Monthly Archives: June 2012

Towards a New Ontology, Part 1

Emjay and I recently spent a brief handful of days pouring over our years of experience, research and theorizing, and in the span of what could not have been more than six hours pounded out a strange, unsettlingly coherent ontology based around the subject which allowed us to produce, quite cleanly, an expansive theology. It has been an interest of mine for quite some time to explore the idea of a primordial theology, an ur-theology, to borrow a phrase, of deep magic from before the dawn of time.

I must, now, admit that I, at the summation of our discussion, felt arising within me, a deep, intuitive dissatisfaction with the system which we had constructed that I was not able to properly articulate. Emjay was confused with my sudden hesitation. She told me quite flatly that she did not understand why I was having difficulties so late in the game, after us having spent so long in total agreement. I suspect that now, after several weeks of reflection, that I am nearing an answer to her. However, first I must do what I can to elucidate the system which we developed. I sincerely doubt that I will be capable of doing it justice, and this project will likely take several posts to properly explore, however, I shall endeavor to present our conclusions justly and fairly.

Let us begin with the three fundamental precepts which I believe are necessary to develop a Subject Oriented Ontology.

First: the Subject is Total and Irreducible. There is no such thing as a partial Subject. One cannot fracture the Subject without destroying its fundamental nature. That which is Subject is only Subject in its Totality. The Subject is not partes extra partes, but a total coherence, a part in and of itself. Indeed, this coherence is the justification and reification of the Subject. Once the Subject passes from potentiality into concrete instantiation it radicalizes all that was mere partes extra partes within its organization into a single discrete whole. While the Subject may face damage and mortal peril, such stresses do not, as a starfish, mutilated, produce new Subjects. The result is either a denaturing of the Subject, or its total dissolution. There is, within the concept of the Subject Denatured a Pathological Subject, which is not of direct interest to this present discussion, but I note it now as a point of reentry later on.

Second: the Subject is necessarily Embodied. The Embodiment of the Subject need not necessarily conform to any particular structure, all that is necessary is that the structure be capable of supporting the Subject. The Embodiment of the Subject serves as a necessary substrate out of which the Subject emerges, and so doing radicalizes its structure into its very nature as Subject, dissolving the structure into its totality as Subject and inserting itself through all points in time along the structural substrate’s existence. Once the Subject emerges, the structure disappears into it. The Embodiment of the Subject is then that which necessarily is the Subject as a result of the Subject’s reflexive embedding within the world at large. The structure of the Subject serves as the locus of Being within the World which contains and defines the Subject’s range of potentialities within the World. The Subject, embedded in the World is embedded within its Embodiment as a means of action and perception within and of the World.

Third: The Subject requires a network of Subjects and objects for its fundamental resolution. It is not apparent to me how a Subject may arise in isolation, as the complex action of Subjectivation, wherein the Subject emerges from its structural substrate appears to rely heavily on the presence and action of other Subjects. The Subject becomes through a complex set of interactions that require not only the surrounding network of other objects, but also the presence of action of other Subjects. Before the Subject is a subject, it is merely an object, a presence governed purely by formal object relations. It is through these inter-object relations that the Subject may begin to recognize its difference from other such objects through the presence of, I suggest, perception and intent. However, the total action of Subjectivation requires the presence and interaction of other fully formed Subjects, so that the Nascent-Subject may come to cognizance of its own subjectivity in relation to the subjectivity of others. I do think that it is possible for the Nascent-Subject to fail to achieve this final step in remain in a pre-subjective state of mere perception and reaction. The totally realized Subject becomes such once it recognizes the full power of other Subjects and the potential for that power within itself. The Embodiment of the Subject need not necessarily produce a Subject, it need only allow for the manifestation of the Subject. The human form, its bodily structure, appears strongly predisposed to produce a subject, but it is not necessarily so that it will, merely that it may. A human, deprived of the network of relations in which it is commonly embedded would not achieve the transformation from object to Subject, but would remain merely flesh.

