26.4.20

Imagination Becoming Real

BOULDER, CO – I mention the following, for what it’s worth, as another angle on the problem of work, this time making use of an exposé of my own case. I want to be upfront about the fact that using details of my own story is intended to enliven creativity for readers, rather than just to valorize my own approach to The Disaster.

I think that the primary objection to any suggestion here that people must be proactive about re-imagining their livelihoods is that it’s a message to a privileged minority. People forced to inch through car lines for emergency relief packages are not able to think about livelihood, not until the basic needs of their families are covered. We all can understand that. Maybe we should make a disclaimer like:
‘For those who find themselves in the position of being restricted to the home with enough food, and free time . . .’

A person may seem self-centered and narcissistic to oneself, isolated, when allowing thoughts about securing a real livelihood now, of all times. However, I believe that for the good of the social sphere and shared infrastructure that we will retrieve and repopulate, as many people as possible would do well to bite the bullet now, and re-imagine their lives right away, posthaste. Survival requires imagination.

In the prior post about the Audience for ideas like that, we were careful to lay out the basic circumstances or demographics that I share with some readers, which include financial instability and threatened means of income during The Disaster.

Workplace hell: remote employees
maneuvering robotic video-avatars.
 
Anyway, the Workplace itself, writ large, already has changed forever; meanwhile the dastardly duo of The Disaster & ‘Disaster Capitalism’ is busily transfiguring and contorting its ‘wage-slavery’ sectors (ie, at least, what most humans experience as un-gainful employment) – and doubtless it’s happening now, as you read this, in order to foist the new dehumanizing regimes upon society as soon as our shelter-in-place orders lift.

Is that just being cynical? The rapid vaporization of millions of jobs to robotics and Artificial Intelligence, the very phenomenon of high-tech downsizing that Yang is warning us about, has received in the form of Covid-19 its perfect storm; please make no mistake about that.

A Humble Case Study

During this strange liminal zone we know as shelter-in-place, I have become convinced that my actual job and real work in life – a ‘livelihood’ – is philosophical activity, and, doing something invented that I call existential journalism, and of course practicing a few Arts. More precisely, in terms of the service to society this livelihood can contribute, its activities are creating, curating, and sharing philosophical experiences

But, that’s pie in the sky unless one’s daily experience changes accordingly with any such conviction.

During the period when, somewhat outlandishly, society has been ordered to stay home, and the majority barred from working (myself in that crowd), I just have taken the initiative, taken the bull by the horns – in a performance-arty way – by choosing myself for the ‘position’ I always have wanted. I finally realized this would be within reach only once given to myself.

Rather than a delusion, this conviction – ie, ‘my social, public role is philosopher-artist’ – has been bolstered by the way I have found myself using March’s weird, morbid flurry of days by acting as if I am a ‘nonattached’ philosopher, like a ronin, and then:

    • setting up shop online in that way,
    • writing from that point of view,
    • making accompanying videos,
    • recording myself reciting blog posts,
    • drawing in colored inks for the first time,
    • writing one-page stories,
    • recording myself reciting the stories,
      and,
    • organizing crowdfunding for all of these activities.

I have coped with The Disaster, at home, by doing all of the things that survival mode did not permit (that having been a figurative idiom, compared to its literalism now).

I have suspected for some time that to do what I wanted to do (finally and irreversibly launch into bonafide livelihood) would require at least several weeks off, and not for a vacation, but for the dynamic, creative leisure in which to reach escape velocity.

Believe me, I have never wished that a global plague, The Disaster, would isolate me at home for that amount of time, but this is what has happened. Focusing – when Death rides throughout the lands, and tens of thousands are dying – focusing despite a chronic underlying terror, is itself a philosophical praxis. It is an exercise straight out of the Stoics’ playbook, actually, especially because in Classical Antiquity plagues were less surprising than they are to us Postmoderns.
A heightened sense of urgency to pursue what is most important is the gift of greater awareness and respect for Death.

