Thursday, August 27, 2015

Zagreb Stories



1. It's All Good

- Do you miss L.A.?
- I miss a kind of charming stupidity to be found nowhere else. I remember the man I used to see at Whole Foods Market every day who greeted me with, 'It’s all good!'
- What’s charming about that? Boring, fatalistic, New Age pseudo-Buddhism. Nothing is bad you don’t make bad yourself by thinking about it, so don’t think about it. If that is all you miss about L.A. you should have answered me, No, It’s all stupid!
- The charming part is you can learn from the stupidity. One Buddhist text* describes meditation as contemplating the body in the body: “The monk, breathing in a long breath, knows 'I am breathing in a long breath’; breathing in a short breath, he knows he is breathing in a short breath." In order to say ‘All is good’, about our world of child slavery, prostitution, torture, war, etc. we call upon such a circling dance of thought and observation. We calm ourselves with ourselves. We can also calm ourselves in a dance with others in the collective behavior we call ritual. We do the dance and tell ourselves we are doing the dance.
- And we’re ready to murder and torture.
- Take the average Los Angeleno and put him in government and he’s ready to start any number of wars, rob the poor to pay the rich, in fact, do anything he can get away with. Up the coast in Santa Cruz, sister city to Los Angeles in spirituality, there is this professor of physics who has a remarkable idea.
- You mean charmingly stupid.
- Self-professed lesbian and feminist, she’s applies Bohr’s theory of complementarity to the social sciences and claims a lesbian, a woman, a human uses a different perceptual apparatus than a non-lesbian, a man, a non-human, and sees the world differently and inconsistently.
- Are you sure that isn’t true?
- No. I am sure though that this professor and no one else has yet looked.
- What are all the thousands of books on the subject doing then?
- Meditating! If a woman wants to tell me, a man, that women see the world more as a whole, I say, fine, what else is new, such has been known for thousands of years. Tell me how woman see a different world than men, then you will impress me.
- That woman just did.
- No she didn’t. She told me women see more often one part of the world, and men see more often another part. She hasn’t showed me that the two ways of seeing the world are inconsistent. One sees the glass half full of water, the other half empty, but in both cases the same glass is there and the world is the same.
- Why is it important that the world seen be inconsistent?
- Inconsistency is what tells us the world is being investigated, not merely used as excuse for meditation and ritual.
- And what is investigation exactly?
- Determination that when I do this, that follows.
- When Niels Bohr uses one experimental apparatus looking at photons, he sees waves, when he uses another, he see particles. Different, inconsistent worlds.
- Yes. If there is a lesbian or female apparatus of investigation, what world has it revealed inconsistent with the world seen by non-lesbians and males?
- Don’t ask me. But let them look.
- Who’s stopping them? But remember the story of Galileo and the Inquisition.
- Remind me.
- Contrary to popular belief, the Inquisition did not want to forbid Galileo from proposing that the sun was the center planets revolved around. What the Inquisition demanded was that he allow equal status the Church’s view that the earth was at the center.
- They were both theories, and theories were only ways of getting at the truth.
- Yes. But Galileo refused. Do you know why?
- Why?
- Because the Church’s attachment to theory was not the result of operating a research apparatus, but of not wanting to disturb the place the earth center view had in meditation and ritual.
- So the Church and Galileo's views didn’t differ like waves and particles at all.
- Right.
- Ok, put that aside. In L.A. and Santa Cruz they are just faking it. Let’s say though men and woman, and each of us as individuals, operate different apparatuses in Bohr’s sense, and see inconsistent worlds. We communicate because in the act of looking at the world we are living in the same world, and we know some things through that physical living in the same world? In addition to what we perceive though experiment?
- Yes.
- And the social role self-identifying meditator ritualists don’t live in the world so don’t communicate with each other?
- Yes again.
- I’ve heard that Galileo was both deeply religious and an astrologer. Maybe he believed his investigation into the world changed the world through the agency of “another” world.
- In fact, communication between inconsistent roles is not particularly mysterious. In every novel we read or theater performance we attend we get out of ourselves and into the represented characters. In fairy tales we are transformed into other species, the other sex, other social roles.
- It’s like we can sometimes be the wave, sometimes be the particle, because it is all not real. What’s real then?
- The world there to look at when we investigate. If the meditators and ritualists weren’t busy like the Inquisition protecting their meditations and rituals, claiming it’s all good, they’d be able to practice a very simple rule: when you see something bad, either do something to try to change it if you think you can and the time is right, or if not, look away towards something beautiful.
- Thinking and acting are different apparatuses.
- Try meditating on that!
__________________
*Satipatthana Sutta


2. Reading Minds

- I'd like to ask you something I think about more than probably is good for me. Do you think people can sometimes read each other's minds?
- My so-called wife and I used to do it regularly.
- And do you think it was inspired guessing, or some direct communication?
- My thought touching hers, her thought touching mine.
- Yes. Whatever those words mean.
- There's actually a way to look at it that is somewhere between the two alternatives.
- And that is?
- Just what we talked about last time. The theory Niels Bohr came up with to explain how using one experimental apparatus guiding photons we see waves, using another experimental apparatus we see particles. He said that we with our experimental apparatus were co-creators with nature of the object we saw: the wave, or the particle. Both were equally real.
- So you think that you and your wife had been living closely together in the same world that was drawn upon to compose your separate perceptions, and that was why, with your much different characters, you could know each other's thoughts?
- A bit of communing, a bit of guessing. It's a theory. Rather a dangerous one.
- Why?
- Because people don't have faith; faith being reason's determination of the limits of reason, that there is another world out there. If science shows us that sometimes we see waves, sometimes we see particles when we look at the progress of photons, maybe we are right to think our social roles or physical differences lock us into operating different and inconsistent apparatuses.
- We can't help seeing the world differently.
- Yes. And if we don't "have faith" in that other world behind the fact we observe of different worlds being seen by different apparatuses, the best we can do is tolerate each other with mutual incomprehension.
- Then you are arguing that you did, in fact, communicate with your wife on a level prior to thought?
- Alright, yes. But that level was something ordinary, was our shared everyday life.


3. The Atrophy Of Good

- My mother when she was already very old the year before she died told me for the thousandth time I should write about my family.
- You haven't much.
- No. The problem is I don't know what I am looking at. Was this strange tribe I was born into mere ordinary people making ordinary compromises but retaining ordinary good nature at other times and places? Were they monsters, or was I, for not being able to accept them?
- And?
- And I've got this idea...
- Tell me about it.
- A rock, or a machine, protected from the effects of the world around will last. But the opposite is true of us human beings, of animals in general. We can't without drastic consequences isolate ourselves. If we don't move through the world, our muscles atrophy, our memory fades. Have you ever thought how strange this is?
- No. Why is it strange?
- Because muscle atrophy and memory loss is an active process: there is a balance in which using muscles inhibits the setting in motion in the muscle itself of a muscle decaying process; when we stop moving, the inhibition ends and the process of "self-eating" begins. The same goes on with memory, though we know nothing of how this works, unlike with muscles where some of the mechanisms are becoming known.
- We are made to keep moving.
- Yes. Our minds and bodies have a homeostasis mechanism that works to maintain a balance. But the results of the process is setting us out into the world where new things happen. We both move, and we remember. Together movement through the world, and memory, provide the conditions of knowledge: is this new place like that old place or not? Even nematodes, the million species little worms from .1mm to 2.5mm long accounting for 80% of all animals, with a scant couple hundred neurons are known to learn.
- Our need to keep moving and exercise our memory sets us out on a path of knowledge. Eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and be expelled from the garden of Eden and set to work, and learn too, when we're not killing each other.
- Yes! Is there an equivalent process at work in our social life? Is there a mechanism in our social arrangements which makes them decay if they don't keep moving towards knowledge?
- Is there?
- I think there is. Our old friend ritual seems to play the role of the "self-eating" process that is triggered in the decline of movement.
- And what is social movement? Culture?
- Learning how to best live with each other.
- So when we stop looking into the question we rely on rules, roles, ritually repeat the same moves. And you say this destroys - what? - the social body?
- The rule following and role play involves the "self-eating" process of violence against any deviation of practice.
- How is this connected with your family? Did you think they were trying to eat you up?
- I did. But what I'm interested in now is the question of judgement: when we say of the Nazis that in their spare time when not killing they loved their children like everyone else, or say the same of our corrupt politicians and government bribing business leaders, is this even possible to be true? Or is the good we seem to see in them really the vanity of their saying to themselves, "I'm the kind of person who loves family and appreciates high art"?
- What about with your family? What did you experience?
- Demand for ritual conformity. Complete incomprehension of me. But lets go back to the question of judgement. It's something that has been bothering me for a long time. Despite all the corruption and compromise of everyday life, we are told the world is getting safer and richer. More democracies, more income, better health, less killing, at least percentage wise (there are a lot more people these days). But if we look to test the theory that a society not moving forward is moving backward, we see a new world of huge numbers of people living in freedom-destroying, role assigning, rule enforcing hierarchies, wage slaves of one kind or another.*
- Which you interpret as meaning billions are now forced participants in the "self-eating" process, the atrophy of the social body.
- Yes. The atrophy of good. What do you think?
- What has this to do with your mother?
- My question has always been whether I was right to rebel. What did I know about the balance of factors that went into the choice to compromise? What did I know about these people, father, mother, brothers?
- And this new bit of culture you've made up provides your justification. Do you believe it? Your family was going down and trying to take you with them?
- I acted on that belief.
- You kept moving.

Further Reading:
Bad History
____________________
* "Hence arose the national wars, battles, murders, and reprisals which make nature tremble and shock reason, and all those horrible prejudices which rank the honor of shedding human blood among the virtues. The most decent men learned to consider it one of their duties to murder their fellowmen; at length men were seen to massacre each other by the thousands without knowing why; more murders were committed on a single day of fighting and more horrors in the capture of a single city than were committed in the state of nature during whole centuries over the entire face of the earth." (J. J. Rousseau)


4. Digital & Dogs

-  Ever had the experience of talking about one thing and suddenly you know the answer to another thing you were thinking about?
- Sure.
- Speaking a language is one special thing we do with thinking.
- And the others?
- Other. There is only one: we act. Speaking is story telling, a narration of something that happened in the past or a story of what we will do in the future. Thinking when not story telling is productive: every movement through the world gives a new version of the world to our senses which we actively combine with what we've perceived before, doing this always while looking for the kind of thing we want.
- Desire guides what sort of categories we look for.
- Yes. We look for what we want.
- Isn't there a kind of thinking somewhere in the middle, between telling stories, and making stories?
- There is. When we have made a new class to put the individual impressions, perceptions, images into, and we like what we see, we continuously produce that sight holding onto the memory of how we got there.
- Which is what you call contemplation of beauty.
- Which we have talked about many times before. It doesn't go on too long because of the demands of the body to move, to maintain itself.
- And once we move we immediately have more experience to lead us back to the sight of something new and beautiful.
- Yes. Now what happens when you are talking about one thing and you solve a completely different problem is that the language supplies new arrangements of images, versions of the world which then thinking without language, which never stops, pounces upon to arrange experience in a new way.
- Thinking never stops?
- No. It moves from story telling of language, to contemplation of beauty, to search for new classifications incorporating constantly arising new experience. That's only when we do thinking right. We often mix up the categories. Instead of language being the tool of thought, thought itself becomes the tool of language. We come to think it's beautiful when we repeat the same actions to have the same thoughts.
- Why isn't it if contemplation is?
- In contemplation we repeat the same thoughts, not actions, guided not by language but by memory. Language is a tool that helps us produce more complex learning than is possible without it. And as long as we are moving, not going backwards limiting thought by language, we are on the way to learning.
- Does thought tell stories without language?
- Certainly. The stories just aren't in words. All emotions are such wordless story telling: love, melancholy, joy, sadness, hope, dread, anticipation.
- I've read that animals don't use language in the way we do. Only human language is hierarchical: each new element builds on the previous ones.
- Each new element limits the possibilities by specifying what sort of thing in a class is meant: There is a dog. What does the dog do? It goes. Where does the dog go? To the door.
- Then if as some say we think in language, we are always progressively limiting our experience in the story we tell.
- That's correct.
- But if that's true, how do we connect one story to another?
- How indeed.
- What do the theorists say?
- They are silent.
- Theorists of language are silent.
- Do you remember the debate about whether analog recordings of music were better than the new digital recordings?
- Analog sound is richer. You don't think so?
- Analog is like thought, continuously moving forward. Digital is like language, one story after another.
- And like we are fooled by digital music's fast sampling followed by gaps of silence, we are fooled into accepting that our thought could be nothing more than sentence followed by sentence, that sentences are samples of thought.
- Languages, limited things composed of gap filled sentences, tend to fall into two basic classes of how their sentences themselves limit representation of experience.* They differ in whether they focus on activity or on things, focus on movement or on stasis. The ones that focus on things tend to have a separate verb for each thing mentioned, where those focusing on activity can make do with one verb with many phrases indicating the path of movement.
- Why two different ways?
- The distinction reflects the two phases of thought: new experience, then synthesis into new classes. You can see the same division in traditional sex roles: male focuses on activity, female on stasis.
- But why should we limit ourselves in this way in language and social roles?
- The most general reflection on thinking we can make with language is that we act, acquiring new instances of experience, then we class those instances.
- And we then wrongly constrain our thinking and social life on the basis of that reflection in language?
- Yes.
- Let's go back to animals and humans. If they don't use our special, progressively limited and often backward leading language, are they nevertheless thinking?
- Sure they are. I'll give you an example. In activity focused languages...
- Of which English is one?
- Yes. In activity focused languages we say things like, "The ball fell down to the floor". We don't add, "The ball is now on the floor", which stasis focused languages tend to do in a separate phrase.
- We infer it. If the ball is falling towards, it is going to get there, unless we hear in another sentence that it didn't.
- We take the language to thought for expansion and completion. Language serves thought. Now at least one dog has been trained to go get many named objects. When it is told to go get an object with a name it's never heard before, it goes to look, comes back, goes again, and then understands: the new object there among the many known named others must be the one with the new name, and that is the one he takes.
- The dog has experience of going to a place where many named things are to get "x". Then new experience is added: it goes to the place of many named things and sees a new unnamed thing is there. Like the ball that in activity language falls to the floor, with no added description in language of the ball being on the floor, but this is inferred by thought, so the dog hears, "go get "x" but completes the description of "x" with experience of that new unnamed object seen among the named others. And this appeal of language to experience you say is appeal to thought.
- Experience that can arbitrate and complete language seems to deserve the title.
- I'm convinced. Do you know why?
- Why?
- Because dogs have moods, and as you say, moods are thought without language. They feel, they think, only don't have complex hierarchical language.
- And we do, but when we reduce thought to language we don't think and don't feel.
____________________
* Dan Slobin, Mind, Code, Text


5. Animals Talking, Animals Thinking

- I see you’ve been reading more about language. About animal language, animal intelligence.
- I’d say rather about human unintelligence, human stupidity.
- Would you?
- I would. I read a recent paper* from MIT which claims human language evolved from assembling two types of animal language behavior, lexical and expressive, with lexical language expressing states of the world and expressive language expressing intentions of the speaking animal. The dance of bees is lexical, describes the location where food can be found, the song of birds is expressive, taking possession of territory and telling of the wish to mate.
- Interesting.
- You think so? The other was a book from a  philosopher arguing that moral judgments are truth claims expressed in language, based on probabilities like all other scientific theories. Yet…
- Yet?
- Consider how animals play. The professional researchers want to see language in an attitude to states of the world, expressive with the lexical…
- And you think that is wrong?
- I think it is right. But the expressive side already is language without the lexical.
- You mean that we don’t need the particular state of the world spelled out to express the particular state of the world.
- Exactly. Any animal that expresses a relation to a state of the world already has a word in mind for the state of the world, already has a complete language. And morality as a truth proposition about the world? As uncertain of the world? No, expressive language already has the truth of the world in it.
- You lost me.
- As I was saying, consider how animals play. They are not acting passively in response to signs of coming pleasure or pain. They are not unconsciously emitting calls or transmitting information. Their action is expressive of their desire, and what they desire is to change the world, but neither the expressed desire to fight, nor the world fighting back against them supposed to be changed is real. They know what they are doing is not real and they want it to stay that way. What they see is another animal they play with that they like, and they assume the other animal is looking at them in the same way.
- You’re saying the playful action expresses a state of liking? A kind of consciousness, or even more, of ethics?
- Yes, all of that. The fact that animals play shows us that consciousness and liking precede language, rather than language produces consciousness and makes an argument for liking. Language expresses consciousness, not intentions with regard to the world. Some animals, us included, are able to step out of the present and imagine the future and recollect the past, to play with the present, as it were, and this allows them to see what a word is in isolation from other words. They then can choose how to arrange words to make new expression / state of the world combinations.
- The tool is the same, consciousness different. And what conclusion do you draw from our educated class’s continued attempts to reduce consciousness and morality to a product of language?
- Isn’t it obvious?
- Spell it out for me.
- Put in in language. No problem. Our educated class is a class dependent on other classes, and relations between classes are based on language. Making consciousness dependent on language flatters, deepens the importance of that relation.
- If you are right why did you have to spell it out for me in language?
- Because that is the game, and you only know what I’m talking about…
- If I do…
- You only know what I’m talking about because, like animals at play, you know all that we speak here refers to something more important.
- That important thing being the world in which we speak to each other in which we like each other, like the animals who play with each other like each other.
- You understand.
_____________________
The Emergence of Hierarchical Structure in Human Language


6. Love Draws Love, Beauty Brings Beauty, Truth Elicits Truth

I.

