Belonging to the Community – 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:

  • Daniel Quinn Book Club — The Book of the Damned, session 1 reading: entire book
  • Brené Brown Book Club — Rising Strong, finishing session 2 reading: Three – Owning Our Stories through Five – The Rumble

(Commissions earned on Amazon links.)

The Book of the Damned

Part One

“It’s about the conquest of the world. It’s about man gaining control over his environment. It’s about man rising above nature and mastering it as a workman masters a tool.” Compare Brené on control, certainty, and power-over.

“Then a strange thing happened. For two hundred thousand years, Homo sapiens accomplished nothing. Made no effort to gain control of his environment.
“God knows why.
“Didn’t occur to him, probably.” Compare Brené on being good enough and letting go of productivity/accomplishment/exhaustion instead of judging one’s worth based on them.

“The problem is mastery. We just haven’t got enough of it yet.” Compare Brené on control, power-over, productivity/accomplishment.

“And indeed nothing was happening — so far as Homo magister can see. He looks at those three million years and sees a vacancy. Because people weren’t mastering anything, and according to Homo magister that’s what human life is all about… Homo magister saved the human race from nothingness.” Same as above few things.

“The next generation of astronomers worked hard to show that the Copernican story was false, but all their observations showed that the Copernican story was nearer the truth than the old Ptolemaic story.”
“Reluctantly, Homo magister was forced to accept the new story.” Compare Brené on rumbling with story.

“If you had suggested to Homo magister then that man had been born a homeless hunter-gatherer and that this homeless hunter-gatherer had lived through three million years without evidencing any inclination toward civilization, he would have laughed at you… They were subhuman, because to be human is to be Homo magister.” Compare Brené on several things above as well as othering.

“Darwin shattered Homo magister‘s story of his birth. According to Darwin, man hadn’t been born apart from and above the rest of the biological community. He had been born right IN it.
“Not its ruler. Its product.
“Not a master. A subject… Homo magister hated Darwin’s story of man’s origins. But he had to accept it, at least superficially…” Brené also refuting control and power-over and reveals alternatives to be more true to who we are — and Quinn here shows the incompleteness of Taker culture’s rumbling.

“They were biologically human, of course. But they weren’t fully human because they weren’t accomplishing anything. They weren’t trying to master their environment. Fully human people just naturally want to master their environment. It’s innate — in people who are fully human.” Compare several things above.

“But he has not yet been forced to deal meaningfully with the fact that his story, the story of man the ruler of the world, represents only a half of one percent of the whole story of man. He hasn’t built a totally new understanding of the story based on that fact. He doesn’t want to.” Compare Brené on the need for the Reckoning and the Rumble.

Part Two

Homo magister understands the people who lived those futile, pathetic lives.
“They were what he calls hunter-gatherers.
“Definition by occupation.
“That’s what they did with themselves. Hunted and gathered. Well, why not? They didn’t have anything else to do. Such a waste…
“It was the Stone Age.
“Definition by product.
Homo magister would naturally see it that way.” Compare Brené on letting go of productivity.

“But it’s not the only way to see it.
“Be imaginative.
“Forget product. Forget occupations.
“Imagine it a different way…
“Imagine our ancestors enacting a different story from ours. Not a story about man mastering his environment. Not a story about man’s conquest of the world. Not a story in which products and productivity figured at all.” Compare much of the above.

“It was a good story, good for the lifetime of a genus.
“But it was not a story about power — about conquest and mastery and ruling. Enacting it didn’t make people powerful. Enacting it, people didn’t need to be powerful. Because, enacting it, people didn’t need to rule the world.” Compare Brené on power-over.

