Sunday, December 18, 2016

Kabbalah Stories / Minimum Viable Product

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- Do you know what I think? About anarchism?
- What?
- It depresses me because it doesn't seem possible.
- You mean, it is possible, in the past millions of people have lived under the rules property for all and no hiring oneself out for wages, impossible for us because we're never going to get there.
- Yes.
- And if we could sell anarchism as a way to make people happy? As something that makes you happy to think about, even before it is achieved, whether or not it is achieved? We'd more and more want to talk about it, and imagine that when enough of us are talking about, it'd get its chance. We'd like to hear others talk about it, and like to pass on the message. We like to pass on messages that make people happy. We don't do it now because we start out with the idea that it all is impossible.
- We can't simply pretend.
- Ever hear of the manager's acronym, MVP? "Minimally Viable Product"? A new product not completely finished, invested in and developed to the point where market testing can show whether anyone will be interested in buying or using it. We can do this with anarchism, get it developed to the point where people can see, as we hope they will in our market testing of spreading the message, that they would like to have it. That it is a happy message, a wonderful new product is coming, and people spread the word.
- And when the consumers are ready you sell it to them. So what would be the anarchist MVP?
- First, the product has to be finished enough to be viable in itself, and so that the test results may be considered reliable evidence of the final product's attractiveness. The world of buying and selling falls into a stable, "viable", structure of supply and demand, vain power plays and monopoly. Anarchism has its two rules that prohibit hiring anyone to work for you and owning what you can't use. Let's imagine testing these two rules. What would be a MVP? Something people could test right now?
- Rules to be tested?
- Yes, rules people are already familiar with we can test without producing the final product, an anarchist state. We can't right now outlaw employment, can't take away from people property they don't use. But we might be able to give people a MVP version of the rules.
- Is that possible?
- In Judaism, at least in the Kabbalistic interpretation, god deliberately provokes the Jews into breaking his rules. God must do this because he has made man in his image, and he himself is a creator, not an obedient slave. If you stop the interpretation there, then like with Buddhist detachment, or ironic indulgence in crude pleasures, you can give yourself freedom to do anything. You know the indulgence is against the rules, but you know you really don't have to follow the rules.
- Buddhism is immoral?
- And Judaism too, if you stop there with it. But let's go on with the story. Adam and Eve get expelled from the garden of Eden, and now have to work, where before they didn't have to do anything. Paradise is lost, but not completely: if you love god as he commands you to he promises you a way back.
- What does that mean if god also provokes you to breaking that rule?
- That's just it. He doesn't do that. He makes an exception. A regular relation of supply and demand appears automatically in the world of buying and selling things. Similarly, the prohibition against employment, together with forfeiting property not used, allow a regular continual redistribution of property automatically. When people acquire more than they can use, through good luck, gifts, whatever, without any specific intervention, for example taxation, it is reabsorbed by the community. Also in Judaism there is sort of self regulating product produced by the functioning of two rules: god says, I give you laws but you can break them, but you must love, and cannot break that rule. Following?
- Yes.
- If god himself does not abide by his rules, they are not "used" by god, and so, under anarchist rules are not god's possession, they can be yours, your property, to use at your discretion. God's imperative to love prevents indulgence in passions, fear, anger, hatred, envy, all of which make you blind and occupy the time and place in which you could be loving, make you want to control the world and people in it, so impel you to break the anarchist rule against employment of people. Using people blocks your return to the promised land. God's rule to love guides your return home. If you disobey, break all rules without discrimination, you'll never get there.
- What is the promised land?
- The land where you don't have to work.
- But that's a dream.
- In the world of buying and selling, there is no rest from work. Individuals are encouraged to refresh their bodies by indulging in sexuality, and violence too, if only in imagination, but these releases are supposed to be without meaning, like the Buddhist detached from the world who allows himself to kill. In fact, the exchange of one thing for another can be seen as continually expressing these bodily releases: the act of approaching someone to make a deal is attraction without content or meaning, because the transaction is stripped of personal considerations, limited to logical calculation. And once the transaction is complete, you are supposed to have got the better of your trading partner, in other words, have committed an act of violence on the actual person your trade logic doesn't allow you to notice.
- You're saying that what we consider relaxation and entertainment is another version of the work of buying and selling things.
- Yes. This entertainment is not only not rest, is simply another form of doing, it is even a continuation of the same kind of doing as in buying and selling.
- Then how do we really rest?
- Let's go back the story from Genesis, to Kabbalah and Judaism. You may "expropriate" god's unused rules to yourself, and use them at your discretion. Yet you respect god's property rights, his inalienable ownership of the rule, love! You think about how you should do your work, in the world outside the gates of Eden, for the sake of getting back to the promised land where you don't have to work.
- How do you get back?
- You choose which rules to obey, you search for love, and - this is the point - you find it.
- You find love.
- And love is rest. All the good things in life: beauty, truth, goodness, religious experience of wholeness, are forms of resting. They're not quite paradise, because they don't last, but they get us out of the hopeless condition of wandering aimlessly, save us from the insanity of doing for the sake of doing, work for the sake of work.
- And what is the minimally viable product?
- Instead of anarchism's, no ownership without use, we have: you don't have to obey the laws god doesn't respect himself. Instead of anarchism's no work for wages, we have: you must love. Observing both rules we can get back into paradise with the people we love.
- If we seek to love one another, and choose our own rules, we will find rest. I don't see how this will necessarily make us more happy than working all the time and simultaneously entertaining ourselves all time, because if you are right about the sexuality and violence of every act of buying and selling we live in a totally and continually entertaining world.
- Leave it to the consumers to make their choice. The old buying and selling model, or our anarchist minimum viable product. I think it's possible that the anarchist model itself, testable now without political change, is as certain fundamentalists put it, good news that people will want to share with each other. The buying and selling model, with its consequences of inequality of wealth, environmental destruction, risk of nuclear war, aside from being an old story definitely is not good news.


