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Feeling our way to the Truth of Being

October 10, 2019

A Western paradigm of attempting to think of the world and society in neutral terms has reached its limitations in the 21st century. The incompatibility between this scientific model or picture of society and the reality of lived democracies is becoming more apparent to us all with each passing day. We need a world in which we can feel our way around it. We cannot anaesthetise ourselves or insulate ourselves from these difficult feelings. They are what make us human, and ultimately they are what make us aware and conscious.

They are what guide us towards the right decisions in life and they are what motivate us to continue living and fighting for what is right. A democracy purely on paper is no democracy at all. The interference of science, and our complacency in our trust of science, has led us down a road of this exact situation. We have all the technical pieces of the puzzle in place for a democracy. Only we have lost the heart and soul that breathes through a democracy: An informed and passionate citizenry with awareness of their rights and of what is best for them and their communities.

If we follow the route of pure thinking and science in society, we end up with a position like Habermas, where all is technically pre-ordained as to what is proper to do, and it is supposed that, like cogs in the machine, people will simply carry out these procedures. But, society is not a product of thought, and neither is it motivated by thoughts. It is ultimately motivated by and informed by the feelings of its members. If a thought is at odds with these feelings, at some point something has to give, and it won’t be people’s feelings. For as we know well, the feeling parts of our being are much more powerful than the thinking parts of our being.

I think it is considerations like this which have been a key factor in my motivation to travel in South America. I am, by tradition, culture and personal choice, very much a person who thinks things through a lot. But, I also work hard to keep those thoughts attuned to the feelings at the core of my being. In South American culture, I see people who are much better attuned to their feelings, who I can learn from. And perhaps, they can also learn from me at times, with my more thought based approach to life.

Ideologies tend not to grip people so strongly or for so long in the culture here. People always return quite quickly to their feelings as a guide on what is the best thing to do, and disregard the ideologies that rely on people who think too much about things. This is an aspect we struggle with in the Western European mentality. We are more susceptible to getting caught up in runaway ideological positions where we never consult our feelings to get back to a steady baseline of being in touch with our true and deeper natures as embodied beings.

It may be a stereotype to some extent, but it is also to some extent true, that we Western Europeans are more liable to get lost in our heads. This characteristic is probably a key part of why we developed our particular brand of Western philosophy and science, which led to all the technology that underlies our world of today. It is a characteristic of great strength in patiently building models of the world without letting feelings distract us, so we can get a clear and multi-sided picture. But, it can be a weakness in our culture, community and personal lives, when we neglect the feeling of the atmosphere that surrounds us for the sake of these visions.

The Western Mind is often lost in its own space, like a vacuum, which lends it to romanticise and idealise a lot of notions, while neglecting and taking for granted its real surrounding connections. Only when those surrounding connections become critically endangered do we wake up to action to heal and repair them. This, I think, is what is happening now, and is what needs to happen now.

As much as feelings can be a distraction from building grand, accurate models of things and predicting outcomes well into the future. Those grand models can all too easily become empty palaces, hollowed out of meaning and significance to us. We cannot live, breathe and thrive in such environments. And so we must learn once more to compromise and negotiate with our immediate feelings about things. They cannot be permanently “bracketed”, as Husserl might request while we get down to the real business of thinking about transcendental things. They must be incorporated in the core of our being so we can act fruitfully in the world, and not leave a trail of desolation in our wake.

  1. Anonymous permalink

    I appreciated reading these travel catalyzed reflections, there is great fortune (even temporarily achieved through travels) in being immersed in a culture which is more attuned to its feelings – it seems to offer a greater incentive for a more unified form of thought. This post here, as well as the Introduction to your Journey book that I started reading today echoed in some ways the impression I got from Arthur Koestler’s book The Sleepwalkers – I don’t know if you have come across it during your readings. I will only add a fragment that seemed related to this post, although it speaks of long forgotten civilizations “They were aware that the symbols of mythology and the the symbols of mathematical science were different aspects of the same, indivisible Reality. They did not live in a ‘divided house of faith and reason’; the two were interlocking, like ground-plan and elevation on an architect’s drawing. It is a state of mind very difficult for twentieth-century man to imagine- or even to believe that it could ever have existed. It may help to remember though, that some of the greatest pre-Socratic sages formulated their philosophies in verse; the unitary source of inspiration of prophet, poet, and philosopher was still taken for granted.” – Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe.

    • Hi, yes that is a book I read many years ago. It gives a good over view of the history of how we got to the 20th century way of looking at the world. It was one of the first times I read about people like Kepler and Galileo and all of that story. And that is true yes regarding a different culture. I was thinking back last night in fact about a range of the different interactions I had with people during those travels, and how many good experiences, enjoyment, and how much I learned from it all and grew a bit myself in the process.

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