- I’d like you to take a look at this discussion,* it’s on YouTube, between three theorists of a coming new age of spirituality. The first talks about a drive of everything living towards complexity that is cumulative, the second about what he calls morphogenetic fields where what one organism learns can be communicated to another without direct contact, and the third a progress of mathematics and society, with chaos theory modeling entropy defying increase of organization being the latest development. All three had experience with hallucinogenic drugs in the 60s.
- I’ll watch it.
- You’ll see three very smart guys. They share in common a particular kind of mistake.
- Which is?
- You'll hear the first say the Internet is about to establish the connection of all with all, bringing to an end the drive for complexity in which no complexity once gained ever was lost. You'll hear the second say the earth and the sun could be consciousness beings. And you'll hear the third predict that human society is in the midst of a self-organizing spike of increased consciousness, with the appearance now of chaos theory modeling this spike being a representative part of that sudden rapid increase of human consciousness.
- When was the video recorded?
- 1998.
- Since then, we see that the Internet brings about not species consciousness but connection of like to like in islands of communication. Morphogenetic fields haven’t helped us to communicate despite the Internet. And the progress of society rapidly increasing? A billion people in China alone living in a dictatorship, rapidly increasing poverty in the United States and parts of Europe. Like the earth holds a highly complex organization of many life forms adapted to inorganic processes, the human species has also been developing a physical complexity: better health, longer life, less statistical chance of suffering violent attack. But like the earth, and the sun for that matter, isn’t conscious, so social complexity of this kind is not the same as complexity of human life.
- What's the difference?
- The self organizing spike modeled in chaos theory: sudden change, and uniformity of direction: does that remind you of anything? In social life?
- Fashion.
- Exactly. People copy each other going in the same direction all motivated by the same perception of desirability. Would you say fashion is a serious, important social development?
- Of course not.
- Why not?
- To use the idea of the first guy, it isn’t an increase in complexity. Communism was thought to be the latest, even the last idea, the newest and most complex. And it was just a fashion.
- Likewise a new species in the Amazon jungle is not more complexity. To be complexity, the organization has to be cumulative: nothing to be lost, but something to be gained. As with communism, in which social complexity is gained at the cost of individual complexity, so with new species. Something always is lost, communication restricted, in each new, dead end specialization.
- I take it being a dead end is part of the definition of fashion.
- Yes. Now the alternative to this view of social progress is the belief that progress is individual, happens with the benefit of a social organization that could be better or worse organized as a practical matter, but social organization is not the place of development.
- Individuals develop. Some of them.
- Yes. History itself doesn’t progress but is cyclical. It tends to decline from a golden age of individuality, and move to destruction of individuality in highly organized social development.
- So tools like the Internet hasten this process of decline. Science too.
- We hesitate to agree the earth or the sun has a soul and is conscious, despite perhaps their having great complexity, because we don’t hear them speak. Language would be a sign they acted as a whole. Same goes for the predicted unified human consciousness to arise out of Internet enabled increasing shared knowledge. Can you hear its voice? Of human species consciousness?
- I might if I took hallucinogenic drugs.
- Otherwise?
- Not so far.
- We see nothing in the organization of the earth, or the sun, or human society that is cumulative of complexity. We see specialization.
- So where did these smart guys go wrong ?
- They confused the causality of the body with the causality of the mind. There is a theory of brain scientists that in the fractal involutions of the dendrites in the brain a wave form record is made that is just the kind of cumulatively increasing knowledge of the whole looked for. This record is then read or decoded in the process of memory retrieval in the nerves themselves into specific memories.
- I know the ideas. The dendrite level is more like the mind, and the nerve processing more like the body.
- Or as some explain, the quantum level, and the classical level.** Social life works with bodies.
- But social life is made up of ideas.
- The communication in actual societies is like the relations between species on earth, or the parts of the human body: between specialized role and specialized role.
- Like what happen on the Internet.
- Increased knowledge, fed into social life, results only in increased complexity of species organization, which involves reduction of complexity, decreasing freedom of the individual.
- Then morphogenetic fields aren’t going to lead us to group consciousness anytime soon.
- No. Truly cumulative knowledge is individual. Scientific theories, ever more specific knowledge of relations between specialized parts, replace each other like new fashions, with ever more uniform and consistent relation between less variable parts. In individual development all memory is retained, nothing is lost in specialization. In such development perhaps there is communication directly at a level lower, more fundamental than that of the body, why not? But progress in individual development is hindered by social progress of the kind we’re talking about.
- Is there any other kind of social progress? And did you just say you believe in this new age soul communication?
- Love draws love. Beauty brings beauty. Truth elicits truth.
- Not on the Internet. Not in society. Not in our kind of progress.
- For real social progress we have to work out first how to remain individuals with our knowledge. Learn how to avoid playing social roles. That involves detailed knowledge of how we go the wrong way.
- And these three guys on the video didn’t think of taking this precaution? Didn’t know how to prevent mind being confused with body, didn’t know how to stop cumulative thinking from devolving into body like specialized organization?
- That’s how it looks to me.

Further Reading:
Killer Metaphysics
___________________
McKenna, Sheldrake, Abraham
** "In some way, and to some degree everything enfolds or implicates everything, but in such a manner that under typical conditions of ordinary experience, there is a great deal of relative independence of things." David Bohm, "A New Theory of the Relationship of Mind and Matter" 
The quantum level of moving information leads to the classical on which particles somehow both retain their classical status in relation to other classical things while also returning to quantum status which allows unfolding into organic species. Species interact materially with other species while also returning to quantum status so as to unfold into individual humans of the species. Ditto the thought of individual humans and ditto their offspring thoughts. The new age is supposed to be brought about by communication, but this result relies on that communication being on the quantum level, while the Internet, for example, obviously works on the classical level, and predictably enough shows classical results.

II.

- One of your favorite ideas is that we experience a relation to the whole when we stop acting and feel love. What does it mean if, as Bohm's quantum physics* claims, that every particle of an atom does the same? Not that it loves, but is in a relation to the whole? You say when we love we don't really stop moving but hold our position with regard to the world, and this theory says the same, but oppositely, that when we hold our position we stop being in relation to the whole: the particle previously moving in response to a wave of information coming from the whole world now acts like an isolated particle.
- When a particle stops moving it acts like a thing and when we stop moving we act like a human being. We have been through this before, and many times. Do you recognize the relevant concepts?
- I have a sense, something...
- You have a feeling. You're a little confused. Your mind is in movement. The world is not stable in love of the whole. You can't find yourself in it at the moment.
- Oh! Those ideas. I remember. My sense of the world is open, while my attention is on myself as a problem, in a failed relation to the unclear world.
- Yes. You will try out various kinds of actions, characteristic things you've repeatedly done, looking to see if the world as a whole will come back to you. You make a change in your relation to the world. Now, what goes on when the particle is moving in the grips of the whole world?
- The theory says it acts like a wave, not a particle.
- When you move, you see yourself as a doubtful particle, and the world as unclear. When the particle moves, it is as it were invisible to itself as a particle, but in the grips of the whole. Do you see the consequence of this difference between our behavior in movement and the particle's?
- You tell me.
- The particle doesn't make a change in the world when it moves.
- Which is why the classical world doesn't change! Why it obeys physical laws.
- Yes. The quantum world, being sold to us by the prophets of the new age as a world of love and connectivity, is actually what the old systems of morality warn us against: falling into the passions of fear and hatred that bring loss of self awareness in action aimed at keeping the world the same.

III.

- The end approaching is more like the destruction of consciousness than shared consciousness. But aren't you missing the point?
- Which is?
- That what the new world is going to bring is shared unconsciousness.
- The world we get a glimpse of when we take drugs. The material world losing all human content helps us on our way.
- Maybe it's the only way.
- What about increasing human content in the world?
- Do you know how to do that?
- At the quantum level information carried by waves of the whole is filtered down to information about a single particle. In the Kabbalah, acting with wisdom creates beauty, which remains in the world and becomes the foundation of new creation.
- The whole improved by the individual, not the whole reduced to the individual.
- Freedom at the end of time, not in the world's destruction, but in its perfection.

Further Reading:
Kabbalah & The Dalai Lama
Karma & Kabbalah
______________________
Summarizing Bohm's and his own interpretation, Hiley has explained that the quantum potential "does not give rise to a mechanical force in the Newtonian sense. Thus while the Newtonian potential drives the particle along the trajectory, the quantum potential organises the form of the trajectories in response to the experimental conditions." The quantum potential can be understood as an aspect of "some kind of self-organising process" involving a basic underlying field.[35][36] The quantum potential (or information potential) links the quantum system under investigation to the measuring apparatus, thereby giving that system a significance within the context defined by the apparatus.[37] It acts on each quantum particle individually, each particle influencing itself. Hiley cites the wording of Paul Dirac: "Each electron only interferes with itself" and adds: "Somehow the ‘quantum force’ is a ‘private’ force. It thus cannot be regarded as a distortion of some underlying sub-quantum medium as was originally suggested by de Broglie".[38] It is independent of field intensity, thus fulfilling a precondition for non-locality, and it carries information about the whole experimental arrangement in which the particle finds itself.[38] (from Wikipedia)

IV.

- Do you agree? Mind is more than matter, and more than any arrangement or movement of matter, is something more than a form, more than a kind of information or programming directing arrangement of the parts of the body?
- I agree.
- But then, what is it?
- I have no idea. But let's ask instead, what is matter?
- And answer?
- Matter is what mind moves by moving the body which then moves the world in contact with it.
- And is the mind what the body moves too, as claimed by brain researchers?
- We can imagine that material things can direct the mind step by step through the process of forming a single idea out of the world of all memory and present sensation, like the particle filters down from the wave in quantum mechanics. But the mind is not an idea making machine. If it is going to be a machine at all, it is a time travelling machine. It stops responding to the present world, and looks back and looks forward, doing nothing but hold its place in present time and space.
- The mind uses matter, moves matter, even if it is only the brain being moved through, to travel through time.
- Yes. And here is the point I want to make: we don't know what mind is, and we don't know what matter is, but we know mind can do something with matter that matter cannot do with the mind. Matter can undermine the ability of mind to do what it does, destroy or manipulate the brain, but can you conceive of matter equaling the time travel performance of mind?
- I'm not sure.
- The other day I told you about Niels Bohr, his idea that using one experimental apparatus to look at electrons we see waves, using another experimental apparatus we see particles, because we with our experimental apparatus are co-creators with nature of the object we see, the wave or the particle. If so, even the quantum field doesn't escape its world, the confinement and causality of the experimental apparatus.

Further Reading:
It Just Happens 


7. Miracles

I.

- My favorite rabbi wrote...
- I thought you don't like rabbis.
- I don't. This rabbi's interesting, and there's nothing wrong with that. He wrote that archaeological evidence makes clear the Jews probably never went to Egypt, not en mass, and never left in exodus. But maybe not a nation but a small group did go, and that is the basis of the whole story. Such kind of interpretation allows him to still say he believes the bible is the product of god.
- And you like that?
- The case can be made.
- How?
- The physicist Wigner* said that "it is important to point out that the mathematical formulation of the physicist’s often crude experience leads in an uncanny number of cases to an amazingly accurate description of a large class of phenomena," accurate "beyond all reasonable expectations." That "the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning." And "It is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here, quite comparable in its striking nature to the miracle that the human mind can string a thousand arguments together without getting itself into contradictions, or to the two miracles of laws of nature and of the human mind's capacity to divine them."
- And the connection to the bible?
- I am always looking for the unreasonable effectiveness of ideas, trying to discover laws that will provide unexpected, miraculous understanding. Today I've been reading Engels' The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,** looking for why private property came about that leads to slavery and class structure.
- What does he say?
- When men began high yield farming they became more important than women who were restricted in the confines of the home to the production of children.
- Why was high yield farming more important than raising children?
- Exactly.
- So, what did happen?
- Here's what the bible says. After the fall and expulsion from the Garden of Eden woman becomes the slave of man, and man has to work the fields with sweat of exhaustion and tears of pain. Cain, the first child of Adam and Eve, is a farmer, and his sacrifice is disdained in favor of the sacrifice of his younger brother Abel who keeps flocks. Slavery is associated with work which is associated with pain. Work is repetition in pain endured for the sake of a future reward. Foraging, and pasturing is not work in this sense: each time the search and wandering is different, is a one time activity. In farming what we do we have to keep doing, plowing one furrow after another, etc, waiting for the future reward while suffering the present pain of work
- Why is woman man's slave if both have to work?
- Woman is "farmed" by man to produce children. Farming is work. Herding sheep, a shepherd's life, not necessarily.
- At least the bible doesn't explicitly say it is work.***
- No. So Cain, after killing Abel, asks god, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
- It isn't his job, his work, keeping animals.
- Right. So put this together: Work, repetitive and painful. Managing a human being said to be a job. And slavery. A slave, a form of private property, is a human being worked upon, a thing repetitively, painfully managed by another human being. Slavery, and the class structures and hierarchies growing out of it, arises out of the repetitive, painful nature of work.
- And all this expressed in the bible in a few simple sentences.
- As Wigner said, it is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here.
___________________
* Eugene Wigner, The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences
** Frederick Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State 
*** 'The presence of the Hebrew God is never more intense and visible than when his people are on the move, and when, in his people’s wanderings, in the movement that takes them from the town, the prairies, and pastures, he goes ahead and shows his people the direction they must follow. The Greek god, rather, appears on the walls to defend his town. The Hebrew God appears precisely when one is leaving the town, when one is leaving the city walls behind and taking the path across the prairies. “O God, when you set out at the head of your people,” say the Psalms...What is the shepherd? Is he someone whose strength strikes men’s eyes, like the sovereigns or gods, like the Greek gods, who essentially appear in their splendor? Not at all. The shepherd is someone who keeps watch.' (Michel Foucault, 'Security, Territory, Population'.  Foucault notes ‘the Mosaic theme of the good shepherd who accepts the sacrifice of his entire flock in order to save the single sheep at risk’. The shepherd can be seen as exercising care and attention rather than technical calculation.)


II.

