I’m resurrecting the Sunday Curiosities series from the grave. My audience is much too thoughtful, and there are far too many interesting things around the web, to let the series die a quiet death.
A member of my Discord community had this to say about my episode on The Headless Way, which is a crazy-sounding method of meditation in which one discovers, by way of looking for your own head, that there is no “center” to the experience of consciousness:
On the episode on the Headless Way, that feels REALLY compatible with my experience of my autism and EDS. I almost completely lack proprioception, so I cannot locate my body in space without looking at it so I’ve had times when my foot pokes out from under a blanket and my brain cannot recognize it as mine. Or I end up fascinated with my reflection because it’s the face I’m wearing but it isn’t the me that is looking at it.
I love this comment because it demonstrates how different people might experience consciousness differently, and how we can come to empathize with each other more fully through various forms of meditation and altered states of consciousness.
Curiosities from around the web
Jonathan Haidt (one of my intellectual heroes) wrote a powerful essay for The Atlantic in which he compares our current social and political landscape to the myth of the Tower of Babel:
It’s been clear for quite a while now that red America and blue America are becoming like two different countries claiming the same territory, with two different versions of the Constitution, economics, and American history. But Babel is not a story about tribalism; it’s a story about the fragmentation of everything. It’s about the shattering of all that had seemed solid, the scattering of people who had been a community. It’s a metaphor for what is happening not only between red and blue, but within the left and within the right, as well as within universities, companies, professional associations, museums, and even families.
An old post on the blog Slate Star Codex delineates between Conflicts Theorists and Mistake Theorists. This is the most helpful heuristic I have found so far for understanding some of the internecine conflicts within my own leftist spaces. I am personally a hardcore Mistake Theorist, and it is helpful for me to realize that Mistake Theory might not always be the most appropriate response to a problem and that other people with similar goals might have a completely different understanding of the world than I do.
Mistake theorists treat politics as science, engineering, or medicine. The State is diseased. We’re all doctors, standing around arguing over the best diagnosis and cure. Some of us have good ideas, others have bad ideas that wouldn’t help, or that would cause too many side effects.
Conflict theorists treat politics as war. Different blocs with different interests are forever fighting to determine whether the State exists to enrich the Elites or to help the People.
Mistake theorists view debate as essential. We all bring different forms of expertise to the table, and once we all understand the whole situation, we can use wisdom-of-crowds to converge on the treatment plan that best fits the need of our mutual patient, the State. Who wins on any particular issue is less important creating an environment where truth can generally prevail over the long term.
Conflict theorists view debate as having a minor clarifying role at best. You can “debate” with your boss over whether or not you get a raise, but only with the shared understanding that you’re naturally on opposite sides, and the “winner” will be based less on objective moral principles than on how much power each of you has. If your boss appeals too many times to objective moral principles, he’s probably offering you a crappy deal.
My colleague and favorite Evangelical John Morehead had an interesting conversation with another Christian pastor about my own religious community: Satanism. It was a strange, pleasant experience to hear two Christians talking about my religious tradition in such nuanced and humanizing ways. The interview is long, but well worth a listen:
Other content this week
On my Patrons-only show House of Heretics, Timothy and I discussed the horrific news out of the Supreme Court regarding abortion.
What I’m reading: The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale
A spooky, well-researched investigation into a poltergeist case in the 1930s. It’s hard to describe the scope of this work. It investigates the Spiritualist movement, the anxiety in Britain over the rise of Hitler, how psychoanalysis generated a whole onslaught of woo, how mediumship provided women with social power that was otherwise inaccessible to them, and so much more.
That’s all for today. If you have any comments or other curiosities you’d like to see featured next week, share them in my discord server or in the comments below.