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Beings-in-the-world

We succumb at times to the lure of the self toward thinking we could extract ourselves intact from the world; there is an untempered narcissism in this. As if we could imagine any different world and then place ourselves, wholly, into it, or as if the world were such that it ought conform to a faulty notion: as if we were simply beings-in-th-world, isolatable from it, perhaps immutable in relation to its work. But this is untenable if not stupid. We do not exist ‘in’ the world, nor could we exist outside of it. Outside of the movement of the experiential manifold, which is differentiated and shaped by the contours of the world, there is no we, much less a you or I. We are of the world, consisting of a circuit of its movement, without significance or force or anything else except in virtue of our trajectory or path through it — and in fact there is nothing that moves or proceeds but only the movement or procession itself, shaped by the contours of the world at the same time as it wears at them. We are this movement. Any argument that treats an alienated subject, an I, you, we, or them, as something abstracted from the movement of the manifold fails, inevitably. When we consider the world, we must consider it dynamically; and efforts at creating a different set of contours of experience must take into account those that already exist. We must consider our trajectories carefully.

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9 Responses

  1. but but… now this could be a story that has been told so much that it has become fact but i seem to remember someon telling me that in his later years mark twain conjectured that the world was nothing but us - we constructed everything as if the world were our dream there was no “other” as everything is made up by “me” and death is simply chooseing to change dreams.

    hard to disprove - something to debate around a vinte lattè - but even more worrying it seems that even though it is not acknowledged, this outlook is becoming the norm

  2. It is interesting. People are very bad at looking at the world while being cognizant of the fact that they are looking at the world through blinders; and recognizing that these blinders constitute their selfhood at the same time that they obstruct their view. I find it difficult to do for more than a few moments at a time (perhaps that’s why people run off to the monastery: to work on being aware of this fact). The idea that there is only us is ultimately selfish; and it contributes to all manner of problems, I think.

    Death used to terrify me; now it leaves me indifferent or maybe annoyed. I don’t think that there’s any dream after this one, which was once frightening; now it seems more like a call to action, or like cooling porcelain that’s reminding me that the coffee’s getting cold.

  3. The analytical faculties are poorly suited to what you are reaching for, alas. Meditation and prayer are the traditional routes to the state in question, though they need not be confined to a monastery.

    Coincidentally, a friend wrote to me today:
    “The first time a person experiences a transpersonal state, he or she is changed forever. But it’s through repeated and dedicated practice that the door to transpersonal awareness is ever widened and eventually you begin to see in two directions (some famous philosopher whose name escapes me put it that way). You’re looking at your life as a dualistic entity but also at yourself as a singularity. All that is, as a singularity. When that happens, your outward actions get more consistent with that inner reality.”

  4. See, I just deny the possibility of transcendence. There is the body, we can analyze it as far as it goes; there is consciousness, which is tied to the body; the body is firmly planted in the world, sustains and works with the world; etc. That’s all there is.

    I’ve meditated, had what buddhists call the sensation-of-heat, the like. But that is just one of the things that can affect us, a sort of feed-back loop in one of the conditions of consciousness, something that could be explained eventually (in principle maybe) in material terms. There is no inside/outside distinction: of course a subject is privy to a facet of things that no one else can be privy to, but that doesn’t really matter. The priviliged facet is no more real than the banal flux of events.

  5. Who cares what you, as a fictional solitary entity, do or do not accept?

    I only mention a tried-and-true way of attaining what you claim people are no good at. ;-)

  6. Well, I am expressing my considered doubts. I don’t doubt that there is some sensation or experience that one has when meditating or prayering, only that such a thing is transcendentally significant. And I don’t deny that there is such an entity that I am; only that I can be abstracted or treated in any way as isolable from the processes in which I take part and that give rise to ‘me’ as it were.

  7. I don’t know what “transcendentally significant” means, and I don’t suppose any state of mind is entirely un-material.

    People are very bad at looking at the world while being cognizant of the fact that they are looking at the world through blinders; and recognizing that these blinders constitute their selfhood at the same time that they obstruct their view. I find it difficult to do for more than a few moments at a time (perhaps that’s why people run off to the monastery: to work on being aware of this fact).”

    Most people aren’t interested in viewing the world that way. People who are interested may become very good at it indeed, through the methods I’ve mentioned above (and through some others with which I am less familiar). It is perfectly possible to maintain that awareness throughout one’s waking hours. All it takes is practice.

  8. Well, by no transcendentally significant activity, I mean that this’s all there is, and looking for something outside, beyond, further than the world is mistaken. Of course, for people who believe in a deity or the like, the notion that there is no ordering agency behind everything may seem untenable. But whatever. I still think that there are causal laws and things that order the world; I just don’t think that this is indicative of god etc.

    I need more practice it seems: sort of like riding a bike, maybe. Our lifestyles seem crafted to distract, though.

    Hey by the way thanks for the super-rad beanie and books.

  9. Well, you are welcome, of course! Portraits, please, of each of you en chapeau.

    A “transpersonal” state is not necessarily “transcendent,” and meditation practice need not include a priori belief in a deity. One may practice simply to increase the awareness of what is.

    Yes, life in these times can make it difficult to establish a practice. There is no way around it, however: daily commitment is required. Coincidently, the Chodron book I sent has some helpful passages about meditation (and life) in general, and tonglen meditation in particular.



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