From Aldous Huxley's Ends And Means (1937):

Real progress, in the words of Dr. R. R. Marett, 'is progress in charity, all other advances being secondary thereto'. In the course of recorded history real progress has been made by fits and starts. Periods of advance in charity have alternated with periods of regression. The eighteenth century was an epoch of real progress. So was most of the nineteenth, in spite of the horrors of industrialism, or rather because of the energetic way in which its men of good will tried to put a stop to those horrors. The present age is still humanitarian in spots; but where major political issues are concerned, it has witnessed a definite regression in charity. Thus, eighteenth-century thinkers were unanimous in condemning the use of torture by the State. Not only is torture freely used by the rulers of twentieth-century Europe; there are also theorists who are prepared to justify every form of State-organized atrocity, from flogging and branding to the wholesale massacre of minorities and general war. Another painfully significant symptom is the equanimity with which the twentieth-century public responds to written accounts and even to photographs and moving pictures of slaughter and atrocity. By way of excuse it may be urged that, during the last twenty years, people have supped so full of horrors, that horrors no longer excite either their pity for the victims or their indignation against the perpetrators. But the fact of indifference remains; and because nobody bothers about horrors, yet more horrors are perpetrated. Closely associated with the regression in charity is the decline in men's regard for truth. At no period of the world's history has organized lying been practiced so shamelessly or, thanks to modern technology, so efficiently or on so vast a scale as by the political and economic dictators of the present century. Most of this organized lying takes the form of propaganda, inculcating hatred and vanity, and preparing men's minds for war. The principal aim of the liars is the eradication of charitable feelings and behavior in the sphere of international politics. Another point; charity cannot progress towards universality unless the prevailing cosmology is either monotheistic or pantheistic, unless there is a general belief that all men are 'the sons of God or, in Indian phrase, that 'thou art that/ tat tvam asi. The last fifty years have witnessed a great retreat from monotheism towards idolatry. The worship of one God has been abandoned in favor of the worship of such local divinities as the nation, the class and even the deified individual. Such is the world in which we find ourselves, a world which, judged by the only acceptable criterion of progress, is manifestly in regression. Technological advance is rapid. But without progress in charity, technological advance is useless. Indeed, it is worse than useless. Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.
The economic reforms so dear to advanced thinkers are not in themselves sufficient to produce desirable changes in the character of society and of the individuals composing it. Unless carried out by the right sort of means and in the right sort of governmental, administrative and educational contexts, such reforms are either fruitless or actually fruitful of evil.

III.

- Do you know what I like best about talking with you?
- What?
- You're willing to go deep into difficulties. You're not afraid of getting lost.
- Afraid of appearing crazy.
- Sometimes it's too crazy for me. But this time, with this subject, I'd like to go further. Aldous Huxley was right. I'm convinced. The only real progress is progress in good will towards others, and acting on good will. With all our economic and technological progress, we clearly are going backwards in good will and good action. How else to explain, in our world of immense wealth, that approaching half of one percent of those alive now are slaves? When a child sex slave in Thailand is literally 1,000 times cheaper than an African slave at the time of the Civil War?* I know the argument, technology is behind this moral decline: modeling ourselves on the machine, forgetting the reasons we developed technology in the first place.
- Do you disagree?
- No. There's obviously a connection. But I want to know why we are vulnerable in the first place, why we're seduced so easily to going wrong. You said that slavery might have its origin in repetitive, painful work. And a while back** you said we didn't develop slavery until property was inherited. Is there a connection between repetitive work and inheritance?
- When we take a slave, we see another person as our work, to be managed through a technical act, a repeated act of management. When we foresee leaving our property not to the entire community, but only to our descendant, can we say that we are doing something similar?
- Making our descendant our slave?
- A slave to our imagination, in our imagination. When we performed the repeated acts with which our property was accumulated, we watched ourselves doing the repetition. Without the self observation it is just what we want to do at every moment. When we leave property to our descendant, do we imagine our descendant appreciating our power, impressed by our ability to perform the technical act of repetition behind the accumulation?
- The benefactor imagines he has a power of drawing the admiration of his beneficiary.
- Yes. He imagines being looked at by his beneficiary as he is in the habit of looking at himself.
- With admiration. Then you think that the habit of admiring your own technique of acquisition, this technical knowledge become conscious, is behind the wish to have property inherited. And from there it is a short step to seeing other people, those not your inheritors, as property to be worked upon, that is, potential slaves.
- What do you think?
- Let's go back to the Cain and Abel story. Small scale growing of vegetables doesn't stop people from living on an equal basis, nor does small scale care of animals. It is the pain involved that leads to trouble. The pain is not really physical, it is from our counting the repetitions, looking impatiently ahead to the reward. And it is our minds set on the coming reward that gives us the idea of our power to achieve that reward. That power we see in ourselves is what we imagine transferred to our descendants with our property. And this wish to transfer power after death, as if we were the same as our power and transferred along with it, is behind keeping our property private, and property kept from all but descendants is what is behind slavery?
- It's possible.
- Then to stop this from happening all we have to do is remember we acquire and use our technical knowledge for the sake of living better with each other.
- That's all. But we have to know it before we can remember it.

Further Reading:
Bringing Back Stray Sheep
__________________
Kevin Bales, TED talk (total cost to end slavery: $10.8 Billion)
** Slavery On A Walk In Beverly Hills


8. Clutter, Gloves Off

I. Clutter

Let’s begin with a quote from “The Objects of Desire: A Cultural Case Study in Hoarding” a 2013 article by Yavar Moghimi, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, George Washington University:
The desire to possess objects has increasingly become a larger part of humans’ lives, especially in North America. Csikszentmihalyi argues that the possession of objects can exert a positive influence on individuals in three ways: by demonstrating power, giving permanence to relationships, and revealing the continuity of the self.

And this is from a novel by the Indian writer Narayan:
The contents of the box were a confused heap of odds and ends of all metals and materials. Here a cardboard box that had once touched Swaminathan's fancy, and there a toy watch, a catalogue, some picture books, nuts and bolts, disused insignificant parts of defunct machinery, and so on to the brim. He rummaged in it for half an hour, but there seemed to be nothing in it worth taking to Rajam. The only decent object in it was a green engine given to him over a year ago by Rajam. The sight of it, now dented and chipped in a couple of places and lying between an empty thread-reel and a broken porcelain vase, stirred in him vivid memories. He became maudlin. . .

Speaking personally, I have a collection of valueless cuff links, most of them single, though presently I don’t own a shirt that can use them. (I have in the past). One of the single links is solid silver, proudly acquired as a pair from a second hand store in Budapest. On the tram ride home a pickpocket relieved me of its partner.


The Washington University psychiatrist continues his article:
When objects end up engulfing usable space we consider it clutter. At its most extreme, clutter can indicate an insatiable yearning for objects and an inability to discard them, known as hoarding or clinically as hoarding disorder. As opposed to collectors, who tend to proudly display their collections in an ordered and methodical manner, hoarders secretively hold onto objects, too embarrassed to reveal their possessions, yet too connected to them to let them go.

The Collyer brothers, two real brothers who are perhaps the most infamous “packrats” in United States history. Their Harlem Brownstone was discovered to be “filled from floor to ceiling with piles of newspapers, suitcases and boxes, 14 pianos, half a dozen toy train sets, chandeliers, a car chassis and more than 100 tons of garbage along with the brothers’ corpses.

In some instances, hoarding of objects can be seen as utilitarian and ‘rational’ as in the hoarding that often occurs in response to unstable economic situations, like in the transition from a state-based to free market economy. Historically, hoards of items have also been observed in anticipation of food shortage with the Anasazi tribe in the Southwest.

Here is a example in the news of economic hoarding:
Affluent Greeks have been moving the bulk of their personal wealth and business accounts abroad or hoarding piles of cash in their homes. For the affluent, life without the euro is almost unimaginable. The single currency made it easier for them to send children to study abroad and purchase property and luxury goods elsewhere in Europe. Now Greek’s rich are sending money abroad or hoarding cash fearing the imposition of capital controls if the country doesn’t strike a deal with Europe. According to data from the end of April, some € 70bn had moved from Greece to other Eurozone countries since the end of November, just before the outbreak of the political crisis that ultimately brought Syriza to power. In addition, private deposits at Greek lenders have shrunk by more than €30bn between November and May, as those with savings choose to stuff cash under the mattress instead of trusting the liquidity of bank accounts.

Possessions are collected for what they can be used for, now or later, or assigned to others to be used by, are collected for the use of impressing others, or for the use of reminding yourself what you have done alone or with others in the past or may do in the future.

Collecting possessions is not a disease, no matter how much you collect. What brings in pathology is unwillingness to arrange, keep the collection in order. The technical term appears to be “clutter”: the failure to keep your things in life clean, safe, free from decay.  Since preventing decay would keep things in condition to serve their function, why doesn’t that happen? Why the clutter?

Psychiatrists observe anxiety of decision making in many of their hoarding patients, what they call a “cognitive” problem rather than a problem of self, or problem of society, or problem of relation between self and society. Clearly the cognitive problem is not genetic – the present epidemic of hoarding has appeared out of nowhere - and arises from problems of self and society.

What about then those self and society problems? Hoarding is a problem of seeing one’s self in objects. Advertising sells the idea 24 hours a day that your possessions define you, and after thousands of hours a year it should be no surprise a pathology develops.

Storytelling with objects is a normal activity. Storytelling with objects associates objects with things we’ve done, while objects hoarded tell only about what kind of self we have. You don’t have to do anything, have any story at all, to have a kind of self. All you have to do is imagine whether that self is approved of by others, has power over others’ imagination. Psychiatrists know this, and suggest to their horde of patients in waiting (they estimate there to be one million or more in the United States) not to see themselves in what they consume, find, possess, or purchase, but see themselves in what they make.


Marx explained his concept of alienation like this:
Let us suppose that we had carried out production as human beings. Each of us would have, in two ways, affirmed himself, and the other person. (1) In my production I would have objectified my individuality, its specific character, and, therefore, enjoyed not only an individual manifestation of my life during the activity, but also, when looking at the object, I would have the individual pleasure of knowing my personality to be objective, visible to the senses, and, hence, a power beyond all doubt. (2) In your enjoyment, or use, of my product I would have the direct enjoyment both of being conscious of having satisfied a human need by my work, that is, of having objectified man’s essential nature, and of having thus created an object corresponding to the need of another man’s essential nature . . . Our products would be so many mirrors in which we saw reflected our essential nature.

Now, the word “hoard”, referring to the activity of collecting things and hiding them away, has a sister word you probably noticed I just used pronounced the same with different spelling, “horde”, the demeaning term for a large group of people. And horde is as you’d expect related to the word “herd”, a group of animals that keep to themselves.

This raises a question on the face of it crazy, but maybe not: do the one million hoarding Americans look at the things they collect as a herd of things? Can the behavior of herds teach us anything about hoarding?

Marx says that when a worker produces a product in the factory he becomes alienated from it: he has no idea what happens next to it. And when he buys products the worker has no idea where they came from. The same is true of his salary: it comes out of the same mysterious world of economic transaction that things disappear into between their making and purchase. Because the salary of the worker depends on an unknown process it is inherently unreliable. Economic insecurity, psychiatrists have seen, brings on hoarding behavior.

Consider then that the most transparent and secure thing you can do with money is finance: make money with money. It is the single case where what someone works to produce remains with the producer: interest on the capital goes to the owner of the capital along with the capital as well. Money is not alienated, and is the only thing produced in our society that is not alienated. Money, however, in the mysterious process that happens between the conception of the investment and birth of interest, like the production and consumption of things, enter into the mysterious economic realm, where it obeys mysterious laws, is subject to cycles of boom and bust, rapid advance and reversals. Which, and this where I am going, is characteristic of herds too: they are subject to stampedes and panics.

Money behaves like a herd, and is the only productive activity in our society that is not alienating. This being so, is it possible that the hoarder, collecting and cluttering, is constructing a herd of consumer objects? That the lack of order in his herd of objects reflects the lack of order between one dollar and another? Dollars mass together in a herd, pile one atop each other any which way in mere sums.

Hoarding is an illness, often leading to unsanitary conditions, social isolation, and economic catastrophe. Whereas making money in finance is profitable and doesn’t necessary lead to any of those places.

But making money can lead to those places, and for the same reason. As possessions can become a hoard, mysteriously increasing themselves and subject to no internal order, so money made in finance can collect into a hoard. The natural cycle is that we do something for a good reason and stop doing it when it is done. Then we use the thing done to make our lives good, only later going back to the doing. But the doing can go wrong and be done for its own sake, as making money for the sake of making money. Each increment of money made is seen as a suggestion to more money making, just like each new accumulated cluttering possession of the hoarder suggests making an addition to the hoard. In both cases the good that acquiring was intended to lead us to, the rest activity ought to have ended with is forgotten. Acquiring has becomes self-sustaining and meaningless. And that’s not all. Not only does the hoarder herd his possessions, but he acquires them himself being part of a million strong herd of hoarders.

Herds of hoarders herding money and things. Don't know about you, but to my taste the world’s getting a little cluttered.


II. Herds & Hoards

So much about the private costs and benefits of hoarding. Wikipedia (a collector not a herder of information) says the following about the social and economic costs:
A feature of hoarding is that it leads to an inefficient distribution of scarce resources, making the scarcity even more of a problem. An example occurs in cities where parking is inadequate. In such a case, businesses may post signs indicating that their lot is for their employees and customers only, and all other vehicles will be towed. This prevents businesses from allowing their parking to overflow into neighboring lots when their capacity is exceeded. Thus, when the capacity is reached at one business, there may be no legal place to park, while there would have been, if hoarding had not occurred. If a single business posted those signs, it would, indeed, improve the parking situation at that business, as they could continue to park at adjacent businesses, while the others could not park in their lot. However, when everybody posts such signs, the problem becomes worse for everyone. 

Hoarders have in common with herd animals that their relation to each other is not individual. Their gatherings are temporary and subject to the same herd laws of boom and bust, coalescing and disarray, as their money and possessions. 

The parking lot example of hoarding relinquished is particularly interesting in that business owners retain control of their property. The permission granted is not permanent, thus they keep for themselves economic security of hoarded property.

Looking for a solution to the problem of hoarding, it is a good principle to start with that sharing of superfluous resources, if it is going to happen, depends on basic security. It also depends on the people shared with being in the same community, for example, the community of businesses with parking lots.

Community doesn't necessarily have to be of business. It can be any kind of interest that is shared. However the condition remains that sharing has to be voluntary, that it may be withheld. The late 18th century English philosopher William Godwin said that we all should give away all our superfluous property but only to others who convinced us to. Our job was to give, their job was to convince us it was good to give to them and not others: not to satisfy the vanity of the giver, but to bring out the community of interest between giver and receiver. When such behavior of reason guided community making giving became customary every person would be both a giver and receiver.

Compare the giving that establishes a community of interest with the hoarding that defines a herd: giving is individually satisfying, a creative act creating links and associations with those we live among, while the hoarding self is isolated and undistinguished, economically and socially destructive.


