Category Archives: Enworldment

Multistability

All my interests concern psychic multistabilities — gestalts of perceptual, conceptual (hermeneutic), relational and behavioral kinds. My whole life is a story of successive stabilities, punctuated with perplexity, anxiety and chaos. Somewhere along the way it became a story of finding durable stability through understanding multistability.


Design is about forming multistable arrangements between persons and nonpersons — “hybrid systems’, as Latour called them. In a stable hybrid system, nonpersons become extensions of personal being and persons are able to participate in an order that transcends their awareness and understanding. This involves interplay between conceptual and perceptual gestalts — and with advances in service design, social gestalts, concerning personal and organizational behavioral.

Philosophy — or at least the kinds of philosophy I enjoy — concern the dissolution and reformation of stable cognitive systems. An understanding is skillfully taken apart (refuted), enough that that it no longer possesses the intuitive stability of a given truth. Thus, loosened (analyzed) the elements of a possible truth are freed for new arrangements.

These freed elements can be logically connected and built up into cognitive or social constructions and asserted as truth. These constructed truths are experiences as true by all who can construe them, that is, retrace the construction and show the soundness of the connections. We may now explicate truth — untangle or unfold it — or explain truth — lay it flat, two-dimensionally, or better, in a one-dimensional straight line of thought, so it can be followed. All this is construal of constructions. It’s analytic stuff, and, at least for me, a preliminary for something vastly more important, which is experimenting with of constructions to find and exploring conceptual multistabilities. A concept is a cognitive gestalt, and the capacity to perceive, conceive or participate in a gestalt affords us givens — given entities, given truths, given situations. The more concepts we have at our disposal, the more given-rich our experience of reality. To understand multistability from a first-person perspective, means to modalize stabilities. A mood is a modal stability — or lack of stability, in the angst of perplexity. Between continents of solid, stabile ground lie vast expanses of watery welter and waste…

Anyway — some folks maintain a very limited repertoire of conceptual capacities, and rely heavily on construal. My strategy is the opposite. I try to stabilize a dense conceptual system that affords intuitive givenness of those realities that concern me most in life. I am grateful that scientists and engineers of various kinds inhabit a world tuned to physics, or chemistry, or whatever enables them to perform feats of technological magic. But I cannot live a life in full contact with their givens. I live in a world of truth-mediated relationships, where groups of people try to conceptually and practically align on problems and solve them together. Daily, I witness firsthand how clashing conceptualizations induce anxiety, and how premature attempts to annihilate anxiety. discomfort, tension and conflict only suppress and pressurize perplexity and make it more explosive, while also obstructing progress and necessitating domination — ironically often by folks who believe they are protecting us from domination.

In other words, my philosophy of multistability is derived from my direct personal experiences with design multistability, and this philosophy helps me navigate stabilities and de-stabilities without losing my head — or at least not irrecoverably losing my head. I maintain a philosophical self above my practical self, and this transcending self acts as guardian angel over my hazardous pursuits.

Finally…

Religion — religion is the practice of maintaining one’s finite self within an infinitely multistable reality, in full skin-on-skin relation to its infinitude. The very infinitude of not only its quantitative extent in time and space (or whatever other dimensions physicists discover-invent-instaurate for us) is the least of it, because infinity is essentially qualitative. Infinity presents us with a limitless number of limitlessly countable things. Each time we re-stabilize, we notice new givens and we stop seeing relevance in old givens. We are inclined to focus on and count very different givens. Those who have destabilized once often feel elevated and awakened to truth. The scales of the old stability fall from their eyes. Now they know the true Truth. If they have power, they’ll set to work propagating and enforcing it, and no amount of argument can pop them out of their crusade — not even that they are latter-day crusaders. No, they are different, special and unique according to their own criteria, and in this, they are exactly the same as every crusader who ever lived, all of whom were benevolent, insightful and brave champions of whatever floats their boats. It is a tragicomedy of epic proportions that our most hopelessly naive and biased naive realists run around preaching against cognitive bias and naive realism, believing that this objective knowing about is a cure for an incurable subjective condition. I call this metanaivety. It is as old as religion itself. It is the fundamentalist dementia that commits the category mistake of treating subjectivity knowing as objective knowledge. God is not an existent nor nonexistent object, and until an intelligent fundamentalist overcomes the fundamentalist fetter, decency demands atheism.