And so now, we have three basic premises: the Subject is total and irreducible, the Subject is Necessarily Embodied, and the Subject cannot emerge in isolation (or the Subject requires a network of other Subjects and objects). Where do we go from here? What does an ontology which takes these three premises as its starting point look like? I will, of course, continue with this project and further elucidate the work which Emjay and I developed, but at this point, I would love to hear what thoughts and feelings occur to you all.

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Poca Favilla Gran Fiamma Seconda

This past Saturday, Teejay and I got married. Of course, living where we do, our marriage is not recognized by the State. I have never been much concerned for the State’s interests in marriage, and it is entirely possible that given the option of having State recognition, I would still balk. After all, marriage, and love, are no longer instruments of state power as they once were, and I find something jarring at the idea that a marriage is only valid once it has been written down on a form and stamped and sealed and locked away in a filing cabinet in a judiciary somewhere. For me, marriage is a social bond, something that exists between those married, between their friends and family. It is a bond of emotion and love, of comfort and care, and the State can have no say in such intimate bonds. However, I am equally appalled at the number of people who would seek to invalidate those bonds through the power of the State. Despite the religious intent of such people, it seems as though they respect the power of their faith, of their god, less than the power of the State, as though only State can define marriage with any actual strength.

I have to laugh, since, as I was planning this post, I didn’t want to make it a rant about equal rights and bigotry, but I suppose for a man such as myself, such a thing would be impossible. I shall now, having briefly ranted, move promptly along.

Teejay and I had no officiate. We took a page from the Quakers and self united. Instead of vows, we read poetry to each other, and then invited those in attendance to read a poem or speak, to offer their blessings. The end result was quite lovely, though I admit that there was some hesitation once the ceremony was underway.

Teejay was too nervous to go first, and so I recited the poem I had chosen, a sonnet by Edna St.Vincent Millay.

Thou art not lovelier than lilacs,—no,
Nor honeysuckle; thou art not more fair
Than small white single poppies,—I can bear
Thy beauty; though I bend before thee, though
From left to right, not knowing where to go,
I turn my troubled eyes, nor here nor there
Find any refuge from thee, yet I swear
So has it been with mist,—with moonlight so.

Like him who day by day unto his draught
Of delicate poison adds him one drop more
Till he may drink unharmed the death of ten,
Even so, inured to beauty, who have quaffed
Each hour more deeply than the hour before,
I drink—and live—what has destroyed some men.

Teejay then read a Christina Rossetti poem.

I loved you first: but afterwards your love
    Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song
As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove.
    Which owes the other most? my love was long,
    And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong;
I loved and guessed at you, you construed me
And loved me for what might or might not be –
    Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.
For verily love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine;’
    With separate ‘I’ and ‘thou’ free love has done,
         For one is both and both are one in love:
Rich love knows nought of ‘thine that is not mine;’
         Both have the strength and both the length thereof,
Both of us, of the love which makes us one.
 The entire experience was very touching, and as our friends and family spoke both of us were on the edge of tears. Those who know me, know how rarely I cry, and how reserved I generally am, and so I admit being quite surprised at how powerfully affected I was.
And so now I am a married man, which doesn’t feel significantly different. I don’t ever really expect it to. We performed a ritual and signified our love to our friends and family, but that love was there, and strong, and such a thing like a ceremony cannot, I think, much alter such affection, merely name it and announce it with joy and happiness.
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Power and Identity

At several points in my writings, I have referenced the importance of personal identity, both within Paganism and sexuality. I have been long fascinated with identity and self construction, and the vast majority of my artwork and creative process has addressed these themes explicitly or implicitly. As such, I try to be deeply aware not only of the way that I consciously construct myself, but how other people make choices regarding their own identities and the presentations thereof.

