There is a part of me – that part steeped in my education – that seeks to dig deep into knowing, and from there, solution. I think I try to dig deeper than most – and depth comes from synthesis – putting things together as a whole, folding down through the layers of why – not analysis of one small part viewed through one small lens, in isolation, reduced to what is presumed to be the physical essence of a thing.
A focus just on analysis is utter nonsense – and a focus on just the physical compounds the delusion – and yet we laud that process as some form of higher, professional, academic ‘better’ knowing. But a thing is never a thing in and of itself. You have to think like the god Janus, who looks both ways – down to the parts, and up to the whole. Both give meaning. Context really does matter. Context beyond the measured things. Arthur Koestler taught us that much – things are Holons, both parts and wholes whose boundaries are defined by the mind’s eye, or perhaps something from beneath and beyond.
Don’t look for rigid, universal order; look for the dance within life. But there is yet more than even that. A depth to the world that goes far beyond the material.
I find myself very intolerant of the technocrat who presumes knowing – and worse, wisdom – is achieved by looking no wider or deeper than their particular obsession – yield, soil fertility measured thus, a dollar subjectively chosen and discounted – which they then present as ‘objective’ truth – treating proximate symptoms and never the root cause. They work on the surface of things and are not wise.
But a broader, deeper synthesis is not enough. Even the best synthesis can still be wholly material, without room for feeling or any sense of a wider sublime. That is the challenge. To shift beyond material synthesis, to some transcendent depth. Why do you get this particular feeling when you listen to Arvo Pärt’s piano and cello playing slow single notes, each hanging in the air …… individually yet never alone, perfect in tone, and count, resonant with emotion? Why?
I was taught to measure and predict forests, and yet loved them for all the things you cannot measure. Is love irrelevant to knowing?
Eventually – when you dig beneath all measurements and presumptions of objectivity – you find deeper layers hidden behind the screen in the more elusive recesses of our minds – where metaphysics and cosmology lurk. You can, if you want, ‘describe’ a piece of music by analysing its arrangement and composition. It becomes a score, not an experience. We know because we have experienced music, that that is insufficient – like analysing Hamlet by word count. What is knowing? What is beauty?
Does it matter? Are we just material stuff, cogs connected by wheels grinding forward without purpose? Is that how we best know the world? Is that how we best manage our world. Because this is the Anthem of our Age – measuring the marigolds, inch by inch, without stopping to observe their beauty.
I can’t help thinking that we – we university trained technocrats – are still more obsessed with ‘describing’ in a modern mechanical sense than seeking the deeper explanations. I think for explanation we need our feelings. We cannot disconnect our sense of consciousness and connection and truly know. Life is far more analogous to art, music and dance and the connections they create within our sense of life than an engineered machine. Wisdom is as well.
You cannot look at a child through mere material description. Well, you can, but you would be considered a monster, an aberration, sick. You would be outcast because we know the consequences of that; we know from some deeper level where rational models justifying the insane have absolutely not place. We who know history; can describe the horrors of the machine, especially when ego, delusion, power and blind unthinking functionaries combine – none of which they include in the models. We have read the wisdom of the great classics, from Moby Dick to Frankenstein; the rationalised functioning without any deeper sense of the whole – insanity.
And yet we give such ‘rational’ ‘uncaring’ ‘objective’ models the ascendancy in thought for our lands and our communities, no less complex and no less in need of love and care than a child. We continue to rationalise and excuse what is – by any definition of the loss of grip on the whole and their own connection to it and place within it – insane.
Why would we presume to merely describe land, or a community, or this mythical thing we call an economy as if they only exist as material things; disconnected, knowable after we dissect and discard the life and beauty within them and measure the body parts.
I am still grappling with breaking away. I am still stuck within my professional paradigm. We can take the first step relatively easily – to reject narrow and shallow technocratic silo thinking as in *any* way the answer to our world problems. A few life traumas help you becoming a heretic. Being in a coma on the edge of things, puts life in perspective.
We can focus on synthesis – looking at things as a whole as well as parts – as essential to knowing. To get away with our academic obsession with always breaking things up into ever-more isolated bits and then putting some numbers on it with complex mathematics to shroud the illusion. But it isn’t enough. It is still presenting the world behind a magician’s cape, it is still not much more than clever representation and the thrill of mystery to give a sense of something real.
The difference is, we know the man with the top hat and cape is an honest trickster. He knows the magic isn’t real, and most of us do as well. Somehow we have deluded ourselves about how we look for solutions in our world because we have been sold that the solution is in cutting our world up into lifeless things, unlovely things, ugly things. We have been told to not trust feelings and emotions. And because our technocratic tricksters are themselves deluded, and accompanying that ignorance is the comforting glow of authority and credibility – we have taken the extraordinary step of believing in both our narrow technocrats *and* their tricks.
It is only when our technocratic magicians are so obviously and scarily deluded – the Dr Strangelove types like Don Brash – that we pause.
There is a test for whether we ought to listen to our latter-day alchemists. Find out if they care for and love the life and beauty all around them. We don’t care what you know, until we know that you care.
And that is at the root of where we need to shift. Caring requires feeling. It requires a sense of beauty and right and wrong. Caring requires empathy. It requires the ability to put yourself in others’ shoes and to see the world through others’ eyes. It requires some base of perennial philosophies such as doing unto others – others including our community and the planet of which we are a part, and on which we all depend.
It isn’t enough to see this
world as a material thing through utilitarian eyes. You cannot calculate what is right – no matter how broad and deep your calculations extend – unless you have the heart and soul to lend appreciation and wisdom to the dance.