On the Politics and Ethics of Empowerment


Yesterday, I immersed myself in a process of creating a master version of the COSMOS Codex. At the end of my 12 hour work day (or ~10.5 hours of work, if you discount eating food & taking breaks), the file contained 13,626 words. There were roughly two dozen chapter headings comprising the codex structural outline, each chapter containing between a quarter-page and three pages of content. I did some original writing (spontaneous synthesis), but much of it was pulled from past meeting minutes, whiteboard photographs, and voice recordings. It is the culmination of the work between Marco and myself over the past four months. And I am proud of it, and happy to share it very soon.

I told Marco that spending 12 hours immersed in the material in a concerted effort to give birth to the Codex is how I wanted to spend my Saturday. It’s what I wanted to do. It was the best way of spending my cognitive energy–piecemeal meetings would no longer work, at this juncture. I called it a “fugue”–throughout the week we referred to it as my fugue day.

Integrative mind
My process–like that of many artists–is to allow the informational “ingredients” of a big idea to ferment in my unconscious for a period of days, weeks or longer… And then there is time when it is appropriate to unleash the flow of ideas through the body–or, a time to “cook” the ingredients, letting the culinary alchemy occur, and end up with a finished product.

Fugue states are infamously associated with mental illness, but they are also a feature and tool of the artist. They are a trance-like state common to spiritual traditions, and they involve pushing one’s mind to limits. This can have destabilizing effects, or when undertaken conscientiously, can unlock tremendous potential and thus be an exhilarating, refreshing, empowering experience. The effective difference is whether the fugue state is disintegrative/dissociative or integrative.

I had an expectation that the Codex-birthing process would be delightful. And it absolutely was. Yesterday I was immersed in an elaborate narrative about visionary artists, writers and thinkers leading a cultural revolution on the basis of ethical authority and creative power. It is a beautiful dream to dream, yet it is not only a dream. In the codex and in the general conceptualizing of Cosmos, Marco and I have spent considerable care to attend to issues of how we would “apply” the dream model in our fraught, multiplicitous, often-disheartening reality.

The codex describes a vision and a set of grounding ethics; furthermore, it outlines a thoughtful organizational model in which we would come together to experiment & apply these alternative rules. Unlike other visionary “global operating systems for humanity” that are out there, what we are visualizing and illustrating through Cosmos is distinctly grounded in praxis, in applying our ideas, in experimentally testing and measuring our results, in innovating based on feedback.

We’re designing rules to a collective game–but its a game based on our real lives! Yes, we aspire to provoke outcomes that are more holistically (personally, collectively, fractally) beneficial for the participants than what is available in the status quo reality. But we are also just playing around creatively in a complex obstacle course of our making among a cohort of the world’s most brilliant minds. So–global or consciousness transformation claims aside–it’s gonna be an outrageously gratifying experience regardless!

Like in theatrical improvisation, the purpose of the Codex is to provide the basic “boundaries” or structure of a scene for the improvisers to play atop. Our objective is to make the “prompt” as simple as possible without compromising integrity of the message–(i.e. “You are two fishermen heading out to sea for the day.” versus “You are two men who work together.” There’s a lot more liberty to diverge on the latter, whereas–depending on the purposes–the former might constitute a sweet spot to inspire silly creating.)

Such is the elegance of autonomous bounded play. Such is the spirited power intrinsic to empowerment itself. We must only summon enough faith and confidence to set it into motion. And the results are both challenging and beautiful–an integrative transformation.

Interestingly, spiritually (as a Buddhist) my focus is on a path of synchronizing the mind and body. I even recorded a podcast with Marco giving a detailed retort to the last Buddhist Geeks podcast on Secular Buddhism on this theme (coming soon). For me, the merger of liberation is coming to full comprehension and acceptance of being embodied, and being liberated into total creative capacity to work with what is there. Whereas politically, my aims are isomorphic: to unify the civil and the aspirational, the social and the political, to pursue creative integration between personal and collective interests. I have spent the past nine years building a career in studying best practices and techniques for successful cooperative enterprises… and applying that knowledge through helping to develop a wide variety of co-op businesses. Now, with all my hands-on experience, i get to frolic in a “new field” of theoretical and practical play–in designing Cosmos. And all of this ties in with what I REALLY want to share (that was just context). :slight_smile:

Cooperatives as a method and means of empowerment

Yesterday evening, at the end of my Codex fugueing, I logged onto Facebook, which at the top displayed a status update I’d created five years ago on the same day–with the prompt (familiar now to any Facebook user) as to whether I wanted to share it. Here is what I wrote yesterday, beside the original post from 2012.

Today, instead of getting involved with the Women’s March and protests, I spent the entire day (~10 hours and going) building out an organizational codex for a platform co-op called COSMOS that I am in the thick of developing–no longer in the role of co-op consultant, but as a chief executive of the enterprise. It is a platform co-op founded on the simple yet far-reaching premises that our most talented and visionary minds deserve to be supported, foregrounded and empowered to lead an emergent, regenerative, more humane, more systems-thinking culture… and that through processes of collaborating, producing art, and engaging meaningfully in community, we become better and more whole people. That is to say: through refining and revising our creative works, we also do so for ourselves, and we do so for the broader culture.

