What are we moving towards as we look to navigate uncertainty?
Navigation is an attitude. Navigating a situation, we don’t analyze, strategize, negotiate agreement on some plan of action and then set about executing it. When we navigate we attend to our capacities of perception, working to keep them as clear as possible. We are on the lookout for illusions. We keep in mind just how easily we mistake what we think we see for reality. We look to discover a dynamic underlying superficial appearances. We do all this so that we can act appropriately, in a manner that fits the moment.
What does this mean, to act in a way that fits the moment?
To begin we need to disabuse ourselves of the illusions of power, privileging intention, and fetishizing desire. This culture worships power and holds intention and desire sacrosanct. As a result we thrash about in misery. We seem to prefer our illusions over any possibility of changing our situation. Anger boils up inside us at the mere suggestion that our assumptions might be questionable.
All of our cherished, customary gambits for dealing with our situation are failing. They fail more miserably every day. Yet we continue to refuse to back out of a maze of illusions tripping incoherent reactions that only perpetuate our predicament. Each failure is an opportunity to see through the bankruptcy of our means. If only we would allow ourselves to see things for what they are.
Confusion is information. We resist appreciating this as a gift. Flailing about, desperately nostalgic for certainties, we refuse to see the only certainty we can ever count on: We can know something is wrong. The only thing that drives us to stick to what we know in our hearts is wrong is a mistaken belief that we can’t change course without already having a new plan in place.
We fail to see that our belief in simplistic cause & effect and our insistence on preconceived approaches intended to maximize our power so we can get what we want is utterly bankrupt. It’s not that we need a new plan. We need to develop a new approach entirely.
We don’t have a fraction of the control over people and events we think we have. The richer and more powerful we think we are the more this is true of us. Presented with this fact, the rich and powerful cannot comprehend what’s being said Confronted by such a statement it just does not “compute.” This blind spot is so well defended that whatever falls into it just does not exist. “Reality” heals itself around the blind-spot. What we don’t want to see is simply not there.
The only way we become aware of a blind spot is to repeatedly run into what we don’t see with enough force so that we can no longer ignore the pain of the collision.
Then again, this is only part of it. Our comforting stories are always there to paper over any anomaly. There’s always a scapegoat available, “We didn’t lose. We were betrayed!”
We live in a world filled with those still comfortable enough in their illusions. The rest of us are somewhere down the slope of dis-ease, agonizing at the exposure of our illusions. Too many, instead of embracing an opportunity for joyful disillusionment, descend into anger and hatred, refusing to challenge their beliefs, their self-imposed roles. They are stuck because they fail to see that these divisive categories do not define them. That these are impositions, internalized forms of violence resulting from an incoherent approach.
Those still comfortable register the first tugs of incoherence as an impatience, a growing annoyance at those who are farther along in their own descent into pain. These people disturb their illusions. Tear holes in their equanimity exposing what they’d rather not know. The pull of righteousness acts as a defense against a litany of perceived injustices.
Ask them to look within and their reaction will likely be, “How can we ignore injustice?”
This cry tempts us to ignore something deeper. Righteous anger is not about redressing injustice. If it were those wrapping themselves in its solace would put themselves in harms way to defend its victims. Put themselves between its perpetrators and their prey.
This rarely happens. The point of outrage is to camouflage one’s own selfish rage, a growing realization that something threatens our illusions. Self-righteousness greases the skids. Provides a cover for deepening divides, making them visible where before they had been unacknowledged. The self-righteous were no more likely to care about those being preyed upon when their illusions were safe. But now that the cover is torn off Ego’s defenses, insistence on perpetuating division comes out into the open.
There are flavors within this overall dynamic. We’ve been conditioned to expect that everyone exists increasingly far-out at the ends of a barren polarity of political belief labelled Left and Right. Each wing has its shibboleths that cannot be exposed without triggering a nuclear option. Each group is blithely ignorant of their own shadow. They defend a perversion of innocence. Insist that all their own faults only exist in the hearts of their opponents.
There’s nothing tangible within this realm of reaction, this Realm of Negotiation. Within this view everything is seen as an adversarial interaction. Power is the only currency. A worship of power and division unleashes a potent thaumaturgy. This spell-casting works hard at maintaining negotiation as the only acceptable filter, insisting that there can be no other way to see the world, ourselves, or to interact with each other than through power struggles.
This thaumaturgy of incantations develop and maintain illusions their spell-casters find useful. A two-pronged strategy: They destroy our capacity to recognize what we see for what it is and destroy any possibility of our developing trust outside of these narrow and imposed divisions. There is no room to allow anything to counter our flight into fearful, angry, isolation. Our only options are paralysis or to continue to act as protagonists within a mythology. Isolated individuals following a revered hero.
We are stripped of any possibility of finding and making connections. Any attempt at sharing and working together is belittled and sabotaged. We are subjected to a scorching blast of misinformation. We are inundated by an immense spectacle. Narratives whose significance are taken out of context are blown out of proportion. We are kept afraid, isolated, and vulnerable to coercion. And, having internalized our own oppression, we do most of the damage to ourselves.
As compelling and urgent as it may seem to continue to chronicle the unraveling of our bankrupt present; what we need now is take note of the obstacles and maintain, or in our case today, establish a focus on what can be done. Discover where we have room to maneuver, and, most importantly, how we may integrate our selves and integrate our relations with each other. We will focus on the tangible.