To be religious is to know the stabilities are unending and that our relationships with one another within this infinitely multistable reality call for destabilization and restabilization, death and rebirth.

Religion is the practice of taking active responsibility for our choice of psychic stability, so we live in awareness of one another within God.

Vocabulary

From Emerson’s essay, “The American Scholar”:

If it were only for a vocabulary, the scholar would be covetous of action. Life is our dictionary. Years are well spent in country labors; in town; in the insight into trades and manufactures; in frank intercourse with many men and women; in science; in art; to the one end of mastering in all their facts a language by which to illustrate and embody our perceptions. I learn immediately from any speaker how much he has already lived, through the poverty or the splendor of his speech. Life lies behind us as the quarry from whence we get tiles and copestones for the masonry of to-day. This is the way to learn grammar. Colleges and books only copy the language which the field and the work-yard made.

If I hadn’t worked as a designer, and suffered and overcome so many perplexities in an effort to both do my design work, and to intuitively understand what I am doing, and hardest of all, to articulate my intuitive understanding, my philosophical work never would have traveled this trajectory and taken me where I now am.

If design hadn’t become so collaborative, and therefore so social, and therefore so political I never would have needed to philosophize about design. I could have just absorbed myself in wordless dialogue with my materials — in craft. But when your materials include people — as it turns out all design does, when understood properly — there is no way to avoid wordful dialogue.

And, my God! — when multiple dozens of people are directly involved in the process of collaboration, as they are in service design, you will find yourself in highly wordful meta-dialogue about dialogue (for instance the meaning of what research participants said in an interview, or whether multiple different interview participants were saying the same thing, and if so, in what sense was it the same, and why…). With each meta-level of conversations about conversations, of understandings of understandings, things get weirder and harder to navigate. This shadowy hades region — this Sartrean Hell that is other people thinking about other people thinking about other people — is the terrain I’ve learned to navigate. I’m a professional Hell sherpa.

Most people I know do not care to think about this region. If only they would suspend speculating on it, too. Because when I hear people talk about their own loves and hopes and commitments they all seem reasonable. But when they start talking about their enemies who oppose, obstruct or interfere with these good things, they sound like angry, egocentric children. And this is especially true of altruists whose loves and hopes and commitments are all about others they wish to help, who cannot imagine that these moral fantasies could ever be egocentric.

So for me “mastering in all their facts a language by which to illustrate and embody our perceptions” would be a final vocabulary useful for navigating the terrain of personal and social perplexity and to emerge on the other side with better enworldments.

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Reflecting on enworldment

In the business world, the default attitude toward thought is that thought is a means to an end. We think in order to figure out how best to change the world.

This is true to a degree, but not nearly true enough.

First, the process of thinking is not that clean.

Often that process of uncovering and clarifying the ways the world could be changed, the reasons why it should be changed in one way rather than another, and working through the ways it can be changed changes our own selves in ways inconceivable prior to the actual doing of world-changing work.

In transforming the world we transform ourselves. Susan’s teacher, Rabbi Jeff Roth taught her a tiny blessing, “May your wanting be wiser.” The reflective practice of design is one effective way to realize this beautiful blessing.

But that’s not the end of it. The transformation continues rippling out into the world. The transformed world transforms those who participate in it. Our transformations of the world are only start out materially, “out there”. Much of it is spiritual, “in here”, changing people’s spontaneous perceptions and intuitions of reality.

What Churchill said of architecture — “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us” — is true of all significant technological advances. Think about how the world as a whole seemed to those before and after the printing press, steam power, air travel, radio, television, computers, the internet, mobile phones, social media. And now, artificial intelligence.

Working to change our intuited sense of reality for the better through transforming the world, our relationship to the world, and ourselves — all together as a whole — as a single personal, interpersonal, material, linguistic, informational, practical, institutional, aesthetic hybrid system — is what I mean when I talk about enworldment.

