Scythes and Computers

24. New technology confirms and extends an idea of the world. The scythe allowed man to cut grass while comfortably standing so that more grass could be cut, more land could be brought under his control as a farmer. The subsequent innovations of the threshing machine, the mechanical reaper, the bailer and the combine harvester further demonstrated to man that there can be no alternative idea of the earth. Each new technology gives renewed confirmation to the rightness of agriculture.
28. The computer extends man´s infatuation with the television screen, allowing him to enter it and live inside it. No longer an observer, man becomes a participant. He now lives and plays among the flickering shadows on the cave wall.
29. The shadows are without smell or sound or touch. It is a worldview that privileges the visual. It begins in literacy and Plato´s forms and extends through Gutenberg´s mass production of text. The seated reader and observer has access to a truth beyond time. That he can now play in the computerized shadows becomes the truth of the world.
41. Progress: the periodic appearance of more efficient technologies that demonstrates the rightness of an idea. What he calls progress is the certainty of his worldview. With enough progress there can be no other ideas about the world.
77. The hawks that soar above the city, the tall old growth trees along the calles, that is all that interests me about Botogá.


Beyond The City

"We don't know who discovered water, but we're certain it wasn't a fish."
— John Culkin, quoted in They Became What They Beheld

"In the beginning was the Word, a spoken word, not the visual one of literate man, but a word which, when spoken, imposed form. This is true, as well, of the Eskimo, but with one significant difference: the Eskimo poet doesn't impose form, so much as reveal it. He transfigures and clarifies, and thus, sanctifies. As he speaks, form emerges, temporarily but clearly, ´on the threshold of my tongue.´ When he ceases to speak, form merges once more with unbounded reality." — Edmund Carpenter, Eskimo Realities

200. The great weakness of this age is that a man can speak of ¨picking¨ a religion; that he chooses to believe.

201. Mythology chooses men, not the other way around. Men are born into myth as they are born into a world. Myth lives on in the lives of men in how they comport themselves in the world. As men act, myth acts through them. It cannot be spoken of as something believed.
211. In a world torn apart by naming the gods are reduced and relegated, but so in equal measure are men.
227. Science is not the opposite of myth. As anything else it is nourished by its own mythical bed.

240. The great task awaiting men who have left the cities is to restore a world broken  apart through naming and categories: to see again as an illiterate child; to forget the accountant´s and scientist´s names for things; to see the world whole, where animals and humans, forests and rivers, gods and earth and sky dwell together.
246. If there is any such thing as freedom, it is that which a State cannot make an accounting of.
247. What appears to a citizen as irrefutable and unremarkable is likely what is most necessary to the sustenance of the city and the State.


Voices Inside

1. Consciousness appears as the hesitation to act. Man pauses. His conscience has begun to speak.
4. Where once conscience was the provenance of parental instruction and the values of the small community, today´s voices of conscience are more often institutional: school, media, the State. These institutions provide conscience with its vocabulary, encouraging an allegiance to vast economic and social systems; to make of him a citizen, a hard-working and productive member of a society.
5. Conscience imposes upon man through language, critiquing and transforming his instincts from inside. It is through the arguments and coercions of conscience that a man´s instincts are slowly eroded and socialized, brought into line with the collective. Conscience is the corrective to instinct, it circumscribes its limits.
9. The privileging of the word and logic has resulted in a devaluation of instinct, for instinct is without voice or argument. Instinct cannot defend or justify itself. It cannot reason or rationalize. It can neither be explained nor ignored. Instinct can only be acted upon, or painfully suppressed by conscience.
17. Rationalization, as the uneasy reconciliation between conscience and instinct, is the most exquisite of human self-deceptions.
20. Action directed by instinct is play. Action directed by conscience is work. While work is that which a man is compelled by others to do, play is done entirely for himself, to the satisfaction of his instincts. Play is childish, amateurish, always joyful, neither hopeful or hopeless, often bungling and unproductive, and frequently the consequence of an obsession.
29. The genius of the outlaw, the great artist and the saint is that he acts unconsciously, unconstrained by conscience. There is nothing conscientious or workman-like about him. Whether praised as a great man or condemned as a fool, he is only his instincts at play.


