• Why do your recommend the study of (x)?
General Semantics (Null-A) was engineered by Alfred Korzybyski, and introduced around 1939. It provides a variety of important tools for defusing some of the explosive barriers to active intelligence hidden in our languages and logics. It also introduces, in my personal experience, a way of changing the precedence of knowledge and language from a position of specificity to one of generality. This is an incredible and powerful inversion. Many of the problems we currently face with language and knowledge emerge from our predilection for specificity, and are largely amended when we can acquire a more broadly understood relationship with the other polarity: generality. I believe that an understanding of General Semantics (and its concerns) can assist with this process, even if it does not speak directly to this issue. While General Semantics is a useful introduction, it is also relatively primitive, compared to our modern potentials. Bearing this in mind is useful, and in no way invalidates the benefits we may acquire from a functional awareness of General Semantics and its fields of concern.
I have been a Zen student for many years, and have found it to be a dependable vehicle for learning (in new ways) and for the establishment of discipline. I am particularly fond of koan study, however, the practice itself is rich (if superficially austere) and powerful.
Internal Martial Arts
T’ai chi, qi gong, Hsing-I, Ba-Gua, and other similar arts are traditional ways to explore abilities and senses we are not normally acquainted with. As such, they are an invaluable aid to anyone seeking to more deeply understand what it means, or can mean, to be as we are…(more than) human. It is my experience that, properly practiced, these disciplines provide health and well-being benefits which would be hard to acquire through other activity.
Julian Jaynes wrote a very uncommon book: The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Many scholars consider this book to be relatively nonsensical. Others find it extremely thought-provoking. I have read it carefully 3 or 4 times now. The first time I encountered it, I was overwhelmed. I believe that Jaynes is onto something much larger than he might have initially imagined, and although the book is primitive in some respects, it is powerfully equipped to expand our perspectives on consciousness. Posing more riddles than solutions, Jaynes’ book invites us to radically re-evaluate the history of the human relationships with awareness and knowledge. It is a rare and profound exploration of some of the more troubling mysteries in our cognitive evolution, and provides a very useful map of how we commonly relate with conceptual dimensions through metaphication (metaphying). While I believe there is much more work to be done in the terrains Jaynes reveals to us, his book is startling in its uniqueness and power.
Multiple Languages/Dead Languages:
Having only a single language at our disposal has a relatively crippling effect on how we assess identity (decide ‘what’ stuff is) in a variety of ways. It is my experience that people who are learning multiple languages are dramatically different from those who know only one. The difference I perceive is fundamentally cognitive, and results in a very different (and generally richer) schema for relational awareness. Having multiple languages (and at least some of their implicit cultural implications) allows us to triangulate on identity and meaning, instead of having only a single familiar token or meaning available. Languages each uniquely conserve historical elements which are directly related to our cognitive evolution. Having multiple points of entry into these underpinnings grants us a far greater likelihood of being able to actually see and experience some of the profound richness they have almost invisibly conserved.
I believe that the practices of music, drama, painting, dance, sculpture, rhetoric, &c comprise creatively-oriented new ways of being, knowing, and learning which are readily available to all of us. I consider their preservation and nurturence in our lives and cultures to be crucially important. It is also my position that the Arts are gravely threatened by the culture of commodity they must exist and compete for survival within.
Language is vastly more peculiar stuff than we are led to believe. As ‘users’ of language, we are rarely invited into the inner sanctum (so to speak) where the real treasures are hidden. The personal study of poetics leads in this direction, and comprises a vehicle capable of taking us to the places where language finds its origins. Invariably, this ‘place’ is breathtaking and unexpected. When we are authorized to invent and create language, our relationship with it is radically, and I believe positively altered.
Skill with improvisation is wondrous in general. We live in cultures that disseminate terror in nearly every possible dimension, yet, in improvisation we find a practice that encourages our natural courage, creativity, and genius. I believe that we must seek a path that protects and encourages these aspects of ourselves. Skill with improvising will serve us in every aspect of our lives, but acquiring such skill often requires that we have a place in which to practice, and, preferably, companions with similar skills and goals.
My own mathematical education has been woefully incomplete, however, it is my experience that a proficient practice and development of mathematical skill and awareness is an extremely useful pursuit in its own right, whether or not we have or create the opportunity to formally apply such knowledge.
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