Nietzsche’s Prophecy

Posts related to my book “Nietzsche’s Prophecy”

Where am I? Where are we? When is now? How did we get here? Where might we be going? How would we know; or think about the paths upon which we have embarked?

The technical mind, looking out at a world which it wants to work, wants to know how…and now.

How to do this or that, better, more efficiently, and with the least cost?

I said, read, think. Read the masters, the great minds. They set the problems, framed the questions, the visions which we call common sense. Their believers, followers celebrated and granted continuity to those claims and understandings.

It is a view of a reality which we think is the great reality. The response: lacking history or intellectuality and wanting, instead of ideas, some notion of proof that it will convince, and show us what and how to do…”To do what”, I asked. “Why”, I asked. “The world is not so well,” she replied. “It must be made to work better. I want, how I want, to make it work better; soon, now!”

“Work; better?” I mused. To keep idlers busy? To make us strong, rich? Because there is something so wrong with indolence that its cure must be sought? Are you doomed to be, but not to live? Hungry, desperate…to do?

Lacking history, lacking some sense of why and what, but only how, she accepts uncritically some sense of doing which her experience of the present turns into the ways of the world. Is living in the immediacy sufficient? For what? For whom?

I was there! – this year’s NCMR was just a block from where we live in downtown Minneapolis, the Conference was exciting and important. It was great: focused on the “mechanics” of regaining a Voice in American (political) life. I have a few areas of criticism, which I’ll get to as someone who thinks that ideas, history, visions for the future of democracy are critical to this discussion.

To begin: more than 3,000 people were there – from all over the country – who agreed that the media are in the hands of the rich, corporate, greedy: thus powerful. Worse, that the rich (Rupert Murdoch comes to mind) are acquiring more and more outlets for journalism as are the politicians who use their money to get more and more power: control most of television, radio, and the faltering newspaper “business.” The only outlets right now are Public Television, NPR, and a very few smaller outlets of public radio –(I do listen to Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” most days, as well as the evening daily presentations from the West Coast and weekly Counterspin…and the blogosphere).

Questions of the FCC (two of the Commissioners were present) being tempted to permit unlimited ownership of and in a nervous time, raised questions of journalism, truth, and the very possibility of whether other than the rich and powerful can have and maintain a voice in America and the world.

How to oppose the rich and powerful and their friends: by getting together this past weekend. Bill Moyers was at his brilliant best – exploring the realities of these complicated times – and urging us all to become even more active – each of us. There were also other fine speakers, and many smaller discussions. Bill and others explored the internet and its possibilities for gaining power and voice. Arianna Huffington told her story, and did many others (Amy Goodman, Naomi Klein, David Sirota, John Nichols of the Nation, Lawrence Lessig and many more who told their stories and how they worked and focused on changing or creating new outlets to get everyone’s story into the world: including the poor, ethnic, immigrants… any and all of us who oppose the rich and powerful, and who worry that this country and democracy are at great risk.

Here’s the full video of Moyers’ energizing keynote…

I’m excited, exhausted, feel very fortunate that we were able to hear all these people, gather their excitement and give them our support and best wishes.

My concerns have to do with the concentration (absolute necessary, but…) on the “mechanics” and how-to-do all this. The job has to get done, or else!

What’s not much up for discussion are the times we’re in and the history of how such times were displaced: the Gilded Age of the late 19th century which led to the Progressive Democracy, and the boom times of the 1920’s leading to the Great Depression and Roosevelt’s rethinking toward the New Deal. The current plutocracy and control of money and power is not a new story, and it’s useful to study how the others happened and how; and how they fell.

Also the question of ideas, of PR (public relations) which has gotten us to this moment needs to be studied: the power of TV (especially) and how it works for or against us, happened and got us here – but how it worked, where it might be going, how to re-frame and re-cast it – is a lot about ideas. We are not all innocent in adopting similar ways of thinking and doing – and it’s important to try to gain various perspectives on us, these times…

And last: I think it’s terribly important to think about these times: us, global, how to envision the future of democracy. The rich and powerful have been playing with ideas and visions at least since the early 1970s with think-tanks, and many other directives and ploys. We – who oppose – have been too occupied with opposing the peoples in power, less on questioning the nature of power into possible futures.

A recent review of Nick Maxwell’s book – founder of Friends of Wisdom – met with them in London last month – and my comments interwoven.

From Knowledge to Wisdom

Nick Maxwell’s recently republished book – “From Knowledge to Wisdom” – may be reaching its time. First published a quarter century ago, it got many good reviews. But its ideas didn’t “go” much of anywhere in terms of thinking or practice; a palliative with little action; a “feel-good” approach which we could ignore until…right now – says Nick.

From Knowledge To Wisdom

Nick asserts that we are heirs of earlier ideas, committed to the exploration of the universe, but without the thoughtful (moral) bases which gives philosophy and life its groundings and meanings. Philosophical knowledge has taken us far and wide, but…leaves the human condition with little more than promises of the ultimate utility of that knowledge. It contributes little to the “best hope of helping us progressively to resolve our most urgent problems of living…a more humane, a more just, a happier, a saner and more cooperative world.”