To Be a Philosopher

This soul-work, a real livelihood that includes income, is what I have playfully re-imagined by giving myself the role of inaugural Director for a new think-tank, called the ‘Philosophical Intelligence Agency’, which is a pretend think-tank for the moment. The P-I-A is serious play, insofar as imaginary things tend to become Real. I’m crowdfunding the P-I-A.

My official role assignment as
Director of P-I-A
There is performance art involved here, both privately in my solitary bedroom-world, yet online as well whenever I share the media output mentioned above. I have enjoyed, for example, ironing dress slacks and shirts, relearning the Double Windsor, then writing in costume (and shooting videos).

I expect that everyone who held a job or filled a professional position will need to relearn how to act like their former employee-selves at some point, because it will feel horribly awkward when returning to workplaces in the midst of The Disaster, still in its shadow (likely for the rest of the year), with people missing because they died.

I figured, one might as well relearn an entirely new, ideal livelihood on the heels of this aporetic moment, tragic as it is. Wouldn’t that be better than refreshing one’s former programming and training (faded away to some extent during shelter-in-place), which was required to be an employee, or a ‘position’-holder, rather than an invigorated, self-directed, contented human being?

The question: can someone reverse-engineer authentic livelihood during The Disaster, from pure imagination – use shelter-in-place to launch into a post-National-Emergency lifestyle that is entrepreneurial – and perhaps even employ crowdfunding?

I’ll tell ya how it goes!


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15.4.20

Thinking Over a Few Days of Survival & Return

11 April 2020

BOULDER, CO – We were reminded this morning that there are two more weeks of shelter-in-place ahead. Being somebody privileged-enough to be out of work and hunkered down at home – at the same time financially insecure and dependent upon the federal stimulus – is fraught by a mix of gratitude and empathic horror about the thousands of fellow human beings dying on a daily basis out there.

For anyone with strong hermetic tendencies (but not necessarily anti-social), the shelter-in-place order and shutdown of the prior economic system does have the silver lining of permitting a time to think without feeling one is getting lapped by the unnecessarily frenetic, desperate pace of Late Capitalism out there. It has all stopped out there. So what’s in here is relatively amplified, more important now. I occupy only a basement bedroom privately, a small space itself shared with two dogs, which has become our material world.

(Another day passes quickly.)

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12 April 2020

Today, shelter-in-place itself has been buried by over a foot of fresh, spring snow, unceasing. It was a day that passed in a flurry although the experiences it contained had felt drawn-out in those moments – which I noticed when checking the clock at five. The tension between waiting during this period, feeling endangered, and yet thinking about survival and return, feeling empowered, is reaching surprising intensity.

Let’s reflect upon how every person is presumably destined to reach the point of critical mass in the personal creative sense, which directly affects a person’s social world. This critical mass – or, becoming so saturated by one’s interest area that one must share it –  requires a certain escape velocity from restrictive social bindings and economic forces (not to mention one’s own ‘mental slavery’). There will come the moment of breaking free of the negative gravity, the whirlpool effect of the poverty trap, for example.

For convenience let’s call the ‘point of critical mass in the personal creative sense’ simply the Quickening (pun intended, being that we’re under shelter-in-place orders that have us ‘slowing’ down, at home). For me, this is part of a larger phenomenon of being held back, as a phenomenon that is evidently universal among cultures. It’s being held back and then being used by others. Hence, this is a slowing and retarding of a person’s nascent maturation and self-possession. – The very opposite of that is the Quickening, or liberation of the person from artificial, outside bindings that is also the arrival of that person in an actual livelihood.

Our term also can characterize, therefore, the Audience for this kind of social and moral philosophy, and that Audience’s collaboration with it: participants are focused primarily upon experiencing the Quickening, because it is deemed what is most important (especially under the circumstances). So I will sometimes touch upon my own experience of it, as a member of this audience.