III. Clutter, Gloves Off

- That's all well and good.
- Meaning you don't like it.
- What are you afraid of? Take the gloves off.
- Tell the hoarders what I really think of them.
- Yes.
- There are 2,300 billionaires in the world at last count. On the average they have about 20 percent of their wealth in cash.* To end slavery, buy out of slavery and into a new life 30 million men, women and children, would cost 10.8 billion dollars.** That is less than one percent of the billionaires' hoarded cash. Or if you prefer, it is the hoarded cash of 20 individual billionaires.
- If 20 people spent only their excess cash now sitting in bank accounts not even collecting interest, keeping 80 percent of the rest of their wealth, and all 20 of them remaining billionaires, slavery would be ended.
- Yes.
- Why don't they do it?
- Which 20 are you talking about?
- I don't know. A number of them give away a lot of money.
- They don't ever challenge existing property relations. They try to prevent conditions from getting so bad that others might challenge existing property relations.
- You're turning into a communist.
- Take the gloves off, you said. Want them off, or not?
- Off.
- Rousseau said that the biggest confidence trick in history was the rich hoarding all the world's property, and then saying to the rest of us: we've got a deal for you. You'll have nothing and we'll have everything, but if you agree not to challenge the idea of property, as we chase you from one place to another, places that you don't belong in and don't belong to you, you can collect little souvenirs of your adventurous journey, door knobs, cuff links, and such.
- Cuff links.
- Yes, cuff links. Maybe we'll even let you conditionally possess a little box to live in, subject of course to taxes, loss of your employment as our slave, or being sent to your death in a war that we owners of the world wage between ourselves over our property.
- More communism.
- They let us keep our cuff links and romantic stories, while they hoard everything else, forcing us to slave for them to get their permission to occupy their property.
- Why did we accept the deal?
- Because we'd already come to worship property. The cuff links and door knobs were good enough for us. We had our property gods, the others had theirs. All gods were the same. Property was property.
- Why did we worship property?
- Because we'd learned to find security in manipulating other people. We'd learned to flatter their conception of themselves as kind of things, as property.
- Why did we do that? And how did they get to thinking of themselves as property?
- A fault in our nature, brought out maybe by the repetitive work of agriculture, counting the results and counting our safety in the quantity, then passing on to our descendants the things accumulated imagining ourselves living on within them.***
- As you say, maybe. It's only a story.
- A story no more valuable than the story of the poor soul collecting door knobs while being chased from one place of dispossession to another. Facts are facts, and the fact is people agree not to challenge property. They accept the principle that property should be hoarded by a few forcing the rest to be their slaves.
- Fine. That's hoarding, gloves off. What then?
- What do you mean? Should I try to convince them to stop hoarding? Why should they, when hoarding is the first principle of the way they live their lives?
- How is hoarding the first principle of the way they live their lives?
- How else explain those twenty billionaires who could end world slavery with a few key strokes, a few flicks of the wrist and don't do it. First principles: does a human being, expressing normal human nature, walk by unconcerned another human being being tortured?
- No.
- No. Not unless there is another principle more important than being human to override basic human nature.
- And that principle is property.
- Not property. Hoarded property. Nothing is in the nature of holding property that says it should be permanent.
- Repeat that.
- We like giving away our possessions at least as much as keeping them.
- You know, I think that's right.
- Of course it's right. So how can we ask those billionaires to go against the entire basis of their existence, which fundamentally is about power relations person to person?
- Freeing slaves means giving away power, and that's why we won't ever see them do it.
- Now you've outdone me in gloom. One or two might be willing to be human.

Further Reading:
Bringing Back Stray Sheep
Faith
__________________
Billionaires Sitting On Growing Piles Of Cash
** Kevin Bales, TED talk 
*** Slavery On A Walk In Beverly Hills


9. Faith To A Rabbi

"There was never a moment that I questioned my Judaism. There were many moments in my life when I’ve questioned my faith in various aspects, absolutely. I think there are probably people who are sort of gifted with faith the way Mozart is gifted with music, and they never doubt god's presence in their lives for a moment. I have not been so blessed and I certainly do feel sometimes, not necessarily in the moment of the debate, more often in quieter moments I sense doubt, I feel, I understand regret. I mean you know what Rabbi Nahman of Bratzlav said, he said “He was a moon man, his faith waxed and waned.” And I feel that sometimes, there are sometimes I feel it more, there are sometimes when I feel it less. But I had never doubted the value and the worth of the Jewish way of life. That to me, I’ve seen it in evidence so often in so many places and I believe Judaism has contributed so much to the world, that for me that’s not something I ever ever doubt." *

- How do you explain faith to a rabbi who doesn't have any?
- Maybe you can't. You've heard the claim there's something good in everyone?
- “When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be." Isn't it true?
- Strictly speaking, no.
- Why not?
- Because acting on the principle of power makes you incapable of acting right.** To get the billionaire hoarder to do anything good you'd have to take his money away from him.
- And then what good could he do?
- The same as everyone else. Is the rabbi you're thinking of acting for power or to do good?
- I don't know. Is it possible to do good if you don't have faith?
- I don't think so. What about you?
- Me either. So how do we explain faith to the rabbi who doesn't have any?
- Assuming the rabbi isn't interested power, he's reachable.
- Yes, but how? Not by convincing. Faith is by definition not reasonable. We believe despite not having reason.
- Not really.
- Why not?
- Faith is a combination of reason and uncertainty.*** It is seeing the progress of good in the world as a vehicle set going in the right direction.
- Imagine I'm the rabbi and explain faith to me.
- "Rabbi, You know very well, because it is part of the religion, that good done in the world can persist in the form of beauty, and the persistence of beauty in the world is a mechanism that makes progress possible. Beauty of good attracts good just as ugliness of bad attracts bad. Whether progress happens is uncertain. All we know is that it can happen, and given infinite time it will happen, it must happen. No one forces you to want to wait. No one person forces you to, but your job does."
_____________________
*  A Spiritual Leader For The Modern Age
** The Atrophy Of Good. "Praises are for the base, fair sister, cunningly to entice them to fair virtue by our ignorings of the ill in them, and our imputings of the good not theirs." - Herman Melville, 'Pierre' 
*** Karma & Kabbalah


10. The Politics Of Truth

- Michel Foucault once defined philosophy as the politics of truth.
- Meaning that claims to truth are used politically.
- Yes. Among his latest work was a series of lectures on the history of Neoliberalism.
- What exactly is Neoliberalism?
- A claim there is a naturally occurring mechanism of exchange that creates wealth for all invisibly and without attention. Interference by government can't be legitimate since the process is invisible and in any case it could only be damaged by interference. Civil Society* claims work the same to provide a supporting legal theory: law need not be forced on the people by the government, cooperation and sympathy result from a naturally occurring process just like that of mutual benefit from free exchange.
- Does Foucault say these truth claims are untrue?
- Not a word along those lines. It is not part of his argument.
- Which is?
- That under cover of such ideas power can be exercised. Government, which has different interests from business, was denied by these claims power to interfere. But there is something even more interesting. Invisible hand mechanisms do seem to be at work here in both the marketplace and civil society. However they do not create wealth or civility for the whole, as is claimed, but only to the benefit of the class that promotes and puts into effect these claims. You know how Marx says capital-based production works?
- Refresh my memory.
- Producers pay their employees, then sell the products they made back to them at a price higher than their salary. And where do the employees get the money to pay the higher price if they only have what they've been paid? They are employed further, and they use the extra money they make today to buy the product they made yesterday. The employer finances this new day's payment of salary by borrowing money. That money is created by the state or banks authorized by it. For this system to go on working, to avoid inflation, the cheapening of money, demands a constant increase of production, since money is constantly being increased. Marx described profit as continuous theft from the worker. Another way of looking at it is not so material. The worker already sells his freedom by the hour. In his off work time, he can establish separate economic conditions by cooperating on trust, investing his labor with others' labor, each extends credit to each. But the worker's potential for private credit investment has been limited by his employer's use of state created money to create his profit. The worker is limited to buying those products the employer chooses to make, but also has his practical life subject to economic crashes caused by too great expansion of money. He may have no opportunity to be a producer on his own time if he is forced to change his place of residence or has to spend all his time working.
- I'm not sure I understand.
- The invisible hand mechanism of production works to take away the economic freedom of the worker, who is subject to his employer's creating his profit by the use of credit. Credit is a choice of who to work with.
- Ok. That's what I don't understand.
- Google makes a claim about the Internet: left to itself, it functions best. Another invisible hand mechanism. Hands off! But look at how Google actually manages the Internet for its customers. The Internet is supposed to open up freely all the information in the world. And what is Google's practice? It makes its profit from advertising that has as its explicit intention to limit customer choice to results Google is paid to favor. Like the employer has monopolized the trust, the credit necessary for economic activity, when workers themselves would like to choose with whom they invest the currency of their credit, an individual searching the Internet for information, choosing himself who to trust, has that choice made for him by advertising. Do you see the connection?
- Say for example I want to research Neoliberalism. Google has sponsored results, articles on sites owned by multinational corporations that pay Google to favor their sites. So I look at them, instead of following my own experience, reaching judgments of whom to trust, and then following the links they send me to. What forces me to take Google's suggestion?
- Nothing. It simply makes it more difficult to form credit relations on my own, like the producers' borrowed money undermines the condition of separate, private investment of work of the employee with fellow employees who are hoping to get free of wage slavery. Clearly this making more difficult for an individual to establish his own credit relations is inconsistent with the claimed mutual good invisible mechanism of civil society. The spontaneous growth of the Internet is an invisible mechanism, but one that works in favor of its managers and against the managed.
- Assume then we do not want to hear any truth claims about human nature in a group. We don't buy into the claim our social nature is subject to the inevitable invisible building of mechanisms, economic and civil. How do we decide what kind of society we make?  I read recently a revolutionary philosophical text about how each of us was a multiplicity of different characters, all of which were in the process of change, and each of our multiple aspects of self had a multitude of relations to different people, themselves a multitude of selves in change in changing relations to a multitude of people. All of us, multitudes in changing multitudinous relation to multitudes, could only see each other as powers or potentialities. Isn't this obscurity of power and potential of relations an example of an invisible mechanism like the economic and civil one's we've been talking about? How do we know what's behind it?
- The simple test is, has the question of human nature has been answered in advance? Can an individual establish on his own the relation of credit with another individual, can he set up conditions of experimental control so his particular choice of who to give credit to can have determinate results? Or is this ability taken away by vague, invisible conditions? To see each other as interacting powers or potentialities, isn't that an example of an invisible mechanism like the economic and civil ones we've been talking about? How do we know if a mechanism establishing inequality of benefit is behind it? What sorts of power will be authorized in its name? No invisible mechanisms can be allowed that are supposedly authorized by human nature when human nature is precisely what we're investigating. That includes a human nature of multitudes in changing relation to multitudes.
- But how do you know such open ended society is possible? A society without truth claims about human nature? Who sets the rules for this experimental setting of the rules?
- That too is to be experimented on to find out. We can start first with thought experiments, like the society of multiplicity and possibility. That one we reject out of hand. Others might be more promising. We have to look.
- What would Foucault say?
- I asked him a long time ago. He approved.**
- If that's what you claim...

Further Reading:
The Search For Evil
Bringing Back Stray Sheep
Whose Efficiency?
_____________________
* Civil Society: 'Society as a specific field of naturalness peculiar to man.'
** Personal correspondence, 1979


11. Bringing Back Stray Sheep

- You’ve said that property is the fundamental problem. It's never really been investigated. Can we try?
- Just you and me.
- Yes.
- Property is things people own, and property is also the relation people have to each other in the form of social roles. The own each other, in the sense that they owe each other something. Roles are established on the basis of what each sort of person owes to another sort of person. What is owed to someone establishes the “properties” said to be descriptive of that class of people. With me?
- Yes.
- So we have three elements in social relations: who is owed something, who owes, and what is owed. Between classes of people what is owed is some activity. Force is used when that activity is not performed, when what is owed is not repaid.* Now in our history, according to the French philosopher Michel Foucault, there have been three great periods in which these three elements combined into more or less stable structures of the governing, the governed, and how they govern.
- The governed owe obedience to the governors. Why?
- Because it is for their own good. That is, it is said to be for their own good. Whether or not it really is good, or whether or not the governors are really doing what they say they are doing, is another matter.
- Give me an example.
- First let me tell you how Foucault said these structures of property relations have been arranged in history. The story begins with the Jews, the idea of the good shepherd who feeds his flock and brings back strays for their good not his own.
- The governors are like shepherds, the governed like straying sheep, and the activity is feeding and bringing back strays.
- Yes. Next comes the period he calls of “reasons of state”. In the first period, the shepherd watches for strays and leads to good pastures, but otherwise does not manage the individual daily activities of his sheep. In this next period, people are managed continuously with regard to the details of their education, their health, their different occupations, and they are managed for the sake of the strength of the state.
- And the strength of the state I take it was supposed to be for the good of the people because it allowed the protection of the people?
- Yes. Both what the governing are doing - getting stronger - and what the people are doing – getting better educated, healthier, more competent, is managed in detail. The next stage arises when it is seen that there is a technical problem with the previous property arrangement, class relations. If you try to keep prices down in order that grain will be grown cheaper and it can be exported and paid for with gold which can be used by the state to put on shows of opulence and hire an army, it turns out that people don’t want to sell, and don’t produce as much as before. Economic relations have their own natural laws that have to be respected. In the new arrangement then technocrats know and respect the laws. They give the governed freedom to exchange things that efficient operation of the laws demands. The people are defined as economically free, but their education and health is still managed in detail to make them better economic performers, again for reason of the state’s increasing wealth. This brings us up to date and the present “Neoliberalism”.
- In which people are property, are commodities, are taught to see themselves as micro-economies in which how they spend their time is an investment in their value in the world of exchange.
- With the understanding that being a commodity is the result of a property relation established between the governing and governors.
- Where is my example?
- If you look at how our present day Neoliberal governors act, you can see two things: both the natural economic laws have been proven not to function as they are said to function, and that the governors know it and are doing something else entirely.
- What are they doing?
- They have gone back to the property relations of the previous period, that of micro-management, intensive policing and discipline of all aspects of life including economic. Americans who borrowed too much have to suffer, lose their houses. Greeks who borrowed too much have to be punished with unemployment, lowered salaries and pensions, sale of public property.
- The governing are trying to raise money through the pervasive, invasive management of the people, I assume because as governors much of that money ends up in their pockets. If this is the history of property, one class managing others supposedly for their own good, but in fact on the basis of false knowledge not even applied as claimed, what’s next? What do we do about it?
- Let’s try going back to the beginning.
- The good shepherd.
- Yes. In the famous Ezekiel 34 god says he will judge the bad shepherds who hoard all the food for themselves and who eat the sheep, who tyrannize over, knock them about, deliberately destroy the food that is left unhoarded and muddy the water, forcing the flock to wander off to dangerous places. God says he will bring back the stray sheep, will allow them to rest in a land that produces more than enough food. And god will appoint David their prince, to be their good shepherd, to feed them not to eat them but for their own sake. How do you think David, the governor, goes about governing?
- By feeding his sheep and bringing back strays.
- Yes. But remember, we are human beings, we’ve eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We know both how to be good and how to be bad. If we are ever to be free of our wanderings after expulsion from the Garden Of Eden, ever to find the rest god promises to bring his people too, we will have to learn, to know the particular good of how to manage the bad.
- But what about property relations themselves? That’s where we started. If there is a shepherd and sheep, we are not free of them.
- We are human beings, not sheep. And the feeding David is appointed to do is not providing food, which is not necessary since it is stated that the land provides, and not to provide security, because the people have been led to a safe place. What is he doing?
- Teaching. Feeding them knowledge.
- Yes. What is he teaching? What does he know?
- Feeding and bringing back stray sheep. He doesn’t have to feed them literally, so I suppose he teaches bringing back stray sheep. Which, as you say, will remain necessary because we human beings know how to do both good and bad.
- Now remember that the people have individually made a deal with god in exchange for being led to this safe place where they can rest. Their deal is they obey god. What does it mean to obey god in this example? David is said to be the servant of god, and what does he do?
- He brings back lost sheep.
- Yes. He teaches them, not in obedience to him but as servants of god, each of them independently, to bring back lost sheep. In which case governor, governed, and governing are properties shared by all. No force is applied.
- Unless some stray sheep don’t want to come back.
- And how could that be, when they can live in peace and abundance and safety, except that they are among the judged, the condemned by god? They are hoarders, the bad shepherds who eat their flock, who tyrannize over and drive them out. According to the text god drives them out in turn. He destroys them.
______________________
* One kind of activity owed by the governed to the governing, governing not as a class but as an individual, is relinquishing use of certain things said to be owned by the individual, this enforced by violence or its threat: "private property". Reasons both good and bad can be found for allowing oneself to be governed by a claim to exclusive use of things: see Property Is Silence.


