At the end of the day, one must fire up a pipe and summon a pint of lager because this fits into what we know of life: we are here for the experience, most of which consists of screwing around, but when the rare realizations of clarity appear, we should pay attention.
In other words, we have a portal into life, but it consists of living. Most of our eureka moments come while doing other things, woolgathering about recent past experiences, when suddenly the pieces align and we see a shape, or understand something in context.
People usually look for a symbolic portal into life. Pick up the purple stone, and suddenly, you have the knowledge of the gods. In reality, you find that knowledge by becoming alert and stumbling through ordinary life because the greatest profundities are revealed constantly in the most mundane thing.
This means that you must pay attention not just to yourself, but to the world around you. This proves challenging for most people. They prefer to filter out anything in the world which is not of immediate utility to them right then.
To an individualist, this approach makes sense. They, the shopper, wander in a store of many possibilities. Their goal is to find the product with the best risk/cost/benefit curve and choose it, so that they may become greater in power, status, and wealth.
When they go through life, their goal is to find “facts” — partial observations of details of reality, taken in isolation, never forming a complete picture or larger vision — that justify, rationalize, explain, excuse, and validate their choices.
For example, if someone decides to spend his life smoking weed, he might simply admit that he enjoys being high, or, like most stoners, can invent an elaborate tale of how the world oppresses him, he has found enlightenment™ through weed, and he brings us the truth from the realms of a space of psychedelic universal love.
If he encounters contrary facts, he will pretend that they do not exist, and if confronted with them, will attack whoever brought them his way. In his view, they are attacking who he is.
This shows us a problem with building self-identity on justifications. Justifications are reversed logic: instead of linking cause to effect, they assume intent as a universal cause. Any information which shows that this intent may be imprecise is then a threat to the person who has build his identity on that intent being “good.”
Normally, we think in terms of cause to effect, meaning that we did X action and got Y result, which allows us to make a little mental spreadsheet of situations, actions, and results, and then choose from among them what best serves our needs.
For example, I know that to get a wasp nest off the house, just whacking it with a broom leads to stings. Squirting it with water leads to stings. My neighbor burned his house down, and I met a guy at a bar who accidentally blasted a hole in his roof trying to use a shotgun.
On the other hand, dosing it with a big blast of wasp poison works pretty well. I prefer to avoid this (in fact, I leave the wasp nests alone until they are empty because the wasps are my allies in killing off other groups of nasty insects). Using a pellet gun worked adequately, but took a few days.
Now if someone comes out of the house screaming about wasps, I know my go-to order of preference. Some things work, others do not, and when time is a factor, many methods are eliminated. I still have not gotten around to trying Roman candles.
Now imagine that my self-image relied on the idea that I was the best killer of wasps in the neighborhood. I would have some special method I used, so I stood out from the crowd, and anyone using another method would become “bad” in my eyes.
At that point, we see the ugly of lowercase-c conservatism. My method works, and I am hostile to any alternatives, since my identity is vested in my method. As a result, I am only interested in facts which support my thesis.
This is how our thinking becomes reversed. A sensible person goes through life trying to find all the facts, and then form a thesis; someone who is vested in a method goes through life looking for selective facts that support that method.
Self-image does something to us, however, where we find ourselves defending rather than creating. This is part of how nature ensures that nothing stays static; it tears down the most functional with assaults from the new, even if that replacement is not particularly great either.
In order to defend ourselves against the ravages of time, we form ourselves into little clusters known as the “hive mind,” where we agree on what is true and eject everything else. Then as a group we can go beat down dissenters.
Conservatism, ironically, was designed to avoid this by instead of focusing on what is working now, looking at the eternal through the lens of what is transcendentally beautiful. Instead of lowercase-c conservatism, or looking at the moment before, it demands we see the timeless.
Progressivism — originally — tried to escape complacency by focusing on the forward. That became tinged with the human, which meant that it would not look at unpopular ideas. The original progressives went on to become inhuman futurists like Fred Nietzsche.
When you stick to the present-tense as your goal, you are in fact looking backward, since a moment is passed before you realize what it was. If you look toward the eternal, every moment can be made part of a larger whole.
Individualists require a group because individualism can only exist as a reaction to fear of others judging, ranking, or commanding an individual. Without the group, there is no individualism, only self-sufficiency.
This means that individualism — as opposed to pursuit of some eternal order — makes us dependent on the centralized social group, which causes us to try to control the group by offering ourselves as examples of what it wants to believe about the world.
For example, we say things that we know will make the group interested, confirm their biases, and not offend them. This is why so many topics are off-limits; since we do not have any common ground in religion, politics, and culture, we leave these out of polite discussion.
