Cosmos Café [1/29/19] - William E. Connolly's Prelude from Facing the Planetary

The Awakening | John Seward Johnson II (sculpture)

T"I ‘gin to be a-weary of the sun,
And wish the estate o’ the world were now undone.–
Ring the alarum bell!–Blow, wind! come, wrack!
At least we’ll die with harness on our back."
Macbeth | Act 5, Scene 5

The @ccafe gets to work on the Anthropocene and its discontents. Similar to Job’s questioning of the Great Patriarch and His methods, the great patriarchal, sociocentric stories of capitalism and neoliberalism will be questioned, along with our role from within Nature and the natural forces of dont-give-a-damn Earth…who are we to think we deserve to define this complex era with the root Anthro-? William Connolly’s Prelude from Facing the Planetary sets the pace at all speeds, canter and gallop, walk and trot, for the windy, winding musings in this alarming Café.


Johnny Davis
Ryan Dexter
Marco Morelli
Doug Duff
Michael Stumpf
Ed Mahood
Mark Jabbour

Recorded: 29 Jan 2019

Reading / Watching / Listening

William Connelly’s prelude “Myth and the Planetary” of his book Facing the Planetary will be the primer for this Café :
Prelude “Myth and the Planetary” PDF

Seed Questions

  • The New York Times reported last week that a fifth of the coral reefs have died in the last three years. How does this inconvenient fact make you feel? What does this mean to you?
  • How do you make sense?
  • Is there a relationship between making sense and making meaning?

Context, Backstory, and Related Topics

What is Entangled Humanism?

  • The ancient bacteria imprisoned in human cells( mitochondria)
  • Bacterial micro-agencies in our gut
  • The reptile brain within us
  • Our internal relations to the Neanderthal and Denovisian
  • Drives nested within and between us that send affective thoughts into consciousness influencing behavior and communication
  • Inter-species symbiosis and disease jumps ( the flu)
  • Other species have perspectives of their own
  • A history of capitalist exploitation
  • The Antarctic shelves melt at a rapid rate
  • Climate, glaciers, ocean currents, water filtration processes, bacterial and viral flows, species evolution…

You’re rocking it with these topic proposals, @Douggins!! The Cosmos Café is blasting off… :rocket:

Donna Haraway’s reflections on the “Chthulhucene” would be an interesting tie-in here.

Below is a “Liminal Layering” recorded on 1/23. Think of it as an appetizer for the main course offered in next week’s Cosmos Café and tomorrow’s Bateson Reading Group:

Johnny Davis leads a Clean Start with Doug Duff based around recent reads from Nora and Gregory Bateson and William Connolly in preparation for Week 3 of the Bateson Reading Group and the January 29th Cosmos Cafe, which focuses upon Connolly’s Prelude to Facing the Planetary.


Thanks Doug & John for the tasty appetizer,it has Enlivened my personal field & given me Wiggle room with how I use the natural defense system within my larger nervous system in my body which is for me that open channel John talked about.


Going sane in an insane world. This was a choice appetizer, with slow flavorful nibbles, masticated with tenderized sobriety, promising a more fully satisfying meal to come.

Lingering aftertastes: shared reading as community glue; finding one’s center; sharing breakdowns and breakthroughs; opening to the field of fields…

A personal note: I hope to make it but might detained by a project I need to get done early today because, to be transparent about it, in raw terms: we need the money. I am finishing writing a business proposal, which if it’s amenable to our clients, will put us on a more stable financial footing for the rest of the year at least.

This would help with my own island of sanity…and I don’t want to infect the Café with my underlying feeling of economic anxiety and sense of urgency to be productive. I will be able to better focus on the planetary when we have our own house in order.

I could check in at opening, regardless, if my input would be desired. Just want to let everyone where my attention is focused today.


After the 35 day shut down of the government, we are already contaminated. A sense of urgency may be just what we need. I wanted to ask you some questions at today’s Cafe, questions that maybe only you can answer. Anyway, we must do what is ecological for each of us. I am, this morning, dangling over an abyss but I will show up anyway and bring my worries with me.