12. Satan & Probability

- I've read something interesting: religion isn't about belief but action. It isn't about how the world is but about what we should do. Religion prevents violence rather than causes it.
- What do you think?
- The ideas come from a professor named Girard. He claims that in pre-Christian times we human beings envied each other and wanted what each other wanted because if others wanted it, it must be good. We killed each other to get those things. We kept killing each other all the time to get the things the now dead people liked until we became the dead ourselves and our things belonged to other soon dead people. And then one day we figured out if we found one person, not one of us, who all of us could kill together, we could get killing out of our system. We'd finally have something in common, and for a while we could relax from envy. And when the excitement wore off, we could go on imitating the killing of a scapegoat in ritual, and so continue not to kill each other indefinitely.
- We human beings are a sorry bunch then. Anyway, I don't get it. Why do we want to have anything in common, even killing? Weren't we supposed to want things exactly because they weren't in common, because they were someone else's?
- We lose ourselves in violence. Girard says that with Christianity something new happened. Previously "Satan casts out Satan". Violence expels violence. Now the sacrificial victim, by voluntarily letting himself be sacrificed, makes clear what is going on, the whole system of violence comes to a close, and henceforth we human beings can transcend our envy and violence by loving in imitation of such willing sacrifice. Not resisting the sacrifice ends the urge to violence. Repeated reenactment of this in ritual reminds us of what we should do.
- Christianity leads to peaceful action, whereas pagan sacrifice leads to continued suggestion of violence.
- Yes. That's what he says.
- Isn't violence, voluntarily accepted, still violence? Won't enacting the ritual suggest further violence?
- In the story the violence is transcended.
- You said religion was to be about action, not beliefs.
- Good. What is the action involved here?
- Ritual.
- And what is ritual?
- An enactment of a story of death and rebirth, reassurance found in the predictable actions of the ritual, previous weakness felt entering the ritual forgotten.
- Performing rituals requires security. Time, place, leaders have to be obtained. When the conditions ritual requires are threatened, transcendent Christian voluntary self sacrifice may be the belief, but that isn't the action in response we see. It can't work that way. Ritual begins with a presumption of weakness. The violence in the story enacted suggests the use of violence to protect ritual.
- Ritual in protection of ritual.
- Yes. Dupuy, a present day follower of Girard, claims that the ecological, technological and atomic war catastrophes coming our way are coming because we've left Christianity and gone back to paganism, scapegoat sacrifices, envy and violence.
- Just disregard these idiots. Christianity, supposed to teach peaceful action, is no different from its pagan forebearers in working to perpetuate violence. Or different only in that its violence is justified as in defense of their ritual of transcendence. Can we just move on to something else?
- In a minute. The follower is interesting in one respect. He analyzes catastrophe as a sudden coming to an end of the law governed conditions that we can identify, replaced by other rapidly changing law governed conditions. Out of the known unhealthy conditions of the city causing deaths and disease, suddenly epidemic breaks out. Out of the petty squabbles of countries over territory, suddenly war breaks out. There may be mathematics that describe how this sudden change grows out of prior conditions of slower change, but we don't know the mathematics. We see global warming, but we don't know if it will get to the catastrophic point where the human species is threatened.
- If we don't know why are we afraid? We don't know how the two patterns connect with each other, or if they do.
- That's the right question.
- And?
- We can't predict when slow ominous threatening change becomes rapid catastrophic change. But we might be able to see what kinds of behavior in the past have led to catastrophe.
- Identify the kind of behavior that tolerates unhealthy conditions in a city, identify the kind of politics that leads countries to war. Discern the pattern of behavior that leads to sudden catastrophic change.
- Yes.
- Can we do it?
- Maybe. The blind, defensive violence of ritual is a good candidate for the behavior type that leads to catastrophe. The ritual may pretend to be a story of transcendence. Christian transcendence, or market transcendence in which everyday trading is the death of human generosity, require that we sacrifice ourselves for the good of all. Violence enacted in ritual or market trade promotes further violence. Violence brings on violence.
- And can lead to a catastrophic change of pattern.
- Violence, enacted in ritual or trade, call it transcendence all you want is not going to lead to love. Violence and love don't connect. They are opposites, opposites that expel the possibility of their rival.
- What leads us to love then?
- We've just said.
- I must have missed it.
- Seeing the catastrophe ahead. Identifying the pattern associated with catastrophe by its ritual and violence. Choosing against going further with that pattern allows us to return to love.
- We begin with love and return to it. Love isn't the product of violence.
_____________________
* On the probabilities of ritual leading to catastrophe: United States And TotalitarianismWhy Nations FailPhilosophy Of Ideology And Perpetual War, and War.


13. Chronometricals & Horologicals

- Novels of ideas: the ideas are reaching, but never get there. They aren't good enough.
- Are they better in philosophy?
- No. But philosophy is at least so clearly off. Inapplicable. Useless.
- Literature has only bad ideas, philosophy is useless.
- Do you know why I like talking with you?
- I have good ideas?
- Your ideas are funny.
- Laughable funny, or funny strange?
- Laughable funny. But strange too sometimes.
- And laughable is good? Ideas that get somewhere, even if it is only a laugh?
- No, not if it is only a laugh. I've been doing some reading...
- Let me guess: novels of ideas?
- Right. "Pierre", by Melville. And Musil's "The Man Without Qualities".
- Which theme are you following: brother-sister love, or is it nihilism?
- Alright, yes. The connection between the books is widely known.  
- Do you think that the ideas of Melville and Musil are bad?
- I do. But bad can be good. 
- When bad teaches.
- Yes. Teaches how to recognize bad.
- And what mistakes have you learned from these novels?
- You and for all I know the whole world anticipate me in seeing the nihilism and incest. But I've found something else.
- And that is?
- Remember the philosophic pamphlet that Pierre finds left behind in a hired coach, "Chronometricals And Horologicals"? God and society have different times. God's timekeeping is Chronometric, its timekeeper is set to Greenwich time no matter where in the world it is taken. Society's timekeeper is the Horological, set to local time, with different times corresponding to the different longitudes. Trying tell time in society by god's time brings you to ruin. Better to compromise. This is an absolutely commonplace idea, though the timekeeper analogy is amusing. My idea is that the novel goes much beyond this statement of compromise, and presents all possible combinations of compromise or its lack dealing with god and society. First of the combinations is compromise both god and society, each adulterating the purity of the other. Don't give everything away, but do a little charity, and be sure you don't harm. A commonplace, as I said. Saying Yes to both god and world. Second, you can also say No to both. Be unconventional and defiant of society, take a stand as an accuser of god. Be a nihilist and existentialist. And third is one more possibility: or do you already know this too?
- Let's see.
- Incest, brother-sister love. We're not talking about sexual acts, though physical attraction is involved.  Love is in the service of god, and here is love. Added to which is society and the world, the special brother-sister kind of society that is outside the world. To have a brother is proverbially to be born with a friend, is to be born into a natural society. A society whole and irrefutable.
- Saying Yes to god and society works out very bad if you don't compromise. And if you do compromise it is not much to get exited about. But if the society in which you love is the natural society of brother-sister, there no need for compromise.
- So you're ahead of me there too.  Pierre seems crazy because he practices at different times all the combinations of compromise or not of god and society. He is a doomed idealist and he is a nihilist and existentialist. He compromises the truth for the sake of social convention and he practices an uncompromised love of his sister. Well? Is that a good idea or not?
- I like it. But what do you plan on doing with this combinatoric analysis given that you've decided that philosophy and novels have only bad ideas? Do you hope I use it?
- Use it and be funny. Musil is funny but in the wrong way. He takes an ironic attitude to his ideas. He works them out precisely but knows they are limited. In his big novel he writes:
He is a man without qualities...There are millions of them nowadays...What he thinks of anything will always depend on some possible context -- nothing is, to him, what it is; everything is subject to change, in flux, part of a whole, of an infinite number of wholes presumably adding up to a super-whole that, however, he knows nothing about. So every answer he gives is only a partial answer, every feeling only an opinion, and he never cares what something is, only 'how' it is...

For Musil, that is the human being in society. For what we are in god, what is our "soul", another passage from the novel; much longer, but worth it:

This is a word that has already appeared frequently, though not precisely in the clearest of connections. For instance, as that which the present time has lost or that which cannot be combined with civilization. As that which is stirred, not only into repugnance, by a murderer...As a love of metaphor and simile with many people. And so on. 
Of all the peculiarities that this word “soul” has, however, the oddest is that young people cannot pronounce it without laughing. Even Diotima and Arnheim were shy of using it without qualification; for that someone has a great, noble, cowardly, daring or base soul is something that can just about be asserted, but to say outright “my soul” is something that one cannot bring oneself to do. It is distinctly a word for older people; and this can only be understood by assuming that there is something that makes itself more and more felt in the course of life, something for which one urgently needs a name, without finding it, until in the end one reluctantly makes use of that which was originally spurned. 
And how then is one to describe it? One can stand still or move on as one will, the essential is not what lies straight before one, what one sees, hears, wants, takes hold of, and masters. It lies ahead, a horizon, a semicircle; but the ends of this semicircle are joined by a sinew, and the plane of this sinew goes right through the middle of the world. In front, face and hands look out of it; the sensations and striving run along ahead of it; and no one doubts that what we do there is always reasonable or at least impassioned. That is, circumstances external to us demand our actions of us in a way that is comprehensible to everyone; or if, involved in passion, we do something incomprehensible, that, after all, is still something with a way and a nature of its own. But however completely understandable and self-contained it all seems, it is accompanied by an obscure feeling that it is merely half the story. There is something the matter with the equilibrium, and man advances in order not to sway, like a tightrope walker. And as he advance through life, leaving behind him what he ha lived through, a wall is formed by what is still to be lived and what has been lived, and in the end his path resembles that of a worm in the wood, which can twist any way it likes, even turning backwards, but always leaves an empty space behind it. And this dreadful feeling of a blind space, a space cut off behind all the fullness, this half that is always still lacking even although everything has become a whole, is what finally causes one to notice what one calls the soul. 
One thinks it, feels it, has premonitions of it all the time, naturally, in the most various kinds of surrogates and according to one’s temperament. In youth it is a distinct feeling of uncertainty, in everything one does, as to whether whatever it is is really the right thing. In old age it is amazement at how little one has done of all that one actually intended. In between it is the comfort of being a hell of a chap, efficient, and a good sort too, even though not everything one does can be justified in every detail; or that after all the world isn’t what it ought to be, either, so that in the end all that one has done wrong still amounts to a fair enough compromise; and finally some people even think, away out beyond everything, of a God who has the missing piece of themselves in His pocket. Only love occupies a special position in all this; for it is in this exceptional case that the second half grows on. The loved person seems to stand where otherwise there is always something missing. The souls unite, as it were, dos a dos, so making themselves superfluous. This why after the passing of their one great youthful love most people no longer feel the absence of the soul, so that this so-called foolishness fulfills a meritorious social function.

- He can't resist making a joke of the soul.
- Yes. But the wrong kind of joke, ironic, defensive. Musil said the problem wasn't that we were too reasonable and neglected the soul, but that we were not accurate enough in our examination of the soul. You've just read an accurate examination, no doubt. But what good is it? It is still partial. It makes a joke of the soul. It should be the other way around, the soul should make a joke of the world.
- Can it?
- Think of brother-sister love. Love is of god. If love is to be also in the world, not mere contemplation or religious experience, it has to be active. Something has to happen. The things brother and sister do can be physical, but better, they can be telling stories of what happened out in the world, told to and for each other once back in the private world of brother-sister love.
- And those stories are funny. Not ironic defensive funny, but relieved to be away from the world funny and back in your own private brother-sister society.
- Yes. What do you think?
- I'm not sure funny stories can support a novel of ideas or philosophic masterpiece. Are you going to try?
- I was going to suggest you did.


14. Rules Invented In Violence

- I’ve been busy reading. Two more books, one by a Greek economist, the other by an American anthropologist. Both are recent.*
- What do they have in common?
- They're about how people act in large groups. The American, David Graeber, writes about bureaucracy, the Greek, Yanis Varoufakis, writes about international trade and finance. The anthropologist says that group members obey rules under threat of violence.
- And you don't agree?
- Of course I do. We’ve said the same thing many times. For all I know the anthropologist is getting his ideas from us. He says that when, under threat of violence, you obey a rule or force others to, you are not allowed to act with full human respect and understanding. He says further that groups pretend they are reasonable and impartial, and this is never true. Organization men and women lie by rule, but at the same time have to obey the rule ordering them to say they are not lying. Now the book by the economist describes large financial groups acting with a different kind of violence we've also talked much about. After WWII the United States had more to trade than its trading partners, so it decided to help Germany and Japan recover and be able to buy more from America. This worked, but by 1971 the United States had stopped having more to trade than the other countries. It had spent too much money on wars and tax cuts for the rich. Another strategy was come up with: the government printed money and borrowed, and the financial organizations figured out a way to make up their own money in the form of loans other countries could invest in. There was nothing behind these investments except the sense that American institutions could get away with anything because of the security provided by the military, and the well tested ability of business to get the government to act in its interest. All concerned lied about what they were really doing, as the anthropologist explained all bureaucracies do. They lied because to lie is obeying one of their rules. They lied about what they were doing, but how they ended up doing it they couldn't have said even if they wanted to. They had acted in the blindness of that other kind of violence: not the violence of being coerced into obeying rules, but the violence of investing in this new way because everyone else was investing; the violence of recklessly acting without real knowledge, not even following rules, the violence of acting together in the heat of passion, each following the other's lead like a panicked herd, each animal responding thoughtlessly to the movement of the others. My question to you is, how are the two kinds of violence related, if they are, the violence of the herd and the violence behind obedience to rules?
- They're related. Rules are created in violence, the violence of the herd is how rules are formed. In the economist's story, financial institutions, all investing in the same kind of loans based on nothing, doing this without apparent forethought, established the rule, "this is what is to be done", which then after many repetitions could be calmly followed. Reasonable explanations offered for what they were doing were simply lies repeated by rule.
- In fact it was reasonably safe for the financial groups themselves since their ability to get the governments to act in their interest and save them had been tested and confirmed.
- Nonetheless it was a lie that it was in accord with the ostensible rules of how they operated, or that how they operated was in anyone else's interest but their own. 
- Economist Varoufakis says the system collapsed in 2008 because the groups involved created their own money to add to the game of loans based on nothing. Others say the financial groups deliberately redirected the behavior of the herd, started a panic for getting rid of these loans as previously there'd been a panic for buying them. The government paid the financiers' debts, allowing them to acquire the property left as collateral or sold cheap by those not so fortunate. The question I asked you was, how are the two kinds of violence related, if they are?
- Violence, in terms of communication, is what?
- A lie.
- Yes. New rules, justified by lies, are invented in violence. A lie undermines any possibility of cooperation. People want to know why they do things with each other, not just obey rules and lie in obedience to rules. If you can’t cooperate, see and benefit from the real person you are dealing with, you are left with no other possible action than thoughtlessly following rules and forcing others to. Violence of herd behavior is what forms the rules of the group. And the blindness that acting with violence involves hides from the liars the fact that they are liars. Once individuality has been damaged, once ability has been lost to act on one's own experience, the only security to be found is within the group. Even the violent stampede of the herd is glorious and reassuring when it can be expected to end in the safety of new rules.
- Violence is against the individual in having to obey the rules of the group, and violence is the means by which a group acquires the rules in the first place. Thanks. That's what I wanted to know.**
- Don't you want to know how we might otherwise live without obeying the rules of a group?
- No. 
- Why not?
- That is a practical matter of making people materially safe so that they don't have to do violence against themselves following rules of groups they didn't choose to belong to. And people who participate freely in groups, not having lost themselves, don't panic each other creating new rules and new lies.

Further Reading:
Comic Book Heroes
_______________________
* 'The Utopia Of Rules', David Graeber, 'The Global Minotaur', Yanis Varoufakis
** Threat of violence if you don't obey, the violence you do against yourself if you do: the reassuring story of this violence, where it gets us to, is told in our myths in which violence becomes the mechanical force that with the blind participation of our passion produces new, more complex arrangements of free markets and cultural evolution to which we must submit ourselves under threat of violence...