It would be a terrible mistake, a “fatal conceit”, in fact, to think we can approach enworldment as a linear industrial process of conceiving, planning, and executing. This is a radically iterative process, where iteration is the rule, not an embarrassing exception. And it would be totalitarian to see it as something one elite group does on behalf of a nation or the world.

Enworldment is an approach to living our own lives together, making changes to what is around us. It is a style of taking responsibility, of responding, and of noticing the effects of our responses, on the world, on ourselves and on each other.

Annual disorientation

Every year around this time I lose my curriculum. I pick up books and abandon them.

This year I’ve picked up and dropped several books about the formation of worldviews. I started at Worldview and Mind by Eugene Webb. Then I switched over to Nelson Goodman’s Ways of Worldmaking. Then I spent a few days in Cassirer revivalist Sebastian Luft’s The Space of Culture. Now I am tentatively rereading Bruno Latour’s weird and semi-neglected magnum opus, An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence.

All this came after a half-year dive into hermeticist literature, focusing on Kabbalah and Tarot, and approached from my own heretically practical angle.

Susan has booked a mountain cabin for a week-long writing retreat in early spring. I’ve noticed that everything I am doing is now preparation for that week.

My project is the same as it has been for the last decade, and both the hermeticist and the worldview investigations are components of it, and, of course, design remains at the heart of it as well. The project is enworldment. If we are displeased with the world as we experience it, what do we have at our disposal to change our experience of the world — by materially changing the world, by changing own being-in-the-world, by changing our own social participation? My prescription is to approach things as a designer — always as a designer — and most of all when we think we should approach them as a political or “ethical” actor.

The Tool-Using Animal

Note: I wrote this post a few days ago, and sort of abandoned it. Then I had a conversation with my favorite expat gringoid, who said a bunch of stuff that I’d said in parallel in this post. I’m posting it now mainly for his amusement. It’s unfinished, but there’s some gold flakes mixed in with the silt, if you don’t mind doing some light sifting.


We humans are tool-using beings.

We are such profound tool-users that the boundary between our own being and the being of the tool is blurry. A good tool in use becomes an extension of our mind, our body, our attention, our intention. We do not know where we stop and where the tool begins. And the better the tool, the less we perceive it.

The very best tool, the one that extends us best, the one least distinguishable from our own being is language. Some of us identify with our language so thoroughly that when we have a question, and ask it and answer it with language, we think the language itself asked and answered it.

Most of our life is lived beneath language, beside language, and beyond language.

But to language all life is words, and it is language who says what is and is not real and true.

A bad tool, including bad language, requires us to use language in order to operate the tool. We have to ask ourselves questions and answer them before we can do the next step. Or we have to recall instructions to execute. It is this that makes a sharp boundary between me and the thing I am trying to use. But on this side of “me” is a set of language tools, that seem part of my own being. But they are not really me. They are only my favored tools — so favored that I forgot there is a self beneath them who could use other language and interact differently with the real beings around me, if only I could “open the hand of thought” and let these old interceding words drop away.

This is what we do when we meditate. We let being be. And we let language chatter alongside the being, or we let it stop chattering. We do not let language absorb our being, or we at least allow being to notice its accidental absorption. No, Language: Shhhh… the point of meditation is not (as you assume) to give us a nonverbal experience that we can know about. No, we cannot read books on meditation and get the same knowledge about meditation that we get from doing it. It is not for that.

But it cannot occur to our language-using being to stop using language to think about being. Language uses language to keep using language to use other language. Many of us — most of us — are trapped inside a linguistic machine that moves us more than we move it. When we try to understand ourselves we use words to think thoughts about the object of our thought, Me, what makes me identical to other subjective objects (“Others”) and what makes Me and Others identical to one another (“Identity”). The transcendental subject who uses and cannot stop using its words to do all its understanding cannot comprehend the word-using, word-used transcendental subject behind the word use, because understanding is its words.

If you know what I mean here, this will be, at best, a redescription of a truth you know well.

If you do not know what I mean here, this will be, at best, a redescription of a truth you understand differently and better. You prefer a third-person scientific mode of explaining mystical, existential truths, but beneath all the descriptions we refer to the same deeply mysterious object underpinning all reality. We are all referring to the same Tao, the same Ein Sof.