And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good. 
- Notice the three elements: speaking, creation, good. We'll get back to them.
- Ok.
- Speaking of old stories: every time I pride myself on discovering something new I find out someone has been there before me, usually thousands of years before me. I'd written about the relation between Kabbalah, the tradition of Jewish mysticism, and anarchism, the political system of voluntary organization without central government, and I thought that if Kabbalah corresponded in some ways in its social implication, why wouldn't it also correspond in philosophical?
- By philosophical you mean ideas of freedom, property, universals.
- Yes, and I had this crazy idea that if I went back again and looked I'd see what no one before me had seen.
- But you'd find yourself wrong there too.
- Yes but I'd have my fun while it lasted. So I looked to see what was in the Kabbalah in relation to property, freedom, universals.
- And what did you discover?
- The Kabbalah like the creation story associates good, language, and creativity, with the consequence that doing good is necessarily associated with change. Rules, unchanging things, are revelations from god, an incommunicable individual experience. In the Kabbalah - "tradition" or "receiving" - the rules are interpreted, put into new words and formulation, the so-called oral revelation to the world as it is here and now. The tradition changes and develops the rules in their application. Similarly we ourselves have our own rules and tradition. Our self, our "rule", hovers above the joining of male and female at our conception, and in every good deed we do we weave the robe of tradition of our self more and more complete, we tell our own story, or rather, we rewrite it with each good deed, as each good we do makes us capable of more. Rules are reinterpreted in the process of our intending to do good as our selves are developed in our good deeds.
- What is the connection to property?
- In an unchanging society with unchanging roles, rules are acquired individually, creatively, actively, but learned unconsciously in childhood, with the consequence that each individual, once he wakes up and thinks about it, has an incentive to break the rules if he can without getting caught. The Kabbalah turns this upsidedown. If the act of reinterpretation in following rules is an act using language, then it depends on the agreement of all speakers of the language on the meaning of words and how the language is spoken. That agreement provides the foundation of universal principle.
- How does speaking the same language make me obey a rule it is my interest to break?
- You and me are the Jewish people, in our exodus out of Egypt. We meet on Mt. Sinai with god, who makes a deal with you, and makes a deal with me. Two deals, god to individual, but god's part in the deal is a promise to both of us, delivery to the promised land. Follow?