More thinking about how false the selfish gene myth is. A gene gets expressed through participation, transcription, translation, through a tangled and complex network, within an organism, which is within an environment. The gene does not dictate anything, nor does it replicate itself. A ‘fat’ gene will not get expressed in an environment where the organism exercises and eats small amounts of food. The organism-environment will co-determine which genes get triggered. So, there is no top down DNA instructions that dominate the somatic intelligence of the organism in action within a culture-nature continuum.

While we re-think the crude assumptions and dogmatisms of the old Biology and the Old Materialist dogmatics we will have to revisit the Life Sciences and Physics with open curiosity, rather than contempt. What you were taught in school is already out of date. The experts do not agree. So, let us wake up and smell the coffee. May we start to make sense even as we try to make better meaning out of the mixed messages we receive through the narrow evidence based procedures science gives us. And let’s use other kinds of knowledge as well. May we move quickly towards a Second Order Culture. Many of us have been rehearsing this possibility.

We have to start re-educating ourselves and each other and release the grip of the Neo-Liberal, Info-entertainment Complex from denying us access to the field of all possibilities. A collaborative learning initiative is well underway at Cosmos. A heart felt thank you across all of the groups active here at Cosmos. Blessings upon our sometimes wobbly efforts! May we continue to find the patterns that connect.

And thanks again, to the birds and the wolves, for the humans and the other than humans, the flowers and the trees, the vast oceans, the stardust, for we have much to learn, much to unlearn, and so much to live for. Let’s not go gentle into that good night.


Below is the quote you read from Transcendent Mind

There are several things to note about this version of reality. First, it is scalable, in that the indivisible atoms of which everything is made are assumed to be governed by the same laws that apply to people-sized events. Second, it is deterministic, in that all activity is the result of predictable interactions of atoms with one another. Third, this version is objective, in the sense that these atoms behave as they do independently of anyone’s observation of them. Fourth, it is reductionistic, in that people-sized events, including people, consciousness, and so on, are thought to be ultimately nothing but the activity of indivisible atoms. Fifth, it depends on an absolute space within which all of this activity takes place. Sixth, time is uniformly ordered from the past into the future in a linear manner and evolves the same way for all observers, in absolute time. So we have a scalable, deterministic, objective, and reductionistic model of reality that depends on the existence of absolute space and time. Each of these six prongs of historical materialism has been pretty much dismantled by now.

Further in the introduction to Transcendent Mind, the authors quote Ruth Rosenbaum who states that materialist science is silent about the “maternal” spaces (those that are unseen, womb-like). We mentioned in the call Sloterdijk’s return to the womb as a forgotten space or as the first space… Both Rosenbaum and Sloterdijk (as well as the author Julia Mossbridge) have a shared interest in the telepathy between mother-child. Rosenbaum notes that “stories of mother-infant telepathy, where a mother might know from a distance that her baby is in danger, and rush to save the baby just in time, seem to be more easily accepted than other instances of telepathy, possibly because they are neatly bracketed. As long as psi stays within the nursery, and we can say that such uncanny symbiotic moments are just for babies and mothers, the threat to the secure boundaries of adult identity is diminished.” Those with an open mind can transcend the materialist science stories of “sight = right.” and rethink these assumptions. I like that you leave this open-ended, Johnny, preventing a conclusion that shared telepathy or other beyond materialism thoughts are the right ones too. How do we retain the old as we seek transcendent stories?

“Second Order Culture” is another phrase (phase?) that I am trying to fathom. Do you mind giving more concrete definition to this? It is like “agency” to me; a strange word that can mean many things.

In Facing the Planetary Connolly uses the term (second-order formations) as ones that "can be subjected to change in the light of new situations and sensitivities, as when, say, a new right of religious freedom, doctor-assisted suicide, or same-sex marriage emerges from multifaceted struggles and revisions from an old system of judgment. Or when, during the late stages of the Anthropocene, regional struggles secure new rights to relief from rising seas, extreme weather events, loss of habitat, and other slow violences wreaked by extractive capitalism upon urban areas within its centers and numerous regions outside them. "

We also explored Davor Loeffler who perhaps coined the phrase Second Order Culture. He describes it as an atmosphere: “considered certain states of mind, alongside moods and emotions. It is shown that the atmospherical “colouring” of perception can be understood as the type of cognition for the arousal of implicit readiness to act and for potential future operations or body-environment relations.”

