This short post is a follow-up to my previous one.
The old adage, and truthful, is that one never sees their own shortcomings; only those of their neighbors. This isn’t just a one-off. The fact that this is true points us towards another fact, and that is humanity accepts the relational interactions that it engages in as foundational – unchangeable – to the very physiological and psychological nature of our species. We see the manner, the way, in which each human being engages with another human being – an individual – or to a number of human beings – a group – as what we are in a natural state. In other words, the manner in which we relate to one another and communicate with one another is what we refer to as being normal; it’s natural and typical of a human being who is sane and ordered; the median of human experience and range of expression. It’s observable in our history, we exhibit it now in the present, and most likely we will continue this normal into the future. This is just how a human thinks, talks, and acts. We really have no idea what an alternate to this normal could possibly be.
Let me suggest an alternative, or at least point towards one.
The next time you’re around other people, listen to their conversation. Estimate the percentage of words that are basically superfluous versus those words that are pertinently meaningful. Perhaps, I need to identify, and thus separate, words that are superfluous versus meaningful.
Think of superfluous words as what we refer to as ‘small talk’; those words that represent the courtesies we engage in when coming into discourse with another individual, and those words that are meant to build a relational capital between oneself and the person you are conversing with; relational capital being those words and actions that causes one to value another one in a positive manner and state. Superfluous words are also those words whose function is to make the person speaking feel better about themselves; to build relational capital with oneself; to flatter oneself.
Think of meaningful words as the shortest path to a functional goal; with ‘functional’ defined as the state of being that promotes the individual to their intention. They are impartial, neutral, unbiased, and non-partisan. They might as easily promote emotional states of being as physical states of being, but they are, in themselves, void of ‘small talk’, or superfluidity. In this case, I am not referring to a fluid that exhibits a frictionless flow, but rather words that have no meaningful import within any conversation. There’s zero abrasion to the intent of the conversation. They are there for either self-flattery or flattery upon another.
Perhaps an easy example to illustrate what I am talking about would be the following. What does a cashier at your grocery store say to you when they begin to check out the items you’ve brought to them. Something like, “Hello,” or perhaps, “How are you?” followed by, “Did you find everything you needed?” The first two sentences are superfluous in nature that build relational capital; they are encouraging you to consider their interaction with you as a positive one. The third, or last, sentence is a meaningful one. You came there for certain things, they want to make sure you found them.
A second example of the superfluous and meaningful is a tougher one that could cause a person to debate with oneself over such for some time to come. Your married; for the last twenty-four years. You both went to bed together in the evening, in the same room and bed, and woke up together the next morning. What are the inevitable, first words out of their mouths?
“Good morning.” Sounds fine to me, and I’m sure you also, but let me ask a question here. First though, the setting. Both got out of bed after saying, “Good morning.” It’s Saturday. They both have the day off. They work together in the garden in the morning, wash the car and clean out the garage in the afternoon, and cook up a delicious dinner together in the evening. The question:
When the clock struck noon did they turn to each other and say, “Good afternoon.”? When the clock struck 6:00pm, did they turn to each other and say, “Good evening.”? I’ll take a guess and say they did not. So, why did they say, “Good morning,” in the morning?
I know. I know what you are going to say. “They were asleep. They’re reconnecting, bonding, to one another after awaking from their sleep.” And there’s my point. A physical state of being – asleep – is considered as a separation between two people who, above all others, should be inseparable. Were they emotionally separated also? How about spiritually separated?
Everyone is physically separated; being contained within separate physical bodies. Were they emotionally separated while asleep? I imagine couples could argue from both positions; yes, and no. And what about spiritually separated? I believe few people are able to converse on such a consideration for the simple reason that few could accurately describe the spirit within oneself, and what characteristics – what part of being who they are – constitutes that spiritual portion; its potential, its possibilities. My personal opinion is, “No,” their spirits are inseparable. Yet, we default to a “Good morning,” because we consider being asleep as a separation of something obviously more spiritual in nature than physical or emotional. Do you not love someone while you sleep and therefore must renew it when awake, or is it that we find our normal condition so fragile, so imperfect, so insecure, that we must reconstitute ourselves continually through superfluous ‘small talk’?
I should stop this post here, but I want to illustrate what I wish for you to consider by noting one other subject that’s related; in an entirely different way.
In the country of Tajikistan, two individuals, Jay Austin and Lauren Anne Geoghegan, were murdered recently. They were killed by five men in a car who believed them to be “disbelievers” of the truth and power of Allah. The men never shared a word with either person, nor knew anything about them. The two just looked like they were “disbelievers”; in other words, privileged Westerners who they thought were most likely Christian, possibly atheist, but certainly couldn’t be Muslim.