We do things that make their behaviors appear legitimized. We act the same way they do, but push it a little further, so that their simpler and less outrageous version of the same act pass into the middle of the window of normal behavior.
This process forces us to project our egos into the group as a means of binding us. It seems like freedom, but we are offering ourselves up for approval, and if we get enough thumbs ups or attaboys we know that we have gained social status.
I remember one trip I took years ago to the country, where the weather raged and wild animals (probably small ones) called out their savage cries in the night. Everyone trooped back to the clubhouse where we all got nice cold beers with mass-produced bottles.
Conversation drifted toward how bad it was out there and how glad we were to be inside. How unsafe nature was, and how clean and shrink-wrapped it was in here, with nice square shapes and everything wrapped in cellophane, paper, or plastic. How our air-conditioned climate and roof made everything better. How uncertain the complex organic shapes of nature were, but how clear and direct everything seemed to us in the human-only world of the clubhouse.
It started because some people felt bad about having retreated from the ostensible purpose of our journey, which was to experience nature. Instead of experiencing nature, we had moved from one set of climate-controlled rooms filled with products to another a few hours away.
This caused us to try to make them feel better. “Sour grapes” dominated our conversation; we had not wanted to see the great trees anyway, or go walking down forgotten paths. Nope, we wanted to be right here… with friends! In a human-only, human-created world.
The social virus works this way. We fear things, and so we confirm in each other a bias against those things, and in the process we create a little human “thought bubble” in which we agree on unrealistic sentiments as a form of absolute truth.
It seems so immature, when revealed this way, but it is how most people think.
Humans are not stupid so much as they are locked within justifying themselves to others. From this mindset, they do not see the eternal or even the world outside of human individuals. They know only of themselves and other human individuals.
This justification begins with seeing the world as an awful, no-good, inherently bad, violent, evil, primitive, stupid, and repellent place. You have to hate the forest in order to be happy in the clubhouse.
Most people look at the mysteries of life as a single group — nature, our origins, the formation of the cosmos, metaphysics, the supernatural, an afterlife, human motivations — and identify this as a formless chaotic id to us and the world conjoined that we find upsetting.
In my view, the key to the mystery can be found in monism, or the idea that there is not a separate other world out there, only expanding layers to this one. Whatever the mystery is, it works like this world, which means it is both good and bad.
However, those good and bad aspects are — as here — regulated by choice. We might see “choice” as an opposite to intention, because choice embodies both what you want to accomplish and what you actually accomplish. “I don’t understand” and “I don’t see” are not acceptable excuses here, as they are in human conversation.
The mystery behind human existence will reveal itself, as knowledge does, through concentrated thinking and analysis of reality. This often happens in unfocused moments, such as while kneading bread or filing down an unruly door, when shapes align in the mind.
This knowledge of the intangible and invisible begins when we ask ourselves the nature of the world. I choose to believe that the world is good because it is beautiful, and that it tends toward beauty suggests an underlying order evolving toward the good, not an emptiness.
Its mystery reveals hidden doorways, like those dreams where you walk down the same hall you traversed every day and find a new wing on your house or a portal to the stars, showing us that instead of being matter-like, it is idea-like; if you find a space between two existing ideas, you can open up infinite pathways.
These are different from magic purple rocks that you touch and suddenly you have the power and everything in your life is fixed. The world remains the same, but knowledge is added to it, and with these new possibilities, you can choose to pursue something better.
The magic purple rocks come to us from the Age of Symbol, in which humans tried to keep society together by uniting people around control narratives. In these, some one precious thing would in theory solve all problems, like ideology, symbol, or conformity.
Thomas Pynchon referred to such things as “pornographies” because they were not the object itself, but a representation of it, and we hoped that by manipulating the representation, we could cause other people to act on the object and thus make our intentions into reality.
That reversed thought, like other reversed thought, ended in disaster, but it is the foundation of the social virus. When the group agrees, everyone does what the group says, and then somehow it becomes real because we intend it to be so because we fear that it is not.
We are leaving behind the Age of Symbol and re-entering the World of Myth in which knowledge of what is real, conveyed through the cryptic metaphor of dreams and imagination, shows us options for acting, and the best of us choose the heroic, beautiful, and wise.
In the World of Myth, there are no magic or technological solutions, but instead, we re-organize our thinking to be more like the underlying order of the world. Whether these are Platonic forms, prayers, meditations, or focused thought, the outcome is the same.
This allows those who are most realistic to succeed, and they tend to aspire to transcendental visions, or those in which they understand why the world is the way it is and therefore, how to understand its underlying order.
