Overview of Esoterica

Delving into esoteric literature can be an overwhelming experience that prematurely sets off bullshit detectors which short-circuit one’s awareness of their own cognitive biases.

Curious enthusiasts (like yours truly) stumbling through this paradoxical maze of arcane terms, odd blabbering’s, and fantastical explanations need some sort of guide.

Johnathon Black’s The Secret History of the World is just such a guide.

This comprehensive narrative weaves together disparate strands of esoteric philosophy into something that lay folk can grok.

Black detours down the alleyways of esoterica, walking through the streets of Alchemy, Rosicrucianism, Swedenborg, Egypt and more, to let the reader admire their unique form and structure before merging back onto the main road they all use.  Continue reading

How To Write Better

Words play an enormous role in nearly everyone’s life. Therefore, the effective use of words through the act of writing and the act of speaking becomes a vital skill to perfect over the course of one’s life.

“Our civilization is unable to do what individuals cannot say” writes John Ralston Saul at the outset of his book A Doubter’s Companion:

“And individuals are unable to say what they cannot think. Even thought can only advance as fast the unknown can be stated through conscious organized language”

So the issue of gradually perfecting one’s use of language is not simply an issue for writers (or aspiring writers), but is one that impacts anyone who relies upon language for communication.

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Mexico: Gifts and Risks of Hitchhiking

Travel isn’t just about where you go, it’s about how you get there.

Travel involves many types of movement and the movement-choices we make determine, in large part, how moving our travels become.

Hitch-hiking, according to hitchwiki.org, is “a form of transport, in which the traveller tries to get a lift (a ride) from another traveller, usually a car or truck driver, for free.”

On the side of the road with a backpack strapped on, thumbs up and a smile is a thrilling way to move about the world. Continue reading

An Inspired Reason For Schooling

“Public education does not serve a public” Neil Postman writes in his book The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School , “It creates one.”

And the one it creates, at least in the United States, is one bound by  “false gods.” These tiny deities often go unnoticed but that doesn’t mean their effects are unnoticeable.

As the subtitle suggests, purpose is what Postman’s book is all about.

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To WIT: Cultural Transformation

In keeping with the recent theme of long-term thinking and deep-time narratives, the cultural historian William Irwin Thompson (W.I.T.) sketches out a compelling mind-jazz mosaic in his article Natural Drift and the Evolution of Culture.

It provides a model for the Evolution of Consciousness over the past few million years. This is a notoriously tricky endeavor because, as Thompson writes:

“It is one thing to talk of the evolution of the small Ice Age horse shown on the walls of Lascaux to the modern long-legged race horse, but quite another to talk of the evolution of Renaissance perspectival painting into the abstract landscapes of Kandinksy and Pollack.”

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An Internet Primer

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Lay-folk like yours truly often need quick-and-comprehensive guides to help navigate the strange maze of modernity. John Naughton’s book What You Really Need To Know About The Internet is an indispensable primer for the aforementioned demographic.

It helps the helpless halfwits (like yours truly) in getting a handle on what the Internet medium is, its place in the larger Media Ecosystem, and its relationship with larger forces (historical, cultural etc.) Continue reading

Progress Traps and Blind Spots

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Ronald Wright in his book A Short History of Progress explores how the progress that allows civilizations to grow often leads them into addictive traps that end in their collapse.

His definition of progress comes from Sidney Pollard who, back in 1968, described it as “the assumption that a pattern of change exists in the history of mankind … that it consists of irreversible changes in one direction only, and that this direction is toward improvement.”

This default assumption, so deeply ingrained in people’s thinking and ability to visualize futures, is an idea that’s only about 300 years old. Despite that,  it holds us tight.

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Debt and What We Owe

Origins of Debt

At the outset of Debt: The First 5,000 Years, anthropologist David Graeber explains that “this book is a history of debt.” Simple enough and, considering the title, quite obvious, but he continues by writing that it:

“uses that history as a way to ask fundamental questions about what human beings and human society are or could be like — what we actually do owe each other, what it even means to ask that question.”

In a wide-ranging analysis that weaves together anthropology, history and economics, Graeber looks at the origins of money, the origins of debt, deconstructs some of the myths surrounding both, and provides a 5,000+ year historical framework.

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How Childhood Can Disappear

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Childhood has been around forever, right?

That de-facto assumption was dismantled in the early 1980s by Neil Postman in his book The Disappearance of Childhood. “Childhood is a social artifact, not a biological category” Postman writes:

“In fact, if we take the word children to mean a special class of people somewhere between the ages of seven and, say, seventeen, requiring special forms of nurturing and protection, and believed to be qualitatively different from adults, then there is ample evidence that children have existed for less than four hundred years.”

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The Toad and Tikal

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Apple takes out her beloved red delicious and sparks a flame.

Inhaling slowly, letting the smoke dance through her lip rings, she pulls and pulls and pulls until she can pull no more. With a cough and a giggle she exhales as we pass the famous Kapok tree a few meters inside Tikal.

The gnarled face of Whistler perks up into a smile as he points far into the canopy, yells “monkey!”,  and then wails out a strange jingle from a small flute that dangles from his neck.

The monkey ignores. Apple laughs. Continue reading