Note: I originally wrote this as part of the previous posting, but thought it had strayed sufficiently into a new topic, so here it is!
Being in the moment
We shouldn’t blame only ourselves for being particularly terrible at meditation, and needing a large amount of practice to become adequate and efficient at it. Why is this so? The eastern healing and philosophy traditions speak of the peace from being-in/accepting the moment, and though this might be historically true, it is by no means necessarily true in the wrecked environments of today that only humans dare live in—for some of these environments, even the versatile bacteria avoid them or are killed off swiftly by them, and keeping canaries close by became too depressing a prospect as they would flounder and flop, by neglect if not other evils; (would canaries last long enough through the dystopian supply chain tunnels and holding stations to arrive at your freshly fuming residence?) Most vital things are put on the back burner these days—think about the dried up plants forgotten in some corner—in favor of our spending our time with neatly organized rectangles made up of silicon, copper, glass, and plastics, like I’m doing as I type this.
The question still stands, why are we so terrible at meditating? I think there is something of a survival instinct to not sit and just be in so toxic a place, but to panic a bit and go through the motions of a disturbing yet purposeful, motivating anxiety phase. A meditation session in a common metropolis might go something like this: “focus on the sounds” echoing through the drywall; “breath in deep” the air fuming with wood varnish and furniture fire retardants; “sense your body” sitting in a chair that is bad for your posture; “place your hands on your inhaling belly” malnourished by the sugary yogurt bar; “imagine a solitary place” like being in your car with your windows up. Being in the moment is difficult when it isn’t a moment that deserves any closer attention—escape out of the moment is often the lesser of two evils for the human animal.
The moment that we crave is the one that is constantly changing because we are moving through a subtly evolving context that the total of our human selves were evolved to expect and appreciate (not just a limited portion of our cerebrums). The contextual evolution that we are adapted for has been marred by civilization efforts—artificial balancing techniques that really degrade the whole into segregated islands, treating everything as its own entity, and then seeking to weigh and balance these separate things at the hands of a cold calculating insurer or actuary. We have become normalized to stationary “being” as opposed to migratory “becoming”, and our bodies are rightfully inflamed and will continue to revolt symptomatically, by “catching” diseases like lupus, diabetes, arthritis, until we get up and do something about our not doing something about anything.
I want to focus this post around what is happening (and what is not happening) for your brain a la civilization, to tease out the profound subtle effects on the human experience of the world. To be sure, it would be wrong to equate subtle effects with small effects when discussing the human experience of the world. Noticeably large effects/complaints of modern society, such as too much pavement, too much time being demanded by employment, too many advanced weapons, not enough sleep, too many diploma mills, too many abbreviations, “etc.”, are arguably less detri-mental than what is happening inside our craniums. As normal as these noticeable (and bland) phenomena have become, it’s the subtle structures of our brain that are more fragile to the totality of civilization—or civilization’s lack of a totality—that need consideration.
Learned helplessness? “It’s not like it hurts,” is what a teacher might say to reason with a student who is refusing to read a textbook, or write down some notes. Such mental “activities” as reading and writing, computing math problems, searching analytically for patterns using the tools of human reason and logic, might be painful to the youth who haven’t yet numbed their instincts in favor of the platitudinal thinking heralded by civilization; pain can perhaps be translated as depression, a phenomenon occurring at an alarming rate for youth. Small pains are always manifesting themselves, but are we ever learning from the pain, or just learning to ignore it? The pain of the daily annoyances, the daily headaches (literally), and the daily drudgery—whether at the student level, the cubicle level, or the factory level—can point us to a much deeper issue: what is the purpose of memory, and are we using memory in the way it was evolved to be used? Is memory a repository for factoids, a static hard drive to park hoards of separate data bits? Based on the function (and dysfunction) of memory in the modern age, I would argue in earnest it is not. The fact that we require hard drives external from our brains is not only evidence that we have too many particulates in our world, but also that we are using our memory in a way (to track and categorize particulates) that it was never evolved to do.
We have come to a situation where we have simultaneously overburdened and underburdened the memory regions of our brain, just as we have analogously done with our digestive systems—we are eating far too many vegetable fats and grain based products soaked in pesticides and far too few game meats and pre-agricultural vegetable and fruit. Homo sapiens and our cousins in the homo genus have historically most always been migratory wanderers, and so it would make sense that our memories would be optimized for and crave such adventurous, changing circumstances that would beset a prehistorical nomad. Nowadays, our brains are not being fed the stimuli they evolved to be fed. They still work of course, but not in the optimum, which is why we never quite feel at our best. The exception being those fleeting moments when something—like a fragrance on the breeze—hits us and grounds us in a place where we feel so much more alive.
In memory of muscles. Our bodies are built to migrate through a constantly renewing cycle of different fauna at different seasons that brings us truly into the present, where there is no anxiety to escape, no anxiety to doubt whether or not we are supposed to be there. Our brain is merely one of many essential body parts in the conscious travel of our bodies through the diverse landscapes. These days, we so frequently turn/sprain our ankles not because of a random poorly placed hole on the landscape, but because there are so few bumps in a road, paved smooth for the benefit of machines, not necessarily to the benefit of the human body. New technologies aren’t progressing us, they are being applied to keep the context exactly the same, which is why our bodies atrophy. Even though it might serve as a remedy, think about how dire the situation is that treadmills exist—machines that keep you keep you moving but not going anywhere. That’s not wind you feel when you are on the conveyor belt, it’s Sisyphus trying to smack you for your unwitting mockery.
