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Transcending binary thought

Nov 11, 2004 02:09 PM
by kpauljohnson

Hi Jerry and all,

At the moment I'm entering into what Twyla Tharp, in her new book on 
creativity, calls the "creative bubble"-- a phase in which one 
focuses attention exclusively on a creative project and shuts out 
distractions. That means spending the winter working on a manuscript 
and reading only northeastern NC history and related material. But 
because my ancestors lived in/adjacent to wetlands, my current 
reading is Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination 
by Barbara Hurd. It's nine essays from an author whose previous book 
was Entering the Stone: On Caves and Feeling Through the Dark. The 
new one is an LA Times book of the year.

All that is background for why I'm posting these excerpts, which IMO 
strike at the heart of historical uncertainty. (Something that 
applies equally to the unknowable in genealogy, Theosophical history, 
whatever.) Whenever you discover one new ancestor, that immediately 
creates two new questions: who was the mother, who was the father, of 
this person? And whatever I have learned about HPB or anyone else in 
Theosophical history likewise creates a host of new unknowns.

Hurd writes:

For the Buddhists, taking refuge in the dharma means cutting the 
ties, letting go whatever hand you've been clinging to, whatever boat 
you've been floating in...not reaching for protection...relaxing in 
the uncertainty of the present moment. Those monks must have loved a 
swamp...Surely there is no better place than in a swamp or bog to 
learn about uncertainty, to notice how we feel when the ground under 
our feet wobbles, what small boat or dogma we cling to, what all we 
must let go of when we look down and learn to trust what's holding us 
now. Something in us gives in to the place, the lines relax, the 
definitions go mushy, the body limp with this landscape, itself so 
limp and ill-defined. 

So when you write:
This, of 
> course is the very modernist view that I'm trying to get him to see 
> through and get past: i.e. that there is the right view and the 
wrong view, and there is nothing outside of that binary. I think 
most readers of these posts can easily see through his reasoning, and 
therefore are not going take any of Dallas' defaming remarks about 
you very seriously.
I think about resistance to and dislike of muddiness, murkiness, 
confusion. TMR was intended as a constructive contribution to 
understanding, and has been received as such by and large. But if a 
reader cannot conceive of multiperspectivalism and openendedness as 
constructive, he will see the book as destructive and intentionally 
so. "The more you know, the more you know you don't know" is one of 
the truest proverbs I ever heard. Knowing the depths of one's 
ignorance can be either terrifying or exhilarating, depending on 
one's tolerance of ambiguity. HPB is so appealing to me precisely 
because (unlike most of her succesors in the TM) she is very explicit 
about the vastness of the unknown and the fragmentary nature of the 
truths she presents. 



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