15. Comic Book Heroes

- Walking here with my friend our talk was about doing for the sake of doing. You'd compared it to compulsive repetition, a kind of madness. Instead we should do whatever was necessary until we changed our relation to the world to a way we liked enough to stop doing things for a while and rest. She disagreed. For an artist the goal is in the process itself. What do you have to say?
- Take an example. Washing dishes. If I said I needed clean dishes to eat off of I wouldn't be doing it for its own sake.
- I enjoy washing dishes. It's a matter of attitude.
- The attitude that there is an art to it. You can wash the dishes haphazardly and not be overly concerned, if you are doing it to get clean dishes to eat off of. But if you are doing it as an art, each act of inattention will jar you with the unwanted, misarranged, unartistic results: splashes, noises, collapse of piles, etc.
- You think doing things for their own sake requires you maintain some kind of order?
- Yes. And what for?
- What for what?
- What is the order for, if what you are doing is for the sake of doing, is an end in itself?
- If you want to enjoy the process that is just what you have to do.
- Then the purpose is to enjoy the process, and the process has to be done in accord with that goal.
- But the goal of enjoyment is in the process! Why does it matter that the form what we do takes comes from outside, even if as you say it does?
- Because what we do in one aspect of life affects other aspects of life, affects life in general. Not paying attention to the order behind our actions we’re going to get into difficulties.
- If art is not for its own sake, even if we find enjoyment in the process, what is it for?
- Art produces models of finding happiness, or failing to.
- What kind of happiness?
- Being happy in not doing anything, in being in the right relation to the world for a while. The satisfaction of making art arises from knowing that in our art making we are acting in accord with the model our art is making. We are on the right road, learning how to stop doing things for a while and be in a relation to the world that is sufficient for itself.
- We shouldn’t do things for the sake of doing things, but for its own sake we should learn to do nothing. We should learn to do nothing for the sake of doing nothing.
- Yes.
- You must be kidding me.
- I’m not.
- Fine. As I said. I don't need, don't want all this theory about models and states of rest and doing. Tell me why I have to have it. What are the difficulties you threatened me with? Why doing my art for art's sake do I need to know someone's guesses why and how art works?
- There are two ways we do for the sake of doing. One is private and the artist's: by having the doing itself be satisfying. The other is public and cooperative, and involves the doing for the sake of doing working against desire's satisfaction and repressing it. The artist's way is harmless. The public way, far from it. In the book* we were talking about last time,** the one about bureaucracy, the anthropologist David Graeber asks why it tends to expand. The bureaucrats’ own attempts to reduce bureaucracy regularly result in more employees and more oversight, their trying to achieve greater efficiency results in less. The financial industry now dominating the economy was the best example of bureaucratic expansion. He explains the stupidity of bureaucracy in the class relation between master and servant, where the master makes no attempt to understand the servant, while the servant, in self-protection, must closely observe the master. He explains that blindly acting master bureaucrats applying their rules senselessly are taught to see their work as sacrifice of their own enjoyment. For a bureaucrat, if you do work because you like it you are doing something wrong, you are not working. Doing work for its own sake means you can't expect anything else from it outside of it.
- Obeying the rules is going against yourself. I hate that Freudian stupidity.
- In the third essay of the book Freud makes his appearance as Graeber analyzes the revolt against rules in comic books and comic book based movies.
- What's the bureaucratic connection?
- Failure to sacrifice yourself to work unleashes dangerous but fascinatingly attractive forces that have to be repressed for the world's safety. Comic books really seem like they are made and consumed for their own sake, to have no real application to the rest of life apart from the money they generate. Yet comic book heroes like bureaucrats enforce the rules, defend the world order. And comic book criminals reflect the bureaucrats’ desires to act outside the rules, desires amusing though they be that have to be repressed. As the comic book heroes live in their own world, so the bureaucrats live in their own world of doing for the sake of doing.
- Artists doing what they do satisfy their desires. Bureaucrats and super heroes doing what they do repress their desires. Why do they desire to repress their desire?
- Graeber suggest it might be to get out of the real world into the game-like world of doing for the sake of doing. I don't find that argument convincing. When you were growing up, did your family had a dog? One day when you came home he was acting guilty. Looking at you, looking away, looking back, whining a little. And then you saw the mess he'd made. Was he feeling guilty for being caught breaking the rules? Or was it the opposite? He knew he wasn't supposed to make a mess, he should repress his disorderly impulses. But he had done it anyway. He didn't care about the rules. His real relation to you was not about rules after all. He loved you. The guilt he felt was his confusion about both wanting to love you and not really wanting to obey the rules.
- The Freudian wants to repress his desires for the sake of rules, the dog wanted to be allowed to repress the rules for the sake of love.
- Yes. Two kinds of guilt. Rules that we've accepted are broken in both cases. One guilt is on the assumption rules are good and wanting to break them is bad. The other guilt is based on the assumption that the rules are bad, though we’ve agreed to them by force, and wanting to break them is good. In both we're confused.
- One guilt works to repress the rules for the sake of desire, The other guilt works to repress desire in the name of the rules. Is that right?
- Right. Now apply this to what was said about the bureaucrats. In their relation to the public, bureaucrats are masters, the public slaves. In this master-slave relation bureaucrats sacrifice their human nature, their natural wish to help others and solve problems. But as managers and participants in bureaucracy, in their relation to each other, they see their own rules as what should be sacrificed in the creative act of reforming them, in writing new rules and hiring more public servants. Bureaucracy is one kind of doing for the sake of doing. You didn’t want to look closer at the order inside that made it possible. Have I showed you that one variety at least of what was inside has consequences which even an artist might want to pay attention to?
- Massive bureaucracy and financial collapse.
- Bureaucracy in its relation to the public sacrifices personal desire, in its relations among itself sacrifices the rules. This is a lot of sacrifice. And where does it come from? How did sacrifice of desire, this most complex of private matters, become the foundation of the most public thing there is in life, a bureaucracy?
- Don't ask me.
- And how does guilt come in? The dog did something wrong. What wrong did the bureaucrats do?
- Does the anthropologist say in his book?
- Not directly. The answer is in his earlier book on the history of debt. Exchange in the beginning was only between enemies. Friends make gifts. When a transaction between enemies remains incomplete on one side, there is said to be a debt. Since debt originates between enemies, behind every incomplete transaction is a threat that violence will be applied to compel its completion or to punish. The debtor thinks of himself as half dead, buried in a violent relation to his enemies, unprotected by his friends; he feels as if in making the deal he has become an enemy to himself.
- Debt makes you feel guilty. But which of the two kinds of guilt?
- Both, depending on whether you think that you committed this crime against yourself by an enemy's compulsion, or that you are wrong in not wanting to pay.
- Depends whether you still believe in love, laugh at Freud's belief love is a delusion, a regression to being in the womb.
- Thoughts and practices build upon each other: from debt, to guilt; from guilt, to sacrifice; from sacrifice, to bureaucracy. Loaning people money under threat of violence creates a psychological change (guilt) which in turn supports the social structure (bureaucracy) which has nasty consequences like master-slave blindness, stupidity and constantly increasing inefficiency created in the name of efficiency.
- Bureaucrats do for the sake of doing. They practice an art for art’s sake. They sacrifice themselves, either the part that desires to go against the rules, or the part that protects the rules against desire. To bureaucrats the public is in their debt. The public has not provided the answers required until proven otherwise. The public's debt is enforced by threat of violence, establishing a relation between bureaucrat and public of master to slave. And the bureaucrat like all masters is stupid, blind to the reality of the servant’s life. Master bureaucrats, in their relation to other master bureaucrats, sacrifice the old rules and the part of themselves attached to them in the creation of new rules and bureaucratic opportunities. And all this emerges from within that doing for the sake of doing we started with.

Further Reading:
Principle Of Sharing + Exception Of Private Property + The State = Class War
Invented In Violence
Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism, Doing For The Sake Of Doing
The Golden Rule & The Devian Path
Debt!
____________________
* The Utopia Of Rules, David Graeber
** Lies Created In Violence


16. Cannibals & Capitalists

"The occult is what is hidden. But not to everyone. Wherever there is something hidden, there is necessarily someone who knows."

- This time is going to be wild.
- I can't wait. What are we going to talk about?
- Talking things.
- Robots, computers.
- No. Things, like a philosopher's stone which when put next to copper turns it to gold.
- By talking to it?
- Yes. God created the world by talking. Some things have this divine power of speech and can talk other things into being things more like themselves.
- Which things?
- All things that already resemble each other. In astrology, the stars move us, in alchemy, the philosopher's stone changes copper to gold.
- That's just talk.
- God created the world by talking.
- You said. How do the stars talk us to our destinies and how does the philosopher's stone change copper to gold?
- By being like human beings who as Pico della Mirandola said are the creatures that, made by god after all other natures and places in the world were taken, were given what was left, no particular place and a nature unlike any other that remakes itself.
- So a science that could place the right thing in relation to other things would be as it were reconstituting what god did, creating man with no fixed place but with the ability to remake himself?
- Yes. An alchemist places things together in the world as if he was god making man.
- And releases in things the power of self-change man has from god? Wild is right. Is there more?
- A lot more. Ready?
- Why not? It's all fantasy anyway.
- Don't be too sure. The philosopher's stone put next to something like itself makes it more like it. The power of resemblance is the power of speech, since speaking is a kind of doing something that changes how you see the world. Giving something a name says what kind of thing it is, and that guides you to seeing other things of those kinds easily related to that kind. How you talk about the world changes how you see it. We see the world we've named. A name is a habit of seeing. As a habit is part of us, is our character, our second nature. Something we have a name for is part of us, is in us as a habit of seeing. In that sense the world we see is already "us", composed of our words resembles us.
- And when we continue speaking using those words we make the world resemble us even more. Our words are philosopher's stones to the world we see with their aid. By the end of the sentence those words have made the world even more like ourselves. God made us philosopher's stones to the world, transforming the world we've named and so already part of us more and more in our image. The alchemist plays god by arranging for a thing to become self-making by putting it in contact with resembling things. Alchemists teach things to talk. What next?
- Say we are not alchemists but anthropologists and studying one of the last uncontacted tribes in the jungles of Brazil. We are very enlightened and civilized. The tribes people have magical rituals and superstitions. They pretend they are gods. They believe that twisting a model of their enemy will twist their enemy. They do no experiments, are not scientific. But we don't judge. Our models of the world also change how we see the world. We test a few of our models, not close to all, and almost never do we test our social models. We do not test our idea that society is a marketplace of things exchanged between enemies. We don't challenge the assumption that violence is more fundamental that sympathy. These life-models are our rituals, stories we tell ourselves over and over, and return to after disappointments.
- Are you saying that we are all stupid uncontacted tribes people and American market speculators, therefore we should simply leave each other alone? We're all good folks, all us cannibals and capitalists. All of us are following god's precedent in creating man. We're all ordinary god-like things that speak each other and the world around us into being more like ourselves and so perfect ourselves.
- No, and no again to that!
- What are you saying then?
- Wild enough for you so far?
- Come on.
- Alchemy is a science of experiment that puts one thing next to another, choosing which to put next to which on the assumption that the right resemblance will release self-making speech as resemblance draws forth more resemblance. The science of experiment we practice is different, though it too puts one thing next to another and waits to see what happens. But we aren't trying to be gods making self-making men. We measure the change in each of the things put next to each other from one time to the next. We look for laws of change.
- The things don't talk to each other. We do the talking.
- Yes. Now the Renaissance philosophers experimented not like us but with their god-like power of creating talking things. They were searching for the best way of doing this. If things could talk themselves into existence, why could not our knowledge of things itself talk more knowledge into existence?
- How does knowledge talk?
- In the same way naming speech does. One kind of knowledge recreates itself finding other knowledge that resembles it already. One philosopher-alchemist, John Dee, thought he had found the knowledge equivalent of the philosopher's stone.
- And what was that?
- A symbol that he claimed combined all the most significant other symbols. Each symbol set in train a self-creating of similarities in the world, and locked all together, this performed simultaneously, would give us the original god-like power of naming and creating the whole world that Adam had before the fall.
- This experiment, thought experiment really, put knowledge cues next to each other, and waited for one to work upon the other, in the alchemist's way of experimenting, not ours. How could we experiment on self-making in our way?
- The alchemists were following the formula of ritual: set up the situation that is repeatable to get the result you want: security or power. The alchemist serves us a world that suits people with the knowledge they already have. Our kind of experiment would give us different worlds to respond to with different languages. We'd look at how self-making itself fared with those languages and conditions. We'd come to know something about how self-making worked. We'd learn the laws of self-making. What was good for it and what not. Whether the particular self-making language we have is worse or better than others. Like setting a ball in motion on an inclined plane, we'd drop one kind of self-making in the world and see where it got to, what happened to its powers of self making; and then, changing the plane's angle of incline, try it in another situation.
- The cannibals in Brazil have the alchemist's science. A rudimentary science of self-making with the aid of magical objects and social relations established and recognized by gifts of things, things that they've talked into being part of themselves. Still, it is a science. And what about us? We have our experimental science serving technology, true, but no science at all of self-making. Or we do, for isn't capitalism in fact science of self-destroying? Where is the kind of technology you're talking about, a technology of good?* Or do you think you're an alchemist yourself and are talking it into existence?
- No comment.
_____________________
The Technology Of Good


17. Bad History

- Let's go back to Pico della Mirandola. How many people invented their own myth like he did? And what a myth! After god had made all the things in the world living and not living, he wanted to make a living thing that could see him as he saw the world and its things, but the  problem was, all the types of things had been used up. Being a god meant for him not only being immortal but creative, so he figured out a solution: make man able to change his character and adapt to any place. That has to be the best story ever told.

- And it’s not finished.
- That’s what I thought. Finish it.
- We’re not only made to change ourselves. We’re made such that the first way we change ourselves makes us worse.
- Why? Is there some special way in which we have the ability to change that makes us first bad?
- That’s right.
- And what is it?
- In each other’s compan
- So if we kept away from each other except to reproduce we wouldn’t go bad? Is that possible? What about mothers and their children?
- It's not possible.
- We teach each other to be bad. How?
- Being pained and frightened into repeating the same actions in the same situations created by each other’s company.
- We reverse god’s making: we make the world we live in the same and our character unchanging it in.
- Yes.
- How does that make us bad?
- Because we the unchanging are destructive of those of us who remain able to change.
- How did they avoid it?
- By teaching each other how to learn.
- If we’re teaching we already know how to learn.
- We remind each other to learn.
- When we stop reminding each other, that first fatal change we human beings make in our place and nature is to destroy ourselves, destroy our ability to change our place and nature.
- Yes.
- Sorry, I like the way Pico began his story much better. Something tells me going on doesn’t get much happier.
- Would that something be human history? When people stop reminding themselves of good they immediately start destroying what good they’ve achieved and then some, move towards absolute destruction of themselves and the world around them.  Sometimes even in our personal history we can see it happening. We live through a period in which we are reminded to learn into a period where that stops and we immediately set out on destruction.
- And we’re living in a destructive period now.
- We are.
- How do you know? You once told me that in your youth you wrote a couple of autobiographical novels. Is this one of their subjects? What happened to them?
- Family and friends I left them with destroyed them.
- Some family and friends. Why did they destroy them? The period of history failed to remind them to be good so they went bad? And bad destroys the good in contact with it because it interferes with the practice of the bad?
- The books weren’t so good. But more or less, you could say that’s what happened. Among the destroyed manuscripts was the beginning of an essay on rhythm and melody in music. Can I tell you about it?
- If it relates to how you know we’re in bad history.
- A song is sometimes called a number. As we count, we move from one number to the next. There is a rhythm. The numbers are different, but they are all alike in being numbers and not something else. Uniformity and change. That is what we mean by rhythm. Ok?
- Ok.
- In the rhythm of a dance, our steps are like counting numbers. They are all alike in being steps, but they move us into a different place. Uniformity and change. Melody is made up of different notes. The steps of a dance always return us to the same place, but the notes of a melody tell a story about what happens when we do something new.
- Songs repeat their melody.
- They do. They make a rhythm of repeating the melody, as dance makes a rhythm of the basic story of each step out into the world. Melody sits on top of rhythm in a song, comes and goes. Do you see the application to what we were talking about?
- The application is that “the default state”, as we put it in the mechanistic language of our bad times, of the human species is to do bad first. But we can dance that default state bad into good by overlaying it with the story of melody. And the story you’re going to tell me now is how that is to be done.
- There is such a thing as bad music? Music that is not only badly made, but is anti-music, is destructive of what music is capable of encouraging and inspiring?
- Music that positively makes you bad. Some music definitely makes me feel bad. So Yes. Go on.
- Music that is anti-music is music constructed to make you forget stories. Stories remind you of failure. Destroy the stories and you destroy the reminder. You can start over fresh.
- How does the music do that?
- By the song being the story of melody being repeatedly undermined by rhythm. There are many ways of accomplishing this, for example, an overly sweet melody is followed by a brutal, often syncopated rhythm.
- I think I know what you mean. And bad history?
- Rhythm without melody.
- Rhythm destroying melody.
- Yes.
- Do you know what?
- What?
- We need a new myth. Pico della Mirandola’s story starts out encouraging and inspiring, but the way it’s turned out…
- Well, after god had made all the things in the world and all the creatures, and made human beings capable of changing themselves and their place in the world, he took a rest and looked over what he had done. He wanted to say, It is good. But it wasn’t good. Human beings took a few steps in the right direction. They had invented dance and music which they used to remind them not to do bad. But they needed something more. Something to remind them to sing the right kind of songs. He racked his brains, for this god had brains, along with everything else necessary to being a god. He racked his brains, asking himself what could remind people to sing the right kind of song. Wouldn’t that have to be another kind of song? And then the poor creatures would need a song to remind them to sing that. What was to be done?
- Can I finish the story?
- If you can help god out of his difficulties.
- God, having given us the gift of music, gave us…
- What?
This.

