A Nonfiction Book

The Conclusion of “Belonging Again” (Part I)

O.G. Rose
48 min readApr 17, 2024

Closing the Explanation to Open the Address

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The “Introduction” of Belonging Again (Part I) suggested that the text would attempt to craft ‘a theory of the psychohistorical process,’ which is why I’ve used the language of “givens and releases” versus “constraints and releases” like Rieff, which though similar in spirit, allows me to better connect Rieff with David Hume, the Counter-Enlightenment, Hegel, Hannah Arendt, and others, a move made throughout O.G. Rose.¹ With the language of “givens,” it becomes easier to connect Belonging Again with The True Isn’t the Rational and my work on Hegel, all of which I think is needed to write that “theory of the psychohistorical process.” To point ahead, I will end by meditating on Freud’s disagreement with Jung, as described by Philip Rieff himself, which for me helps connect Freud and Hegel (an intellectual undertaking pioneered by Cadell Last). With this move, we will glimpse why managing the situation described in Belonging Again will require something more Freudian and aligned with living according to paradoxical “Absolute Knowing,” as already suggested by the paper — not that this will be easy. Part II of Belonging Again will attempt to explore further what that “paradoxical living” (according to A/B versus A/A) might look like, another notion explored throughout O.G. Rose. Ultimately, this will lead us into setting the board for future works, with a focus on how a failure to address “the problem of scale” could be for us to stumble into a world of “small fascist states.” The stakes are high.

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‘Freud’s object was personal capacity, not general cure,’ Rieff tells us, while ‘Jung sought […] a cure.’²

‘[B]oth Adler and Jung sought in psychoanalysis a total theory, to which a patient could commit himself whole. But [for Freud] all such therapies of commitment belong to the religious category of cure: that of souls. More modestly, Freud sought to give men that power of insight which would increase their power to choose; but, he had no intention of telling them what they ought to choose.’³

Freud did not believe in “A Big Other,” we could say, alluding to Lacan, while both Jung and Adler “practically” did, according to Rieff. Like Hegel, Freud was primarily focused on increasing freedom, which for Freud was tied to good theory (which is ‘the creator of power […] from that creation of power derives man’s freedom to choose’ — which means “man’s power” is inextricably connected with “man’s anxiety”).⁴ ⁵ To put it another way, Freud only believed in managing our deepest human problems, while Jung believed in solving them, and ‘Freud never forgave Jung for this improper use of his theory […] Freud slaps him hard on the back and sends him on his way, back to the invisible church of his fathers.’⁶ Both Hegel and Freud understood that ‘the greater freedom to choose [did] not cure anybody [and] for millennia, Western man has yearned to be cured’ all while declaring the goodness and virtues of freedom.⁷ This also suggests Dostoevsky, author of “The Grand Inquisitor,” who Freud adored — we can glimpse why here.

Critically, for Freud, ‘[w]had Adler and Jung did […] [was] patently not psychoanalysis. Freud insisted on keeping the differences intact [though] [h]e did not deny that the cures others might develop may be efficacious modes of therapy.’⁸ Freud saw no reason why Jung couldn’t help people: Freud just wanted to be clear that Jung wasn’t a psychoanalyst, because a psychoanalyst is definitionally someone who manages “the subject”: the moment a cure or solution is involved, we have left the realm of psychoanalysis (for good and for bad). There are no “solutions” in psychoanalysis, as there is no “final resting place” in Hegel and Nietzsche: rather, there is “living with the tension,” and when Jung moved beyond that mission, Freud saw Jung as someone who moved beyond psychoanalysis. Sure, perhaps Freud misunderstood Jung, and I don’t mean to claim that this assessment of Jung is necessary accurate (that would take a Jungian Scholar to determine, which I am not), but according to Rieff the main difference between Freud and Jung is the difference between “managing a problem” and “solving a problem,” and for Freud psychoanalysis couldn’t for an instant believe it offered solutions — that would be the death of the field. In this way, if Belonging Again is correct that our current sociological condition isn’t “solvable” only “manageable,” requiring Children who cherish this instability, then we can say Belonging Again argues we are all psychoanalysts now.

O.G. Rose is full of arguments on why some “Final Wholeness” or “Transcendental Ground” is not possible, warning against all efforts to “Return to the Womb,” and in Jung and Adler Freud saw this mistake committed. ‘With his doctrine of archetypes, Jung offered a pantheon of psychologized god-terms, from which men could choose their spiritual medicine’ (without joining a community that placed demands on them, Rieff emphasizes).⁹ This for Freud ruined the whole purpose of psychoanalysis, which Freud basically saw as learning to manage the human subject without “god-terms” — Jung created a new theology that didn’t even have the courage to call itself “theology.” For Jung, it was ‘as if, because men [were] ill, gods exist[ed]. Freud risked the correlative implication: that healthy men need no gods’ (a Nietzschean point, connecting Freud, Hegel, and Nietzsche, as Cadell Last has worked to accomplish).¹⁰ But who is a “healthy man?” Well, someone who can handle the anxiety of choice and ultimately “Absolute Knowing,” I believe, a point suggested throughout Belonging Again (Freud is a thinker of Children).

We can see a lot packed into something Rieff tells us: ‘Freud’s [accomplishment] was a sheer triumph of intellectuality, of detachment. And yet he could not quite confront the issue to which Jung pointed, however unsteadily: the content of the choices that mankind would be freed to make.’¹¹ Freud provides us with tools for humans to cope with the anxiety of freedom and choice, but that still leaves a question hanging: “How should we live?” Freud and Nietzsche leave that question up to us to “create” — not being given this answer is what it means to be an “Overman” or Child, after all — and this isn’t all bad, but it presents a problem: how can community be possible? And can everyone be Children and “Absolute Knowers?” Can the solution scale or “spread?” Ah, this is indeed a very large hanging question, one that we shouldn’t be too critical of Jung to note, even if we ultimately cannot accept Jung’s methods. Frankly, we see in the difference between Jung and Freud how ontology and epistemology are indivisible, for however we choose to freely live is indivisibly tied to how we define ourselves ontologically, which impacts how we can think — we are always in the business of “ontoepistemology.” In Jung trying to address what humans should “freely choose,” he found himself positing a certain ontological conception of humans that transformed the kind of epistemology humans were capable of, while Freud left the question more open. In Jung, we end up in something I call “Alterology” — but that is yet another topic for another time, elaborated on in (Re)constructing “A Is A.”


‘Jung developed (although secretly) a prophetic sense of mission: to help those who, like his father, suffered from the failure of the Christian miracle of grace, to a new grace.’¹² Freud did not believe it was the place of the psychoanalyst to have “a mission,” and doing so automatically moved a thinker outside the field. Psychology, we could say, is therapeutic and involves “problem-solving,” while psychoanalysis is more anti-therapeutic and “problem-management.” On this point, I think we can start to see ways that psychoanalysis and philosophy interact and overlap, as thinkers like Žižek and Cadell Last argue is the case.

