Fictive Midas

I want to define and describe a human type. It is a personality frequently found in the creative classes, especially among writers, but it is also common in religious communities and ideological movements. I am calling this type the Fictive Midas.

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Everything a Fictive Midas touches turns to fiction.

The Fictive Midas inhabits a memoir, an unfolding story toward which they are both intimate and dissociated — intimate because it is their own creation about themselves; dissociated because they a character in this story they are telling, while also existing in the background as the one telling it.

This dissociative intimacy pervades their lives, inner and outer.

The inner life of imagination, ideas and emotions, of course, predominates.

For them, there is nothing peculiar about it, because this is the only existence they know. But for those around them, especially people attuned to the self-transcendent reality of other people, a Fictive Midas is unnerving, and the closer they believe themselves to be with them, the more disturbing they become.

This is because, to the Fictive Midas, the outer life is important mainly as source material for their inner lives, and other people are part of the outer world. This causes them to relate to people and things with disturbing disregard, the kind of disregard authors have toward the suffering of the characters they invent.

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A friend of a Fictive Midas might from time to time get the feeling that they are not actually fully real to them. Nor is the Fictive Midas really present in the relationship.

There is an alienating barrier — a membrane that separates self from self, and keeps each respective Me in strict parallel, precluding any participation in mutuality, in shared being, in any We. In relations involving a perceptive Fictive Midas, this membrane might develop increasing precision, nuance, even insight — but this is only advanced character development, not interpersonal intimacy. Whatever closeness there seems to be is only a closeness of resemblance between the Fictive Midas’s rendered character and the real person sealed outside. The membrane is impermeable.

This truth hard to conceptualize, and can cause pain and anxiety in those who mistake a Fictive Midas for a friend.

And it only gets worse once the alienating membrane is noticed. Anyone who presses against it too hard or tries to puncture it, by appealing to the Fictive Midas’s humanity will find themselves repelled and expelled as a nobody. The character and the person peel apart, and the Fictive Midas keeps the fiction and discards the person, letting the reality drop over the horizon into the outer void. The Fictive Midas is uncannily unconcerned, incurious, almost hostilely indifferent to the divergences between the person and the character. The person finally knows — feels in their soul — the fact that they do not and never did exist to this stranger.

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Ruthless people are said to leave a trail of blood. Heartbreakers leave trails of tears. Fictive Midases leave trails of emptiness.

Susan says we call it “ghosting” when a person exits a relationship without resolving it and providing any closure, because we are haunted by the absence. The absence is peculiarly present, much in the way the recently deceased are with us after they die.

Those of us who experience the world pluralistically — that is, those of us who feel that their sense of truth is only part of the bigger story and who want to complete our understandings of important things with the perspectives of others — experience the void created by Fictive Midases intensely painful, an aching phantom limb that cannot be treated, because it is a nonexistence, despite being a real part of us.

Pluralists tend to seek reconciliation with others as a means to reestablishment of shared friendship, or failing that, closure, so the relationship can lie peacefully in its grave.

The Fictive Midas, however has no such need, not because they feel none of the pain we feel, but because this pain is all they know. They dwell among their fictional characters, experience their fictional satisfactions and gratification, nurse their fictional grudges, all the while starving of loneliness, isolation and unreality.

Like Midas, they hoard their treasures, and deprive themselves of all nourishment and love.

Only their pain is something that intrudes from outside themselves, oppresses them from without, despite their attempts to defend themselves against it. But no matter how much they keep the cause of their pain — other people — outside, and the source of their happiness — their truth — inside, somehow the loneliness, alienation and envy gets inside and torments them, anyway.

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It is tempting, when one is written off by a Fictive Midas or written out of their story when the story undergoes a heavy edit or rewrite, to retaliate and return the treatment — to write them out or write them off — and to make up a story where we have done this successfully and no longer care about them or what they did to us.

But this is only to become infected with fiction, and to succumb to the Fictive Midas’s condition ourselves.

And if we are honest, isn’t it true that we would never have fallen into a Fictive Midas’s snare, or worse, stayed there, if we weren’t already doing some significant fictionalizing ourselves? If not, why didn’t we notice the relationship we imagined ourselves to be in was largely imaginary?