So, I am gathering that it challenges and questions the old assumptions/stories; steers away from the past and embraces futures thinking, but not solution focused. It allows new non-linear thinking, new learning. You also mention at one time that there is a step into third order culture. Second order culture sounds a lot like a healthy adolescent phase to me and I and many others have observed that America (and perhaps the whole of humanity) and its ecology (values, politics, individuals, etc.) are going through an adolescent phase…it may result in extreme behavior and destruction of life or it may be the great learning experience that takes us into a healthy adulthood.


Thanks, Doug. I appreciate your creative research practice. I notice that you move through my shared sources and and explore a ‘double vision.’ Multiple descriptions create depth perceptions. As you review my shared sources, (and there are many sources I do not share) you can take a view that is different from mine, but not separate. You don’t try to subtract, reduce, delete my views on the text and the larger inquiry, but you add something that compliments and, sometimes, re-directs my attention to what I may have missed.

This is a high level skill, kind sir, and I am sure Mr. Rogers, that sainted man, so kind to children and in rapport with a parallel puppet world, could generate safe enough spaces, so that, as those children matured, they can, perhaps, on a clear day, get a glimpse into the liminal zones that are operating in our fluid metaphorical landscapes.

In Buddhist psychology, the mind is considered to be a sixth sense, working along with the basic five. Unfortunately, students of Buddhism, as well as the vast majority of the human race, have a disorder, according to collective wisdom of psychiatry. On page 29, another quote. “The most recent version of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders cites " belief in clairvoyance, telepathy, or sixth sense, as symptom of schizotypal personality syndrome.” So, even if you have a belief, much less a direct experience, you are diagnosed as pathological. It must be remembered that homosexuality and masturbation were once considered pathology, in need of cure. So, who are we to believe?

I make sense through direct experience and when I find the experts are not making sense I not only question, I fight. It has been a long struggle for sure, however, if we dont have enough persons to stand up and refuse to be pathologized, then the Military Industrial Complex can concoct very wierd double and triple binds, designed to manipulate and distort, large populations, and then demanding, through fear and intimidation, compliance with a pseudo-normality.

I decided when I was twelve, after reading much literature, and observing my own human nature, that the experts were wrong. And I have lived to see the day when the experts had to eat humble pie and admit they were wrong. Justice Stevens, gave the nation a great gift, when he apologized to gay people for the Court’s behavior. No one can use the law to discriminate against a group of people, just because other people don’t like them.

I just offer a few examples from my a first person perspective, that blends, in an entangled fashion, with so many, on so many levels. An atmosphere? Something in the breeze? Is that the sound of the white breasted sparrow? What happens when you enter a dialogue and have a teaching moment? You may not be crow, yet, but you could be moving in that direction.

Third Order Culture is a long way off, but the Second Order is already what we are working on! It is a strong vibe!


(What I have to say – or better, ask – should not be taken as criticism. Your statement prompted some cogitation.)

Just what is “new” non-linear thinking"? (In Gebserian terms …)

Mythical “thinking” is non-linear (whereby I put the word in quotation marks because I’m not sure that’s the right word … it’s too mental).

Magical “thinking” is non-linear (and the same caveat as above applies).

Temporally speaking both of these are older than mental-rational (i.e. linear) “thinking” (though here we’re getting closer to the right word, I think); both of them were the primary mode orders of magnitude longer than the linear.

Just like I’m struggling for a better word for “thinking” (and I should note, as an aside perhaps, that Steiner quite often uses the word “thinking” (well, Denken; he did write in German after all), and he wasn’t referring to anything going on the brain at all), maybe we need a better word for what you are referring to in your statement.