I think that we frequently make a mistake when talking about personal identity in presuming that it is entirely personal. The other day at Pittsburgh Pride, I saw a performance poet speaking about how her presentation and appearance says nothing about who she is as a person, and how those around her have neither the right nor the capacity to judge her based on those things. I think this is a fundamental misstep, regardless of the sort of identity you are discussing. While it is true that one is only capable of exercising so much control over their flesh (one’s face will always be one’s face, if you are short or tall, there is not much you can do to change that), but there is a great deal under our control which we do, in fact, consciously manipulate. Hairstyle, manner of dress and deportment are all things which allow us a great deal of reign in presenting ourselves and attempting to manipulate and guide the judgements of those around us. There are cultural signifiers which are constantly attached to us by society, which, being aware or, we can manipulate and alter. Of course, we cannot absolutely control the effect our manipulations will have, but we are fully capable of addressing our identity in such a way that our presentation reflects it. I am not saying that we must always express our identities at all times, merely that we have a great deal more control over the judgements of others than a lot of people want to allow.

Of course, one should not be judged as being a lesbian/gay/pagan/republican/democrat based on the style of one’s hair or dress, but the issue at play, I feel is not so much that people are being properly or improperly tagged, but that their is a cultural value assigned to that tagging. If one is gay, being properly identified as such carries different values depending on the context. Ideally, no one would care. Sadly, we live in a world full of judgmental bigoted ass holes, and there is only so much one can do to change their minds. This is not an issue of identity and judgement, but one of Power, in the Foucauldian sense.

Being able to control our presentation, we have a certain amount of control over the way Power is exercised upon us and by us. I recognize that I am making a dangerous argument, and I am not telling people that they must pass when interacting with society at large. Indeed, passing has a long history of oppression and violence both from within marginalized communities and societies in which they are forced to pass. My claim is merely that, being aware of the cultural signifiers which are attached to us, we must be able to manipulate and address them to allow us access to that very same Cultural Power network.

I firmly believe, for example, that one can attack and critique the fundaments of society merely through their presentation. Punk Rock is based almost entirely on this idea. The style of dress which Punk Rock adopted served as a very direct and basic critique of society at the time. Distressed, do-it-yourself, and full of momento mori, Punk style served to express the frustration and anger with the political and social pressures of the late seventies and eighties. Punk, in fact, by disregarding traditional ideals of beauty empowered itself through the cultural network of Power by denouncing the ideals upon which it was built. Punk inverted and collapsed Cultural Power and transformed it into an incredibly powerful and threatening tool which was reliant at every step of the way upon the cultural network in which it was embedded. The subsequent appropriation, sanitization, and commodification which the culture at large then inflicted upon Punk only serves to highlight the threat which it perceived (i.e. Avril Lavigne, and the slew of Pop Punk acts that have sprung up in the wake of Punk Rock).

The moral of all of this, I suppose, is that being aware of our identity, and of the identity which we wish to portray, we have a great deal of control over the judgements and societal forces which surround us.

Butch, Like a Drag Queen

Yesterday, Teejay and I went down to watch the parade and mill around at Pittsburgh’s Pride in the Streets celebration. Were it not for Teejay, I almost certainly would no have gone. I have always found the whole concept of Pride to be a little irksome. In the past, the few celebrations that I have attended always struck me as strangely forced and not nearly as inclusive as they pretend to be. A lot of my discomfort comes from my belief that there is no such thing as Gay Culture, and I have always found attempts to create such a culture to be incredibly off putting. What exactly binds the Gay Community together other than a sexual orientation and persistant discrimination? These aren’t really enough, in my mind, to build a culture around. It always seemed to me like Gay Culture reduced to a celebration of a particular body type (slight, effeminate, and pale, with a disturbingly toned body) and bad dance music, with a decent amount of alcoholism and substance abuse mixed in.

I have never really fit that mold. My body is not, nor never was the Gay Ideal that popular culture constantly reaffirms. I am tall, hairy, and far from toned. My Eastern European heritage is far too strong for me to ever look like the idealized gay man. Of course, I realized that I am not alone in this, and that there have arisen a lot of other gay cliques, and I do think that is the proper word, for those who do not fit in the ideal. Bears, daddies, chubs, otters and plenty more tags that I’m sure I’m unaware of have sprung up to round out the gay cohort. Again, however, each of those groups tend to be just as protective of their discrete identities and roles as the idealized gay body is, despite their claims for acceptance of difference and inclusivity. I am not, despite the shape of my flesh, a bear or otter or whatever other woodland creature is deemed to be the most empowering. My role and my sexuality are not determined by my appearance. While I can certainly adapt my appearance to portray a particular role, that is a game played only in particular circumstances that I can choose to apply to discard at my whim.