Experience of Quickening

Experiencing this (reaching critical mass creatively) implies many sorts of subjectivities, including those who are experiencing it currently, as well as those who did so a long time since, and the ones who desperately want it. What is necessary for this Audience, and is therefore its goal, is to notice, embrace, and amplify situations strictly focused upon the experience of Quickening. In my experience, shelter-in-place has called for exactly that focus, and so I have been doing nothing else except tracking my own escape velocity, as it were.

Any audience interested in Quickening, so defined, is connected by certain shared experiences, both online and in-person, spanning the range or continuum of oppression and liberation. The overall focus and meaning of those experiences must contribute to the great recalibration and revision of mainstream ideas, particularly around the phenomenon of work. This natural process includes centrally, as it always has, the communal experience of poetry and music, and the Arts in general.

(Another day passes quickly.)

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15 April 2020

During shelter-in-place I have experienced moods, lessons, convictions, issues, questions, methods, strategies, goals, visions. Regarding the past few years, and the patterns of a lifetime, reflection is showing the extent of fatigue from the phenomena, being held back and being used, specifically by commercial and public institutions. I also have experienced being helped  by strangers, human beings, as recently as late 2018 while in the hospital for the first time.

Those two, being held back and used alongside being helped by human beings appear to submit themselves as poles of the continuum of social behavior that ultimately derives from ideological tendencies – this ideological continuum is fundamentally related to the phenomenon of work and the problem of endemic poverty.

Regarding what’s happening now (The Disaster) and our gradual return to social life, my thinking has reached adequate conviction that certain phenomena, such as labor in survival mode, and the adjacent, connected phenomena such as the poverty trap, and even more universal issues such as endemic poverty or poverty per se, will be my priorities.

I realize that a conviction by someone that the problem of poverty can be solved philosophically (that is, via being knowledgeable and understanding) may elicit disbelief from others, perhaps mockery, ridicule, being judged naive, and so forth.

I can empathize with that reaction to the extent that just wishing for the end of poverty or getting attached to a positive opinion is pollyannaish. However, what I am finding is that the next step is critical, once we are convinced that poverty is a phenomenon of suffering that can be improved or eradicated through wide-scale, philosophical understanding: the even more important step is expressing this social solution in ways that bypass ideological walls.

I think this can happen by holding open a new kind of dialog aided by technology that powerfully connects with everyone’s innate philosophical nature – irrespective of given levels of intelligence or overall human consciousness. That kind of dialog, for example, can be injected into philosophical experiences embodied by the Arts.

Many of these statements are studded with controversial ideas, such as a universal definition of human and humanity, which is based upon the principle that whatever is universal and commonly experienced is therefore to be respected. I have been thinking intensely (and sometimes by meditating) about the question of how to reach a social norm of respect for every human being’s intelligence and consciousness. Apparently the Western Enlightenment did not drive home those points, or, modernity and postmodernity have challenged and threatened our understanding and even memory of that historical Enlightenment to a degree that must now be confronted.

During the ‘National Emergency’ (the phrase rings true on many levels), and spurred by The Disaster (manifesting as Covid-19 and shelter-in-place), I have been observing suffering within myself, and in my own city, and in my country, that has confirmed and intensified my extent intuitions and focused them upon the potentiality of survival and return – returning with a new status quo in mind. I also have a sense of the question of whether, and why, this historical moment may be interpreted by future generations as a watershed moment, a lynch pin for what was to come.
What does survival of Covid-19 mean within the context of having undergone and survived the prior economic system? 
Is a return to the prior system and status quo really to be understood as survival and recovery?


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28.3.20

Phenomenology of The Disaster: (3) On the Economics of The Disaster

BOULDER, CO – It goes without saying that there is an economic aspect of The Disaster that many of us are experiencing as a financial threat and terror, another of the sharp pains of being in survival mode. I expect that this tension will lead a majority of us to think about the open cultural question of what authentic livelihood is, and, obviously, simply to question the disastrous, economic status quo we’ve undergone up until now.