What were Jay and Lauren doing in Tajikistan? They were taking a year off from their jobs to bicycle around the world. They had come to realize that the practical, obligatory world of work – meetings, teleconferences, time sheets and passwords[i] – was a tiring experience that were too visceral for their enriched, advanced philosophy of life.
Indeed, the two were Westerners. They both had graduated from the prestigious university, Georgetown. Both had viable jobs; he had worked at HUD, she in the admission’s office at Georgetown. Both were vegans. Both were progressive and embraced a philosophy that viewed the world in a positive light. They were confident in their assessment that the world was a place that valued trust and goodness above all else. In Jay Austin’s own words:
“You read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place.”
“People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil.”
“I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own.… By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.”
“You get a feeling of wanting to give back, not just to this person who has welcomed a stranger into their home, but to the wider world.”
“You become someone who wants to welcome others into your home. You become a merchant in the gift economy.”
Their deaths are the world’s loss; not because I have any preference for their philosophy, but simply because they are persons. However, if but enough of us could embrace such a philosophy as theirs, the world of humanity could achieve the unimaginable of universal and pure goodness that it yearns for. Mr. Austin was correct in believing, that no matter the discipline, people should be able to get along simply because we all have the same goal.
And so, I return to the very nature of our normal methodologies of engaging in relationships that I began with in this post.
This social construct – our normal – that I referred to earlier is responsible for both these philosophies about human existence; the progressive, non-hierarchical, ecologically-balanced, equality-based philosophy that Jay Austin and Lauren Anne Geoghegan embraced and the traditional, religion-based, hierarchical, dominion-oriented, submissive philosophy of those five men. Both have views of the world that would culminate, once everyone gets in line, in universal peace. In fact, every historical authority has had the same goal, the same ideal, so you name it and its methodologies came from the same root.
That which separates us is that which is common between us. By its very nature, our normal is extremely divisive and deadlier than polonium-210. This is an assertion that requires no defense, as human history speaks for itself.
So, we have the following. One, our normal intersections require continual reconstitution through superfluous activities in order to maintain an existence that is highly temporal. We refer to them as ‘small talk’ or courtesies. I could also say that virtues and morals – the manner in which were recognize them and implement them – are also of this superfluous nature. Two, this normal state of being is responsible for a significant number of premature injuries and deaths, and we refer to this as the cost of progress. That fact sort of takes the fun out of being progressive. That fact is also responsible for today’s rejection of almost anything traditional.
Courtesies, virtues, and morals are essences of absolute truths. However, I suggest that we err in how we choose to recognize them, and how we implement them as tools to maintain the normal in its status quo. They need to be viewed differently. They need to be seen and understood as ontological conditions of the human species that arises from the nature of what we know as the universe, the cosmos, the macrocosm, the Creation. They are there whether we like it or not, as constants. It’s only in our practices, our normal, that they can be distorted for one’s selfish use, and we all are quite good at doing just that.
I guess my argument is that we need to escape from our normal. We need to take a hard look at those principles and practices of our social expressions and ask if their use is truly worth the cost. Our primordial past has cast our genetics as surely as one throws the dice in a crap game. But the game isn’t over yet. What was considered a lucky-seven as recent as two-hundred thousand years ago, might be a hissing snake-eyes today. Evolutionists could easily tell you about how natural conditions can push a species along a path to extinction if it cannot adapt to the changing scenery.
I personally believe that our future lies in a spiritual life. I didn’t say a religious life. I consider religion to be one of those institutions of principles and practices that need a reassessment; not banishment, but a serious realignment. The Muslim faith needs to address some of its violent tendencies, and Christianity needs to be a little less accepting of its sins. I personally believe that humanity’s genetical, overarching need for physical domination of the human landscape is coming to a close. Its authority is being increasingly questioned and confronted as each century passes, and it’s getting harder and harder to justify physical domination or force for most conflicts. We are discovering alternatives.
Now, this is but one piece of the puzzle; the puzzle being, “What alternative is better than what we refer to as normal?” I know it has a lot to do with the disinterment of what we call spirit, which is that part of one’s soul that is unaffected by the mortal nature of existence in a physical world. Within a spirit is contained what I referred to earlier as the courtesies, the virtues, morals, etc. It cannot be swayed by the principles and practices of humanity’s ideologies. It knows not ‘small talk’ simply because one’s spirit is in universal communion at all times. It is literally the manifested expression of existence. The spirit recognizes no authority; simply communion. It is not submissive to anything else because it is in communion. It needs not free will to jockey an ever-changing landscape of human interactions, nor does it concern itself with mortality, because it knows not either condition to begin with. It doesn’t even acknowledge religion; an institution that has laid claim on the word spirit, while ignoring its actuality, as well as its true character.
I guess this rant is the butter on the bread; a loaf I have not discussed as of yet in its real form. That comes soon. What comes next is a discussion on one of the central protagonists of normal; authority.
God Calls Us All Into His Service – Reese