P.S. "Without music, life would be a mistake. I would only believe in a God who knew how to dance." - Friedrich Nietzsche


18. Why Leaders Lie

- This is what Stathis Kouvelakis, Professor of Political Theory at King’s College London, and member of the Central Committee of Syriza, the governing party of Greece, said about his government's recent meeting with and capitulation to the demands of the EU after Greek voters by referendum overwhelmingly instructed them not to:
At that meeting you saw an extraordinary thing happen: the head of the victorious camp accepted the conditions of the defeated camp. This, it has to be said, is something that’s unique in political history. I don’t think we’ve ever seen this before.
In the year previous you could read on a Greek anarchist website that it would be a mistake to count on any representative of any party including radical leftist. No matter who they were, they'd betray you.
- Why?
- A couple of reasons. First, imbalance of power between the leaders and led. People with power understand and admire other people with power. The led are powerless, are literally in the power of the leaders. The leaders have more in common with other leaders, even of opposing parties, than with the people they are supposed to represent. That's the first reason. Second is the problem of representing, representing not in the political sense but in the sense of making an image, playing a role, creating an impression. The more a society demands from its members that they play roles for each other, the easier it is for their representatives to pursue an agenda opposite to the interests of the people.
- Why?
- A father and teenaged daughter are having a dispute. Father and daughter both know a young man. Daughter likes him and is interested in seeing more of him. Daughter finds out father has forwarded to the young man an email from daughter that mentions him. She is displeased. If father is going to continue passing on her private words to other people she'll simply have to stop having personal conversations with him. Father replies that he was exercising a parent's normal concern and interest in his children's lives. 
- A daughter is in the power of her parents, and can't control what her parents do with her words, whereas her relation to the young man was of friendship, and free, at least potentially, of power relations. She wanted to keep the relations apart. I'm on her side. No friendship has a chance unless the other person sticks around long enough for friendship to develop. That means making a good impression, being in control of impressions. Her father's interference denied her that control. She was right to object. It would be nice if we didn't have to take such considerations into account, but teenagers know they do, know how important first impressions are. You argue, then, that the Greek government treats the Greek people as children in their power, treats the representations they gave of themselves in their referendum as of no importance, to be done with as they wished, to be made the subject of their own representations?
- That's from the side of power. Powerlessness is generated from the other side too. Once the people set out on the path of making representations they feel compelled to allow their leaders their representations too.
- Because we all do the same, and we feel that to demand anything different would be hypocritical.
- Yes. 
- But the teenaged girl would tell you if you asked that managing representations was just at the beginning. Real friendship is something else.
- The leaders have the led in their power and disdain them for their powerlessness. The leaders aren't their friends. 
- And compromised by making representations in their private lives the people lack the confidence to call their leaders out for their public representations. Somehow control of information is as legitimate a social undertaking as being honest.
- Or legitimate just enough to confuse the issue and delay response.


19. Surviving On Miracles

(American Society And I Have A Little Talk)

- Introduce yourself.
- I am American Society.
- And who am I?
- Someone with a complaint. You know, I can't talk about these things.
- Just pretend. You can lie, right?
- Do it all the time. It works.
- And working is what you're about. I want to talk about your work.
- What's the problem?
- I grew up with you in a time when to try to live without compromise and learn how to do something creative very, very well was risky but not life threatening. Dangerous, but not life or death. I could tell you, American society, to go to hell and you would just smile and say, well, I guess you don't want all these nice things I got together just for you. No problem. I have other takers. That's what you said then.
- Have I changed?
- You've been trying to kill me for the past five years. I've been surviving on miracles. Arriving not immediately when required. Only eventually.
- You're angry at me.
- You're the one who's angry. You pretend to be cold and calculating, caring only about work. The truth is you get extremely angry when someone gets in the way of your work.
- But I perform miracles too, you said.
- Who said they were your miracles? You're not the only world around. There's you, American Society. You are public life. And there's private life. In private life people care about each other. Relations between people other than money have no place in your world. In your world, everything goes on fairly well. You try to explain a little what's going on, not accurately, not honestly. The important thing is that not too many people kill each other. Life works. You work.
- And what's wrong with that?
- You broke the deal! I was to be allowed to make things as good or better than anyone else, and yes, you wouldn't give me pretty things in return, but you wouldn't try to kill me either. You're no good.
- Good? That's something in that other world of yours, private life. I don't have anything to do with that. I'm not good. I work. I am as I am.
- The words of god. Do you think you are god?
- I don't like to talk about myself. I don't want to have to lie, but it's not efficient for me to always do as I say. What can I do? I am as I am. And my world contains miracles.
- No thanks to you. You can't perform miracles. Miracles interrupt the rules and you are about efficiency, rule following. I said that for the past five years miracles happened. That's why I'm still here. The miracles come out of the other world of private life. It also has its gods. It's not your territory, but sometimes you are there too. 
- I don't recall.
- You lie to yourself. You are not supposed to be there. The two worlds of relations between people based on money and of relations between people of every other kind are not supposed to be mixed. That was the deal. When you show yourself in private life you end private life. But when private life enters public life, enters your world, that's the definition of miracle. It shouldn't happen, because in your world the more people care about each other the less efficient they become and it is imperative they be efficient. 
- Or they'll become like you. I agree it is a miracle someone gives someone like you money.
- You refer to charity. In charity the two worlds don't mix. There's no miracle. The good deed has its rewards in the pubic world, feeds the giver's confidence of power over others and is thought to translate into more efficiency in trading. It is a public act in the public world. Charity is not a personal relation. Giving money you don't care about the person you give money to. You don't share your life.
- I'm not supposed to visit you in your personal life. Well, I do. And what about you? What are you doing with your private miracles in my public world? 
- I'm not the one who broke the deal. And you were always going to break it. With no idea of good in your world there is no reason for you to keep yourself out of the other when you can do your work there.


20. On Bureaucrats & Violence

"There's something about a bureaucrat that does not like a poem."

- Have you heard about the Center of Theology And Philosophy? What a group of religion professors are doing?
- What are they doing?
- They claim to expose the religion hidden within our supposedly religion-free societies.
- Our making things, moving them around, buying and selling. What do they say religion is?
- A story of where we start, where we are going and what we do to get there.
- And what is the religious story hidden behind our secular liberal societies?
- Doing for the sake of doing, doing this ever more efficiently but going nowhere. There's nowhere to go. We've arrived.
- At making things, moving them around, buying and selling.
- Yes.
- And only those things. Not directly helping each other.
- We can't agree on what helps a person. If we all try and insist in our different ways we'll end up killing each other. That’s why we keep religion out. In our private lives we can help each other or not. 
- The story of the hidden religion is that people before us used to kill each other a lot and now they don’t as much, and that is the end of the story, except that in addition to saving lives we do better all the time at making, moving, exchanging things. And what do the professors say?
- If we are going to base society on religion, and we can't help doing so, we could choose a better religion to base it on, one that told a story that would model more completely human nature and so be more fitting.
- What if the doers for the sake of doing are right? The other ways sound good but practically speaking never can arrive because they face violence before they can get started?
- The professors answer that much of the violence feared is the product of secular society itself. The people of secular society can lose everything in a moment. They are pressed and locked down into specialized roles. They make exchanges where the profit of one is the loss of the other, where they have to be enemies when they'd prefer to be friends. Of course everyone knows it is insane to do things for the sake of doing. That is why there's private life! Doing for the sake of doing is not their religion. Their religion is a claim that this combined public-private story is the best possibility.
- Except that we know the public moves into the private, progressively occupies it. Isn't there a story how to manage the two worlds' relation to each other?
- No, we're to assume they don't relate at all. The stress of enmity in trade, the specialized roles get in the way of caring in private life. And something else, much more  fundamental, is happening. Religions work to hold us together by involving a part of ourselves we are unclear about. Every hidden story of religion involves a lack of self awareness. The part of ourselves we feel in the grips of but are unclear about we assign to a god. Religions are models of right life involving states of unawareness, the model itself learned without self awareness. Religious models are of two types: violence, and love. Both violence and love occur without a direct awareness of self, in a very specific kind of social relation we humans have mastered, a kind of social technology very close to the technology of making things in the physical world.
- Religion is a spontaneous social technology?
- You think it's strange, inappropriate to speak of religion in terms of technology? Rather it is the physical world that has an unclear relation to technology. Material technology historically came after social technology and its derivative status shows: unlike social role, a physical thing is conceptually incoherent. We can’t imagine how separate things move each other. Some invisible force like gravity does it. A society of interconnected specialized roles is a kind of machine in which how roles are performed is decided under threat of force, not by the desires of the individual.
- We are not confused by social roles because the threat of force motivating them acts on the individual's playing the roles, not on the roles themselves which are not real and don't interact with each other any more than physical things do. How does the world force people into performing roles if they don't really want to? 
- Leaders issue threats and act on them. To get control of nature, we learn the habits of one part of the world, and set those habits into relation to habits of another part of the world. We look for the law or rule of what happens when something, doing what it does, is put into relation to another thing, doing what it does. 
- A master acts the master, the servant acts the servant, and doing their characteristic actions we know what to expect from the pair.
- Yes. We experiment, vary conditions, looking for more efficient production of the result we want from the combination of habits we've observed. In secular society we experiment with the habits of differently specialized people to get the result of producing more things, moving them around, buying and selling them.
- And the movement in the physical world is like the threat of violence in social life that keeps the characters playing their roles against their will?
- Yes. Force of gravity, the power of the pharaoh. Secular society is like such a kind of technology, with inherent violence in relation between roles. And the reason when we look for an explanation in the natural world of the relation between things and can’t find it is because it is not there, it is in the human life outside the technology that has deliberately put the world in a relation of habits of movement, as human beings are deliberately reduced to social roles. The power is external. In secular society, the religious story says that private life is separate from public life. But in reality, public life, that technology, results from a reduction of private life capacities, and the violence that maintains it comes at the loss of the human nature of the people involved.
- Excellent analysis.
- But this means private life, pressed into the service of public life, has its sphere invaded, it loses power. And this is aside from practical matters of threat to basic livelihood and the enmity of competitive profit seeking we talked about. The alternative that isn’t supposed to be there, is in truth there. It is love instead of violence, the other religious story that can be in hiding in support of society. In performing a ritual we see ourselves enter weak, we perform a known in advance series of actions in the company of others, and doing so we feel strong at the end from the security of knowing what we’re doing and others are doing and what we can expect from them and ourselves in the next repetition. We’ve already repeatedly experimented, have developed habits, and now can predict the outcome and look forward to it. We are in control of a social machine and feel its power. Doing this we are not aware of ourselves, we are in flux as we are transformed from the weak selves entering the ritual to the strong confident selves leaving it. We are the operator of a machine, we feel the power it gives. The bureaucrat is an operator of a social machine, is both cold while in the midst of ritual and his sight on the required ritual moves, and arrogant from the sense of power that he feels at or looking forward to the conclusion of the ritual. The bureaucrat monitors role performance done under threat of violence and is ready to guide government violence towards anyone who is disobedient, and even at times mount preemptive attacks.
- And love?
- Is also performed without consciousness of self. And is also a technology, and like ritual in that habits of doing are placed in relation to habits of doing, but to completely different effect. Take a man and a woman in love. They come home from work to the same house and do the same things. They feel safe and secure in each other's company. At home, in this lawful joining of habits, unlike ritual in this religion of love their sight is set on each other, not on themselves. They see in each other the peaceful, safe, regular relation they make for each, and look ahead to how the foundation made at home will give them the strength to make improvements in their lives outside the home. Unlike ritual in which public life exerts itself destructively on private, in this kind of religious story private life exerts itself creatively on public life.
- Too complicated. 
- In religions of violence, we feel strengthened by knowing we can do again what we've done. In religions of love, we are doing the same thing, putting our habits in lawful relations to those of others, but instead of thinking about what we are doing, we simply rely on the security of the situation and give ourselves over to freely imagining what else is possible for us together with each other's support. 
- A little better.
- Social technology is managing my habit with the habits of others, physical technology is managing the habits of things with each other. Social technology can produce violence or love.
- And physical technology I suppose can do the same, help our practical lives take a form that encourages us to love. How does that look?
- We’ve said already: it allows people’s habits to effortlessly, peacefully, domestically fit with each other so they can go on with creating their lives with each other.
- If this is correct, violence is not an inescapable condition of societies secular or other. If you provide people a society with this technology, provide conditions that allow them to make homes with each other, they will love, not be violent.
 - Love will be the story, the foundational belief hidden below awareness, will be the religion of such a society.


21. The Two Worlds

(From Mystical Experience & Spiritual Experience)

You wrote that, what, two, three years ago?
- About.
- Do you know how truly strange you are? You think all the time about what to do, but you don't give a damn about making something out of your life. You don't care about the world.
- And?
- And, as you asked, I've read your theologian Milbank. You don't care about the world, he cares too much. You want to change your life, he wants to change the world. He argues society is improved by religion. He says secular society such as ours is either nihilistic or pagan, either believes in nothing or believes only in desire. Both are the result of having no idea of good or god. Tell me: what is the connection between god not being present in the world, and having no purpose in life?
- Isn't it obvious?
- No.
- The only possible purpose of an activity is an end to activity.
- I don't see that. What about doing things for their own sake? The journey, not the end.
- Any kind of journey? Then we're back with nihilism and paganism. A good journey? How would we know what that is, if journeying is the only good thing we know of?
- I give up. The journey ends, one way or another, temporarily or permanently. What is a good end?
- To be with god.
- By being with god you mean experience involving in some way love, beauty, truth, goodness. We rest, for a while, in the sight of the people we love, their beauty, of the truth of what they say and good in what they do.
- Yes. The period of rest doesn't last and we find ourselves back in this world of things changing all the time for the better or worse.
- Milbank says that an epochal change in theology arose at the time, give or take a few centuries, of the advent of secular society. Secular society expelled ideas of good and god to private life, leaving to government the single job of protecting people in their livelihood of buying and selling things. In the old, Platonic, participatory theology of Thomas Aquinas, living with attention to this world's particularities you could get out to the other and sight of god. As this world was part of god's world, though a mere model or imitation of it, it gave us hints which way to go, what kinds of things to do to get to the real thing. The world of the new theology though no longer provides access to god's world. We have no direct access to god, only to the sight of his work visible in this our world.
- And you wonder if I am siding with the pre-secular world where the sight of god, of good, is the journey's end, and resting from movement place to place saves us from paganism or nihilism of the subsequent secular society.
- You do, don't you? Milbank says in fact our secular society has its religion, or rather, two religions. A pagan religion of violence, a fight for evolutionary survival of the fittest that justifies the competitive battle for profit fundamental to every economic transaction. And a nihilistic religion that accounts for the exclusion from consideration of all aspects of life other than economic, a doing for the sake of doing which we've just agreed can't get anywhere good. For a long time you and me have given the name 'ritual' to this going nowhere religion. Rituals do produce a kind of rest that is rest from the ritual itself, a rest in which there's no sight of god or good, only of a human constructed world of security in the predictable behavior of our fellow ritualists. Milbank argues that only Plato's idea of participation works, helps us live by teaching us to make the right moves in this world and get us to sight of god's world.
- We have to stop, and stop for good reason. Otherwise life is senseless movement from place to place.
- We could reserve meaning for our private lives, but secular society, unrestrained by any idea of good, works to break rules, invades and destroys private life. We have no choice but get rid of the destructive nihilism and paganism in our society and bring good back into its management.
- And how does my theologian say we should do it?
- On the model of the Catholic Church, relying particularly on its analogy of the trinity which he says uniquely of all possible analogies expresses the idea of participation.
- The son of god is part of god and model of god who in both this world and the other thereby guides us back to god.
- Your opinion?
- You first.
- This is from the penultimate paragraph of Milbank's Stanton Lectures of 2011:

Ordinarily, holding together and transformation occur through the mediated interaction of substance and relation, but we can now see that these things make no sense outside the divine presence to all things achieved through participation in the divine imaginative, creative act. 