Maybe you could describe it a bit more and we could start looking for alternatives. I’ll tell you what bothers me about “thinking” as well:

Put most simply, it has too strong mental connotations; by that I mean taking-place-exclusively-in-the-head (for our materialist friends, in-the-brain). The Egyptians spoke of the intelligence of the heart which, albeit quite different from cognition, or intelligence of the head, needed to be married to it for either/both of them to be truly (not just “actually” or “really”, but “truth-seekingly”) valid. We know of the Pauline admonition that as a person thinks in their heart, so are they.

If we assume, as I do, that we have somatic (bodily) intelligence (another word I’m grappling with, but we’ll let it pass for now), and we have affective (emotional) intelligence, and we have cognitive (intellectual) intelligence, and (here I’m willing to go a step farther and postulate that) we have intuitive (?) (spiritual) intelligence as well, then we need (a) to find better words than feeling/feeling/thinking/intuiting (respectively) to describe them.

It would seem to me that my dilemma is fairly clear, but I’d like to know a bit more about what you were getting at. It could be helpful.


I don’t know. I was thinking of linear thinking in relation to our Connolly Cafe discussion, the biological gradualism that places human as the top of the line, at the top of the evolutionary pyramid. Perhaps I could simply exclude the non-linear part and leave it at new thinking allowed. Or new ____ allowed. And maybe it is not new, so ____ allowed. I am inclined to leave it at ____

Sigur Ros has an “untitled” album …called ( ). You can check out the Wikipedia page for some interpretations of their use of ( ). They also make use of a jibberish language Hopelandic. “The Hopelandic of ( ) consists of one eleven-syllable phrase, “You xylo. You xylo no fi lo. You so.”, various permutations and subsequent variations thereof are sung over the course of the album.” No song has a title. I can say that this album (along with other sounds they have produced) has moved me to places beyond words, beyond thinking, beyond this earth. I personally believe they have tapped into cosmic resonances, a psychoanalysis for psychonauts. I interpreted, at one point in their Hopelandic variation, the “words” “you xylo, no fi lo” as “you sigh on, but not for long” a personal mantra I chanted while traversing the earth and its (dis)contents. The musical contents of ( ) do follow a linear progression in time, as any recording must, but the musical creativity cycles upon itself, within each song, at the halfway point and the ending looping back into the beginning.

I have personal thoughts on how this connects with your question, but words are not necessary, beyond my weak attempt here. I am not the guy to determine the language we might utilize. Our creativity could utilize alternate/alternative thinking that allows for the line to do a little squiggling.


That is a mixed message, Ed, if ever there was one! I am smiling, as dilemmas, are dilemmas, because they aren’t clear at all. Do I turn left or turn right? How should I know? Well where do you want to go?

If I have a scratch, itch it. But if you have a rash and itch it the rash will spread. Now what?

Do I do chemo or have surgery? Yuk!

Should I spend million dollars on this worth cause or on that worthy cause?

Sir, do you want paper or plastic?

What happens, when you dont want any of what you are offered by your culture? Then, what happens?

You have a pound of bacteria in your gut that clears your system of waste and communicates with your brain. Brain fog and some forms of depression occur when the communications are mixed up with too many mixed messages.

Our economy, in order to produce large profits for a few demands that everyone run on a treadmill as quick as they can and then jump to another treadmill that is even faster. It is called innovation.

Some people want to get off of the treadmill because it is killing them. But they have been on a series of treadmills all their lives. Now that dilemma, can become a conflict, or an impasse or a paradox. Each bind, double bind, triple bind has a texture, a feel, a location in the body. It can have abstract dimensions ( meaning making) but if the meaning is not a match for the territory, then the meaning wont mean much for very long.

Our somatic intelligence is easily distorted but you can’t ignore it entirely without disaster. There are limits to growth and you body will let you know.

Although everyone has a somatic intelligence, some are virtuosos, and they tend to be the most creative persons. Cognitive development without a capacity making sense is what AI is centered around. Until recently this was considered a benefit. Who needs a body that dies when we can upload ourselves? But now many are scratching their heads about colonizing the Cosmos. That is going to be a really hard thing to do…

So I do not think there is an easy way to unweave our weaved up folly. Nature is not our mother. She is the bouncer at the bar who wants you to pay your check. You had your fun. Can’t pay up? This way to the exit.


