30 November 2015 | Draft
Dreamables, Deniables, Deliverables and Duende
Global dynamics "at the table" inspired by dining and wining in practice
- / -
Soulless organization: deliverability as the dream
Hospitality, stewardship and emotional intelligence
Wining and dining without soul or spirit
Wining and dining with soul and spirit
Distinctive feminine contributions to the dining experience
Duende and saudade as transformative animation of intercourse
Dreaming of the undeliverable
Engendering "animation" at table: why are we "waiting"?
Produced on the occasion of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Paris, 2015)
Wining and dining are appreciated worldwide in one form or another at all levels of society -- whatever the food available. They are a notable feature of global summits, especially in terms of the considerable funds expended. Emblematic of the status of the host country, particular attention is typically accorded to the quality of what is consumed and the manner of its preparation, presentation and delivery. The setting may also be a major consideration -- possibly including the view offered from the table. The arrangement of the table may also be a major concern -- again, especially in the case of diplomatic gatherings.
Given the way in which "table" is used as a common metaphor for the agenda and process of global negotiation, there is a case for exploring how other aspects of the wining and dining process might subtly inform the dynamics of such negotiation. The justification lies in the considerable experience of wining and dining and the expertise that is brought to it. This is most evident in the competitive categorization of restaurants, the distinctions accorded to master chefs, the gourmet appreciation of wines or beers, and the cultivation of such understanding by the media.
The focus here is however on what is typically missing from such consideration of wining and dining, namely the quality of discourse which it might be held to enable -- other than with respect to what is consumed. Recognition of this could then enable new questions to be raised regarding the quality of discourse around a negotiating table -- whether at a global summit or at any archetypal Round Table of the Wise.
The following argument can be understood as being in three parts. Emphasis is first placed on the challenges of project management in reconciling visions with deliverables, followed by consideration of the wining and dining experience as a metaphor thereof. The argument concludes with speculation on an alternative framing through the experiential subtleties of duende, saudade and mono no aware -- together with consideration of enabling possibilities.
Exploitation of the metaphor frames the question as to who are the "waiters" whose respectful attendance is required at any global negotiating table -- aside from the "sherpas"? What is expected of those "waiters"? What are they entitled to expect? Why indeed are they waiting?
In anticipation of a global summit, as with a dining experience, there is significant investment in what it promises. This may be expressed in terms of hope -- or as a dream of a qualitatively distinctive outcome. Cultivation of such a dream is a preoccupation of marketing and public relations in framing the experience as especially attractive and worthy of attention. The dream may of course be cultivated in non-commercial contexts, most notably in the articulated aspirations of non-profit organizations.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference (Copenhagen, 2009) was widely presented and upheld as a focus for hope (Keith Johnson, There's Hope for Tackling Climate Change After All. Foreign Policy, 15 June 2015; Environmentalists hope for global agreement on climate change at Paris summit, Economista, 26 November 2015). Its limited success has modulated the hope now expressed in anticipation of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Paris, 2015).
Having a dream: Use of "dream" is of course evident with respect to the American dream, long presented as attractive to so many -- especially including refugees. This has been notably nuanced and enriched by the speech of Martin Luther King: I have a dream. Most recently Johan Galtung has echoed use of that phrase:
I have a dream. Like an American from Atlanta, Georgia, MLK Jr. Imagine West and Islam focusing not on the worst, like Western violence for prevention and Islamic for retribution, but on the best. Like the capacity for innovation and freedom in the West, togetherness and sharing in Islam. Imagine them dialoguing publicly at a high level "how can we learn from each other"? (Violence In and By Paris: Any Way Out? Transcend Media Service, 23 November 2015)
In conflict-torn societies, "peace" may indeed be readily framed by many in terms of an especially desirable dream. Conflict is then to be understood as a "bad dream". World peace is frequently the focus of collective aspiration, notably articulated in cultural events designed to enable that dream and give it credence.
Innovators and entrepreneurs may well be driven by a dream -- even a "childhood dream" -- and may explicitly make that claim. Processes of dreaming may be closely related to creativity, especially with respect to design. (Inventions that Came in Dreams; 12 Famous Dreams of Creativity and Inventions, Mind Power News).
As "dreamables", the focus of a dream may well be conflated with tangibles -- and therefore readily understood in terms of "desirables". As a framing of quality of life, dreaming is given particular focus in anticipation of an encounter enabled by some form of wining and dining. This may be a gathering of an extended family and friends, or one understood as significant to cultivation and celebration of a romantic relationship or other bond.
Dream time: A quite different collective understanding is cultivated by indigenous Australians in terms of what is named as the mythical Dreamtime and articulated in their contemporary art as the Dreaming.
A form of dreaming may be framed as significant to envisioning the future, as exercises in collective imagination (Kenny Ausubel, Dreaming the Future: reimagining civilization in the Age of Nature, 2012). Such imagination may well be enabled by predictive and divinatory processes (Clifford A. Pickover, Dreaming the Future: the fantastic story of prediction, 2001). The widely recognized influence of science fiction can be understood in such terms (Hilary Rose, Dreaming the Future, Hypatia, 3, 1988, 1, pp. 119-137).
Necessarily more familiar is use of "dream" by individuals with respect to their own future and what they hope to be and to achieve in their life. This may take extremely intimate forms through the dreams during sleep deemed significant by individuals and as a focus of interpretation by psychotherapists and psychoanalysts as enabling their development. A recent framing of this process is that of Steven M. Rosen (Dreams, Death, Rebirth: a topological odyssey into alchemy's hidden dimensions, 2014)
For some the nature of heaven, and the possibility of experiencing it as a feature of an afterlife, may constitute the ultimate dream
Constraints: As with the reality of wining and dining, the publicity and the menu make apparent how the subtlety of any dream is constrained in practice. What is on offer, and the associated costs, may severely limit any possibility of giving form to the dream as originally dreamt. Typically dishes corresponding to preferences may be unavailable. In the case of a restaurant, a table may not be available -- or the restaurant itself may be distant and inaccessible. The setting may prove to be alienating in terms of noise, decor, lighting and rowdy clients.
In other contexts this is only too evident in any endeavour to seek support for the manifestation of a dream through conventional institutions and funding mechanisms. Calls for proposals by such bodies make apparent the formal procedures by which the presentation of any dream to them must necessarily be constrained if it is to receive any attention at all. Dreams are "dashed" and "crushed" by such devices (Daniel Hernandez, Once hopeful Dreamers fear for future without youth immigration program, The Guardian, 20 November 2015).