God, who knows everything, creates his son to know him. His son, as creator of new knowledge of his father, thus knows more than his father, which can't be because the father being everything knows everything, including knows now what his son knows about him, which the son then newly knows about him, and the father then knows he is by his son newly known... This continuous knowledge of knowledge, of god and his son is, it's admitted, inconceivable and impossible. Yet Milbank says it can be and must be conceived anyway! What does this mean?
- It means that for real meaning to be there in this continuous creation there has to be rest, and there is no stopping to rest.
- The rest where god the father sees the son he's created and the rest when the son knows the god who's created him.
- Yes. Rests that could have been taken but talk is not stopped for. Catholicism is not by any means the first religion of participation, but it may make the claim to being the first to be a continuous ritual of the principle of participation. In the intoxication, the passion of ritual we lose sight our selves, of those rests which temporarily give definition of self.
- Rushing in fear or intoxication we can go through the performance, and even a theologian can miss the obvious fact that what he is doing is not at all like participation in knowledge of two different worlds, one the model of the other, but rather is loss of self knowledge in creation of security in group practice.
- So it seems.
- We can't trust the secular to cure us of secularism and get good into our societies, and we can't trust theologian specialists in the philosophy of participation. Who can we trust? The ritual of participation that is supposed to be anti-nihilism and paganism turns out to be both nihilist in its impossibility and pagan in intoxicated performance.
- Why couldn't Milbank be satisfied with the actual looking for the truth like in Plato's dialogs?
- He could, but that would not place Catholicism at the beginning of all religions of participation and so give its analogy unique precedence over all others.
- Milbank wants to build the city of god, wants to get good into the world automatically and continuously like the market gets its gods of greed into the world and competition gets its evolutionary gods of aggression. Prior philosophy of participation saw that though society was improvable, capable of taking better and worse forms, it must not serve as an end in itself, must not claim to having its being in the other world where good persists.
- It's really a very interesting conclusion we've come to. We can't have a secular society of no good, because it turns out to have good and gods of nihilism and paganism. Religion in society also is no good, because it uses the tool of ritual to disguise the fact that it wants society of this world to have the quasi permanent ideal status of the other world, to be god's world in imitation. In religious societies there is no rest, therefore no good, no god, no religion, no purpose, no goal, and no end. If anyone gets out of a religious society to god it is no thanks to its rituals which make even its best students like Milbank blind to what they are doing and thinking.
- Yet public life neither secular nor religious is a real possibility. Society can be improved as a particular and temporary tool of the individual without becoming an intoxicated and impossible idea of god's world. There is no reason what we expect from society cannot be kept to the partial and temporary, aiding the individual's progress towards good.


22. What We're Doing Talking Like This

- Ever wonder what we're doing, talking like this?
- We're getting ready to change the world.
- Why do we have to wait?
- We don't. Getting ready is already beginning. Think about what happened here last night: three in the morning, Westwood Village, night café. This corner more than well lit up under the marquees of two of the city's oldest and largest movie theaters. People coming and going even at this hour. You and me are here, with three or four others, waiting for the morning. A vague resignation of no better place to go hovers over us with the light.
- "The dispossessed and abandoned", in the words of those bygone days when it was considered normal to be of concern to others and to have some place in life, when it was thought something must have happened to people like these to overthrow the usual ways of the world.
- That world has long been overthrown.
- It has. So we were sitting there and then: pound! pound! pound! Across the street two storefronts down is someone in a deeply hooded sweatshirt with a sledgehammer hitting away at the jewelry store window. And what do we do?
- We do nothing.
- We watch. We wait. We are in no conflict about it. The world has its ways and they are violent and the world is not our world.
- What is our world?
- We're ready for that question, aren't we? All this past week* we've been talking about the secular and the sacred, the new school of theology that studies their relation. The secular: the world, as its etymology suggests, that is in time and of the times. A world in which what people claim is good changes because that world itself changes, is not fixed in time. Though there is a kind of fixity to be found in the way the secular world moves. It has a system or mechanism, in fact, has two of them: the free market in which everyone trying to profit at each other's expense is said somehow to work to every one's advantage; and evolution in which violent competition for survival strengthens the species to the advantage of those members of the species privileged to survive. In both cases there is mechanism and violence. And what you and me discovered, and the professors hadn't, was that the sacred is the same! The sacred: the world outside time we can only access through rituals and ceremonies of gods dying and being reborn, through a mechanical procedure re-enacting violence. The professors of the new school saw clearly there is religion in the secular world, that people imagined themselves in the god-like force behind mechanisms of market and evolution. But the professors didn't see how the secular enters into the sacred in the form of mechanism and violence guiding the transition from secular time to sacred time. What they, these professors of the secular and sacred didn't notice being immersed in these worlds themselves was that the secular and sacred have almost everything in common: life practiced in the secular would is mechanical and violent, and our access to life in the sacred is also mechanical and violent: we have to lose ourselves to gain the world.
- And sitting at the café, watching the sledgehammer wielded by the hooded man?
- The secular world is supposed to operate on its own market mechanical principles without our having to decide what is good or bad. And the sacred world promises us that with a different kind of violence and machine we can get out and away from that secular world of violence and mechanism. What is all this to us? I don't want either world. Do you? Do the dispossessed who watched along with us? One world of violence and mechanism, two worlds, an infinity of worlds of violence and mechanism, how does this involve us?
- We sat at the café and watched.
- Yes. Our ideas of good and bad, secular and religious, have been discredited. Gods are in the secular, mechanism is in the sacred, violence is in both. Religion is a joke, as is non-religion.
- But if we say it is a joke that implies we have a standard we are judging it against. What is that standard if it is neither religious nor non-religious?
- In the Jewish mysticism of Kabbalah we are sparks fallen to this world from the fire of god. Only when we have perfected our knowledge will we return to god. 'Souls must reenter the absolute substance whence they have emerged, but to accomplish this they must develop all the perfections, the germ of which is planted in them.'** We need knowledge, not mechanism and violence. And what is the most essential knowledge we need?
- Of the world we actually live in.
- We need to know our world here and now and the obstacle to knowledge it represents if we are to have a chance to acquire more knowledge.
- We need to know the world we actually are in if were ever to get out of it.
- Know what the secular and the sacred really are. It's knowing a lot, a good beginning, to see that they are much the same.
- Because that tells us to look for good elsewhere?
- Yes.
- But if not in this secular world of time passing and not in the timeless sacred world of ideas and ideals, what's left?
- The world right here. Starbucks Coffee, Westwood. The guy in the deep hood and the sledgehammer. This world of mechanism and violence protected by the police whose sirens we could hear approaching, whose helicopter in minutes would be overhead.
- Average house price in Westwood: two and a half million dollars.
- An invasion army coming trained to issue orders to anything that moves: Keep your hands where we can see them! Identify yourself! State your reason for being here! One minute you're sitting at a café drinking coffee in the place you grew up in, the next you stand a good chance of being shot.
- All of us left before the armed forces arrived.
- Why should we stay to be subject to mechanism and violence? Did we believe we were gods of violence in charge of the world economy or evolutionary fighters for survival? No, not us. We didn't believe good came out of the sacred world, we didn't believe morality was determined by a god who had to have recourse to mechanical ritual to get us to do his bidding, didn't believe in the rules of the free market, of violent competition for survival. Secular and sacred emerged from nowhere and become our worlds, learned in childhood without knowing we learned them: the sacred taught us to engage in mechanical ceremonies pretending to be a murdered and then reborn god, the whole process beating into our heads acceptance of roles, old and new, weak and powerful, reconciling us to a society of roles, of power exerted by one role upon the other, taught us to be slaves and masters of slaves; the secular taught us to do things for the sake of doing them, to keep things we didn't have use for from others who did, taught us to hoard.***
- Again: if not those, what world do we live in?
- What world did we go to when we left the café? Where did you guys go? It would be hard for you to hoard possessions you don't have or sell yourselves into slavery to people who have more slaves than they need. I myself went on with reading and writing.
- We turn the corner but haven't gone anywhere.
- We've gone to look for good each in our own way with each other's help.
- How can we know the way? How will we help each other?
- Keeping off the wrong ways, wary of violence and mechanism, wary of hoarding, slavery, role, hierarchy.**** Gradually our eyes will open.
- Is that your religion? A prediction?
- A theory.
- Then let's find out if it's right.
- Let's. But our difficulties are not as great as they seem.
- Optimism coming from you is suspicious. I think you enjoy leading me in circles.
- Violence and mechanism, hoarding and hierarchy are social expressions of vain thought and vain action. Vain thought is when, rather than (as in ethical thought) being inattentive to ourselves while seeing the world as beautiful and whole, we instead see only ourselves, see our power of control. Vain action is when, rather than (as in ethical action) being inattentive to the world, unclear in the process of change, while attentive to our selves as we try differing attempts to better our position, we instead are blind to ourselves as in intoxicated passion we strive to force the world back into a form in which we felt powerful.***** Ethical action and thought, being the reverse of vain thought and action, involve a changed relation to the world, but don't require any new learning or experience. Plato called progress from one to the other conversion: a turning around.
- Conversion. A theory that once stated confirms itself. We're back to religion.
__________________
On Bureaucrats & Violence
The Two Worlds
** The Zohar
*** Clutter, Gloves Off
**** Bringing Back Stray Sheep
***** The Mathematics Of Consciousness
Noam Chomsky & Mental Things


23. Holocaust Gift

- Welcome home. How was Europe?
- Fine.
- Enjoy yourself?
- Recovered mostly. How have you been?
- Who cares about me? I've been fine.
- I care about you.
- Why would you care about me?
- I know you.
- And that's enough to care about me?
- When what I know is good.
- Tell me about good. Or better, tell me about gratitude and ingratitude. About this Hedge Fund Guy you spoke to a few times in the park who out of nowhere bought you the ticket to Europe. Do you feel grateful to him?
- No.
- No, you don't. I thought so. Why not? You don't like guys who run hedge funds?
- I don't know him.
- Can't you like him and feel grateful to him for his dropping all that money on you?
- I can't.
- Why not?
- Gratitude is for receiving a gift, not for getting back something that is owed, that is already our own. And what is a gift?
- Something belonging to another is transferred to you.
- Transferred to you for good reason or bad?
- Does it matter?
- Yes.
- You think the Hedge Fund Guy bought you the ticket to Europe for bad reasons. You said you didn't know him. Did he give you his reasons?
- When I was in Europe he made me a business proposition: he'd guarantee to sell for me the memory book, my only asset, before I returned to L.A., if in exchange I wrote a mission statement for his hedge fund he could post on his web site.
- Did he sell the book?
- No. Starbucks Coffee advertises that they give the desperately poor farmers who grow their coffee a few cents of the profit from every four dollar coffee they sell. Customers get coffee and give charity at the same time.
- You're against Starbucks giving charity?
- Yes.
- What's wrong with helping people?
- Charity is helping people you don't know or care about. You make no effort to change destructive conditions that you the giver participate in creating and profit from.
- Giving with one hand what is taken back by the other. You thought that the Hedge Fund Guy was doing that to you?
- He wanted to create an image for his fund as the meeting place for elite investors who wanted to do good.
- Drive people into poverty by their speculation and then throw a few pennies at them. He threw you more than a thousand dollars. Doesn't sound like the same thing to me. He must have cared about you.
- He didn't.
- You know that.
- Yes.
- How? So he didn't know or care how you lived. He met you in the park. He knew you could use some help and he helped. He's a busy man who didn't have time to get to know you. He gave charity and you should be grateful. Tell me about the memory book.
- In a minute. Someone grateful wants to make a return for gifts received. The return gift expresses gratitude. Have you thought why this should be?
- It's not a gift if it has to be returned is it?
- So why do we expect the return?
- You tell me.
- The most basic, most important gift you can give a friend is to know him.
- Why is that a gift?
- Because your friend sees you know him. He receives that knowledge that you know him into his own life. It becomes his. And what does he do with it?
- What?
- He returns it to you by knowing you and letting you know he knows you. He recognizes you as good, and in doing this naming of you he gives you the power to name him as good: he is good for you as a friend because he pays attention to and knows you and tells you so. His act of  naming is creative, creates a new thing, creates the you that is known by him to be good, and gives you the power to create a name for him as good.
- Which back and forth can go on endlessly. I say you are good and that gives you the power to say I am good for telling you which gives me the power to say you are good for...
- Exactly. Lovers locked in each other's eyes. Goes on for a while, until the body distracts with its demands.
- And gratitude is like that locking of eyes of lovers?
- Yes. The return is immediate and in a way infinite. It creates a relation. A gift that must be returned at some future time is the opposite, the story of relation begun with the first gift ends with the return gift being given.
- No locking of lovers' eyes for you two. Instead, he made the deal about the memory book, the kind of relation that ends when a return gift is made. Technically speaking, you gave, performed on your promise, and he hasn't; he is in your debt now isn't he? Is he still trying to discharge his obligation, and as you say, end your relationship?
- No. I ended the relation.
- How? Why?
- The memory book. He'd talked of a price for the book, of which he'd receive about half as sales commission. He failed, as I said. I was back in L.A. He asked for a few more days to try. He came up with an offer: at a price of one-tenth we'd talked of, he'd have his mother buy the book from me and then donate it in her name to the L.A. Museum of the Holocaust. Their Executive Director had agreed to provide a receipt his mother could use for a tax deduction.
- You accepted the one-tenth price?
- Yes. Desperate need, as they say.
- Then why didn't the deal go through?
- When you donate something it is treated like lowering your income. If you have to pay 40% tax on your income, and you lower your income by $4,000 from the loss of donating an historical artifact to a museum, you need to pay $1,600 less in tax.
- So to see to it that the transaction cost his mother nothing he offered you one and half thousand and would get a receipt from the Holocaust Museum for $4,000.
- In approximate numbers, yes.
- A typical tax scam. Because of that you said no? All you had to do was get a receipt for the real one thousand six hundred and the fraud, if that is what it was, isn't your problem.
- Is that what you would have done?
- No. I wouldn't take $1,600 for something worth ten times as much.
- And if your situation was so desperate you had to? You mean you'd feel that there was something a little unfriendly going on?
- He gave you charity, gave to you the champion ingrate who has contempt for charity. Now this was business, and he the typical cheating stock speculator. What did you expect?

Further Reading:
Holocaust Journal