for another example, I gather growth spurts in long bones for segments of Asiatic populations now resemble those in modern Western populations. Also, perhaps connected and directly relevant, timing of puberty seems to have changed significantly in Western and now in Asiatic populations.

    Nevertheless, a number of not immediately physical factors prompt a few questions. Both America and Japan seem very demanding of children, if traditionally in differing ways. But the goals and norms of modern adult life have changed dramatically, possibly converging in both countries? And America apparently has constructed public social environments for children that dominate over domestic or familial relations. Judging from what I read, America seems, even more than my own country, to have developed an early peer pressure (a seething internalized world) as a norm, within a judgmental culture demanding constant personal competition. And girls at least until puberty ‘do better’ at school than boys? Macho culture could be increasingly scary, and/or ludicrous, whether you are boy or girl, and anyway girls in many ways appear to have better strategies? Who are the significant role models nowadays during childhood? (When those early ‘abstractions’ begin to resolve themselves into ‘particularities’?) After puberty, do girls lose competitive advantage, even in the extended quasi childhood experienced in modern times? And there are segments of our populations particularly in previously industrial areas, where children seem to experience a high incidence of life-threatening mental health issues as part of local society losing more than its livelihood.

    The study of climate forcing seems pretty straightforward by comparison. Smile.
    best
    Phil H

  127. I ‘ve been reading threads on Twitter the last couple months that the Gulf Cooperation Council is compromised of all commando/special forces cross-trained units and inserting themselves into Syria to take out key targets. There was a site last week claimed as air bombed by Israel but if you look at the photos the roof is intact and all the damage is at ground level like people in trucks or on foot did it.

    The theory is that Trump isn’t treating Arab nations like children the way past presidents have been and assisting and supporting when asked as they clean up the Middle East using the GCC. The bombing the US did that you mentioned above was done at the request of the GCC to act as a distraction so they could insert more of their commando troops.

    I admit liking this theory because it shows we know what we are doing and I’d rather think that than the collapse of empire.

    Something is occurring to push back Isis and I doubt it is US troops. Very little has been on MSM about it because all they can cover is porn stars and Russia. I read about what is on CNN but the other day I went to a medical appointment and it was on in the waiting room. Wow oh wow, I can’t find the words to describe the visual and rhetorical being used. Worth a book.

  128. Another thing about my MTF friend, the one I introduced to his wife years ago, was that there was no sign of being maladjusted as a female. She seemed as well adjusted as one would expect, and there were no outward signs of distress or frustration w/her gender.

  129. Hi JMG

    No joke, The Pravda of the Potomac and The Izvestia of the Hudson have won the 2018 Pulitzer Price for:

    “Deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the President-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration.”

    http://www.pulitzer.org/winners/staffs-new-york-times-and-washington-post

    Now finally, thanks to The New York Lies and The AmazonPost we do know the “truth” about who really won the election and who really control the country by proxy (it is clear that DJT is merely a russian puppet)

    Yesterday the Democratic Party have sued Russia, Trump, and Wilikeaks for their concerted interference in the 2016 elections, and some people say they are thinking to sue Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse who are also in the conspiracy

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/20/us/politics/dnc-russia-trump-lawsuit.html

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/democratic-party-files-lawsuit-alleging-russia-the-trump-campaign-and-wikileaks-conspired-to-disrupt-the-2016-campaign/2018/04/20/befe8364-4418-11e8-8569-26fda6b404c7_story.html?utm_term=.5fa21dbea3e5

    Of course those who doubt of all this bullsh*t are 100% russian trolls

    Cheers
    David

  130. Dear Ray Wharton, “…do something that makes a good story and is impressive in the values of who you are talking to.” Thank you for that, which I do believe is some of the best advice I have heard or read in many a year.

    Dear Boys Mom, Have you considered a hedge or hedgerow along the south border of your land? I don’t know your climate or terrain, but, if you live in the USA, the local extension agent might be a place to start for suggestions about appropriate species which can be grown quickly from seed.

    Dear Packshaud, I think they simply don’t care anymore what us plebeians might know or be able to surmise

  131. Interesting as my beliefs in accepted abstractions have died, others are rising to take their place. For instance, I once thought that government, industry, education, finance, etc., were all separate, defined entities with separate, defined responsibilities and powers. Now, I realize that such a characterization is simplistic and naive. These entities are actually nothing more than intellectual constructs. They exist in people’s minds but not necessarily in the real world. The reality appears to be that – in actual practice – these entities are not well defined at all. They overlap both in terms of structure, membership and influence. And they interact in very nuanced ways which are often directly opposed to their “consensus definition.”

  132. Hello all,

    Robert Mathiesen, I can relate to some of what you are saying about thinking in images and diagrams. I think this is why half of my recordings are sketches. Words just aren’t the right tool for some things.

    To share some of my experience, some images in my sketchbooks are like keys that unlock a fuller memory of an experience or lesson. I didn’t try to capture a whole experience in image or word, but use it more as a map or place-marker that helps my mind access the memory of that event more fully. It’s one of many purposes and intents the action of drawing serves, but one of the most useful to me.

    Related- as I gain a little experience in discursive meditation, I am realizing that I have been doing something very similar to it since I was a child, while sketching or designing a piece in my head. I’ll ponder visualizations of it, exploration of themes of the design taking few to many sessions. I go through as many formal permutations as my imagination and reason as my mind’s eye can generate in the session. Eventually all these versions winnow down into/gel into the “right” form, and I begin material work on it. Other sessions yield valuable insights, if no viable design. Sometimes it is more discursive and conversational, sometimes it is more like visual and tactile skrying.

    Learning and practicing discursive meditation has helped me name what it is that I am doing in this other related realm and to apply a little discipline to it, to the benefit of both. Thanks, JMG for introducing me to discursive meditation 🙂

    Bonnie

  133. Hi Frank Thamm,

    Well, your words make me a bit sad, I confess. Something has happened to discourse in the world. When you say that yes, you can talk to me only to the extent of saying that if I do not believe the same thing you do, it means I don’t accept the scientific method…and you are not alone in this. Most of the people I know believe as you do and I cannot have any productive discussion with them ever, because they cannot bear it and are never curious as to what I am thinking.

    I have been very reluctant to think of climate change as a religious belief, but it does bear some resemblance, and you made that comparison. Trying to convince someone that a man called Jesus was an incarnation of God or rose from the dead, or that Muhammad really did fly through the air to Mecca and back one night is a matter of faith and belief. Should we really compare that to scientific data, and the different ways that the same data might be interpreted?

    How is it possible for a theory that claims to be scientific to be closed to argumentation? I thought that was how science works.

    If discussing and bringing forth what points one finds persuasive is off the table because people do not want to have someone try to convince them to change their beliefs, this sounds to me like religion.

    How do such emotions serve the search for truth?

    I hope I have been sufficiently polite, for I appreciate even the little crack you have opened, and I do not say these things so much to you personally as to the whole group of like responders.