So long as we are trapped in projections we can find no traction. There is no “here” here.
What counteracts this? Developing an awareness of what the tangible feels like and attending to whatever presents itself as tangible.
At the beginning of this investigation it is essential that we absorb how little we can actually “make things happen.” How all our strategies compound destruction. The only foundation we can find is to accept this and develop a relationship with uncertainty, recognizing that mystery underlies existence. Only then can we discover our context and begin to interact within relationship instead of continually lashing out against shadows and projections.
What is tangible is recognizable, but only if we actively work to dissolve our habitual delusions.
What is tangible is that which shows above the waves of doubt, fear, the continual siren-call of fresh delusion.
What is tangible can only be seen from within a relationship with our susceptibility to delusion.
Meaning and delusion can be difficult to distinguish. Delusion expresses itself mechanically in stereotypical, repetitive, destructive acts. Vital meaning appears unpredictable, and in the most fundamental way, is creative. When we interact with meaning we participate in co-creation with the mystery underlying all of life.
We will never address these questions if we continue to jump on every self-congratulatory, Ego-obsessed “meme.” Every dramatizing call for some further exceptionalism — and these days they all seem to be some form of great destruction. These can only shove us back into habits that support destruction and increase suffering.
Navigating the tangible begins as we question perception. Question how easily we rush into making judgements, unwilling to wait to see if we can tell whether we’re interacting with something tangible or just wrestling with another projection.
Navigating the tangible we never come to a resting place where we can be certain… of anything. Least of all whether something we think we see is tangible and not simply some new transformation of our propensity to delusion. While, in our exhausted and traumatized state, at the bottom of the hole we have dug for ourselves acting out of futility, this may seem a freakish hell-state. Coming into relationship with the problematic nature of certainty is the only way we can relate to the tangible and have any hope of…, well, any possibilty, that’s not simply a short-hand for a wish we’d like to see come true.
We keep looking for a “catch.” A hook, some way to game our way through. Some trick that will transcend our situation and validate our desire that we will find that our delusions are correct. Navigating the tangible requires that we not lose sight of this proclivity. This tendency is as real as the force of gravity and no matter how inconvenient, we gain nothing by ignoring it.
Horizons of Significance has been a chronicle of a reconnaissance. A record of what this writer has found on his horizon. That journal has focused in large part on the Enormity we find ourselves in. It has been an inventory of our predicament. Those essays dealt with discoveries and insights into how the events of our time might be looked at. How we might come into a right-relation with our situation. How we might find which aspects of our experiences bring out our strengths against the way the Spectacle and the Endless War-on-Everything deplete our capacities and wear us down.
Navigating the Tangible has a different focus for a different moment. We’ve passed, are passing, from a moment of taking stock and orientation into a moment when we will have lost the luxury of contemplation without action.
This is not to insert a new loophole to bring back the kind of flailing sense of urgency that has kept us trapped in futility. Speculation, theorizing, making plans, having ideas…, none of these connect with the tangible. We drum up urgency to force ourselves into maintaining our illusions and to keep us beating our heads against the futility of our actions. A futility that has penetrated to the marrow of our bones.
When we develop a relationship with the tangible…. And by tangible, what’s suggested is not a euphemism for what we might consider pragmatic. We find room to… to act.
Room to be,
3 thoughts on “Navigating the Tangible”
Navigating is indeed a good metaphor. My question is, do we navigate only to stay afloat? To avoid the shoals and waterspouts? Are we navigating toward anything? Where is the action in this process?
Thanks for reading and thank you for your question.
It’s important to let our metaphors be fluid. That’s not a pun! Remember that “staying afloat” in this case is equivalent to being alive. We are alive, not just because we’ve managed to avoid being killed. Our action throughout, if we are navigating the tangible, is the action of living. Not merely surviving.
This presents us with another challenge as daunting as avoiding being killed. We need to navigate the spoils that litter our path. We need to be able to tell the difference between wants and needs, for example. We need to be aware, and act accordingly, that our starting point is one of deep confusion. We are traumatized. We are stuck in habits of thought and reaction that; if we allow them to control us; will destroy our capacity to live even as they destroy any chances of having a healthy place to live.
I know it is hard to avoid a term like process. Once we start being aware of how our language can work as hard to obscure our way as help us….
We need to look at the habits of thought that lead us to short-circuit and go right past what it means to live and rush on to find some way to be a cog in…, well, a process.
What does it mean to live?
There is no answer. That’s the beauty of it, isn’t it? We find what it is by doing it. And, the life we get is – and we are programed to never recognize this – the life we make. Everything we encounter is a force or factor in shaping our lives; but the shape it does take is not independent from how we navigate those boons and banes. Our lives, and by extension, the whole world we inhabit, is co-created by the actions we all take, and, behind those actions, by the way we relate to thought.
If we look anywhere on Earth today we see a world that has been shaped in a certain way, usually destructively, by human thought.
If one way of dealing with thought has created this world, then, isn’t it possible that a different relationship with thought might co-create a different world?
These are exciting prospects, but the main thing is not to lose sight of the foundational principal of navigation: What is the next step?
If we see this metaphorical question as relating to the existential question, What is the next step in living this life? We can gain traction, or, to stay with our boat metaphor, we can hold on to windward.
I hope this helps.
I really appreciate your response. We can’t do any of this alone!