The symmetry of this post about the promise and power of cooperative enterprises–from five years ago today–is astonishing.

It’s interesting how I emerged from a background of lots of experience with mass protest (anti-war, anti-racist prison system, anti-greed, etc.) into the method/means of cooperative organizations and economies. At the root of both is one’s sense of political power. Mass protest actions, I don’t feel comfortable in any longer–for a wide complex of reasons that few would know just by looking at me. But cooperative development makes me feel the most powerful and constructive, makes me feel like we can remake the world if we join together in solidarity and take visionary action. And here I am today, fulfilling a distinct purpose. As a woman co-op entrepreneur, no less.

I expect to be announcing about COSMOS this week. Stay tuned, dear compatriots. Thanks for journeying with me.

Eating well again has totally stabilized my mood. Spent the last 4 hours reading about co-operatives and subsequently, writing an organizational assessment for Free Ride, emailing compatriots with useful tidbits, and scheming proposals for new co-ops and a Pittsburgh co-op network. If only the inner breath that breathes life into all of these organically, passionately pursued activities paid off in cash money… but by the time MY particular life’s work is done, maybe, one day, and for ALL of us, it WILL. Yay co-operatives! I have a growing respect and hope for them–because they are not some abstract concept, they are THINGS that PEOPLE DO to serve their own direct, diverse interests–called by the umbrella name “cooperatives.” Thus, what I’m really saying is that I have a growing hope in US–in our built-in capacities to co-operate, collaborate, innovate, self-educate, meet our needs, and live out our dreams. So exciting that tried-and-tested methods already exist for systemic, structural liberation. Putting them into practice just takes sense and willpower. When will you be ready, to do what you need to, and what is needed of you? LET’S DO US. LET’S DO THIS.

Today is my day off, also known as “I do whatever the f*** I want day.” (I only get one of these a week–it is a holy day of Sabbath, despite its casual quality.) So I settled in to read an open tab of an essay my friend had turned me onto. I had made a comment on his Facebook post about how it seems so clear that its time to abandon party politics, and that the Left ought to re-organize themselves politically to support decentralized/municipal-style reformations of civic power that would utilize cooperative organizing techniques that we’re all so fond of promoting in the economic realm. He sent me this essay, on the same idea: Libertarian Municipalism by Murray Bookchin.

Here it is–highly recommended reading. Libertarian Municipalism: An Overview | The Anarchist Library

Don’t worry if you wince at the term “libertarianism.” Or various other bold terms in here. There are some really good ideas in here!

Marco is in the process of developing a piece to intersect with the Codex about the apt “scale” of communities/networks within the self-organized platform that Cosmos will become. He writes about the “right size” of a small city, and how it balances intimacy and privacy, supporting a healthy dynamic for a creative democracy to thrive. I couldn’t help but see a number of parallels–not just in how I think, but in what Marco might be thinking, too (from what I’ve read so far.)

When we talk about enhancing the lives of our members–socially, culturally, and economically–we are talking about their empowerment. That they would be empowered to live their lives in closer fidelity to their sacred self-arising purposes. What is sometimes characterized as “living at/from a higher vibration” or “higher resolution” information can also be seen as reduced cognitive dissonance. At this high-stakes turning point in human history, we must free our most brilliant, integrative, creative minds into leadership, we must caretake and exalt them to take up the charge of courageously envisioning and experimenting with better ways of being in reality.

And when I say “we must,” I mean: it certainly feels like we must. It feels like, mystically, on a pattern language level perhaps, this is the appropriate role to play in this historic moment/consciousness movement. Whether you view this from a political, ecological, civilizational, mystical or other angle, it is no less true and felt–it is the zeitgeist. Therefore, to continue to deny the truths sourced from our intuition/instincts is to opt into an artificial/architected reality, sold us by concentrated private interests, that would chew us up and spit us out before it would consider us equal cocreators.

And I do not choose that. And so I choose Cosmos. I choose to make my career of helping people develop into cooperators, themselves, and to develop cooperative organizations. I choose to indulge my potential–to no longer repress it, for the sake of others’ comfort or convenience. I have chosen all the words in this post. And I choose this moment right here.

And I am really looking forward to having a discussion about Bookchin’s essay, at least! Come at me, comrades! :wink:


Hi Caroline: I watched the COSMOS presentation video Marco posted, and noticed from the photo of you in it that you have an extra two pairs of arms, and six hands. To go with “madrush” Morelli, that’s some serious multitasking capability. Do you go out in public like that? You might scare children with all your arms out in the open and moving simultaneously. How many balls can you juggle?

A GIF of the spider lady wrapping up her catch from a really wonderful and charming low budget stop-motion animated fairytale made by Christiane Cegavske, entitled “Blood Tea and Red String” (2006):

Trump gets up in front of the C.I.A., mentions God, suggesting that the supposed Big Guy upstairs, behind the clouds and smiling down like a proud father, caused the rain to let up for what Trump in his self-grandiosity appears really to believe was his coronation, and only had the rain start up again after he had finished that “very, very” important speech, the like of which has never before been witnessed on earth. (“Very” appears in his limited vocabulary to be one of Trump’s favorite words.) Next Trump despite the evidence brags about how big a crowd attended his inauguration. Size clearly is very important to him. Now not only do we have an “alt right”, we have “alternative facts.” All of this apparently comes down to us from an alternative universe.