  134. @Frank,
    well, there’s not much you can really say to conspiracy theorists. In the American South, where I live, I just smile and say, “how lovely” while I mentally roll my eyes. As JMG has said, conspiracy theorists believe what they believe b/c they need to feel there is control where there is none, even if that control is nefarious.

  135. @ Denys:

    Many of the military related blogs I follow have been talking about rumours of possible GCC (i.e. Saudis and their hangers on in the region) intervention in Syria with ground troops. Many of the people who comment on the ones I frequent are current or former military personnel, including American and European military vets who have served in the Middle East and Israeli military vets. In other words, military personnel who know the region first hand.

    The general consensus seems to be that if the GCC sends ground troops into the mess that is Syria, they are setting themselves up for disaster. Not only have the GCC military forces demonstrated a notable lack of competence in Yemen, but the Saudis are widely hated in Syria for their meddling and their not-so-covert support of extremist head choppers, including playing footsie with Daesh (“ISIS”) and the local affiliates of Al Qaeda.

  136. Dear Violet,

    I am one of those who struggle over the idea of reassignment surgery and find it a bit ghastly but I always keep in mind that just because some aspect of a person is something I might find disturbing, every person has many parts and the whole person is valuable.

    Your post up above is breathtaking in its honesty and clarity and sincerity and wisdom.

    You are also one of the most intelligent people I have ever known, and if you lived in my area, I would definitely force you to be my friend.

    I also find your personal experiences of ambivalence fascinating.

    For what it’s worth, Michael Newton, who writes about hypnosis into the between lives state, says that the homosexual experience is a difficult one not generally taken on by beginner souls.

  137. I too saw that Izvestia on the Hudson and Pravda on the Potomac won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections. It’s pretty safe to say that at this point, whatever shreds of credibility and integrity the so-called Mainstream News Media had is officially gone.

    On the other hand, it should be noted that Joseph Pulitzer is most famous for having helped start a war between Spain and the US back in 1898. He and his great rival William Randolph Hearst had an ongoing competition to see who could sell the most newspapers, so they ran scurrilous and libelous stories accusing the Spaniards of the most fantastic atrocities imaginable in Cuba in order to draw in readers. The wave of jingoism and ginned up public anger helped push the US into war with Spain.

    Pulitzer and Hearst were masters of peddling fake news more than a century before the term became popular, while the use of fake news and slanted coverage to justify foreign wars and other such things is a practice with a very long pedigree in the American news media. So one could argue that Izvestia on the Hudson, Pravda on the Potomac and the Pulitzer Prize committee are simply returning to their roots.

  138. Worse than I thought. The locals are paying attention, they have no choice.

    “What happened to winter? Vanishing ice convulses Alaskans’ way of life”

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/apr/21/alaska-climate-change-winter-way-of-life

    Permafrost is no longer dependably cold for food storage. There is also a far north tradition fermenting fish by burying in soil. People have been getting food poisoning because the soil is too warm so it spoils. (There is also a problem with foods such as muktuk kept in sealed plastic which promotes botulism.)

    Utqiaġvik, formerly known as Barrow has been able to switch from diesel generators using barged in oil to local natural gas. They built a utility tunnel system in the permafrost – imagine water and sewage transport in the cold. They are about as modern as you can get in the far north. If the permafrost gets too weak it may be gone.

    In other places reindeer / caribou and other animals that survive the winter by clearing snow with their hooves are dying because it gets hot enough for the snow to melt and then freezes. After a few cycles of this they can’t get through the ice and starve. One article I read was about herders in Mongolia giving it up and moving to Ulaanbaatar (new spelling) because of this. Clothing manufacturers appreciate the cheap labor. Imagine a yurt suburbia.

    As the permafrost melts it is also releasing disease.

    https://projects.jsonline.com/news/2017/5/24/melting-permafrost-raises-fears-of-decades-old-pathogens.html

    There are those who died of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in permafrost graveyards. A few have been very carefully exhumed for samples of the virus.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/09/reindeer-to-be-culled-in-russias-far-north-due-to-anthrax-outbreak

    What happens now? Tradition is becoming impossible and even unhealthy. What was commonplace is going or even gone. Perhaps the far north people can adapt but it is looking really difficult for some.

  139. Will J- Re: plastic bottles recycled into clothing… There are, as I see it, three big problems with that concept. The first is that it allows users of plastic bottles to rationalize that it’s OK to do so, because there’s a non-zero (though infinitessimal) chance that the used bottle won’t just be trash, but will be recycled into “warm, fuzzy” clothing. (Who could be against anything warm and fuzzy?) So, the “environment abuse tax” will be paid by the clothing buyer. Then, potential buyers can rationalize that it’s OK to buy it, because the “environment abuse tax” has already been paid by the beverage buyer. The bigger problem, though, is that every time that plastic garment is worn, and especially when it is washed, tiny fragments of plastic will be set loose into the environment. Natural fibers can rot in the waste plumbing, but synthetic fibers just accumulate. Eventually, the drain pipe clogs… at least, that’s MY experience. (I still have some “polar fleece” plastic clothing, but I’m not buying any more.)

  140. John–

    I don’t know if this is a commonplace or just a useful analogy, but something I’ve brought up in recent conversations when someone pointed out Clinton’s “3 million more votes” is baseball, specifically the World Series. Having more total runs is all well and good, but if you lose four games, you don’t get the pennant.

    @DFC

    Re DNC idiocy

    I saw a post on that lawsuit and made the error of commenting about incredible myopia and foolishness of the effort. I was immediately outed as a troll. (My Russian handlers were most displeased.)

  141. Tipping point?

    “Trump NASA Pick No Longer Wants ‘Expansion Of Human Knowledge’ To Be A NASA Objective”

    NASA generally does good in my opinion. I expect a few others would agree.

    I don’t care for the money pit parts of NASA (space station). Bring it under control but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

    Bridenstine is confirmed.

    https://www.themaven.net/theintellectualist/science/trump-nasa-pick-no-longer-wants-expansion-of-human-knowledge-to-be-a-nasa-objective-oGQjzIYAr0CiaMJ9crLq8g/?full=1

  142. I don’t think I really understood what “dialectic” meant until I read your piece. I will share it with my wife as soon as I get the chance.

    I have a science background (MS in one of the biomedical sciences)… A lot of what you said in one of your recent posts about scientific research resonated with me. I do think there’s a lot of good research being done, but it was hard for me to avoid coming to the conclusion that there was wide-spread fraud as well. It was funny how the two (good research and fraud) appear to co-exist. It was funny to hear my adviser complain (several times) about how most research is really just junk. I bet those other labs were also play mind-games with themselves, convincing themselves that somehow everything is OK. The data just needed a bit of a massage…

    And… I would have never taken astrology seriously until I read your latest on the Aries Ingress. I told my wife about it (she’s known that I’ve taken a liking to your posts) and (to my surprise) found out that she was something of an expert on it. I guess she just toned it down when she was around me because she noticed that I wasn’t particularly open-minded about it.