The young and the hyper-creative develop early familiarity with the manner by which their dreamables encounter deniables.
Definables: As a constraint enabling deniability, of particular signifiance is definability. The inability to define a dreamable within the language of those empowered to deny its credibility is only too evident when it needs to be communicated to elicit some form of support. Challenging the articulation of the dreamable within the languages of conventional institutional frameworks, or of mainstream disciplines, is a common practice as a means of avoiding consideration of the previously unimagined and unforeseen.
Credibility in such contexts may require the development of particular competence, acknowledged through recognized credentials. This may preclude any possibility of presentation of a dreamable in wider contexts. The undefinable is necessarily deniable, as is repeatedly argued with respect to religious and mystical experience by such as Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion, 2006). Similar arguments could presumably be made with respect to romantic love, both as a dreamable and as experienced.
Definability is of particular significance in the languages of mathematics and logic which nevertheless recognize the existence so-called definability paradoxes. The paradox of the uncertainty principle in fundamental physics frames the definability-deniability challenge otherwise.
Creativity and viability: Any constraints on the original dream can however be usefully seen in design terms as essential to feasibility in practice, namely how the dream is to be rendered viable -- if only in a very particular context. Presentation of constraints can indeed constitute a healthy corrective to the illusions of hope-mongering and dream-mongering -- recognizing that these may well be a reaction to doom-mongering at the other extreme (Credibility Crunch engendered by Hope-mongering: "credit crunch" focus as symptom of a dangerous mindset, 2008). The need for deniables in some form is evident in relation to any tendency to live in a dreamworld -- possibly caricatured as "lala land".
Efforts to circumvent conventional constraints may therefore be a valuable challenge to the creative and to enhancing the articulation of the dream, as argued by Gyorgy Doczi (The Power of Limits: proportional harmonies in nature, art, and architecture, 2005).
Unfortunately many constraints presented as reasonable are also usefully to be recognized as devices inadvertently (if not deliberately) employed to inhibit manifestation of the dream. Equally unfortunate, in the focus on controversial issues, is the failure to give adequate consideration to the manner whereby remedial action is effectively constrained by deniables variously recognized (Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action: constraints on ensuring a safe operating space for humanity, 2009).
Climate change: These issues can be seen as playing out with respect to current debate on climate change and proposals for remedial action -- in support of the "dream" of safeguarding an endangered environment. Notably evident are:
- climate change deniers, arguing against evidence that detected changes are of any significance
- opportunists, raising issues designed to enhance their own competitive advantage, irrespective of any other considerations
- environmental activists, indifferent to the implications for those adversely affected by remedial proposals
- cost estimates presented as a means of establishing that remedial action is impossible in practice
- technological fixes advocated with little considerations of unforeseeable consequences (as in the case of geoengineering)
- arguments denying responsibility for problematic consequences engendering climate change
Art of the possible: Achieving a dream may well be framed as the "art of the possible", as variously explored (Christopher A. H. Vollmer, The Art of the Possible, Forbes, 28 October 2014; Alexandra Stoddard, The Art of the Possible: the path from perfectionism to balance and freedom, 1996; Dawna Markova, The Art of the Possible: a compassionate approach to understanding the way people think, learn, and communicate, 1991).
In that sense a dream can be cultivated in terms of the ability to say "yes" (Roger Fisher and William L. Ury, Getting to YES: negotiating agreement without giving in, 1981). Any climate change agreement emerging from Paris in 2015 will be hailed by many as exemplifying the art of the possible in complex circumstances.
Strategic denial: Understanding denial and deniables can also be explored more generally, notably in terms of reactionary commitment to saying "no" -- namely providing purportedly reasonable justifications for impossibility. Again this ability may be cultivated in terms of the "art of saying no" for which there are references . Aspects can be associated with decision avoidance (The Art of Non-Decision-Making -- and the manipulation of categories, 1997). Clearly there is place for a study on Getting to NO: negotiating disagreement without giving in -- perhaps in the spirit of so-called negative strategies (Liberating Provocations: use of negative and paradoxical strategies, 2005).
In terms of "deniability", of particular interest is the strategic recognition of the advantage of "denying space" to an opponent. This is as explicitly evident in ball sports and board games as it is with respect to preoccupation with climate change proposals, or terrorist groups such as ISIS. The concern here is however the manner in which "space" may be effectively denied more generally to those seeking to manifest a dream. In strategic terms this applies as much to the American quest for full-spectrum dominance as it does for any Islamic quest for a caliphate or for Christian fundamentalist fulfillment of the Great Commission. Many dreams may be quashed and rendered unfeasible by such strategies.
Deniable responsibility: In terms of memetic manipulation in public discourse, an insightful comment is offered by Richard Fernandez (The Deniables, PJ Media, 21 December 2014).
Use of "deniables", in terms of deniability in relation to covert operations, is noted by Damien Lewis (The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: how Churchill's secret warriors set Europe ablaze and gave birth to modern black ops, Quercus, 2015):
Prime Minister Winston Churchill tasked with stopping the unstoppable German war machine. Criminals, rogues, and survivalists, the brutal tactics and grit of these "deniables" would define a military unit the likes of which the world had never seen.
Many current controversial initiatives are distinguished by forms of cover-up for which denial is a first recourse.
Enforced compromise: The reality of the wining and dining experience is strongly defined by filtration through the pattern of deniables. This determines both what is delivered to the table and the experience engendered at the table -- and thereafter in consequence, especially when evaluated by participants in terms of their original dream. Given the stress on realism, and the necessity for compromise in the light of prevailing circumstances, the delivery of the dreamable may well be reframed as satisfactory to some degree -- in a spirit of "making do" or "making the best of a bad job".
Project management: In contrast to "dreamable" and deniable", the term "deliverable" is well-recognized in project management. As noted by Wikipedia, it describes a tangible or intangible object produced as a result of the project that is intended to be delivered to a customer (either internal or external). A deliverable could be a report, a document, a server upgrade or any other building block of an overall project. It may be composed of multiple smaller deliverables. It may be either an outcome to be achieved (as in The corporation says that becoming profitable this year is a deliverable) or an output to be provided (as in The deliverable for the completed project consists of a special-purpose electronic device and its controlling software).