It is better to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge the voids, while maintaining hope that reconciliation or closure might actually happen someday, if they find their way out of their isolating enworldment.

Meanwhile we can be more alert, and more aware of the reality of others, and more dedicated to reality, however elusive, so we can cultivate real mutual relationships with people capable of mutuality.

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I have invented the abstract type of the Fictive Midas as a therapeutic effigy — a theoretic fiction of my own — as a general phenomenon onto which I can shift the weight of loss. I’m not going to reduce any person to this type, but I will regret the fact that this type can overtake a person and obscure and their personhood. It is a regrettable syndrome, not an archetype that manifests through regrettable people.

Fictive Midas is the superset containing not only my estranged friends, but the pandemic of ideologies sweeping the world, of epic stories where fictional identities oppress other fictional identities but then rise up and stage a revolution.

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I believe John Milton knew this type:

Is this the Region, this the Soil, the Clime,
Said then the lost Arch Angel, this the seat
That we must change for Heav’n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since hee
Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid
What shall be right: fardest from him is best
Whom reason hath equald, force hath made supream
Above his equals. Farewel happy Fields

Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrours, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang’d by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then hee
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th’ Almighty hath not built

Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n.

Nonlinear Golden Rule

If we imagine the Golden Rule not as a flat, linear formula, but a generative iterative process which produces multiple depths or meta-layers of itself — GR1, GR2, GR3, etc. — I find that it trends toward an asymptotic point, GRx, but a point of generality and universality, so general it is practically void, so universal it is boundless. It is nothing more than “Treat real beings as real”. Real, as opposed to what? As opposed to mere extensions of one’s own being.

The formula of the Golden Rule is do to others as you would have done to you. (I think everything that follows also applies to the Silver Rule variant, “do not do to others what you do not want done to you,” but I can’t/won’t math, and that extends to formal logic.)

The first iteration, GR1, has us concretely treat others as we concretely wish to be treated, in accordance with our own personal preferences. But it is immediately obvious that this amounts to an imposition of one person’s taste upon another, and we would not want that done to us, so we must iterate again, this time more responsively to the other, as we would wish if the other were us, as GR requires.

The second iteration, GR2, has us do to the other according to their own preference.

But, now, perhaps the context is not fitting for the action at all, however much it would be preferred were the context right. Or perhaps another action is needed at this time, in this context.

So, GR3 indicates asking what this person prefers at this time in this context.

But does the person even want our involvement in this situation…? How should we even find out? Some might appreciate being noticed and want to be asked, others might want to be noticed but resent needing to be asked, others might hate even being noticed. We must respond the best we can.

Notice, in this GR series, the trajectory moves away from us treating the other as a duplicate of our own self, and involves more and more understanding and responding to them as real and different from ourselves. But what precisely, does this entail? What is the output of the application?

I would argue that here we apply one of my favorite insights from Richard Rorty, that sometimes progress is best viewed as movement away from something undesirable, rather than movement toward some known, desirable, pre-defined destination. The Golden Rule cannot give us any pat readout of an answer regarding what to do, but it can direct us away from what not to do (GR0 or GR1) and set us on a trajectory that to me seems unattainably, but absolutely good, non-relativistically in principle, but thoroughly relativistically in practice.

Good means trying with all our heart, soul and strength to approach GRx in our dealings with all beings in our complex, entangled lives — a universal, boundless, empty — but all-consuming, endless task.

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I’ll also point out that if the Golden Rule is a nonlinear process, it should be expected to share characteristics of other nonlinear processes, most importantly, sensitivity to initial conditions (aka “the butterfly effect”), which entail radical unpredictability of outcome by means of linear formulae. The peculiar thing about the Mandelbrot Set is that each infinitely divisible point in the complex plane produces unique but similar and orderly behaviors, even points separated by an infinitely infinitesimal degree.

Pragmatic presequence

I just connected two of my favorite ideas, the hermeneutic priority of the question, and the pragmatic maxim.

Both are attempts to account for meanings of ideas.

The principle of the hermeneutic priority of the question sees understanding an idea as a matter of hearing it as a response to an implied or explicit question. If a reader hears the idea as the response to the question intended by one expressing the idea, the idea is understood, or at least it is not misunderstood.