A trinity for Trump and his cabinet and followers from one of my favorite and most intelligent anarcho-punk bands named Crass, who didn’t only talk the talk, but walked the walk - an actual working collective of politically attuned creative individuals - (To those who listen to too much slickly produced popular music which induces fantasy for escape, conditioned to expect a certain limited range of “pleasant” sounds, this music is exactly as it should be, in-your-face, abrasive and with snarl in it, with dirty and irregular edges like real life, the getting of the message through more important than the beauty-side of aesthetics):

"You’ve Got Big Hands"

Out of the chaos we divide,
Fucked up, muddled up, looking for a side.
Stay on the outside, don’t go in,
Don’t think that you can do it, if you sell out they win.
It’s not like that the changes are made,
Give in to them, your chances are delayed.
You’ll feed with your energies the things that you hate,
Diluting your strength each time they say yes.

Their hands are big, they’ve got big hands,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands.
You’re talking with sounds they don’t understand,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands.
They’ve got big mouths to shout demands,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands.
They’ll let you past a couple of times,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands.
You think you’re getting somewhere, you’re fucking blind,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands.
This structures stretches, it’ll bend but not break,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands.
This system channels any threat that you make,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands.

It will do anything to accomodate,
Accomodate you and your liberal ideas.
You’re the child in their garden,
The dog on their lead,
Their token to changes that are never made.
Can’t you see that for centuries it’s been the same,
Plenty like you have been seduced to the game.
The chain’s still as tight, won’t let in the light,
Can you tell me what’s different?
Whose hopes you will feed?
Will you feed their arses,
Will you feed their hands?
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands,
Big hands, big hands, big hands, big hands.

"Big Man, Big M.A.N."

They’re telling you to do it,
Grow up and tow the line,
They tell you if you do it,
Everything will turn out fine.
Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes, what a wonderful life,
God, queen, country, colour telly, car and wife.
Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes, what a wonderful life,
God, queen, country, colour telly, car and wife.
It’s great if you can do it, it doesn’t take a lot,
Just means you must destroy what sensitivity you’ve got.
Well, that’s an easy bargain for the things you’re going to get,
You can treat the wife like shit, own a car, a telly set.
Slip off in the evenings for a little on the sly,
And if the wife complains, fuck her first, then black her eye.
There’s lots of worthwhile jobs for the lad who wants to know,
Lorry driving’s fun, you’re always on the go.
One hand on the wheel, the other up some cunt,
Or jerking off to Penthouse with with motorway up front.
The police force offers chances for a bright intelligent lad,
To interfere with anyone cos they’re there just to be had.
It offers quite a range for aggression and for spite,
To take out your frustrations in a justifiable light.
It’s a mans’ life in the army, good pay and lots of fun,
You can stab them with your bayonet, fuck them with your gun.
Look smart in your uniform, that always pulls the skirt,
Then when you’ve fucked them good and proper, tell them they’re just dirt.

Cos man is spelt big M.A.N. it’s the letters of the law.
Man is spelt big M.A.N. that’s who the law is for.

You see there’s lots of chances in this land of hope and glory,
Try and make your own rules, that’s a different story.
If you’re a man, you’d better act like one,
Develop your muscles, use your prick like a gun.
Fuck anything that moves, but never pay the price,
Steal, fuck, slaughter, that’s their advice.
Are you man enough? Ask the posters on the walls,
Have you got what it takes? Guts and balls?
Keep your myth of manhood, it’s been going on too long,
A history of slaughter is the proof that it is wrong.

Big man, big M.A.N. Big man, big M.A.N. Big man, big M.A.N.
Big man, big M.A.N. Big man, big M.A.N. Big man, big M.A.N.
Big man, big M.A.N. Big man, big M.A.N. Big man, big M.A.N.
Big man, big M.A.N. Big man, big M.A.N. Big man, big M.A.N.
Big man, big M.A.N. Big man, big M.A.N.
Big man, J.O.K.E.
Big man, what a fucking joke.

Consider in relation to your work-in-progress “Incantation on Death”, Caroline, and your own work-in-progress “I am the Singularity", Marco, the following recitation by Crass member going by the name of Eve Libertine of this powerful and controversial piece entitled “Reality Asylum”:

P. S. Mr. Ed Mahood, if you read this, I feel I owe you an apology from my feisty commenting over at Marco’s post “A new model for the left?” which has heading it that video of Slavoj Zizek speaking. I greatly appreciate your substantial and sustained thoughts, your fine mind and the good wisdom and guidance I discern in your overall spirit. I admittedly have much to learn and sometimes let my sarcastic wisecracking get a little out of control, feeling by so doing I can tend to kill rather than stimulate conversation.

P. P. S. Amusingly, while preparing all this for posting, I was listening to other Crass songs, scrolling up and down, and seeing the Spider lady spinning away in the GIF, I must say: she keeps good rhythm.

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Thanks for the P.S., John. I appreciate it, even if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. In fact, I appreciate it even more because of that. No harm, no foul.

For me, the downside of online interaction is that it’s too fast and easy. It’s just us and our screens and our thoughts and all that pent-up energy, and the instantaneousness of speed-of-light communication drives us, propels us, thrusts us, hurtles us onward in ways that hardly allow us to keep up with our own thoughts let alone others’.

