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NOW THAT YOU’VE FOUND THE OTHERS WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

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Highlights

  • If I had to write the script for, let’s say, a puppet show about the heroes of the next few decades, the main characters would be: the undertaker, the bouncer, the artist and the midwife. If puppet shows are too silly for you, think of them as emerging archetypes.
  • I’m on a mailing list with the rock star and philosopher Alex Ebert, and he brings almost every discussion back to the failure to properly face up to death, to a comical extent, as if 1+1=death and 2+2=death! Yet death gives us life in a non-trivial way, and it is necessary for regeneration and metamorphosis. Death is also a helpful shift of register to help us escape the growth-to-goodness fallacy in developmental thinking because it is not another step at the top of the ladder, but an ever-present possibility that highlights the absurdity and unreality of smooth progression through life.
  • In her chapter in Dispatches from a Time Between Worlds Bonnitta Roy instead offers “a view where maturity and ripeness, senescence and decay as well as disappearances and vanishings create crucial openings for the game of life to go on. Neither progress, nor complexity, nor compounding evolutionary pressures can account for metamorphosis. Metamorphosis requires openings, and openings require the old form to be taken out of existence… Appreciate Plato, Kant, the Founding Fathers, the western canon and the ways of modernity. Appreciate them both for having brought you here, and for leaving themselves behind. This is the spirit of metamorphosis.”
  • We will need artists more than ever, to fashion the future and imagine new worlds into being. If we wanted to sound more distinctive we could speak of ‘imagineers’, or ‘imagination activists’ or ‘prophets’ or ‘alchemists’ or the french ‘animateurs’, or perhaps shamans, but mostly I mean true art in all its receptive, descriptive and generative power.
  • The prospect of a relatively good transformation happening will depend, at the very least, on artistic vision along the lines of something like Ben Okri’s ‘existential creativity’, an aesthetic orientation infused with the real possibility of the world ending. That sensibility brings with it a richer relationship to death and the cultivation of a way to transcend and includes the psychological hold of the images and patterns of the conventional world.
  • As Okri puts it: “We have to find a new art and a new psychology to penetrate the apathy and the denial that are preventing us making the changes that are inevitable if our world is to survive. We need a new art to waken people both to the enormity of what is looming and the fact that we can still do something about it.”
  • As we begin to question consensus reality, and open ourselves more fully to whatever life is asking of us now, new dispositions appear to co-arise. This way of being can be described as metamodern, but it is essentially a spiritual sensibility because it is about the vitality of our perception of the nature, meaning and purpose of life as a whole. The sensibility in question is not propositional but its texture includes the following orientations towards the past, present and future, which can be thought of as the post-conventional aesthetic.
  • The term post-conventional is derived from Lawrence Kohlberg’s moral psychology, but I am expanding its scope here to include at least some of the following: - Post-tragic (knowing life as tragic and beautiful, meaningful, purposeful) - Post-rational (respect for intuitive, mythic and mystical ways of knowing) - Post-extrinsic (societal purpose reconceived towards intrinsic value) - Post-exploitation (historically aware, and vigilant about abuses of power) - Post-tribal (seeking unity in diversity of all kinds, but not naively)
  • These five sensibilities are indicative rather than exhaustive, and are selected to describe an aesthetic rather than a sociological analysis which might potentially include post-capitalist (Paul Mason), post-democracy (Colin Crouch), post-materialist (Ronald Ingelhart), post-individualist (Paul Dallmayr) and others.
  • And why contend with tragedy at all? Because tragedy is the meaning and mattering of life. The more life matters, the more vulnerable we are to tragedy.
  • Perspectiva Trustee Ian Christie puts it like this: “We have had two centuries of a civilisation of unparalleled material progress, abundance and development based on extrinsic values (self-interest, materialism, economic growth, keeping up, social mobility); intrinsic 'beyond-self' and religious values have periodically been reasserted but they have lost their institutional hold and centrality to the stories that make sense of our lives. The extrinsic values celebrated by industrial society are now under real pressure in the West as scarcities begin to return and confidence in the future wanes, for good reasons of ecological disruption, social fragmentation and economic dysfunction and inequality.”
  • In Iain McGilchrist’s The Matter with Things this case is developed in depth, namely that we can know the world in several ways, particularly through the four distinct functions of science, reason, intuition and imagination and that a proper understanding depends on all of them.
  • To consider how exploitation permeates society systemically and what it would mean to move beyond it, Roberto Unger’s definition of a progressive is helpful: “someone who wants to see society reorganised, part-by-part and step-by-step, so that ordinary men and women have a better chance to live a larger life". By larger life he means a “a life of greater intensity, of greater scope, and of greater capability". To seek to be post-exploitation is also fundamentally Kantian in the sense that it’s about the resolve to see and treat people always as ends and never just as means to other ends.
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