So, I brought all of this with me to Pride. Honestly, I was not mistaken with my assumptions, but what I experienced showed me that I, recognizing the limitations of of a phrase like “Gay Culture” needed to allow myself to see the people themselves, and the what each brought with them to the celebration. The thing that struck me, and that turned the whole experience into something strangely powerful and effecting, was that I was unlike everyone else there, and that everyone else was unlike everyone else. The only thing that bound the celebration together, at the end of the day, was that all of us were human, fighting for our rights, trying to live as we know we must.

The parade itself was still kind of disturbing. The first ten minutes of it were dominated by corporate sponsors (Highmark, PNC, Walgreens, Giant Eagle, and several others that I simply do not remember), and while I was happy to see so many businesses coming out in support of Gay Rights, I still had to wonder how many of these corporations also donate to other, less savory causes. Business is business, after all, and corporations have no problem supporting contradictory causes if they think it will increase their profit margin. I understand that events like this are incredibly difficult to fund, and that corporate sponsorship is necessary, but I would be more impressed and have more faith in these institutions good intentions if they did not insist on showing you over and over again how good their intentions are. True charity, true concern, is quiet and persistent.

The other thing that struck me about the parade was how many churches were marching in support. Five or six Presbyterian congregations and two or three Unitarian congregations (no one is surprised by that one, though) came through. It was reassuring to see such a surge of support from Christians, especially after running into a horrifying Christian Bigot spouting bile on a street corner in the center of Pride. The truly faithful and the truly righteous recognize the that their salvation is not incumbent upon the damnation of others, and will do what they can to help those in need love and live as well as they are able.

I have to admit, though, that my favorite parts of Pride were the strange contemporary dance troupe that performed immediately after the parade, and seeing an acquaintance performing drag street theater randomly throughout the crowd. I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with drag, as I feel that it can have a tendency to reinforce retrograde gender and sexual stereotypes. I have long thought that drag requires serious, dare I say, queering in order to be relevant and useful. My acquaintance more than accomplishes that wonderful queering, as thus typified: upon hearing a girl call out, “You’re so pretty!” he shouted back, “You mean butch!”

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Why I Am Not A Hermeticist

Eventually, I’m sure, I will tire of attacking the Hermetic basis of the vast majority of the Western Occult Tradition, but for the time being I am too caught up in my analysis thereof to simply content myself with what I have so far written. I realize that I have placed myself philosophically emphatically against Magico-Spiritual systems that rely upon essences, and, in doing so, strike out a broad swath of Magical Practice within the Western Tradition.

I think that part of the reason for the apparent dominance of Hermetic Style work is largely a result of the occult and pagan publishing houses. Hermetic Style Magic is appealing to a lot of people because it promises results straight out of the box. Indeed, for myself, that is why I have had a very difficult time abandoning the Golden Dawn rituals which I sharpened my teeth on. I do think that such sorts of Magic, properly practiced, being based so heavily on formulae and repetition can guarantee a certain sort of success without much other work. That said, I find a great deal of the underlying rhetoric to not only be reductive, but frequently offensive. I think it is too easy for a Hermetic Magician to reach beyond themself, and fail to apprehend the mechanisms in action behind their actions. I would argue that the foundations of Hermetic Magic are built on an abstraction at several removes from the basic functioning of magic, and the the power upon which it draws emerges from a source which is refined and denatured by the Hermetic frame work, to the point that the source itself is disguised beneath so many distortions that, to the practitioner, it becomes invisible. The framing of Hermeticism removes the ground from which it emerged.