But this is not about referring — or not only about it. It isn’t even mainly about it.

It is about participating in what transcends our being and what transcends our language.

Some happy weirdness

I’m reading flaky stuff these days. The exact material is nobody’s business, but it’s even more shocking than you’d guess. It inspired the following spew.


I just found a parallel between two of the books I’m poking around in and my own sacred pamphlet, which is more or less visualized enceptions of my personal faith. (It was not easy to find my genre.) …

In the first book, it is suggested that our worldviews naturally close in on themselves and form vicious logical and interpretive circles. To open the the circle is to form a holy spiral. The opening of that circle is Shabbat. In my tradition it is understood that Shabbat punches a 24-hour diameter hole in time, through which flows Eternity and the Shekhinah (a feminine facet of the Divine), and establishing, for those with the senses to perceive it, Malchut, the Kingdom of Heaven. In this space we are invited to suspend the cranking of our automatic thoughts and behaviors and to open out to the world in its glorious profusion of overlapping orders.

In the second book, a figure is presented, a triangle with a center point. Each point is a letter of the Tetragrammaton. Yod, Heh, Vav, Heh. Yod is the active principle, the potential to do. The first Heh is the material upon which Yod may act. Vav is the result of the action upon the material, the child of the Yod-Heh intercourse. The second Heh is the center of the triangle , the entirety of the triangle rooted from the center, which I am inclined to understand as the transcendent being of the triad. This transcendent being of the second Heh then becomes the Yod of another triangle. I am inclined to understand Yod as a transcendental subject whose being is only manifested when it acts upon the first Heh. But the action of Yod and its result ultimately produces the second Heh, which is a transcendent subject. In my understanding then, the triangles are linked by transcendent subjects who found new transcendental subjects.

Some old insights that feel feel alive to me today: Opening the circle into a spiral not only allows it to open onto what transcends its outer limits — to extend outwardly to embrace more and more reality — that ┬ásame opening permits the spiral to intend inwardly and enter into its own heart, at the center of which lives the divine spark. But some of this reality is the reality of other people. Two spirals can coil together as a double spiral, as can three, four … myriad. A closed circle implies the question, who contains whom? Spirals are egalitarian.

A new Jewish thought. Torah famously ends open-endedly. Moses never enters the land. The Torah is several essential loops of the spiraling story of the Israelites. Past Torah, beyond Deuteronomy, outspirals Talmud, the application of Torah to practical and communal life. But the inward coiling of Torah beneath Genesis, further into the weird heart of the faith inspirals Zohar.


The opposite spirality, who self-referentially thinks about thinking about thinking, and experiences the experiences of our experiencing, is the self choking beast, the Gorging Ouroboros.

Bite!

A young shepherd I saw, writhing, gagging, in spasms, his face distorted, and a heavy black snake hung out of his mouth. Had I ever seen so much nausea and pale dread on one face? He seemed to have been asleep when the snake crawled into his throat, and there bit itself fast. My hand tore at the snake and tore in vain; it did not tear the snake out of his throat. Then it cried out of me: “Bite! Bite its head off! Bite!” Thus it cried out of me — my dread, my hatred, my nausea, my pity, all that is good and wicked in me cried out of me with a single cry. … The shepherd, however, bit as my cry counseled him; be bit with a good bite. Far away he spewed the head of the snake — and he jumped up. No longer shepherd, no longer human — one changed, radiant, laughing! Never yet on earth has a human being laughed as he laughed!

 

 

Remedial phenomenology

For the last couple of months I have been re-grounding myself in Husserl’s phenomenology. The work I am interested in doing is phenomenological, but it is not, itself, phenomenology. By returning to Husserl, I hope to arrive at the point of departure for my project. I am interested in approaching philosophy as a design discipline, both in the form of the philosophy (writing, visuals, practices designed to impart a particular faith) and in its substance (the life afforded by adoption of the faith). To make matters weirder, the faith itself is designerly. Obviously, it is a synthesis of philosophy, design and religion that profoundly scrambles the current meanings of philosophy, design and religion.

Natural as opposed to what?