- Yes.
- Think about it. To speak a language individually and be understood we both have agree on the meaning of words and how the language works. To cash in on god's promise we similarly need to act in agreement.
- On what?
- God's rules, delivered by Moses a few weeks later. Each individual continues his own life, giving up nothing to the other individuals yet benefiting by being delivered to the promised land.
- Why giving up nothing? We have to obey the rules.
- We want to obey the rules exactly like we want to learn words. Do you complain about words taking away your freedom?
- I do, when they get in the way of expressing myself.
- That you have anything worth while to express is due to what you made of yourself through the use of words. You mean you don't want to use words when you don't have to.
- Maybe. 
- The act of reinterpretation of tradition works in the same way we speak, is an action with the same form, producing the same result, unity of purpose.
- Assume I understand. Where does property come in?
- Revelation gives us rules.
- God gave the Jews their rules.
- In revelation, which we can describe as the experience of god, we see how many things are really one. We come to know it is best 'in this situation, do that'. Property too is rule and revelation, but has a special, magical power.

- What do you mean by magical?
- Power enabled by a different kind of language, a destructive use of language. Property is the product of ritual, of language used repetitively, not creatively. In the Kabbalah language is a creative act for doing good that comes from god, whereas property comes from the limited repetitive action of a limited group of people with each other at a limited time and place. We won't be able to find a universal principle of sharing if we start from property.
- Where do we start from then?
- The self that creates to do good in the company of others doing the same, who have received the same revelation 
not of the magic of property but of creativity, and reinterpret it in each others company.
- We share with each other because we are creative with each other. And as you've said before private property is a thought-through exception acceptable only in cases where sharing would not be creative but destructive.
- Universal principle, sharing, is the result of all three things god does when he creates the world: he speaks, he creates, he does good. It is in the creative act itself universal principles arise. Rules cannot create actual agreement among followers of rule, as seeing the rule, a sort of revelation, is individual, and does not establish a relation between people. In Plato's 'Republic' people have to be lied to to keep the rules, indoctrinated while still children to believe they are all close family.
- I'm beginning to see. We expect sharing, universal principles, to be fixed things, But the truth is they come from change.
- When the Dalai Lama fled with his people to Tibet the time came when he said to the Jewish people, "Tell me your secret of spiritual survival in exile". A group of Jewish scholars and rabbis was invited to visit him. Right at the beginning of their discussion the Dalai Lama raised the question, What is religion? and hearing that among the Jews that question was the source of much bitter dispute, he answered, If religion does not make people more compassionate what good is it? Property is a version of revelation, a kind of magic, that makes compassion impossible.
- The religious dispute because they treat their religion like property. And property is a religion that makes compassion impossible.
- But we don't call it religion, we call it a right. The magic revelation of property is not experience of god, found privately, that leads to speaking with others who've had the same revelation about how to make a good life together. Rather it is the product of acting with others in the group, depending on each keeping without change his place in the group. There is no room for compassion. Each is the agent to the other's stability and power. The user doesn't see the tool, sees only what the tool is used for. There is gratitude each to each for giving to each his power, but no real sharing of life and experience. That is possible only when language, creativity, and good come together. In creative speech towards good we all have something to offer potentially and something to gain potentially from results. The man who builds doors has nothing in common with the man who builds windows until someone starts talking about building a good house.
- Compassionate religion requires universal principles. For universal principles we need to build a society that  protects and develops change, creativity, discussion and search for what is good. Sharing isn't really a universal principle, but results from applying other principles, from talking creatively with each other. Then we don't directly want to share with each other?
- We have minds set on higher things.
- What higher things? Not new revelations, discoveries, which you said you keep thinking you are doing but find out you aren't.
- I can hope my derivative discoveries respond to a world of different people and interpret ideas differently, better for the understanding of the people who use the same words I do. But anyway it is not revelation and discoveries, of sharing, justice, principles, whatever that are important, but what we do with them. As the Dalai Lama said, what we want from the right views, the right revelation, is compassion.