But isn’t philosophy itself transformative, a kind of “self-help?” Michelle and I had a conversation exploring this (O.G. Rose Conversation Ep #81), and hopefully there we addressed the topic adequately, but I think here we can consider Philip Rieff as relevant. At the very end of his book, Rieff tells us:

‘The therapy of all therapies is not to attach oneself exclusively to any particular therapy, so that no illusion may survive of some end beyond an intensely private sense of well-being to be generated in the living of life itself. That a sense of well-being has become the end, rather than a by-product of striving after some superior communal end, announces a fundamental change of focus in the entire cast of our culture — toward a human condition about which there will be noting further to say in terms of the old style of despair and hope.’¹³

The line I want to focus on is the second sentence, which notes how today “well-being” is primary versus a secondary result of seeking “some superior communal end.” I think this shift Rieff describes also suggests why it is so difficult today to understand the role and place of philosophy, for it is very difficult to do philosophy directly in the name of “well-being” and philosophy not end up as “self-help.” This would mean that “true philosophy” transforms us indirectly, but without belief in any “givens” or “ultimate metaphysical principles,” it’s hard to imagine what we might “directly seek” to approach with philosophy that might “transform us” secondarily. If we don’t believe in truth, goodness, or beauty, for example, and/or if we don’t believe these three have a kind of “ultimate authority” over us and reality, then what could philosophy be other than “self-help” or some hobby? Without “ultimate realities,” it seems philosophy would have to be in the business of helping our reality, and that means “transforming us” becomes primary versus secondary. At this point, ironically, the power of philosophy to transform us lessens and could be lost (a point which suggests the need for us, Children, to “create X” — the great and critical paradox).

We are changed positively by what challenges us and even calls us to “lay down our lives”: there must be risk, courage, and the like. But without realities beyond our personal tastes and opinions, what risks can we take that aren’t risks that we choose, and thus aren’t expressions of “the therapeutic?” True philosophical transformation seems to require us being “called out of ourselves,” but how is that possible where there exists no truth, beauty, or goodness that has authority over us regardless what we want or will (no X)? This problem was described throughout Belonging Again, and the point is that this dilemma might shed light on why it is so hard today to define “transformative philosophy” from “self-help”: when we believed in God and Ultimate Realities, this distinction was far easier to grasp. Now, the distinction can seem impossible.

Where “the pleasure principle” is all that remains, and/or where “the reality principle” lacks authority and simply means “the reality of my facticity” (or something similar), then reality has authority over me to the degree I acknowledge that authority, and thus I am the source of my own transformation. In this circumstance, how can philosophy not be “self-help?” Maybe it is distinct, but being able to clearly tell such will be difficult (the two rivers will have “practically merged”). Given this ambiguity (due to the loss of X), the transformative power of philosophy will easily be weakened. Again, this is described in Belonging Again, but on this point we can perhaps glimpse why something like “Absolute Knowing” is needed if philosophy is to prove “transformative” and meaningfully distinct from “self-help.” For me, to become “Children of Absolute Knowing,” capable of “creating X,” is to address both the concerns of Freud and Jung (though admittedly with an emphasis on Freud).

Following Žižek, “Absolute Knowing” marks an “absolute limit” to what we can think and know, and what is beyond that limit is that which we must relate to in terms of what I call Alterology (perhaps there is an apophatic God, a Žižekian “essential negativity,” something only accessible by technology — hard to say). Hegel helps us understand that there are things which we are limited from experiencing and knowing, which thought itself can realize about itself in “speculative reasoning.” All this must be elaborated on throughout O.G. Rose, but here I only wanted to note that Hegel might help us find a possibility for “transformative philosophy” which is meaningfully distinct from “self-help.” In my opinion, David Hume is also helpful, as described in “Deconstructing Common Life,” for “common life” cannot ever be fully thought. Unfortunately, Philip Rieff used a language of “constraints and releases” which makes it hard to connect Rieff with Hume and Hegel, hence my preference for “givens and releases.” Also, to be Children who “create X” is to be Children who arguably create their own Alterology — isn’t this an impossible ideal for most?

Cadell Last discusses the possibility of “Communities of Absolute Knowers,” which I think is a topic that aligns with the question (that often comes up at “The Net”): “Can we ‘spread’ the conditions needed so that more people can be Overmen and Children?” Freud believed that ‘there [was] no positive community [today] within which the individual [could] merge himself therapeutically,’ which meant that “the therapeutic” today had come to mean something very different and individualistic than in the past, and that there no longer was the possibility of “a symbolic order” which relieved people of the pressures and tensions of radical choice and autonomy (“pure release,” meaning that “pure release” had to somehow be addressed).¹⁴ Please note that Freud is not telling us here that “the therapeutic” is always bad, and in fact it is necessary to some degree (men cannot live on “the reality principle” alone), but the problem is that “the therapeutic” has triumphed at the expense of “the reality principle.” Nothing is “given” now, which is to say there are no “constrains.” The therapeutic is totally liberated to be “an autonomous therapeutic,” which is just as destructive as “autonomous rationality” (as David Hume admonished). Freud understood the dangers of this, but it also seems to be the case that “we cannot go back” to how things once were. We move forward, and that seems to require “Absolute Communities” and/or “Communities of Children.” Is that possible? Yes, if we have the skills to manage that possibility. Where there are Children, there are terrors.


Classically, it was believed that ‘[t]he healthy man [was] in fact the good citizen,’ but this connection between “health” and “citizenship” is no longer readily apparent.¹⁵ For us, “being a good citizen” seems like it must become “being a good Absolute Knower,” who is defined as such within an “Absolute Community,” a state of Childhood which seems to have something to do with what I call “Lacanian New Sincerity” — but all this must be explored elsewhere. In Medieval Philosophy, it was considered impossible to form an adequate conception and understanding of humanity without a doctrine of Final Cause, “Nature,” or some teleology, and if we overlay that language with X, it does seem extremely difficult to do otherwise. Could our “Final Cause” be “Absolute Knowing” and Childhood, which is precisely a state in which we “integrate with (in)completion” and look to ever-create in that state? Might we “create X” and this be a “clearing” for many of us, not just lone individuals?

In Jung, according to Rieff, each of us can find a private religion in archetypes, which solves the problems of the world today, while Freud believed we had to manage the problems. Nietzsche’s Child is precisely one whose very creative material is our unstable and unsolvable condition: the instability is not avoided, but rather we develop the skills and orientations so that we can feel stable with the instability (like a confident surfer riding a wave. Yes, perhaps our ability to be Children requires us to understand Jung and archetypes, but the archetypes themselves cannot for Freud be the means by which we find “rest.” We must learn to “rest” on a surfboard not a bed.

For Freud, what was moral was ‘not ‘self-evident,’ as Freud declared in a letter to James Putman. [Rather,] [w]hat is moral becomes and remains self-evident only within a powerful and deeply compelling system of culture.’¹⁶ Where this “system of givens” is gone, what constitutes good and bad will not be clear, and whatever is asserted “as good” will easily lack authority to people (a double problem). “Absolute Knowing” is not self-evident, thus we need a Hegelian process to realize it, that being the process by which a Child arises and “creates X.” This X is “practically,” in terms of its function and authority over the individual, equivalent to a “compelling system of culture,” but again can such be mustered by the majority? If not, then we might be stuck in a very difficult situation, for according to Rieff ‘Western culture may now be so divorced from nature that revolution has lost its earlier cyclical implication.’¹⁷ Revolution once had a corrective and useful role in society, but Rieff didn’t think that still applied, for revolution was no longer “reformative.” This had occurred because what Freud taught was ignored, and the average person searched for a “rest” which was no longer possible. Searching for the impossible, everything possible was opposed.

