Monthly Archives: April 2015

Embodiment and Philosophy

Hey David, interesting how what you wrote sprang from a dream you woke up from a few nights ago and what I am about to write was something I scrawled down just before going to sleep a few nights ago, literally wrote these ideas in a notepad with my head on the pillow.  I wrote the idea several ways and have not yet settled on one summary version, or slogan, if you will.

You may not have considered that you were proposing a philosophical project when you suggested we need to give reasons for why we say “this is good” but I think the idea stands within the history of human philosophical musings very nicely.

I’ve been reading some Western philosophy recently, to help my chew over my own ‘first principles’ in my own meaning making project and perhaps the first of my first principles is that any attempt to explain ourselves to ourselves must start by recognising and embracing the reality that our humanity is embodied and that our truth seeking must also be embodied from the foundation up.

I breathe, therefore I am.

All human knowledge is embodied.

Reason is a bodily function.

Philosophy without shit is bullshit.

Emoting and thinking are one.

Feeling is primary, thinking is secondary.

Reason without body is nonsense.

Just a few of the things I scrawled before falling asleep.   I apologise for the few “must” words I used a few sentences back, I rarely use ‘must’, it rarely aids a conversation.  In this instance I’ll simply say that I’m really talking to myself when I say that my philosophy “must” start with embodiment and adopt a process that is explicicitly an embodied process.  I am not suggesting anyone else in this conversation ‘must’ do anything!

To be honest I’m not super clear on what an embodied philosophical process will be, which is part of the adventure, but I do know that an embodied process is one that recognises that dividing our interior experience into “thoughts” and “feelings” or “reason” and “emotion” is a false division and is a fundamental mistake at the very foundations of Western philosophy.   The mistake is not merely in the distortion of describing a single process as two processes but in the further groundless demand that one of those fake distinctions be valued as more useful and more reliable than the other.

Western society continues to declare to itself that reason and thinking are reliable, testable, trustable and that emotion and sensation are unreliable, unstable, problematic.    Groundless assertions but ones with character references all the way back to the early Greek philosophers.

My idea of an embodied philosophical process recognises that the ‘knowing’ process going on inside my skin is ONE process that is layered, complex, systemic and grounded in my flesh, bone, sinew and nerve.

The “correctional” way of putting this might be that my philosophy will take my body and my feelings and sensations as seriously as traditional philosophy has taken “reason”.   I don’t really like the correctional explanation as it continues to use the binary of ‘reason/emotion’ and I consider that to be a mere linguistic artifact that serves, among other things, the current construction of gender roles and the alienation of humans from their own bodies.

In practical terms in the current discussion,  if I were to answer why I think such and such is “good” my answer must start with information coming up out of all of my body, not merely with sentences being generated in my “brain”.

This might not seem like it really is connected to what you wrote David, but I immediately concieved this blog on reading yours, so that’s how I’ve played it.

Truth is embodied or it’s not true.

Mikel Azure.

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A Reason To Be Good

I woke up from an horrific dream a few nights ago. The kind that makes a person question their own mental stability for at least a few moments after waking. It got me thinking though, in the dark hours, about our concepts of right and wrong. And specifically about how we discover, justify, encourage, and explain our personal sense of morality. It is related, in many ways, to our recent discussions about honesty.

Tenyson described a natural world that was “red in tooth and claw”. In other words a world where the instinct was survival at whatever cost. And it is hard to look closely at the natural world and not find ourselves horrified sometimes by the way in which creatures have evolved (or been created if you prefer) to inflict pain and suffering upon each other in order to aid there own survival.

I personally think that our morality, our sense of right and wrong, has evolved out of that world as a legitimate, effective, and improved method of of enabling our own survival in a way which goes beyond the bounds of purely physical “staying alive” into something that we might describe more as “being alive”. And it is still developing.

I appreciate that some people believe that God has created us as moral creatures, seperate from nature in that respect, and I’m not wanting to try and persuade anyone to think differently in that regard. But I do think, whether we believe in an inherent morality, which is a part of a greater design, or in an evolved sense of right and wrong, that we cannot simply state our own morality and say “this is how it is”. We have a duty to give good reasons for our stated “rights” and “wrongs”?

None of us has the right to say (or do we?): “You should do this just because I (or God) says so”. So I’m interested in exploring our Reason’s To Be Good. It’s definitely not as straight forward as it seems on the surface, but it is perhaps one of the most important tasks we have as human beings.