The pragmatic maxim (originally conceived by C. S. Peirce) sees the meaning of an idea as the consequences that follow from the idea if it is believed to be true — the “cash value” of the idea. (One wonderful application of the pragmatic maxim is religious. Stop asking whether God exists or not, and instead ask what follows from your belief or disbelief in God. Therefores are far more clarifying than definitions!)

These two ideas snap together with irresistible elegance, as the complementary upstream and downstream of meaning — the pragmatic presequence and consequence of ideas.

To fully understand the meaning of any idea, first, conceive it as a response to the question or problem that actually engendered it, then develop the consequences that follow from it.

Subjective disposition

If, from our very earliest moments, we learn to conceive ourselves as beings who exist in space, an object among objects, within a world held in common — and then later to understand subjectivity as a way to account for differences in how we apparently experience this shared space-bound, object-filled reality we inhabit together, our basic disposition will be objective.

Is this the natural human intellect, or is it cultural? I don’t know, but I can say that this was the disposition I had when I emerged from the oblivion of early childhood, and it seems to be, if not universal, common to most people around me.

When I was very young, Unless I was confronted with evidence to the contrary, I assumed people experienced things the way I did. When they didn’t, this seemed to require explanation. Of course, every child learns the fundamental fact of subjectivity, that I have my experiences and others have theirs. I can feel pain or pleasure, when others do not, and vice versa. To recognize that an something painless or even pleasurable to me might be painful to another is less obvious. And to suspect that that the pain another is attempting to express or describe might be of a kind unlike any pain I’ve known is far from obvious.

But all of these ways of conceiving subjectivity, as means to explain difference in a common objective field, belongs to what I’m calling an objective disposition.

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Somewhere in my early 30s I shifted my disposition to a subjective one — or rather, I began to — because the first event in the shift was a second objectivity.

I want to clarify what I mean here by shift, because this shift was not only a change in ideas, or assessment of what ideas were true or false, better or worse, more or less compelling or more or less useful for my purposes.

The shift in disposition arose from a mixture of interrogating my basic understandings and values, and experimentally entertaining new understandings and values, but did not consist essentially of new ideas or ideals. Something else happened, and it could not be communicated in any direct way. It could only be indicated or expressed, not explained. All I could say about the change itself was that it defied speech, that it changed literally everything and that I could not imagine a supernatural event more surprising or momentous than this.

Strangely, what I was able to talk about was the objective world as it reemerged in a very new way — what Richard Rorty calls redescription. This new world demanded redescription.

Later, the need to bridge this new objectivity and my own experience of it with the understandings of others around me, especially those closest to me, became urgent. As I reflected on the relationship between subjectivity and the multiple objectivities that had seemed true to me, and in fact, in both cases were indistinguishable from reality itself, I shifted from a second objectivity to what I am calling a subjective disposition, which sees all objectivity as arising from subjectivity.

I stopped feeling the need to root my metaphysical accounts in a shared objective, spatial world containing objects and subjects, as the primary setting of reality, and everted the relationship so that space, time, objects and fellow subjects were contained within subjects who have the strange ability to interact and even to commune into larger subjectivities and to individuate into smaller ones. Where consistent commonalities of experience occur across subjectivities, objectivity emerges, expands, stabilizes and establishes itself so firmly it becomes possible to evert truth so fully that subjectivity seems to be an epiphenomenon of objectivity.

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So, now, I’ll ask you: Was this a religious conversion?

When I read accounts of religious people, I believe I know exactly what they are talking about.

However, if you were to ask a typical smart atheist to make a list of all the stuff they do not believe, I would probably share most of their disbeliefs (if not all of them).

So, I had a strange shift in pretty much everything all at once, and reached for the concepts available around me to make sense of it. Had I experienced the same thing a thousand years ago, I would have had different concepts around me. Perhaps I would have made sense of it with angels and demons and netherworlds, instead of subjects and objects and redescriptions.

Dadvice to Helen

Helen sent Susan and me a page from her Mussar book, and asked “What does this mean?”

