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alesnick's picture

beleaguered knowing (plus another word for love)


I take to heart Paul’s wish to be seen as an individual not as a representative of a group. I respect that wish, share it for myself, and am sorry if I spoke so as to call its likelihood or viability into question.
Humans’ seeing one another as individuals is an important source of energy for evolving systems. When people cast one another as types, opportunities for exchange and growth are stunted. At the same time, that we are members of groups participating differentially in social systems makes up a significant part of what we contend with as we negotiate the human world, and the recognition/ownership of this might facilitate our transcending it, at least from time to time. 
Looking back to consider why I spoke as I did about race, gender, and tenure (social categories that both create and reinforce conventions), I see a picture of myself feeling beleaguered -- not actually by Paul’s story, but by a sense I carried in with me to the meeting, which comes on me from time to time, that my responsibilities were outweighing incoming energies and openings. (From this standpoint, perhaps I am more apt to see others as types because I am feeling typed.) I think that as I listened to Paul’s presentation, I grafted this sense onto it, and so heard it as potentially supporting a denial of the weight of responsibility. Perceptual fluidity and responsibility don’t have to be opposed, I see that, but they can be.  Okay, so they can be. A conflict! I see that there is something in my outlook sometimes that makes me skittish about the risk inherent here. So I numb the apprehension of the risk by “going moral,” when in fact the moral is not the exclusive territory of either realm.
This may connect with the problem with thinking people need to see things the same way. Of course we can’t see things the same way, and it impoverishes the world and experience when we try to. As individuals, within ourselves each of us has changeable, conflictual ways of seeing things, as well. At the same time, I wonder about the value of synchronicity, not of perception but of intention/commitment to working through the differences in furtherance of a shared, and individually forwarding, goal, vision, or promise -- towards Truth, in Bharath’s formulation (cite needed).
One more note I’d like to make concerns the point Paul makes about giving too much credence to subjective experience. I think this, too, is a response of the beleaguered. So: a response to feeling marginalized by one’s roles or statuses in life can be to discount external forms of authority in favor of internal forms. I take Paul’s point that a better approach is to be skeptical of all ways of knowing -- to assume that they have important limits as well as potentially something to contribute to one’s own evolution.
* * *
Re: another word for love, I have been thinking that not only creature-to-creature love, but the love of the creature for life itself, is an important outlook to recognize. Recently my husband, who works in a cancer hospital, met a man with terminal cancer who is volunteering at the hospital. This man has created a web site,, in which he writes about his outlook. About love of life, he writes:
“Many years ago, a friend lent me a wonderful book, Artur Rubenstein's autobiography.   The remarkable lesson from his story was not his musical gifts or international career as a concert pianist, but his philosophy, which I've found amounts to nothing less than the secret to happiness.  The concept is simple: the unconditional love of life.  The key is the "unconditional" part.  The idea is to love and treasure the gift of life for all that it is.  Don't think, I would love life if only ... I had more money, or lost 5 pounds, or a better job, or whatever might bother us.  The love of life doesn't depend on conditions.  Once you get to that point, then, there's no obstacle to loving life. 
Now, till recently, life's been pretty good and my frustrations and disappointments have been minor.  So the unconditional love of life has been pretty easy.  Cancer makes that unconditional part a bit tricky.  But love of life is too important to abandon because of some wayward cells.  Life is wonderful and I love it.”

This seems to be a refusal of beleaguered knowing.



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