The ideas of stagnant property—of staying put, of living within a limited range—have become so normalized, so disablingly comfortable, that roaming is both impractical and dangerous. We are so far from following the seasons, of maneuvering to stay in the spring and summer, and instead are stuck in a place of just accepting and enduring the fall and winter. We have taken the passive role, of letting change happen to us and then reacting, rather than being the agents of our own change.
I want to here postulate the following statement that seems intuitively possible, but I cannot find a rationale—maybe its lack of rationality that makes it true for life—to fully ground it:
Memory is typically viewed as existing for recalling the past, but its real potency is when it is fully activated in the present through activation of the senses available to the (human) animal.
In other words, memory is fully existing in the present without distracting/taking-us-away from the present. An example of this might be when a fresh breeze hits your nose through an ascending grove, and the smell and degree of moisture hints at a new fauna’s choosing to flower; you make your way through the brush towards the flower, avoiding the thorny bushes without looking at them, none of this activity requiring a pause to ponder questions like “where did I feel this before?” Memory in its full form asks and answers for you, not serving to distract the larger body in which it’s embedded.
The Abuse (misuse) of Memory: Addendum
So I was originally going to title this whole post merely “the abuse of memory”, and I was going to have a secondary meaning to the title being related to the following picture, but then I changed the title, though I still feel that this is the right place for my commentary on the Armenian Genocide:
So, this post could have been framed in such a way to be critical of cultural efforts to use what happened in the past to mobilize people via guilt/anger to do some bidding in the present or future. Using and reminding people to access their cultural memory in order to squeeze funds out of them or their efforts, or even just their recognition in which they may bask. I’m not sure I want to fully levy these criticisms on this church’s efforts to raise awareness of the 100 year anniversary of the genocide, but I do feel there is something that smacks of marketing and propaganda, though I just can’t quite get at what it is.
Question: Which Apple Is Different From The Other Two?
The correct answer is choice “A”. “A” is the only apple that earned its letter, as it is the only one free of petroleum derivatives (if the organic label is worth the price). If ingested, the other two pseudo-apples would be harmful to your health. As far as toy safety, it’s safer to let your child play with apple B, as they might try (and succeed) eating apple C, mistaking it for food.
*Usually, revolutions are labeled by what results followed the watershed moment, so it’s odd how the green revolution is a title for how food was before pesticides revolutionized agriculture.
“How do you like them apples?”
representative democracy is when oligarchs take up acting
representative democracy is when oligarchs dabble in comedic theater
From Propaganda of the Deed to Propagation of the Seed
A core principle of conduct embraced by many anarchists is the notion of direct action—humans engaging directly in political or social acts without seeking recourse through a diluted, indirect pathway. Indirect actions could be categorized as those commonplace processes most of us partake in daily in modern industrial society, where we employ cadres of “middle men” to get our needs met, even at the expense of living in an alienated and hierarchical world.
Where and how we get our food is a realm fertile for direct action that has far too often been overlooked, and the more human efforts are put directly into getting our food in nature—something an anarcho-primitivist strives for—the less need and the less desire we will have to separate ourselves from the natural processes by using modern machinery and agriculture techniques that keep us out of the loop, ultimately keeping nature out of the loop too. Permaculture offers the surest bridges to allow humanity to cross from a concrete and machine besieged existence back into a thriving symbiotic connection to the rest of the living world. The paradeisos—the plentiful, self-perpetuating lush groves of our dreams—can be realized as actual places that we can stumble upon for a filling meal in our recapturing of the nomadic way of life. Our nomadic sensibilities are not irretrievably lost, but we may need to piece together a different game trail to migrate forward, back in time.
Seven Billion Nomads?
An anarcho-primitivist professing the wonders (and wanders) of a nomadic lifestyle might from time to time encounter a stickler who responds: “but there wouldn’t be enough food to support the seven billion humans; do you really think we should allow a mass die-off?” This is an uncomfortable corner for such an anarchist to painted into—especially if it’s by other anarchists—and it’s a corner where (mental) starvation will eventually occur and a primitivist may quit on the fertile, migratory utopia. Permaculture heroically shines light into the dark forest, growing multifarious roots out of such a trap, the wise path being a generally “zone 4” approach.
It would take far too long, in terms of human lives (and billions of human deaths), to wait for the succession of the modern monocultured forests back to the dynamic, efficient, high yielding places of yesteryear. Anyways, it’s doubtful the succession would privilege human’s food needs, i.e. humans, nor the bottleneck of species they have domesticated for food, could have had the evolutionary time or pressure to be fully equipped with all the appropriate digestive enzymes to enter into a diverse ecosystem and gain nourishment from thousands of different plants. The zone 5 mentality of letting nature do it’s thing must be dropped, and the zone 4 mentality of changing nature in analogous ways to fit human needs must be adopted. Here is a non-exhaustive list of permaculture ideas that primitivists can become familiar with and possibly implement in even a “guerilla gardening” fashion, depending on their accesses to land:
– Since forests are such masters of the hydrologic cycle, turning non-forested land—such as grasslands, deserts, and abused agriculture lands—into diverse food forests would prove the most immediately beneficial for producing a surge in available biomass fit for human consumption.
– Start figuring out foods that can be wildcrafted, “eating the weeds”, and introducing them to the palates of others as well as your own; once someone realizes they can eat lettuces growing wild in the forest, their lenses are changed and they start considering what else they can eat (bark? berries? bugs?).
– Sabotaging trees that are low in what they provide the ecosystem, and favoring and seeding trees that are much more beneficial to human needs and the ecosystem as a whole; this is especially relevant to our monocultured forests that are daily wasting the energy potential granted from the sun.
– I had other ideas when I conceived of this post, but they are currently unavailable; when they occur to me, I will edit them in.