THE SOCIAL PRINCIPLE
Diplomacy and Justice
I would remain with my family and people always, if I didn't know there is—and is not—more. So, I go to see the nothing...which presents itself as something...and then remember that I do have something which is truly more: my family and my people, though at times I want them not.
That last sentence... That's a doozy. I see now how it could be taken the wrong way. I simply mean that I am one who needs others not always; but only sometimes. That's all. And when I don't need—or even want—others...then I "want them not." But what an absent path that would be if I were to follow it always. And so, I don't. And not just for my own sake, but for the sake of virtue. For you and I each have something—very much something—to offer to our family and our friends—indeed to all the rest! This is why it's good to be social for the better sake of virtue.
So, have your Great Life Adventure. Then, make your family... And find your friends. Get your job and career going. Become a person of your time and your people. Live your life. Live your social life. Make and contribute. Talk and be friends. Love and make children. Work hard and long at everything community. Deny at time even the nothing which you have found and know is true. Live well in spite of this awful fact. Live the best you can as a social man or woman of your time. Speak truly of the nothing if someone asks your mind on this matter. Point out even where the nothing isn't, if someone desires to not see for themselves. Then go back to your life, your family, and your friends. Live this one vain life as though it isn't.
What is to be done about the fact that life is dangerous, and fearful and even terrible sometimes?
One very good thing to be done is to prepare and to stand ready for the fall; to set aside supporting resources and to create a safe place of retreat, and to cultivate family and friends who can help catch us when we fall and who we can catch when they fall. This is humanity at its best... This is society and the bonds which make us strong and resilient and as a species able to weather come what may. Our social manner is why we are still here. It is an essential part of being human to want and embrace and to care for others. We survive in this way–not individually–but as a whole. Humans care for one another. It's how we manage the fear, and keep back the terror and dispel the colder night which is always out there and sometimes swirling close.
But not too safe
It is folly to ignore safe practices and behaviors and to sometimes leave the tribe behind in order to do things and to go places where there is no one to catch us should we fall. Why do some of us do this then? Why are there those among us who willingly let loose the holding hand, who open the garden gate and then step out into the wild? And why do some of us do this alone? And why do some leave no word with others where they will be or just when they might return? Why do we go alone into the scary world? Why do we sneak out of the sanctuary and into the night? What are we looking for out there in the cold and dark and howling?
I am one such person. Here is my reason:
I go because I am curious. I want to see and discover what isn't here. It's because we don't know all the answers—let alone the questions—and I want to find and ask, and attempt to answer some good questions while I yet have a chance. I want to ask and try to answer questions which I might not even know how to share with you. That is why you can't come with me. Because you and I are stuck with the same questions and answers. It's that safe and sane glue and fabric of society that mucks things up. The same safe stuff which binds and keeps us secure and which also holds us behind the velvet rope of agreement and convention. It is our common bond and concern for one another that reminds us to keep back from the No Trespassing sign. It is what makes us behave well and good and sane when others are looking. And I want to go to the places where I would go if I knew that no one was looking. And I want to think the thoughts which I would think when I have no one to talk to. And I want to ask the questions which I would ask when there is no one to hear and answer. And so, I go alone.
And so, I accept that I may fall alone, and that I may face my fear alone, and that I may even encounter terror with no one there to hold me. This is a price we must pay in the form of accepted risk which must be balanced with the life responsibilities we choose to assume. But, what a worthwhile risk. And what a worthwhile balance.
I have noticed a new trend in my thinking and writing... I have been coming upon the theme of fire often. Not fire, as in burning fire, but fire as a sort of symbol and emblem for the need we have to come together and keep back the night. It is a curious thing this community we seek–this community of warmth. I guess I really should not be surprised though, as we humans seem to like being together. I think this is because when we are with others, we feel more alive than we do when we are alone. Maybe this is why we like to die in the company of friends and family–or maybe friends and family simply prefer we die with them? As there's warmth and comfort around the glow of one-another. But there is also a denial of sorts, and a distance of a sort, and a seeming refusal to face straight and plain what is... I think this is one reason we form friendships, and one reason we join clubs, and a reason to align our ideas and our actions, and our clothing, and the look of our yards and even the gods we say are true... Just imagine a world otherwise... A world where every man and woman were a culture of their own. Where each of us held sound-seeming perspective of our own view, the result of our own lives, and the bias of our unique biology, upbringing, and experience. Would such a system work? Would a community of such individuals succeed or fail before it even got started? I do not think we can know...as I do not think we have the ability to live such lives en-mass. It seems we can only do this by ones and twos and ones again. Only sometimes do people appear among us who wish to live away from the fire. Maybe it is a fluke in their nature? Maybe they–we–are broken in some way? Those of us who are not attracted to the fire so much, and who would rather wander away into the cold and the dark to experience...the cold and the dark.
“I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for solitude.”
-Henry David Thoreau
The inward path of warmth
We live best
When we return from the cold
And choose the inward path of warmth
A life of now
And a life of here
And a life with others
Going Alone leads to this place
If you can find your way through
And you can...