I’ve used the word “natural” to four very different ways, and each is defined against a different opposite. These are each

The first two are the boring obvious ones.

  • Natural versus manmade. Is it from the wilderness, or is it from our own hands?
  • Natural versus supernatural. Does it obey the laws of nature, or does it follow the laws of something or someone beyond nature? Note: I understand there are less vulgar notions of supernatural, but for the present purposes, let’s use the vulgar sense.

The second two (to me, anyway) are more interesting.

  • Natural versus unnatural. Does something subjectively feel as though it spontaneously participates in nature or does it seem alienated from it and at odds with it? This could be subdivided into any number of categories, depending on the perceived location of the unnaturalness. For example, it could be one’s own self (“this action feels unnatural”) or in a perceived or conceived object (“that light looks unnatural”).
  • Natural versus phenomenological. Am I regarding some phenomenon in solely terms of the object given to my perception or conception, or am I understanding the phenomenon also as a subjective act of perceiving or conceiving some given object? And I will always add: and if conceived differently, will reveal a different given object.

These latter two are at the heart of my philosophical design work.

Can phenomenological freedom be used skillfully to suspend one natural way of perceiving in order to reconceive reality (or nature, if you prefer) in another way — a way that is shockingly unfamiliar, yet just as natural as the old one. A new comprehensive praxic gestalt clicks into place, replacing the old “everything” gestalt.

This is a non-supernatural account of metanoia, and it suggests that philosophies rooted in phenomenological reflective practice can be a kind of genuine religious practice. If one is willing to pay the necessary exorbitant price, one can radically reconfigure one’s own subjectivity, objectivity and subject-object relations.

For a long time I was planning to call my perpetually unwritten book on this subject Second-Natural. I was also playing with another title The Ten Thousand Everythings.

Now I am leaning toward calling it Enworldment.

Intuition versus alienation

Intuition is direct response to experience, unmediated by language.

Confusingly, though, our most spontaneous utterances and immediate responses to language are also intuitive.

When we say “experience-near” this means using words that directly refer to intuited experience. We can use and understand experience-near language intuitively. We do not need to use words to help us use other words. We simply speak, and what we say means what we mean to convey.

Language becomes unintuitive when speaking or understanding requires long intermediating chains of language. We must speak to ourselves inwardly about our speech, and pick our words carefully, word by word. With each layer of meta-talk, the connection between word and experience grows more remote and attenuated. This is what is meant by “experience-distant.”

Destruction of intuition is alienation — from the world, from others, and from oneself. It begins with over-reliance on experience-distant language. Alienation is complete when the experience-distant language detaches from its alleged object and begins to refer only to itself.

In alienation, whatever one experiences is subjected to elaborate interpretive processing and explained in theoretical language. We psychoanalyze ourselves, explain our biological brain states, interrogate our power relations, theorize on how our social conditioning might be distorting our perceptions snd feelings, speculate how we might be perceived by others, and so on, before simply experiencing what we might otherwise experience. Our intuitions are diffused among many fragmentary notions, or redirected into one compulsive direction, away from one’s immediate or thinly mediated experience.

Same with actions. One no longer interacts directly and wordlessly with objects in ones environment. One no longer picks up a pen and writes, or picks up a knife and cuts. One must anticipate, set goals and plan before acting. One must recall directions and then follow them. One must ask what the next best move is, pick it, then execute it. And at each step one must document the move, to provide transparency. The more a person’s actions are of this kind, the less intuitive contact with the world one has. One’s intuitive connection is primarily with one’s own instruction set. There is no craft, just foresight and execution.

Same with speech and interactions among people. Speaking becomes a risky endeavor. People must carefully consider and select every word or gesture before using it. Words become dangerous things to be handled with thick gloves, carefully assembled and inspected unit by unit before any sentence is delivered. Beliefs are charged with extreme moral significance. Asserting the truth of some facts makes one a good person, where denying their truth, or wrongly asserting the truth of false opinions makes one a bad person. We must constantly reassure one another where we stand, and wherever possible demonstrate our true belief of true beliefs.