Defining deliverables is consequently highly characteristic of projects focused on tangibles, as funded by international institutions. It is less clearly evident with respect to international conferences with their greater emphasis on intangibles. However, with respect to dreamables consequent on their filtration by deniables, the final deliverable -- as with experience in a restaurant -- may well be denatured and denuded of significance and relevance.
Reframing outcomes: In contrast to the lyrical prose by which the deliverable may have first been described -- in the "menu" or by the "waiter"-- the result may be effectively "tasteless", if not "inedible". Eating the menu is typically not a viable alternative option.
In the case of international projects, negative feedback may be suppressed or simply ignored. There may be considerable recourse to the arts of public relations and advertising to present the experience as being of the highest quality. Those responsible for the project, and for future variants, may treat such articulations as objective and unquestionable.
Undeliverable dreams: The constraints on deliverability of a dream merit consideration beyond what an institutional project enables. Whilst the latter may be deemed a success according to its own criteria, how the implications are disseminated beyond that may be a major concern for those promoting the dream -- whatever formal requirements the project may have originally had for sustainability.
The issue can of course be explored in terms of documented failure of projects, in the light of promises made for fulfillment of a dream. It might also be explored in terms of dreams which are inherently undeliverable in practice -- through being unable to circumvent resistance or unrealistic according to some understanding.
Delivery of dream surrogates: Whilst the original quality of the dream may not be delivered or deliverable, there is obviously a tendency to offer surrogates and ersatz variants. The value of many consumer goods may be called into question in this light. The distinction then made between copies of an original (and counterfeits) can be seen as offering insight into the distinction between a dream in its original form and what is available as a substitute. Compromise may be all that is possible, however unsatisfactory.
The process is curiously emphasized through the marketing principle of "selling the sizzle, not the steak" -- namely placing the emphasis on qualitative claims (notably through puffery), irrespective of the reality of what can be delivered in practice.
Soulless organization: deliverability as the dream
The capacity to dream (and to imagine "dreamables") can be readily associated with some understanding of "soul". It follows that the inability to dream can be readily associated with some form of soullessness -- especially when dreaming lacks all subtlety and offers no inspiration. As indicated above, deniables necessarily quash many dreams -- typically enabling only soulless projects and initiatives.
For many the dream is simply for food -- and for other consumer products widely considered normal. Assurances that these can be "delivered" to all on a resource-challenged planet -- faced with overshoot -- can be readily recognized as being also a form of dream. There is therefore the irony that the "peak experience" associated with a dream is challenged by "peaks" of another kind (Checklist of Peak Experiences Challenging Humanity, 2008). Dreaming of consumption is curiously entangled with consuming the dream -- strangely related to the deprecated aspiration to have one's cake and to eat it too
Curiously, as the following indicate, there is extensive reference to a subtle quality of "soullessness", although its nature remains elusive.
Soulless venues: Surprisingly, but perhaps as might be expected, hotels may be explicitly characterized as "soulless", whether or not they are a venue for conferences, and whatever appreciation is expressed for their staff. Illustrative examples include (notably from TripAdvisor):
There are many related references to "soulless" restaurants, whether or not they are located within hotels to enable dining by conference participants -- again as illustrated by the following, and irrespective of the quality of food or service:
It is unfortunate that "soul" has been appropriated with a particulary exclusive significance by those promoting "soul food", "soul kitchen" and even "soul conference" -- whether or not variously enhanced by "soul music".
To the extent that the critical attitude is evoked by the architecture alone, the arguments of Travis Price are of relevance (Rory Stott, Against Sprawl, Mall, and Tall: soulful architecture in a Soulless Age, ArchDaily, 6 March 2014; Carl Björkman, Megacities: soulless sprawl or shining future? Agenda: World Economic Forum, 23 January 2013).
The nature of soulful architecture, in contrast to the soulless, is a feature of ongoing debate -- with many postmodern architects considering modern buildings to be soulless and bland, overly simplistic and abstract. This has framed concern with the nature of a soulful workspace in contrast to one which is soulless -- the design elements contributing to that assessment, and the implications for those who work there.
The issue has been highlighted in a recent controversy focusing on the allegedly soulless work environment of Amazon (Lance Whitney, Amazon is not a 'soulless, dystopian workplace,' CEO says, 17 August 2015; Jodi Kantor and David Streitfield, Inside Amazon: wrestling big ideas in a bruising workplace, The New York Times, 15 August 2015).
Soul as authenticity: Whether with respect to conference or dining venues, or to workplaces, a particular concern is how a desirable place may come to "sell its soul" -- or be perceived to have done so. This "commodification of soul" is especially evident with respect to implantation of venues in natural environments "with soul", or the takeover of venues characterized by "soul" -- with the intention of effectively stripping them of that asset in a quest for profit. Tourism and development are especially complicit in this tendency to exploit authenticity -- compounded by their self-promotion claiming the reverse.
The issue has been approached in more general terms by environmental designer Christopher Alexander who frames it in terms of the quest for a "quality without a name". This he endeavours to clarify through a "pattern language", as a cognitive pointer to the core attractor of a "place to be":
There is a central quality which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building, or a wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named., The search, which we make for this quality, in our own lives, is the central search of any person, and the crux of any individual person's story. It is the search for those moments and situations when we are most alive (The Timeless Way of Building, 1979)
This is consistent with the insight of Eric Voegelin that the sense of order sought is conveyed by an experience of transcendence which can never be fully defined nor described, though it may be conveyed in symbols (In Search of Order, 1987). The existential challenge to comprehension through avoidance of questionable closure may be articulated otherwise (Paradoxes of Engaging with the Ultimate in any Guise: living life penultimately, 2012).
Although readily named, the subtle sense of authenticity is usefully contrasted with that of soullessness. The challenge can then be discussed in terms of Evoking Authenticity (2003), explored there as "re-membering" the present moment and as promoting authentic dialogue.
Subtleties of soul: Although the term is readily used and evokes a degree of comprehension, the secular understanding of soulless is clearly somewhat distinct from its traditional religious connotations. Some clarification is usefully offered from a psychoanalytic perspective by such as James Hillman (The Soulless Society) and Karen Jaenke (Soul and Soullessness, ReVision, 31, 2010, 1). For the latter:
Soullessness refers to the possibility of being cut off from soul, of acting against the informing presence of soul. There are a variety of ways to be caught by soullessness. Indifference to the soul's passions in oneself or others, or attending certain passions while neglecting others, are manifestations of soul loss. Soullessness is reflected in the inability to be affected, the inability to access and act upon the soul's sensitivities. A 'hardened heart' and 'heart of stone' are biblical terms for this phenomenon. Similarly, Native peoples recognize the condition of soul loss, and the necessity of soul retrieval. Apathy and ongoing depression reflect an enervation of life's passion. Dissociation, which refers to a splitting in the psyche causing symptoms, is a clinical term that implies being cut off from the passionate life of the soul. When dissociation becomes culturally pervasive and comes to be taken as normal, there is a collective disconnection from the passionate life of the soul, referred to as normative dissociation.