‘A tolerance of ambiguities is the key to what Freud considered the most difficult of all personal accomplishments: a genuinely stable character in [our] unstable time.’¹⁸ Rieff stressed “ambivalence” in Freud, which many people ignore in favor of Freud’s “libido,” which as a result contributes to people missing “Freudian Tragedy” (as we could call it). We today increase human choice by increasing ambivalence about what constitutes the human being, which means we increase choice by making humans unsure what should be chosen (meaning we never “choose to create X”), and thus more is considered. “Ambivalence” and “freedom” correlate, which poises a problem, because it’s harder to make a choice the more uncertain we feel. Thus, freedom that is gained through an increase in ambivalence is a freedom that will be increasingly harder to exercise, but the only way to escape ambivalence is to return to “givens,” which no longer seems possible. What can be done?

Here, I would point ahead in the work of O.G. Rose, say on Hegel or ultimately The Fate of Beauty (and basically anywhere that suggests humans are “paradoxes” or A/B versus A/A). In defending an A/B ontoepistemology, what is attempted is a movement of humans from “ambivalence” to “ambiguity” (to use my language), which is to say we move from “being unsure about ourselves” (which is A/A, for we are sure we are unsure) to “being paradoxes” (A/B). This move is paramount, for if we are ambiguities in being A/B, then we can move to position ourselves to be “constrained by Absolute Knowing,” which can then function as a new kind of “given.” At the point of “Absolute Knowing,” we then are given “A Final Absolute Choice” and/or “Final Alterological Choice,” which makes it possible for us to regain “constraint” without the same pitfalls of traditional “givens.” Since “Absolute Knowing” is part of the nature of thought itself, it is the given which thought requires to operate, and so we can ascribe to it out of necessity versus personal choice and preference (which would be therapeutic).¹⁹ If we can then see “Absolute Knowing” in terms of beauty, truth, and goodness, this may also make it a source of “intrinsic motivation” — a possible address to the problems explored in Belonging Again.

‘American culture,’ according to Rieff, ‘is in a remissive phase of transition in a new system of moral demands,’ and today that morality seems to be one of “consent” and “personal choice.”²⁰ For all of the benefits of this, this is indeed “a therapeutic morality,” and it does not give us the resources to determine necessarily to what we should “consent.” For Freud, it was not possible again for a ‘moral demand system [to] compel at least the educated classes to [an] inner obedience which bound men to rules they themselves had made but could not change except at the expense of spirit,’ and indeed “consent” is not a doctrine which binds but rather expresses (for good and for bad).²¹ If we are bound, we are bound by the wills of others, but we do not readily bind ourselves, and that is a critical difference that concerned Freud, but here we might see ways in which Hegel’s “Absolute Knowing” could possibly help us regain what Freud thought could never be recaptured. And we shall attempt this not by ‘install[ing] a psychology where ontology once reigned,’ as arguably Jung attempted, but precisely by reinstating ontology as a Hegelian “ontoepistemology” (A/B).²²

In the past, ‘[t]he limitation of possibilities was the very design of salvation,’ and in Childhood and “Absolute Knowing” we find, thanks to Hegel, a way to “redeem limitation” but in a manner that negates/sublates limitation into something distinct from how it was experienced in the past.²³ ‘Culture is another name for a design of motives directing the self outward, toward those communal purposes in which alone the self can be realized and satisfied,’ and if that is true then a world without “communal purposes” is one without culture, and yet a Child “creates an X” toward which the Child can be “outward,” so we see here the ingredients needed for regaining culture — but only if “the problem of spread” might somehow be addressed.²⁴ How exactly might require “fields” (Part II), a “Lacanian New Sincerity,” and “a true of knowledge we leave alone” (The Absolute Choice).


Pluralism hasn’t made a new world as much as it has forced us to see the world that has always been present. “Givens” have always ultimately been subjective (though recall “subjective” and “false” aren’t similes), but not until now did “givens” so much feel subjective (due to the regularity of our encounter with difference, brought about by Pluralism, the internet, Globalization, etc.). Certainty has always been mostly an illusion; worldviews have always been “groundless” (though not necessarily wrong) — but not until the present did our feelings fail to help hide the world from us. Pluralism realizes the world more than changes it. This being the case, we all perhaps must be described by Kierkegaard in the following way (which was mentioned in the essay, “Belonging Again,” but will be expanded here):

‘The self is its own master, absolutely (as one says) its own master; and exactly this is the despair, but also what it regards as its pleasure and joy. But it is easy on closer examination to see that this absolute ruler is a king without a country, that really he rules over nothing; his position, his kingdom, his sovereignty, are subject to the dialectic that rebellion is legitimate at any moment.

‘Consequently, the despairing self is forever building only castles in the air […] The self wants in despair to savour to the full the satisfaction of making itself into itself, of developing itself, of being itself; it wants to take credit for this fictional, masterly project, its own way of understanding itself. And yet what it understands itself to be is in the final instance a riddle; just when it seems on the point of having the building finished, at a whim it can dissolve the whole thing into nothing.’²⁵

Indeed, everything feels now as if it could be dissolved at a whim, and we’re not sure what constitutes this “whim,” thus our perpetual anxiety. Pluralism is when our world stops doing our believing for us, and as a result we feel the fragility of our beliefs. Beliefs are not upheld by an Atlas so much as they are carefully knitted and carefully treaded on by a spider (and we hate spiders). Before Pluralism, when “givenness” took care of this problem for us, we could believe our beliefs were heavy and substantive, like a planet upheld by a god. But that belief is now gone with our encounter with belief in what it really is — a delicate thread holding up our universe above a black hole sucking it down.

Where beliefs are experienced as uniquely fragile, the worst orientation to hold is an orientation that is critical and deconstructive, for everything fragile will likely break, leading to nihilism. Problematically, Pluralism tends to arise to skepticism and anti-dogmatism precisely to accommodate the Pluralism and difference, but these orientations end up breaking things (versus “substantive democracy” which “humbly stands from first principles” versus deny their existence). Rieff tells us that ‘[e]very science, like every teaching church, must have its dogmatists; otherwise, all questions would be forever first questions — and forever remain unanswerable.’²⁶ I agree, and a role of “givens” is precisely to give us “a place to begin” that builds upon the past, versus leave us always starting in “sinking sand” in which we can never find a proper footing. Fighting for justice, freedom, God, or the like, and requiring “somewhere from which to start,” ‘it is easy to see how it is that liberals eventually become quite illiberal, Christians eventually act in quite un-Christian ways, humanists eventually behave inhumanely, conservatives eventually become insensitive to the traditions they espouse, champions of tolerance become intolerant, and so on.’²⁷ In an anti-dogmatist world, the dogmatism is “anti-dogmatism,” and that is a world which is problematically split, in the sense that everything which can be experienced is not “fully real.” The world is never “the thing-in-itself,” which is mentally conflated with “perfection” and hence “how things ought to be,” which means everything which can be experienced ought to be different. In this environment, everything is critiqued and deconstructed for an ideal which never arises (so is the logical and perhaps inescapable fate of A/A versus A/B).

