Inspired by “Dialogos with the Japanese House of Being,” taught by Daniel Zaruba and Johannes Niederhauser of the Halkyon Guild (April 2nd, 2022)
The Holding and the Flow
Practices and Lifestyles of Conditionalism
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Daniel Zaruba about his upcoming class at the renowned Halkyon Guild on Japanese Philosophy. I believe Western Philosophy is greatly impoverished by its ignorance of Eastern thought, which has proven extremely influential on my thinking about Conditionalism. Finding a good teacher on this subject is very difficult, but Daniel Zaruba is a master not only at the ideas of Japanese Philosophy but also the practices. Without practice, ideas are indeed just ideas.
The following will explore differences between “The West” and “The East,” both of which I understand are generalities which don’t always apply. Such language is always general and there are always exceptions, but I still think it can prove useful for our purposes here. Below, you will find reflections and thoughts, inspired by Zaruba’s work. Recent reflections on Tanizaki by Johannes Niederhauser also proved inspirational, who’s work I highly suggest. He will be teaching alongside Zaruba.
Though just one of many topics it covers, In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki describes the aesthetic, mystery, and beauty of shades and silhouettes in Japanese life, a “conditionality” which points to the unique character of Japanese Philosophy in general. “Shadows” are not a simile with “darkness” — a critical point — but only possible in situations where light and darkness “reside together” and “up-hold” that special and fragile condition. Shadows only exist where both light and darkness are present, and yet light instantly devours darkness. How can they “live together?” That’s the magic of shadows, the “fragile miracle” of them coexisting in the same aesthetic and “scene,” and it is this magic which Tanizaki found sacred, invaluable, and precious.
Tanizaki describes the wonder of walking to the bathroom in the evening, the beauty of the moonlight and twilight which can be glimpsed between the window shades. This experience is invaluable, and yet for the experience to be possible, there are certain “conditions” which must be met, “up-held,” and maintained. The toilet must be located on the far side of the house; the heating system cannot be too hot; the windows must be designed to let in glimmers of moonlight. Conditions must be up-held. If they are not, the experience will not even be lost, for something must come into existence to disappear.
Can experiences be empirically observed? Yes and no, it seems, but if to some degree “no” then an “empirically obsessed” society will be one which fails to appreciate and even deconstructs “experiences” which are valued in the East. There is a tradition of valuing “imperfection” and “brokenness” in Japan, which is to say a broken bowl has a beauty to it which no other bowl in the world embodies. The West can associate “a new bowl” with beauty, but the East can prefer bowls which have been used and entail a story. Stories require conditions, as particularized for each and every story, and stories can create “auras” (as will be explained with the thinking of Walter Benjamin). Yes, “a new bowl” has to meet the condition of never being used before, but this condition is very general and impersonal: it is not unique and hence, if it is storied at all, the story is bland, “bare-bones,” and “cookie-cutter.” Where there is “aura,” beauty is deeply storied, and thus for a given bowl to be beautiful it must “meet the condition” of being “particularly conditioned” as such.
What is Conditionalism? It is a philosophical approach which stresses that many of the most consequential occurrences in reality, pregnant with ontological, metaphysical, and epistemological significance, are occurrences which only occur under certain conditions for certain periods of time. Philosophy has often stressed universals, objectivities, and “non-contingencies,” and associated “absolute truth” with such. In Conditionalism, which falls between “Absolutism” and “Relativism,” we associate truth, beauty, and goodness with entities like “shadows,” which only appear when light and darkness are together “in the right way” so that they don’t cancel one another out. We also stress “lacks,” which fall between “being” and “nothing” as a “present absence” — a third ontological category. “Lacks” are not nothing, and they only appear under certain conditions before perhaps vanishing as if they were always “just nothing” and never there in the first place. Conditionalism also likes art, precisely because great art is “just a painting” and yet also “something more” than just a painting — art occupies a strange and important “between-ness” which Conditionalism is often interested in understanding. More could be said, but Conditionalism claims that much of the “bad nihilism” which defines the world today is a result of us being trapped between “being” and “nothing,” unable to find, “up-hold,” and “dwell in” “between spaces.”
Moving forward, this paper will explore differences between “The West” and “The East,” categories of which I understand are generalities which don’t always apply. Such language is always rigid and there are always exceptions, but I still think it can prove useful for our purposes here. The following was inspired by Daniel Zaruba of the renowned Halkyon Guild, Headmaster of Japanese Philosophy. I believe Western Philosophy is impoverished by its ignorance of Eastern thought, which has proven extremely influential on my thinking about Conditionalism. Finding a good teacher on this subject is very difficult, but Daniel Zaruba is a master not only at the ideas of Japanese Philosophy but also its practices. Without practices, ideas are hardly even ideas.
