Individuals and communities as societies

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

5:40 a.m. These days I am using even less effort to try to steer the conversation to pursue any announced line of thought. I have done that in the past, but I don’t know that the effort has really much affected the result. You seem to get the job done. Is it a mistake, to ride with a slack hand on the reins?

It is always your choice. Everybody will have a preferred way of doing things. If you don’t like the result, change your methods. Nothing different in that. That’s just life.

Then, let’s proceed. I thought we were pursuing the question of how individuals work through societies of individuals, to alter society at large.

Your phrasing is a little clumsy. When you find yourself unable to clearly formulate an understanding, it is often a sign that you are groping toward a further connection that you do not yet fully apprehend.

At first I thought you were saying something difficult, or anyway enigmatic. But I see that it can be restated simply that when you don’t know what you’re trying to describe, it’s harder to describe it.

Not quite. That’s true, but also, it is harder to perceive it.

Yes, of course. So, then –?

Rephrase, perhaps, thus: We are pursuing the question of how a tiny locus of attention interacts with a larger locus to change the flavor (so to speak) of an even greater, even larger, locus of attention. This rephrasing accomplishes a couple of things. It removes the sense of finality one may get, at either end. The “individual” is not an absolute unit. Neither is “society at large.” Both are communities with constituent elements, both are, themselves, constituent elements of larger groupings. It also counters the sense of difference between a person and a society, as if we were dealing with different kinds of units.

I see that. It is always a snare, isn’t it, thinking that because two different things have different names, they are absolutely, rather than merely relatively, different from each other. It makes the old philosophical differences between the nominalists and the realists appear as futile as the arguments about free will v. determination, or nature v. nurture. It’s just an over-stressing of difference and an under-stressing of commonality.

[For nominalism v. realism, search the terms, or try]

If you will hold in your minds the fact that no distinction is ever absolute, you will save yourselves many a logically derived dilemma. So, you as individuals are yourselves societies, as we have said repeatedly in various contexts. Now we move from psychology to sociology, in effect, and look at the way you as communities function in external communities. We would have said “in what seem to be external communities.”

Yes, I tried to shorten it, to make the sentence less unwieldy, but I can see that that could have lost a nuance.

An important one, or we would not have corrected the change. It is important to remember, in tracing this idea, that “external” is always a relative statement. The fact that there is no absolute “external” in the way that your senses report means that you cannot intuit and develop your understanding of the true relationship between the individual and society unless you bear the fact in mind. As we said yesterday, the greater understanding cannot be arrived at if you keep various areas of specialized knowledge unrelated to each other.

Politics, psychology, metaphysics, etc.

Yes. If it causes confusion in your thought for you to forget that the individual and the community are both societies, and both intermediates in a chain of being, rather than ultimate end-points, how much more confusion is caused if you continue to study various aspects as if they had nothing to do with one another? Assembling (or acquiring) larger understandings is always a process of analysis and synthesis both; never only one or the other. You analyze to see detail more clearly. You synthesize to see more clearly how any one detail connects to others. Like everything else in life, it is a relative process.

It’s funny, what seems like a minor change in description leads to large changes in perception, for I do see, or rather feel, that remembering that we as individuals and society as a grouping are the same thing, and that “we” are not internal and “it” external removes all kinds of barriers to thinking about how isolated individuals may directly affect not only the society they exist in physically, but societies they exist in only because they are connected to others who live in that society.

Continue, because this is the right path.

Well, take Joseph Smallwood, say, or Bertram, or Joseph the Egyptian. As far as I know first-hand, they are ideas in my head of others in other times and places. I couldn’t prove even to myself that they existed in the way I experience them. Or take Abraham Lincoln or Carl Jung or Ernest Hemingway. All I know first-hand is that they did exist, which presumably means they do exist, and that I have an idea of them that may or may not be accurate and probably cannot be complete. I could go on, but these two kinds of examples are enough to show that people of another time and place can influence those of other times and places by changing them via their example. Anyone can sign off on that much. I add that they can converse with other times and places (which of course means we can too), and not everyone would sign off on that: There is no proving the reality of the connection; there is only the internal evidence of the conversations themselves.

However, there is no need to prove the unprovable. What you know first-hand is more important than is the support or non-support of others – only, do be sure to doubt (and thus to validate for yourself) before you whole-heartedly believe merely because what you are tempted to believe is agreeable.

Here is the point, once again. Remembering that the components of the individual and of society are one and the same, and remembering that interactions between the two are more like the firings of synapses [they said neurons] in your brain than like letters to a far shore, your internally maintained constructs that tell you of difference will lessen in importance, and your ability to perceive connection will be less impeded, and will change for you conceptually and practically.

Which sounds like the process I use in teaching access to guidance.

We said the various fields are more easily seen when seen in relation to one another. Enough for now.

Our thanks as always. Till next time.


2 thoughts on “Individuals and communities as societies

  1. Ah, yes! Getting a very nice picture of a wave of an impulse traveling through the neuronal system. Like when you shake a long and narrow mat and the movement wave travels through the length of the mat. But brain connections are more like a fan, so one impulse will fan out into a lovely fan-like pattern and I imagine polnts of light at the ending-points of an impulse. The pattern of ending-points is the “realisation” of something in consciousness, be it “I need to do laundry” or “the philosophical significance of connectome (the collection of connections in a brain).The brain (and we) have a society of connections that can create wellness or unwellness depending on the way the impulses are routed in the system. And the impulse in itself may be neutral but the result can be a war, a sickness, an invention, art or somethig else? Hmm, I am making new connections, thank you! I should write more about how this relates to current brain research but don’t have the time now.

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