In our age, reason no longer questions just narrative but also reason’s very capacity to question narrative. Everything is unstable, and suffering this situation, ‘most have neither the time nor the ability to sort through the massive amounts of information necessary to make informed judgments on any particular issue, much less care about the panoply of issues that make up the contemporary culture war.’²⁸ We require trust and trust in our authorities, and yet we have been trained through deconstruction and uncertainty which naturally arises with Pluralism not to trust (furthermore, we have good reason not to trust governments, experts, and the like, for they have indeed manipulated us). Where “givens” collapse, then “trust as living” will fail and prove increasingly more unreliable, which means that people will have to “fill the void” by actively giving trust (or they will have to actively withdraw trust). This is mentally and existentially exhausting, and it is doubtful that we can handle extending this level of mental energy to large numbers of people. Thus, where “givens” collapse, we are likely to live in smaller groups, and perhaps live alone. The mental burden of “always feeling vulnerable” (versus not think about it) is just too great — unless that is we might become Children and enjoy the burden.

If we are trained not to start from any “first principles,” we are trained not to trust anything before we examine it, and yet “On Trust” makes the case that we must already trust before we begin examining, which means a world where we only trust after examination is a world without trust (a problem only worsened by the fact that humans seem naturally orientated to remember and focus on the bad versus the good).²⁹ Worsening the problem, when I hold a mug to my lips to drink coffee and the handle breaks (to allude to an example from the paper), I naturally experience/remember myself as “having extended trust to the mug,” when really I never carried out this act of “extension” but instead just “lived.” Feeling this way though, I can feel tricked, which can make me more distrusting moving into the future, hurting social cohesion. This is a logical error, yes, but error still shapes the world.

In such a self-aware state, we are likely to think of “trust” regularly (as something “to extend” versus just “live”), and as such we might be more conscious and careful, which is to say we are less likely to fall into “banality of evil”-situations, but it is also the case that if we constantly feel like people don’t trust us, like we cannot trust any starting point, etc., then we can start to feel like we cannot trust our own self-assessments that we are trustable, which can lead to self-deconstruction, self-doubt, and other acts which beget great existential anxiety. To not be trusted easily leads into us losing trust in ourselves, and the more we have to choose to “extend trust” or not, the more probable it is we make mistakes, and since a single mistake is harder to forget about than twenty good decisions, it might be probable that we encounter situations that make us believe that we cannot trust our own ability to discern who we should trust and who we should not. This can destroy our confidence and make us anxious, and to avoid these feelings we can withdraw from society and seek to be alone. It’s just too difficult to constantly extend trust. We can’t trust our decisions to extend trust anyway, can we?

“Givens” are according to what we “thoughtlessly” extend equality and thereby trust, and arguably as a distinction can be drawn between “living as trust” and “extending trust,” so we could also make distinctions between “living as equality” and “extending equality,” for generally we tend to treat everything and everyone around us as “relatively equal” (perhaps as “relatively equal in being part of the background of our life,” but still) — the fates of “trust” and “equality” seem connected. Furthermore, “givens” enable me to withdraw both “justly” — which is precisely the trouble and benefit of them: the blessing and risk are one and the same. “Givens” are not the same as “laws” and yet can seem like they are identical; rather, they are “cultural laws,” in a paradoxical way, which is to say they are similar to the “created X(s)” found in Nietzsche’s Children. “Givens” function as laws and yet are not laws, in the same way that “created X(s)” are “practically transcendently authoritative” and yet aren’t “transcendently authoritative.” Considering the overlap, it makes sense that the loss of “givens” must be a negation/sublation into “created X(s),” but of course that requires Children, and our question is if the conditions for Childhood can spread.

“On Trust” also mentioned how “fear” is an opposite of “trust,” which suggests that a society where “givens” collapse is a society that will be very anxious (as perhaps expressed in worsening mental health). To overcome this fear, trust will have to be reestablished, but that will require “extending trust,” which requires vulnerability and risk — which can beget fear. Not giving into that fear or being overcome by anxiety will require work, and hence we will be prone to exhaustion. Between “anxiety” and “exhaustion,” without “givens,” we seem destined to oscillate, and to avoid this oscillation, we can be tempted by the stability offered by “autonomous rationality” or “autonomous nonrationality,” which is to say an “internally consistent system” that helps us feel stabilized in a world that seems like it is never solid. If we can always trust our intuition, or if we can always trust our rationality — the earth might not feel like it is unchained from the sun and flying off into the void. We can feel stabilized, and in a world where (trust through) “living” is not possible due to the loss of “givens,” there seems to be little other hope for stability than something “autonomous” and “internally consistent.” Unfortunately, as we learn from Hume, this can lead to totalitarianism and other forms of terror. Is there a way to think differently (A/B versus A/A)? Perhaps, but that will first require us to save “skepticism” from being a simile for “disbelief.”


The Conflict of Mind by O.G. Rose spoke extensively about the dangers and problems of “autonomous rationality,” which is the effort to understand the world through rationality “all the way down,” with no appeal to empathy, aesthetic sensibilities, intuition — all other “nonrational” forms of “knowing” are cast aside. This is arguably “the dream of the Enlightenment,” but this dream is indeed just a dream. We can see this dream as a desire to live in a world where we really don’t have to “extend trust,” because we can use reason and logic to determine what we should believe and what we shouldn’t. It is a “trustless” world, per se, which is a term used now in Web 3.0 spaces, which is useful here. “Trust as living” is a nonrationality required for rationality not to devour itself, yet only engaging in “trust as living” is a recipe for fundamentalism and “the banality of evil.” But when the public becomes aware of the “authority circle,” when “trust as living” collapses and there is only “trust as extension,” and when our understandings of whom equality should be extended to fail, we are likely existentially overwhelmed and hungry for moments of freedom from that anxiety. This freedom can be found in dreams and movies, and “groups” are places where “group psychology” arises and spreads. Thus, we are primed to join groups, just to feel normal and “free” for a little bit. With “givens” gone, we are less vulnerable to the “thoughtless” Mass, but we are more valuable to the “metamental” Mob. Where “maps” are shredded and not agreed upon, the Mass it not a threat, but the Mob seems probable.

Belonging Again can be seen as the sociological implications of taking seriously that “the true isn’t the rational” and that “autonomous rationality” is impossible, for the split between “truth” and “rationality” can overlap with the distinction between “givens” and “releases,” “social support” and “individual expression,” and so on. Both Belonging Again and The True Isn’t the Rational stress and argue for “a new kind of thinking” that takes seriously “nonrationality” so that we avoid “suboptimal results” (“Nash Equilibria”) both as individuals and as societies. This “new kind of thinking” ultimately will lead us into Conditionalism and aesthetics, as discussed in The Fate of Beauty, but we do not need to explore those topics here.

