I’m sitting in a mall. I’m in the mall’s food court to be precise. Its a frenzy. Every color of light exists here. It all seems endless, flawless from the type of things to buy to the quantity. Its hilarious because I belong here while at the same time want something more – which is just like the mall, perhaps its most convincing voice: “You want more!” When I walked into the food court the first thought I remember was, “I don’t want to be here.” Oh, but every type of food is here, Adam. And yes… it’s true. And the people who buy things – they look good. Earners with their teething, well-groomed children. Everyone smells good, except the woman who I sit down behind! Her smell was a familiar consumer perfume that she had applied heavily. It was overwhelming actually, subtlety repulsive. I wonder if her exaggerated smell was a over-compensation for her sick soul? I am… in a mall!
Malls are the end of culture – its fulfillment. A place where every culture is appropriated, produced, consumed. A nihilistic paradise insofar that meaning, tradition, legacies have parished. Capital, Global excess, access, maximization. We’re all here to buy so we’re safe, civil at least for the moment. Our buying addictions cover our psychological absence. The internalized deformities are masked by the newness of it all. The mall – a microcosm of the contemporary soul.
It’s Baudrillard who I wish to conjure here but its been so long since I’ve read him. He has brilliant things to say about America and about our malls. If I’ve said anything its is plagiarism, simulacrum – a lot like this mall. Westfield, SF.
At one time in my life I was immersed in Alfred North Whitehead. I miss the reading and the creative dialogue with like minds. I pray these conversations will return to me. I remember them with deep gratitude. In the present, so often, I am living philosophy – living breathing wisdom. It is overwhelmingly beautiful. It’s qualities are patients, humility, freedom, trust, acceptance. More and more, I like to look into peoples eyes and find their smiles. Often I feel resonant compassion. I have been living into an experience of selflessness that is at the same time the most expressive and genuine I have ever been. Tears are frequent with joy as much as grief and laughter is medicine.
Where is Whitehead in this? Perhaps Whitehead exists in the construction, the apprehension of intelligence and importance. Whitehead is living in my philosophy, in my conscious constitution. Philosophy goes with me like a mother attending to her child. I can’t wait to remember Whitehead, to find myself in the company of philosophical companions enjoying Whitehead together. Closer and closer. Orbiting the institutions of scholarship and learning, my path is pretty much inevitable. So I’ll end with a quote I dragged yet again from ThouArtThat’s facebook page… without further adue, Alfred North Whitehead, from his book the Adventures of Ideas.
“The Greek philosopher who laid the foundation of al lour finer thoughts ended his most marvelous dialogue with the reflection that the ideal state could never arrive till philosophers are kings. Today, in an age of democracy, the kings are the plain citizens pursuing their various avocations. There can be no successful democratic society till general education conveys a philosophic outlook. Philosophy is not a mere collection of noble sentiments. A deluge of such sentiments does more harm than good. Philosophy is at once general and concrete, critical and appreciative of direct intuition. It is not–or, at least, should not be–a ferocious debate between irritable professors. It is a survey of possibilities and their comparison with actualities. In philosophy, the fact, the theory, the alternatives, and the ideal, are weighed together. Its gifts are insight and foresight, and a sense of the worth of life, in short, that sense of importance which nerves all civilized effort. Humanity can flourish in the lower stages of life with merely barbaric flashes of thought. But when civilization culminates, the absence of a coordinating philosophy of life, spread throughout the community, spells decadence, boredom, and the slackening of effort.”
Here we have a 13.7 billion year process of material complexification and unification. This process yielded a mind-activated human body, enmeshed in a culture increasingly global, capitalized, and secular/scientific. The place of religious affection, attitude, and devotion is needed more than ever in our time. The magnitude of wonder at the heart of this process flows from a conscious connection with universal feelings – God – likely only reason to laugh at despair, celebrate through mourning, and love one another at the end of certainty.
I have heard that the most difficult things for the human to do is to admit your wrong, include the excluded, and offer love to hate. These powers are of the religious order…
And grateful to a friend and growing scholar for his reminder that as far back as Plato the conviction that the eternal extends beyond our wildest imagination:
“The truth is just the opposite of the opinion which once prevailed among people [the atomists and sophists of 5th century BCE Greece], that the sun and stars are without soul…For in that short-sighted view, the entire moving contents of the heavens seemed to them only stones…even though these stones furnish the sources of the world order.” -Plato, ‘Laws’
“Yes. Please. I’ll take an order of the religious. No, no. No fries with that.”
Learning is more than a moment. It takes generations, a compiling of legacy. Learning arrises out of a constitution of time. Kindred with what Isabelle Stengers’ calls a cosmopolitic, though less a philosophy of science and more human speculation, “Time As A Constitution” refers to the change time takes in life. Between the cosmos and politics, its materialisms and its humanity, and between science and ethics are zones of new information, access, and creativity that reforge the practice of time. Conditioned to relative terms, time has become a living entity of scientific inquiry and a place holder of cosmological pronouncements. It in the human relations realm at the heights of maturity, it engenders an ethic of patients while within a culture of consumption it remains a fixture to be conquered through speed and the elimination of regret.
Where visions are concerned time is needed. Human speculation as a method is affirmed in almost every tradition worth referring. And the point of meditation is just that – time to discern, direct, discipline. It is moments of learning and constitution that time actually takes place and is a place-holder. In a way, I speak my own constitution out of time, as an individual, apprehending, accepting, arresting. And still as time happens, it is also, always, and already a constitution – a drawing together of history, ties, organs, memory… a dawn of interconnected, interbeing.