But almost 30 years of this online stuff has made me realize that I much prefer marathons to sprints, but the real truth be told, I’m more of a hiker than a runner anyway. I should have known: my totem is the tortoise, so coming across as ponderous doesn’t surprise me at all, for I’m a ponderer at heart. And, not being much of a multitasker, when I’m pondering, I’m not posting, I’m just plodding along. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Charge on, John.


I really appreciate your reply, Ed. I just wanted to follow up because I absolutely sense the substantiality and depth in your own thinking. You actually put in the work and develop bodies of thought which appeal to reason. It’s a practice sadly and frighteningly being lost in our quick and easy sound-bite era, an era of instant gratification and “magical thinking”, the illusion of having everything at our fingertips, with click-bait headlines and sensationalistic imagery, so much to distract our attention, wearing us down and exhausting us, to finally grab hold of us by our baser instincts and yank us along like dogs. To see to the bottom of things, to reality and truth, does require stilling oneself in silent meditation, until the mud settles and the water becomes clear again.

I find myself in a transitional period back to hiker plodding along toward the mountain in the distance. It’s one thing to stand back and look at the mountain, and quite another to take up one’s backpack and actually through the rugged terrain make one’s way to its base, let alone scaling to the top of it. Scaling a mountain requires a whole other level of fitness, experience, knowledge, and skill. I’m not necessarily a youngin’ anymore, and before breaking my silence, getting more involved with interacting with others in comment boards, I have gone on long solitary treks, keeping to myself for long periods of time. I’m still trying to find a healthy balance. I also feel a longing for authentic and alive community, open to sharing and exploring ideas, helping each other to develop and become more self-aware. I feel encouraged by your presence and gladdened by your words.

Not only do I think of the world tortoise:

Here’s some pertinent comic relief with moral to it. One can have all the ability in the world, speed and prowess, seeming like a sure thing, and still lose the race by becoming a distracted showoff.


I need every last one of those hands, John, if I’m to weave together the actions and impacts I intend to have in this lifetime! Call me a demigod, but I’m determined to not just dream, but do at least 300% more things than the average human being.

Any one of us with potent imaginations can dream upwards of 3,000% more possibilities than our meek personal lives can realize… but since teenagehood, I grew out of privately indulging my imagination for those daydreaming-derived dopamine hits, as I noticed, like any addiction, the further I drew away from reality for the illusion of an internal experience more uplifting… the more my cognitive dissonance in the world increased. For better or for worse–really, for just-the-fact-of-it–I am embodied. It is the union of mind and body in which our true liberation, realization, and, paradoxically, peace, lies. I’m talking praxis. Hence how much I try to do. I really believe that if you orient yourself to life as a student of it, and you try to apply your physical capabilities to doing any particular goddamn thing in this mucky gyre of reality, you’ll learn pretty swiftly whether some of your operational assumptions are misplaced. The best way to learn about where your agency ends and others’ agency/the laws of reality begin is by probing.

So how–besides basic presumptuous delusional grandiosity–do I plan to accomplish 300% more things than the average person? Well, by weaving together complementary forces of course! I like to catalyze latent urges for self-actualization in people and in circumstances. If I can catalyze that, and then weave it in with aligned impulses and projects, an integrative leader, then I can effectually effectuate more. The six arms are really metaphors for different modalities in which I engage… because I also believe that the more I condition my mind for diverse modes and experiences, the more inclusive, adaptive and integrative my movement in the world may be.

Call me Spider Lady of the Supreme Ambition, Actuating the Liberation that Takes Endless Forms, anyday.

To bring it back to the subject:
I like libertarian municipalism because it suggests a governance structure and process that is right-sized for our embodied human experience. I also like the notion that governance would be effected by people collaboratively, co-constituitively weaving together their claims to what they need, what they desire, what they aspire. This is very much like what Marco and I are modeling, in fact, on the platform co-op scale, for COSMOS.

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You can’t beat that response. Inspiring. Thanks for taking the time, Caroline. (I wasn’t necessarily suggesting you’re a spider lady. Look at the poor bird she’s got, going round and round; yet that’s nature. Laughing to myself, yes, kind of feeling like poking fun too, that portion of Christiane Cegavske’s stop-motion animation just leapt into my mind as I was recalling the COSMOS demo I had watched, so I went with it. I think it’s good to follow what appears of its own accord in our minds, even if at first it’s a little misplaced or seemingly out of nowhere; what appears does so for a reason. Vital pieces of information. Or they can be made into vital pieces of information: vitalized. One can do the interpreting afterward, or not at all and just enjoy open, free association. I realize in the photo of you in the video you have six arms, and six hands. I more threw out imagery undeveloped to see what you’d do with it, and you don’t disappoint, Caroline. I like how you went with the weaving ability of the spider. )

