Sunday, August 18, 2013

Culture transformed.


Life from death
Nothing is ever lost but rather transforms in the readiness of time. This is true for everything. People, plants, animals and every other being from large to small never truly dies. Nothing essential is lost and when the time is pregnant, transformation happens. Water heats, rises as vapor and when the time and conditions are right it transforms into rain, again falling to the earth and the cycle continues. Everything transforms, even entire cultures go through the cycle of life and become a different sort of culture once the previous one becomes corrupt and we learn what we can from victories and failures. The movement from one thing into another is ongoing evolution and flows seamlessly in steps too small to notice. And when the moment of birth comes it is always preceded by something resembling death. These two: life and death define each other. Neither can possibly exist without the other just as the case of in and out. We of course consider death the final end and don’t connect it to new birth. Think about it: without a seed falling to the earth and dying nothing new will grow. The pangs of birth are always accompanied with pain. Doubt that? Ask any woman who has given birth. This very same process happens culturally. Nothing lasts in it’s present form.

I’m going out on a limb and venture a guess that most people are unaware of the progressions and philosophical underpinnings upon which they base their lives, and extended: similar underpinnings upon which their culture is based. Such underpinnings become assumed givens that go unquestioned and become governing norms. We are born into a particular culture and become conditioned by these norms. We continue on with our lives until what we are doing stops working and we try one solution after another trying to recapture what is already something different. That being said, it is possible to step back and consider how a given culture functions and then back into a probable philosophic structure sort of like reverse engineering.

So what can we notice about our where our own culture stands, from various vantage points? Are there any commonalities across the different structural dimensions that might allow this reverse engineering? How do everyday activities function, concerning such matters as administration of justice, religion, politics, wealth distribution, relationships, self-awareness, morality, honesty or interpersonal and cultural exchange? All of these dimensions represent the infrastructure of our culture. Can we notice anything in common across these dimensions? Is there a central thread that ties the different aspects together? And if so what would that thread be?

How about the following…

Justice: Guilty or innocent determined through adversarial contest.
Religion: Dualism: mankind trapped between good and evil and separated from God.
Politics: Two party systems in opposition (That’s a gross understatement).
Wealth distribution: I earned mine, get your own.
Interpersonal relationships: Me versus you. If I’m right you must be wrong. Confrontation
Self-awareness: I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see; unaware that the self looking in the mirror is the opposite from what is seen. The reflection of me is flawed. The one doing the seeing is not.
Morality: There is right and wrong, diametrically opposed to each other.
Interpersonal (or cultural) exchange: Mine.
Honesty: Sometimes yes, sometimes no (depending on how it may affect me).

Now the observation: all of these expressions reflect attitudes based on a common principle, which the Greek philosophers established a long time ago, namely the Principle of Non-Contradiction. In simple terms non-contradiction means something can’t be the same as a different thing, at the same time in the same place. And this perspective has established the fundamental basis of discrimination, meaning one thing versus something opposed to the first thing. The principle seems immanently logical and has driven Western Civilization ever since Plato proposed the idea in 380 BCE. It was his attempt to provide a logical structure as the definition of justice and the character of the just city-state and the just man. The essential question is this: does this logical perspective result in what Plato intended, “…the order and character of the just city-state and the just man?”

Or perhaps a more pertinent question is (In Dr. Phill’s terms): how is this working out? One observation (my own) is that the principle results in the opposite from what Plato intended. Instead the result is an attitude of difference, superiority, alienation, self-righteousness, imbalance, justice that is determined more by financial resources than anything else, a polarized culture and a loss of morality and confidence in the future. Nevertheless this philosophy continues on with progressively greater degrees of this downward vector of opposition. The answer of why this seems to be so is perhaps that over time it forces cultural participants to become occupied more and more with their own exclusive concerns at the expense of others.

And in answer to the central thread question, perhaps what binds these all together with similar outcomes is how we feel about ourselves, as isolated and fear-ridden beings. Perhaps we misunderstand that what we truly are is an eternal and unified spirit—one being trying on different human roles, evolving until we realize that is who we are: a single unified being. This culture is transforming from one way to a better way and it, like all things, must die and rise again. 
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