W o K     :     Ways of Knowing

A Snippet

An Anemia of Unknown Type?

Something has been lost … or is at risk now (as always). People feel it, but have difficulty locating the cause or nature of the problem. I sometimes think of this as involving a kind of anemia. “We are undernourished, even starved.” But for, or of, what? This is WoK’s main question, and it’s not an easy one to answer, because the elusiveness of the problem itself derives from our anemic condition. Often we are too depleted to even notice this condition … or to recognize “food.”

One possible diagnosis is that we are starved for direct experience of ourselves and life, of any real connection to things. And this is very roughly the kind of answer WoK would like to offer. So although it’s hard to determine in what we are deficient, we could tentatively say we suffer from an “existential anemia.” But this diagnosis, like any other we could supply from our available set of categories and concepts, only captures part of the problem, and offers some clarity at the price of also misdirecting us or perhaps just feeding our complacency.

The subject that is really at issue does not have adequate name in any language. It’s not studied by any science or in any college curriculum, and yet it bears on many topics that are. Of course, everyone will accept that our contemporary views of ourselves and of reality are not complete, and probably never will be. But a lack of clarity with respect to this “anemia” is both the cause and the result of many difficulties we encounter, on both personal and theoretical levels. It really can and should be addressed now, and on an on-going basis.

What would it even mean to address this? Part of the answer is to start by respecting the problem more—to acknowledge and stay with it for a while, with no rush to a “labeling” (and one-sided) type of judgment. Sensitization to our anemic state provides a good start towards recovering sensibilities that are needed to see it more clearly. This marshals a rich mix of human concerns, intuitions and types of understanding, and fosters more explicit “seeing” and new capacities to see.

More awareness can help us recognize a wide and apparently diverse range of issues and problems, some personal, some theoretical (even bearing on the most fundamental of intellectual, ethical, aesthetic and scientific questions and perspectives), as being related to the vague malaise with which we started. Such awareness can also help us assess traditional “remedies”—methods of cultivating awareness—and guide in the shaping of our society’s own contemporary approaches to being more awake. Perhaps it will even yield glimpses of the future (both of humanity or humaneness, and of science). These matters, taken together as an inseparable whole, constitute the subject of WoK.

Steven, 4/8/06.

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