Twenty. (An anniversary retrospective.)

Today, May 20th, marks the anniversary of my life’s work. Twenty years ago, I set myself to developing a philosophy that I called Promethean, or Prometheanism. Today, composing Promethean philosophy is still what I do.

But many things have changed. To explain some of that, I feel like I probably have to set the stage just a bit.

When I started in 1998, I was writing with the internet audience in mind, which was then select, relatively-educated, and worldwide. Back then, online publishing was a frontier that required web design. It was before blog software. It was before social media sorted everyone within their culs-de-sac. In fact, the usual types were hand-wringing about the “digital divide” of access, not-yet universal, seemingly unaware that mainstream crowds can ruin anything special. Back then, many people actively surfed the web looking for interesting, random, and challenging reading, as well as stupid humor. (That was always there.) Scattered individuals who were motivated to learn and interested in a better future were excited to have the means to connect and congregate. I was unapologetically talking to this forward-looking elite—of all ages, socioeconomic classes, and origins—who were looking for enlightenment, and eager to participate in a renaissance.

Promethea.org maelstrom

The “maelstrom” theme I designed for the Promethea.org web site in 2000.

I wrote and published multiple articles and essays on the web, and especially created novel, illuminated presentations for a website called Promethea, including The Promethean Trilogy, which began with The Promethean Manifesto, the genesis of all Promethean writing of mine. I worked on e-books/series on subjects like the economics of liberated society, critiques of naive faith in democracy, the importance of typical philosophical errors, and prospects for ending war. One goal was to try to build a cross-disciplinary Promethean movement.

You see, back then, with enough talent and very little money, you could create and publish, and people would come. Intelligent people would read it, and converse with you. You weren’t competing with billion-dollar corporations for mere seconds of attention from millions of eyeballs. It was a promising time, but it didn’t last very long.

As of 2004, when everything unique and thoughtful was getting lost in an interminable internet, I began to shift my emphasis to writing paper books, instead.

Photo on 2011-12-22 at 06.02

Checked-off proofreading edits in a printed draft of Pyramid of Babel, December, 2011.

I spent about seven years, on and off, on the great project of writing an unpublished novel, called Pyramid of Babel. I’m proud to say that Pyramid of Babel turned out both provocative to the conventional tastes and temperaments of those who follow along in society—as a novel of ideas ought to be—and unique, as I think a great novel ought to be. It did not fulfill my goal of breaking in as an author, however, so that I could get other books out there. If I had known the dire state of the industry, its rigidity of genres, its sanctimony, and its gatekeeping by agents, it’s possible I would never have adopted that plan—prioritized the novel, bet on success, and sacrificed so much as I have in order to create it. That would have been a shame, artistically.

Pyramid of 5 Aspects of Pyramid of Babel

I made a Pyramid of the complete draft.

Along the way, I also finished and self-published a collection of essays in 2008 called Rising in Words.

I also wrote a lot of material for 2 or 3 important but unfinished nonfiction books. The lion’s share consisted of 1) research to flesh out a cybernetic attractor model of personality and mind, while 2) working to articulate it with the wonder and clarity of the best popularized science writing, so as make it understandable to as many interested people as possible—the closest thing to a user’s manual of the human mind I would ever try to write. I don’t work on it consistently these days, but I have plans to do so again, when the course of writing The Constellation of Man leads me back to the part where I have to work out how to communicate these same mental attractors that we all demonstrate.

Another batch of work laid out my sociological theory of the anti-social origins of conflict, not in Paleolithic human nature, but in historical-era hierarchical institutions, which empowered psychopaths and narcissists. (A subject also intended for a vid-doc script on Myths About Human Nature and War.) Part of the argument would be an evolutionary one, accounting for the presence of these sub-types. And, a perhaps-separable book built on overlapping research would emphasize psychopathoid personalities in modern society over their origins.

At some point I began writing some entries on this blog, Wisdom Dancer. I don’t entirely remember why, except that I needed a place to talk about process, and journal, and vent, basically (as opposed to my “real” writing). I did all that of elsewhere, first, and then gradually migrated here. Happily, I left social media behind.

Currently, I write material primarily with The Constellation of Man (formerly Prometheus Redux) in mind. This evolved from early efforts in The Promethean Trilogy to invent new kinds of philosophical literature, better able to tell a story about reforming and rekindling humanistic values. (Actually, Nietzsche beat me to it.)

thinking-through-philosophy-tpm

February, 2013

I have many emotions as I look back on twenty years of personal history as a philosopher, a creative artist, and a dissident.

I have thought and written across boundaries—for instance, between social criticism, philosophy of science, humanistic psychology, cybernetics, anthropology, political science, history, education, epic literature, and mythology, with enthusiasm for fusion. I’ve held no more regard for artificial academic boundaries than the artificial boundaries of government, or moralism, or collective divisions, which I have repeatedly written against. As a result, I have often found that I fit nobody’s expectations, and fit in nowhere; and that I make impermissible, unpopular arguments. I do not regret it. Taking sincere advantage of freedom of thought is highly likely to have genuine social and economic costs, not only in facing off with institutions and conventions, but with herd-minded people, and those simply ill-equipped by their institutions to recognize (and value) a wider breadth of thought than their conventions. Again, I do not regret it.