Soulless collectivities: Further insight is suggested from the perspective of business organization, as offered by Stephen Long (The Soulless Organization: overcoming fear-based management, Japan Inc, 26 March 2010):
High-performance leaders are aware of the Conference Board report finding that only 45% of all employees are satisfied in their current job -- the lowest levels in two decades! They also recognize a consistent pattern of behavior within Soulless Organizations:
- lack of control
- shift of blame and lack of accountability
- extreme social conformity
- inability to use abstract concepts to solve concrete problems
- intolerant and impatient with the workforce
Soulless organizations are filled with people who are satisfied in their professions -- just not their jobs.... Soulless organizations are filled with "the walking dead". Interdependencies exist up and down the organizational chart and between the concrete and the abstract.
Pavan Sukhdev, as head of the UN's investigation into how to stop the destruction of the natural world, has reportedly indicated that modern businesses are "soulless corporations" that are in danger of becoming a "cancer" on society (Juliette Jowit, "Big business needs biodiversity" says UN, The Guardian, 12 July 2010; Environment Law: Growth of Soulless Businesses, Law is Greek, 22 July 2010).
Soulless bureaucracy: Bureaucracy is frequently characterized as "soulless" (presumably including Sukhdev's UN). With respect to European institutions, the nature of their soullesness has been discussed in relation to "pillar-ization" (Challenge of "soullessness" -- beyond the "pillar-ization of Europe", 2004) and how it might possibly be "animated" (Animating the Representation of Europe, 2004).
Europeans articulating concerns regarding the vulnerability to soullessness of the European initiative include:
Other examples are offered by intergovernmental institutions, most notably UNESCO (which is hosting many events during the 2015 Climate Change Conference). The process by which its soul can be said to have been effectively "possessed" and "destroyed", as part of the American foreign policy agenda, is usefully summarized by Andre Vltchek (Reformed, Disciplined and Humiliated: UNESCO, Transcend Media Service, 23 November 2015).
Reference has been made to soulless NATO, through its financing of Ukraine army reforms but with no consideration of the need for food, clothes, medicines, heating or rebuilding. Drones, have been characterized as soulless. Coalition soldiers have been qualified with the term (Teresa Whitehurst, Soulless Soldiers, AntiWar.com, 22 February 2005).
Soulless education: In terms of eliciting and articulating creative insight (possibly framed by "dreams"), concerns have long been expressed regarding the soulless nature of education. As a consequence of its more recent bureaucratization, this concern now extends to universities (Heinz-Dieter Meyer, Universal, Entrepreneurial, and Soulless? The New University as a Contested Institution, Comparative Education Review, 2002; Marinus Schoeman, The Humanities in a Soulless Institutional Environment? Tydskrift vir Geesteswetenskappe, 52, 2012, 3, pp. 121-129). The latter focuses on the contemporary university and the neglect of its educational function.
To the extent that education of a kind is increasingly enabled by social media, of relevance is the articulation by David E. Prince (Social Media's Soulless Society, The Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, 4 November 2014).
Soulless worldviews: H. Stuart Hughes (Sophisticated Rebels: the political culture of European dissent, 1968-1987, 1990) traces what happened to the revolutionary spirit after the 1968 suppressions in Prague and Paris. Dissenters are described as having learned their lesson and began to pursue their goals in patient, realistic, limited fashion, eschewing violence and inflammatory ideological rhetoric. He argues that theirs were the voices protesting what even conformists recognize as social evils; the manipulative routine of bureaucratic authority, public and private; the soullessness of life in the sprawling conurbations European cities have become; the deadening of sensibility that allows people to screen out from consciousness the possibility of nuclear war.
For Richard Tarnas (The Passion of the Western Mind: understanding the ideas that have shaped our world view, 1991): it is the modern mind's own impersonal soullessness that has been projected from within onto the world -- or, to be more precise, that has been projectively elicited from the world.
Such arguments highlight the extent to which individual behaviour may acquire characteristics readily described as soulless (Daria M Brezinski, Soulless Society Requires Us to Relearn Behavior, The Observer, October 1997; 8 Reasons Why Modern Americans Seem Soulless and Inhuman, HappierAbroad.com, 26 August 2013). The term is used in writing for a Russian information agency regarding Iran (Gennady Litvintsev, Revolution of the Spirit in the Soulless World, Iran.ru, 11 February 2014).
Soulless market: With respect to "soullessness", the dominant role of the market, and "soulless economics", in enabling environmental degradation has been variously articulated (Jewel Topsfield, Markets are soulless, shareholders have obligations, The Age, 23 September 2004; Robert Koehler, 2015 Soulless Economics, CounterPunch, 17 July 2015). For Garland Grey (A Soulless Market, Culture Map Austin, 13 November 2011):
If the "market" had a soul or a conscience or could have statistics fed into it about how many people it was killing, disenfranchising or shortening the lifespan of, then maybe it would care about human beings. But it doesn't. It is a machine that makes money. It doesn't protect civil rights or create democracy or whiten your teeth.
Given such views, it is surprising to note the review of the philosophical study of Charles Taylor (A Secular Age, 2007) by Daniel J. Mahoney (The Re-Enchantment of the World, Wall Street Journal, 21 September 2007):
But the bourgeois order... Taylor also notes, gave rise to vigorous critiques of "soullessness," too. Friends of modern liberty such as Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville lamented a "degeneracy," an eclipse of civic spirit and moral virtue. Others, such as Nietzsche, took the critique of soullessness in an illiberal direction, advocating a kind of dictatorship of the dominating will... Taylor sees modernity as a "supernova" that explodes into radical expressions of itself, some dogmatic and some self-critical.