As the book takes us from several century old ideas of knowledge to the “needs” of the current era, Nick guides us through the history of thought which has dominated (philosophical) knowledge then and endures to the present moment: what is the universe, how do we study it, how do we know, what is truth? We have come far, in many senses, but now seem to be at some impasses.

He urges us to rethink where we are, how we got here, and the deep necessity to broaden our explorations toward (philosophical) wisdom, rather than being bound to particular and narrow historical ideas of what knowledge consists in.

Wisdom is the perspective that how we go about thinking and pursuing knowledge must include its effects on and implications for the human condition. In so many senses, knowledge has “overstepped” itself, and has endangered our very existence: e.g., the blights of the 20th century – holocausts, atomic bomb, GMO’s, and so much more. Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s a piece I wrote for Nicholas Maxwell’s Friends Of Wisdom Newsletter, No.1 November 2007:

One wonders: what is wisdom? Wisdom may surely be described as states of someone’s being, thinking, and knowing. Wisdom includes the ability or desire to expand one’s thinking beyond the usual or ordinary. The notion of wisdom includes extending one’s knowledge to reframe that knowledge in increasingly wider and deeper contexts.

But wisdom is also a concept depicted in the thoughts and texts of various thinkers who have somehow risen above or beyond the more usual thoughts of those who know, merely. It is surely historical, may be prophetic, and often difficult to portray in any present moment.

Last Converstation Piece by Juan Muñoz photo by Molas

For those of us who might wish to move beyond or transcend the contents of our knowledge, wisdom is also an ongoing personal dialogue. Sometimes clear, often an existential struggle, it is also an attempt to move on, to grow, to place our knowing in new, more complicated, or transcendent contexts. It is an attempt to locate new positions from which to see and to say what grows in meaning, and perhaps how and why.

Here, I will not attempt to frame the widest -deepest meanings of wisdom. Instead, I will attempt to describe some of my personal perorations both to locate and pursue some paths toward wisdom.

Some ponderings in one’s (my) internal dialogue: I have grown beyond some earlier thoughts and thinking. Where do I go next; whom to read or re- read, what next to study? These are hopefully framed within judgments of integrity and self-critical trust.

Other personal dialogues ask to be updated from time to time: Whose ideas in which traditions – ancient, current, “timeless” – inspire me; upset me? Whose works, ideas, thinking are aspects of my thinking – aware or not so aware? I trust myself, usually and mostly, but…

And I am not alone. I have a life- partner and some few others whom I engage-with mutually as critics and mentors: inspiring, tempering, sometimes fomenting. Who else do I trust, use as a critic or respondent? Are they also “growing” in their own quests?

In other contexts, I ask different sorts of questions, or desire some senses of personal growth. These seem to involve forms of “expansion” of my knowing. I want to get beyond, to think more universally; to include all people (pasts, present, and “visions” into the future), grow in aspirations, often searching for “more.”

I am quite certain that some of the foundations which have led to these yearnings, involve various experiences of “amazement” – my first intellectually captivating time was (I still tell myself) when I was dissecting the hand in my course in Gross Anatomy in a brief excursion into Medicine. At that moment, I was also re -taking up the violin after an extended lay-off. Still today, I look at my left hand both as some sort of complicated object, and as a source of knowing and doing which are truly astonishing. Read the rest of this entry »

Fully available now is “Who Owns The World?” the keynote I gave at the conference on Multiculturalism, Pluralism, and Globalization. Also linked to on my list of works page.

Note: I’ll be the keynote speaker at LaCrosse, Wisconsin this Friday, Oct. 5. The Conference is on Multiculturalism, Pluralism, and Globalization, sponsored by UW LaCrosse and The Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies.

My framing issues have to do with how to help maintain, educate, develop visions toward a peaceful world – perhaps especially in a current context which seems continually divisive. Is it inevitable that we move toward a totalitarian or theocratic control? I think not, exploring the past century or so – some divisions, but others that have been resolved or “gone away,” surprisingly.

…in a world, in a time when change swirls about our being: war, globalization, big money, work, technologies (mechanical, electronic, transhuman, genetic engineering…), vast migrations, the rise of strong religions, we merely accept and buy many of the changes.

But what does this mean, what does it “do” to our thinking and our being? What is good or useful, productive, not-harmful? Which changes truly affect our thoughts, maybe twist our thinking into new/old searches for meaning, for new or old grounds which seem to hold steady? Who are we – you and I – in the millions and maelstroms of change? Inside such swirls, it is very hard to note where we are, in any given moment. The power of change, itself, makes it difficult to find our places within the history that we are living through. We tend to look outside ourselves, as if to state who and how we are. In times like these, it is hard to notice that ideas play a great part in our thinking about the world.

We little note that change is (always?) in some deep tensions with permanence – the implicit drive to stop change, moves many of us to become nervous, brittle, or feel that our very senses of meaning and identity are fragile. At such points, we seek solace, move toward ways of thought in which change (thence life), are more dream than reality: i.e., the rise of strong religions. Less about life and living, more about fixed destinies. Reality = life…or death?

“Responses to Change” explores these questions, outlines the ways and means that the search for being and meaning might direct us, and helps provide some groundings.

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