I’m not sure what kind of structure you and Marco concretely are aiming for. I could care less about quibbling over particular terms, or getting involved with too much theorizing in an academic sense. Maybe I introduced Crass from the wrong end of the in-your-face music, where one could come away with the wrong impression of those involved with it. Penny Rimbaud has run an “intentional community" in England called Dial House since the 70’s. It operates to this day. That it has existed for this long is impressive and speaks to the success of the ethos, as you put, embodied and actually practiced, not only imagined. Rimbaud literally took the locks off the doors, and said to anyone coming in: welcome, and take anything you like. He has said individuals did take things, and he felt liberated by the action. You can find interviews with him on-line. Wonderful down-to-earth, approachable, open and intelligent man, yet no push-over. Anyone who walks through the doors of Dial House is welcome. New people, new faces, new encounters to keep alive and fresh. The spirit of the place has been transformed into something very good to ward off more destructive energies. P. Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher (excellent distinctive artist who made much of the album art for Crass), were threatened by developers and eviction since the 80’s. As it says in a Wikipedia article about Dial House I post here: "In 2002, realising that their (the developers) ambitions for the land were in vain, (they) put up for auction much of the land and the few properties within it. Rimbaud and Vaucher, with the help of other residents and ex-residents, were then able to make a successful bid for the property and the future was at last secure. Since that time, they have progressively attempted to formalise the operating structure of Dial House while still acting as hosts to all and sundry. Organised events from philosophical gatherings to permaculture workshops have become regular dates, while more long term arrangements such as artist residencies make broader use of the space and facilities offered at Dial House.”

Turning to your and Marco’s COSMOS demo presentation: overall it’s impressive, much work obviously put into it, but it might be argued it also falls into the trap of a kind of infomercial sensibility, with the hypnotizing electro-ambient soundtrack, and the captivating computer graphics cleverness (regardless of intention, it does lull one into a kind of pleasant, hope-filled trance). One feels like a tourist on a futuristic tour bus, and the tour guides are giving a pitch to sell the goods. But the intention is to get individuals to hop off the bus and make contact with the actual terrain, if need be to shove them off, and to encourage them to roll up their sleeves and to get to work on expressing their own real experience, exploring and participating, right?

Thanks John, always a pleasure to virtually banter with you. :slight_smile:

Thanks for sharing about Dial House, first I’d heard of it and it sounds marvellous! Will check it out.

I would say the purpose of the video is to excite, to stimulate, to inspire. To let those whose souls resonate with the message reside in that place of “…This gives voice to what I feel / These people are kin” for a moment. The immediate objective of the video is to entice the viewer into considering joining the co-op as a bona fide member. Our actual framework–the rules of our game, the collective story we’re weaving–will be the playground into which we shove willing players. To access the playground, though, you’ve got to be a member. Because first, the individual must decide to mount the bus. They must self-select into the journey. Once they’re on the bus, we give them further orientation (of which the video is but one part), and then we open the gates and say “Now go self-actualize, interact, experiment, participate!”

An artist’s bridge to abundance is producing artifacts or processes in just so wondrous a way as to attract others who recognize something in their own experience when absorbing your work/art. We want those who resonate–which is not dependent upon getting the framing perfect, or possessing the right identity, or the right belief system–to reach out and say “I support you. What you’re doing speaks to me, speaks for me.” But then we take that interaction, and we draw them into a magical Alice-in-Wonderland dynamic web, into which their orientation to their communities, their lives, and their art can shift in the direction of greater self-actualization. That’s the ideal–because beyond “resonance” is “praxis,” and we won’t have a better world unless we lay hands and build one.

Compelling personalities, compelling sales pitches… none of these hold a candle to a well-fitting, majestic model. We want to craft a model that works, whose rules function to generate desired outcomes… the model is the DNA, the beating heart at the center of us functioning, thriving together, whereas the “sales pitches” are just us trying to build relationships between our clunky, beloved Frankenstein creature with the world at large. (The sales pitches are in service to the model–the goal is not capturing members for some kind of profit-driven plot… the goal is liberating members into enhanced creative flourishing–because in them, we see ourselves.) Thus we are really sharing our lucid dreams, not our sales pitches, and we’re keeping an eye out for those who appear to also be awake, and will make eye contact.

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A virtual banter match indeed, Caroline. Back 'atcha while standing on my head :upside_down: -Did you watch the cartoon short of the Tortoise and the Hare I posted for Ed Mahood? (- in the early years when Disney was still good, not a corporate brand inflating to gigantic proportions and becoming hollower and more insipid in gluttonous desire for monopoly.) I think of how it takes two to tango, two or four to play tennis, and same goes for truly engaged, stimulating and productive conversation; but it’s quite a sight to behold the Hare in the cartoon playing tennis against himself, and actually succeeding.

Sometimes to impress others I try to play the game against myself - those bunnies in the cartoon are certainly cute - but I end up tripping and falling on my face. I can’t keep up like the Hare does with himself. When no one returns the ball, or there’s no one else to play the game with, I’m smart enough now to opt for juggling. Here I surmise is where was born the monologue and soliloquy.

I know you, Caroline, and you, Marco, Ed Mahood and others, are no stranger to what you pour so much time and energy into and post and this practice and art of juggling for lack of anyone to jump onto the court on the other side of the net to return the ball. Many comment sections are barren and overgrown with weeds. Or if someone does jump in to play, it often soon reveals itself to be an uneven match, with the other person even appearing to be playing a different game and by a different set of rules, which is like speaking another language that the other doesn’t fully comprehend. Often, with each of us in different locations, there is such silence where we can’t see, that one doesn’t know if someone is there, or if there’s any audience at all. There comes a point when one grows exhausted and weary performing for an audience one isn’t sure is there, stops juggling, chucking the balls aside, and wanders off on long solitary hikes like Ed Mahood.

