Strawberry Scissors and Sticky Jam

Posted: March 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

I have a new article to publish, but — after a day of confirming points and accurate reading of other material, and editing, because cough suppressants are hard to write through — I’ve realized that first I have to write *another* piece:

Different Talks, Talks Different: How to hold respectful dialog across cultural, linguistic, national, and philosophical barriers without resorting to ad-hominem attacks based on ironically misapplied supremacist/scarcity mechanics“.

I keep seeing people — Americans, mostly — failing to recognize when they are holding an inter-dialog, rather than an intra-dialog. For example, when they are drawing internal frameworks from a specific religious tradition or initiatory model of theology, and lobbing these at another person who is speaking foundationally outside the scope of specific interior frameworks, or indeed from and about another interior structure unrelated to the other speaker’s focus. People are failing to recognize the ontological and contextual boundaries between things: between religions, between spiritual modalities, between philosophical views, between national experiences or geographical/historical realities, and just bludgeoning each other with singularly held-to ideologies *ignorant* entirely of where or what they’re swinging at.

This is an issue of learning, as it is in the realm of education — formal or informal — where humans have framed for them the expected norms of engaging as adults in the outer world. “Education” is not just a place to learn academic subjects, but how to learn at a total-human level how to engage with the bounds between modes of thought, perception, action versus experience, subjective process versus objective reasoning, and so on. To me, this stinks of a very serious problem in the deficits of liberal arts education *and* a decline in critical thinking at large. I am not discussing “higher education” or even commenting on the decline of public schooling’s educational values, because I am seeing these trends societally expressed across all age groups and levels of formal education (or lack thereof). This? This is the cult-of-ignorance and anti-intellectualism we hear (and speak) so much about: not just anti-academia, anti-dictionaria, anti-rational… it is anti-distinction at the most basic level.

When a person is recovering from a neurologically related medical event, such as a traumatic brain injury or a stroke, some of the earliest categories of cognitive functioning assessment involve coordination and distinction exercises. Colors and shapes, in other words. Can a person correctly identify the “like” colors, and pair them? Can they distinguish between geometric shapes? Can they fit blocks or foam cut-outs together in a simple or complex assembly based on the aforementioned selections of color and shape connections? This is one of the main measures, in the event of neurological incident or injury, of cognitive function.

I can attest to the above directly, because I have permanent brain damage resulting from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), multiple strokes, a seizure disorder, and natural inborn cognitive and neurological variances from statistically normative CNS process. I have assembled shapes and colors, I have withstood psych barrages and neuro-assesments, I have submitted to physical therapy regiment to regain the use of 50% of my body due to neurological interruptions from the above, and still to this day cannot cognitively process or recognize certain things which for others are automatic, such as the flow of rhythm and cadence in music, or foreign linguistic phonemes (which I was not exposed to in my very early life), all of which are white-noised as unrecognizable static and cog-storm that rolls in and swallows thoughts and process. Brain injuries and neurological setbacks are serious, and difficult, and incredibly “big”. They’re not pointed out here for the purpose of insult, but instead, for the purpose of necessary discernment of functional consideration; I would myself be unable to cope and manage my own circumstances if I did not have the means of assessing when and where they come into play as either impairments or statistical differences. It would be operationally disadvantageous (if not quite disastrous) for me to proceed ignorant of my set-backs and hardships, sweeping them under a rug and pretending that none of it impacted how I show up, how I respond, how my brain processes incoming data or frames outgoing ideas. In short, “know thyself” is a thing I take pretty seriously.

