Will I Follow or Will I Be? When the Truth Is Clear, Composing, 04/05/2016

Continued from last post . . . Okay. I’m finally going to do this. Break open my brain a little bit and talk about people's immanent power to shape their own lives and produce new ways of life. And this is going to get deeper than some smooth-talking Tony Robbins shit here.

When I first came across this idea, I felt like the
experience of September 11 was such a pivotal event in
shaping my personality. The surreal weirdness made such
an impact on me that I felt as though how I understood
the world was profoundly different than how I did before.
Profound truths can emerge from an event. The world unfolds at a particular place and time in such a way that it produces a deeply meaningful and complex insight about the nature of existence. It could be the nature of your existence as a person, maybe the nature of human existence generally. Maybe your own understanding of the nature of human existence. It takes a lot to unpack that.

Sometimes, that’s what I think philosophical thought really amounts to. Unpacking the more profound meanings and truths of our lives so we can see all the details splayed out before us. 

How is an insight complex? Most of the time, we describe insights as simple, don’t we? An insight is the “Ah-ha!” moment. It’s where everything makes sense, and everything is clear. That’s supposed to make the world simple. 

Well, there’s nothing about being true or making sense that implies that what you newly understand is simple at all. Plenty of us understand a lot of different aspects of the world that are incredibly complex. You can have an insight about any part of reality that illuminates a pretty complex field. 

You may actually have a hard time explaining precisely what you understand. There’s an old adage in analytic philosophy that if you truly understand something, you can explain it easily. Well, that’s frankly bullshit. 

If you understand something very complicated, you may not be able to explain it easily. Maybe not without a years-long apprenticeship or course program. Maybe it’s more intuitive knowledge that only manifests after years of practice. The point is that what we understand may have many different facets, aspects, perspectives, and interlocking parts.

But that isn't the only single event, or an image of an
event, that can transform a world and how people can
see themselves. In this case, the power of this event
reaffirmed an ethical principle very important to me.
But I was glad that it did so for many others.
Depth of a truth is another matter, but related to its complexity. It’s more about whether some piece of knowledge captures some fundamental or essential aspect of its subject matter. Do you understand what makes a system operate the way it does?

Take away some object or stop some process that’s part of some larger system. Some piece of architecture without which the entire building would come crashing to rubble, or none of the electricity would flow throughout an entire city. You have a deep truth if you know about some piece of the world like that. Knowledge of what’s fundamental.

Knowledge is always produced in someone. It’s a function of a consciousness, of a creature’s awareness of the world. What is known and what can be known depends on what the knowing creature can do. So all of our knowledge is rooted in action – a new piece of knowledge lets you do new things. 

Even if all you’re doing is thinking in a way you’ve never thought before. Each new piece of knowledge – some act of learning – changes us just that little bit. A small difference, but we can never say the world is ever quite the same. In that sense, every change is a radical one. 

A change in the smallest possible quantity is still enough to transform X into Y. Every one of our acts has that power. I mean, all acts and changes have that radically transformative power. But human beings are included in that group – we’re part of the universe, which means we have the power to change it.

And that’s what activism of any kind really is. That’s the point Antonio Negri and Michel Foucault – to talk about the passage of Commonwealth I’ve been discussing since Monday. That’s the profound insight that comes from reflecting on these ideas. 

Not every event in our lives is going to cause a widespread
social and material transformation in the world. But each
of them will have their own significance and beauty. The
world according to each of those moments. 
Understand that every act you make radically transforms the world. Understand the weight of everything you do when even our most insignificant movements have the inherent potential to flip the world around. Not every sneeze is going to change a whole country’s political system or end all war and poverty, or anything like that scale.

But the lesson is that because we can make simple, ordinary changes in the world, we can also make massively important ones. At their most fundamental, every change is radical – the difference between X and Y. Every difference makes a difference. Some bigger than others, but a difference nonetheless.

Understand that we have this power. And then jump for joy that we have it.
• • •
This post is another one of those moments where I basically write philosophy for you. Almost freestyle. A pure cut of conceptual exploration. Maybe you think it’s bunk, maybe I illuminated something for you. I’ve heard people tell me Plato was nonsense. What constitutes peer review in this context? 

Stick it in your pipe and have a think. Let me know what comes out of it.

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