For some reason (probably because I was reading Fishbane) I found this question inspiring, and gave a reply that I want to capture here:

First, understand, there won’t be a factual answer. It will be more a tilt of understanding.

The best thing is to struggle. Ask yourself some questions: “The vengeance was toward Egypt via the waters, not toward the waters per se. Gratitude prevented Moses from using waters as an instrument of vengeance. Where have I seen situations where gratitude impedes vengeance?”

Or “Is there always collateral damage in seeking vengeance? Where have I seen it? How can I link gratitude to choosing not to be violent?”

Or “If we have a deep feeling of all-encompassing gratitude, is vengeance even possible at all? Is violence? Is hatred? What happens to our moral and emotional disposition if gratitude dominates our moral disposition?”

That is how to wrangle with sacred texts and commentaries.

Does that help at all? You should spend around 10 minutes meditating in self-dialogue of this kind for every minute you spend reading. Maybe even start by writing yourself questions. The tilt in understanding actually happens in the thrust of questions you discover to ask yourself.

Every factual statement we hear gets its meaning from an implied question. Most misunderstandings can be reduced to hearing a statement as answering a question the statement was not meant to answer. In philosophy we are trying to acquire conceptions capable of posing unasked questions and producing novel answers.

 

Depiction of villains

Whenever I want to know who someone is, I try to get them to talk about the people they hate. Whether in art or life, the depiction of villains demonstrates selfhood more than depiction of heroes.

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Definitions de-finitize. They tell us what something is, by distinguishing it from what it is not. But we are most accustomed to third person definitions. How can a person seeing from the first person define my own self from the entire everything I enworld? “My” is somehow not first person, here, nor is “me”.

Me — first person object — is a deflected 3rd person who corresponds with I, first person subject.

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Some people understand themselves only as first person object (me), while first person subject (I) is lost in oblivion.

Such people “look for themselves” but rarely \ask: who’s looking? They assume self is some kind of findable content instead of a container, a found thing instead of the finding agent, someone known instead of someone who knows — a thing among things within everything, not an everything of its own.

They are the I-less Mes.

A society of I-less Mes, also act as a We-less We who acts without detecting the We who acts.

They’ll each say “speaking as a…”, but they don’t realize there is a We who needs everyone to speak as a something. The political We remains as inconceivable as the Me who constitutes it.

Here  even subjects are objects, but the real subject always remains preconceived.

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I-less Me, Me-less I seem to attract, as do I-full Me and Me-full I.

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These mind states are not essential. They are produced by how we think and act in the world. They are varieties of enworldment, and can be changed.

When enworldments change, miracles happen.

Sacred and profane

The bits of reality that understand that they and all other bits of reality are finite participants in absolute infinitude — each its own center-point in the infinite sphere whose center is everywhere, but whose circumference is nowhere —  seem almost essentially different from the finite bits of reality that mistake themselves for the absolute itself, by seeing validity in only one of the myriad possible truth-conceptions.

One of the better essentialisms, if one must be an essentialist is the distinction between sacred and profane.

The sacred is deeply, humbly, mystically pluralist. If one commits to a single truth, this is a methodological decision.

The profane, on the other hand, is philosophically omniscient, conceptually equipped to understand every relevant fact, though lacking capacity to contain all facts, because nobody can know everything.

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If I could make one change to the world it would be to persuade all parents to adopt this as their scold of choice: “You are not the sole center of the universe.”

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We have sacred and profane confused. Sacredness is oriented toward living relationship with what is not ourselves — not comprehension, belief or identity, which has much more to do with our own sequestered mental processes, however passionately we process our mental product.

But we feel heat from high-voltage mental short-circuits and mistake it for the warmth of care.

This encourages us to view the most profane, fevered theological fanatics for the most devoutly religious people, despite the fact that the object of their devotion is ideoidols — not any being who transcends their imaginations. Similarly, we allow ideological identity-mongers to enjoy exclusive rights to the virtue of empathy, though their intense feelings are bound up now with real living people that they know personally, but with their own mental images, their own logics, their own sociological theories, and most of all their own ethical status — and they fail to notice that they dehumanize not only their detested enemies, but those they imagine themselves to champion. Worshippers of imagined gods, defenders of make-believe people, riding into epic battles on the side of good against the forces of evil — dangerous sleepwalkers in philosophical Augmented Reality goggles, swinging real weapons in real rooms with real people in them…

Meanwhile, sacredness goes about its work respectfully and unobtrusively, learning, sharing, forming relationships and making modest accomplishments.