The loss of trust can lead to overthinking, existential exhaustion, and “metamentality,” but the loss of “skepticism” in it being conflated with “disbelief” leads to a world where we cannot question and refine traditions, “givens,” or the like without being seen as opposing them, which could contribute to “the banality of evil” and “thoughtlessness.” At the same, “the death of skepticism” could also lead to the loss of any method to “check and balance” assertions of the Mob, claims that “givens” need to be torn down, or the like: to lose skepticism is to lose both a tool for refinement and a tool for defense. Considering “The Death of Skepticism,” to be Children, we require habits of thinking, and these habits train us intellectually and emotionally to handle existential uncertainty against what we believe, and they also keep thinking from always favoring criticism and deconstruction (if “skepticism” is akin to “deconstruction” in our minds, then all we can do is deconstruct “givens” — the choice is between “hard givens” or “no givens” at all). Either excess is destructive.³⁰

“Skepticism” is a middle ground between “deconstruction” and “thoughtless acceptance,” but it cannot be that middle ground if it is conflated with “disbelief.” “Refining givens” is one of the most difficult tasks in the world, as is establishing and using a sociopolitical process according to which the society can change without causing backlash, institutional delegitimization, revolution, and so on. Both “The Death of Process” and “The Death of Skepticism” are featured in Belonging Again to suggest that we are failing on both fronts, which means that the likelihood we successfully “refine givens” is very low. It was already the case that the act of adjusting and changing “givens” threatens them, for the very act unveils that they can change and thus that they are not “given.” In the same way people must be convinced law doesn’t “change” but is “realized” in order for law to maintain its legitimacy (a strange and paradoxical balancing act), so “givens” must be “realized” not “changed.” This might seem like parsing words or “dancing around the issue,” but even if that’s true, this dancing is critical and necessary. It can decide the difference between a social order surviving or falling apart.

We have associated “givens” with the spiderweb Wittgenstein discusses, and we can think of “refining givens” as equivalent to taking a pair of forceps and trying to remove a thread from the web without tearing apart the whole. This is a very difficult and delicate process. Well, once we conflate “skepticism” with “disbelief,” the option of carrying out this procedure with delicate forceps is off the table; now, all we have is a pair of plyers. The tool is too blunt and bulky for the operation (assuming such “process” is even allowed), but it’s all we have left.³¹ What are the chances we will succeed? Low. Children are those who can “create Xs with forceps”: Hegel represents the creation of something new and authoritative from “what is always already” — as elaborated on in The Absolute Choice. Why must we deal with this problem at all? Neil Postman put it well:

‘We are burdened with a kind of consciousness that insists on our having a purpose […] That is the reason why there is nothing more disconcerting, to put it mildly, than to have one’s story mocked, contradicted, refuted, held in contempt, or made to appear trivial. To do so is to rob a people of their reason for being. And that is why no one loves a story-buster, at least not until a new story can be found.’³²

Indeed, to have our story destroyed upsets us, but then again we turn to rationality to be “autonomous” and something that liberates us — yet “rationality” and “story” hardly mix without conflict. We make little sense to want both a “story” and to also be “rational,” and yet we need both, which is to say we need what cannot exist together without trouble.

As mentioned in “Why Do Madness and Genius Like to Tango?” by O.G. Rose, we seemingly want rationality to have the possibility of being “autonomous” and so functioning, as if “autonomous rationality” is the only story we can believe in anymore, after the Enlightenment. But this is not the case: rationality is not something which it is always good to have more of (like one of the “three infinities”). Rather, there is an art to thinking, which must also entail the capacity to recognize when we should think and when we should not, when thinking is devouring itself and when it is a necessary corrective. Whenever thinking fails to properly judge how it should be employed, we will run either the risk of thinking violating our trust in it or thinking deconstructing “givens” in hopes of achieving an “autonomous rationality” which isn’t possible. The art of thinking is learning how to hold within us things which fight.


We are suffering “the legitimization crisis of our lives,” which is to say that everything feels unstable and “melting in the air.” Because of the collapse of “givens,” it is difficult to enter a “trance of believability” according to which we simply fall into and absorb “the narrative” of our social order. Society no longer feels like our “native tongue,” something we can speak fluently without thinking about it, and this inability to integrate socially is only worsened by “the death of the processes” by which we could regain a feeling of confidence in society. We don’t readily believe that social processes are legitimate, and so we must question them, which leads to an anxiety which we often respond to either by “honoring thoughtlessness” or suffering the unleashing of “metamentality.”

As discussed in “On Trust” by O.G. Rose, “trust” is often best when it is “practically identical” with “living,” which is to say we trust without thinking about the fact that we are trusting. Once the question of trust enters our minds, it’s almost too late: our trust has been “broken,” for the “given” has been broken in the very act of consciously realizing we could change it or could have ascribed to a different “given.” With this thought regarding “what we should do,” it is too late. “Living as trust” is gone, which seems like trust in general is gone. And where trust is gone, the mind must think of everything to survive. Nothing can be assumed. Everything might be a threat. People are especially dangerous, for we can never access their minds to know what they are thinking: they could suddenly frown at us, walk away without reason, call us a fool, or just remain silent for reasons we don’t understand. If we encounter a wild animal, we have a much better sense of what we should do, but people are unpredictable. People are terrifying.

Trust cannot be readily earned, only given, and that means if trust is lost it will not necessarily come back just because people do x, y, or z. We can always doubt what people do (which is to say there is always room for “metamentality”), and there is always good reason not to trust or to “wait a little longer” before trusting (indefinitely). The fate of trust is tied to the fate of “givens,” but this also suggests that we tend to trust when we can be “thoughtless” about that trust. Is it the case then that societal trust requires the risk of “the banality of evil?” Is trust not possible otherwise?

The movement from “trust as living” to “trust as extension” is a movement into “metamentality” and anxiety. We constantly have to make choices, which means we constantly have to think and constantly take responsibility, both of which creates anxiety. Before choosing, we find ourselves suffering, “what we think they will think…” if we make x choice versus y, and yet we must choose something — unless we withdraw from society and people. Yes — then we can make choices (as we must) without worrying about others and their thoughts. Freedom and peace. Indeed, this is our temptation, but Children do not run from this tension: they embrace it as material for creative possibilities. But are Children crazy? It can seem that way, yes, but rather Children are “nonrational” (a category we currently lack in our thinking as the clock ticks).

Where trust is lacking, and where we find it hard to believe anything, even if we encounter “the truth,” it won’t matter, for we won’t believe it; that, or we’ll be hesitate and uncertain in our ascription to it. This will easily create an “existential itch” we will want to scratch, and yet we won’t be able to scratch it. Can we live with an “itch” we cannot scratch? Even if some can, can the majority? The Conflict of Mind discussed “essential limits of mind,” and with the decline of “givens” we are having to face this “itchy” ontoepistemological reality, whether we’re ready for it or not. It would seem “plausibility structures” and “givens” helped protect us from “the problem of justification” and “the conflict of mind” in general, problems that once glimpsed cannot be “unseen.” Perhaps it is because we have glimpsed these problems that we are all philosophers now — that we are what James Joyce called in “The Dead” ‘a thought-tormented age.’ Hard to say, but an argument of The True Isn’t the Rational overall is that if we could learn to see these limits as essential, then it would be “rational” for us to think according to them as opposed to constantly trying to avoid them. For me, a main implication of this realization is the need to take “nonrationality” into account, which means “true” and “rational” are not identical categories, even if they often overlap. Why does this matter? Well, because if Forrest Landry is correct that one of the problems we currently face is “The Human Coordination Problem” (for example), and it is indeed true that “nonrationality” matters for thinking, then we cannot address “The Human Coordination Problem” without taking “nonrationality” seriously. Optimistically, if it is true that the collapse of “givens” can help us realize that “the true isn’t the rational,” then what seems like a sociological disaster could “wake us out of our dogmatic slumber” into thinking that might prepare us for the challenges of AI, “The Singularity,” and the like. What has sociologically occurred doesn’t have to be an effacement; it could be a negation/sublation. There is reason to hope in “The Meaning Crisis” — and there are stakes if we fail to rise to its occasion.

