I have not written in my blog now for over three months. For me, it has been a major struggle to engage, initially due to travel requirements but especially so after the American election. Since that time, I have been pondering my difficulty.
My struggle has not been acedia per se (see previous posts beginning 20160802), although that was my immediate concern (given my studies of acedia) — it is more that I have felt traumatized by the election of Donald Trump, and the likely consequences thereby. For myself in particular, I know that I am strongly introverted, and that most of my life, I have defined myself as a poustinik, a hermit who is available when asked. From the past year or so, I have been attempting to engage in climate activism, but have found it to be exhausting. I don’t engage well in groups, and especially I flounder when I do not have a designated task to give me focus. And I am very sensitive to the pain of others.
All that definitely is part of my personal pattern that predisposes me to acedia in response to climate change. I know for example that I have been avoiding writing (which often gives me clarity of my internal process). And I definitely experience a push-pull regarding global warming — more and more we are at risk of extinction as a species: I want to resolve it, and I want to avoid it. Yet, as noted, I am not at high risk of the profound avoidance that characterizes acedia.
Regarding the precepts that counteract acedia (wisdom, discipline, hope and playfulness), I have been aware that I do not have the wisdom to know what to do, other than ponder. I am very disciplined (with daily yoga, meditation, and attention to health, amongst other resources). However, given the immensity of the negative forces creating climate change, I have little to no hope that we will survive.
And I have difficulty being playful with the topic. If there is a God, I am quite willing to turn the issues over to him/her, but I find it difficult to be joyous or playful with this possibility. If there is no God, then humanity is clearly demonstrating its ineffectiveness as a species (and even if there is a God).
It is this latter possibility, the ineffectiveness of our species, that is my current focus of pondering, especially in light of again encountering some of the writings of E. Richard Sorenson, a cultural anthropologist who has studied numerous isolates of human culture in various domains. In his work, Sorenson distinguished between “preconquest” consciousness, characteristic of many indigenous cultures, and “postconquest,” characteristic of modern life (conquest referring to the Spanish invasion of the New World). In particular, this quote from his writings about the primitive societies he explored has struck me as vital:
For several years after I began contacting preconquest peoples like those described above, I considered their type of consciousness an oddity, a kind of naive primitive emotionality, one perhaps suitable only for small, isolated groups, but certainly for no one else. It took a long time for me to realize that they had evolved their own sophisticated type of cognition that was simply different from what I (or anyone I knew) was used to. And I came to realize that such mentality could not be considered primitively ignorant if only because it was so sensitively intelligent and beneficially responsive. It moved more facilely, more harmoniously, and more constructively than do the mentalities associated with today’s postconquest world. Furthermore, it provided for an astonishingly rewarding and zestful life [emphasis added].
Sorenson in particular identified that the encounter between preconquest consciousness and postconquest invariably led to devastation of the richness of preconquest life. What I would add to this is that this devastation is the same process of power that I gleaned from The Parable of The Tribes, written about in earlier posts. Unfortunately, our 10,000 years of civilization are based upon the power dynamics of conquest, and as such are not compatible with effective living as human beings. We must find a way to what I would call transconquest consciousness, combining the richness of preconquest with the technological advances of postconquest.
I first encountered Sorenson’s writings as a result of working with my PhD advisor Christian de Quincey, professor of consciousness studies at JFK University in California. Christian’s entire approach to living changed when he first encountered Sorenson’s work, realizing that his own conquistadorial approach was not compatible with effective living.
In retrospect, I now recognize that the distinctions drawn by Sorenson are those that have devastated my life in many ways, ranging from early childhood experience to the defense of my PhD dissertation. They are also fully consistent with all I have learned of human dynamics in my 25 years of being a therapist. They form the basis of the traumas that underlie the mechanisms of cultural acedia (as developed in my dissertation and book Acedia, The Darkness Within, and the darkness of climate change). I feel fortunate that my intellect has allowed me to survive these traumas, although with considerable restrictions.
Unfortunately this gives me little satisfaction or hope that we will survive as a species. However, I will continue to engage in whatever way I can.
One of the ways I will do this is to post my email anger program to this blog. I have had good feedback, but limited sign-up. Rather than simply let the program die, I will post it for others to access if desired.
For the interested reader, I have included two references on Sorenson’s and de Quincey’s writings. I recommend both highly.
de Quincey, C. (2000). “Consciousness and Conquest.” From Maaber blog, http://www.maaber.org/sixth_issue/epistemology_2e.htm, accessed 2017 January 5th.
Sorenson, E. R. (1998). “Preconquest Consciousness.” From Ran Prieur blog, http://ranprieur.com/readings/preconquest.html, accessed 2017 January 5th.