  143. Hi Will J,

    Sorry mate, I hate to be the one to break the bad news to you. Check out the labels for your clothes sometimes they’ll tell you what they’re made of. I reckon that unless you know what the fibres are that have been used in the manufacturing process for the stuff that you are wearing, then mate, chances are that you are already wearing plastic. I only purchase clothes nowadays that are made from natural fibres. Now it is worthwhile considering that there are some man-made fibres that come from plant based materials and they’re pretty good too (viscose and bamboo are good examples), but you have to know your stuff. Your mission should you choose to accept it… Good luck!

    Cheers

    Chris

  144. Lathechuck,

    Personally, I don’t even care about any of that. Plastic clothing just sets off an ick factor for me.I don’t want to wear clothes made of plastic, even if it doesn’t cause problems. The idea that this is a thing now is kind of disturbing. The idea that this actually makes sense because of the world we live in is even worse.

  145. @Violet – Your most recent comment felt to me like beautiful and wise words. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  146. DaShui, it won’t let me read it because I block ads, but thank you anyway.

    Aigin, got it in one. By talking about your own experience you break out of a purely abstract approach, and enrich the discussion by taking it back to anecdotal reality .

    Joel, not at all. The notion that the world is under some kind of obligation to do what we think it ought to do, and be what we think it ought to be, goes back around 2500 years to the rise of the first wave of prophetic religions and abstract philosophies. We’re at the butt end of that long historical process right now.

    easternRoman, where did you get the idea that the Renaissance “went wrong”? When strawberry season is over, does that mean the seasons “went wrong”?

    Frank, you’ve got a first-rate opportunity to work on building a human relationship outside the world of abstract generalizations. I hope you make the most of it; the experience will likely do you a lot of good in the years ahead.

    DFC, I ain’t arguing. As you note, the mere fact that everybody’s lying doesn’t make all the lies equal; some of them are bound to be much more stupid than the others!

    Drhooves, excellent! Real change always happens from the bottom up, starting with the lives of individuals and going from there. If you’re prepared to tackle the work from that end, you’ve got a serious chance of making a significant difference.

    Christophe, I’m delighted to hear it. It really is a useful habit.

    Jim, thanks for this.

    Hereward, when the media focuses on suppressing alternative views, you know that the official version is falling apart of its own absurdity.

    Twin Ruler, good. It’s a useful habit, isn’t it?

  147. Hi JMG,

    I encountered the idea of commonplace books in Nicolas Carr’s book “The Shallows” – the book was about how technology affects human thinking, so part of it traced the history of these changes and he discussed how commonplace books were a normal aspect of reading in the past. I started keeping one myself this year, I use it mostly to keep track of ideas that strike me as interesting in books as I’m reading them although I’ll put other thoughts in there as you mention. I find it useful to try to reword and paraphrase ideas as it’ll show me where I misunderstand things when I look back over them later. I’ll also ask myself questions about what I’m reading, give “future me” the problem if I really can’t get something after 3 or 4 close rereads, and because I have this all recorded I can actually go back later and answer myself – and do. Because they are so condensed it’s easy to “re-read” at least my impressions of a book fairly quickly. I want to expand on this aspect of the process because it’s been so useful

    I’ve found the discipline of doing things can actually help me read books that are a bit above my comprehension initially. For example I read (with much difficulty) Michael Polanyi’s “The Tacit Dimension” last month. Something about the way he was thinking was quite foreign to me and it took a bit to break through this. The last piece of the puzzle for me (at least big piece), was the section on attending to and attending from tools, like a blind person with a cane. I think what he meant here is that when an idea or skill really becomes a tool is when you know it, without thinking about it, or holding the lower strata that constitute the rule set consciously in your thoughts, and it becomes a new part of yourself that you take for granted and can use to experience other things. Possibly this is just immediately obvious to everyone else who read the book but it really took a while for me to grasp it and I don’t think I could have done it without the discipline of forcing myself to write about it and kind of push my way through the ideas.

    Thanks,
    Johnny

  148. Dear Mr Greer

    I said quite a lot about Syria last week so I won’t repeat that. One thing I noticed is the way that many liberals, especially those of the Blairite persuasion where so enthusiastic about intervention in Syria; claiming that we have a moral duty to do this and if you did not support this then you must be bad. They were really getting off on how ethical and moral they were. I have heard of Virtue Signalling, but this is Virtue Bombing. The idea that decisions over a potential war with a Nuclear Armed Russia might be decided by middle class Virtue Bombers who want to signal how virtuous and ethical they are is frightening. Bring back Bismarck.

    The other thing I noticed is how many on the left and the alt right were totally opposed to any intervention in Syria. There was one video I saw of an Alt Right support protest against intervention. I think it was in Washington. There was also a counter demonstration against them by Antifa. The video showed one of the Alt Right protestors asking the Antifa people whether they were against intervening in Syria. The Antifa protestors agreed that they were against that, but would continue their counter demonstration, because the Alt Right were Nazis. Unfortunately I don’t have a link to it, but it was quite amusing to see. Some of the best arguments I heard against intervention this side of the pond came from Nigel Farage. There are many aspects of his politics on which I disagree with him. However he said that when there is a consensus among mainstream politicians you should get very worried. He pointed out that that when voting for intervention in Libya almost all the main stream politicians voted for it. Looking at what a failure our intervention in Libya was. I have to say I agree with him 100%

  149. Chris,

    I’ve been moving away from synthetic fibers, but I think there’s something worse about transforming plastic into clothing than just making synthetic fibers.

  150. So following your points about the dialectic, one could postulate that the world, in it’s final days of abstraction, has a collective case of BPD, or borderline personality disorder. It sounds plausible, I was married to one. Being around borderlines, everything is about themselves, drama, and a total lack of empathy. Truth is elusive, as the narcissist part of BPD renders it to be almost completely subjective. The truth is what is in my head, I project it outward, listen to nobody, feel nothing but my own feelings. Conversation becomes impossible. Sounds like the world to me!

    DBT or dialectic behavior therapy is the only effective treatment. Trying to train the offender in reshaping their line of reasoning, the way they speak to others, and how to improve. It takes years and usually provides poor results.

    So in a BPD world, or interacting with an individual borderline, you do the same things. You ignore what is being ‘said’ and assess a person, political party, politician, etc. by their actions.

  151. @onething, April 21, 2018 at 6:46 pm:
    I assure you it was not my intention to make you sad. I just wanted to point out that I have made up my mind on those topics.
    I personally do not have the knowledge and expertise to accurately assess the scientific evidence on this (and I suspect neither have you). So it comes down to trust, and I do trust people like e.g. Kevin Anderson, (Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research). You are of course right to say that no theory should be closed to argumentatation, but , as I said, the people doing the arguing should have the qualifications to do so, and I don´t. As much as I wouldn´t presume to tell my new acquaintance how to build a roof, I wouldn´t tell a climate researcher how to interpret the results of their measurements.
    There is a lot of other subjects we could talk productively about: cooking, gardening, music, photography and history are some of the topics I´m interested in, and if you are interested in any of these we had plenty to discuss if we met in person.
    greetings
    Frank from Germany

  152. @Violet,
    I think of you as a kindred spirit, though more literate and spiritually advanced than me. I’ve often thought it’d be so cool to bus across Mexico and beyond with you! That’s on my bucket list!

