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The next Messiah won’t be televised

In this commentary, I don’t want to indulge in any elation about the crushing of that minor tyrant in the pantheon of world historical tyrants, Donald Trump. Elation is a harmful form of delusion, and it always comes before a fall.

Instead, let us be stoics here and dare to look at the real. Firstly, we should acknowledge that Trump has had an interesting effect on the world, both negative and positive. Carl Jung might say he was a sort of trickster clown-the trickster clown being one of the oldest archetypes operating at the back of our unconscious mind. …


A talk given at The European Men’s gathering in Denmark, August 2019

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The Matrix

In the film Matrix, Neo is given a choice. Is he going to become the ‘new man’, and take a radical risk, which means a dangerous trip down the rabbit hole? Or will he remain in the dark, narrow, comfortable, familiar, known womb called the Matrix.

Neo is, metaphorically speaking, a Shaman in training. And the first step of his training — and our adventure here as well — begins with feeling that ‘there is something wrong with the world’. This is what the buddha called, dukkha, or dissatisfaction.

If you don’t have a sense of dissatisfaction then you might as well just have a good life in the Matrix. Shamanic training is not usually recommended. However, when you get a sense of what Kurtz called ‘The horror!’ …


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Originally published on Parallax (https://www.parallax-magazin.de) on July 1, 2020

Jean-Jacques Rousseau got it backwards when he said ‘Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.’ On the contrary, men and women are born in a state of radical un-freedom. We come into the world attached by the umbilical cord to mother, family, and tribe — and only after a great struggle can we dream of any kind of relative freedom. Freedom could only exist in a web of responsibility, contingency, and interdependence.

When John Lennon wrote the song Imagine he was similarly off the mark. Imagine is the ultimate hymn to romanticism: that is its anthemic power but also its tragic insufficiency. Do we really want to imagine the world that Lennon sings about, with ‘no hell below us and above us only sky’? …


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Paul Cézanne’s ‘Nature morte de pêches et poires

Originally published at https://www.parallax-magazin.de on June 11, 2020

.Now is the time to re-invent the world, to make it beautiful. We need to actually become beautiful, John Vervaeke tells us. Vervaeke isn’t speaking of aesthetic or cosmetic beauty particularly, but something more intrinsic—related to virtue and wisdom. Vervaeke uses the latin term reinventio, which means to create but also to discover the beauty of the world.

Becoming beautiful doesn’t mean becoming what Hegel sarcastically called: the beautiful soul—or the one who is overly precious, sanctimonious and refined. No, beauty also has her rough edges and provocations.

We often think of beauty in a sentimental, slightly bourgeois manner. We certainly don’t think of beauty as something that could be useful. Surely beauty is irrelevant during a pandemic, as riots spread across America and the rest of the world? Shouldn’t we be thinking in practical, utilitarian terms, rather than about the merely beautiful? And what does beauty have to do with saving a world in crisis? …


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Beauty has become an ugly little word. Because we’ve got it all wrong.We think it is waxed bodies, engineered curves, or a youthful glow. But real beauty not, as Byung-Chul Han says in his wonderful essay Saving Beauty, a kind of smooth surface without any depth or pathos. Real beauty is something that strikes us with blows.

What is called beauty in the digital age is actually porn—an instant gratification of the senses that erases intimacy. And most of what we ingest in the digital age is porn in one way or another—including news, tv, and nature shows, it’s largely the sensation and the spectacle—grizzly bears copulating. …


Awakening from The Meaning Crisis (Episodes 49,50) commentary. Concluding Remarks

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https://youtu.be/kkykBqApP4A

Making my way through the 50 videos of ‘Awakening From The Meaning Crisis’ has been similar to reading a big fat 19th Century Novel—even if John Vervaeke’s style is much more hospitable and congenial than that of Fyodor Dostoevsky. The series is intricate, highly conceptual, but at the same time Vervaeke is on fire with dramatic urgency. I suspect most people will give up listening at around episode 20 due to the conceptual complexity of the series, but the hard core listener will be rewarded richly if he or she can make it to the end.