But personal beliefs are viewed as constructs — conventions acquired through habit, shaped by social conditioning. Beliefs should never be left to personal judgment, but rather determined by ethical experts who can calculate the effects of various beliefs upon society, and select beliefs capable of generating maximum justice for those who most need and deserve it. Bad beliefs are beliefs left to organic distortion or intuition, which, more likely than not, serve only one group or one person.

With sufficient degree and duration of alienation, a person can be made to lose all direct connection with self, with others, with reality beyond one’s alienated language.

And sadly, one cannot avoid alienation from the alienated. In alienated times, those with functioning intuitions must find one another, offer one another refuge, commune with one’s ancestors — and recommit to future generations beyond this human void.


The key is to develop experience-near language that does full justice to the wordless realities we intuit in our midst.

We intuit energies, tones, vibrations around us and emanating from others and concentrated in certain places and objects. What can we do with them, when we intuit them and speak of them in such nebulous language? Nothing. And that is why the alienated world approves of leaving them in such a wispy, flaky, woo-woo state. Belief in energies and vibes has very little pragmatic consequence.

But these realities of which we are unable to speak are the most consequential. They move mountains.

We do not know how to think and speak and share the most crucial realities of our lives. Our language is optimized to physics and technological manipulation. So we talk about our brains and hormones and social conditioning when what really concerns us are our minds, our hearts and our place in the world.

We have it all everted.

Things can and must be otherwise.

Service design initiation

I am starting a class on online course creation this month. The class is project-based, centering around the design and implementation of an actual online course.

My class project will be an initiation into the enworldment of service design.

By enworldment, I mean the practical-experiential manifestation of an understanding, which causes a person to approach, perceive, understand, respond to and attempt to change the world in some distinct way. (Enworldment is close enough in meaning to “worldview” or “lifeworld” that for most purposes it can be used interchangeably.) *

The course is not meant to be a philosophy of service design, but a series of exercises to effect a shift that causes service design problems to become conspicuously visible as what they are: service design problems.

Currently, under the mainstream corporate enworldment, most service design problems, if noticed at all, are understood in other terms (such as technology problems or management challenges) and are addressed in ways that fail to resolve them, or make them worse.

For a variety of reasons, I have it in for the corporate enworldment, and its failure to detect and respond to service design problems is the least of them. The main problem with the corporate enworldment is the alienating, intuition-paralyzing, depressive effect it has on the majority of people who subscribe to it.

People who believe they hate capitalism don’t really hate capitalism as an economic system, but rather this corporate enworldment’s mode of capitalism. Frankly, if we were to establish socialism today, we would establish it under this same hellish enworldment, while losing many of the tempering effects of the market, and end up with something at least as soulless, oppressive and violent as the Stalinist or Maoist systems. Today’s youth are some of the most thoroughly alienated people I have ever met, and they suffer from political Dunning-Kruger of the profoundest kind that makes them believe they have the answer when they can’t even hear the question. If they do not grow out of their social childishness before they take full control of our society, mass suffering is inevitable. I am sorry, but this is the truth.

I despise the corporate enworldment, too. The only thing I despise more is the anticapitalist two-in-one political enworldment that opposes it — proggism and its complement, alt-rightism. They each think they are the opposite of the other, but they are just the vessels and veins of a single bad-blood pumping circulatory system.

I know that commerce can be conducted in myriad ways within a capitalist system, and one of the better ways is service design. I would like it to become the universal enworldment in the domain of business, and to see all the bean-counters, systems engineers, product managers, perception manipulators, strategic planners and so on, to find their proper places within it, not over it, as they are today.

There is a lot of interest in service design right now. Most people try to do service design within the corporate enworldment, which causes it to be far more complicated and ugly than it could be if it were practiced under a more suitable enworldment. I hope this online course might inspire people to approach business — and life — in a radically different, much better way.