If anyone is still reading, please leave the phrase “cucumber in solitude” in the comments.
Realism stands at an opposite compass point from individualism. In individualism, we try to remake the world in our image; with realism, we try to remake the world within ourselves and then influence that world by speaking its language.
We understand through realism that language, religion, science, and logic are metaphors for how reality works. We will never touch, feel, taste, see, or smell the underlying order, but we can derive its patterns from our thinking about reality on its own terms.
In the World of Myth, individualism is dead; it appears to us as a retreat from reality into the ghetto of our own minds and those we share through socializing. The heroic path leads outward through conquering ourselves, not indulging in them.
Humanity may be snapping out of a ten thousand year sleep brought on by the rise of socializing as a form of order, instead of the simpler path of needing to kill a mammoth and therefore organizing in cooperation.
With individualism comes control, or the social virus needing to manipulate others so that everyone does the same thing and it seems true. Control leads to people becoming folded within themselves, unable to figure out the world except through control.
Much as the Soviet Union left behind people without a clue how to achieve anything without using government as a tool, centralized orders make people dependent on those symbols, methods, and procedures. They lose the ability to plot their own future or make real choices.
Some years ago, I experienced a fall from grace where I left behind individualism and the comfortable world of government, bourgeois self-interest, the social spotlight, and feelings of equality toward all humans. The world grew more complex that day.
With the complexity came more choices and more abilities, and this opened up possibilities beyond the grid of options offered by the conceptual divisions of reality which society — including the “underground” — affirmed through common use.
The existence of possibilities, and of infinite expansion, suggested to me that this was not a blind uncaring world of a mechanistic nature, but one in which those mechanisms served a higher purpose, namely the advancement of complexity.
Complexity proves difficult to define because to most people it means “more details,” when in reality it means greater organization to details. Nature, the cosmos, and the gods/God are constantly at work making everything more coherent, and beauty emerges from this.
This shows us the opposite of an uncaring void, but seemingly paradoxical intelligence that is blind, asleep, and mechanical but also shaped so that it channels all things toward greatness. That is, if we allow it.
Tonight’s pipe tobacco comes to us from the American blending house of Cornell & Diehl who created a Virginia/Perique mixture known as Exclusive:
Summary: a spectrum of Virginias mixed with Perique, this blend in theory approximates “Escudo” but in reality exceeds it.
Mixing summery Red Virginia with earthy and sweet Cavendish produces a base upon which Perique appears as not so much fruity as tangy with slight spice. Unlike “Escudo,” the blend upon which “Exclusive” is rumored to be based, the Virginias take a broad middle spectrum that is not too sweet, avoiding the “breakfast cereal effect” of sweet Virginias with Perique. Instead, this is an Indian Summer blend, capturing the last fullness of the harvest season before fall, with a malted grain and fermented hay flavor that is full, gentle and yet appealing.
While many people prefer the breakfast cereal blends, which taste like lightly roasted grain and honey with a tangy fruit undertone from the Perique, this blend aims for a broad spectrum of sweetness which melds with the Perique to bring out a tangy, zesty flavor.
The result proves to be more natural in flavor, seeming more like a fermented grain or fruit bread (a good cranberry bread, imbued with honey) that revels in its inner complexity rather than standardizing and streamlining it as laser does to light.
Despite the somewhat 1950s salesman marketing style name — originally “Blend #967” — this mixture may be among the finest of the Virginia/Perique mixtures. Its subtlety saves it, and it is not as strong as reputed, finding a moderate middle just above medium strength.
It feels like a study of the nature of tobacco leaf rather than an attempt to turn it into the stream of crowd-pleasing products like soda pop, breakfast cereal, hazelnut coffee, and other attempts to obscure complexity in flavor of a singular human preference.
With Exclusive, the blend teaches the delights of tobacco when treated as a product of the Earth, instead of trying to hide nature behind scents, flavors, and emulsifiers of a human origin. Its strength comes from technique, not concealment.
In this sense, it stands against a symbolic interpretation of the world, where interventions from another purer world manifest in people shooting electrical bolts out of their fingers and gods dividing the waters.
From this we see a worldview more like that of the ancient Greeks, where characters work through a narrative and we see the consequences of their choices, affirming our choice to work within an order to maximize it (arete) or oppose it for a human-only world (hubris).
As the rain gently falls, its percolating sound interspersed with the last of the bubbles in the lager popping in contented acceptance of the passage of time, it provides a moment of calm intellect to ponder the mystery, majesty, and loving nature of our universe.