Philosophy and the City

¨And love became the world's origin and the world's ruler, yet littered is its path with flowers and blood, flowers and blood.¨ Victoria, Knut Hamsun (1898)
20. Before the advent of farming--and the trade and roads and cities and conquest that grew from it--men could not have spoken with any certainty of the many faceless others beyond the lands of their families and small communities. As trade and technology and government brought larger groups of men together anonymously, it became fashionable to speak of society, of culture and civilization, and later economy and nature, vast and mysterious concepts that men defined in each their own way and only sometimes were in agreement upon.
23. The family farm is but the first step to the city.
24. The city teaches man to think in abstraction, to consider his multitude of anonymous neighbors, to speak generally. The city teaches man to think of ideas de-personalized, nameless and faceless. The city provides him with a new vocabularly: of crowds, of groups, anonymous forces both economic and social, of causes and effects at what he calls the  ¨macro level,¨ of mathematical equations that must only be adjusted to achieve some better, more just equilibrium for his fellow man. Man´s new vocabulary brings into being new, previously unaccounted for phenomena. The city beckons man to apply his Reason to it. The city appears to man as imminently rational and transformable.
25. What can be named can be mastered, for naming is itself a mastery. New names encourage man to attempt a wholescale transformation of the city.
30. As the city is extended, the dwelling places of mystery are uprooted and abolished. The undomesticated earth, the dwelling place of animals and gods and sky, is pushed further to the earth´s edges. Having never been beyond the frontier philosophy can only speak of what it can transform in men and by way of men, of the great urban forces that direct them. Philosophy can only speak in the language of  the city. For the history of philosophy is a history of city life.
33. Descartes was only possible because of the city. Without a city to break apart the world into forces and phenomena, to make a man an individual, to make him anonymous, to separate him from other men while living next door to them, listening to them move about the apartments above and below him as he lays in bed; to make a man withdraw into himself, a disconnected individual subject to forces beyond him, but still comprehendable by his Reason: this is what Descartes learned from the city and constructed a metaphysics upon.
36. The Cartesian Error is always most attractive to the city dweller. The city is Reason made manifest, where man can dwell alone among his concepts.
47. The city is the dis-unity of man and woman. Where once there was family, love and flowers, there is loneliness, economic activity, and blood.
55. The city-born philosophy is never more than a repository for the anxieties of urban life, the city-born philosopher no more than a glorified urban planner. Verily, Plato´s Republic, the first acknowledged great work of philosophy, is above all a template for urban planning and social organization.
67. But if philosophy should not aspire to urban planning it should neither aspire to a kind of gardening, or cultivation of the living. Rather philosophy should be remade as subsistence hunting. It should no longer be grain and dairy fed, but sustained entirely on the wild protein it has hunted from the untamed forests.
70. If philosophy ended its preoccupation with the re-ordering of the world it might begin an other, more proper task. But for this proper task to present itself philosophy must break entirely with the city, to see how or even if it can survive where farms and cities were never possible. It shall be taken to that place to die, or to find itself transformed. But who are those men capable of taking philosophy there?



[from Slime Line: Adventures In Fish Processing]

Oscar was short and pale and prematurely bald. He had extraordinarily bushy eyebrows that partly obscured his eyes. Oscar took videos of himself having intercourse with Eskimo women from the town. The videos showed only his penis penetrating their vaginas. He showed the videos to anyone who would look at them. The native women were fat and most were very hairy.

Oscar was given the job of washing racks with a pressure hose. He was too dimwitted for anything else. For 16 hours a day Oscar squeezed a pressure washer gun and aimed it at the dirty metal racks. Oscar said nothing when he began to lose feeling in his right hand. He started switching between hands for each rack.

After two months both Oscar's hands were useless. He could no longer squeeze the pressure hose. He could no longer hold silverware at the cookhouse.

The cannery nurse sent Oscar to the hospital where he was diagnosed with the worst carpal tunnel they had ever seen. Within the week they operated on him. He was returned to the cannery with six inch scars from the middle of each palm to past his wrists. The hands were bandaged and did not move at all now.

Oscar's useless hands qualified him for workmen's compensation. The cannery gave Oscar $25 a day as a food, housing and medical allowance. The company lawyers wanted to head off any potential lawsuit and were preparing a settlement for him.

But Oscar disappeared before the lawyers contacted him. Aaron heard he was living in a car outside Austin, Texas. Oscar left the doors open because of his useless hands and everything he owned had been stolen. Without an address Oscar stopped receiving his disability stipend. Then his phone was shut off. That was the last anyone heard of Oscar.
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