There was a king who had a single son who kept misbehaving. One day he offended the king. The king said, 'I have punished you so many times and you have not [changed]. Now look, what should I do with you? If I banish you from the land and expel you from the kingdom, perhaps wild beasts or wolves or robbers will attack you and you will be no more. What can I do? The only solution is that I and you together leave the land.' So . . . the Blessed Holy One said as follows: 'Israel, what should I do with you? I have already punished you and you have not heeded Me. I have brought fearsome warriors and flaming forces to strike at you and you have not obeyed. If I expel you from the land alone, I fear that packs of wolves and bears will attack you and you will be no more. But what can I do with you? The only solution is that I and you together leave the land and both of us go into exile. As it is written, 'I will discipline you,' forcing you into exile; but if you think that I will abandon you, Myself too [shall go] along with you.*


Corner of Beverly Blvd. and Doheny Dr., India in Beverly Hills.

Untouchables live and die on two bus-stops facing each other on either side of the street, in front of the supermarket on one side, in front of the more expensive supermarket on the other.

- I've seen you around. You give away money.
- I've seen you too. You read. What have you got there?
- Kabbalah.
- The Kabbalah is simple. I'll tell you all you need to know. Compassion. Do good. I don't talk, I do. I see people who need help, and I help them.
- How do you help them?
- If they need food I buy them food. If they need money I give them money.
- What makes you think that is doing good?
- The Rabbi says you have to be careful in how you give. Respect people's sensitivities.
- Do you pay attention to what happens after you do good?
- How do you mean?
- Do the people you give money to have better or worse lives after you give them money? Do you know?
- That's god's business, not mine.
- They'll see you are treating them as things.
- I don't.
- They'll see you've done this before and you'll do it again. That they are a tool in your hands, a thing you use, an instrument for your doing good. You shouldn't operate on people like a technician.
- How should I operate on them?
- Like god. According to Kabbalah, the world is not simply something, some thing he made, but something emanated from him.
- What's the difference?
- When you look at the world you see god, at least that aspect that can be seen in the world. Because we are created in god's image, we too have to create like god in every thing we do. Kabbalah tells us how god created the world, and we have to do it the same way if we are to follow god.
- How did god created the world?
- With wisdom and through beauty. We have to follow in his footsteps. That means, in practical terms, start our operation by reminding ourselves what god has done. We do that by seeing god in the world, and we do that when we recognize, we experience beauty in the world. Beauty is a sort of karma, but unlike the Indian version that simply goes from our action, good and bad, through the world back to us, this Karma stays out in world, visible to us and capable of being built upon, of inspiring good deeds that create more beauty. In Kabbalah beauty is joined compassion and judgement, as befits its being the product of wisdom. Beauty is drawn into marriage with the world, and the progeny of that marriage is more beauty.
- I told you. I leave all that useless reasoning and talk to others. I go out and do something.
- And botch the job. Do something ugly. Not beginning from beauty you don't produce beauty. To do good in the world requires you first see the world as beautiful. Seeing the beauty of the world is knowing god made the world and made it well. Not made well the entire world, which you know nothing about. But that part you are looking and thinking about now, that you identify by means of the language you've learned among the people you live with. The beauty of the world excites your judgement and compassion, draws you to respond to it and gives birth in you to another beautiful good deed. Beauty is both judgement and compassion, not one or the other. Beauty won't be created out of good deeds done by rule, by judgement only; won't be created out of good done out of thoughtless feeling, compassion alone.
- How is beauty drawn to beauty?
- Judgement and compassion is brought to bear on the world, and out of that marriage is the good deed born, beautiful in itself. The beauty that inspires making more beauty works through language. Beauty is recorded in the world, gets its persisting, foundational karma, from our ways and habits of using our language. A story once told inspires more stories. Language lives through its community of speakers. That's why in Kabbalah the Jewish people are identified with the world which also is god, not merely his product.
- The Jewish people is god, the world is god. Language is god. And I am to act like god. Everything is god.
- Everything would be god if we all acted with god's wisdom. God creates with wisdom, through compassion and judgement, bringing his wisdom to bear on his own creation. Made in his image we have to do the same. As a people we tell each other stories of how this is done, and we see the world through these stories. The beauty of the world seen through these stories inspires us to make beautiful stories out of our lives.
- But it is not just the Jewish people I help. I think that's wrong.
- The Kabbalah reached its high point of development and probably acceptance at a time the Jewish people were excluded from most activities in the lives of the people they lived among. When restrictions were lifted in the Enlightenment, the time of the French and American Revolutions, the rabbis declared the Kabbalah dangerous and to be studied by only a select few. Do you know why?
- Why?
- If god is known in the world and the world is known through language and language is carried on by a community of speakers, when that community is freed to speak to others outside, there is no reason to exclude anyone from that community. Doing good would have to be directed also to those outside. The rabbis wanted instead to take advantage of the practical gains the new social freedom allowed, but keep the doing good within their communities. Gershom Scholem, the German Jewish academic who begin the modern study of Kabbalah, explained that a non-practicing Jew like himself found himself drawn into the study of mysticism by its political implications. He was a Zionist, and the return to Israel was a way to make a secure foundation for the Jews from which they could safely bring good out into the world.


