“eventsin the cosmosare as the crystalsin the genethe treewhich emergesis the multifoliateroseLoveisGod”
Category Archives: Contemplation and action
The difference today is we don’t trust
Gary Snyder found place outside human destruction.
Today smoke haze means differently.
Garmin inReach Mini salvation.
Riot dying vaccine free.
MID-AUGUST AT SOURDOUGH MOUNTAIN LOOKOUT
Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.
I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.
BURNING THE SMALL DEAD
Burning the small dead
broke from beneath
a hundred summers
snowmelt rock and air
hiss in a twisted bough.
black rock twice as old.
The second Gary Snyder poem connects with that which is beyond human intervention. The first did when he wrote it, but presently does not. Different Deborah Numbers.
Enable students to see this? With what practical value?
Deborah number: time duration of an event/duration ofobservation. From the Song of Deborah, Judges 5:5: “The mountains flowed before the Lord.”
Gary Snyder poems reprinted in David Hinton, The Wilds of Poetry.
In preparation for teaching college field studies in the Wrangell Mountains:
…to speak of atoms, cells, bodies, planets, galaxies, and the whole cosmos in relation to each other…
… a means of attending to one’s own perceptual field, systematically applying a measure to consistently compare the relative appearance of things. Scale is a phenomenological apparatus that permits us to speak of atoms, cells, bodies, planets, galaxies, and the whole cosmos in relation to each other. Scale is likewise a notation, a reference point whereby we relate one object (a galaxy) to our normal perceptual field (a meter). As a notation, scale’s significant rhetorical power manifests in its capacity to transform our understanding of our usual experience: in the capacity to conceive of this world, this body, and oneself according to these different scales.
Joshua DiCaglio, “On Being Scaled: Rhetorical Practices of the Cosmos.” Dissertation, English Department, Pennsylvania State University, 2016. Abstract.
I explore scale through the scalar practices of both science and mysticism, with occasional reference to political conceptions of scale. The project finds that mysticism, the perennial aspects of spirituality that aims for union with a higher being, is an unavoidable and essential part of understanding scale since scalar terminologies tend to arise from mystical experience and encountering scale tends to generate decidedly mystical questions. Looking at mysticism in relation to science permits a fresh exploration of why science finds itself struggling with mystical concepts, such as wholeness, vastness, transcendence, hierarchy, or infinity, which are particularly notable within astronomy and ecology. Likewise, looking at how science develops and systematizes scalar descriptions permits a reworking of these mystical concepts in a manner that retains a clearer reference to empirical practices, while not remaining strictly within a material conception of the cosmos.
This point of bewilderment…
The disorientation provided by scale and the fact that it relates to a transformation of ourselves means that it launches us necessarily into territory that is less comfortably scientific. This point of bewilderment is where those invested in scientific discourse tend to retreat back to the concrete productions of scientific study. We consider the cellular diagram rather than that my body is made up of cells; we return to studying images of stars and avoid contemplating our relationship to these vast distances; we reinscribe quantum fields as particles rather than consider the interpretive implications of quantum uncertainty. Again and again, the products of scale tempt us to retreat in this way, in part, because to do otherwise just seems too mystical. …But what if scale is mystical? The problem is that we don’t understand why it’s mystical or what this mean. …
… mysticism describes a particular experience, particular practices designed around that experience, and a particular configuration toward reality that arises from and works out a scalar perspective. When scientists take the time to dwell on the larger implications and effects of scale, they find themselves entering the discursive realm of mysticism. In turn, those who have mystical experiences often find that the scalar descriptions of science provide a language that fits their experience. What if, to fully orient ourselves to scale, we have to set aside this repeated dismissal of mysticism? I will show how scale brings some surprising clarity to what mystics have always been going on about and, in turn, that mysticism helps clarify essential difficulties presented by scale.
To this end, mysticism can be defined in scalar terms as that branch of inquiry that aims to induce and integrate encounters with nonhuman scales, particularly the cosmic scale. Mysticism arises in the experience of an existence larger than oneself, in the experience of experience exceeding itself. This glimpse of a vaster totality beyond human bounds reorients the “individual” outside of the typical scale of the human being. This person must then try to make sense of, describe, and develop this new orientation. …
…Scale is not the exclusive purview of science or the technologies that produce any scalar observations. Rather, these modes of inquiry and extensions of observation (e.g., in microscopes, telescopes, and the many more complicated apparatuses) examine basic aspects of experience…Joshua DiCaglio, Scale Theory: A Nondisciplinary Inquiry. U of Minnesota Press, 2021.
Read as poetry?
Schoepfer, Shane D., Jun Shen, Hiroyoshi Sano, and Thomas J. Algeo. “Onset of Environmental Disturbances in the Panthalassic Ocean over One Million Years Prior to the Triassic-Jurassic Boundary Mass Extinction.” Earth-Science Reviews, November 20, 2021, 103870. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earscirev.2021.103870.