Because if we aren’t able to explain to ourselves and our communities a positive, life affirming morality which makes the world a better place to live,  then we can be sure that someone will come and fill the vacuum to impose their own morality. And like the purely survival orientated morality of many animals, that morality may be one that has it’s own justifications for causing pain and suffering, whether physical or psychological, to other people. And history shows that it is often too late to start complaining about that after the event.

I don’t believe that “Good”, even after we have been able to adequately describe what that is, is an inevitability. I think it’s a choice, and it deserves our best attention. We should be motivated to pursue it. But why?

David Fee

Honesty and Privacy.

I really am going to be brief.  Really.

My personal experience suggests that often adults require or demand “honesty” from children and what is actually happening is that the adult wants to invade the privacy of the child, wants the child to give away their autonomy.

Rather than ask themselves the question, “Why don’t the children I care for feel safe telling me their important stuff?” it is easier for adults to use their position of power and authority to FORCE information out of children against that child’s wishes.

As I think about it right now – obviously adults do this to each other as well and I think that is just as unhealthy, illegitimate and damaging when adults do it.

But when adults use power against children – that always gets my goat.

Mikel.

The Context of Honesty

Abner: “One of the unarguable values that society tells us to have is honesty”.

Unarguable? That sounds like a challenge to me Abner.

I think context is everything. On Facebook and Twitter, for instance, honesty is very much prevalent in a scenario where many people feel “safe” to release the darker baggage of their inner psyches. Often in very nasty ways. I know that online I have sometimes, often late at night, after red wine, been a lot more explicit, direct, and honest than I would be in any other context. To the point of personal embarrassment and/or shame on occasion. I don’t think society values this kind of honesty. I think there is a general recognition that blurting out all of our critical impulses is, like a puddle of hangover sick, not an attractive personal feature. Online conversation is one context in which honesty is often endured rather than valued.

I know from personal experience that honesty is not always valued in smaller communities, in which people live much closer, interlinked lives, and in which it is perhaps more important that conflict is minimised. Explosions in small spaces always cause more damage. As a result it is often harder to take a stand against authority figures in a small village or town. It is less likely for people to make a complaint about somebody’s work. Maybe they are a part of your family, or the family of a friend. People would often rather gossip about someone’s failings than confront them. This is why it is often incomers who bring about change  in such places. Incomers are less sensitive to the social niceties of selective honesty, and therefore more prepared to rock the boat.

Our own home community seems on the surface, and in support of Abner’s claim, to value honesty. We are quite a large  family (though variably so) by modern standards, with a lot of coming and going. There is a fair bit of noise and disagreement when everybody is about. My wife is Dutch and by culture very direct. I have a natural urge to want to know what people really think, and a personal instinct to be emotionally honest. We have boys who have grown up with these genes and this environment, and foster children who have a lot of “stuff” that they need to get out in one way or another.

As a result our home life can be quite combustible, to the point of discomfort for some. My son and daughter-in-law are living with us at the moment. She finds the arguments quite stressful at times (although she comes from a big family herself). To be honest I find the arguments quite stressful sometimes as well, but the search for truth, or “realness” often trounces the desire for peace. We probably live on the borderline of workable home life conditions sometimes. It makes for a creative and interesting environment, but we couldn’t go much further in the direction of “honesty” without everything falling apart I suspect. Our honesty is more like a kind of collateral spillage, endured as part of the narrative of our own homes culture, rather than a positively valued quality in it’s own right.

So it is true to say that soceity does value something other than complete and total honesty a lot of the time. Personally, although I have always thought that I  did value it, I have become aware of how often: I don’t say what I think to protect someone; or  exagerate what I think in order to flatter; sometimes I remain quiet when I should be brave enough to speak; I have sometimes thought angry thoughts and not expressed them in order to protect myself; I have felt hatred and not shouted it out; I have seen a wrong and not stopped it.

In all of these instances I am the kind of hypocrite that Abner described.  I would suggest that sometimes this is a good thing, sometime not. Though I’m not sure that “hypocrite” is the right word, even though I understand why it was used.

But here’s a final example of a kind of honesty that I think should be valued by soceity and cherished by us as individuals. I remember being told by an older, wiser man, many years ago, that I had done a certain something with a bad attitude. He didn’t complain about what I had done. Only about the attitude with which I had done it. And he was right. And I thanked him. And I still value that kind of honesty, though it is very rare, which is prepared, out of love, to go deeper and risk rejection to help a fellow human being become a better human being.

David Fee

The honesty of hipocrisy

Human relationships are the most exciting and fulfilling aspect of our existence. Also, they can be the most painful and frustrating part of it. With regards to them, one of the unarguable values that society tells us to have is honesty. However, the more I think about honesty, the less honest it becomes.