I am so easily frustrated with the framing of a great deal of Occult and Spiritual writing that I find myself turning to Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty for spiritual advice (or Foucault, when I’m in a particularly black mood). I suppose that in the end I am too aware of social and historical constructs which have produced the very specific sort of knowledge which we have recognized as Occult to ever be willing to accept such writings as either true or honest. I find something reprehensible as well in the very naming of such knowledge, which aims at truth and honesty, as Occult, meaning hidden, occluded, secret. The tradition which produced such themes relies primarily, even today with the great power of the internet, on restriction. That which is Occult only maintains its intensity as such by the maintenance of its secrecy. Surely the truth and honesty of being are immediately accessible regardless of the socio-historical frame which seeks to contain them. Being must subsume all such knowledge and be the primum mobile behind all such knowledge. Today’s Occult Knowledge is merely a rarefied and refined sort of secret entirely dependent upon the discrete cultural forces which shunted such knowledge into a very particular category: that which must not be known by the majority of society; that which is dangerous.

I think, today, that many people are content to assume that Hermeticism is and always was a discrete, intact, and perfectly recognizable system which, while it may have influenced the cultures around it, was entirely pure and uninfluenced throughout its emergence and refinement. I recently read a book, lent to me by a friend, The Secret Source, by Maja D’Aoust and Adam Parfrey, which I think quite succinctly encapsulates this issue. The first half of the book aims to reveal the late Victorian Occult origins of the Prosperity Gospel and the wave of self help demagoguery typified by The Secret, which I feel it honestly does quite well. However, the second half then delves into the deep history of the Hermetic Tradition which influenced Victorian Occultism, and hence a vast majority of the Modern Western Spiritual and Occult Movements, and in doing so, seeks to reinforce the basic Hermetic Myth that this particular form of knowledge predates all others and was handed down directly from the gods to quasi-god-men who maintained and secreted this knowledge through the ages to preserve it against the corruption of mankind in expectation of some Great Work yet to come. In that way, such a system is, by its nature, Apocalyptic, perpetually revolving around a system of secrecy and delay. Those who know where chosen to know, and it is incumbent upon them to protect and preserve such knowledge, while simultaneously using it to manipulate the world around them to their own enlightened ends toward an us yet unknown and potentially unknowable final agenda.

Enlightenment is incumbent upon secrecy. One can only become enlightened once one has gained the secret knowledge which they can only gain through the beneficence of those already enlightened. Such a system resembles a pyramid scheme: a spirituality of a knowledge which must be controlled and contained. Knowledge, then, is the root of spirituality in this system. A particular knowledge must precede spirituality. Spirituality is thus a secondary effect. One cannot be truly spiritual without first having access to a rarified and refined tradition which places itself at direct odds against the world in which it is embedded.

Hermeticism is essentially a spirituality of The Word. Hermeticism derives from a particular sort of knowledge which is not experienced, but acquired linguistically. The magic of Hermeticism is one which relies powerfully on linguistic abstraction and repetition. The speaking of words themselves is magical and all power is channelled through their annunciation. Hermetic Magic seeks to pronounce the world into a particular way of being: from abstraction to instantiation. The action of Hermeticism is profoundly based against the World.

Indeed, I would argue that systems such as Hermeticism posit language as preexisting the world. One would be hard pressed to find a text which better describes Hermetic thought than this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. – John 1:1, King James Bible

Yet, how many Hermetics would accept a Gnostic Christian basis for their beliefs? Very few in my experience. The argument could be made that Hermeticism pressed into early Christianity, but the reverse of that argument is equally powerful. The earliest sources of the most basic of Hermetic texts, the Emerald Tablet of Hermes only dates to the tenth century. We have no reason to believe that Hermeticism is anywhere near as ancient as it claims to be. Nor do we have any reason to assume that it is anything more than the product of a complex Magico-Spiritual milieu resulting from the cultural blending of Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Near Eastern thought during the expansion and proliferation of the Roman Empire.

Hermeticism is a primarily gnostic practice. It posits a linguistic world against the world of experience. Indeed, it seems to emerge from a culture which produced a variety of gnostic faiths. Hermeticism is just as bound by its cultural framing as any other religion. It is only useful as a spiritual practice as long as one maintains that awareness: whatever truth it contains is a very particular truth emergent from a very particular set of circumstances, and it can only speak within that framework.