“Man belongs to the world.
“Actually, it’s plainly written in their lives. It’s plainly written in the general community to which they belonged: the community of life on this planet.
“Anyone can read it. You just have to look.
“Every creature born in the biological community of the earth belongs to that community. Nothing lives in isolation from the rest; nothing can live in isolation from the rest…
“The community is a web of life, and every strand of the web is a path to all the other strands.
“Nothing is exempt. Nothing is special. Nothing lives on a strand by itself, unconnected to the rest…
“And in belonging to the community, each species is shaped.
“By belonging.
“By belonging — by feeding and being fed upon, each generation of each species is shaped…
“By belonging to the community that shapes them…
“By belonging to the community of life…
“Because he had belonged to the community of life…
“Man was born belonging to the world…
“He did not exempt himself from that shaping just because he was man. And so he continued to belong to the community that had shaped him. And, by belonging to it, continued to be shaped…
“… and he belonged to the community that was shaping him.
“His life belonged to that community…
“Shaped by belonging to the community of life…
“It was in the hands of the gods.
“The gods were shaping the community of life on earth. And man belonged to that community and was being shaped with it and in it.
“Man was being shaped by the gods…
“Man had found his destiny.
“He had been fulfilling it from the beginning…
“And, following the supposition with which he had been born — the supposition that man belongs to the world — Homo sapiens was shaped….”
Homo magister had been born. And he was born refusing to be shaped any further, refusing to be shaped as man had been shaped from the beginning — by belonging to the community of life.
“He didn’t belong to that community. That community belonged to him…
“He took the life of the biological community into his own hands and used it as if it belonged to him…
Homo magister would no longer be shaped by belonging to the community of life.
“Food that had once belonged to all he would seize for himself alone, to be shared with no others. Land that had once supported the life of all he would seize for himself alone, to be shared with no others.
“This was his right.
“If the world belongs to man…
“And his growth would be voracious.
“Because it was without the limit imposed on all who belong to the community of life.
Homo magister no longer belonged to that community.” Look at how much Quinn focuses on humans belonging, a central theme in Brené’s work. Look at how much this belonging is tied to connection and to a spirituality based on connection, other big themes in Brené’s work. Look how one culture’s attempt to turn belonging upside-down resulted in a culture that, no surprise in the slightest, lacks a sense of belonging.

Part Three

“I like to think, outrageously, that I have a better opinion of God than Homo magister does.
“That He is not a snob.
“That He loved man from the beginning.” Compare Brené on worth being inherent to people.

“Imagine that the gods have a care for everything that lives in the community of life on earth.” Caring is tied to a great deal of Brené’s key concepts.

“If you can’t imagine it, ask an anthropologist. He or she will tell you something outrageous. That our ancestors were well adapted to live in the world as the gods made it. That the world was well shaped to be the home of man.
“He or she will tell you something even worse. That people who live the way our ancestors lived have an easier time staying alive than we do.
“Much easier.
“They expend less time and energy getting the things they need than we do. And they all get them — not just the lucky or the talented or the ruthless or the determined.
“They are the most leisured and best fed group on earth.
“Don’t take my word for it. Ask an anthropologist.” Compare Brené on belonging, authenticity, letting go of productivity, and critiquing power-over and hierarchy.

“He would make mistakes. Of course he would make mistakes.
“They wouldn’t hurt him. So long as he lived in [the gods’] hands.” Compare Brené on imperfection being okay and normal for people, not something that must be avoided.

Rising Strong

Five – The Rumble

“The rumble is where wholeheartedness is cultivated and change begins.” Quinn’s work can be seen as a rumble that attempts to change minds and move in the direction of wholeheartedness.

“What do we call a story that’s based on limited real data and imagined data and blended into a coherent, emotionally satisfying version of reality? A conspiracy theory.” Quinn’s work reveals Taker culture being based on a story of just this kind.

“The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness.” Compare Taker culture’s belief in humans being inherently flawed.

“Gottschall argues that conspiratorial thinking ‘is not limited to the stupid, the ignorant, or the crazy. It is a reflex of the storytelling mind’s compulsive need for meaningful experience.'” Affirms how Taker culture is so all-encompassing and upheld broadly even by even elites/experts/leaders.

“‘… bad things do not happen because of a wildly complex swirl of abstract historical and social variables. They happen because bad men live to stalk our happiness.’… We make up hidden stories that tell us who is against us and who is with us. Whom we can trust and who is not to be trusted.” Compare the us-vs.-them/othering inherent in Taker culture.

“In addition to the cautions about not polishing your SFD, watch out for the need to be certain. Uncertainty is tricky. It moves good storytelling along — the fun of a whodunit is the mystery — but it can shut down difficult stories we are trying to capture. When it comes to the process of owning our hard stories, uncertainty can be so uncomfortable that we either walk away or race to the ending.” Taker culture insists on certainty and refuses to rumble with the trickiness of uncertainty.

“1. What more do I need to learn and understand about the situation?…
“2. What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story?…
“3. What more do I need to learn and understand about myself?” In failing to rumble with its stories, Taker culture certainly doesn’t ask these questions. As a result, it misunderstands itself, misunderstands non-Taker cultures, and ignores the deep self-destructiveness underlying its social and ecological ills.

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