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Mimesis > reason

The other day, I watched Millennial Woes argue with Sargon of Akkad on Twitter—Woes tried to convince Akkad to adopt a more racial position, Akkad resisted. The argument went on for a long time, it was a very long thread—actually, it was a friendship; the meta-semantic is that the way MW and SA are friends is that they have these long disagreements with each other, a bit like an old married couple who bicker all the time or the proverbial “odd couple”—the comedy double-act with different takes on life forced to share a confined space. The arguments have their own rhythm, the rhythm is the friendship.

This is why Heraclitus observed: “Couples are wholes and not whole, what agrees disagrees, the concordant is discordant.” He was the first philosopher, but people still don’t get it—as he expected.

You’ll never convince someone to adopt a position with “reason”. People don’t reason each other into beliefs or positions—when they engage in this activity it usually has a meta-context (sometimes a formal one, like a parliamentary debate or a debate club) that is about building social rapport.

This is why the idea that we can reach “the truth” through debate, as in the classical liberal model, is a delusion—humans don’t use “reason” just to reason about the world, there’s always a strong meta-context there. If you want the “truth”, approximate to it, you have to develop it alone and then bring it to the public—and it will never be popular, since it will not be formed with a meta-context that gives it “social handles” to carry about.

If you want to change society it’s pointless to argue or reason—you have to use mimesis. Andy Warhol understood how this works: he said the individual (the artist, in this case) leaves the mass and starts to do his own thing without any concern as regards to other people. His position at first is total isolation but, as with a grain of sand in a river, the small stubborn particle begins to accumulate a mass behind it; and in this way a “new centre” is formed (although it is not certain this will happen—you may be neglected; or you may only form a “new centre” long after you die, as happened with van Gogh).

This is how mimesis works. The shaman-artist is not “selfish”, though he may appear so, he is just totally self-reliant—all his material comes from himself, no matter how idiosyncratic; he doesn’t spend his time looking at what everyone else is doing or trying to convince them to do it his way with “reason” (that is not really reason). He just produces what he produces without reference to anyone else until the first person gets curious about “what this guy is up to”—once one person is curious, stops to watch and wonder, other people begin to accumulate. The process is then exponential.

This is why zen masters say things like, “Just do your work, don’t pay any attention to success or failure—don’t pay any attention to what other people have to say.” That’s actionless-action; it’s how you become the memetic core to the new centre—it’s to be like water, it’s to embody the Tao.

It’s in the New Testament too: it’s why Jesus says not to offer prayers in public and that the left hand should not know what the right does. You should pay no attention to the result, give no thought to success or failure—not try to reason or convince. You should embody a position absolutely and then other people will copy you—and this is how you change people, not through reason.

Indeed, MW noted that SA always adopts his talking points a few years later anyway—and that’s because MW is more integral and so, like a woman, SA follows what is integral and powerful (after some resistance); he’s just drawn to it. If MW wanted to be totally shamanic, he’d stop rapport-building discussion with SA (not going off in a huff, just quietly stop engagement) and what he’d find would happen is that SA would follow his trajectory more quickly—because he’d be drawn on by the mystery, he’d imitate faster.

SA is more popular than MW because he’s more superficial; he’s a follower, when he fights against MW he’s really fighting against part of his own psyche that wants to “go there” and eventually will—because it must. It’s a question of whether you’ll go with the flow or not—the flow goes to the void, that which is a mystery; and it’s a mystery because it emptied itself (kill your ego).

It’s a bit like that hackneyed statement “be the change you want to see in the world”. However, that suggests you can think “I want people to be ‘x’, so I’ll embody ‘x’”. That’s still being outer-directed, though—it’s not real integrity. If you want to be the new centre, you have to not be “the change you want see in the world” but just to be what you are in an absolute way (that is to be a “personality” in the Goethian sense); since there is no real division between outside and inside, if you have total loyalty to what is within you then you will become universal.


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