  153. @onetime

    “I have been very reluctant to think of climate change as a religious belief, but it does bear some resemblance, and you made that comparison. ”

    onetime, I’d like to pick up on that….

    I find that climate change, as well as many other topics, are essentially matters of religion for most people, (myself included) regardless of what side they are on. I call it a matter of religion because most people don’t really have the scientific chops to determine what’s true or false about the subject. Those of us w/o the requisite science background could make up for our deficiencies by reading reliable scientific journals, but most of us don’t do that. (certainly I have not) So, we end up in a world where most people get their info on climate change from fb memes. Even those of us who try to do a miniscule amount of research mostly end up with checking 3 or 4 on-line “reputable” news sources and then calling it good. We don’t actually read the science, just the newspaper/blog take on the science. Both sides can, of course, find newspapers/blogs to support their view. There’s a tendency to “herd mentality” when it comes to choosing what to believe about climate change, or Russian interference with the election, the value of tariffs, or many other topics. Specifically on climate change, what I find is that no one (that I know personally) can give me the science for acceptance or denial of global warming. Therefore I regard their beliefs as faith based, or religious.

    As for myself, I can’t give the science (other than to repeat the oft quoted, but seldom sourced stat that 97% of climate scientists believe in global warming) but I tend to lean towards believing in global warming because it’s the safest position. If we try to do something about it, even though we don’t need to, we don’t really hurt ourselves, except to the extent we give up some largely needless consumption. If we don’t do something, and we really do need to, we may seriously damage the world we live on. My belief in climate change is essentially faith based, and I’m wlling to admit it. I think it is for most people. I find my conservative friends will admit to at least a little element of faith whereas my liberal friends flatly deny their views are based on anything but solid science – which they can’t cite in any persuasive manner. Please note that I’m not saying the science isn’t available, or comprehensible to the avearage person. I’m essentially saying that most people (myself included) have not done their homework. What we have then are faith based positions, and that may be why it’s so hard to see the other side’s POV.

    The group of people who read Ecosophia may be more llikely than not to have done their homework, but I’m talking about the majority of people. But let’s admit that we don’t always do our homework on each and every topic.

    I thinik this process repeats itself for many topics. We see which way our herd is running then find facts that fit with running in that direction.

    I wonder how many other things I believe in (or don’t) because of the direction that my herd happens to be running? This is something I’m going to have to pay more attention to.

    Of course there are topics that are not “scientific” in nature, where faith, or values, might be the basis for deciding.

  154. @ Joel
    You may find this article interesting. To me, it explains something I’ve been wondering for the past couple years since transgender as a topic hit the media in a big way. That is, why a condition that affects fewer than 1% of our population is all of a sudden something that should affect all government policy. Not that it isn’t an important issue, but why ignore it completely until now?

    “Who Are the Rich, White Men Institutionalizing Transgender Ideology?”
    http://thefederalist.com/2018/02/20/rich-white-men-institutionalizing-transgender-ideology/

    @ violet
    Thank you for sharing your personal perspective. I am disappointed to hear of attempts to package up and commodify experiences like yours (as the article I linked above implies).

  155. Armata,

    When I saw the Pulitzer Prize award to the NYT and WP for “exposing Russian interference with the election,” it shocked me.

    For several years running now, I have said to myself “nothing that happens in this crazy country can shock me anymore” only to find myself shocked by an even deeper level of craziness.

  156. John, how does the progression of thought and discussion of the Age of Faith to the Age of Reflection relate to the Theory of Catabolic Collapse?

    You list two cycles (with a third ongoing) of this, while giving seven or so cycles of Catabolic Collapse. Do societies that undergo that, have a similar series of thought collapse? Do societies that move from abstraction to reflection, necessarily begin to collapse as well?

  157. Hi Frank Thamm,

    You have given the same answer as my sister did. I do not have that level of trust for anyone ever. That is just how I seem to be wired. I furthermore think that if someone of fair intelligence does not think they can evaluate the arguments when put in laymen’s terms, then they should not form much of an opinion either way. Their acceptance should be always provisional. That is my opinion, my standard, and I think the same on the Darwinian evolution issue.

    Additionally, I think it is an unfortunate meme of the liberal, generally professional, class to suppose that no one can have a respectable opinion unless they are an official expert, designated as such by an institution with that right.

    A problem here is that there are many eminently qualified scientists who differ in their interpretation of the data so it isn’t as if all climate researchers magically come to the identical conclusion. That isn’t how the real world works, despite the meme which pretends it does.

  158. Christopher Hope,

    Yours is a refreshingly honest analysis. You are right that few people really spend much time trying to understand an issue. I really found that out some years ago when arguing with 9 people against me on an evolution forum, all of whom claimed to have the education whereas I did not, but they would not even read a few essays that they cited (but had not read) essays which I, with an associate degree in nursing, found fascinating.

    As I said above to Frank, the need for scientific chops is exaggerated. I have read many wonderful books for laypersons about topics well above my head. It is surely true that there are some aspects beyond my ken, especially as regards math in which I am woefully uneducated, having dropped out of school at the age of 15 and missing all of high school math.

    Perhaps this is one reason that I do state upfront that I could be wrong. But you see that those with PhDs and years of experience also disagree on this and many other topics. So obviously that is not the be all and end all of opinion formation. As for me, I read books, articles, essays, blogs, websites, and watch youtube debates and speeches from all around the world. I go to facebook about 3 or 4 times per year. Not for that!

    I have noted the herd mentality that you mention in deciding what to think about various things. It distresses me greatly and I am even now trying to reconcile myself to the fact that most people do work that way. I am constitutionally different and it creates a lot of cognitive dissonance for me, especially when it is my own sister, a woman of high IQ, (which matters not) and I slowly see that there is no communication possible with someone I have been close to all my life. I don’t mean communication on the topic, but rather something deeper. It is as if I am a different species. The herd mentality does make sense. It is safety. If a herd member sees a predator, they give the alarm and everyone takes cover. Who has time to evaluate who gave the alarm and whether their information was sound?

    As to global warming being the safest option, that is true in a general sense but I am very afraid of some people deciding to interfere with the atmosphere in a way that could truly damage our atmosphere and climate and perhaps health for a long time and would be irreversible.

  159. err… “Nylon is a thermoplastic silky material that can be melt-processed into fibers,”
    and… “The principle ingredient used in the manufacture of polyester is ethylene, which is derived from petroleum.”
    Fleece and acrylic seem particularly bad but all the synthetics generate microfiber particles in the wash,
    even rayon which is “a modified, regenerated cellulose fibre”.