Awakening From The Meaning Crisis also feels like a good survey course in cognitive science and the history of ideas. Vervaeke is bringing real liberal education to the masses, showing that learning is not the sole property of the university—that the reward for knowledge is not a diploma but a greater ability to understand and live in the world. Philosophy was alway supposed to be a living process, not the jargon-ridden conceptual games of a certain kind of intelligentsia. And Awakening From the Meaning Crisis is accessible to all those who will make the effort of attention. …


A short commentary on John Vervaeke’s Awakening from The Meaning Crisis (Episodes 46, 47, and 48)

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https://youtu.be/qrkqopjEceU

Kairos

In the final episodes of ‘Awakening from The Meaning Crisis’ series, John Vervaeke proposes certain ‘prophets of the meaning crisis’? But what does he mean by prophet? And who are the prophets we should listen to—as one world falls apart and we move into a brave new world with all its dystopian and utopian possibilities?

The prophet sees the kairos, which means a threshold or turning point in history. He or she is not a fortune teller or an occultist in Vervaeke’s formulation, but more like a philosopher sage. The prophet is someone who deciphers the seemingly impossible paradoxes, double-binds, and contradictions of the times — while offering a narrow path to a promised land. What do we find on the other side of the present Kairos? …


Some notes Covid 19 and beyond

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The Rashomon gate which Kurosawa’s crew constructed for Rashomon (1950)

“Corpses piled on bridges, corpses blocking off a whole street at the intersection, corpses displaying every manner of death possible to human beings. When I involuntarily looked away, my brother scolded me, “Akira, look carefully now.” When that night I asked my brother why he made me look at those terrible sights, he replied: “If you shut your eyes to a frightening sight, you end up being frightened. If you look at everything straight on, there is nothing to be afraid of.”
Akira Kurosawa describing his boyhood experience after The Tokyo earthquake of 1923

The real

Something happens when the real breaks through. Our usual considerations, our projections, our games of ego acquisition, even our good-faith projects, risk becoming totally redundant. The chaff falls off of the wheat. The essential rudely interrupts our fantasies. The real makes us realize how much we have been sleepwalking. …


A short commentary on John Vervaeke’s Awakening from The Meaning Crisis (Episodes 43, 44, and 45)

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In the present meaning crisis, according to John Vervaeke, we tend to ‘conflate the having mode with the being mode‘—or mistake the ‘product’ for the ‘process’—the shallow representation for the real. Wisdom means to know and love what matters deeply. But wisdom, like love, is not something we can have or acquire — it is deeply existential, complex, and about being in the world.

Vervaeke points out that while there are many valid scientific or psychological theories of wisdom, they too often focus on the product of wisdom—rather than the deeper process of wisdom and relevance. In other words, wisdom is conflated with measurable intelligence or virtue. But real wisdom has more to do with our ability to engage in what Vervaeke calls ‘relevance realisation’ than the acquisition of theoretical or factual knowledge. …


“The Rule is: Don’t go to king's landing if you are Ned Stark“— Jordan Hall

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Ned Stark from The Game of Thrones

There has been a rather heady conversation online of late about the possibility of a new paradigm emerging, or what has been called ‘Game B civilisation’. Game B, originally the brainchild of Jordan Hall, Jim Rutt and others, has come online as a utopian project. But what precisely is Game B? Hard to say exactly. Here is a definition from the Game B wiki:

“Game~B is a memetic tag that aggregates a myriad of visions, projects and experiments that model potential future civilisational forms. The flag on the hill for Game~B is an anti-fragile, scalable, increasingly omni-win-win civilisation. …

About

Andrew Sweeny

Compressed scraps of angel melody, stories, essays, rants against reductionism, commands from the deep.

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