I’m mighty impressed by the attitude of the Tortoise in the Disney cartoon, I think suited to his character, with the hard shell he carries around for protection, but also a burden which contributes to his plodding, his slowness and social awkwardness, making him easy to underestimate and make fun of, but steady determination. As I read about this cartoon at the site “Cartoon Research”: “Max Hare (voiced by character actor Ned Norton) possesses speed so impressive that its sheer force un-roots trees from the ground and pulls the feathers from an observing crane. This type of extraordinary velocity, in which he crosses the screen in less than a second, was a novel and important concept for animation. (Wilfred) Jackson (the director - a cartoon of that quality was a team effort) appointed a bulk of Max Hare’s scenes during the race to Ham Luske, with Dick Lundy put to work on Toby Tortoise (voiced by Eddie Holden). Just as Luske’s poses and actions enrich Max Hare’s vain personality, Lundy’s animation of the amiable turtle is just as convincing. Toby is fairly reminiscent of Tex Avery’s Droopy—unassuming on the surface, but able to face humiliation with dignity.”

I like the idea of a co-op community which organically develops and keeps itself in check, of a manageable size, by what individuals put in and take out of it, in synch with natural breathing. Reading articles and comment sections lately with Trump going haywire signing all of those Executive Orders, seeing all the hysteria, reactionaries on both the left and the right, it has struck me how desperately many people desire a rigid hierarchy, a pyramid structure rising up into the sky, with an almighty ruler sitting on the throne at its apex. Is this what has moved into the void which the death of God has left? Many betray that they actually want to be led and told what to do. In their fear and trembling before the awe and majesty of the Universe, and their aloneness and vulnerability in it, quite often rendering us speechless, they want something, anything, to drown themselves in and worship “greater than themselves”, even if it’s the Golden Calf all over again or it comes in the form of a false prophet. They are ready and willing to fall in line, and to carry out without question whatever the ruler commands. Facts don’t matter in the face of such a desire, now grown fanatical, to at all costs hammer that hierarchical structure in place, building it up into the sky, and following the ruler in his impulses, no matter how crazy. Many of the exchanges I observe are tribal in nature. (I can’t stress enough that I see this happening on the left too. Individual responsibility and thinking for oneself is being given up for wild hysterical outbursts and drowning in the mob mentality, both left and right. A strange mirroring of reactionary factions of each other is going on. It’s perhaps the ultimate co-dependent relationship. Each pushes the other’s buttons, they grow more heated, catch on fire and melt into each other, and instead of recognizing their similarities, grow disgusted and indignant and explode into hyperbole. One group accuses the other of the very same thing it is practicing, only using different terms. The pot calls the kettle black.)


New article by Chris Hedges at Truthdig. He addresses what I was trying to say in the last paragraph of my last comment. Of course he says it so much better than I. An unleashing of psychosis, like a plague, internalized by many, causing frenzy and a blind lashing out, mobs and hordes forming in the infecting boiling broth, and climbing out of it, some burning and screaming, covered in blood, others tarred and feathered and covered in war paint, hurling accusations and insults at each other. This is the result of the confusion caused by the assault on reality and truth.

Giant lies relentlessly asserted, break one down and finally cave one in, and even against one’s will one begins spouting one’s own kind of propaganda. All the desperate attempts to get free of the big lies, tempts one in pushing back in reaction to lie oneself.

“Darth Vader” Bannon I think has actually intended this. It’s divide and conquer, calculated derangement and atomization of the masses. It’s a preparing of the soil for the mastermind to implant his own ideas and control minds.

Effective illustration heading the article. American flag strait-jacket, and look closely at the eyes and mouth of the big smiley face of the figure: rodent or bug-sized faces inside that are skulls. A swarm of maggots on rotting flesh. That’s us in there, struggling to survive, crawling all over each other inside the monstrously twisted contradiction, many no doubt being sucked down into the stomach and squeezed into the intestines.

Trump is the asshole.


Timing is everything and my timing is off lately. I have less time to offer when my wits are all about me and I can make enough sense to rattle off a response that is focused. Thanks to John and Marco and Caroline and others here who are keeping the ball rolling.

We are so pressed for a time of our own (much less a room of our own), to allow a few ideas to be developed peer to peer, with the right balance between abstract and concrete, and with a capacity to share what we used to call attention, if not in real time, at least in something that is readable. This lack of precision that comes about when you are unsure of your audience, even if you have an audience, amplifies the old fashion low level anxiety that was common before the internet age but now has reached toxic levels. Our public discourse is poisoned, I fear, not by the lack of intelligence or passionate concern but for the speed of events, triggered by the social media, and the tragic lack of recovery time, to reflect upon what is happening at various scales. I like micro-doses, what is happening on the ground, and I have a tendency for storytelling, and the old fashion oral kind of storytelling, once upon a time, kind of stuff-

Anyway, I just want to report, from Manhattan, the sky is not falling yet. I take public transportation, pick up food at the deli ( expensive!), go to work, pay the bills, observe lots of para military formations in public spaces, join in demonstrations and marches on occasion, and go back to my hovel and post on FB and watch Netflix, etc., and I see almost no violence, and much cooperation and politeness each day.