As might be expected, concerns are expressed that development itself may be characterized by soullessness (Georgina Robinson, Fears of Soulless Development, Brisbane Times, 30 April 2007; Politician pays visit to "soulless" development, Cambridge News, 7 November 2009)
Soulless environment? Climate change constitutes a particular challenge within a context of an increasingly stressed global environment vulnerable to every form of degradation. For deep ecologists and lovers of the wilderness, nature can be readily understood as in danger of losing its soul (or being stripped thereof by development). The appeal of the Gaia hypothesis has been one compensating trend in implying a form of recognition of soul -- at least for some, as articulated by Theodore Roszak (The Voice of the Earth: an exploration of ecopsychology, 1992):
If the Earth is a self-adjusting organism, its adaptive power may be that of a metabolic system, efficient, impersonal, crushingly powerful. That is frequently the picture I form when I try to give some mythical embodiment to the Gaia hypothesis. If there is an integrating intelligence at work in the planet all around me, I sense it is not a human intelligence. It is at once something greater and more primal, a wisdom like that of the body in its stubborn will to pursue the tasks that physical survival demands. In the classic metaphysical use of the word, this is what "soul" meant: the principle of bodily life that only God could create, but which functioned at some lower level than the demands of mind or spirit. In Latin, anima suggests a closer connection with animality (instinct) than intellect.
That may be what Gaia, the World Soul, is in her relationship to her most evolved creation. If so, in her brute determination to defend the variety and quantity of life she carries, she may at some point decide that this so-clever human species is too troublesome a hazard to maintain. The adjustment she may then see fit to make will be far from gentle. (Learning from Gaia, pp. 155-159)
Surprisingly Mahoney's title in the Wall Street Journal echoes that of others, suggesting an underlying sensibility to "soul" in some form (Morris Berman, The Reenchantment of the World, 1981; Thomas Moore, The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life, 1997; Christopher Partridge, The Re-Enchantment of the West, 2005).
Hospitality, stewardship and emotional intelligence
Hospitality management and customer service: The professional skills conventionally brought to bear on the dining and wining experience are those which are a preoccupation of hospitality management and the hospitality industry, as these relate to the culinary arts and gastronomy. An extensive network of training facilities is provided to enhance expertise in these matters -- especially given the resources which may be expended by clients.
With respect to this argument it is especially noteworthy that the focus is, perhaps necessarily, on the tangibles of the dining experience -- most specifically with respect to the preparation and presentation of foodstuffs and beverages. It is however remarkable that the range of careers associated with the culinary arts offers little indication that the intangibles of the experience may be valued by clients -- except through the art of puffery.
Gastronomy is the study of food and culture, with a particular focus on gourmet cuisine. The latter is considered a cultural ideal associated with the culinary arts of fine food and drink, or haute cuisine, and their appreciation. This is characterized by refined, even elaborate preparations and presentations of aesthetically balanced meals of several contrasting, often quite rich courses. The primary reference work is the Larousse gastronomique (1988).
Rating restaurants, food and spirit: The preoccupation with food extends to wine and beer, most notably with respect to their appreciation by connoisseurs. There is a whole language of some 80 wine tasting descriptors and a related language for beer tasting. Missing from use of such descriptors is of course how they may combine to indicate an experience of higher quality -- a finer wine or beer.
As the nexus of dining, considerable attention is given to the rating of restaurants. These identify restaurants according to their quality, using notations such as stars or other symbols, or numbers -- with ratings of one to five stars commonly used. Examples include: Michelin Guide (1 to 3), The Good Food Guide (1 to 10), Gault Millau (1 to 20). Each guide has its own criteria, with a particular focus on value for money and sanitation. Such ratings are supplemented in practice by the published commentary of food critics.
The focus of such critics may extend beyond the food to include the quality of service -- potentially even including commentary on what is explored here in terms of "soul" and "soullessness". Although exceptional, an example is provided by Food Critic: Coffee shops with soul on Artema (KyivPost, Ukraine). Commentary in an interview by Kritika Seksaria is introduced with the phrase: Good food satisfies more than just your palate, it is an epicurean experience that touches your soul (Stephen Downes, Australian food critic TravelWireAsia, 4 January 2012).
Despite the limited concern with "soul", few would question that many approach what they consume with a passion comparable to that associated by some with religion and spiritual experience. Wining and dining is effectively a religious experience -- for some at least, and perhaps especially for those for whom it is a rarity. There is therefore great irony to the use of "spirit" in both contexts -- and especially to the traditional association of a number of Catholic religious orders with the production of spirit for consumption: Benedictine (W), Trappist (B), Cistercian (W), Christian Brothers (W) (Bill St. John, The Nexus of God and Grape, Chicago Tribune, 26 December 2012).
Stewardship: The point to be stressed is that there is little explicit concern with "soul" by the named hospitality professions and the processes by which they acquire their expertise. It would seem that, to the extent that it is deliberately cultivated, it is a personal quality of the staff or owners of exceptional restaurants -- only recognized in that respect via word of mouth. Some restaurants may achieve this inadvertently, enabled by the personalities of those involved.
There is clearly no relation whatsoever between restaurant ratings and any characterization in terms of "soul". Presumably a "5 star" restaurant can be rated completely "soulless" (on TripAdvisor, as noted above), whereas one absent from any guide could be rated highly in such terms.
The matter can be further clarified by reference to the remarkable Waiter's Handbook (2008), prepared by Graham Brown and Karon Hepner as the official handbook of the Professional Waiters Guild. This deals with every detail of delivery of food and beverage to a table appropriately set by waiting staff (as termed by Wikipedia). However it is even more remarkable for the lack of any reference to diners, other than to ensure the "farewelling of guests" (possibly in relation to tipping). The authors are closely associated with the vocational and tertiary education courses provided institutionally by TAFE (Technical and Further Education) in Australia -- with many students from elsewhere. Beyond such a focus, there would seem to be few guides to the hospitality process, although many bodies now produce training videos.
Given the concern with the conference venue as a focus for negotiation enabled by dining, the arguments above relating to restaurants can be extended to encompass hotels and other conference centres. A tentative earlier proposal focused on "friendliness" rather than "soul",(Guide to Friendly International Meeting Centres: proposal for a directory, 1993). There are of course rating systems for hotels, although the examples above noted recognition of "soullessness" even amongst those more highly rated.
Reference to "stewardship" offers a reminder of the global challenges with which those around a negotiating table are faced -- most notably with respect to environmental stewardship. (Chapin, F. Stuart III, et al (Eds). Principles of Ecosystem Stewardship: resilience-based natural resource management in a changing world, 2009; Brian Walker and David Salt, Resilience Thinking: sustaining ecosystems and people in a changing world. 2006; National Research Council, Increasing Capacity for Stewardship of Oceans and Coasts, 2008)
Emotional intelligence: This technical focus can be usefully contrasted with the recent preoccupation, most notably in the USA, with the implications of emotional intelligence for customer service, notably with respect to the hospitality industry. This follows the seminal publication by Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ, 1996).