There are a few works I will note that suggest “the stakes” of our current situation and why indeed we must negate/sublate our situation if we are to avoid effacement. Those works:

The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
Gulag by Anne Applebaum
Black Earth by Timothy D. Snyder
Thirteen Days by Robert Kennedy

There are more books I could reference, but these readily come to mind (and please note that WWI leads to WWII). The Guns of August shows how nations can stumble into war without meaning to, and Gulag and Black Earth highlight what humans are capable of once they have stumbled into such a situation (evil is not something only psychos do, as Kennan Grant warned). Thirteen Days is about the Cuban Missile Crisis and suggests how humanity can be driven by logic and “Game Theory”-dynamics into considering the Apocalypse. Barbara Tuchman suggests we can end up in horror unintentionally, while Kennedy suggests we can end up in the Apocalypse logically — two scenarios which seem to be opposites — while Applebaum and Snyder describe what can arise during such episodes or as a consequence of them.

I will not review these books here, and I do not want to try to predict what exactly will occur if we don’t find a balance between “givens” and “releases” and/or realize a way to “spread” the conditions which increase the probability that Children arise. Timothy Snyder suggests that the worst horrors in history occur in “Stateless Zones,” which is to say in places where the State has no clear role. This is further evidence that erasing “law” is not the way, as making “law” omnipresent isn’t best either. Strangely, it almost seems as if “Stateless Zones” arise precisely where “the banality of evil” occurs with “givens” (Mass), while erasing “givens” leads to Mobs which make the State stronger. Shouldn’t it be the opposite? Well, certainly erasing “givens” can cause “Stateless Zones,” but it seems as if when the State is all powerful and everywhere, it also seems to be nowhere. Hard to say, but I note this to suggest that it is very difficult to predict the exact details of what can occur if “givens” are lost or freedom quelled: an outcome can arise from the loss of “givens” that you’d expect to occur with the loss of freedom and vice-versa. Still, I am willing to claim that we need both “givens” and “releases,” and that failure to achieve both makes us vulnerable to what is described in the noted books. These are the stakes, and it doesn’t seem like “givens” are restorable. Hence, we must become Children. How? Indeed, how…

If I were to wager, I would say a “Cuban Missile Crisis”-episode is what we are most likely to stumble into if we do not figure out how to address the concerns of Belonging Again. I interpret both WWI and the Cuban Missile Crisis as examples of “Nash Equilibria” where rationality lead all parties involved into a “suboptimal result,” the address to which is “nonrationality” (which is also required for us to grasp that we need both “givens” and “releases”). In this way, a new ontoepistemology is central, but just knowing a new ontoepistemology will not be enough: we also must live it. And that for me is why the emphasis is on becoming Children (as Christ taught, funny enough).

“The Cuban Missile Crisis” is a historic episode which I think everyone should study, and there is a line out of the movie Thirteen Days which I would like to highlight (as also noted in “From the ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ to ‘Up in the Air’ Where We Watch the Terrible Strength of ‘Midsommar’ ” by O.G. Rose):

Let us hope the will of good men is enough to counter the terrible strength of this thing that was put in motion.

I find this sentiment fascinating, for it suggests that everyone involved feels trapped under something that is greater than them and yet unstoppable. In a sense, it is logic and rationality itself, pulling humanity along, exactly as Benjamin Fondane warned (hence his defense of the “irrational”). But even if we accept that we need “nonrationality” to avoid this crisis, how do we determine how to be “nonrational?” There are different ways, and not all “nonrationalities” will prove equal — don’t we require rationality? Indeed, hence why we must be dialectical to avoid “autonomous rationality” and “autonomous nonrationality” — we must always actively think (as stressed in The Absolute Choice). Still, if we at least know that “nonrationality” must play a role, we will prove more prepared.

What amazes me about the Cuban Missile Crisis is how, suddenly, a period of thirteen days began in which the world could have ended. Just out of the blue — a chain of events began which the world would never forget. A decision here. A decision there. And the dreadful thirteen days began. And once they began, it felt like there was no way to stop what started. Ultimately, from what I can tell of the episode, the decision of the Kennedy administration to pretend like it didn’t receive a letter from Khrushchev saved the world. Was this a rational decision? Would an AI have made a similar choice? I don’t know, but I wonder how much of history is full of small decisions that cannot readily be systemized or understood as “simply rational,” without which the world would be much worse or not around.

It seems inevitable to me that another “thirteen days” eventually begins again, unless that is we might develop “a new kind of subject” who is able to help us avoid this situation. There are no guarantees, but if we don’t think that we are just at the mercy of rationality (as fed to us from AI) to be “pulled along” to wherever we might end up, we might have a chance to change and choose our fate. This would be the Child, the one who understands the need for “nonrationality” and the need to “create X” in this world where all we have left is ‘a peddling of sterile abstractions, weary platitudes, and empty maxims’ (as Dr. Hunter put it).³³ ‘We say we want a renewal of character in our day,’ but are we ready to be Nietzschean?³⁴ Are we ready to think like Hegel? If not, then we may have no way to avoid being dragged into the next “Cuban Missile Crisis.” Unless perhaps we weren’t born? Indeed, our ethics today seem to lead us into Antinatalism — but that is a topic I will leave for “The Value Isn’t the Utility.”


It would seem there are numerous intellectual models now which plausibly and without contradiction overturn reductionism, whether the work of Bobby Azarian, Wolfgang Smith, or many others. That work is important and should be spread to the wider population; then, in my view, the next step is the question of “belonging” and corresponding sociology, a question which we should now consider so that over time findings might prove able to spread. Now is the time when “non-reductionism” is to be gifted to the general public (“explanation”); while so, matters of “address” and “belonging” must be prepared to be spread afterwards. If “belonging” isn’t prepared to follow “meaning” (via a “faithful presence,” as described by Dr. James Hunter in To Change the World), then I believe we will fail just as much as we have in trying to gain “belonging” without “conceptually meditating” the topic of “meaning.” As Belonging Again (Part II) will discuss, our challenge now is the negation/sublation of “givens” with meaning into “gifts” and self-forgetfulness.

As more people open up to “non-reductionism” and “the big picture,” which I think “emergent models” of reality help introduce, the more “conceptual meditation” will prove necessary so that people can handle this “big picture” without being overwhelmed. If we take seriously that Notion and Nature are profoundly linked (Hegel), that psychedelics might suggest possibilities of consciousness we have only begun to experience, that AI will force us to wonder why “being human” even matters, that God could be making a return along with metaphysics — all of this will be a lot for the human subject to handle and take. Though reductionism has led us into nihilism, reductionism also helped defend us from these extraordinarily strange and possible realities, and if we introduce “emergence” and “non-reductionism,” we must be prepared to “conceptually meditate” consciousness and subjectivity so that we are not overwhelmed. Overcoming reductionism is part of the battle, yes, but erasing that will not alone be enough, for Žižek is correct: the true revolution begins the day after the revolution is won. Negation without sublation could be elevating, but instead might only efface. However, “going back” is what I would like to avoid — though perhaps regression is inevitable.

