Learn to think front on!

It is a very unfortunate tendency of contemporary (post-industrial) cultural thinking that the subject-object relationship of proper cause and effect is generally seen in reverse. This tendency to read reality ‘backwards’ has all sorts of dire consequences which undermine efficient communication and reception.

Let me put is clearly in this way: The subject (me or you) creates meaning in the process of living a life. During an average lifetime, most people will experience all sorts of things, and although there may be a tendency to experience one particular kind of thing more than others (depending on one’s personality and socio-economic status), most people will experience such a range of things that you will not be able to categorise either them or their experiences in a few easy words.

That is the reality. The subject experiences life. And that is meaningful. The interpretation of the experience is not as meaningful as the experience itself, however, since interpretation is a process one step removed from the actual experience of life — from actual meaning.

Now, let us talk about the object of experience. The object of experience is the person who is seen by someone else to be doing something. This object of experience is two steps away from the generation of actual meaning about life. Let me reiterate: The subject experiencing life is the most meaningful form of reality. Next, the subject interpreting their own experiences of life is rather meaningful (although this mode of representation is a diluted form of meaning.) Finally, some looker on watching the subject experience life and/or interpret their own experiences is three or four steps away from ascertaining the real meaning of the subject’s experience of life.

We get it back to front, however, more than often. For instance, we (as spectators) see the subject doing something or being something — and then the interpretation we make from a position three or four steps away from the point where meaning is generated becomes the point from which all meaning is proposed to emanate.

Thus we see that some poor person has fallen into a trap set for them, and has become a victim of some sort. It was an event that was just part of the subject’s myriad dimensions of experience in life. However, we conclude (in our detachment) that this is a defining event from which the subject’s character and identity emanates. Wrong!

Identity does not emanate either from a subject’s experience of any particular event. Rather, identity is always in the process of being made and reinvented — primarily be the subject herself, but then secondly by you in the position of the spectator (where you are standing, three or four spaces removed from her actual reality.)

So, to put this in more formulaic terms: If a person claims to have experienced a state of anger, or a state of happiness, or victimhood, that does not make them fixed in that position evermore, as a) an angry person, (b) a happy person, or (c) an eternal victim. No! Those are just passing phases of life, which we all go through.

You cannot turn a person’s experiences (or even your or their interpretations thereof) into an identity, expecting someone to wear your interpretation henceforth. That is very wrong.

You really have it backwards, when you do that.


7 thoughts on “Learn to think front on!

  1. It seems to me that this approach (broadly and generally shamanistic in its acceptance of subjectivity) is counterposed by Derrida’s ideas. He accepts reification implicitly. Written language is automatically reified, for him since it takes us away from respect for the subject and her “presence”. But for Derrida, reification is so, so fun, because you get to fuck it and cause it to fuck itself with deconstruction.So, you end up with nothing, a fucked reification. But it is so, so fun.

  2. We have to exist before we can think. Who we are is then dependent on a variety of determinations, some created by ourselves; but all created within a matrix of already existing sets of social and environmental circumstances.The Truth is always most closely associated with concrete being. Those closest to individual truths are those individuals themselves; but truth is also mediated through the social matrix of one’s relations to others and those relations have their impact on our own conceptions about our own individual truth. One’s identity is mediated both by one’s experiential history and the self-perceptions which are generated through time. For instance, if one is perceived by most others to be of a certain ‘race’, and one’s life is significantly impacted, one becomes more acutely aware of one’s ‘race’ as a result. Even though ‘race’ is not a scientifcally established truth, the ideological truth, which others have digested into their everyday behaviour, becomes a material force which affects one’s identity and one’s social relations with others. Ideologies become material forces e.g. racism and top down hierarchies of political/cultural/social power based on them, create in the individual a sense of identity, sometimes, as in the case of ‘race’, based on a pseudo-scientific ideology.

  3. We have to exist before we can think, but an abstract conception of oneself is never where our true existence can reside, no matter how much pressure there is on us to accept the abstract category that makes us fit into some social hierarchy. There is always a certain unsatisfactory falseness about living an existence defined by one’s own or other people’s abstractions. Therefore, it is necessary to return to the roots of our beings, to find out who we are — hence shamanism.

  4. I would say that our unalienated, authentic selves can attain their truth only within an association human beings who construct their conditions of existence on the basis of the principle that the freedom of all is based and dependent on the freedom of each and that this set of circumstances cannot occur in a class society, but can only be striven for within the workings of everyday life. Until that higher stage can be consciously attained by the majority of the population, people will continue to be subject to the identification of self with various and sundry ideological abstractions, some of which will be based on their material circumstances and others based on ideologies without concrete content but which have attained material force by virtue of their generarlized conscious and/or subconscious acceptance in a culture.

  5. Yes, yes. But I am loathe to jump into the same club as someone else, just because they identify me with my nature according to a reified category — eg. whiteness, femaleness or femininity, etc. So people will keep thinking in reified ways, but that doesn’t mean that I have to, as well.Rather, we could do away with a lot of the reification altogether — which is after all nothing more than a product of an epistemological error — if we were to give other people distance and respect enough to allow them to be themselves.Instead of presuming that we already know them on the basis of some abstraction which we happen to know, we ought to presume that we do not know somebody very much at all, and that we will have to work at it if we are ever to know them at all. That change in attitude could do away with a lot of reified thinking.

  6. Could you tell me how shamanism potentially helps people find out who they are/ return to the roots of their being in the context of this discussion? I’ve never studied shamanism but have had some personal experiences with it. Could you recommend some literature that might be of interest as well in this field?

  7. What I have gathered about shamanism is that it is a way of reading the broader culture you live in (or perhaps have lived in) through you body. By “body” I mean memories, dreams, physical reactions, and so on. So, how to go back to the origin that is yourself? I believe that we must do so by being able to read the cultural milieu through our own bodies. This implies a number of things. One must become particularly attuned to one’s body (in the ways described just above)and one must be able to interpret what is happening to it in light of what is happening within the broader political and social contexts. Also, one must not just have one way of reacting, but must have many different cultural counterpoints within one’s own psyche, so that one can more accurately measure one’s own reactions by having some internalised function of difference, to measure change within oneself. Just as we need two eyes in order to be able to measure distance (the two eyes conveying information to the brain that is cross-processed), so we need to have experiences that are broad enough to give us two poles of meaning to measure by.So, I insist that to appreciate eros, we must also have a deep awareness of thanatos, and vice versa.Only by being aware of both things at once, can we come to understand ourselves and how we are currently positioned in relation to these forces.

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