The framing of Hermeticism also allows it access to a devouring syncresis, as particularly typified by the work of Dion Fortune. A friend and I were recently discussing Dion Fortune’s role in Modern Paganism in this regard. I think that one of the more destructive strategies of Modern Pagans striving for acceptance has been largely derived from her work. Within the Hermetic frame, all Divinity derives from the single Hermetic God, all other gods being mere aspects of that One Great God. Dion Fortune expounds these principles in great detail in her book The Mystical QabalahWithin that text, Fortune explains how all the various pagan deities relate to the Qabalistic Tree of Life, and thus seeks to unify all pantheons into not simply one pantheon, but One Great God in various emanations. Here, again, we have a vast array of Spiritual Experience being rewritten and altered to fit within a single framework which forcefully disregards the traditions and cultural backgrounds of each under the baseless assumption that Hermetic Knowledge preceded all other forms of knowledge, and is, therefore, the only true knowledge.

Unfortunately, a great deal of the traditions of the ancient world which Modern Pagans are attempting to return to have been so degraded and damaged by the incursion of Christianity that we simply do not have enough data to accurately reconstruct them. However, I do not think that justifies then turning to Hermetic and Golden Dawn based work, as such work is innately at odds with the individual power and cultural constructs which produced all of these discrete traditions. I know that it is asking a great deal to turn away from the structures to which we have become accustomed, but I also think that it is incumbent on us to understand the way these various institutions, spiritual or otherwise, interact, and the agendas which they carry with them.

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On Anger

I do not like being angry, yet I have come to realize that, of late, I am incredibly angry. Now, I attempt to be very aware and cautious of my emotions. In general, I feel that I am a very reserved person. I don’t mean to say that I do not feel strongly, merely that I attempt to restrain my initial reactions to people and situations until I have time to step back and analyze why I am reacting as I am, and determine whether my reactions are reasonable. Over and over again these last eighteen months, however, I keep coming to the conclusion that my anger is justified, that I am not overreacting, that I am correct in my basic set of assumptions which I bring to the situations in question (and I haven’t done all of that work alone, I speak to friends and confidants about my reactions and the situations and honestly and humbly ask for their feedback).

Unfortunately, I have not been able to form a reasonable course of action in dealing with my anger. In the past, I have turned toward Stoicism. Epictetus (with whom, let it be stated, I am not in complete agreement throughout his treatise), as translated by Keith H. Seddon, explains,

It is not circumstances themselves that trouble people, but their judgements about those circumstances. For example, death is nothing terrible, for if it were, it would have appeared so to Socrates; but having the opinion that death is terrible, this is what is terrible. Therefore, whenever we are hindered or troubled or distressed, let us never blame others, but ourselves, that is, our own opinions.

I do agree that we must content ourselves with changing that which we can, and recognizing that which we cannot effect. The power of Stoicism lies in its ability to distinguish that which we have power over and that which we do not. We always, to a certain extent, have power over ourselves, over our emotions, over our thoughts and opinions. However, I must ask, at which point do our opinions cease to rely merely upon ourselves. We, fleshly and embedded within the world, must have thoughts and opinions, reactions of all sorts, which touch upon the world around us. In that action, surely the world is strangely amalgamated into our being. My happiness, being mine, amalgamates those elements outside of myself into a close relation with my being. My being is constantly in extension with the world around it. The walls between I, it, you and she are not necessarily as distinct as Stoicism would imply.

My anger is entirely my own, it begins and ends within my self. However, I also think that it is foolish to deny that there are forces outside of myself which negatively impact me. The true source of my anger is my self, I do take ownership of it, but the conditions for its arousal are also present in the world. I would not be angry if I did not care, both about my own condition and the condition of those around me. I am simply not willing to stop caring. While that would certainly remove my ever present anger, it would also remove my soul, my humanity. I think that it is a basic part of the human condition to care, to be be oriented toward oneself and others.

