Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Secret Book of Son Rivers: An Unfolding Whole

Epistle Three: To the Postmodernists

The impetus to find other ways of being has spawned ecological postmodernism. The impetus to reveal the card ticks behind the “obvious truth” of rationalist modernity has spawned deconstructive postmodernism. The cultural explosion of the latter in so many fields at this time can be regarded as a wake for the shocking passing of the seemingly stable, objectivist, mechanistic, rationalistic worldview. Apparently it is an Irish-style wake with lots of whiskey, food, and verbal virtuosity. Some folks are quite intoxicated and natter on too loudly and too long (do we really need yet another university press announcing a postmodern series that will “expose” everything in human experience as mere self-referential discursive constructions?). Other deconstructive-postmodern mourners are full of rudeness and exaggeration. Still others churn out boring, sterile art, enshrining the futility of it all. In the corner some rowdies chant mockingly, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” They smash their glasses and shout that there never was a center. Arrogant and peevish behavior does not hide their fear of living without the smug certainties of objectivist, scientistic delineations of reality. As deconstructive postmodernists continue to “bust up” the furniture at this wake, I suggest that we remember that in the grieving period after a shocking death, just as in the minutes or hours before a birth, all rules are suspended. No one expects coherence. Odd responses are overlooked, and angry outbursts are absorbed. An event of deep transition creates its own rules.

Those who can move beyond cynicism and postures of despair can see that our loss of a determinate, rigidly objective sense of reality is our liberation. Instead of alien manipulators, we now come to understand ourselves as participants in the unfolding universe. Instead of being locked into the tedious debate about whether the universe acts in a thoroughly random manner or strictly according to a master plan of linear development, we can apprehend that the universe offers itself an unimaginable range of possibilities and an intricate play of tendencies from which it fashions its ongoing story. It is a sacred story not of determinism but of creativity, allurement, relation, and engagement—all arising and passing away in lifetimes of a microsecond or longer arcs of billions of years.

We, self-reflexive manifestations of the universe, have the capabilities to enhance the conditions for differentiation, subjectivity, and communion in the Earth community. For these existential possibilities the universe has provided the guidance and inspiration we need: the core teachings of the wisdom traditions. Through their practices, their emphasis on process, we can become sensitive to profound dimensions of mind, nature, the body, and community. The fallacies underlying destructive institutions and practices—including the fatalist view that hostile indifference in so many realms is “just human nature”—then become obvious.

The acute suffering of the Earth community instills urgency in this work. The conceptual liberation of the postmodern moment engenders possibilities. The cosmological grounds us in the sacred whole.

~Charlene Spretnak

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