Thursday, November 29, 2007

why do we mistake experience for gods and demons

These are some sketches of a conversation I had with my little brother after we saw this movie called the MONSTER SQUAD.

Like enemies. People always like to invent enemies. Or pin the blame on someone. When you feel angry, what's your first response? To be angry at Danny, right? Like if you walk into the kitchen and see a pot of spaghetti lying on the floor all over the place, what's your first reaction? To yell "Blackie! [our dog] Why did you knock over the spaghetti?" When in fact what probably happened was:

Danny accidentally steps on Blackie's tail and Blackie barks at Danny so Danny hits Blackie and Blackie runs away and barks into Shanna so Shanna runs around the living room divider away from Blackie into the kitchen and Danny is running into the kitchen to go cuddle with mom and Blackie knocks Shanna 'cause he thinks Shanna is playing and Shanna falls on Danny and Danny hits the pot and pot falls all over the floor and so Shanna and Blackie and Danny all run down stairs 'cause they think mom is going to blame one of them which she does.

Many things that happen in life are due to these complicated dances and we are not often willing to take the effort to appreciate the complex ecology of dances, so we are very quick to pin the blame for something on someone. And especially if there is no one to obviously put the blame on we invent a monster or an enemy or a god.

Like the Frankenstien monster... He was neither good nor bad. He was just like a new born baby curious to find out about his world. The village in which he was born was ill, that is, the whole complicated ecosystem of the people and loving and being brother and sister and employer and employee and the police and the economy and the customs and such was somehow ill. And the poor people who were inside that ecosystem (so they couldn't quite find its skin, even if it had one) were too frightened and frustrated to study the ecology of their dance and so blamed the illness on this newborn child of Dr. Frankenstien. THEY created the monster. Notice how they incite him to violence, teach him that he is ugly... convince him that he is a monster, because they need someone to be the monster.

Now when that man who had been in the Nazi concentration camps said he had known some monsters, perhaps he meant that he thought the Nazis were monsters. Was each person caught up in the Nazi "illness" a monster or was Hitler the monster or was the word "Nazi" the monster or just what?

Germany was ill. Germany was a complex ecosystem. For that matter, it wasn't just Germany that was ill... or, where was Germany's skin? Germans traded with other countries, fought wars with other countries, learned other languages in school, shared stories back and forth with other countries... So maybe all of Europe was ill, or... Any way she had acute pains in Germany.

The German people were confused and frightened. They had been through the terrible World War I (and got the shit end of the stick for it, too) and through a terrible depression and not enough of them were strong enough to make the effort to study the ecology of their dance and find out why it was ill.

For that matter neither did the other people of Europe make the effort to study the ecology of their dance. Well... now, it's tricky. 'Cause people seem to be afraid of such big ecosystems and like to hide in easily definable skins. If they see that something about Europe is sick, they don't want to admit that it might have something to do with THEIR country, that maybe it has something to do with the way THEY interact with the people of the rest of Europe. Or if their country is ill, they don't want to admit that their country is a kind of myth. That it is so intimately linked to other countries for its very existence as its unique self that perhaps it isn't only exactly inside its own boundary. And they will have to understand someone else's country also in order to understand why the dance that their country is part of is ill.

So they took the easy way out and invented some monsters. They decided to blame the illness of their country, which was really the illness of all of Europe, on "the races which were making their Aryan people impure". The Jews became the focus as just such a race. But I really shouldn't say, "THEY decided", because it was all of Europe that was ill, not the individual people in Germany that were ill. Who made the decision? The illness? The German ecosystem? Even with our beginnings in the studies of bifurcations in cooperative systems, we are still not very capable of understanding such questions. But, as the Jews were not the CAUSE of the illness in Europe, perhaps the Nazis were not entirely the cause for the attempt to eliminate that mythical disease.

But wait a minute Barry! Aren't you always fond of saying that corporations don't kill, that large systems don't kill? That individual people, you and I, make the decision to kill that person or not? To comply with such a corporation or not? Yes, very complicated. Where is free will, where is evil, where is sin? Who (what kind of ecosystem, what level of nested dances) is responsible? TOUGH QUESTION!