Sometimes, as an experiment, when I am in a group of people and someone starts talking about a slightly controversial topic, like politics or religion, I tend to say things just to observe their reactions. If what I say supports the main speaker’s point of view, usually the others do too. If I say something that makes them think that I feel completely the opposite, the others, including the main speaker, tend to back off and change his/her point of view. You could say that people are just trying to be polite, or maybe they don’t really have a strong point of view. But, I think the main reason is people don’t like confrontation (notice that ‘being polite’ implies a completely different intention). In general, people try to avoid confronting anyone even if that means not being honest about what they think or believe.

Some may say that this is being hypocritical, and by definition, they are right. Hypocrisy is the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. However, people avoid disagreeing because they also believe that it is likely to cause discomfort and will deny everybody of having a peaceful time. Therefore, here is a dichotomy that exists within us. We can be honest while lying. We lie being honest.

If we put on one side of a balance the option: Let the others know what I really think, and how I would really behave if nobody would get affected, but I know they would; and on the other side, the other option: Nobody really needs to know about what I think, or what I do, and I can get on with everybody at least here and for now… Well, I think the benefits of the second option will weigh a lot more.

So, with this in mind, I’d like to redeem the word hypocrisy. It is something needed, and something that can bring more benefits than its antonym. Next time someone calls you a hypocrite, don’t take it as an offence, take it as a complement. It was for everybody’s sake.

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Sisters and Love

One thing I’m pretty sure is a global thing – the importance of family.

I’m fairly non mainstream on this topic – I don’t buy into the stupid romantic nonsense about how family always loves you and blood is thicker than water and all that mythology that works as effective social glue but which is as wrong as it is right.

As its not my focus for this wee blog I won’t unpack most of my attitude to family reality – just the one basic idea before I move on to talking about my amazing sisters.

Family can be great or vile and every mixture of every quality in any ratio – because humans are that – every mixture of every ratio of every possible character quality and humans in families are usually at their best and at their worst simultaneously. That’s fine when they are being at their best and it is truly epically devastating for family members when one of them is being at their truly worst.  (For example, as bad as it is to share an office with an angry bullying control freak – sharing a loungeroom or a bedroom with them is infinitely worse and seriously dangerous and unhealthy.)

Friends is the concept that matters to me.   Blood does not count for anything.  If you share blood with me but don’t treat me the way a good friend treats me, then the blood bond is empty of meaning.  If we don’t share blood but we do share friendship, then the friendship is the deepest, richest, core of life thing.

I have three sisters, all older than me.  I am a very fortunate man that despite me being a withdrawn and quite unsociable little human being when I was a boy and my relationship to my sisters has overcome those early days. As I have grown healthier, freer and more able to accept my own responsibility for how relationships I’ve been in were the way they were at least HALF because of the way I was behaving, it is no surprise that my sisters have been on similar journey and we are all starting to like each other and respect each other and really SEE each other in a magical new way.

We four, plus one of my cool brothers in law, had lunch yesterday and it was one of those human miracles – where something so simple and mundane as a meal at a table can be deep and rich and heart touching, life affirming.

My sisters are my friends, friends of deep quality, human beings I admire and who’s company I enjoy more and more.

It sounds like Abner and I both had a good Easter thanks to the company we kept.

33

I was born on the 5th of April, 1982 at 19:30ish. Another important historical event that happened that day was that the British fleet sailed to Falkland Islands. So, I’m starting to write these words just after my first day as a 33 year old. For the West, yesterday was Easter Sunday, the day when Jesus resurrected. Obviously, everybody, who knew about my birthday, highlighted this fact. The more they mentioned it, the less funny I found it; and particularly, when it was the 33rd birthday! Christ’s age when he died.

However, I took the opportunity to celebrate it seriously. First, the celebration started on Thursday night with a new set of friends from Argentina that I’ve just met. Meeting new fantastic people is always so refreshing. On Easter Friday, I went away with my family to a lovely country side spa out where we spent the night. For the first time in my life, I ate crunchy fried cuy (guinea pig). Then, on Saturday night, for the very first time too, in a birthday, I threw the party in my own flat and invited my 12 closest people (representing the 12 disciples). We had amazing music, dance, food, booze and, although I don’t remember part of it, I think it was a great time. On Sunday, I felt resurrected indeed!

Thinking back on it, I feel extremely lucky of living the life I live. I love people who love me back. Although, I do believe that love doesn’t really exist, but the acts of love do, but that’s a topic for another entry. So, let’s say, I appreciate people who appreciate me back. Some show it more than others, and some in ways that I don’t really understand, but I know they do, and even if they don’t, at least they act it very well (which is already a way of appreciation – and also a topic for another entry).