When the public fears economic ‘depression’, austerity, insecurity, the collapse of markets, endemic poverty, what are they really fearing? Pull away the facades and curtains, the smoke-and-mirrors, the computer graphics, and what actually is feared? It is the small group of financially powerful Americans, the heirs and heiresses, owners, tycoons, oligarchs, financial wizards whose constant reinvention of investment markets ensnares the masses’ capital before ultimately gambling it away (followed by bailouts), in lockstep with political cycles. The public also subconsciously fears those cultural elites who proliferate gratuitous consumer products and unleash related barrages of marketing – they are ruthless panderers of addictive, frivolous themes.

This overall scheme by Wall Street and consumerism writ large is a weird psychological and intellectual cruelty against the humanity of Americans (and people around the globe). It is macro gas-lighting, which seeks to normalize the very existence of the conservative economic establishment and its baked-in greed.

The establishment’s main lie is that society must be built upon a financial foundation, that we should develop cultural experiences upon the edifices of commercial activities – and, an adjacent lie is that society must be built upon private property, gun ownership, and business, because this somehow ensures basic civility, individual liberty, law and order, while it prevents anarchy or authoritarians.

We have been brainwashed by these deceptions into feeling that certain cultural fulcrums, eternal nemeses, are natural and unavoidable: conservative versus liberal, white collar versus blue collar, rich versus poor, professionals versus workers, and so on. While there are certainly dualisms and contradictions experienced throughout culture, these conventional opposing pairs above show how even our ideological encampments are entrenched according to economic notions – whereas those camps may have plenty of alignment on issues other than the (poorly-understood) economy.

Obviously, if society is forced to take cultural and spiritual guidance from the outdated Capitalism of post-WWII American individualists, or the 1%, then our social contract will get sicker, and need critical care. The current Covid-19 crisis is exposing the underlying health issues, so to speak, of our entire socio-cultural matrix including the parasitic economic ‘system’.

The good news is – philosophical experiences also exist, including the Arts. More good news: we can gather around the interest areas of pure thinking and experiencing the Quickening together, as an Audience of this unfolding interest in what is most important, overall, philosophically.



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26.3.20

Phenomenology of The Disaster: (2) The Shared Audience

BOULDER, CO – I won’t presume to know about mainstream experiences of The Disaster, including shelter-in-place orders in, for example, Suburbia, mega cities, or rural areas. So it makes sense to get very specific about the kind of experience that I, and others with my background, location, and interests, are encountering. Those kinds of basic experience form the basis of our communal online audience (which I call The Audience).

I conceive of such an Audience as orbiting an interest area rather than attaching to an individual, a personality. Therefore each contribution addresses that Audience without its contributor trying to possess those people’s attention or coerce the sphere somehow.

As I’ll point out again and again: nowadays audience members and distinct, named ‘audiences’ are like leagues of interlocutors, rather than mere receivers of content that is more or less entertaining.

Who Are We?


So, who are We as this online Audience, here and now, of people who are perusing, reading, and writing daemiangarett.com and its little Web ecosphere? (I can tell you up front: it's a small number as of April 2020.)

LOCATION: At least presently, any prospective worldwide Audience will extend and expand upon who we are together in a specific local community, naturally. (Nevertheless, I am interested in the ontology of purely ‘hyperlocal’ communities online also.)

WHERE: In my case, this means living in a semi-rural city of about a hundred thousand that is less than an hour from a metropolis of almost three million.

ROLES: Given that kind of earthbound location, our We-the-Audience sphere is comprised of philosopher-artists (generously defined, according to the serious tenets of Philosophy but not necessarily from academic and/or Fine Art backgrounds).

HOW: Moreover, we are philosopher-artists who had been caught in the poverty trap to some extent (including perhaps having exacerbated it also) prior to the arrival The Disaster. Now, however, we are intent to pursue real livelihood during shelter-in-place orders.

(By the way, this is the profile of interest and background that I’m using to focus what is published on daemiangarett.com.)

