Part of That World – As You Were

As You Were – looking for connections between the work of Brené Brown and Daniel Quinn as I revisit them in book clubs. See the introductory post for what this is all about. In this post, I look at:

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If They Give You Lined Paper, Write Sideways

Friday: Afternoon

“We were talking about tip-offs that set my alarms ringing, and I said you’ve got to keep an ear open for items that come to us from the received wisdom of our culture.” Echoes Brené urging that we question who benefits from prevailing cultural assumptions and expectations.

Daniel. People will often blame our problems on the fact that we have separated ourselves form Nature, that whole other world of life out there. Haven’t you ever encountered that sentiment?
Elaine. Yes, I guess I have.
Daniel. So how far away from it are we?
Elaine. In reality, we’re not far away from it at all.
Daniel. Then what sense does it make to say that it would be nice to be ‘close’ to it? We can’t stop being close to it. We’re as much a part of that world as crickets or alligators or oak trees.” Echoes Brené’s definition of spirituality, involving being inextricably connected to something larger than ourselves — while also revealing precisely why we have such trouble feeling that spirituality/connection. Our culture has explicitly convinced itself that we’re cut off from something larger than ourselves that we’re inextricably connected to.

“The Great Chain of Being concept is a product of the Middle Ages, but it wasn’t left behind during the Renaissance. Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz all wrote about it with complete seriousness. In fact, it’s never been left behind, has it? Even people who don’t believe in God or angels still perceive Man to be at the top of the chain of life on this planet. He stands apart and above all the rest — the rest being that which during the Age of Enlightenment came to be known as ‘Nature.'” Brené critiques power-over and puffing up.

“This is why I’ve always rejected ‘environmentalist’ as a label for myself. In its fundamental vision, the environmentalist movement reinforces the idea that there is an ‘us’ and an ‘it’ — two separate things — when in fact what we have here is a single community.” Compare Brené on spirituality and her critiques of either/or thinking and us vs. them othering.

Saturday: Morning

“For hundreds of thousands of years they’d been living perfectly well where they were and as they were, but they weren’t living up to our standards, and it’s our divine mandate that everyone in the world must be made to live the way we live, whatever the cost. It would have been immoral for us to leave them alone, just as it would be immoral for us to leave them alone now.” Compare Brené on power-over, us vs. them othering, and the power of shame/scarcity culture’s assumptions/expectations.

“What humanity came up with and held on to during its first three million years was a social organization that worked well for people. It didn’t work well for products, for motorboats and can openers and operettas. It didn’t work well for the greedy, the ruthless, and the power hungry. That’s what we have, a social organization that works beautifully for products — which just keep getting better and better every year — but very poorly for people, except for the greedy, the ruthless, and the power hungry. Our ancestors lived in societies that every anthropologist agrees were nonhierarchical and markedly egalitarian. They weren’t structured so that a few at the top lived lives of luxury, a few more lived in the middle in comfort, and the masses at the bottom lived in poverty or near poverty, just struggling to survive. They weren’t riddled with crime, depression, madness, suicide, and addiction. And when we came along with invitations to join our glorious civilization, they fought to the death to hold on to the life they had.” Compare Brené’s prizing Wholheartedness and power; her critiques of shame/scarcity culture and power over; her cautioning that we pay attention to who benefits from our cultural assumptions/expectations — and note that Quinn provides a crucial piece of the puzzle, that of differences in social organization.

“What didn’t work (and one has to supposed that things were tried that didn’t work) was abandoned — and abandoned by people who knew it wasn’t working. What was left after all the trials was the tribe, which was evolutionarily stable, meaning not that it was perfect but that hundreds of thousands of years of natural selection — on a social level — was unable to produce an organization that worked better. To my mind the evolution of the tribe was an accomplishment of greater importance to the human race than all the advances of the Industrial Revolution put together.” Quinn effectively declares the tribal social organization to be one of the ultimate gifts of imperfection.

“They’d formerly lived an easy life, simply letting God rule the world and taking what he gave them. If they weren’t content with that and wanted to rule the world themselves, then they were going to have to do all the work that God had formerly done for them.” Compare Brené Guidepost on letting go of productivity and exhaustion.

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