Which is why I think it is so important to point out the following…

Today, the behavior of people in our society — adults, educated people, public figures, presidential candidates, missionary-lawyers writing atheistic spiritual blogs, anarchist philosophy fanboys, rogue scholars without higher education, unschoolers and wayschoolers and noschoolers — demonstrates massive societal cognitive impairment at the functional level, wherein people fail to recognize (proverbially) the difference between red blocks and blue blocks, round blocks from square pegs, and rather than fitting the cut foam shapes together based on correlated colors and basic geometry (as in the cognitive assessment described above) they’re more interested in cutting the foam with scissors they’ve stolen from an office drawer so that the shapes are whatever they whimsically want them to be. However, they still fail, *even with scissors* to assemble a cohesive arrangement of these shapes-and-colors, and now — with a work-space littered with bits of foam from cut-off corners and mangled geometric realities modified into coerced uniformity — they’re trying to glue the shapes together in some bizarre assemblage that, lacking geometric coordination or understanding of basic color pairings, don’t actually line up in any way. Also, instead of glue, they’re trying to stick them together with strawberry jam, because it tastes better, and no horse feet were used in the production.

Our society has a traumatic brain injury and our culture is denying medical treatment or neurological assessment and repair, in favor of smearing jam on mangled shapes and color allotments which were intended to assist in the rebuilding of cognitive function.

Congratulations, our cultural critical thinking performance is operationally at the pre-school level. At least with strawberry jam we don’t have anyone eating actual glue in the back of the room or under the table, right?


But I digress:

The display in all of these conversations and collisions of culturally informed views and distortions and so forth? It demonstrates that people really don’t know — or recognize any of the shape-and-color qualifiers displayed by — the other people *or ideas or topics or subjects* that they’re engaging with. I’m sorry, those were a lot of words, let me try to simplify that: people don’t identify what THINGS they and the people they are engaging with are talking about.

This, as a model for communication engagement, is a literal guarantee of unending circular conflict. That is the actual recipe for an endless conflict production stream, because it isn’t just pitting different ideas against one another in bizarre Pokemon style street-fights, but it doesn’t even allow for the ideas to be properly paired based on theme or conjectured topical relation to one another. This isn’t an issue of people not discerning apples from oranges, this is an issue of people not discerning apples from airplanes that might have a red-and-green logo on the side, or granny smiths from a MacBook computer, or oranges from orangutans. If somebody is trying to write about airplanes and somebody else picks a fight with them about primate habitat loss or GMO fruit farming hardships in a post-recession Midwest, LITERALLY NOTHING USEFUL CAN COME FROM THIS, and so any and all positions and topics need to be taken to the scissored guillotine of an upraised fist of resistance against… what? What is even being resisted that the methodology of this is to prevent anyone from talking about anything, without somebody else leading a mob in to cut it apart with stolen blades until it isn’t anything at all anymore?

And they’re completely content to just smear jelly on shit and call it debate or blogging or writing or intellectual-and-moral-social-justice defense, all the while lacking demonstrated context recognition.

Maybe somebody should go in and take the scissors and jam away before people start stabbing each other. Of course, whoever gets nominated for that job will be accused of theft, mind-control, or advocating for a police-state of draconic authoritarian dictatorship.

Damn the man! Fuck shapes! Fuck color recognition! Fuck critical thinking! CUT A BITCH UNTIL IT LOOKS LIKE THE REST OF OUR VICTIM IDEAS AND TOPICAL MASSACRES. In the name of freedom from tyranny, let us scissorfully rise together in ignorant bludgeoning bliss, battering our way with muddy boots across everything, trampling recognizable distinctions to blood-dust until everything looks as dirty and lonely and uniformly uninformed as our experience has been because terrifying scarcity-driven insecurities overwhelm reason and differences are scary and complicated and must be destroyed, and then try to convince people that that is not the definition of supremacy.

calvin and hobbes cannibalism

  1. Jan Bosman says:

    (Originally a response to John Beckett’s post ‘Differences Demand Clarity’, re-posted here by request.)

    Regarding those who are searching for clarity by holding to a current and relevant definition of a word, or those who notice that someone has used a word in a way that differs from their understanding of its meaning: to suggesting that the end-game of this search for clarity is control, while plausible, is rare and often an irrelevant accusation.