A useful clarification of the nature of emotional intelligence is offered by Bill Cropper (Leading with Emotional Intelligence ...it's every manager's business, The Change Forum, 2014) arguing that:
We've all seen it in action. There's the sales-person who gets along so naturally with everyone, doesn't push and always manages to close. There's the waiter who handles difficult diners effortlessly. There's the manager who builds such strong bonds with staff that they can fire them up to do almost anything. What all these people have in common is Emotional Intelligence.
He characterizes this as follows:
- knowing your own emotions and moods and controlling them
- using feelings to get more positive outcomes in relationships with others
- coping better with frustration, controlling outbursts and getting along with others
- having a good idea of how our feelings and emotions are impacting on others
- choosing how we think, feel and act (rather than being flooded by our feelings)
- being able to control or redirect disruptive, damaging or impulsive urges
- pursuing goals with energy and persistence and applying ourselves to a task with focus
- managing relationships, building networks and establishing rapport
It is surprising to note the extent to which "emotional intelligence" is now explicitly cited as a requirement for waiters in hotels in the Gulf States. It is therefore increasingly valuable to careers in that industry.
The range of references to the significance of such intelligence to the dining experience -- from the hospitality management perspective -- is indicted by the following:
The concern with regard to waiting staff is now set within a preoccupation with such intelligence for the hospitality industry more generally, as noted by the following.
Emotional intelligence and the restaurant industry ( BestMark News, 30 June 2011):
In the restaurant industry, business owners need to rely on the good nature and service standards of their staff, perhaps more so than in other industries. For that reason, businesses need to ensure that their employees - particularly wait staff and hosts - are interacting with customers in a way owners and managers see fit. For this reason, many restaurants have adopted research strategies to gather an accurate depiction of staff engagement and service. While bad employees are an inevitable part of any business, there are some considerations employers can make when vetting candidates that can help reduce the risk. One way to gauge a potential hire's suitability and how well they may interact with customers is through evaluating their emotional intelligence.
For Edit Komlosi:
Emotional intelligence abilities, traits or competences have become social capital in service industry. Tourism is still a growing and profitable sector thus employees' emotional management will become an essential competitive asset. This paper aims to illustrate the relevance of hotel managers' emotional intelligence in connection with performance and proposes research questions and a research model. (The importance of hotel managers' emotional intelligence, VI. KHEOPS Academic Conference, 2011)
It is therefore of significance to training, as noted on behalf of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART) by Richard Fletcher (Identifying Emerging Leaders: the real path to success is emotional intelligence, QSR)
Long preceding current insight into emotional intelligence, a remarkable analysis is provided by Michael A. Toth, writing of his experience as a student of sociology obliged to pay for his studies by working as a waiter for three years (Interface Analysis: exchange transactions within an implicit functional group, Proceedings of the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, 47, 1970, I). Now a professor of sociology, the study by Toth is unique in its focus on what he aptly terms the "interface" of a waiter with his environment, whether diners, management or other waiters. However he is not in any way concerned with enhancing "soul" in the dining experience -- except insofar as forms of diner enhancement might contribute to tips.
The analysis by Toth helps to make the vital point that the preoccupation of many waiters -- in some cultures -- is necessarily on enhancing the dining experience solely in order to maximize the tip on which the livelihood of the waiter may depend. Relevant points are made by:
Given the many students who enabled their studies by waiting at table, and who later took up distinguished careers like Toth, it is unfortunate that so few seem to have seen fit to review their waiting experience in the light of the disciplines in which they acquired expertise. This is especially unfortunate in the case of those whose careers require participation at a negotiating table -- perhaps preceded by experience as "sherpas", effectively waiting at such a table. There is little "interfacial" analysis, with a similarly self-reflexive emphasis, of relations between the the "faces" at a dinner table, a negotiating table, or that of an academic common room.
Emotional intelligence "at table"? The new focus of restaurant hospitality on the emotional intelligence required of service personnel highlights the lack of corresponding attention to the quality of the dining experience for the diners -- for which such enhancement is merely assumed. What concern is there for emotional intelligence at any global negotiating table -- whether enhanced by wining and dining or otherwise?
Framing the need for this preoccupation as a means of enhancing income, notably for the waiter, obscures issues highlighted in the references above to "soullessness". Despite the new enthusiasm, soullessness is readily apparent in the superficiality and lack of authenticity in efforts to manipulate the dining experience. This is exemplified in the use and manifestations of "courtesy" in customer service contexts -- as with a "courtesy telephone".
In the technical language in which it is necessarily articulated, how is the current practice of hospitality management to be compared with that of intensive farming -- where analogous forms of care and sensitivity may be appropriate? Ironically the well-publicized innovative thinking of Temple Grandin regarding the stress-free herding of livestock into a slaughterhouse may prove to be especially relevant to any answer (Livestock Handling and Transport, CABI International, 2007; Making Slaughterhouses more Humane for Cattle, Pigs, and Sheep. Annual Review of Animal Biosciences. 2013, 1, pp. 491-512). The relevance may be especially significant in that customers are readily framed as "cattle" or "sheep" in the service industry.
There is a highly significant contrast between the engagement of a waiter in quest of financial reward and any engagement associated with the pleasure of "doing a good job" for its own sake. The distinction is most evident in the case of a musician or singer.
This distinction goes to the heart of understanding soullessnes in any interpersonal transaction. It is also evident in the motivation for nonprofit activity where any remuneration may necessarily take non-financial forms. The distinction is also evident in the activity of a so-called "home-maker" and the vexed question of whether that activity should be recognized as "work" in economic terms. The controversy could be recognized as encompassing issues of "global home-making" as proposed by Paulo Magalhaes (The Earth Condominium: from climate change to a new juridical concept for the planet, 2007).
Wining and dining without soul or spirit
A wining and dining experience may well be described as magical -- whether echoing the preliminary claims of advertising or irrespective of them. This may also be the case with respect to an international gathering -- characterized as "magical" or "transformative", irrespective of the necessarily questionable post-conference framing by its organizers exploiting those terms to disguise inadequacies. The recognizable characteristics of such an experience merit attention (Focus Subtleties: Meeting Magic -- Towards Transformative Conferencing and Dialogue, 1984).