But my feeling of resurrection goes beyond the weekend. I really want this year to be more meaningful and that implies many things. It implies more achievements and more mistakes, more forgiveness and more mess-ups, more understandings and probably more frustrations. It implies more of everything… because I think that’s what life is, the constant search of something more. The moment when someone believes they have everything, they have actually lost everything, because they have lost the essence of existence: the search.

Finally, talking about life, I would like to end this entry with the wise words from one of my new Argentinian friends: “Being single, being young, and having money, never meet up at the same time, get over it” Love it! Which one of those three are you missing guys?! haha.

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I Wrote Something. Nobody Died.

I enjoyed reading the last two “Confessions Of A Word Dry Writer” by Mikel and Abner. There was so much that I could personally identify with to be honest, and you both made me feel better about my own battles in the arid regions of the Wordless Desert. Also it is nice to know that Abner is still alive 😉

Yes, I no smiley’s should never infiltrate the pages of a self respecting blogger. But I love the little fellas. As the old proverb puts it: “an emoticon says more than a thousand tears”. In the absence of body language I am happy to take any help going, in the rush to find a shortcut to effective, non-deadly, communication.

I agree with Mikel though in his take on the issue of writer’s block. Everything, and I hope I am paraphrasing you correctly here Mikel ( 😉 ) comes back to our fear of death. Ach, I know you said a little bit more than that, and I love the way you do express yourself with the written word. So don’t stop doing it you crazy, Ozzie, beach bum (it’s OK, that’s how I address Mikel in our private conversations too). And thanks for doing it on these pages.

Same for you Abner. The biggest tip I picked up from the Bath Songwriting course where I first met you was that the best thing the writer can do when they’ve written a song that doesn’t become an immediate world wide hit is to write another song. And I’ve been following that advice ever since. Especially the part about not writing a world wide hit. Because to be honest, I don’t want to have an excuse to stop. I do know what you mean though about the doubt that hangs over the creator when he looks at his or her creation and wonders whether it is worthy to reveal to the world, or indeed to anybody. I don’t think that ever goes away to be honest.

My own tactic is to simply ignore it by getting habitual about putting my creations out there. It helps that I’m not paid to do this. In fact that is a distinct advantage. This is a tremendous place to ignore the fear and experiment. There really is nothing to lose. The worst that can happen is that people don’t bother to read us. In the meantime, and I speak for myself here rather than any of the other authors, I can use this platform to learn how to write. I’m quite aware that some of my words say it better than others. But, again as Abner suggests, perhaps better not to judge which particular ones are going to have an impact in the life of any reader who happens to pass by. Good intentions, brave action, and creative instincts can go a long way.

And to our other bloggers, please don’t let being absent become a habit. “I’ve been busy, but I’m still alive” would still constitute a blog as far as I’m concerned. No seriously, if you are finding it hard to write, simply commit to writing a sentence or two every week. Something achievable. With a little bit of will it’s possible to  get highly creative in a couple of sentences.

Don’t be too proud. Tweets aren’t only for Twitter.

David Fee

ps. If any readers, from wherever, would like to join us in a writing capacity for this world wide blogathon please feel free to get in touch.

Writer’s Block – A crisis of expectations.

If Mike is having a dry spell, I’m suffering a virtually endless block… I’ve been absent for a while, and I could try explaining the mix of personal reasons, lack of discipline, forgetting to do it… but at the end, it comes to this: a crisis of expectations.

The reason why I usually express publicly, it is because I feel I have something to say and I try my best to say it in a very interesting, attractive, entretaining way. I want to think that others are interested in it. And that feels good. But, many times, I have written something, read it, and think: “This is rubbish” “Who cares about this?”… and then I press the ‘Trash’ bottom, rather than the “Publish” one, close the laptop and forget about it. It’s not that I have nothing to say, but what I am saying, it feels like nothing. It’s a crisis of expectations. I don’t want to look like a fool who says nothing interesting.

However, this is not healthy. It’s a self-imposed judgement. As a songwriter, I always try to have something to say and make it relevant for someone. Nevertheless, lately, I’ve learned than even the most uninteresting and irrelevant things can be or become interesting or relevant to someone. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be allowed to say whatever we think, even if we feel it is innapropiate or irrelevant to us. Even if we look like fools.

So, I am making a stand. I will write, whatever I feel, think or want to talk about. Without judging myself and hoping that my uncensorship can bring inspiration to someone, and if it doesn’t, what can I do? Keep writing until it does!

Communication is what takes the world forward. Thanks to those who keep writing even through their dry spells! (Thanks Mike!)

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