    There is also another side of the coin: Suggesting that the sentiment “I do not think that word means what you think it means” is one that is used mostly to manipulate the message of others (as opposed to bring more clarity to both sides of the discussion), is in-and-of-itself a suggestion that is just as nonsensical and manipulative (possibly and very likely far more so).

    Here’s an example. Say we are discussing the definition of Polytheism (which does actually have a very specific meaning both in terms of what it DOES mean and what it DOES NOT mean), and it seems like some meaning is lost in the conversation because you and I both hold different understandings of the word’s meaning; it’s important to bridge that gap somehow so that the thing you are talking about and the thing I am talking about are actually the same thing. Otherwise the conversation can’t really proceed. If your understanding of ‘Polytheism’ differs from the way it is widely used all over the world by practicing polytheists (both in the past AND in the present day), and my understanding of the word is more in line with how it is widely used, that needs to be reconciled. Maybe you suggest to me that not only does the word have meaning about more than one god, but it also has to do with commerce or capitalism. The latter doesn’t really have anything to do with the definition of the word in the past nor the present day, even though issues within the realm of commerce/capitalism may be issues relevant to the lives of many polytheists. Suggesting otherwise would be an alteration of the word’s inherent meaning – and this is important, because anyone who rebuffs such a wild alteration of the meaning and is told something to the effect of “these are just words” or “meanings of words can change” – that’s a really convenient (i.e. opportunistic and manipulative) way of controlling the meaning of words yourself. Just because you didn’t use an actual dictionary in your process or redefining a concept (and ERASING the meaning that it had) doesn’t make you or the definitions you hold more benevolent or even relevant. And by erasing the meaning, that doesn’t just mean the definition – it means the history attached to it, the cultures, people, and faiths who embody it (both living and dead). It is linguistic violence, and it is not confined to the realm of intellect – it may do actual harm.

    They direction Halstead takes his premise to its conclusion reeks of someone who is upset that (1) some words don’t mean what he wants them to mean and (2) has grown tired of being corrected about the ACTUAL living consensus around the meaning of certain words and (3) prefers to use words however the hell he would like to, imparting meaning to them that they have never had and doing so in an accelerated and contrived way – one that is not the way words evolve over time, organically and by cultural consensus – because when this occurs naturally and a new meaning is generally accepted by the people who speak the language, DICTIONARIES WILL UPDATE THE DEFINITION ACCORDINGLY.

    Here’s a good litmus test. Say, for example, that within the US Polytheist Movement in the near future, the word ‘polytheist’ itself evolves to mean not only about the existence of many gods and having religious regard for them, but it gains another definition that has something to do with how capitalism is bad or should be opposed. The US Polytheist Movement, in and of itself, is somewhat small and unknown to those outside of it. Yet we (hypothetically) take it upon ourselves to change the meaning of the word as it is defined and understood outside of the movement (and somehow there is an unlikely and miraculous consensus on the new meaning within this community). Suddenly, we can’t have any conversation with anyone outside of our niche, be they Pagan or just some bloke who wears a crucifix and struggles to hold on to his traditionally monotheist views while a Slavic forge god haunts his dreams regularly. That guy might reach out to us polytheists, because he heard once that there are people who work with other gods. He takes a big leap and sends a letter to a polytheist group. They would like to help, and they have resources that would be invaluable to him and unmatched as far as anything his own faith has offered him thus far. But they’ve noticed that he seems to hold a slightly different idea about polythiesm than what they understand it to be. To them, this seems like a minor correction, but they communicate to him anyway that the place where he may find answers and potentially solace, kinship, and more is also one that means that his conservative and political views about commerce and the free market are somehow roped into a somewhat basic spiritual issue. Not only does he (1) have to swallow the pill of searching for and reaching out to people FAR outside his spiritual circle of comfort, but (2) there is an even larger pill to swallow as now other key aspects of his identity are indirectly being challenged, AND (3) he is completely blindsided by this – he thought he did some cursory research, he even made sure he knew what polytheists were, and yet there was no way he could have foreseen or prepared for some additional meanings that may make him far less likely to accept help that is offered or modify his personal spiritual identity and practices.