My inner world, however, is hyper active and I am prone to visions, out of body experience, and demonic visitations, to offset the rather mild mannered fellow I am by day. So that is where the action is for me and I am in hope that others are so visited that they too may share what insights they can from the interplay of what is happening between worlds in the making.

I suspect that Trump and the Clintons ( I speak not yet of proof) have incarnated in this time and place to play the loyal opposition to God. They are serving a purpose, diabolic for sure, as we in this fragile community, try to avoid ‘narrative collapse’. Perhaps we can renew ourselves through new narratives, and participate in a renewal of culture, a slow down as some have suggested, where, reading and writing, are front and center.

The best compliment, I received from a client was," You are more competent than you are confident." And yes that is true and I’m proud of that. So many confident people running around without a shred of competence! Certainly not a majority but enough to cause mayhem, when their tweets are arriving 24/7! They also serve who sit and read.

As an antidote, I offer this video, of two prominent public intellectuals, Sontag, ( a closeted lesbian) and the more recently deceased, John Berger, having a literary conversation, back in the good old days. Though this is a blast from the past, and they had many more productive years before them, there is an open curiosity in their differences that I find refreshing and absent from our world today, most conversations are almost unintelligible, by comparison. It is worth viewing for the problems they are having are similar to the ones we are having. As we are struggling with our narratives, models, maps, that seem to make little sense at all, it is good to look back and reflect upon where we have been, where we might go. I 'm not ready to give up the struggle but to review and renew, through our aesthetic relationships, a trust in our basic competence.


Thanks, Johnny. Your words are refreshing. I know the sky is not falling, one can still go about smiling on the outside as if everything is fine, but I am quite disturbed at the psychic content being unleashed on the inside and shaping the overall tone of public discourse. I see battle lines being drawn, and it remains to be seen if this is to be taken metaphorically or literally.

There IS an assault on truth happening and the attempt to hammer home and put in its place an “alternative reality”. It remains to be seen how much those of us who refuse to say that 2 + 2 = 5 will be made to pay for it, or how far those in power will go to get us to say and mean it. Trump did say he believes in use of torture. To get me to say 2 + 2 = 5 you’d have to waterboard me. For the moment, however, the technique being employed is a barrage of lies, which are meant to get into our heads and gradually break us down by their continual and relentless repeating and finally get us to say, “Wait a minute. I can see it now. No, no, I can feel it. You just have to understand the phenomenon, the movement. 2 + 2 does equal 5.”

Anyway, goodness it’s refreshing to have your voice joined in here, Johnny. Your voice has the sound of sanity. That metaphor you used elsewhere of all this on-line writing we do being like writing on water has really stuck in my mind. Rapids are ahead and possibly a giant waterfall, so everyone better be prepared, mindful for smart navigating, and have on their life-preservers.

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This morning, I asked my dear old lady, aged 94, how she feels. She says," I feel everyway!" We sing Broadway tunes to each other and she gets a sparkle in her eyes, and I see the little girl she once was, and the ancient Goddess she is becoming, as the cancer shuts down her physical senses.

I have a great belief in metaphor, actually I have an absolute faith to be more exact and the shared metaphors in the making are of great importance for our ongoing embodiment.

What I said about writing on water and what you say, John, about rapids up ahead and having a need for ‘life preservers’ is a glimpse I suggest into a shared reality that could become with a compelling future orientation, an alternative reality that we want to live in. It is out of such simple safe to fail imaginal experiments that we reveal the One and the Many are in harmony.

I say we need in addition to the raft and the life preservers a little music, maybe some percussion instruments to bang upon as we get ready for the outer focus as we descend into the turbulence. And also what we will need when we get to the serene bit when we have found a lake where we can kick back is a guitar or a harmonica, to accompany a tall tale, the slower music can invite us to enter trance states comfortably.

I hope someone packed a lunch, perhaps a can of sardines, cheese and fruit, a bottle of wine. I hope we can get back to dry land and make a study of the local flora and fauna, maybe a good internet connection can be found in the village…

And so the webs we weave may not deceive, and the memory, that is free of ego fixations, which includes short term and long term, linear and non-linear, real and imagined, personal and post personal, can create a natural feeling of repose.

There is ample evidence to support the belief that a compelling future creates a compelling present. I believe we can Janus faced ( borrowing from Koestler’s metaphor who got it from Shakespeare who got it from the Greeks) look forward and backward at the same time.

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Ha ha, Johnny. Maybe I called you sane a little too soon… The first thing I thought reading this reply is of the band which kept playing when the Titanic was sinking. But I get what you’re driving at by adding variety of approach to the overall spirit, to maintain openness and flexibility. Expression of freedom itself can disarm and empower and prepare us for more difficult battles ahead. Why paint with two colors, or only black and white, when one has the whole rainbow?

P.S. I haven’t gotten around yet to listening to the John Berger and Susan Sontag talk, but I’m definitely going to. I really appreciate you posting that.

