Saturday, August 28, 2004

Tom just raised an interesting question, which posed to me another question, equally interesting. His question was, "what are your values?". I was struck with my lack of an answer. The question that it evoked in me, which was equally interesting, and very similar, was, "what matters to you?". What I find fascinating is that I have no answer to this question either. I do know that I am, most of the time, happy. More than that, satisfied. My american drive, as we were discussing earlier, is not there. I have drive, don't get me wrong, but not this incessant need to complete myself or my life. I stay out of these conversations a lot, largely because it is impossible to steer the conversation out of the John/Tom oscillation that it locks into, and also partially because it isn't really desireable to do so - they have such fascinating conversational chemistry. John is a social scientist, Tom is a philosopher, and they have an amazing interplay between the two perspectives. I can't help but think there is a middle ground we are all missing. This is, perhaps, the reason that none of the conversations like our late-night brainstorming sessions usually succeed in changing our local section of human history. Everyone is composed of different ratios of social scientist and philosopher, and anything that affects both sides isn't going to be one or the other, but philosophy explaining itself to social science, or social science understanding philosophy. They are not opposites, oddly enough, but they are missing the bridge between them. I'm kind of hoping that I will find this in anthropology, at least for my own version of this universal dichotomy.

"But Isaac," I can hear you saying, "isn't anthropology a social science?" Well, yes, in a way. It is the most fundamental social science by one way of reckoning, but it is a nebulous and ornery concept to corner. Ask one hundred anthropologists what Anthropology (with a capital A) is, and you'll find that each one has a different answer.

I have always chosen the mystic's path, in a manner of speaking. I think that what I mean by that is that a mystic is someone who forges ahead into a territory that their current logic and understanding tells them they cannot understand, and rather than trying to make sense of it, thereby losing their chance to ever understand it, simply accepts that an answer may or may not come but a sense of equilibrium must be established first. How does one gain this equilibrium? By a different method of making sense of it all. Rather than trying to figure out how it all works instantly, you simply try to understand where you fall in this system, and what is good and bad about this. What will work and won't work, in the most immediate sense. And how to ensure your continued survival, intellectually, while sacrificing as little of what you currently understand of your identity. The process of coping with mystery explains it. The process of analyzing unfamiliar emotional territory overwhelms you because it doesn't sit still for the analysis. This division, this unbridged region between these two viewpoints is uncharted, making it still the mystery. I think the mystics may be the first to arrive at the center point, although they're usually very bad at explaining it once they're there.


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