Good one, John. Though I insist it is clear that I have a dilemma, but that I’m certainly not clear on where to go with it. If I knew where I wanted to go, I wouldn’t have a dilemma! Ring-around-the-rosy.

I think “thinking” is one of those words that is slowly losing its meaning. What does it really describe? And when I look at what we’re doing to the world (in a very broad sense), I wonder how much of it is being done in any sense of the word.

When I was tutoring strategy as part of an MBA program (and no, I did not exactly fit the profile of your typical MBA-tutor), innovation was a huge topic, and it was a word that many students loved to bandy about with abandon. I tried to impress upon them that as far as I could tell there are really only two kinds of innovation: you do things better or you can do better things. During the almost 15 years I was chanting my mantra (the course’s was “The purpose of business is the maximization of profits.”), not a single student ever asked me what I meant by “better”, and that is as mind-boggling as it is disappointing. In a world where prices are confused for value, anything without a price is not priceless, it’s simply without value, and therein lies a great rub. Oscar Wilde made that point long before me, of course, but none of my students had ever read Wilde either.


I’m all for allowing squiggle, it can effect everything and anything from damnation to redemption. And while I appreciate your musical musings, should I give ear to Hopelandic’s (), there’s no guarantee – in fact, I imagine it is almost certain – that I’ll come away from it with the same (or similar or even relatable) “message” (truly, for lack of any, let alone a better, word). How do we let each other know what we got … without words, that is? When we reminisce about our [1/-8] CCafé, we then have to wonder if we’re really communicating in any sense of the word.

The last thing I would expect is for you to resolve the “thinking” dilemma. It would be outstanding if you did, don’t get me wrong, but I suspect it’s not just a personal dilemma (which I think John in his post did much to confirm), but rather a fairly universal one. Hence, it is, to my mind at least, something we need to mull over and ponder and wonder about and, Lord knows what else. I very much agree with John that we’re not going to be very successful trying “to unweave our weaved up folly”. I’m thinking we’re going to have to make do with what we’ve got.

In hindsight, it would appear that my question had a whole lot more rhetorical packed into it than I originally thought. Funny how that happens.


Grateful you are bringing “economic anxiety” into mentionable territory. Many of our living situaitons are directly threatened by the shutdown, and all of the instabilities and threats around it… and that most definitely includes me. So thank you, Madrush.


Yay, Donna Haraway! What about Tim Morton?
I know it may not be cool to make suggestions when I am not able to attend, but…
can’t help but me so very attracted to this topic area that is opening here. Thanks to all of you who ARE attending, and those listening/looking in via recordings, and especially those who are tending to all this in some way, in their offline lives, too.


"And thanks again, to the birds and the wolves, for the humans and the other than humans, the flowers and the trees, the vast oceans, the stardust, for we have much to learn, much to unlearn, and so much to live for. "

Your acknowledgement, I need to acknowledge. So essential and strengthening in an unbearable earth-under-seize time we are living.

When you spoke of the coral reefs, I found myself crying. I already knew of this, but hearing it spoken releases another level of grieving.


Yes. Sharing our grief is necessary. Perhaps, we can find ways of sharing our attention collectively so that we can transition towards a companion species. We still have time left. We are doing some of the heavy lifting as we tune into alternate ways of knowing. Thank you for your tears!

A store I frequent no longer give out plastic bags. NY state and the EU are planning to ban plastics. That would be an amazing achievement. At least I dont feel so alone in my anxiety.


When asked how are you going to pay for it, Octavia-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, and hugely charismatic, has some very good answers for you, Ed. She is also on a big committee that will investigate Wall Street and the Banks. In this brief report we learn that other powerful women on the committee may be creating a deep shift in the way business is done. As we mourn for the terrible losses, we can also be grateful for signs that a shift is happening. We may be on the verge of a nervous breakthrough.