As discussed in “Deconstructing Common Life,” David Hume provides a way to avoid the troubles of “autonomous rationality,” and indeed we can address the concerns of Belonging Again (Part I) if we stayed local and contained. However, as discussed in The Absolute Choice, this runs the risk of us all ending up in “small fascist states” and/or “isolated,” a realization which for me lead me into Hegel. This means we must learn to think according to “Absolute Knowing,” then act accordingly through “creating X” in a way that doesn’t destroy “shared intelligibility.” Might Children experience one another in an I-Thou (as Buber discussed) or act of “Attention” (like discussed by Simone Weil)?³⁵ If not, as I discussed with Lorenzo and Kennan Grant, it seems probable that we end up either in WWIII and/or a world of “small fascist states” where each operates according to their own “(created) X” while lacking “shared intelligibility” with other states.³⁶ Locke, Hobbes, Schmidt, Rousseau, even Hume — none of these can provide the resources we need to avoid this fate, nor can Global Capitalism (or at least we have reason to believe it can’t given the failure of China, for example, to become less totalitarian after decades of growth — culture seems stronger than markets, suggesting there is a need to shift from a focus on markets to a focus on culture at some point, like the shift from Utilitarianism to “Value Ethics” described in “The Value Isn’t the Utility” by O.G. Rose). René Girard weeps as Hegel rubs Girard’s back and says that the future is better because it is increasingly more unlikely.

Lorenzo noted how the “small fascist states” might maintain internal order through always being in tension with the other nation states (conflict and war are powerful methods of maintaining internal cohesion), which would suggest that while each State ascribes to an X, any diversity in that X (say how Christianity entails Pentecostals, Methodists, Catholics, etc.) can be managed through a “Schmidtian Unity” (which is more commonly employed then people might like to admit). In this way, the small states (their exact size will vary and might basically be the already existing nations) might be incentivized to engage in what Lorenzo called “symbolic war” through drones and cyber security: there will always be conflict and yet never conflict. Alternatively, it is also possible that “internal unity” is maintained through “information saturation” or “disillusionment,” meaning that all information is available and all of it utterly transparent to the point where people don’t know what to think and so just focus on their own immediate lives, disregarding larger issues and global affairs (the same outcome could arise due to Deepfake technologies, making nothing believable). In this state, people will be vulnerable to manipulation, but if philosophical, they might be more Humean. Yes, but that might mean Duginism is our future.

I am esoterically pointing ahead to the work and arches of The Absolute Choice, The True Isn’t the Rational, and the rest of Belonging Again (Part II), and here was can see how the alternative is for us to somehow enjoy the density of information presented to us by the internet and the technology of Deepfakes and to see it as an opportunity — but that would require us to be “Children of Absolute Knowing” and to spread the conditions which make this possible, and that means the next step of our journey is seriously considering that problem in detail. And so it is here we will bring our “explanation” to a close in preparation for the “address.”

Satoshi Kon was a genius who died too young, and I consider his work often. In his program Paranoia Agent, a detective says something that might be the best we can hope for in this world:

‘The reality is that there is no place for me anymore — but that’s the reality I have to face […]’³⁷

Indeed, there is no other way to start the process of becoming a Child, and the point of this book has been to help us face reality versus only an idea of it. ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do’ — to paraphrase Lewis Carroll, so what are we so worried about? ‘Even the surface ha[s] been burned off the ground.’³⁸ Indeed, that is why there is reason to seek wisdom — there seems little need for wisdom or even hope for its possibility — and this book has attempted to explain our historical moment, because if we don’t agree on what constitutes our situation, we cannot agree on what constitutes the proper address. An improper understanding can lead to a medication which makes our situation worse, so I have hoped here to establish a proper understanding — if I have not, this book is a failure, and Part II will be a waste of time. However, I am hopeful that Part I at least contributes to a proper orientation, and with that conviction we will continue to Part II.


Despite the challenges and loss of “givens,” perhaps Pluralism is a possibility for community that can more easily be identified as community, precisely because it is more difficult and must be earned (the line between where the thinking, believing, and being of one person and another can more easily be drawn). Indeed, perhaps it is more unlikely that we succeed at creating community, but if we succeed, the community that arises could be the greatest seen in history. Perhaps not, but this is a Hegelian position I find myself landing on: the future is better, though harder to realize with time. But we can realize it. We can live unafraid. There is no “solution” for us, no “final resting place,” but there can be joy in tension, challenge, and the unknown (in fact, I doubt joy can be found anywhere else). We can confront the issue ‘to which Jung pointed […] the content of the choices that mankind would be freed to make.’³⁹ Again, Freud helped give us the tools for a life of “problem-management” over “problem-solving,” and now it is time for us to use them. We must be brave. We can be.

Peter Berger, in his book In Praise of Doubt, recounted the story of how two queens took a seat at their thrones. Empress Eugene, a guest, gracefully glanced behind her, then took a seat, while Queen Victoria was equally as gracefully, but sat down without looking. Berger claimed that unlike Eugene, Victoria knew the chair would be there: it was a “given.” ‘A person truly rooted in a tradition takes the ‘chair’ for granted and can sit on it without reflection.’⁴⁰ With the loss of “givens,” it seems impossible for any of us to be like Victoria again, but the hope to become Children is a call to regain the ability to sit and trust a throne will be there to hold us up. And that throne will be made of what we have poured our lives into, unafraid, for the one who fears is not made perfect in love.⁴¹ What would this mean for us, for us to live like Children? This is a question only answered by a lifetime, for the answer is the life of saints and Children. But I will end with at least the suggestion of a model and a pattern.

In Japan, the oldest ink manufacturer is called Kabaien; it was founded in 1577. Kabaien produces ink for calligraphy. All the work is done by hand, and the company employs a practice and a technique which has been passed down through many generations. The craftsmen collect soot in candles, and a single craftsman handles hundreds of flames, adding oil by the hour. The jars are turned every twenty minutes to keep the shoot sticking unevenly, and at the same time glue is prepared in a copper jar, which is carefully heated to a precise temperature. The soot and glue are then mixed at a particular ratio with fragrance and then carefully kneaded — if the kneading is wrong, the process fails. The craftsman then transfers the ink into a mold made of pear wood: the inkstick weighs about twenty-five grams at this point, but will in the end weigh about fifteen grams after drying. The inksticks are then placed in wood ash for a week to a month, after which the inksticks are hung from the ceiling by a straw cord for natural drying. This period could last from a month to six, but some inksticks have been drying for decades. The sticks will then be polished, colored, and distributed. Then, one day, somewhere in the world, a woman will open a box of ink, place a little water on an ink stone, lift the inkstick from out of the box, and then rub the inkstick on the wetted stone until the inkstick becomes a liquid. Then, the woman will place the inkstick back into its box and reach over for a brush.⁴²

Could we devote our lives to making ink? How absurd. Why do we need ink when we have laptops? What’s the point? We could be laughed at, mocked, called old-fashioned. Few would understand us except those who worked with us, and perhaps not even them. The negativity we would face would be extraordinary. Would our parents be proud of us? Would we be proud of ourselves? It’s one thing to admire the work of craftsmen from afar, but entirely something else to become one. Would we not waste our lives? Since 1577, for over four hundred years, what has Kabaien done to make the world a better place? Has it fed the homeless? Has it helped children find families? Could not the resources be sold and given to the poor?⁴³

This world is not only lived in by those who are poor in body; we are a world that is also pour in spirit. If we heal the body and heal the world but lose our soul, what will we gain? There are many people in this world, and this world is large enough for many people to answer many calls and to rise to many occasions. We need practices of the soul and models of those practices just as much as we need practices to keep alive the body. A body will not profit us if inside beats no heart.

