Tuned out

Our  current historical environment can facilitate or even nurture a sense of safety and sufficiency (“What’s the big deal? It’s enough. I can get by”) while being tuned out or as say, “watching TV.” An excerpt from Anathem by Neal Stephenson:

As we were walking back down to the lake’s edge, Quin – who had been silent for a while – cleared his throat. “You mentioned that there were certain things you have to leave behind when you enter this new Magisterium [a kind of community],” he reminded me. “Does that include religion?”

One measure of how much things had changed was that this didn’t make me in the least bit nervous. “I’m glad you brought that up,” I said. “I noticed that Artisan Flec came with you.” 

[…] “Yeah. Anyway, I just want to say, if his presence here is not appropriate…” 

“The rule of thumb we’ve been using is that Deolaters [believers in gods] are welcome as long as they’re not certain they’re right,” I said. “As soon as you’re sure you’re right, there’s no point in your being here.” 

“Flec’s not sure of anything now,” Quin assured me. Then, after a minute: “Can you even have an Ark [a religious place/org.], if you’re not sure you’re right? Isn’t it just a social club, in that case?” 

[…] “Flec should hike up to Arsibalt’s Dowment,” I suggested. “It is going to be a center for working on that kind of thing.” 

Quin made a wry grin. “I’m not sure if Flec wants to work on it.”

“He just wants to be told?”

“Yes. Or at least, that’s what he’s used to – what he’s comfortable with.”

“I have a few Laterran friends now,” I said, “and one of them, the other say, was telling me about a philosopher named Emerson who had some useful upsights about the difference between poets and mystics. I’m thinking that it’s just as applicable in our cosmos as it is in his.”

“I’ll bite. What’s that difference?”

“The mystic nails a symbol to one meaning that was true for a moment but soon becomes false. The poet, on the other hand, sees that truth while it’s true but understands that symbols are always in flux and that their meanings are fleeting.” […] “Anyway, my point is that guys like Flec have a weakness, almost a kind of addiction, for the mystical, as opposed to the poetic, way of using their minds. And there’s an optimistic side of me that says such a person could break that addiction, be retrained to think like a poet, and accept the fluxional nature of symbols and meaning.” 

“Okay, but what’s the pessimistic side telling you?”

“That the poet’s way is a feature of the brain, a specific organ or faculty, that you either have or you don’t. And that those who have it are doomed to be at war forever with those who don’t.”  

How much to cater to the mystic who comes into such a place, since they face the transition to becoming a poet regardless, and maybe deserves the benefit of the doubt, that he’s bothering to come in because being a mystic isn’t feeling sufficient? I wonder if most dojos let the mystic continue to be that way and even encourage him so.


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