Simply do not stop
And going up
And going on
A seat at the flame
The subject of life meaning never crossed our young minds. We were perhaps simply too young then. Our thoughts were those of explorers. We were looking around at where we were and making sense of circumstance and function. Meaning, and its close cousin purpose, would come later–for me at least.
To live a meaningless life... What a prospect. It can certainly be done. And what a way to live. In fact, there is some blessing in life during the early, meaningless years...the decade or so of youth before we start to wonder what it might all be about. There is a simple joy and satisfaction in simply living, like the beasts of the field, living from one sunrise to the next: seeking nourishment and warmth, safety and reproduction. It's our particular human trait–"blessing" might be a word to use–that we mature into a place of meaning; that we grow to a point when we demand something more of life than happiness, warmth, security and children. Yes, "blessing" is a good word to describe this need, though there appears to be no one to provide the blessing, as blessing is simply a fact in itself. Our perception of blessing is a bias which we provide to a universe which seemingly does not care. The concept of blessing then is an artifact of our want of purpose from a cosmos which appears to offer no purpose - or at least no purpose beyond mere survival and getting our genes into the next generation. And so, we make up some purpose, and some meaning, and we tell ourselves and one another that this contrived purpose and meaning are good. We may even go so far as to tell ourselves and one another that our blessing is from someone–or something–that has the capacity to bless–a blessing-giver. That our blessing is a received gift. How much more special to think that our contrived blessing is both conceived and granted to us by someone–or something–else. How much more valid the gift. How much more real and of authority. Whatever... Whatever works to satisfy this peculiar need to feel blessed. Whatever helps us make life more than a hard, backwards climb against the downward torrent of entropy. Never mind that miserable fact for now - did you really have to bring that up just now, Kurt?? We have some meaning to which we must attend.
Meaning exists like friendship
Around a campfire;
In an ocean of night
There are campfires out there in the night where we can join others who have tired of walking alone in the cold and the dark. There is talk around each of the fires which reflects the attitude and perspective–as well as the bias and the want–of those who came to the fires first. Nobody knows who began each of the fires, as those human-like creatures have long since passed. Did those animals seek meaning, too? Is that why they made the fires? This must be the case... As flames like this are for more than just warmth. That is something to consider...animals in search of meaning. How far back do the fires go, I wonder? How long have the flames here been kept? And how much longer the need of the flames before someone found the means to kindle and keep a flame.
Forget those thoughts for now... That's too much to consider. After all, we are only in this for our own meaning and purpose now. And it helps this cause to think we have always been just us. Or just like us. Yes, it has always been us. This tribe at this particular campfire, like that tribe out there at their fire, or that more distant group way over there who dance and chant strange words around their own flame. How alien they all seem... None of them have it right like us, of course. Our fire is the best, and the truest, of course. We know this, as the stories we have been told all make sense to us, as we've been told they make sense.
So, you have found us at last at this fire... Sure, we will make room. There's always room for one more around such a flame. We are glad for the company. Gladder than you might know... But only if you can say the proper words and make the right signs and can perhaps pray just the way we all do. Can you show us, now? Good, you've got it. You must indeed be one of us. Come, sit here next to me here... I will shuffle aside to make a little room. Take a stick from that big pile there and poke the coals. Isn't it nice how they shoot up sparks into the cold night? They are warm sparks, rising into the void–the cold void–the quiet empty we see yet deny. It is our company and connection and fraternity that does it... Our close bonds and the warmth of our bodies huddled so close to one another that makes the night seem so far away. Not like when we were young, and when we wandered for a time out there in the night... Do you all remember that? Try not to remember... The memory will pass soon. That time was your folly–our folly–the mistake of youth. Everyone gets over it. Everyone finds meaning someday. And if they do not...well, there's always the open field.
Notes from my muse
One hundred and sixteen miles to home. I’m a little under halfway back... It’ll take about a week for the wildness to begin to wear off. That’s why it’s important to go back. Not to re-live the desert empty - but instead to simply refresh the rare and valuable perspective the empty provides on the rest of life.
Last week's Siberia solitude began with this ride from Ludlow to Siberia ghost town. I'd taken a few hours off work in order to leave early (noon) and arrive before sundown, which made for pleasant and interesting travel along a stretch of highway I normally only ride in the dark this time of the year. The many big white 4x4 trucks seen on Route 66 are from the Pacific Gas and Electric company (PG&E), which I'd earlier learned is performing safety checks on an underground section of their gas line running through this stretch of the East Mojave desert. Sorry about the dead bug on the camera windshield... I'll try to remember to run the wiper (my finger) over the lens next time before starting the camera.
Arrival at Siberia was simply lovely; with perfect climate and only a slight cooling breeze suggestive of the very cold nights which are just a few weeks away. There was none of the unsettled anxiety I felt two weeks back and which I later attributed to the increased presence of humanity (the gas line trucks and workers) in a place on earth I usually have all to myself.