Total Work Newsletter #49: Leave No Stone Unturned

Plus: Social media is (likely) less fatal than bacon


For Subscribers: The next chapter, “Seeking,” will be coming your way tomorrow. There’s a bit of a feel for that chapter in the short essay I include at the bottom of this issue.

For Everyone: In 2020, my focus will be shifting from a critique of Total Work (2017-19) to an exploration of the possibility that we’re entering a Second Axial Age (2020-?). I will continue to publish the Total Work Newsletter, but my heart is now very much open to the contemplation proper. That exploration of spirituality will be occurring on my new YouTube Channel: The Second Axial Age. If this sort of thing stirs you, then please join me—and so far 13 intrepid subscribers—there.

How To #WTF Uplevel Your Meditation

In 2017, I spoke (if memory serves) of the instrumentalization of meditation in a Big Think interview. Or read David Loy’s article on McMindfulness. Obviously, the picture sketched above is far starker than what, in 2013, Loy could have imagined.

The Limits Of Liberalism

From Edward Slingerland, Trying Not to Try (HT Daniel Doyon):

Besides vaguely sacred communal rituals such as listening to NPR, reading the New York Times, or buying locally sourced organic vegetables, secular liberals are not given much guidance on how to actually live their lives. And this vacuum has to be filled by something—avoiding human rights abuses still leaves a lot of hours in the day. This is why we tend to align ourselves with certain social tribes—Suburban Soccer Mom, Urban Hipster, Tortured Artist—that can live comfortably under the very large, but rather empty, umbrella of secular liberalism. These groups or stereotyped roles give us precisely the kind of detailed scripts that secular liberalism eschews, specific guidance regarding dress, food, and other lifestyle details normally provided by traditional religions.

Liberalism (and here Slingerland is referring to classical liberalism of the kind discussed by political philosophers and not strictly to what pundits call “liberals”) and Humanism are joined by nihilism.

Secular Monks And Psychotechnologies

#1: SECULAR MONKS | Secular Monks and the New Celibacy | 20 min. | Medium | Long Form Essay

Sum: In which I explore the limits of the tech quasi-philosophical ethos. The argument in the essay was borne, about a year ago now, out of my critiques of Total Work.

#2: PSYCHOTECHNOLOGIES | Psychotechnologies of Self-transformation | 20 min. | Personal Website | Talk Transcript

Sum: In which I seek to show why we are not wise and how Humanism is a primary cause of our dis-ease. Plus, the opening section of the talk is pretty personal in nature. (In case you missed it in Total Work Newsletter #48.)

Social Media Is Likely Less Fatal Than Bacon

Note that, in 2017, Zuckerberg wrote a lengthy blog post on Facebook entitled “Building Global Community.” Perhaps 50 years from now, wise people will look back and see clearly the social mess—not the least the seedbed of vices such as envy and vanity—created by social media.

Leave No Stone Unturned

Leave no stone unturned. Only by doing so shall you see how work has insinuated itself into your being. Once this becomes clear, you’ll be able to ascend to matters of ultimate concern.

  • Step 1: Be a radical lover of truth. As such, see every conception of work, as it winds and wends throughout your life, as what is untrue. Because it is untrue, discard it. Move onto the next conception and do the same. (Do the same for the privatization of love in the family. Do the same for the hedonization of what can only loosely be called friendship.) By the end of Step 1, see that ordinary life on its own does not provide us the higher reasons for living, the higher reasons without which it remains unclear why we would wish to live.

  • Step 2: After the purification undertaken in Step 1 (one that could surely take some time), now you’re open to the possibility that there are matters of ultimate concern. Death as what bestirs you, Love as a universal principle, Beauty as a universal principle, God as the nature of Reality, Wisdom as right conduct flowing from right understanding: all these and other Forms come to be at the heart of one’s loving contemplations.

  • Step 3: The conceptual understanding afforded one in Step 2 gives way to the felt understanding experienced here. Provisionally, the name “spirituality” could be given to the experience of Love or Beauty as a universal principle. Not just a single experience, however. An intimate knowing that stays with you. That is to say, “spirituality” would be the name conferred upon whatever or whoever it is that knows ultimate reality.

  • Step 4: Return to the world of ordinary life and imbue it with this deep felt understanding, seeing it too as what is redeemed and worthwhile in the light of what is ultimately real. Indeed, from this wise vantage point it’s now possible to see that there’s no ontological difference between ultimate reality and ordinary reality. Only now may work be redeemed in the guise of right livelihood. Nothing more but also nothing less. Just a humble way of supporting life and of contributing to the perdurance of others’ sentient lives.

A critique of Total Work, therefore, is only the first step. By freeing the mind of its fixation on objective phenomena and, most especially, its fixation on the I-thought and I-feeling that expresses itself in the form, “I AM the Doer,” one is now wide open and hence able to ask the introspective question with the utmost love, earnestness, sincerity, and courage: “Who am I if I am not the Doer?”

For New Readers Looking For An Overview

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