NOTE * : Here is an outtake from an earlier version of this post, where I was attempting to shed more light on enworldment:

“I’ll restate this same idea religiously. Why not? : An enworldment is the way the world manifests to us when we approach it in some particular faith. So when employees of corporations experience their work lives in that dull, weary, anxious, workaday way we describe as “corporate”, that is an enworldment. And any product of corporate life also belongs to that enworldment and it bears a corporate aura — more like a smell — of phoniness, impersonality or insincerity and artificiality. Art aspires to the opposite. An artist with his own enworldment produces artifacts experienced as art, ideally bearing a genuine, intensely personal, otherworldly aura — also known as a halo. Most aspiring artists have absolutely no idea of enworldment, and just try to craft interesting-looking stuff that seems to suggest something provocative or mysterious. Most art does not even manage to be bad art. It is just the idle play of people who’d like to bear an artist’s aura, but who are too timid, pain-averse and unimaginative to diverge from the popular enworldment with its moral norms of norming the abnormal and conventional wisdom of deconstructing convention, playing around with materials in hopes something novel will emerge.)”

 

 

Sermon on the Distributed God

There is a plurality of ways to be a pluralist, and pluralism is prepared to accept the pragmatic consequences of this truth by acknowledging that apparent contradictions to any given truth, even the truth of pluralism, does not imply falsehood.

Pseudopluralism believes that its view on pluralism is the only valid form of pluralism, and sees any contradiction to its own form of pluralism as false and anti-pluralist and something a pluralist should suppress through responsible use of overpowering force.

This is one variant of an ancient and universal trap: of merely knowing, or worse, saying, when we are summoned to act and to be.


Each of us is a divine spark of the immanent Distributed God.

Pluralism is the acknowledgment that our finite efforts to conceive reality from our various points in the divine body will necessarily differ, just as we feel different sensations in different points in our own bodies. Sparks within sparks. Speck-size sparks; flame-size sparks; inferno-size sparks, sun-size sparks, galaxy-size sparks. Sparks seen close-up, sparks seen on the horizon, sparks floating on the surface of the azure sky and sparks set in the depths of darkness.

Each spark regards the others as if through the eye of the one and only God. The Golden Rule urges us to know that we are merely participants in a transcendent one and only God, and we are surrounded by innumerable fellow-participants, fellow sparks. We are all centers of the universe.

Borges:

In one part of the Asclepius, which was also attributed to Trismegistus, the twelfth-century French theologian, Alain de Lille — Alanus de Insulis — discovered this formula which future generations would not forget: ‘God is an intelligible sphere, whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.

Here we can see the ethical dimension of pluralism — an attitude of mutuality toward our fellow-I — who, from our own perspective, is Thou — and actions of reciprocity. The principle of reciprocity — which must not be confused with a rule, because rules determine actions, but principles determine rules — goes by the misnomer “the Golden Rule.” The Golden Principle is a test for any action, and it iterative asks — that is, it interrogates — every action. It asks “By what principle is this action justified?” Then, “Would you accept that principle?” Then it asks, “By what principle is this principle justified? Would you accept that principle?” and this questioning iterates until the test fails, or it terminates at the root of this principle, which requires us to involve our neighbor, our Thou, as ourselves, as fellow participants in a We.

The Golden Principle can be restated as: Thou shalt codesign.

The Jewish tradition, in which the Jesus was a participant of supreme genius, has always approached God as community in covenant. He understood and taught that the Golden Principle — to respect and love Thou as I — is precisely the same principle of loving God with our entire being — not just with our theological minds, not only with our overflowing hearts, not only with our serving strength — but will all of ourselves, integrated and whole and in communion with our fellows in a network of I-Thous, woven into a jewelled Indra’s Net, who can never been seen from outside, despite all appearances. Indra’s Net is woven of first-person. The refractions of first-persons within first-persons is the scintillation of these jewels.

Martin Buber:

To man the world is twofold, in accordance with his twofold attitude.

The attitude of man is twofold, in accordance with the twofold nature of the primary words which he speaks.

The primary words are not isolated words, but combined words.

The one primary word is the combination I-Thou.

The other primary word is the combination I-It; wherein, without a change in the primary word, one of the words He and She can replace It.

Hence the I of man is also twofold.

For the I of the primary word I-Thou is a different I from that of the primary word I-It.

Primary words do not signify things, but they intimate relations.

Primary words do not describe something that might exist independently of them, but being spoken they bring about existence.

Primary words are spoken from the being.

If Thou is said, the I of the combination I-Thou is said along with it.