While the end-Triassic mass extinction has been linked to emplacement of the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP), evidence for environmental stresses appears hundreds of thousands of years prior to the extinction in some sections from the Panthalassic Ocean. In this study, we measured carbon, sulfur, and mercury concentrations in the Kurusu section, near Inuyama, Japan. These bedded radiolarian cherts are part of the Mino Terrane, an accretionary complex of late Paleozoic and Mesozoic sediments deposited at abyssal water depths in the open ocean, providing a unique window into the Triassic-Jurassic transition in pelagic settings. The rhythmically bedded nature of the sediments allowed construction of a floating astronomical age model tied to the radiolarian-defined Triassic-Jurassic boundary. Average linear sedimentation rates (LSR) of 0.07–0.48 cm kyr−1 and total organic carbon (TOC) concentrations of 0.07–0.22% yielded estimates of primary productivity rates (PPR) based on published transfer functions ranging from 2400 to 63,000 mg C cm−2 kyr−1, which are generally comparable to PPRs in the modern equatorial and subtropical Pacific. While mercury (Hg) concentrations are strongly correlated with sedimentary sulfide content throughout the section, a distinct increase in the ratio of Hg to sulfide near the Triassic-Jurassic boundary may record Hg input from CAMP volcanism. Below this level, a series of discrete spikes in sulfide content appear during the ~ 1.2 Myr before the extinction, recording a precursor interval of environmental stress that also correlates with changes in the composition of the planktonic community. We infer that these changes reflect the development of stratification in the water column, with more reducing conditions characterizing the thermocline below the surface mixed layer. Based on the evidence from Kurusu and comparisons to other Panthalassic sections, we propose a model in which water-column stratification began to develop in the open Panthalassic Ocean over one million years before the Triassic-Jurassic boundary. Evidence from sections deposited at slope depths suggests that this rising chemocline may have begun to impinge on the slopes of island arcs and the South American continental margin by ~ 400 kyr before the boundary. The end-Triassic extinction coincided with both the main phase of CAMP eruptions and the irruption of acidic, reducing deep waters into photic zone and shelf environments.
CAMP Central Atlantic Magmatic Province Inuyama Mercury Volcanism Paleoproductivity
Featured image credit Elenarts/Shutterstock
Compare Scotty Hendricks, “Rock Study May Have Just Revealed Cause of Triassic Mass Extinction.”
Teaching strategic advocacy
Following up on our workshop with Evergreen faculty last week, Roger Conner, Ted Whitesell and I are expanding and updating our website on teaching and learning how to be strategic. Here’s the text of the new home page:
About teaching strategic advocacy
How best can people learn to be effective change agents? This website is for information about and discussion of teaching strategic thinking and action.
Policy advocates attempt to alter the arc of history, changing the course of events on matters important to the community. Some who engage in such advocacy are paid professionals. More are individual citizens and members of organized groups. Some are agency staff who find themselves in situations where they may affect outcomes.
Successful advocates know how to be strategic: They know what to do and when to act in complex situations with uncertain outcomes. Many courses and texts explain how to analyze a policy problem or explain why things unfolded the way they did, but few teach how to alter what is likely to happen in the future. People usually acquire that ability, if they do, through a process of long experience of observing others and trying (and often failing) themselves. In our experience, however, we have found that these skills can be taught, expediting learning them more quickly and completely. Curriculum for this teaching is a work in progress. We welcome your participation by replying on these pages or on the discussion page.
So far, this website includes
- a report on a faculty curriculum development workshop conducted at The Evergreen State College in June, 2016;
- information about the strategic advocacy framework we are developing;
- cases for use in teaching;
- class assignments for the Vanderbilt Law School strategic advocacy seminar;
- the syllabus for the Evergreen graduate seminar on this topic.
-Roger Conner, Ben Shaine and Ted Whitesell, project coordinators
I’m now clearly feeling love as a flow toward another person, or between two people. While it’s between individuals, the love itself is generic, a kind of energy (whatever that is), metaphorically like light or water. In the moment, I may have a lot of it, or little. Good relationships create more of it, which is then available to flow elsewhere. I feel myself in a force field of love that includes friends, family and acquaintances. Some connections are stronger than others. And flows can move more in one direction than another.
It’s like light, in that it illuminates the particularities of the beloved, the eyes, the fingernails, the smoothness or wrinkle in the skin, in a positive way, while in itself not any of these.
When I go to the gym or do warm-ups for Aikido recently, I go through a series of physical exercises involving feeling & visualizing energy (whatever that is) flowing into, through and from me along various lines. It’s not just mental; muscles, connective tissue and bones are aligning and moving. I think the genius of O’Sensei, the founder of Aikido, was to see such flows as love, translating combat imagery into love. He wrote explicitly about that. I think it can be seen as an interesting take on Jesus’s primary message. Practicing those flows, O’Sensei in his 80’s at 4’11” could respond to multiple simultaneous sword attackers with safety for himself and all of them. I’ve seen videos of that, and it’s similar to what I’ve felt personally with Saotome Sensei, who was his direct student, Mary Heiny Sensei, and other teachers.
