Flipping Out in America
I recently finished listening to the audiobook edition of Jeffrey Kripal's The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge, described by the publisher as "Newtonian Principia meets Philip K. Dick's Exegesis," which is to say "a lot" and "very dense" and "often over my head entirely." Still, it's fascinating work, about the cosmic in the human, and perhaps the human in the cosmic. I've been especially interested considering the conceptual limitations of our shared language and narratives, which no doubt have contributed vastly to the fissures and divides in the country. Writing about the 2017 march of terror in Charlottesville, Kripal says:
"When Trump compared the neo-Nazis and white nationalists with the counter-protestors, his infamous 'on all sides' line, he engaged in a classic case of bad comparison."
To quote Kripal just a bit more:
"Comparison is a cognitive act that deals with difference: how the mind understands and frames in language an encounter with otherness...Generally speaking, bad or inappropriate acts of comparison of other people are those that overemphasize either sameness, thereby eliding the real and important differences, or difference, there by eliding or erasing the shared humanity."
Justice is, in Kripal's view, good comparison: balancing the essential qualities of sameness and difference and arranging them in our heads in a way that doesn't reduce or negate the other. To exist within the sphere of social media, hyper-connectivity in an age of tumult, Climate Change, and competitive and often dehumanizing economic systems requires, among lots of other things, the ability to undertake the kind of vast comparative work Kripal is writing about without losing it entirely and spinning out. Right now, everyone I know is struggling with this work. Unplugging now and then is essential of course, but so is synthesizing and understanding the basic building blocks we are working with as we stumble ahead and remembering that we can swap them out for new ones if new ones are required. What does "justice" look like in my head? What does it look like in yours? And for that matter, where does my head end and yours begin?