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I love Chris Hedges and his diatribes and consider him to be a great public intellectual in the Emersonian tradition which I cherish dearly. And I believe we need multiple descriptions to avoid the fundamentalist traps that flesh is heir to. Beware Premature Cognitive Commitment. Someone said, I don’t remember who, that it is easier to imagine Apocalypse than an alternative to Capitalism. So we have to keep our alternatives lively with contrasting images, as different rates of change occur at different levels. Art teaches how to hold the damn thing together all at once.

Everyone should carry around with them a community of saints to call upon in their hour of need. I contact Shakespeare, Keats, Milton, Oscar Wilde. Also am fond of James Baldwin and Jean Genet. They are in my bones. Poets come first I suppose in my community of saints. Also Margarete Porete and St Joan of Arc and Simone Weill ignite my spiritual imagination as well. Then there are the singers and musicians.

We are creating a new civilization! How cool is that?


One can’t argue with this, though what constitutes a saint is debatable. I’m a little uncomfortable with that term. But for sure, to avoid the fundamentalist trap and becoming dogmatic and doctrinaire, tyrannizing over others and each other, keeping a spirit of openness and fluid spontaneity and approaching things from multiple angles is definitely a great remedy and practice. (I’m glad Marco posted some jazz. Jazz in its original spirit has social and political and revolutionary energies in it. It’s open and fluid and exploratory of the whole spectrum, and in this stands for liberty and freedom.) I don’t know if I could come up with a definitive list of artists and thinkers I can draw on. I’m all over the damn place, and find so much to appreciate and admire!

I’m a free-wheeling student. I do cartwheels wearing motley attire, changing mood and colors. I pull a hood over my head and bang on the gong of apocalypse, then the next moment leap up, throwing the hood off, and blow on my kazoo.


Oooooh, for the time to explore this. This is a theme whose unwieldy head has poked itself into my reality more than once (not just the Clintons and Trumps specifically, rather, let me say, perhaps more often than we might like to admit generally) over the years.

It is comforting to know one’s not the only one thinking certain thoughts.

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The following showed up on my FB feed this morning … it has a certain relevance to the thread:

Heather Richardson
January 29 at 10:50pm ·

I don’t like to talk about politics on Facebook-- political history is my job, after all, and you are my friends-- but there is an important non-partisan point to make today.

What Bannon is doing, most dramatically with last night’s ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries-- is creating what is known as a “shock event.” Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by claiming that they alone know how to restore order. When opponents speak out, the authors of the shock event call them enemies. As society reels and tempers run high, those responsible for the shock event perform a sleight of hand to achieve their real goal, a goal they know to be hugely unpopular, but from which everyone has been distracted as they fight over the initial event. There is no longer concerted opposition to the real goal; opposition divides along the partisan lines established by the shock event.

Last night’s Executive Order has all the hallmarks of a shock event. It was not reviewed by any governmental agencies or lawyers before it was released, and counterterrorism experts insist they did not ask for it. People charged with enforcing it got no instructions about how to do so. Courts immediately have declared parts of it unconstitutional, but border police in some airports are refusing to stop enforcing it.

Predictably, chaos has followed and tempers are hot.

My point today is this: unless you are the person setting it up, it is in no one’s interest to play the shock event game. It is designed explicitly to divide people who might otherwise come together so they cannot stand against something its authors think they won’t like. I don’t know what Bannon is up to-- although I have some guesses-- but because I know Bannon’s ideas well, I am positive that there is not a single person whom I consider a friend on either side of the aisle-- and my friends range pretty widely-- who will benefit from whatever it is. If the shock event strategy works, though, many of you will blame each other, rather than Bannon, for the fallout. And the country will have been tricked into accepting their real goal.

But because shock events destabilize a society, they can also be used positively. We do not have to respond along old fault lines. We could just as easily reorganize into a different pattern that threatens the people who sparked the event. A successful shock event depends on speed and chaos because it requires knee-jerk reactions so that people divide along established lines. This, for example, is how Confederate leaders railroaded the initial southern states out of the Union. If people realize they are being played, though, they can reach across old lines and reorganize to challenge the leaders who are pulling the strings. This was Lincoln’s strategy when he joined together Whigs, Democrats, Free-Soilers, anti-Nebraska voters, and nativists into the new Republican Party to stand against the Slave Power. Five years before, such a coalition would have been unimaginable. Members of those groups agreed on very little other than that they wanted all Americans to have equal economic opportunity. Once they began to work together to promote a fair economic system, though, they found much common ground. They ended up rededicating the nation to a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Confederate leaders and Lincoln both knew about the political potential of a shock event. As we are in the midst of one, it seems worth noting that Lincoln seemed to have the better idea about how to use it.

I just thought I’d throw that in here.

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Whereby, I beleve Caroline has a thing or two to say about this … it ain’t easy, but it’s possible.

But who cares what artists have to say? It’s part of the decline of cognitive engagement we experience these days. After all, Mr. Trump talks like a five-year-old and speaks to Lord knows how many. [quote=“johnnydavis54, post:14, topic:864”]
We are creating a new civilization! How cool is that?

And, yes, @johnnydavis54, 'tis cool, but 'twill also be one helluva lotta work, methinks.


Heh, heh, heh … let the old guy say it: the not-so-bad ol’ days when you could actually listen to … dare I even say it? … discussions on television.

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I would love to hear about that unwieldy head! I hope we can find the time to explore this theme further. I wonder what Gebser ( one of my community of saints) would make of all this?