Seems that anger and hate can be seen similarly as energy flow. O’Sensei started from aggressive energy in his Japanese combat training, and transformed it. This association of love and hate appears in Christianity in Jesus and the Devil, with the incarnation of Jesus a similarly transformative event. Christian mythology begins with the loving God. Satan rebels against that. Then there is competition between Jesus and Satan for ascendancy.
The Devil is the shadow and Jesus the light. – e.g., take a look at Ary Scheffer’s 1854 painting:
Christ is a Self symbol but lacks wholeness because he only includes the light side. He constellates the Anticrist, God’s other half and the shadow of the Self.
The metaphor of God as light appears in the burning bush and in God’s leading the Israelites through the wilderness for forty years with a pillar of light; the creation was initiated by God’s creation of light. “The LORD my God illumines my darkness,” Psalm 18:28; “The LORD is my light…,” Psalm 27:1. And Jesus carries that on: “…we walk in the light, as he is in the light…,” John 1:7.
In popular imagery today, “receiving the golden light of God:”
Notice the intense eroticism in this image. God’s love is erotic.
Loss of self
Will be interesting to compare this loss of self with the loss of self that occurs with enlightenment, in Buddhist terms, and the expansion & connection with the larger world in Aikido, and with the communal functioning of insect colonies. And yet Buddhism, Aikido, Christianity, etc., each feature selves who individually achieve and are the paradigmatic exemplars. Same in Nazism.
Engaged and detached
In his fine April 29 column, “Engaged or Detached?,” David Brooks says that the person who writes about politics and policy has a choice: She can be an engaged activist supporting a cause, who “provides arguments for the party faithful and builds community by reminding everyone of the errors and villainy of the opposing side.” Or she can be detached, more a teacher than an activist, “shaping people’s perceptions of underlying reality and hoping that she can provide a context in which other people can think.” Or somewhere on the continuum between these two. He concludes,
The detached writer understands that, at the top level, politics is a bipolar struggle for turf. But the real fun is down below, sparking conversations about underlying concepts, underlying reality and the underlying frame of debate.
Not fair! — Brooks is giving the detached writer all the fun. Engaged activists deserve it, too. In my experience, the strategic advocate frequently does this sparking and reframing, morphing and broadening her coalition, open to questioning assumptions. I saw Mo Udall, congressional leader of the historic Alaska lands act conservation effort in the 1970’s, do that with his Lincolnesque humor.* Similar to the writer, the engaged activist works within a continuum between mobilizing the faithful and exploring curiously for ways to blend with others and move in new ways.
* “A Lincolnesque leader is confident enough to be humble — to not feel the need to bluster or dominate, but to be sufficiently sure of one’s own judgment and self-worth to really listen and not be threatened by contrary advice.”
Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe; Lincoln’s Obama; Newsweek (New York); Nov 24, 2008. cited at http://wordsmith.org/words/lincolnesque.html
Now “trials,” taken en bloc mean a disharmony between the self and the world with which it has to deal. Nothing is a trial when we are able to cope with it efficiently.
—Underhill, Evelyn. Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness. Jack Books, 1930, 353.
So, according to Underhill, a difficult situation is defined as disharmony between self and world. Difficulty is not inherent in the situation, but in the actor. Efficient action involves eliminating or disolving that disharmony. Those who live efficiently are not under stress.
Compare, from Wikipedia:
Efficiency is the extent to which time or effort is well used for the intended task or purpose, or the ratio of power consumed to useful power output…
Efficiency …is often used with the specific purpose of relaying the capability of a specific application of effort to produce a specific outcome effectively with a minimum amount or quantity of waste, expense, or unnecessary effort. …In general, efficiency is a measurable concept, quantitatively determined by the ratio of output to input.
… the term economic efficiency refers to the use of resources so as to maximize the production of goods and services.
A next step in this investigation is to similarly compare concepts of “power,” including from, e.g., Thich Naht Hanh’s The Art of Power with that in physics and in politics. The goal here would be to explore if it’s useful to see two parallel constructs of being and action in these terms. Call them the sacred and the profane? Or the mystical and the economic? I wonder whether Eliade gets into this. (It’s been forty years since I read The Sacred and the Profane.)
It’s not just that the two ways are different. What’s interesting is the ways they are similar. For example, in Aikido these terms are both structural-mechanical, in the anatomical and physiological sense, and emotional-spiritual, in the sense that Underwood and Thich Naht Hahn use them.
Are the similarities just analogies arising from abstractions in our heads, or do they reflect something basic in the real world? The engineer might call the mystic’s language imprecise and meaningless. A mystic might see the engineer’s concepts as a reification and oversimplification of a broader view that incoporates them, what Eliade would call mythological, “tied to cosmic structures and rhythms.”
What happens when both viewpoints are held simultaneously without conflict? The disharmony disappears, efficiently.