Can we see “negative space?” Do we “empirically observe” stories and traditions? Well, we do and we do not. We observe two people bowing in the direction of one another, but we do not see “the space” between them. And yet we do: with a curve of two backs, a “nothing” between two people becomes full of meaning and respect. “Lacks Are Not Nothing” by O.G. Rose describes a “lack” as a “present absence’ (inspired by Thomas Jockin), and we could say that there is a “lack” between the two people bowing, for “the respect” itself is invisible and “lacking” from the scene, and yet the respect is still present.
Similarly, when the lighting of a room is right, the music eloquent, the people gathered there deeply immersed in the lives of one another, an “atmosphere” arises in the room (an “aesthetic experience” like what is described by Tanizaki). I’m not sure if “atmosphere” is the best word to use — I may use “aura” more often, alluding to Walter Benjamin — but regardless something “emerges” that is clear and yet difficult to see. Do we see “atmosphere?” Like “negative space” and “lacks,” we do and we don’t. We “know” they are there (suggesting metaphysics), and yet what we “know” is there cannot be located “in” or “as” the objects of experience. The “lack” would be impossible without objects, as “the negative space” between two people bowing would be impossible without the people, and yet that “negative space” cannot be “reduced’ to the people bowing. So it goes with “the aesthetic experience” of a room gifted with shadows, an “aura” that if we try to “empirically verify,” we will only (wrongly, incompletely) verify its nonexistent. Only objects can be proved, but objects without “aura” are just objects.
“Aura” is a useful concept here, and perhaps that term is better than “atmosphere.” Walter Benjamin worried that art today lost its meaning because it was mass produced: it used to be that the only way to see the Mona Lisa was to see the original in person; now, we can see the image anywhere in the world. As a result, if we see the painting in person, it loses most of its “magic.” When there is only one copy of a painting in the world, it can only be seen in person “for the first time” — when all these conditions exist and must be met — the experience is radically different. As discussed in “On Beauty” by O.G. Rose, Walker Percy explores this problem in his work, and we can say that Benjamin understood that art is not merely “the object” of the art. There is something else that “brings art out,” and we referred to that as an “aura,” which I think we can also associate with “atmosphere.” Benjamin understood that to lose that was to lose something invaluable.
Like Walter Benjamin, we can think of Jun’ichirō Tanizaki as “a thinker of aura,” who understood that the creation of artificial lighting could prove similarly problematic like the creation of mass production. “Auras” cannot be “artificially reproduced” or manufactured: either the conditions are “there” or they are not. “Aura” can be “produced” but never “reproduced,” per se, and certainly not “mass produced.” “Mass production” would require that the phenomenon not be bound by “conditions,” for if conditionality is required, then that by definition limits how much and widely I can “produce” something. Shadows cannot be bought in stores, and my particular shadow, with its particular outline and shape, cannot be given away or exchanged for profit.
“Aura” is mysterious, something we see and yet don’t see, and it cannot be “mass produced,” as can’t be the meaning of the space between lovers. To forsake this space will lead to a world where we are “explained” but not “addressed,” which is to say we will be “explained away.” This is a topic expanded on in “Explained and Addressed” by O.G. Rose, but basically a world without “address” is a world where we will feel reduced to physical processes and mere bodies, and consequently struggle to find meaning in life. The West is currently suffering a Meaning Crisis, which our “lack of address” is profoundly contributing to, and the presence of “address” is tied to the presence of “aura” and our ability to given rise to the conditions which generate “aura” and to “up-hold” those conditions (as we will explore). “Address” is found in “between spaces,” which can be associated with “lack,” that ontological state “between” being and nothing, presence and absence. “Lack” is a “present absence,” and it arises only in the most particular of circumstances. And “lack” can “point to” “something more,” a “something more” we can need in our lives to feel alive at all.