So the Jews weren't the monsters as some people would have liked to believe, and neither were the Nazis the monsters. Or, ok, call the Nazis monsters, and you then have to call the Jews monsters also, because monsters are just the fantasies of small groups of frightened men. Even by calling the Nazis the monsters instead of the Jews, we still come no closer to understanding the subtle illness of the complex ecosystem of Europe. Calling the Nazis the monster, and then wiping THEM out, and naming what is really horrible about western civilization's illness as an easily compartmentizeable agent is the real danger.

So the point is that we get angry, we hurt, we get confused, depressed, and we aren't very good at diagnosing these illnesses and healing them. Or for that matter, on the other side, we get proud, or we develop skills, or we "become" powerful, or [expand...] and we don't quite know WHO HAS the power, or WHO is responsible for these fortunes either. Our misunderstanding of how these dancing ecosystems work especially mess up our relationship with power.
So, how to heal? Three steps.

1) Understand how these dancing ecosystems work. How we create these myths of selves inside skins, of causative agents.

2) Appreciate how difficult is the mystery of WHO, or WHAT LEVEL of the dance is responsible. We need to learn to appreciate the mystery of these situations. That they cannot always be 'solved' so quickly by finding simple causes.

3) We need to find sources of strength, calm, and softness in order to be able to live with anger, frustration, and hurt, while we thread our way through the complicated dances of which we are part. Sources of strength which will allow us to hold back from reacting immediately, even while it 'seems' as though we are being attacked.

Ok, let me tell you about monsters and Nazis and Jews and enemies.

This universe is full of living creatures, right? Now the thing about living creatures is that they are very complex dances of webs and cycles of dances, like rainforests and ecosystems and families and languages and cities and countries and people. Like even you, Josh, you are not exactly just you. You wouldn't be quite the same if you hadn't grown up with Shanna and Danny, or if you didn't live in a family where Shanna and Danny are always fighting. There is a little bit of dad, and mom and Danny and Blackie and Shanna and me and your teachers and you friends in you. Well not exactly IN you... Look at river. A river isn't just the water flowing IN it 'cause if you took a bucket of water from the river it would not act like a bit of river. A river is a response to water being born somewhere high up in the mountains and some place low in the valleys for it to flow into and some just weak enough spots of ground along the way through which the valley can call the water from the mountain towards it to cut out a river bed. But the mountain and the valley and the gravity and the soil are not IN the river. Like the people in the twenty third century calling you to get up and learn your Torah to pass on towards them, which the people thirty centuries ago put together. They all aren't exactly IN you, but if that pair like the valley and the mountain weren't IN RELATION to each other, then you would never need or want to learn Torah and you would be a different person than you are today.

Ecology is the study of such complicated dances that don't exactly stay inside their skins...

People don't like to take the effort to study the ecology of dances...

When such dances get sick, it's very hard to tell what exactly is wrong with them and how to readjust the steps to make them well again...

Especially when you are part of the dance. When people are part of such a dance/ecosystem and it gets sick, they invent a monster, who is SMALLER than the dance (or a MEMBER of the dance), to blame for the sickness and think they can cure the sickness by killing the monster.

The ancient Greeks invent Demeter to explain the fertility of fields, Athena to explain the way emotions work in the complicated ecosystems of their minds, families and societies.

Is God a monster? Right that's the monster we invent to get out of understanding the biggest ecosystem of all. Or all of them at once as they interact around our lives.

Just as the Nazis might have seen the Jews as the causative agent of an illness they didn't understand, (they didn't even understand exactly what "body" was ill) Just what is it that doctors do? And recall that many seminal leaders of the medical and chemical industries in our country came from the Nazi dance.

Don't forget to tell of Stephen King and his stupid story of "children Of the Corn". How in creating a phony monster, he totally misses the illness that is really there, the one in the American Agricultural Ecology.

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