Inherent truth

Today, we are inclined to take Michelangelo’s notion of forms inhering within blocks of marble more as poetic expression than factual assertion: “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”

Perhaps someday we will reach a point where, similarly, we will hear the notion of truth inhering within reality as poetic expression. At the time we will experience even the driest, most matter-of-fact assertions that reality bears an inherent truth as one kind of poetic stance, without any inclination to argue over whether it is true that fact is a poetic mode.

“I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world because they’d never expect it.” – Jack Handey

The Collective Mental Disorder game

I don’t know why I do this. I just posted something thoughtful on Facebook to be ignored, snarked at or bufoonated upon.

From years of reading about mass misbehaviors (aka history) and living through a couple myself, I’ve come to the belief that whatever can go wrong in the mind of an individual can also go even more horribly wrong in the culture of a collectivity.

I enjoy the exercise of imagining every variety of mental disorder on a mass scale. I start with speculating what it would look like as a mass phenomenon from the outside, because that is easier. You can look for pattern matches using stuff you’ve picked up from History Channel or best seller historical fiction. That’s the warmup.

Then I try to imagine the same phenomenon from the inside as an unsuspecting participant, fully bought into the version of truth generated by the totalizing interpretive scheme and its logic. I’ve learned this in school as fact, see it reinforced wherever I look, and everyone around me agrees with it (or at least all decent people do). What is the world like from this standpoint, ordered within this perspective?

A few examples: What would mass delusion be like, experienced from the inside? What about mass narcissism? Mass OCD? Mass sociopathy? Would there be any hints of what was going on? How could I know? I’m guessing every hint would be handily explained away by the logic of the disorder, so how would would I and those around me logically neutralize every clue that we’d lost our collective mind?

I have a copy of the DSM on my shelf, and people sometimes ask why we we have it. I usually answer “bad taste in friends” or something along the lines of needing to diagnose my book hoarding problem — but I think I’m going to take it off my shelf and put it on my coffee table, so I can open it to a random place and play the Collective Mental Disorder game with visitors.

I recommend declining any invitations to my home until this whim blows over.

Co-marveling

Helen and I built our relationship on sharing experiences. It began with cooking together, then mountain biking, and then listening to music — and then marveling to music.

This is very different for me; I’ve always seen relationships in terms of conversation, and most importantly, exchange of ideas.

But from childhood to late adolescence, Helen absolutely refused to connect intellectually. I was forced to find some other mode of relating to her, and finding it changed everything for me. To share the experience of marveling — to have a similarly awestruck response to beauty — connects us to each other and to the world. It is communion.

Then, after pointing me to the world beyond language, Helen became obsessed with linguistics, and now her knowledge is so deep, intricate and technical it defies my comprehension.

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Exchange of ideas remains my primary mode of relating to other people. But now, the ideas I’m most keen to exchange are ideas that affirm the reality and the importance of reality outside of what words capture — the realities to which we relate through art, through religion, through wordless interaction, through sharing nonverbal experiences, through the exchange of gifts.

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Language itself can grow solipsistic if we don’t perpetually reintroduce it to what transcends language. Yes, language and reason is reality but in a very important sense it is also with reality. Reality involves but exceeds the word.

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I am still reading Michael Fishbane’s Sacred Attunement. My current section is examining a passage from Genesis from four multiple hermeneutic modes, called Pardes:

And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon the place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood beside him, and said: ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac. The land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south. And in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee whithersoever thou goest, and will bring thee back into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.’ And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said: ‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.’ And he was afraid, and said: ‘How full of awe is this place! this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’ And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Beth-el, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. — Genesis 28:10–19

For Jacob it was a space, marked with an anointed stone.

Why can’t it also be music?

Hounds of Love

Abbey Road

The Green Bus

Naive realized

Second-naturalness is naive realization.

