"We are like quantum physicists, acknowledging that our presence, or our consciousness, can, and does change the reality of everything that we interact with. But poets and dreamers go way beyond that: We want to affect the great experiment. We go out of our way to change it because we yearn for it to succeed! " We have learned that when we look at the world, it looks back". We have learned that when we step into the world, the energy of the world does more than just support us, it gathers ecstatically around our feet, it pulls and pushes us to interact and engage and feel." - Gary Lindorff
I studied metaphysics as part of my degree program in philosophy. Comparative religions, existentialism got some air time, with token nods to classical ancient philosophy, all of which added to a cornucopia of possible, if implausibly and highly impractical, world views. In my youthful impatience, enamored as I was with post-modernism and the miraculous leaps of technology I was witnessing, I found this extremely distracting, in fact downright annoying, since they all borrowed much from the prevailing mythologies of long expired physical empires and intellectual traditions. I judged that unfortunately, as building blocks for the formal architecture of Western thought, they ultimately lay a much too durable foundation for the centuries of cul-de-sac erudition and tedious sophistry which characterizes much of formal philosophical inquiry.
How could I be so dismissive? Well, I was young and impressionable and fell in with a bad crowd, hence discovered the 20th Century tools which would undermine the entire basis for asking the "big questions", a methodology which smugly rendered the entire pursuit of philosophical understanding henceforth a fool's quest. This was the suite of WMDs known among what I would now consider the anarchists of modern philosophy, the ordinary language analysis storm troopers. These were the brash, anti-establishment butchers of speculative and normative traditions from Plato to Russell, Aristotle to Whitehead, Aquinas to Kant, Hegel, Hume, Locke, and Descartes. All these silly old fools were targets of a faddish but no less galvanizing snideness and smug derision, they were the laughingstock of a rip-roaring dialectical rodeo, purveyors of the philosophical joke that went on too long, creators of reams and reams of mind-numbing argumentation and treatises, producing one punch line after another, an endless rolling carnival which had ultimately become dated and irrelevant and frankly not any longer very entertaining.
I was so cloistered in this cult that at university, I was totally unaware of Noam Chomsky's political work. He was merely a gateway drug for the work of J.L. Austin and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and their mechanistic mauling and demolition of philosophical problems using language analysis. Talk about taking the creative excitement out of philosophy and turning it into a crossword puzzle or a good game of Scrabble! But infantry soldiers don't debate political systems. They shoot to kill.
I eventually recovered. Now I've settled into merely being a materialist. That's not 'materialistic'. I'm far from that, trust me. But I live and function primarily -- we're talking 99.9999% -- in a material world. In my crucial formative years, science was with exponential leaps proving its potency. Relativism -- modulated by logical positivism -- was the new black. Empiricism won the day. Computers would eventually eliminate grey with the efficacy of binary. Now the God Particle joins the other billiard balls on the cosmic pool table and blockchain is even redefining what money is. I should regress to reading Tarot cards? I didn't in the least miss the rabbits foot I had lost as a boy. Now I had a iPad.
Yep, I'm hooked. Smitten. Sold. Even if it doesn't produce a very charming death bed scene, I'll go with science over seance. Magic and miracles are for the desultory denialists and the leisurely lulled.
So . . .
This is what I brought to the game as I began to work my way through Healing the Land with Tao, looking for places to insert my toes and outcroppings for my fingertips, so I could begin the healing climb. I wasn't even sure I wanted to do this. Was there a view at the top?
But hallelujah! Because Gary Lindorff is so lucid, his writing so accessible, much to my surprise and relief I found I didn't need any special skills, footholds and finger-friendly features, much less safety nets or rappeling gear.
Frankly, the far-reaching explorations in this book arrive on their own terms, self-packaged, user-friendly, turnkey savvy. Because the "things" in the nature of things are syllogistically and ultimately "personal" -- if I can use such a mundane word -- and whether we choose to ignore them or not, most of what he talks about constitutes with or without our acknowledgement, the entire foundation for that epic collection of experiences we call 'life'.
There's a great quote that sums up what I'm trying to say here. It opens Chapter 5:
"Where are we? We are in the middle world. Is it the same place for you as it is for me?"
This is fascinating on a number of levels. The second question, of course, alludes to the essential epistemological quandary.
Yet in the framework of the Taoist perspective we are prompted to ask: Despite all of the hand-wringing by philosophers that has transpired over the centuries over this, is this really something that needs to be resolved? While it's an intrinsic component -- some might say consuming pathology -- of Western intellectual tradition to leave no problem unsolved, no question unanswered, such obsessive-compulsive behavior has often produced more conceptual havoc, confusion and directionless daydreaming, than comforting, satisfying results.