Look for the "Gestalt"
Posted: 11 June 2005 08:00 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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I don't think it's an issue of whether you're a Christian or Muslim or Hindu or Atheist or whether you believe that the entire universe was sneezed out of the nose of a being known as the Great Green Arkleseizure. I don't care what symbols you venerate, what rituals you perform or where you choose to perform them. To me, it is what you do with those things in a larger context that matters.

Sam Harris writes as if is in fact the symbols themselves which are flawed. He writes as if those symbols must be discarded, and new ones raised up in their place. He calls for a spirituality based on reason… but how easily the new forgets the old. What good is raising up new symbols if we treat those symbols the same way we treat the symbols we hold on to now? As absolutes, as certainties, as linear, unwavering, Almighty TRUTHS? What good is exchanging one absolute for another?

Whatever ideas we have about the world, whether we follow Christ's teachings or whether we believe in the value of the free market, if we allow those things that we value to be vaulted to the highest pinnacle of our thinking, if we allow ourselves to say "Through this is the only Way" and reject all other ideas as false idols… what will we have lost?

The danger of ideology is that it prevents us from using everything we have at our disposal to shape our societies. Whenever we surrender ourselves to ideology, we lose the ability we have to make real choices - the choices we make are, in effect, made for us.

Many people in Western society are concerned as to how we are to determine our morals and values - in essence, how we are able to shape our societies and allow them to flourish. My attempt to find an answer is this: We do so not by rejecting the Bible, or the Koran, or the writings of Bertrand Russell, or the plays of Shakespeare, etc.. because if we do, we are effectively cutting ourselves off from a source of human memory and wisdom. The challenge is to be able to find a "gestalt", if you will, a view of the wealth of human expression and experience that is greater than the sum of its parts. What parts we choose to use are dependant on where we are and when, but we must be able to hold all of it up and see everything as a potential source of wisdom. Rejecting any of it is like rejecting a part of ourselves.

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Posted: 11 June 2005 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Now this is an interesting post, and while I’m not sure whether I agree with some of the presuppositions, I’m going to ignore that and see where it takes us.  I’ve edited to reduce volume, but something is lost in so doing—sorry.

[quote author=“Alan Slipp”]I don’t think it’s an issue of whether you’re a Christian or Muslim or Hindu or Atheist ...I don’t care what symbols you venerate… To me, it is what you do with those things in a larger context that matters.

Sam Harris writes as if is in fact the symbols themselves which are flawed. He writes as if those symbols must be discarded, and new ones raised up in their place. He calls for a spirituality based on reason… but how easily the new forgets the old. What good is raising up new symbols if we treat those symbols the same way we treat the symbols we hold on to now? As absolutes, as certainties, as linear, unwavering, Almighty TRUTHS? What good is exchanging one absolute for another?

A ‘spirituality based on reason’ set off (probably spurious) echoes in my mind.  Wasn’t this the demand of the French Revolutionaries?  How quickly that degenerated into the Directorate and the Committee for Public Safety! (The revolutionaries meant only to overthrow the state church of the ancien regime, of course).

But the other memory this evoked was of state planning in the 1960’s and the growth of Stalinist architecture.  The problems of society were supposed to be resolved by the centralised planner.  But in practise it was found that no planner could cope with the way that human nature worked.  Planners would order masses of leather so that shoes might be made; the factory managers, ordered to produce 6000 shoes, produced 6000 childrens’ shoes, all in one size, since that was cheapest and easiest to do.

I am averse to the manufacture of ideologies.  No doubt Marx meant well.  Even Hitler was once an idealist.  But men never do evil so cheerfully as when they do so in the belief that they do right.  A robber baron might repent, might pity his victims, would expect their protest and understand it.  But a modern councillor would truly believe that raising taxes beyond 50% and diverting the funds so raised for purposes that serve special interest groups is virtuous, and would be outraged by opposition to her holy plan to ‘relieve poverty/discrimination/whatever’.  The pensioners would starve, yet she would feel she was doing nothing wrong.

Examples might differ.  But the last century has given us enough ideologies.  The problem with them all is the people who operate them: people like us.

The danger of ideology is that it prevents us from using everything we have at our disposal to shape our societies. Whenever we surrender ourselves to ideology, we lose the ability we have to make real choices - the choices we make are, in effect, made for us.

I agree with this.  Choose your ideology carefully!

All the best,

Roger Pearse

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Posted: 13 June 2005 08:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Alan, you’re right about not ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’, but I wouldn’t bet on, or even wish for a homogeneous world philosophy in the present state of human evolution.  Regardless of any individual enlightenment (and y’all know I’m not refering to christianity, here), not only are we humans not socially ready for it, but we’re not yet physiologically capable of global ‘gestalt’ awareness.

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The road of excess leads to the palace of Wisedom
-William Blake, “Proverbs of Hell”

Life, what is it but a dream?
- Lewis Carroll, “A boat Beneath a Sunny Sky

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