If objects are all there is, then we will eventually be “object-ified” (after all, objects are everything), which is to say “The Meaning Crisis” will occur. But without “lack,” there are only two ontological options: being and nothing. Nothing doesn’t exist, and “beings” are phenomenologically experienced “like objects,” and so “being” is inescapably vulnerable to objectification. But “lack” is between nothing and something, and “lack” is also “conditional.” “Aura,” “atmosphere,” “art” — basically all the subjects of Conditionalism — entail “lack,” for all of them “point to” something which is present and yet absent at the same time. “Lack” and “aura” are deeply and perhaps always connected, and if we take Deleuze into account, both “lack” and “aura” are ways to avoid “capture” (that is, ways to avoid being controlled by systems, institutions, and power). “Nothing” can’t be “captured,” but that is because it doesn’t exist, while “beings” and “presences” are susceptible to intelligibility, objectification, and thus control. The State and algorithms cannot control “shadows” though, for, like “lacks” and “aura,” the act of trying to touch them makes them vanish.
Thomas Jockin and I discussed the strange moment when marks on a paper become letters and then words. This is described in “On Typography” by O.G. Rose and throughout The Philosophy of Glimpses, but basically metaphysics is founded upon “mysterious moments” like when suddenly marks on a page “are” letters (“as if” they were always letters). If I have a giant block of black ink that I start erasing away, and gradually the letter “c” emerges, an “a,” and finally a “t,” “suddenly and all at once” we imagine the neighbor’s pet. It’s “as if” the stimulant and signifier was always in the black ink, and yet it “practically wasn’t” until certain conditions were met (mainly I erased the ink circle into letters which were readable and in a certain order). But with one more act of erasure, I could make the image of the pet in my head vanish — erasing the letter “c” would take but a moment — and yet to outsiders studying me it would seem like nothing changed at all. Only I would know about the change from how I had an image of a cat in my head to now having nothing in my head at all; only I would understand how the change in “conditions” lead to a change in the world, a change which was ultimately metaphysical and “lacking” from the world yet present in me. Perhaps the East is aware of the magic of letters and typography to reveal metaphysical truths, given their emphasis and passion on calligraphy — I’m not sure.
The State and the military could confiscate and collect all the ink on the planet, and the State could outlaw writing, but the State could never “capture” and remove the human ability itself to be stimulated by letters on a page to envision the neighbor’s cat. The State could never remove the image out of my head: it is completely “un-capturable.” In this way, this entire “(meta)physical” situation unveiled by letters and reading suggests a potential “human element” which we possess and that nothing could ever take away. If we own and “practice” that “human element,” we will work to master a skill that helps us own something that is truly ours, a discipline which could indeed help us feel freer and capable of wonderous and miracles acts. Feeling this way, we will help ourselves overcome “The Meaning Crisis.”
The secrets to avoid “capture” are the secrets of Conditionalism, which makes possible “aura” and “fragile miracles” which the East thought worthy of praise. Again, do we see the “atmosphere” of a room? Do we see “negative space?” Yes and no, and such “between-ness” is a key concern of Japanese Philosophy, with corresponding “practices” being meant to “up-hold” and “sustain” the conditions which make “between-ness” possible. The secrets to avoiding “capture” are found in keeping ourselves in “the between-ness,” but the very difficulty of this suggests why freedom is so hard to maintain and totalitarianism so likely. Take the idea that we need eyes to see what we see and at the same time don’t see — we need eyes to fail us, or we will not think of failure — this is such a strange and paradoxical state that it’s probable that the majority will not maintain it (especially if the society doesn’t emphasize “practices” which cultivate and “sustain” these states). This being the case, it is only probable that “aura” and freedom decline through time (especially if there is “a moralization of artificial light,” per se), not only because we need “lack” and “between-ness” to avoid “capture,” but also because I think situations of “lack” are where “free will” are realized. But that is an argument which we must wait for The Philosophy of Glimpses to articulate.
Yes, it could be argued that beliefs and ideas are “lacking,” and it is true that these, which I will generalize as being emphasized in the West over “conditions,” can avoid “capture” and control. But this is only a single layer of protection, whereas Eastern thought would have us not only think ideas which themselves are “uncapturable,” but also to make the subjects of those ideas focused on and concerned with events, “auras,” “atmospheres,” and the like (which arise only within certain “conditions”). “Auras” cannot be removed from their settings and conditionality, and so the State cannot extract and control them without losing the “auras”: the State, by the nature of the situation itself, can only observe “auras.” “Auras” definitionally, in just being what they are, cannot be controlled. Even if we argue that the State can create situations “where shadows appear,” per se, the very act of doing this for the sake of control can impact what the resulting “aura” and “atmosphere” mean to us. They can feel disordered and cheap: whereas “artificial lighting” doesn’t bring with it considerations of “atmosphere,” “atmosphere” is arguably the whole point of “shadows,” per se, and so if they feel “fake” or “artificial,” the “atmosphere” will be lost. Conditionality and “aura” are fragile: they will not be sustained through the processes of bureaucracy and force, which is to say they are “safe from capture.” However, the price we pay for that “safety from capture” is fragility: “auras” are conditional and hard to “up-hold.” This presents a challenge that we will not prevail at without “practices” or “conditioning.”