Such events are to be contrasted with those readily qualified as "soulless" as clarified above . The term may be especially comprehensible in terms of the decor and ambiance of a restaurant. It is particularly comprehensible in terms of the tedium of many gatherings.
The question is how might soulless dining be more clearly characterized (whether or not wining is involved).
Preliminary clarification: Possibilities include:
- (a) Fast food variant, typical of fast food chains and their particular form of efficiency
- speedy consumption with the implication that delay infringes the rights of other customers and the business model of the establishment
- highly standardized fare, predictable within and between food chains
- standard service with personnel trained in a particular style of courtesy and impersonal hospitality
- expectation that clients will adapt to the food and other formulas with little adaptability required of the establishment
- (b) Restaurants endeavouring to distinguishing themselves from fast food establishments
- focus on the niceties of table layout (***)
- focus on a quality meal (and possibly a quality wine)
- focus on preparation and serving of food (and wine) appropriate to the style of restaurant and timed according to assumptions regarding the need of clients for interaction
- formal response of serving personnel to clients requests
- focus on attentive/responsive personnel with a well-defined (patterned) "dance" between serving personnel and clients -- however many times the occasion is repeated. There are implied boundaries and distances to be respected. There is little space for surprises
- (c) Dining at home or with friends, as a traditionally attractive archetype
Mitigating processes: There is no lack of recognition of inadequacies in the dining experience alone. Some recognized mitigating facilities include:
- Music: Efforts to enhance the dining experience are frequently made through the use of recorded (or live) music -- even "soul music". The music is typically selected by the serving personnel. Clearly this immediately raises the question of preferences and how these may be variously appreciated by all those present. Incompatibility and irritation may well be aggravated by volume, whether or not staff are willing to adjust this
- Decor: Clearly there is particular investment in the decor of the facility to enhance the experience. This may well be varied to suit an occasion or a gathering, with flowers, balloons, lighting effects (candles), art work, quality cutlery and settings, etc
- Animation: Provision may be made for live music (pianist), possibly accompanying a singer, or an entertainer, as in the role of "after dinner speaker" or raconteur
- Table games, possibly instigated or encouraged by an animator
- Lecture or reading: As in the long tradition of reading from the scriptures during meals in monasteries
- Prayer: An occasion may well be graced, and thereby enhanced, through an introductory prayer -- possibly deemed essential.
- TV screens: Many restaurants endeavour to enhance their attraction through installation of wall-mounted screens, notably on special occasions (games, carnivals, etc).
- Wifi: Such facilities may be offered, notably as a means of distracting younger generations
- Play facilities: Opportunities for children to play may be provided, possibly in a side room
- Gaming facilities: Provision may be made for some to use various kinds of gaming machines within the same space
The need for such devices may however be rendered secondary (if not irrelevant) in settings in which the primary focus of attention is on some form of protocol, following predetermined principles and informed by rules of precedence
Implication of "bringing your own" dynamic: The wining and dining experience, whatever the choice of restaurant or the quality of food, is only incidentally (if at all) associated with the discourse it may enable. The focus in its organization is on the tangibles of the experience, not on the interpersonal dynamics these may enable.
In this sense it is effectively the responsibility of the participants to "bring their own" dynamic to the table -- rather than any implication that this is a responsibility of the organizers or the waiting personnel. Arguably it is their responsibility only to provide a context in order to catalyze intercourse at the table. It is however the case that serving personnel with exceptional personal skills, or a higher order of emotional intelligence, may enable dynamics beyond their call of duty or the expectations of diners
Those responsible for the organization of the dining (and wining) experience may well take a further step through judicious choice of participants and their placement around the table. This may include the "surreptitious" inclusion of people of a character liable to "spark off" discussion -- and to sustain a fruitful conversation.
It is far from clear how the processes noted above, whether separately or in combination, may enhance the experience or detract from it. A particular concern is how the level of noise, rudeness, rowdiness, or unrestrained behaviour (notably by "children") may degrade the dining experience. Of relevance in this respect is the extent to which staff are empowered to constrain such behaviour -- in practice or in principle -- especially given implications for future business (return custom, adverse reporting in TripAdvisor, etc).
Role of the "spirit": Framing this argument in terms of "soul", highlights the extreme irony of the importance attached to "spirit" in a dining experience. The spirit of any conversation is indeed a matter of appreciation contributing to the enjoyment and stimulation offered by that experience.
The irony lies in the other use of "spirit", namely with reference to alcoholic beverage -- whether wine or beer. This is readily framed as vital to the occasion and to enabling and "lubricating" the flow of conversation. Clearly it can also degrade the experience, especially when consumed to excess -- or when it engenders noisy behaviour by some in the venue.
In whatever form, the quality of the "spirit" may itself be a focus of extensive discussion -- as with the serving of a succession of wines to accompany a variety of dishes. The choice may well be seen as an enabling factor, possibly understood as rendering unnecessary the factors indicated above. It may well be acceptable for participants to "bring their own" as a tangible contribution to the occasion.
Food "for the soul": Just as there is a considerable mythology around the consumption of alcohol by connoisseurs, particular attention may be given to the quality and variety of food served on the occasion. Attention may variously focus on:
- its healthiness, whether from a dietary perspective or as enhancing health in some way -- as with the preoccupation of vegetarians, vegans and macrobioticists.
- its source, as with foodstuffs derived locally or through biodynamic processes
- its rarity, as with foodstuffs derived from products not commonly available, and therefore implying special logistics to acquire them
- its style of preparation, as with the mythology cultivated regarding the culinary skills of master chefs
- the elegance of presentation
- the variety on offer, as with a buffet
- the effort and dedication of those involved in its preparation
However framed by such factors, the eating experience may be felt as "good for the soul" and so termed. This sense can be distinct or related to that of "soul food".
The question raised by the array of characteristics above is the extent to which it is dissociated from the modes of interaction which constitute dining "with soul" (as explored below) -- and may well detract from them. To what extent do the dynamics at table provide "food for thought" and nourishment for the soul? Where are such processes valued?
Expressed otherwise, does such dining enhance a sense of "soul" or can it be experienced, seeing through the various artifices, as essentially "soulless" and "hollow" -- especially by those frequently exposed to the "table" of global discourse. How is "enjoyment" to be distinguished (if at all) from the experience of "soul"?
