Motivate the Mind
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Motivate the Mind

We’re talking about how Small Is Beautiful here, and the beautiful and huge setting of the National Arts and Crafts Conference at the (Omni) Grove Park Inn perfectly illustrates the many meanings of many things, including Third Ways : ).

Third-Way-ism Progressivism

The Misconceptions of Democracy, Progressivism, Traditionalism, Third Ways, and Pie

As much as we talk about the importance of non-binary thinking, almost everything reduces down to a yes/no at what you might call the bit level, very much like this image is made. At some point there will be an action required, which means there’s the choice of taking the action or not, which means it’s binary. Even adding a third choice doesn’t make it non-binary, it just raises us up one level from where a binary choice is still ultimately made.

(Please don’t go yet!)

The concept and concentration on binary modes gets reinforced in a democracy, so-called self-governance (except the selves don’t understand the who/how of persuasion and management of perspective), as the micro-scale-truth of binary bits re-emerges as an artificial and distorting contrivance of Red and Blue (and no green, for the real picture, if you know what I mean).

It’s ironic to me that democracy itself, especially in the form we’ve generally used, encourages an oversimplification of realities in so many ways, because that is how crowds are moved. This is a cost of democracy that we can accept, except we need to remind ourselves often that “real reality”, when it comes to how life is actually conducted and experienced and left as precedent and pattern for the next generations, is not really being included in the nutshells of pop political presentations.

And unfortunately, with our inherited fixation on freedom and fashion-dictated f-words on all levels of comprehensive human flourishing, we forget that we’re only considering a small fraction of reality and certainly not the future. A philosophical approach that doesn’t ground itself in future human flourishing, on the ground that is, is eff’d up, in all likelihood. This is partly where Bug Stu, I assume, gets his ideas about the Stralfs implementing a Plan F — for getting us to leave Earth.

Here’s something weirder than small misanthropic aliens trying to mumble us into immigrating to their planet. I think one of the heroes in Stu’s story is going to counter the Stralfs by leapfrogging way ahead to a Plan Z. And Z is for Zen. That’s the weird part. It might also strike you as weird that I don’t seem to have touched on the title yet. It’s not that I’m rebelling against a tyranny of titles or something. I am not a rebel. I am also not a particular fan of philosophy in general nor exotic mental frameworks from faraway places, I mean as a novel fascination. I’m not a fan, but that doesn’t mean I ignore useful ideas.

Another weird thing is that I got to this, whatever it is, through my own brain science fixation combined with other explorations in thought, other frameworks, some Arts and Crafts sensibilities and social observations, and weirdest of all, watching a 1983 documentary about Teddy Roosevelt over the weekend. Isn’t that weird? And now I’m also thinking of Teddy Ruxpin like some of you are. That’s not weird, in a way.

We brought in Teddy to help out right at the start in our family, like many of your parents did. Eventually his lower jaw fell off, but we discovered that some plastic springy Dracula teeth could be jammed in there and sort of look like they belonged there, except for how Teddy’s subjects, songs, and tone contrasted with his new look. The kids were old enough to see the humor not the horror, I think. I like to believe it might have taught them how to improvise and to not judge from appearances too much.

And that’s a good segue back to Teddy Roosevelt and maybe eventually to the title. Teddy bears originated from an account of Teddy Roosevelt, as many people know, when he refused to shoot a bear that had been deliberately put in place for “hunting.” TR was all for hunting all kinds of game, but he did it in a semi-natural state of “hunter” and “prey”.

I don’t know that TR was a model human or president, that’s not the point. Maybe he was, or maybe certain things just squared well with a shared side of human-ness that we’ve come to understand better recently, all taken with a grain of salt or no salt, but something to consider. I guess you could say it has to do with The Enlightenment’s illusion of understanding how the human mind works or should, in the estimation of its leaders.

The label of progress or progressivism has always bothered me. It’s like how I’m bothered when I hear people say, “Some people are just afraid of change.” That’s much too simplistic. It’s dismissively simplistic. And it’s also hard to take the concept of Progressive out of our current political contexts, which I’m guessing have many of the readers here mentally squirming a bit already in defensiveness or vague discomfort about impending conflict here in this very moment.

On top of that our natures, and our two-party politics (not sure there’s a sustainable option to that, long term), tend to have us inferring that any proposal is a “this way not that way” proposition to everyone, everywhere, all-the-time, even if it’s claimed otherwise, because that’s how social revolution or counter-revolution is implemented, and the social revolution from the 60’s is still underway, in a way, in spite of bashing the Boomers, where it all began.

Maybe there are a thousand Third Ways, which is why I refer to Third-Way-ism and not a Third Way. And way-back-when I started saying that “Everything is pie,” meaning that the depth and complexity of even small elements of reality is too complicated for the typical two-dimensional representations we receive and use. This point isn’t about judgment of others, it’s about understanding whatever the thing is we’re worrying about and talking about. (Pie also stands for pretty interesting explorations.)

The kind of Progressivism I’m interested in requires a lot of Pie, and a lot of Third-Way-ism. And there’s this Zen thing in it, which cannot be simplified to Westernized hacking and curated appropriation of Eastern philosophy, as it often has been, or used as a shell for justifying a lack of our attention, because the future of our kids’ probably doesn’t care about our protective shells of justified inattention very much.

What I’m interested in is also not a sort of non-spiritual spirituality, which seem to get used as a way to avoid the ickiness of fashion-conscious metaphysical fascination while still garnering the impression of personal depth, worldliness of some sort, and whatever is the current zeitgeist of skepticism. Instead it’s kind of what we get when Bug Stu looks at the small stuff and Allie looks at things from way way up in the sky.

And truly metaphysical assumptions, beliefs, still remain intact, partly because they’re pretty pliable once you dig deep, not that they’re all saying the same thing, and the derived do’s and dont’s end up on a different level from where the deepest digging takes us.

Conflicts between any two realms can be created, but that is usually the only way they appear, which probably means there’s another element of that particular pie of a conversation to understand, whether it’s inside our own heads or shared with another. It seems like we can find either conflicts or connections, depending on what we want to find or are told to expect. Most of the origin stories for Eastern and Western philosophy sound kinda sketchy, of course, but how would you express a complete and accurate story of the origin of thought and thoughts?

It’s like the origin stories often seem to be made for kids of some form, then the metaphorical young teenagers with a presumptuous Enlightenment attitude come along, then the angsty young adults appear as Romanticists and Reformers, then they go off into the wilderness (fighting all kinds of mental and physical battles there) throughout most of the postmodern twentieth century, then they return and wonder how they ever thought they knew so much and could prescribe solutions so confidently.

This is where I see us moving now, maybe. And the first crack in the cognitive shell we were sold in the 60’s and 70’s is probably going to be about our selves. That one was easy to sell and easy to sell to in terms of materials goods and philosophical rationalizing. True complexity and comprehensiveness comprise many peddlers’ recurring worst nightmare, until they figure out it works better for us all, even them despite reduced incomes or career changes.

Just thinking. Thanks for reading.





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T.J. Storey

T.J. Storey

Former teacher, Jeanne’s husband, Brandon’s and Elyse’s dad. No guru/no woo woo. Fan of how-things-work and what it means for our kids, theirs, theirs,…

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