If we want meaning and belonging, we will have to make “a real choice.” We will have to devote our lives to something, likely in a way that is absurd and foolish to most. We will have friends, yes, but we will become increasingly more “imperceptible” to others, just as Deleuze taught. It will be tempting in this state to then avoid others and isolate ourselves: if we devote our lives to inkstick-making, it will be tempting to remain around only other inkstick makers, for it is very painful to be around others who do not understand us. In Upmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers discusses “mountaintop experiences” and the temptation to stay on spiritual summits, never returning back down to the world. Indeed, if we make a “real choice” and become Children, which is a remarkable accomplishment, it will be very difficult for us not to stay in the place where we are free to be a Child and to go face the negativity of others. But we must come down from the mountaintop; we must journey into the presence of others while “imperceptible” and rather facing the “imperceptibility” of others. We have in Part I argued that we must each climb a mountain and experience the summit, a point echoed in both The Absolute Choice and The Fate of Beauty — we must do the absurd — and Part II will argue how we might increase the probability for everyone to do this and also to find society a place where these “mountaintop experiences” might be integrated into our daily lives with others. If we fail at this, to become Children will likely only lead us into isolationism and Duginism, which means the Child will not be able to help those who fall into nihilism and despair. Our world will stay sick. But Christ comes for the sick.

It seems like a joke, something worth laughing at, to imagine dedicating our life to making inksticks, to carry on a tradition of something so arbitrary after four hundred years. We’re smarter than that, yes? Indeed, we sometimes seem too smart for meaning and belonging, too smart to commit to that which we never surrender, even if it costs us everything. Christ taught that we must become like Children. Beauty belongs to them. So we must decide today if we really want meaning and belonging, if we will choose life. There is beauty to be found in this life, but only through courage. And is this not a beautiful life? Perhaps if we knew how to really “show” what was alive within us, as we did our work, perhaps those around us who did not understand would gain a sense of understanding, solving the great problem of “sharing intelligibility between imperceptibilities.” Perhaps beauty bridges, and beauty is found on the other side of facing and suffering the negativity of doing the absurd, the “imperceptible.” Perhaps the world today has no other hope than to be filled with people who are willing to die for arbitrary practices like making ink. Indeed, Christ found that life is found in the absurd. After hundreds of years of reaching where we are in this historic moment thanks to genius and efficiently, we must make a Hegelian shift, a negation/sublation, from Utility to Value. In Medieval Ages, it took generations to build cathedrals: the father would pass the work down to the son, the son to his son — the choice to do the work was the choice of a family, the choice of a world. And now the work of stewarding this world has been handed down to us. Could we devote our lives to something absurd? Could we make an “Absolute Choice” which requires the work and blood of our lives? If so, we might yet belong again, and so we reach “the address”:





¹Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 207.

²Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 74.

³Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 74.

⁴Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 73.

⁵Theory is a lens, and thus how we theorize impacts our “toward-ness” (language used throughout O.G. Rose and that furthermore connects with Susan Sontag’s work on photography, which I think is relevant here, and note that she was Rieff’s wife).

⁶Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 75.

⁷Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 75.

⁸Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 76.

⁹Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 77.

¹⁰Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 76.

¹¹Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 77.

¹²Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 97.

¹³Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 223.

¹⁴Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 59.

¹⁵Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 56.

¹⁶Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 222.

¹⁷Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 209.

¹⁸Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 47.

¹⁹More “necessity” and “determinate being” (Hegel) seems to be what we need in a world that is over-zealous on the side of “the therapeutic,” and in addition to “Absolute Knowing,” I see nature and family as other possible healthy sources of “constraint.” O.G. Rose also discusses “the real choice,” which is a deep commitment that we refuse to back down from, which helps create an experience of reality precisely in that the world around us becomes inescapable and thus “real.”

²⁰Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 52.

²¹Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 52.

²²Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 34.

²³Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 12.

²⁴Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 3.

²⁵Allusion to Sickness Unto Death by Kierkegaard.

²⁶Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 69.

²⁷Hunter, James Davison. Before the Shooting Begins. New York, NY: The Free Press, 1994: 230.

²⁸Hunter, James Davison. Before the Shooting Begins. New York, NY: The Free Press, 1994: 234–235.

²⁹Consider “grumpy cat”: it was noted in “On Trust” how saying, “The cat looks grumpy,” is a statement which could both be an assessment or a judgment. We are dealing with a “Schrödinger’s Cat”-esq situation, and if it is the case that humans tend to naturally “assume the worst” in order to survive and avoid trouble, then humans are likely to assume a judgment when there is ambiguity — and arguably there is almost always ambiguity. It seems difficult for any assessment that, in its wording, couldn’t be interpreted as a judgment, and it is easily probably for humans to assume judgment whenever it seems like it isn’t present. And what could prevent this from occurring? Trust, either through “living” (thanks to sociological “givens”), or through extending trust (which is mentally exhausting). But the loss of trust is precisely what causes this situation, and if we removed it in the first place, why would we bring it back? Better yet, how could we bring it back?

³⁰“The Death of Skepticism” argued that skepticism is existentially difficult, and so there can be an existential incentive to conflate “skepticism” and “deconstruction” in order to avoid the difficulties of thinking. The theme of “avoiding thinking to avoid existentialism” is present throughout the work of O.G. Rose, and here it is likewise noted to suggest why there is existential incentive to avoid the uses of mind which can habituate us to being “Deleuzian Dividuals,” “Overmen,” and the like. Unfortunately, where skepticism is lost, “refining givens” ceases to even be an option: there is only “entirely accepting givens” (“thoughtlessly”) or “deconstructing givens” — the middle is gone.

³¹Where “process” is dead, the social mechanisms of venting and dealing with collective existential anxiety (which arises due to the inherent and essential conflict between “justice” and “givens”) is lost. In this circumstance, “skepticism” is especially necessary for dealing with collective existential anxiety, and if “skepticism is dead” as well, we are in trouble. Where “process” and “skepticism” are both dead, we cannot be either Children or effectively organized to avoid authoritarianism, and that means we will be forced to face “The Problem of Internally Consistent Systems” without any social support or intellectual tools according to which we could help ourselves.

³²Postman, Neil. Building a Bridge to the 18th Century. New York. Alfred A. Knopf, 1999: 101.

³³Hunter, James Davison. The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2000: xv.

³⁴Hunter, James Davison. The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2000: xv.

³⁵This is the work of “Story Democracy,” and for more on Martin Buber, please see the work of Javier Rivera.

³⁶This conversation occurred April 10, 2021.

³⁷Allusion to Paranoia Agent, episode 13, directed by Satoshi Kon.

³⁸Hemmingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York, NY: Scribner, 2003: 133.

³⁹Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007: 77.

⁴⁰Berger, Peter and Anton Zijderveld. In Praise of Doubt. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009: 72.

⁴¹Allusion to 1 John 4:18.

⁴²This paragraph is heavily inspired by and indebted to the Kobaien “Making Process” page found here: https://worlds-oldest-inksticks.jp/?page_id=164

⁴³Allusion to John 12:5.




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O.G. Rose

Iowa. Broken Pencil. Allegory. Write Launch. Ponder. Pidgeonholes. W&M. Poydras. Toho. ellipsis. O:JA&L. West Trade. UNO. Pushcart. https://linktr.ee/ogrose