- "Bring good out into the world". You talk about it like doing good was secret knowledge.
- It certainly is secret knowledge. I'll read you this: according to Nahmanides, 12th century rabbi and physician,
 In the prophetic vision, during which the soul is united with the objects of its contemplation, it is in this state of debhequth, that is, obtains a ''knowledge of God face to face." In this longing for its origin, the highest soul of man becomes capable of penetrating all the intermediary spheres and rising up to God by means of its acts—which, strangely enough, are united here with contemplation.** 
- Whatever.
- Not whatever. Knowledge. We see apparently civilized countries suddenly breaking out into the most vicious savagery, and then within a few years back to civilized again. We see the same with individuals. Do you know why?
- Do you?
- It's because we as individuals don't do as Nahmanides tells us it's possible to do: know how to get out of ourselves.
- To get with god.
- When we don't know what we do to get out of ourselves we take instruction from the people around us. Behind conscious self-instruction is knowledge. Behind unconscious instruction from others is violence. 
- Is that the secret? Is it even true?
- It might be true. And if it is true, we know from other things we do know for sure that though there is no necessity, there is a possibility that history might end and the messiah come.
- And that's the secret.
- There is a sort of dynamic, or logic, to the competition between the two ways of getting out of ourselves. They block each other: violence punishes love, love disdains violence. But it is not an equal battle. Violence grows out of ignorance and is always the same old thing, whereas love, growing from knowledge, knowing that violence is the product of unconscious activity in the group can alter the group to prevent violence from developing. The group can punish good, reward bad, get us to forget love and worship property, but if the group is modeled on knowing how to act to get out...
- How can a group be modeled on knowing how to get out?
- By seeing the world created as words spoken by god, seeing the world as people creating their lives in the same way they use language, using words not knowing how the sentence will end but expecting it be good and what they want if they use language right. If our group tell us one thing only, and that is to do this for ourselves, if we take precautions to make sure this only is what our group does, then good prevails, and must. 
- Like our country spreads democracy around the world by dropping bombs on people.
- Is our country a group of people who learn consciously to see god? 
- We're all waiting for the messiah.
- Wait for the messiah and the devil will come. The messiah has to be brought down to us.
- And you know how.
- If the good we do stays in the world in the form of beauty, and beauty is no more than a model of the kind of knowing action that get us face to face with god, and the good staying in the world requires the obtainable protection of the people who speak to each other of beauty, and the people can speak to people in other groups, then ultimately a time will come when the battle is over. The messiah is the one who arrives to say that time is here, prepare now for an entirely new way of life. No more will we betray each other in protection of our property, our god, our selves as possessions. And no more will we act to get ourselves out of the world of betrayal and rest in the sight of beauty. Finally all of life, all those cycles of betrayal and recovery, exile and return, action and rest, will be gathered together as one long period of action in exile, and be over, we'll rest with god. His beauty will give us continual rest, but we'll act in our calm, act like a child acts in the protection of family, our difficulties enjoyable diversions, played through like games.
* From the Zohar (Hebrew: זֹהַר, lit. Splendor or Radiance), the foundational work in the literature of Jewish mystical thought known as Kabbalah.
** Gershom Scholem, Origins Of The Kabbalah