Thinking With, Thinking Through

I’ve been in communication with a professor at a local university about doing a series of workshops on hip hop culture and pedagogy. He’s working on a major project with the aim of decentralizing the stranglehold of western european philosophy on critical thinking in university-level education here in the U.S. Of course I am inherently on board with this—any cultural mode and model that’s responsible for unleashing such unimaginable devastation and horror upon every living creature on the planet must be decentralized, if not for Truth & Beauty, then simply for survival.

Two of the main ideas I’m exploring as part of the themes of my workshops are: 1. the idea that “thinking,” including critical thinking, happens not merely with the “rational” faculties of the “mind,” but holistically and intuitively—this includes body-knowledge/awareness and creative imagination & expression—and 2. the idea that all noncivilized human societies and non-industrial civilized societies possess a mode of consciousness that involves thinking critically with and through one’s total environment—thinking with the land, other living beings, dreams, visions, spirits, and ancestors.

Sometimes mechanoids express shock and awe that ignorant savages have such a thorough pharmacological knowledge of their landbase, and that their brews, potions, medicines actually cure sicknesses. “Wow, how did these primitives ever figure all that stuff out? I know! They must have done it through ‘trial and error’ over the course of thousands of years! Those silly, clever savages,” etc. As if every time someone was sick, healers gave them random plants until they found one that helped. Because mechanoids’ prized method of discovering “scientific knowledge” is through experimentation on and torture of living beings, they figure their psychosis is universal; everyone must do it that way.

When in fact, if you read any anthropological reports on traditional and shamanic healing—or even better, if you talk to someone who is skilled in those methods—the practitioners all say the same things; the plants themselves speak to them, or visit them in dreams and visions, or animal & ancestral spirits visit them in dreams and visions, and tell them what plants, songs, and methods will heal an illness. Duh.

This is, of course, superstitious nonsense to the children of Descartes, for whom the entire cosmos is filled with dead matter and automatons, save for the wondrous western european man. This is the “rational” and “scientific” perspective—reproducible, controllable results. That this method, when it comes to medicine, has resulted in a bureaucratized for-profit medical industrial complex that hoards and price-gouges for what useful medicines and treatments it has, seems to not phase the one-dimensional mechanoid consciousness. That their entire cultural model has brought the planet to the verge of complete extinction of all species by global warming also seems to not phase that consciousness.

Divergent sidenote: I call it “global warming,” because that’s what it is. I realize it’s an old-fashioned term now, on account of the PR machines have branded us with the New & Improved buzzwords “climate change,” which sounds so much more ambiguous. It’s the best kind of lie, because it has just enough truth to pass under the radar—technically, yes, the climate is “changing.” They got that much correct. But the nature and quality of that change is unaddressed by the phrase. The earth’s temperature is heating up, as a direct result—for those who may be new to the matter—of the burning of coal, oil, and gas, mainly in industrial production.

Anyway, back to the main plot: thinking with the environment. Solving problems through communication with other living beings, and the various spirits. Thinking “as” an animal. These are modes of cognition that are inherent in cultures that live as part of a landbase, and that are close to the rest of the living world. In my experience, that way of living is not even imaginable to the modern urban blacktop dweller. The only animals they even see on a regular basis are either “pets” or the handful of species who manage to thrive in cities—rats, pigeons, roaches, ants, flies, etc.

Recently I read a book, The Intimate Bond, about the history of domesticated and enslaved animals in civilization. It was fascinating for reasons that varied from sweet to horrible. One of the things I learned was how common it has been throughout the history of agriculture and civilization for humans to share a home with their domesticated farm animals. Like, they sleep in the living room, or whatever the archaic equivalent of a living room is. They’re in your house. Like, sheep and donkeys, mules and cows and horses. They’re part of the family. Even I was like, thafuq?, when I read it.

As I said: close to the rest of the living world.

Last week I spoke to the professor on the phone. We were examining options for getting money to pay me for these workshops. I settled on the option that enabled me the most freedom and flexibility, but there was an additional price to pay: I would have to write a proposal, to give to the money guardians.

I hate writing proposals.

I don’t know what it is about them. Maybe it’s because, like grant writing, they’re pretty much all the same. Maybe because it’s basically just a commercial for something that may or may not resemble what’s in the commercial. Maybe because I’m entitled and I feel like these people should just give me hella money because I’m the DZA and they should know that, and be tripping over themselves to give me checks with many zeroes. Who knows?

I spent a good couple of days after that phone call whining about it to anyone who would listen. Then I sat down to work on it one evening—scribbled out a few ideas, brainstormed. Got a few good things out of it, but I just wasn’t focused. Then, sitting there on my couch, it finally fucking hit me:

I need to go to the woods.

The realization is followed instantly by a feeling of utter foolishness—I’m sitting here in what basically amounts to a manufactured box, trying to come up with an outline that involves the concept of thinking with the living world. I’m fully caught up in the mechano-european, rationalized, brain-in-a-jar worldview, so much that it took that long for me to figure out that I needed to think with the trees. I tossed down my notebook and resolved to spend the next day hiking. The next day I spent about four hours wandering along trails, listening to the crows and wind, the trunks and leaves, the sun and shade.

They told me everything I needed. As they always do.


About DZAtal

The true and living
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