EXPECTATIONS: I don’t expect readers to match my minute circumstances (mainly location, financial insecurity, behavioral austerity, bootstrapped entrepreneurship, living with housemates). But I would hope that those who are relatively affluent can gain more understanding of the experience of ‘survival mode’, of getting caught in the ‘poverty trap’. (I’m putting certain words in quotes because they are loaded terms that deserve re-definitions – see links.)

I would like to expect that readers do love the altered state of pure thinking, and the bliss of understanding (which is the ultimate impetus of ‘actions’), also the euphoria of new ideas and perceptions.

What could be more fun than real, transcendent thinking and imagining?

In my view, however, there is nothing better than finally relaxing, in the most deep way, the ontological or Being-oriented way.  In fact, I will be arguing that ‘philosophical experiences’ are the actual, but underrated source of any artistic amazement and pleasure, and, that this kind of experience necessarily is in complementarity with the full ontological relax.

TOPICAL: For the present, within the scope of ‘The Phenomenology of The Disaster’ posts, readers who comprise the Audience are interested, as it were, in the upshots of this National Emergency: its upshots insofar as this is a threat of destruction, which will be followed by regeneration and re-creation – particularly of families, communities, the economy, the healthcare system, work and labor, the social contract, and so forth.

As such, this Disaster holds the gift of providing a new space, fecund ground, for starting the inevitable, radical revision of existential fundamentals including our ideas of Humanism, of the Western Enlightenment itself, our American Constitution – especially now that the Anthropocene is in full swing, and replete with new forms of The Disaster like climate change, AI, and pandemic viruses.

What Time Is It?


Two observations were recurring while I took a break to lay in the sun in the backyard: First, this shelter-in-place status quo (announced last night where I live) is an epic break in normality, a fissure in familiarity, and it thereby provides a superb opportunity to think.

Real or pure thinking is not replaying stale memories or reinscribing beliefs. Viable thinking has the quality of freshness: to think is surprising, exhilarating, strengthening. So, shelter-in-place is a perfect time to think, first and foremost – and, it is the ideal time to think about what is most important.

Second, regarding the man in the Oval Office at the present time, who acts like a sociopathic narcissist constantly defending his own incompetence: he has become a living propaganda and brainwashing channel (deploying rhetorical sleight-of-hand tricks like repeating key opinions ad nauseum, feigning the look of sage premeditation before each variation). – But, meanwhile we can notice how he provides the perfect example of the opposite of real thinking, the opposite of understanding what is most important to think about (let alone ‘to do’, or ‘to act upon’).



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23.3.20

Phenomenology of The Disaster: Introduction

BOULDER, CO – We’re over a week into the extended, indefinite period of the first National Emergency over public health that I have experienced. This morbid new normal is coinciding with inevitable tsunamis of angst, reflection, and creativity worldwide – the phenomenology of this response is my main interest, as an existential journalist and non-attached philosopher.

* Key terms link to on-site elaborations in new windows.

For many people, creative impulses will emerge through home-bound and neighborhood reporting, and authoring a plethora of communiques, using Web-connected devices. Surely, there will be a global deluge of novel uses of technology, first-person narratives, and home crafts in the wakes of this pandemic’s shocks.

The desolation unique to a global plague must coincide with brave reflection, and creativity, and this can happen in fundamental respects because it is The Disaster. The bonds between fear, death, suffering, the suddenly stripped-down circumstances of our lives, our transcendent experiences, and the Arts are getting re-clarified – and fortunately.

But our interest in those hopeful connections – more precisely in the real upshots of this lamentable situation – may seem to conflict with the epic pain of a glocal catastrophe. Even our own perceptions and interpretations of The Disaster are getting mediated across great distances by sensationalist or trumped-up news, the moodiness of deserted public spaces, and the myopia of feeling ‘stuck’ at home. That is, unless one directly experiences the front lines or knows stricken people. For most of us, however, this is the first war that must be fought by becoming hermits.