    I admit that this stuff including micro particles persistent in the environment has kind of crept up on me while I was looking at other matters.

    best
    Phil H

  160. Sorry patriciaormsby, I don’t think much of the article at
    http://thesaker.is/the-cultural-revolutions-solving-of-the-urban-rural-divide/

    “It is quite logical.” Sez who? Could it be that crazy brain injured people like me have difficulty enriching themselves? It wasn’t until I ended up on welfare genuinely incapable of work that I had the opportunity to look back at my life and see how messed up it was and why. My problem could be described as a mild porphyria (liver function weakness) that prevented essentials like memory from working. It also allowed the slow build up of toxics until I had full blown Toxic Encephalopathy. In this society if your memory is truly weak there will be little room for you.
    My best solution was to live in a van on the streets of Seattle in the (much safer) 1980s. The rent stress was gone but a cheap pager wasn’t good enough to get sufficient temp work. Cheap cell phones were in the future. I was clean and fed and usually warm. I mostly would get fed up with it because it became life on my knees, I couldn’t stand up inside. This was the only time I ever really felt I had a home. Homeless my ass.

    “then the myriad small neighbourhoods which compose a country necessarily become full of unstable people:” Or could it be they were already there?
    ______________

    “Research published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association found, “the strongest area-level predictor of high rates of psychotic disorders was a low rate of owner-occupied housing”.

    “It is quite logical: When a person is constantly worried about being able to pay the rent, or when the rent will be raised without warning or limits, a person cannot feel themselves to be truly stable; in societies where only the rich can afford housing without concerns, then the myriad small neighbourhoods which compose a country necessarily become full of unstable people:”

  161. I don’t believe in climate change because there’s a scientific consensus. I believe in climate change because my experience of the seasonal patterns is that they are changing rapidly, and this is confirmed by other people’s experience of their seasonal patterns. Where I in Brisbane am experiencing a shift from temperate to tropical rain patterns, gardeners in New Zealand are experiencing a steep drop in the number of frosts per winter. This is further confirmed by news reports of melting permafrost etc. No blind faith in a mere abstraction here.

  162. @Kfish
    Re: Climate Change

    Noticing what’s going on is all very well, but there are a lot of people who blame it on other things than excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, including a few that deny that it’s actually happening, or who claim that it’s simply normal variation.

    @onething
    Re: Climate change

    The science behind climate change is very simple. There are two pieces. The first is the fact that the atmosphere is a heat sink. It doesn’t take any advanced chops to see this: all that’s needed is to track temperature during the day and night with respect to the position of the Sun, and observe how things like cloud cover affect that behavior.

    The second is a bit more technical: the behavior of carbon dioxide has been known since the late 19th century, but it does take a bit of experience with simple science equipment to demonstrate that.

  163. Dave T – the Borderline Personality thing never occurred to me, but I came to the same conclusion – “ignore what anyone in power says; watch what they do” – independently, and have been telling everyone that whenever they bring up that fashionably hot-button issues. It makes for a much more peaceful existence and I have been told “what a good idea that is!”

  164. Richard, if it hadn’t been, I would have deleted your comment, so you’re fine.

    Ezra, that seems like as sensible an analysis as any.

    Rapier, sorry — that’s one of the many features that, as far as I know, this blogging platform doesn’t support.

    Pogret, thanks for this. Those are all good bits of advice.

    Ray, by all means keep elaborating!

    Kay, delighted to hear it.

    Armata, it intrigues me that once the missiles flew, he canceled the next round of sanctions against Russia his administration was pushing on him. He’s definitely got his own ideas — which is doubtless the main reason why the establishment is so peeved at him.

    Godozo, interesting. Certainly there are plenty of people out there who’ve loaded more or less messianic expectations onto Trump.

    Robert, fair enough! As for “inch” and “mile,” heartily agreed; one of my favorite T-shirts from my teen years said STOP METRIC MADNESS!

    Phil, this is one of the reasons I’m pleased by the recent introduction of a bill in Congress that would legalize the growing of industrial hemp in the US. Hemp is a lot less troublesome to turn into paper than wood pulp, and also makes paper of much better quality.

    Chris, English is unfortunate in that it’s got only one word for knowing things. In French connaitre means to know something in an abstract, cerebral sense, and savoir means to know how to do something; the difference between the words makes the distinction between the kinds of knowledge less obscure. As for the Andromeda galaxy, well, I’ve heard people rabbit on about how we have to develop space travel so we can get off Earth before the Sun dies four billion years from now, so I think getting people to freak out about colliding galaxies shouldn’t be too hard!

    Matthias, and behind that habit is the recognition that history is a liberal art rather than a science, and that there is therefore no such thing as one and only one true history. We should probably talk about that on the blog sometime.

    Username, my guess is that we’ve got a long slow road ahead of us before a distinctive North American high culture begins to emerge — there’ll be flickers and foreshadowings of it through the long twilight of the Faustian era, but I’d be surprised if anything more coherent were to start coming together until well after 2500 CE. (After all, we have a dark age to get through first!)

    Nancy, that’s about what I thought. Thank you.

  165. What I see as neglected is the fundamental of this and previous comparable societies which is agriculture.

    Might this be a usable commonplace in a society where many don’t even know where their food comes from?

    Most farming is done as business, organic or that awful word “conventional”. Without it and the inputs and outputs most of us would starve. Except for organic the attitude is extraction, get yours now and the future be damned.

    It is messed up. Most farmers get their food from a grocery store and they could starve too. Without cheap petroleum and natural gas the whole thing will gradually collapse except for a little bit of very local which is not enough here. Around Seattle our close enough river bottom agricultural land has become industrialized or “developed”. There are some laws that have held off “development” but a little too far away and again not enough.

  166. More ranting about
    http://thesaker.is/the-cultural-revolutions-solving-of-the-urban-rural-divide/

    “So pity poor Western millennials: 70% of Chinese people aged 19-37 own their own home, double Western rates. Number 2 in the study is Mexico, at 46%. Just 69% of French millennials plan to buy a home in the next 5 years, the highest in the study. Of course not – have you seen Paris real estate prices?! ”

    The Chinese have a cultural imperative to “own” a home. So they have many rich young people or is there a little borrowing going on? Either you have a home or no wife for you. Women are in short supply.

    Mexico and France are mentioned but not Germany. Germans generally prefer to rent and not be debt slaves and let the landlord do all the work. Gasp – how could the author not know? Or does he?

    “80% of Cubans own their own home and thus pay no rent or mortgage.” Thanks to an odd idealism people were not allowed to sell their homes except in very special circumstances. Kids moved out? Too much space? Too bad, you will have to participate in one of the workarounds but you still own the house. This might also explain why the houses are so poorly maintained. I believe there has been recent relief on this. “Own” seems to mean something else in China.

    This is the stuff that makes me not want to read the rest.

    Again my apologies to Patricia O.