If It is said the I of the combination I-It is said along with it.

The primary word I-Thou can only be spoken with the whole being.

The primary word I-It can never be spoken with the whole being.

To make the leap from monocentric “I am one with God, and coextensive with God” to polycentric “I am a participant in God, and I am entirely of God and nothing but God, while God infinitely exceeds my finite being” is also to say “My participation in God is inseparable from my participation with my fellow I, as they are also of God, and participants in God’s being.”

To oppose God, the world and other people is to render God finite and deny his very infinite essence. And we all do it every minute of every day. Each moment it is an infinite challenge to overcome this natural sin, and it is to this challenge we are summoned. “Where are you?” To which we respond “Hineini: within Thou who is, am, will be. And to this we say “Amen.”

We are called to radical pluricentrism within the Distributed God.


To know and say it epistemologically: pluralism.

To do it ethically: codesign by the Golden Principle.

To be it ontologically: be a polycentric participant in the Distributed God.

This is my religion. It is Judaism. It is all religion. It is All, or at least one way to situate within All.

I am trying to convey this to anyone with the hope to know better, the will to receive new givens, the ears to hear, the eyes to see, the space of an open outspiraling heart.

I am not trying to convey it to those who do not want it, and that is most people, especially those who say “pluralism!” or related words like “diversity!” or “equity!” or “inclusion!” Two millennia ago, a radical Jew said “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” The kingdom, of course, Malchut, Shekinah, is the enworldment of participation in the Distributed God.

All too often we believe beliefs as a counterfeit for a faith of being and doing and receiving givens.


Last point: Participate first with participants.

You cannot play Uno with one who will only play Solitaire.

But the more people are playing, the more the hesitant will feel compelled to join, and joining is its own kind of persuasion. With games, too — with games, especially — the medium is the message. And what isn’t a game? (Language games. Ethnomethodic games.)


Remember: Persuade the persuadable first.

Starting with the obstinate, focusing on the obstinate, is obstinacy.

Prying open the hand of thought

I’ve begun to notice where other people’s own original “pet theories” harm their overall understandings and ability to communicate their ideas. The noticing is spontaneous and intuitive, too. It is not an intention or an analysis. I just see it as given.

This matters to me because I have become aware that I am guilty of the same thing. The idea that I was going to write a book to mark my intellectual property, and my intense anxiety of getting scooped has corrupted my thinking. Now my philosophy is scarred with neologisms and mangled with argumentative entrenchments.

For this reason, I am doing some strange things to loosen my own grip on “my” ideas.

I feel that if I can stop caring, or at least suspend caring about the source of the ideas I use and care about — if I can “open the hand of thought” and let my precious, old, complicated ideas fall out — maybe some simpler ideas might land on my palm.

I am focusing on learning to teach — prioritizing what is most readily learnable over what is mine — as a mindset to gently pry my fingers open.

And what I am going to learn to teach is service design. I want to get service design dead simple, so it can do its transformative magic on our everyday dealings with others.

When done in the right spirit, service design invests us with a new practical faith — one that guides our participation in the transcendent, mysterious, glorious drudgery of life. This drudgery — ours and others — deserves our love and respect. Service design operationalizes that love and that respect within an organization.

It is important!

Hope

I spent most of this week at Greenville Memorial Hospital. My dad had a Type A aortic dissection, and had to undergo emergency open heart surgery. So far, he has beaten some terrifyingly slim odds, largely thanks to his heart surgeon, Dr. Bhatia, who worked on him literally all Sunday night through Monday morning, and the incredible nurses and support staff at the CVICU.

*

These days it is easy to lapse into pessimism regarding our species.

But it is important to remember that the people who give us this dark impression is a small and specialized segment of the population, who spend their days reading about and writing about one small corner of human experience.

Meanwhile, another, much larger group of people show up to work each day to give care and comfort to a perpetually rotating set of hurting, terrified people. They serve with skill, professionalism, compassion and humor. We don’t often hear their perspectives on things because they are incredibly busy. Their communications are mostly practical and specific and directed to one person or a few.

When I focus on people like this, and recognize them as representative of humanity I feel much, much better about everything.