We go from one state of naive realism to another, hopefully to a naive realism energized with a profound sense of irony and creative possibility. But, ironically, one we cannot help but take for real.

This state transcends postmodern knowingness. It commits, because it has overcome the silly idea that in the absence of a reigning Truth only anarchy is possible, and rather, has come to accept a more democratic ideal: respect for what realities say to us when we interact with them.

Authority has been broken, shattered, pulverized, atomized, subatomized and distributed to every corner of the universe, and now everything is due its respect.

Or so it seems to me, and I find it hard to believe otherwise.

The Click

Myriad ways to experience the world are possible, and these ways of seeing the world correspond with particular orderings of intuitive activity.

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Can you perceive this dancer to be spinning clockwise and then to be spinning counter-clockwise? Can you feel what kind of effort you are making? There may be inner-chatter associated with your effort, but if you pay close attention you’ll notice that the chatter is neither the effort itself, nor is it able to capture the effort in words. Something beyond language is happening.

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When we look at an optical illusion and we perceive it first one way, then another — what is going on there? This in not a primarily a linguistic phenomenon. There is an inner click, and our perception changes from one stable state to another.

When we read a text and we derive one meaning from it, but then later, another — is this really that different from the various gestalt modes of an optical illusion? And is the intellectual click that happens across the different readings really a linguistic phenomenon?

I would argue that both of these cases manifest a tacit shift in our intuitive order, which we experience most obviously as a change in experience of an intentional object (a visual field or a text) — but which also for the duration of the experience changes how it is to exist.

Like optical illusions, like texts with layered meanings, minds are multistable. And the various stabilities perceived or understood “out there” are actually the various stabilities “in here” doing the perceiving or conceiving in a particular mode of inner intuitive collaboration. This is what is at stake in all interpretation. We ourselves change in understanding. (A religious person might prefer saying it in different language: Our souls are transfigured by faith.)

Of course, we can also lose order. We can be of two minds on some matter, or we may be conflicted, confused or perplexed. These less-ordered or chaotic states also affect how it is to exist.

Confusion about what is going on in the world makes us feel confused in our own being. It is no accident that we say “I am confused” when we are unable to make sense of something.

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To get our intuitive mess back in order when we say “I am confused” or to break an intuitive order that says “I am miserable” or “The world is a vale of misery” we cannot just operate directly on our intuitions. Intuitions just aren’t of a nature where we can manipulate them like objects. (((Intuitions are subjects, each a sand-sized jewel in Indra’s Net, each a divine spark that beyonds All in its own partial way.)))

I would also argue that operating directly on the conclusions our intuitive orders produces willful delusions. We cannot just decide that “I am clear” or “I am happy” or “The world is a vale of happiness” and spontaneously see things that way, any more than we can look at an optical illusion and just assert that we see it as the gestalt we haven’t gotten to click yet.

We must approach our intuitive orders indirectly, through various intentional objects, and do intuitive experiments, trying to entertain it in a multiplicity of ways, until a gestalt shift occurs that changes what we experience on the whole and in part. I call these gestalts synesis.

When the click happens and we truly understand a situation differently, experience it differently, reach different conclusions and find ourselves feeling and responding differently — this is metanoia.

Metanoia is often translated as repentance, which is not altogether wrong, but it misses the spirit of the change. It is not about penitential emotions that motivate us to do better. It is about re-understanding things in such a way that makes the non-desirability of our old way clear, and causes a new way of understanding, behaving and existing to emerge that is experienced as preferable to the earlier way.

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When we try to change our lives, what we believe, how we behave, without making our intuitions click into a new order, we will speak and act in a way that is artificial. We must constantly micromanage ourselves, police ourselves, remain vigilant of ourselves. We must consciously “do the work” of enforcing the desired cognitions, conduct and speech, or our unconscious selves will horrify and shame us with its unwanted outputs.

If we change our lives through metanoia, the change is obviously different from what seemed natural to us before, but this new existence is second-natural. We spontaneously, intuitively (literally), effortlessly have a new and preferable outlook on things, and our souls somehow, mysteriously, feel better.

This year's winning illusion presents a simple shape rotating around a horizontal and vertical axis at the same time