Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Magical Way of Thinking

As a follow-up to my last post on thinking positive, I'd like to point out a rather unusual review that's located online. It's a little hard to start, because it begins with an explanation by one person followed by an introduction by another person followed by a book review/critique. The author of the critique is John Michael Greer who puts out The Archdruid Report which I will review in my next post.

This may all be even more confusing because while he is reviewing a political book (Globalize Liberation), he begins by talking about theories of magic. Whether you believe in magic or not, I recommend you keep reading. He explains the theories well enough (he isn't expecting the reader to be familiar with them), at one point suggesting that people not used to thinking in terms of magic, can think of 'spells' as 'stories'.

His point is that the stories that we tell (ourselves as well as others) about the work that we are doing, often determines the course of that work. For example, instead of seeing the global system of corporate capitalism as triumphant, powerful force, he suggests we could see it as "a brittle, ungainly, jerry-rigged contraption whose managers are vainly scrambling to hold it together against a rising tide of crises"; that instead of seeing ourselves in a desperate situation, we could view the system as being desperate. He points out that it's not a question of which of these is true--in the complex situation that we are in now there are ways in which either or both are true, and there are a lot of other possibilities--it's a matter of which story gives more hope, encourages alternatives, and lessens the grip of the current political/economic system. In fact, as he says, belief in one story or the other actually make it more likely that that story will come true.

In another way of looking at leftist 'stories', he has a wonderful analogy to Dudley Do-right of the Mounties (from the old TV cartoon show, 'Rocky and Bullwinkle', which I'm sure is still playing somewhere on a classic TV station) which is both hilarious and on target. (I'll let you look at it on the review.) The main point he makes is that how we define ourselves (in many ways) will determine how successful our struggles and creations will be. He finds a very powerful example of this in a quote from an aboriginal woman that he takes from the Globalize Liberation book: "If you come only to help me, you can go back home. But if you consider my struggle as part of your struggle for survival, then maybe we can work together." Can you see the difference between the first view and the second as a potent redefinition of what we are doing?

Next, The Archdruid Report.

Quote of the day: "It can't be repeated often enough that the modern industrial state isn't the natural endpoint (or endgame) of some inevitable historical process. It's what philosophers call a contingent reality; things happened to turn out this way, but they didn't have to, and there are good reasons why the future probably won't be a duplicate of the past." - John Michael Greer
Word (or phrase) of the day: Biodiversity
Hero(es) of the day: Reverend Billy (Bill Talen)

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