  167. Umm, Robert, I though Great Britain was somewhere between the US and Canada on metrication? I thought the speed limit on the motorways over there is 70 MPH? (I always thought it odd that Britain used Vienna convention speed limit signs w/Imperial units–at least here in the US, our speed limit signs don’t conform, so that people kinda know they’re not metric)

  168. @onething, April 22, 2018 at 7:52 pm:
    Science is not about opinions, personal evaluations and ´what one finds convincing´, you know…but of course you´re free to believe whatever you want.
    greetings
    Frank from Germany

  169. GKB thank you

    What you suggested works in Firefox but I can’t find it in Opera or Chrome.

    Alt v,y,n turns on the comment numbering and dumps the style.
    Alt v,y,b returns to normal

    This will also shift page location. It works for that one tab.

    It also gets rid of that annoying green box up caret. I have a home key and I need to explode the text. It gets in the way.

    JMG Please ask your IT people. They need to know what their customers want in order to produce the product. For me that is numbers and no concealing carets.

    Something fixed the comments problems, Firefox works fine now.

  170. Inohouri,

    You have posted twice about the urban/rural divide article and both times I have not understood your point. So I finally decided to read the article for myself, and it appears to be a wow. It is so good that I am stopping everything to read it right now. But it is also an 8-part article so I still can’t quickly get the gist of what you’re arguing. I can’t begin to parse why you inserted the stuff about home ownership, but I live in one of the 2 or 3 poorest states which yet has perhaps the highest rate of home ownership. You get or inherit a piece of land and the trailer on it…well, lots of old farmhouses too. And then there is Russia, in which the mean Soviet/Russian govt has simply allowed the majority of the population squat forever in their flats. They live in them, their kids will inherit them, and that is that.

  171. History as story:

    Most historians nowadays seem to do a lot of counting and summing – taxes, sales, pot sherds, whatever. I agree with you that such numbers, on their own, don’t become meaningful; they have to be integrated into a narrative.

    However, sometimes you seem to take the position of those historians of antiquity who didn’t care too much about how many soldiers actually fought a battle, or what a general actually said before that battle, if the carefully composed oration they put in his mouth fulfilled its purpose: to educate and elevate their contemporary audience… 🙂

    I see the merits in that position, since of course we study history to a large degree because we want to understand the present and be prepared for (or even influence) the future. But what about conflicting stories? In pre-war or even some post-war histories, the evaluation of, say, the cultural accomplishments and war atrocities committed by 10th century Frenchmen, Germans and Poles bears an uncanny relation to the nationality of the historian and his role in 20th century wars. There is simply no way of deciding between such conflicting narratives without some recourse to quantitative investigation. On top of that, I suppose that to make historians actually reach a degree of consensus about something, you also need a shared present.

  172. Onething,

    Thank you for being the contrarian here, and speaking about your beliefs on climate change. It’s been quite enlightening, even though, or perhaps especially because, I disagree with you.

    Frank (if I may),

    Unless you have the time and resources to do the experiment yourself, you have no choice but to rely on your personal evaluations of the evidence provided, and some of that evidence is various evidence that seems to be clearly indicating that lots of scientists will routinely fudge results to provide the outcomes they want. I believe in parts of science as product, but other parts I feel happy to ignore, since I know too much about the realities behind it. As long as so much of what passes for science remains corrupted by special interests, then there is no reason to trust it.

  173. @Frank Thamm, @onething, @John Roth et al

    Having been a research scientist myself at a two different prestigious american universities, studying climate science for more than a decade, my personal experience is that the science, as practiced, was most often most assuredly about “opinions, personal evaluations and ´what one finds convincing´ “.

    I’m talking about what actually happens in science as practiced (anecdote), not the scientific method (abstraction), not what should happen (ideal).

    John Roth, in the real world climate science is in fact a great deal more complicated than simply balancing heat fluxes in an idealized model. It might seem that it ‘should’ be simple, but in reality it ain’t at all.

    Frank, the history of science is replete with examples of revolutions that occurred based entirely on changes in what people found convincing, often absent any significant new information. This may actually be more typical than revolutions precipitated by new data. That’s why people joke that sciences progresses one funeral at a time.

    Each of your personal experiences might be different, without any of you being wrong. You all are arguing only because you are speaking about abstractions and ideals, when in fact what you know are anecdotes.

  174. Well, I am going to differ on the number of verbs in the English language that involve knowledge. To comprehend, to understand, to grok . . . without really thinking about it. Looking up “know” on thesaurus.com offeres me 39 synonyms, if I counted correctly, some of them rather clumsy.

    It’s rather a problem of laziness, I suspect, and a certain pride in ignorance that has always befuddled me, from the time I was a child being teased for using big words on. Those, however, ought not be a problem on this website, so I offer rather bad habits and fuzziness of definitions as the cause.

  175. @Frank Thamm

    So, if “science is not about opinions, personal evaluations and ´what one finds convincing'” then, perhaps, you could tell us what science IS about?

    To my mind, that would be much more interesting. Also less dismissive.

  176. Thank you for “discursive meditation.” Now I can practice that as a skill rather than just talking to myself all the time.

  177. As someone who came out in the mid 90s, when trans was working towards acceptance in the then GLB (don’t know how “G” got moved to 2nd place) community, I’m somewhat alarmed by the push for medical intervention. Originally, trans inclusion was about accepting wherever one fit on the gender spectrum, and not pushing a specific solution (reassignment, surgery, and hormones). Once, I felt comfortable thinking of myself as non-binary, but now, I’d be afraid that I’d be pressured into MTF, and that is threatening and would make me run from anything remotely associated.
    Regarding the article, doesn’t surprise me that trans medicalization is being pushed by the medical industrial complex. In late stage, decadent America, always follow the money back to a corrupt corporate entity. Never fails.

  178. @Inohuri,
    I’m just about to run out the door and be gone for two days, but wish I had more time to reply. There is no need to apologize for your frank opinion about the article I introduced. I expected that it would be controversial. Moreover, I am fascinated by your response. I have absolutely no idea just how Oriental my perspective has become in the course of 33 years, but even the Japanese remark to that effect. I always tend to think that since I was brought up in America there is no way I will truly understand the Orient, but I have come to accept and internalize a lot of it. Your reaction to the article reminds me deeply of my own reaction to much of Japanese culture in my first ten years or so. There was a visceral reaction, exacerbated by my own lack of self worth. It took decades and being married to someone with a high appraisal of Confucianism and experience within a deliberately traditional Japanese community undergoing training, where even the Japanese were having difficulties, and there were elders who could point out what I was getting wrong, before I came to see how it worked out, and why Japan is a sober but happy country.
    Rudyard Kipling’s famous line about East and West never meeting must have been born from a similar sense of exasperation that his adopted world ouitlook could never be understood in his native land. The best a person can do is entertain others with stories that put some of that world view across, but not enough to turn off readers.
    Gotta run!

  179. JMG wrote:
    “In my experience, children start out thinking entirely in high-level abstractions — think of the way that “goggie” to a toddler means any animal with four feet — and only over time work things down to concrete particulars.”