    Forget how much more comfortable you would personally be if a word could (with a little harmless redefinition) mean something that more conveniently sums up and supports your own personal identity, beliefs, practices, and agenda. When you force these things on the cultural and linguistic consensus that contains a word’s meaning, you are intentionally (whether you are aware of it or not) and perhaps negligently creating a divide between you and other people. It is meant to happen organically and naturally. This does NOT work to the advantage of you OR those who don’t understand the newly-contrived meaning of a word. You may feel personally better understood or easily summed up, but language isn’t about YOU personally. You’d probably be better off making up a completely new word – at least that way you wouldn’t need to contradict and re-educate LITERALLY EVERYONE ELSE WHO HAS EVER LOOKED UP THAT WORD. They would only have to (if they so chose) accept and learn a new word, instead of modifying and unlearning an understanding that they (and everyone else) already have.

    If you’re not thinking of the cause and effect of altering the meaning of a word, not just in your immediate vicinity but in the wider world, you have no business thinking about such a thing, let alone attempting it yourself. You’d be more useful to those around you – both those you agree with and disagree with – by getting IMPECCABLY CLEAR on the current meanings of the words as they are in our lexicon now. Not just so that your words need less clarification and transmit their meaning more quickly and easily, but because you might understand that there are better ways to communicate than you currently possess – that you might not need to fucking redefine a word if you were able to choose your words more wisely, consciously, and usefully.

  2. To demonstrate a loose example of “people don’t identify what THINGS they and the people they are engaging with are talking about”, the comments section of one of John Beckett’s recent posts at Patheos Pagan has a well-known radical Neopagan writer asking in predictable anti-authoritarian paranoia, if talking to gods is more like nuclear physics, meaning only a small group of people can do it, or like cooking and bathing, which is open to everyone.

    The failure this writer makes is in distinguishing between:

    1) Communion with gods in a one-directional way (e.g. prayer, devotions, household practice) which anyone can do, without qualifiers.

    2) Communion with gods in a multi-directional way (e.g. hearing back from those or additional beings who are not humans or constrained to human experience, mental process, or thoughts) which NOT EVERYONE IS CAPABLE OF DOING, and those who are, are not uniformly qualified in discernment and training levels (e.g. for interpreting what is received, or differentiating outer-reception from inner-sock-puppets, because we all still have psychologies and internal voices and narratives)

    3) Conversations ABOUT gods in a household cultus level (e.g. practices for those in item 1 and item 2) based primarily on process or experience, which anyone who has done item 1 or item 2 can engage in, to the levels and depths and dimensions of their active practice and engagements of them (e.g. individual mileage may vary, and not everyone is uniformly skilled at self-reporting, framing, describing, or interpreting their experiences of their practices, one-directional or multi-directional or otherwise)

    4) Conversations ABOUT gods in a specialized, theological, critically informed/educated manner, wherein there are some standards of knowledge, framing, structural process, and distinction

    5) Conversations about the foundational basic language used to discuss ANY OF THE ABOVE which would be separate conversations from one another

    6) Conversations about the specific and interior language used to discuss ANY OF THE ABOVE within the framework and context of a specialized structure, such as a defined specific tradition, religious, initiatory context, or otherwise.

    7) Conversations about the the conversations of language (such as this blog post) and people’s critical disconnect and cultural aversions to knowledge, process, and reasoning.

    …and so forth.

    The aforementioned author behaves as if 1-7 are all the same and properly called or otherwise contained in the phrase “talking to gods”, even when they really are not at all operationally or rationally about that.

    This is the jam-and-blunted-scissors level these discussions are happening at.

  3. [Also commenting here for the same purpose as the previous post!]

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