The large majority of what I have written remains unpublished—some of importance, unfinished. The weight of potential hangs over my work, as I do it; I rarely have the satisfaction of completion and feedback, and have never had the feeling of success. It was not a journey I embarked on for attention or reward, although I intended to have more of an impact. It has certainly not been a journey I have continued because any project has, so far, really accomplished what I set out to do. These days, I often have to think that I write for the future and not the present. I continue because the work itself compels me, or needs me. It still fascinates. It still frustrates. I could say that I continue to write because I am a philosopher, and I cannot be someone else.

I can, all at the same time, appreciate that I have made much progress over the years as a writer of philosophical literature. Mastery does not come easily, and it is never finished. Abilities and efficiency go through ups and downs, not continual improvement. But once in a while, usually by sticking it out through many trials and errors—as well as through the marvelous leaps of imagination—the writing does play out as it feels like it was meant to, and fully satisfies even the perfectionist in me.

I will always have mixed feelings about testing the lines between epic accomplishments and impossibilities. I cannot be satisfied with less, in any case. I will always have that kind of ambition.

Regardless, I figure that twenty years of shouldering responsibility in a cause I am truly proud of, and have never compromised—and 20 years of labors, undergoing some immense challenges—well deserves a bottle of Lagavulin Scotch whisky. So that will be my toast tonight. No lamentations for what might have been.

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3 responses to “Twenty. (An anniversary retrospective.)

  1. Fabiana Cecin

    For whatever it’s worth (probably little), I consider the way you write and think the most “advanced” (real shitty word; that’s all I have) I have seen in my 39 years on this planet. I don’t think I’m qualified to assess philosophy (or any kind of writing, really), but there’s a force about it that is unlike other things I’ve seen in “philosophy.” My senses say I’m looking at something special, even though I may not really be able to process it in full, and I believe that sense — my heart, my intuition — works quite well.

    I joke sometimes that I’m from the future, except I’m some imbecile drunk that they accidentally beamed a few 1,000’s years in the past. You’re like someone sent from the future that is actually gifted.

    I don’t know how you can write about all you have accomplished and think you have not tasted “success.” To me your post is about literal accomplishments. But I’m not a writer so I don’t know what that is. I used to write computer programs, but those don’t have a definition of “finished,” only abandoned.

    Maybe that’s what ultimately means to have a “publisher.” An external entity that can create the illusion of “finishing” or “shipping” something.

    Looking into your Prometheanist philosophy is in my to-do list for this life. I’ve read some of your blogs, but lately it’s really difficult for me to actually sit down and study something (done too much of that in my life, still decompressing). Also I’m probably not adapted to reading philosophy, as my mind wanders off and sometimes (most of the time) I can’t even parse those long sentences.

    I wish you happiness and cheerfulness. Yes, those can help that divine gift you carry to flow even more to all those pages. But I wish it for you, unconditionally. I wish happiness, peace, sureness for that being, that generous bright light that wants to straighten all the bends of mind, so that it can serve all of the hearts. That relentless blacksmith of the mind, wishing so hard to bend the mental realm in such a way that it stops hurting the little hominid beings that inhabit the material plane that intersects it.

    And I don’t want to ruin it to you, but with that sheer amount of talent, clarity, intellect that you have, if you were to wipe your ass with a sheet of paper and publish that, you would still be ahead of most other writers. But perhaps God(TM) made you a perfectionist that aims at the stars for a reason.

    Best wishes,
    Fabby

    • Thank you, Fabby. It’s actually worth a lot to me to hear.

      By “feeling of success,” of course I do not mean the usual ideas of success—aggrandizement—and I don’t mean arbitrary external measures, but the self-defined goals of my projects (including external enablers). Finished, incomplete, postponed, or abandoned, I’ve always intended them to achieve specific goals in the world, all of which extended beyond my personal edification or satisfaction. Explanatory power for others. Getting my work out there and more widely read, so that I could promote even more important work for people to read. Clarifying the mind so it’s not a trap. Changing the ways people see certain critical ideas: human nature, civilization, the constructs of culture and politics, etc. Helping others people to embark on better lives, or at least more vital lives, with a sense of purpose, and healthier mental attitudes. Inspiring others to work together to change the world, not just as a slogan. Spreading a key understanding of problems in order to solve them. Making historical deceptions transparent. Etc. (I can’t summarize it all here.)
      In fact if it only led to my own aggrandizement, I would consider everything I do a failure. I’m afraid I have a bit of the bodhisattva’s sentiment that I can’t accept “awakening” or “enlightenment” (if you’ll pardon a metaphorical use of the Buddhist ideas) as a destination, unless other beings are also delivered by my own. I measure my achievement by the difficult task of contributing to other lives, not really my own. That’s what I used to call being a “Promethean.”
      The terrible thing is knowing how much more is possible for human beings. I get the task of explaining that. I haven’t succeeded, yet.
      Yes, it is the future. We are absolutely not there, and it is difficult to know this… and to begin to understand the incredible labors that have to fill the gulf between the present and the future.

      • Fabiana Cecin

        I feel you, and I understand what you mean. All I can add is — to apply what I read from Charles Eisenstein — your own personal journey is already affecting the (physical, real) wholeness. You are already being widely “read,” in a way.

        Whatever path you choose to manifest that massive gift you carry is the right one. Whatever comes out is exactly what should have come out.

        It’s not easy to Know. It’s not easy to be at the service of something so pointy and pokey. Never forget that you are unconditionally safe and that you are unconditionally loved (and I’m an atheist, so don’t ask; just take the warm fuzzies! 😛 :-D).

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