    I think the process may be a little more complicated even than that. I would venture that children start out understanding the world in concrete particulars- “goggie” means this furry animal that lives with us- and then build toward abstractions- wait, Mommy keeps calling those other furry things “doggie” too- which then get tested to see how far they extend. This naturally includes overgeneralizations while the categories are being refined, through corrective feedback: hmm, chihuahuas and Great Danes are both doggies, but Dad says that thing over there there is a bear or a pony, not a doggie…

    This seems to me to mirror quite closely our age’s overapplication of abstractions and the need for corrective feedback.

    –Heather in CA

  180. onething I don’t trust an article, book, speaker or teacher that presents data I know to be wrong or that appears to be cherry picked and massaged. The stuff later on where it gets unfamiliar I can’t judge. So I butt out. And on the way out I’m not scared to say why.

    “Just 69% of French millennials plan to buy a home in the next 5 years, the highest in the study. Of course not – have you seen Paris real estate prices?! ” I just plain can’t understand. It makes my head hurt. It could mean so many things and suggests an unspoken agenda. Maybe others can get something out of that but not me. I always failed at the hive mind thing. I am the one who can’t figure out why the Emperor has no clothes.

    I gave up on the Saker about the time he became a celebrity. Something went wrong for me. Before that I could trust and learn.

  181. onething I don’t understand what you said.
    “And then there is Russia, in which the mean Soviet/Russian govt has simply allowed the majority of the population squat forever in their flats. They live in them, their kids will inherit them, and that is that.”

    I just read this by Dmitry Orlov
    “One important element of collapse-preparedness is making sure that you don’t need a functioning economy to keep a roof over your head. In the Soviet Union, all housing belonged to the government, which made it available directly to the people. Since all housing was also built by the government, it was only built in places that the government could service using public transportation. After the collapse, almost everyone managed to keep their place.

    “In the United States, very few people own their place of residence free and clear, and even they need an income to pay real estate taxes. People without an income face homelessness. When the economy collapses, very few people will continue to have an income, so homelessness will become rampant.”
    http://www.resilience.org/stories/2006-12-04/closing-collapse-gap-ussr-was-better-prepared-collapse-us/

  182. Shane W: I expect you’re right about UK being midway on metrication. But the government keeps “inching” us towards it!! The problem is, nobody seems to notice the sheer ugliness of the metric terms. It is as though everyone has evolved tin ears.
    By the way I feel guilty at taking up blog-space with this apparently off-topic point, so I hope a way can be found to link it. Maybe it can be connected as follows:
    “Metrication vs. English” is a case of “abstraction versus human”. Like trying to live in Mies van der Rohe skyscrapers.

  183. @Will J, April 23, 2018 at 3:27 pm:
    One reason I trust the community of climate scientists to carry out scientific research poperly according to the scientific method is that I don´t think there are any commercial interests bent on pushing the theory of manmade climate change (apart maybe from the alternative energy industry 😉 ), I rather think it´s in those interests to play it down, sow doubt or simply deny it. I´m less trusting when it comes to the latest study on food or medical drugs, for example.
    I have read a lot about the topic (C.C.) over the last 35 years and, excuse me for repeating myself, have made up my mind about it. But I still don´t think I have the knowledge to evaluate the evidence myself; there are quite a few years of studying the topic (not necessarily in a University) missing.
    That´s why I don´t see the point of discussing it any further; to me it is like arguing wether a cloudless sky at noon is blue or green.
    Yves Vetter, April 23, 2018 at 4:42 pm:
    Yes, but as you say yourself: you have been a research scientist (and I trust you have been working according to the scientifc method), so it was about what scientists find convincing, not what other people like me who have little or no expertise in the field find convincing. The same goes for those revolutions you are talking about, and in the case of climate change scientists tell us that there is plenty of significant information. That was my point when I said to onething that the people doing the arguing should be qualified to do so, otherwise I don´t think it has anything to do with science, but with belief.
    I have no problem with people who do not believe in climate change (I´ve been to the first jazz jam session with my new friend yesterday and we had loads of fun without arguing about things we disagree on), but plenty of people who do not believe in it seem to have a problem with me, just because I´m not inclined to discuss this anymore (done that lots of times in my life, believe you me).
    greetings
    Frank from Germany

  184. Dear Shane W, Clothes made of latex rubber may be organic (or not, depending on how the rubber was produced and what else goes into them) and compostable (again, depending on what other materials are included in the fabric) but they won’t breath. Also, as I understand, please correct me if I am wrong, rubber is a fairly difficult crop to produce and is badly needed for other purposes.

    Clothing can be produced from cotton, wool of several species, including sheep, alpacas, camels, and so on, silk, ramie, hemp, and flax and there are more. Reviving grown and made in the USA clothing would go a long way towards reviving the prosperity of rural areas.

  185. @ Robert Mathiesen

    I have been struggling with the right words to answer your lovely message, but maybe you will understand…

    A few years ago you gave me an answer to something about writing I had posted. I copied it out and hung it above my desk, and it’s been there ever since: “The querent is actually equipped to deal with the challenge splendidly.”

    I think I would have loved attending your classes.

    Myriam

  186. Frank,

    I agree that climate science is probably not too corrupted. I’ve also put in some fairly good research to try to reach the point I can understand it myself, but still have a ways to go. My point is that a reflexive distrust of science as practiced is not necessarily illogical. It may even be a great deal more logical than trusting it.

    Some of what you were saying seemed too much like it was “science says X, therefore I believe it”, which was what I was responding to. If I was misreading it I would like to apologize.

  187. Inohuri, you seem to be insinuating that Patricia and Onething are part of a “hivemind” because they don’t happen to share your opinion on the post article. Yet, by your own admission, you admit that you don’t understand Onething’s argument in the first place. With all due respect, this seems to be a strangely dubious debate tactic to me.

  188. @Yves Vetter
    Re: Climate Science

    Of course there’s a lot to climate science as it is practiced. I was addressing a specific person, and attempting to frame a starting point in a way that addresses personal experience. Replacing personal experience with “balancing heat fluxes” is a great example of introducing an abstraction where it is neither needed nor wanted. (I’m also not sure where “balancing” comes in).

  189. The latest happenings in Syria remind me of a though I had a year or so ago. When I was younger, I read Hal Lindsey and others who thought we were just about to the end times. The standard scenario was that the Soviet Union was going to declare war on Israel and Christianity and all that was good, and then God would intervene on the side of righteousness. God, perhaps, has a sense of humor, as we could end up in a scenario in which Russia is fighting to defend Christianity in the Middle East (with ulterior motives of a non-religious nature, to be sure), while the U.S. and Israel are fighting against it.

  190. Inohouri,

    I didn’t understand what you didn’t understand! I was being sarcastic when I used the word ‘mean.’ It seems the author was elaborating on how difficult it is to afford housing in capitalist countries.

  191. RE: Russian flats, when the flats were given to the tenants, who maintains the overall building? The government? Or is it like a NY co-op?

  192. @ onething, thank you for the kind words!

    @ Jez, thank you!

    @ Shane, that is so sweet, thanks!