As described by Tanizaki, where “particular conditionality” is embodied and cherished in the architecture and setting (say in the design of the house or the coloration of golden cups), it is doubtful we will find a philosophy which is universal, “objective,” impersonal, and general like we find in the West. As we’ve discussed, for the East, philosophical revelation manifests more so in “an up-held condition” versus be discovered “beyond” all conditionality. For the West, if I were to use Aristotelian language, we discover “essence” by “bracketing out” all “the accidents” (which are generally “things about a thing which could be different without changing the thing”), while in the East we “realize” essence by rightly arranging and/or “conditioning” the “accidents” and then “holding them” as so rightly conditioned. It is not enough to “rightly arrange accidents or conditions” if we don’t “maintain” or “up-hold” that arrangement (or even notice when we strike it), nor will it do if we “up-hold” them for a day but not tomorrow. We must “keep the conditions upheld,” which means we require “full body practices” to maintain this very delicate balance, as maintaining a shadow in a room requires a very keen and profound awareness of the room so that we don’t accidentally erase the shadows.
If I am to “uphold” a memory as a memory, I must control and maintain myself as to not let any imagined thoughts creep in. I must “up-hold” a “scene” which stays true to what actually happened, and I have to maintain this state of being. If I am going to meditate and undergo “pure experience,” I must “up-hold” my condition and state in which my thinking is controlled and silenced. If I am to stay in a happy marriage, I must “up-hold” the conditions which create flow states” for me and my wife. The East is right about the crucialness of “up-holding conditionality,” and the West, by thinking in terms of impersonal generalities, has lead us to believe that “if we have the right beliefs, we’re good to go.” But this is not the case: there is work we must constantly undergo.
Conditions don’t up-hold themselves, but it’s hard to so “up-hold them” because of time. Things change. Conditions don’t stay the same. The sun moves across the sky. “The conditions” we should “up-hold” now might not be “the conditions” we need to “up-hold” tomorrow. Hence, we must always be paying attention and watching “the way the land changes.” Honoring change hints at why the East honors brokenness, for where there is time, everything will eventually be broken: to deny brokenness and age is to deny time. How do we synthesis the realities of needing to “uphold conditions” with time? Well, by learning how to “flow”: to move with time and adjust our “grip” around what we “up-hold” so that we give it room to move and change and “breathe.” But our “grip” of the object must not be so lose that we fail to “observe” and “honor” it. An overly-lose hold can signify a lack of care, but an overly-tight hold can signify a lack of trust and respect.
If there was no time, we would only have to discover the right practice to “up-hold” x condition, and then we could “do it once and move on” (“set it and forget it”). But we exist in time, and thus the conditions needed “now” for x (a certain aesthetic experience, peace of mind, creativity, etc.) may not be the same as the conditions needed “soon” for x. To “up-hold” x now and through time, I must prove able to “follow what is going on,” see how things change, and adjust accordingly. This requires seeing and paying attention: I must really “observe” the world, not close my eyes and just consider what’s in my head. This is emphasized in The Philosophy of Glimpses, where it was argued that we need a philosophy of phenomenology, not a disembodied philosophy where we look for truth in the abstract and universal. Beauty, goodness, and truth are found in the particular, the embodied, and the conditional, but that means we must live with the problem of time, flow, and adjust (all of which, I think, will require us to “overcome the problem of the ego,” as discussed in “The Philosophy of Lack” series).
We must keep our eyes open to really “grasp” the mysteries of “between things” like atmosphere and flow, things which we can only glimpse and “see” as a thing we see and yet don’t see. Without eyes, we cannot glimpse; without eyes, we cannot fully experience the mystery of “things which are here and yet are not” like atmosphere, “aura,” and other mysteries which make life worth living. If we didn’t have eyes, we could “plausibly deny” that atmosphere was anything special, for we’d never “witness” the mystery of a state which couldn’t be reducible to objects. Thus, sight is critical, for it removes “plausible deniability,” which our “frenemy brains” may naturally seek and desire. The challenge of Eastern thought is “up-holding conditionality” through time, which can make us ask the following: “Which conditions should ‘always be the case,’ and which should be adjusted?” We must determine “the essential” from “the accidental,” the “forms” through and from the temporal, and that requires seeing. We must look. We must use our eyes. Seeing is thinking.
