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Rough diamonds



“He’s a bit of a rough diamond.” It’s not an expression you hear too often today, perhaps because there’s a rough diamond shortage. It’s an expression that some doctor might use to his wife when they drive on from a remote pub—Mick’s Bar—in Woolmaroo, central Australia. “That Terry I was talking to, he’s was a bit of a diamond in the rough.” Terry, who often props up the bar at Mick’s, has “notions”—the well on his farm was discovered because he used a gemstone suspended by a string to locate the underground spring; he never visits the doctor, but if he gets a cold he wraps himself in old paper from the local fish-and-chip shop.


Terry might kill you—or he might be in a mystic union with Christ, nobody is quite sure (and many don’t want to find out). Terry is a rarity today, Terry is a genius. Schopenhauer observed that the genius is an uncut diamond—it’s the uncut diamond, the diamond in the rough, that has the greatest value; it’s only when it’s cut down into fancy jewellery or industrial drill bits that it starts to lose its immense value.


The doctor who met Terry is a cut diamond—he’s been polished by medical school, he thinks like the school told him (and that’s why he’ll be a consultant next year). Terry went to university but he dropped out—he was never “cut”, that’s why he has wisdom and the doctor doesn’t (he wouldn’t use old fish-and-chip wrappers on a patient—that’s more than his job is worth). There are many cut diamonds at Oxford and Harvard, but not much wisdom.


The uncut diamond has no sharp edges—it’s crooked, it meanders; and that’s why it’s wise. Intelligence is problem-solving capacity—it’s linear, it’s efficient in a superficial way; it creates straight motorways, not country lanes that meander and are, per the scientific account, “more dangerous” than the motorway (perhaps they’re only more dangerous if you aren’t local, if you don’t know “our ways”—perhaps the point is that these roads kill outsiders).


Kant once said, “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made,” and that’s because he was intelligent but not wise. Kant wanted everything set out in rational linear terms, as with physics or a geometrical problem. Yet reality is a crooked path, it has many scenic diversion, kinks, and curious turns—and what looks pointless has a hidden reason to it. Man is crooked, that’s why he’s straight—and it’s men like Descartes, who suggested all cities should be set out on a geometric grid, who are correct in the short-term but wrong in the long-term.


It’s why you prefer a little Italian village that has grown up in an iterative way to a smart American grid city. It’s because it has grown like a river—the river is the key analogy here, since “crooked lanes” sound sinister to us (bent, evil—yet wisdom can seem evil to the person who is merely “good”, merely a whited sepulchre).


If you watch water poured from a bucket as it works its way down a hill you see how it meanders and takes circuitous detours around immovable stones—it probes, it finds a way, it’s iterative. If it were a new spring, dug by Terry, the stones it can’t go over will eventually be worn down as it passes them by. We defeat you by by-passing you and then wearing you down—women understand this principle very well. Women are soft yet hard—just like water; and they wear down the masculine stone. The wise man is like a river; he knows that there is no mistake in the final analysis; if you meet a block, just go round it and as you go round it you will wear it down and defeat it (you win by losing, just like Christ and Hitler).


The above diagram is from Jung’s version of The Secret of the Golden Flower—it looks like a table used in cybernetics, it looks like the Tree of Life in kabbalah. It looks like an uncut diamond—and it is, cybernetics is the material counterpart to the spiritual reality. As Gregory Bateson, the cybernetician, observed: we live in a total system that can only be grasped in a holistic way (the way you grasp the whole is to grasp the particular; as above, so below). If you just trust the “inner guide”, your sub-system will achieve homeostasis—if you fight the inner guide, try to beat it down with “reason”, you will become locally stable but globally unstable (what is unconscious revenges itself upon you—per Jung). Men like Kant, Descartes, and Peterson try to beat down the inner guide with reason and the meta result is superficial stability and efficiency followed by total chaos.


You go where you go, you do what you do—you are a river. The only “mistake” is to stop the deep inner conviction as to what you should do with “reason”; that’s to be unintegrated. If the pre-verbal inner voice tells you to get up and leave a place, then leave—you don’t need to give a reason; it might look unreasonable to everybody else who is just concerned with respectability, until the roof caves in on them. Terry doesn’t give a reason. “There is no reason,” as the Buddhists say. You think you need reasons because, as Terry observes, “Most people are just robots—they’re made that way by the schools, the tv, and their parents.” Most people try to justify themselves and reason themselves out of what they would do anyway—and will do, sooner or later, in a destructive way (you can’t dam a river forever).


It doesn’t matter if your life meanders this way or that—it’s meant to. The people who cause total disasters are like Stalin with the White Sea-Baltic Canal or FDR with the Tennessee Valley Authority—or all of the California water system. These were big “rational” state projects to dam rivers and make them run in a linear fashion—in the end these projects will be like the Aral Sea (short-term gain, long-term apocalypse). This is why the Buddha said, “Live like a mighty river.” It’s the diamond sutra.





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