I agree that a great deal of human suffering is produced by the way we approach and frame situations, however, I also believe that there are human conditions with inherent values attached to them. Being in a state of starvation has little to do with framing. One cannot reorient themselves away from their hunger when it is consuming them. It is foolish to tell a starving child that starving is not such a terrible thing (they could be dead, after all, and isn’t that a relief? They do yet live…). I am certainly not claiming that my anger is on par with the plight of starving children, I am merely attempting to show that there are things which we have the right, and indeed it is incumbent on us as caring humans, to be angry, to be troubled about. There are judgements at play, but there are also circumstances which provoke those judgements.

Stoicism, by its nature, is unconcerned with the provocative circumstances out of which judgements arise, merely the judgements themselves. To a proper Stoic, and I hope that I am portraying them honestly, the substance of the world is of little matter, merely the substance of the mind in reaction. The world, being largely unchangeable by the Stoic frame, should give little cause for concern, all happiness, all pain, are products of the mind and may only be addressed therein. It is interesting to me how the Stoics thus address the Problem of Other Minds. Stoicism is both oriented emphatically toward the Social Good, and away from the expectation of goodness in others. By the Stoic frame, and one sees this quite prominently in Seneca, one must act toward the greatest good, without hoping to change the basic natures of those around them. A Stoic is a good man because of his basic nature, refined and cared for over many years of labor, but those whom are not by nature inclined toward an awareness of good cannot be expected to alter themselves. Other minds, while present, are incorrigible. Instead of being a source of frustration for the Stoics, this is the basis of the whole philosophy. Being unable to attend to the cares of others, attend to the care of yourself, and so doing, strengthen the social fabric of your society: your success is incumbent upon the success of your surroundings.

At a certain level, this all sounds very cunning and useful. It is, as a philosophy, eminently pragmatic. It is also a philosophy which relies foremost on an act which I find reprehensible. It a philosophy of distance and disconnect. One’s formost focus is oneself, all other good thus pours out of that action. I certainly agree that even with a strong orientation toward others, one must maintain a strong focus on oneself (failing to do so weakens one’s own abilities to care for the world around oneself), however, the a complete focus on oneself may also result in a dangerous internalization of one’s presence in the world. While the Stoics never deny their embeddedness in the world, to a large part they seek to deny the effects of the world upon them. All effects must be intentional and originate within the Stoic. The exterior world is reoriented away from the Stoic, rather than toward, the effects of the world flee from the Stoic only to impact others, and the Stoic is thus above such petty affairs.

All of this is then perfectly useless when the effects of the world are persistent and pervasive. How does one deny the provocative circumstance of one’s anger when every day, from the moment of waking they are staring one in the face? I find myself living in a society which is increasingly abhorrent, and which I realize that as one mere man I have little power to change. I, being by my nature as I am, do not have the luxury some do to keep their heads down an attend purely to themselves. I am, in several different ways, distanced from society, and the acts required to bring me into line with social expectations would destroy me; I am not willing to sacrifice my happiness for mere comfort, survival. My being is, in a basic way, threatened by the world around me.

I am also very aware of circumstances wherein I can step in and affect a change which will result in an immediate improvement of my surroundings. However, I am also aware that doing so, I am attending to the responsibilities of other people in a way which not only will they fail to recognize, but which will almost certainly encourage them to continue in their persistent disregard to other lives. While I can alter the discrete effects which are but mere elements of the provocative circumstances of my anger, I have almost no way of changing the total cause of my anger: the failure of those around me to get their heads out of their asses and take responsibility for their actions.

I find myself at a complete loss. My orientation toward myself and others forces me to abandon a great deal of Stoic thought (what I can maintain are their techniques of self care), when my frustration and anger is provoked through a persistent failure of those around me to attend to themselves in such a way that their failure directly impacts my own life persistently and emphatically. I am forced to attend to the failure of other people on a daily basis, and in so doing I find myself having an increasingly difficult time dealing with other people at all.

Seneca himself faced this problem too late to address it: his suicide was ordered by Nero.

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