Instead of “practices,” it can be tempting to stress beliefs, like arguably we have in the West, because beliefs are (seemingly) timeless, nonconditional, and apply in any and all circumstances. They feel invincible, and yet “nonconditionality” is precisely why they can be “captured.” We fear vulnerability, run to beliefs, and thus are vulnerable. Perhaps our “frenemy brains” like and prefer this because Conditionalism requires “practices,” awareness, and active work, and our brains, always in the business of saving energy, seek to avoid this trouble. Hence, able to “save energy” and feel invincible, we easily come to ascribe to “nonconditional thinking” versus Conditionalism. As a result, life is without “aura.”
To allude to Section II, we must not merely think ideas themselves which cannot be “captured,” but also consider subjects “in” those ideas which are conditional. The State cannot take ideas out of our heads, but they “practically do” if we only use our ideas to consider what the State controls and shapes. What good does it do us to think ideas which themselves cannot be “captured” if what those ideas are “about” is organized by the State? In other words, we shouldn’t just think between being and nothing, but also “lack,” for it is in pondering this that we can begin to organize ourselves “toward” and “in light of” conditionality and “aura.” And critically, what has been argued regarding “capture” and the State applies just as well to materiality itself. If all we think about is material (“beings vs being”), then materialism will “capture” and organize our thinking, and it is then “practically inevitable” that we end up “unaddressed” and “explained away.” Rationality will become “instrumental rationality,” and “The Meaning Crisis” will become life itself. Yes, there is nobility in enduring “The Meaning Crisis” (as argued in Belonging Again), but there is also virtue in prevailing without lowering our standards.
The things we can see but not see, the “between spaces,” the “ontology of the middle,” the conditional — many terms and phrases could be used for the Conditionalism proposed in this work. As described in “Experiencing Thinking” by O.G. Rose, these are matters of “high order complexity” versus “low order complexity,” but unfortunately considering “high order complexity” is unnatural and unobservable. “Low order causality” is when two billiard balls hit and move, where “high order causality” is when I see billiards hit, and I remember to call my sister. The second is an example of causality too, but it cannot be “observed” like the balls themselves (it can and it can’t be). Likewise, it cannot be “seen” how gluing a broken bowl together causes me not to lose my temper at work, and yet the East teaches us that there is a profound causal relationship here. Practices condition, and because “I” glue the bowl and go to work, work and the bowl are connected through me. “I” am a “conditioning” which conditions both the bowl and work, as both and the bowl and work condition me. It is all connected, and yet that connection cannot be observed. And yet it can be — it is an example of “between-ness,” of a “metaphysics” that our failure to respect has contributed to “The Meaning Crisis.”
“The ground of being” is discussed often in philosophy, with “being” being associated with “sustaining” us and existence. “Sustaining” is a word that we can associate with “holding.” If x represents an “aesthetic experience” like what is described throughout In Praise of Shadows, what practices must we engage in to “sustain” and/or “up-hold” x through the flows and changes of life and time? Well, for that, I would turn us to Japanese Philosophy, and a good place to start is the work of Daniel Zaruba. All the same, where we lack “sustainability,” we fail to “sustain meaning.” Where “the ground” vanishes, crisis appears.
Perhaps we artificially illuminate a room so guests appreciate its design, but the ease of visibility could lessen the desire of guests to look. Visibility can hinder sight. Where Conditionalism is forsaken, irony may occur, for we will likely end focusing on goals over the means by which we accomplish those goals. The end and goal could eclipse our thinking about the means, and we may end up not thinking deeply on the matter, especially the moment we have a “sense of a goal.” If we want people to see our new furniture, then “the linear” and “obvious” solution will be to increase lightening. Simple enough, yes? And with this thought, we will likely stop thinking about the matter and purchase a new lamp. But once we take seriously Conditionalism and Eastern thought, we might think twice, acknowledging that, indeed, a new lamp will help people see the furniture, but will it keep them from seeing the furniture? This second line of thought is what In Praise of Shadows invites us to consider, and if we never entertain the reality of Conditionalism, irony may prove our fate.