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I have been a self-declared but unpaid existential journalist for over a decade. I become accustomed to perpetual culture shock following doctoral studies in Philosophy that continued with expat life in India, where I experienced endemic forms of The Disaster as it manifests uniquely there.

Here in the States, I have hazarded the contemporary ‘poverty trap’ – with the attitude of a researcher – by supporting myself doing freelance and gig work. Prior to this National Emergency, I had observed the highest levels of wealth inequality I have seen in this country. It tempts us to think that managed poverty itself has been the goal of much of the socio-cultural matrix since the end of WWII:
A society overrun and dominated by the commercial and financial and industrial sectors organized as corporations, following the hegemony of the military-industrial-complex.
This has been disastrous for a long time already. The affront to Humanism and the Western Enlightenment is perhaps the most aggressively dissembled catastrophe, which, nonetheless is getting exposed in dramatic, mind-blowing ways by this material crisis called Covid-19.

So in the barest terms, my point of view – for full disclosure and context here – presently consists of financial insecurity, and therefore behavioral austerity, while under shelter-in-place. I am writing this series ‘Phenomenology of The Disaster’ especially for others in that situation; however, it is suggested reading for those who are financially buffered from this Disaster as well.

Strangely, with the anticipation of the creativity and expression emanating from the recent shelter-in-place orders (but after distinct waves of grieving and shock) I’m experiencing my own surge of creative activity – and its psychology is nuanced. In fact, the more one senses and perceives this rampant virus, the more meanings, experiences, and interpretations inevitably will orbit it. Yet, what is this ‘it’ in itself, in raw terms?

Let’s look at the Covid-19 epidemic (The Disaster) dispassionately, and perhaps even in childlike terms as we perceive it directly, as it is, and in its repercussions and ramifications. We must conduct a thorough phenomenology of The Disaster (in this case, manifesting as Covid-19), along with the epistemic and ontological analyses.

Tragedy and Upshots


There are all kinds of upshots of the Covid-19 crisis, and dangers, that we will perceive only as it unfolds. One captivating new reality involves people staying home, and, the blackout of commercial, brick-and-mortar America. It’s almost like the quietude of Christmas Day prolonged indefinitely. People sequestered, after dealing with the loss of income, will be forced into ongoing leisure.

This is a test for society. Will most people get creative, and at least learn to use tech tools for virtual community? – or, how many will escape into binge-watching screen content, sink into depression, or begin careers in addiction?

Let’s assume that a substantial amount of people, of households, do approach their confinements creatively, recognizing that one upshot of shelter-in-place is experiencing leisure in the home. This is just the bare phenomenon – there is bound to be a large number of people who cannot experience ‘leisure’ during this Disaster, for any of infinite reasons.

We should always keep in mind the full range of people who are confronting this health and societal emergency. We will pay attention to the socio-economic dilemmas of workers exempted from shelter-in-place, to be the workforce for Emergency Services including grocery-store and pharmacy clerks.

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The technical arena of working at home through The Disaster includes producing Internet-connected media and using home equipment (such as for making and editing videos). This presents an interesting moment in the creative process that brings in the experience of publishing to a global audience, which could be said to induce an altered state of consciousness. Specifically, it is some kind of alteration of our individualistic cultural programming, like a radical openness to the Other, albeit buffered by technology and mimesis.

This openness, together with the intrinsic possibility in Internet media to embrace all of humanity as audience/interlocutor, could be understood, at least, as not the same character of consciousness as found with hard, obsolete, American individualism.

One of the goals of this series, Phenomenology of The Disaster, is to create and bolster a conceptual bridge between the increasingly common personal experience of broadcasting to Earth as a human being (which includes doing Internet-based work), and, the prospect, and advent, of something I refer to as The Livelihood Economy – also the subject of a white paper I am crowdfunding and writing.

The next piece in this series discusses a certain understanding of The Audience who potentially engages with interests such as these: The Audience that comprises a phenomenological forum exploring our angst, reflection, and creativity at the very start of an era of pandemics.



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