The Important Stuff
Drawing by Helen Webster
Hopefully will always be under construction.
The occasion of my 50th birthday, and a review of the contents of this
Web page, led me to record a bit of what I consider my world view as it
is now. This is not a formal exposition of philosophical system, but a
collection of ideas, values, and influences that constitute what I consciously
perceive as the core of my being. These may be summarized as revolving
around the ideas of Quakerism, cybernetics, and Taoism. I was also very much influenced in growing up by the thinking of Gerald Heard.
I am a member of the Religious Society
of Friends , (Quakers) largely as a result of attending a Friend's
boarding school and a Friend's college (Earlham).
Friends don't have a creed, but the one thing that unites them is the belief
that there is that of God in every one. I tend to avoid the use of the
word God (see below), but this statement of belief conveys something about
how I feel fellow human beings should be approached. The Hindus greet each
other with the "Namasta," which means, "I salute the god within you." Pacifism
and non-violence follow from this, as does the tradition of silent worship.
Most folks don't know what cybernetics
means, and there are a lot of different definitions around. My own brand
is the sort of stuff that we do in the American
Society for Cybernetics - study circular systems, not only those that
are self-regulating (thermostats, the thyroid-pituitary axis) , but also
those that are self- generating (conscious human beings). I continue to
study the works of Gregory Bateson, attempting the grasp the Tao that cannot
be spoken -- his concept of an ecology of mind, its sacred unity with nature.
is of a rather minimalist sort. I start, and pretty much end with, the
notion that only the experience of NOW exists, that all else is a construction
(a cybernetic concept), either individual, as in perception, or social,
as in consensual agreements about what will be accepted as reality. The
externals usually associated with Taoism such as the I
Ching, and acupuncture, are trivial compared to an understanding
of the Tao.
Iteration I: God is dead. He was murdered--set up by priests and Sunday
school teachers to be pushed by the Inquiring Mind in front of a speeding
truck called Science.
Iteration II: Most people cannot do any sort of job of defining God.
When defined, mostly I ain't experienced it. Universe, however, is a notion
I understand, and has all the wonder, might, and mystery that I need.
Iteration III: God is an attitude. This gets around a lot of problems
that crop up when God is conceived of as a thing or a person. This God
can be real. Just like there is a spirit of '76 or a spirit of Earlham
College or a spirit of Christmas, there can be a spirit of God. Whenever
we place ourselves into that attitude which acknowledges ourselves a part
of a larger system that includes all of Universe, we are in the spirit
of God. This creates other problems for some folks. It means that WE create
the spirit of God. I do not have a problem with this, since we generate
I have worked on this, sometimes pretty hard. I get a bit of a buzz, but
no sense of transcendence. That only happened on LSD. Only two or three
trips, but I have never forgotten them.
It might exist, but there is no point talking about it. You and I only
have our experience to discuss.
I don't trust politicians of any stripe. Ideologies are blinders deciding
what the believer will not see. Real problems must be solved at the local
level, where humans generating the solutions interact directly with those
who are the subjects and purveyors of the solutions.
A nonproblem. Mind is not confined to individual consciousness, and is
in fact a social construct.
Moving the perceived locus of control out of one's individual self, and
out to Universe, is a tremendously liberating experience, and the useful
part of most religious practice. A persistent theme of Bateson's, and a
cornerstone of Alcoholics
Anonymous and other 12-step programs.
Anger and resentment
These happen. But life is too short, and there is too much going on NOW,
to waste any energy on them.
The great advisor. Learning to accept the reality of death means learning
to live. I look at the experience itself as a sort of the ultimate acid
trip. I hope I get to have a great dying. Easy to say now, when I am not
facing imminent death. We'll see when the time comes.
What I tell my kids when they ask why they are here
You are here to make this world a better place. How you will do that is
your life's work.
Of all the crap that divides human beings and creates misery in the world,
this is the ultimate antidote, and reason enough to exist.
New Age philosophy
Someone read this page, and said it sounded very New Age. I was a bit insulted.
I consider New Age mostly marketing hype. Ain't much "new" about Taoism.
I am grateful that Universe has probabilized the continuation of this self
as a node of its experiencing/creating itself for another day. May there