If we do not avoid irony, we will rarely make progress, and here I will stress that there is “progress” in Conditionalism: the need for veils does not mean we cannot progress. In Dante, God is never known in His fullness, but Dante does indeed learn more about God. Likewise, to say a room needs shadows is not to say a room should “never be known,” but to say that “observing aura” is just as important as observing things, and “aura” only emerges under the right conditions, and only for as long as those conditions are “up-held.” Also, when we turn on a light and instantly everything is illuminated, we don’t have to work to see what is in the room. We don’t have to wait until morning; we don’t have to condition our eyes to adjust and see in the dark; we don’t have to be careful not to tip over the candle; and so on. The instantaneousness of artificial lighting removes from us all need to “condition ourselves” by cultivating patience or skills to see and operate in lowlighting. With the flip of a switch, everything is finished. If something was lost, we would not see it.
In a world where paintings were hard to come by, let alone own, a given painting might be the only painting we ever hung in our home. When it grew old and boring, we couldn’t just go out and buy a new one: we would be stuck with it. And that meant we had two choices: allow the painting to lose its “aura,” or somehow learn to keep seeing beauty in what was no longer novel. This would require us to see and love “depth” as opposed to “surface,” but how would we gain that ability? It doesn’t seem to be “given to us” by the immediate world — all that is immediate is surface — and yet the ability to experience and love “depth” is surely something we can cultivate (“depth” is like “negative space,” something we see and yet don’t). In the past, where mass production wasn’t an option, perhaps people had no choice but to cultivate this ability (or else suffer a life which was always missing something) in the same way that a world without artificial lighting required people to learn to appreciate the aesthetic experience of candlelight. Hard to say.
It’s possible to use a candle and simply be upset that we can’t see very well, but in a world where only candles existed, we would probably focus more on the fact that we could see “at all” versus emphasis the “lack of light.” Technology always changes “towardness” (as described in “Representing Beauty” by O.G. Rose) and “the meaning of things”: candles in a world of artificial lighting are likely to be seen as deficient, for the artificial lighting has changed the meaning of candles. But in a world before artificial lightening, it was probably more natural and easier to think of candles in “a positive light,” but does this mean we were better off before artificial lighting? Well, I think we come back to Hegel: the future is better than the past, or the world is over. Artificial lighting opens up possibilities which otherwise wouldn’t be available, but it also makes it difficult not to “over-use” technology and keep it “in its proper bounds.” There is no law which says we cannot use artificial lighting and also appreciate candles, but it seems very natural to make this mistake. If we are to avoid it, we must condition ourselves.
What we’ve said about artificial lighting applies just as well to art, “presence” — it’s not necessarily bad that we have mass production of art if we can “condition” ourselves to keep seeing “the aura” of art, as it’s not bad to be surrounded by “presences” so much as we don’t turn them into “standing reserves” (Heidegger). But so “conditioning” ourselves is very difficult, and we may not even realize we need to do it unless we take seriously the East. Daniel Zaruba brought up how we can leave televisions on in our homes and think nothing of it, but Eastern thought would have us realize this “thoughtless” decision is not inconsequential. It changes the conditionality of the room, which may destroy the possibility of an “aura.” Perhaps a television can help create “aura” by bringing a family together to watch a football game — I don’t know — the point is only that conditions matter.
Memory, “aura,” meaning — all of this and more requires “up-holding conditionality,” and learning that skill requires “practices.” “Up-holding the middle” is critical for “aura,” but this seems impossible to master naturally. We require practices, paying attention, flowing, improvisation — “art-forms” which are easy to forsake and miss. “Ideas are not experiences,” and without practices all we have is ideas, and ideas “alone” seem weak for us to “up-hold the middle.” But the right ideas, combined with the right practices so that we can integrate them into our lives, can make a difference. We can see a room anew.
1. As explored in “Experiencing Thinking” by O.G. Rose, but when we fail to consider “high order causality,” only “low order causality,” we tend to end up in irony where our efforts to do x our precisely why we don’t end up doing x. Conditionalism takes seriously the interplay between “high order” and “low order” complexities.
2. A shadowy room could cause us to think thoughts which we wouldn’t think in an artificially lit room. This is an example of “high order causality” that not taking seriously has impoverished “Enlightenment” thinking and contributed to the mistake of “autonomous rationality.”
3. To allude to “The Animal-Like Hunger” on Franz Kafka, the Hunger Artist seeks to “be an animal” and ends up “animal-like” — a grave and torturous failure. Instead, the Hunger Artist should have focused on learning and mastering the practices of discerning the right conditions and “up-holding” them for making his being and thinking sources of beauty, true, and goodness versus sources of anxiety and homesickness.