    @ Blue Sun, thank you for the link

    an aside: I genuinely appreciate when people say nice things to me online, I want to note though that I find it hard to respond to more social textual interactions. In my normal life I navigate socially with a keen awareness towards body language and intonation and vibe. When the communication is solely text I’m somewhat lost and awkward when the focus shifts from more abstract intellectual concepts and into more social territory. Again thank you for everyone who has said kind things to me now and in the past and my apologies if I’ve been unduly unresponsive and cold.

  193. Mencius M. Sorry, no insinuations in what I said. I spoke about me, the one who is considered different, odd, anti-social, doesn’t really get it.

    “Yet, by your own admission, you admit that you don’t understand Onething’s argument”… Which argument where? Which definition of argument are you using? If I don’t understand something that he later explains was intended to be sarcastic I am guilty being unable to understand. I just read it straight and responded. I don’t care for Russia (or other) bashing here and that was not his intention. Or at least that is what he says.

    What debate?

  194. Shane W says:
    “RE: Russian flats, when the flats were given to the tenants, who maintains the overall building? The government? Or is it like a NY co-op?”

    There are articles about this on the WWW. There are problems and solutions. I didn’t keep a bookmark. If you have a question off topic you can do the same work as any of the rest of us.

    To get into the spirit of this try https://yandex.com/.

  195. @Rapier

    > PS. I suppose it would be impossible to assign a number to posts in this forum which is a shame. Even finding ones post or noting others you would like to see the response to is tedious to nigh impossible.

    You can use the datetime of a comment (post write underneath the user’s name) — since they go down to the minute, they’re as good as numbers to identify a particular comment.

    E.g. this is your comment’s datetime: April 19, 2018 at 11:45 pm

    You can also right click on a comment’s datetime, get the link (“Copy link address” command in Chrome, or something similar in your browser) and paste the link in your comment to refer to the comment. When clicked, it will take readers to the comment you’re reffering to.

    This, for example, is the link to your comment this way:

    https://www.ecosophia.net/returning-to-the-commonplace/#comment-17653

  196. @Christopher Kinyon

    > God, perhaps, has a sense of humor, as we could end up in a scenario in which Russia is fighting to defend Christianity in the Middle East (with ulterior motives of a non-religious nature, to be sure), while the U.S. and Israel are fighting against it.

    Well, non-protestant countries were always closer to the original humanistic and joyful message of Christianity — especially compared to the Old Testament understanding of it in the US and such. Of course they were earlier adopters of Christianity as well (protestantism being a later fundamentalist approach).

  197. Will J, April 24, 2018 at 4:15 pm:
    No need to apologize – bear in mind that English is not my mother tongue, so sometimes things I write are bound to come across slightly differently than I actually mean them. That´s why I often have to elaborate what I was meaning when other commenters respond to my comments. I try to eradicate mistakes I make by re-reading before I post, but that´s not always successful, and I´m sure there are more that I don´t even recognize as mistakes.
    greetings
    Frank from Germany

  198. violet, April 25, 2018 at 1:03 am:
    You wrote: ´´ I want to note though that I find it hard to respond to more social textual interactions. In my normal life I navigate socially with a keen awareness towards body language and intonation and vibe. When the communication is solely text I’m somewhat lost and awkward when the focus shifts from more abstract intellectual concepts and into more social territory.´´
    That´s exactly what I wanted to say here a few times but I´ve always struggled to find the right words. Now I can say : I completely agree! So thank you for posting this.
    greetings
    Frank from Germany

  199. @Will J (soy thread),

    I’m not sure where I personally stand on soy; I was just using it as an example. Though I wonder if it partially explains why Asians tend to be smaller in stature?

    (DNC suing Russia thread): Good luck with them suing Russia… would have to occur in a Russian court, where the case would be summarily laughed out of the room.

    @Onething,

    It’s a well known, and very powerful, sales technique: Create a huge, urgent problem in the mind of your customer, while your problem is the salve that will cure the pain.

    @Violet,

    I appreciate the reasoned, reflective response. So rare these days that people can have different opinions and not shout at each other.

    I remember visiting a pride festival a few years ago, and there were some Christian folk there that were shouting at the colorful passersby. As someone who was neither homosexual nor Christian, it had the air of a circus attraction.

    @blue sun,

    Thanks for the link. They put the research behind the gut feeling I had in my initial comment (Big Pharma profiteering), though it goes much farther (Somehow I doubt most people would be willing to donate their bodies to science if they knew about this).

  200. @Myriam & Robert Mathiesen,

    Wow. Just wow. Thinking back I have had similar complaints about notes I’ve taken during seminars Often the words I chose at the time are simply inadequate to bring back the experience. I’ve even recorded the audio files and the “magic” that was there during the initial presentation is gone.

    I read a lot anyway, but my big struggle is turning knowledge into action (analysis paralysis)…

    Robert, now that you mention it I think my mind operates similar to yours though I’ve never articulated it as you have. I’m labeled as an INTP “The Architect” on the Myers-Briggs scale (which I’ve heard compared to astrology).

  201. Abstractions vs facts – there have been 2 cases in widely different places lately of people who went on someone’s records as being dead when they were not. At least one of them managed to prove her was who he was and was still alive and was told nothing could be done; what was in the records prevailed. And besides, he hadn’t complained within the statutory deadline!

    The last time I ever heard anything so absurd was a US court decision (Supreme Court? Memory fails me but I hope not!) that the proven innocence of a wrongly convicted person was not a defense against a properly conducted trial with no proven irregularities.

    Lucky for most of the wrongly convicted, malpractice has been easily proven – to the unanimous chorus of prosecutors crying “We don’t care WHAT you proved! This crook is guilty!”

  202. Joel (and Myriam), I think there are actually a lot of us out there. I hung out with a lot of science and engineering types in High School and College, and many of them seemed to prefer our sort of thinking to the poverty of verbal thought. Of course we all translated our thoughts into words at times, when we were communicating with one another — but often as not, someone would pull out pencil and paper, or go to a blackboard, and start with the diagrams and equations, and we’d all “chime in” in the same way… — Some of this may be genetic: my father, an engineer, found words as inadequate as I do. His father was also an engineer. One of my sons is a computer engineer, the other did his graduate work in cosmology (that is, the branch of physics, not a department of metaphysics or occultism). My only grandchild thinks she might go into engineering. (I, ever the odd man out, ended up doing philology and historical linguistics …)

  203. @Will J and all,
    Regarding fudged studies, Arthur Firstenberg of the Cellular Phone Taskforce got ahold of most of the data (minus a few pertinent items such as information on why certain conditions had been chosen) from a recent National Toxicology Report study and posted it with his own analysis here: http://www.cellphonetaskforce.org/?s=ntp&submit.x=0&submit.y=0&submit=Search
    It is interesting to see the confounding factors that may have been intentionally introduced, the way conflicts of interest were hidden, the actual conditions imposed upon the test animals, and the way the data were selected for reporting. I hear that since the first publication, they’ve changed their mind about its significance too.

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss . Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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