Wining and dining with soul and spirit
Relevant pattern language? The clarification above of "soullessness" pointed to the work of Christopher Alexander as offering an indication of a "quality without a name" as might be articulated through a "pattern language" in framing the core attractor of a "place to be" (The Timeless Way of Building, 1979). Beyond the tangibles on which his patterns focus, the question is whether his template could be adapted to the psychosocial realm, namely to the patterns of discourse which render dining attractive -- as offering a "place to be".
One effort at adaptation of Alexander's 254 interlinked patterns is presented separately in terms of 5 sets of patterns (5-fold Pattern Language, 1984). Three of these are potentially of relevance to the experience of "soul" as envisaged:
- Socio-organizational environment: describing patterns as they apply to the organization of social groups, organizations and networks.
- Conceptual environment: describing patterns as they apply to the organization of a conceptual framework or a body of knowledge.
- Intra-personal environment: describing patterns as they apply to the organization of modes of awareness adopted by a person.
A particular issue with this approach is the focus on pattern itself, when the essence of the experience "with soul" may be emergence of the unpatterned and unforeseen -- as recognized by the complexity sciences and chaos theory -- namely the emergence of the unusual. The point is remarkably argued by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, 2007)
It is appropriate to note the potential relevance of Alexander's later work in terms of complexity theory (New Concepts in Complexity Theory: an overview of the four books of the Nature of Order with emphasis on the scientific problems which are raised. 2003; Harmony-Seeking Computations: a science of non-classical dynamics based on the progressive evolution of the larger whole. International Journal for Unconventional Computing (IJUC), 5, 2009).
The question is then the nature of the emergent "harmony", as a characteristic of the "soulfull", and how it might be comprehended, as discussed separately (Harmony-Comprehension and Wholeness-Engendering: eliciting psychosocial transformational principles from design, 2010).
Eliciting implications from the language of wining and dining: Another approach would be to recognize the rich language of the gourmet experience (noted above) as implying, through metaphor, a comprehension of soul in many of its manifestations. The difficulty (as noted) is that mastery of the words in a language does not of itself indicate the experience that may be associated with how they are used in combination -- as exemplified by the harmonies of poetry and song.
The argument in this case would be that there is an unfortunate conflation of the tangibles of taste (and the like) with the intangibles potentially associated with the experience of soul for which "taste" may also be employed as a metaphor (Ken Wilber, One Taste, 1999). In this sense the tangibles obscure the intangibles -- as qualities "without a name" in Alexander's terms. Worse still, preoccupation with those tangibles (to which reference is so readily made) then offers an ersatz surrogate for the intangibles whose manifestation is a primary purpose of the gathering -- at least for some.
The meaning understood to be associated with wine in this context is relevant to the above argument, as separately discussed (Implicit possibilities of synthesis: Omar Khayyam, 2011).
|Odes to Climate Change Negotiation?
(from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam of Naishapur)
|Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
the Winter Garment of Repentance fling;
the Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly -- and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing
|Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse -- and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness --
And Wilderness is Paradise enow
|The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes -- or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two -- is gone
|And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
End in the Nothing all Things end in -- Yes --
Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what
Thou shalt be -- Nothing -- Thou shalt not be less.
|Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
Have done my Credit in Men's Eye much wrong;
Have drown'd my Honour in a shallow Cup,
And sold my Reputation for a Song
|And much as Wine has played the Infidel,
And robb'd me of my Role of Honour -- well,
I often wonder what the Vintners buy
One half so precious as the Goods they sell
When compoased, the forbidden preoccupation with "wine" could be readily understood, and hailed, as specifically undermining the anti-alcohol tenets of Islam (Norman Berdichevsky, Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat: an antidote for Islamic Fundamentalism, New English Review, November 2007). However it may be more fruitfully understood in terms of preoccupation with a seemingly hidden cognitive modality which could not be adequately formulated within that framework -- nor within other logical frameworks of today.
The "wine" to which he refers may be understood as a form of wisdom (The Wine of Wisdom: the life, poetry and philosophy of Omar Khayyam, 2005). As expressed by Ivan M. Granger (And much as Wine has play'd the Infidel, Poetry Chaikhana: Sacred Poetry from Around the World):
Here Omar Khayyam is speaking of the Infidel wine with an ironic double meaning. On the one hand it is the forbidden earthly drink in the Islamic world, the drink tasted only by "Infidels."... On the other hand, wine is the promised drink of paradise. In the very foundations of Islam, wine has had a dual nature, from the profane to the most sacred -- and Sufi poetry loves to play with this paradox.
For Khayyam, it is the heavenly wine, the drink of bliss that has played the Infidel by robbing him of his "Robe and Honor." This is a reference to how the nondualistic perspective that overwhelms you in deep bliss makes all distinctions and social roles, even religious roles and positions of honor, empty. You recognize yourself as essentially whole, even though you stand naked, stripped of the robes of social position. The Infidel Wine has made you an infidel to the outer forms of religion and social honor.
We are all of us "Vintners," makers of the wine of divine union. But, Khayyam asks, what can we buy in the world -- money, power, position, fame, companionship -- that is even half as valuable as the heavenly wine we waste in order to gain those things? It is best to spend our lives in quiet fermentation, cultivating within ourselves heavenly wine, and drinking deeply until we become drunk in indescribable joy!
In a related exerise the question was raised as to whether the skills and processes associated with cookery hold insights which might help to frame the challenge of world governance in new ways (World Governance Cookery Book: food-related insights from home cooking to haute cuisine, 2002).
Insights from the slow food movement? The international "slow food" movement promotes an alternative to consumption of "fast food" and the settings in which that consumption takes place. The emphasis is on consumption of foodstuffs produced locally.
Unfortunately, as a source of insight, the primary emphasis on the tangibles of food consumption extends only incidentally to the process of tasting the food and the nature of the discourse around the table. There are however some references to "slow dialogue" whose processes and concerns might be consistent with the argument here
Soulful experience enabled in the absence of conventional catalysts: A contrasting approach is through recognition of the emergence of profound significance in the absence of conventional "enhancements". Discourse of that quality may well emerge under the most unexpected conditions and in environments readily labelled as sterile.
Examples include collective encounters in disaster situations (during an accident, on a liferaft), in prison, or when lost in a wilderness. This highlights the point above that it is what is brought to the encounter by the participants that may be as important, if not more important, than any sophisticated catalysts provide to enhance the environment. Alternatively it could suggest that the catalytic function may well be provided by the very absence of conventional catalysts -- by a heightened sense of what is missing (as noted below).
The point is further emphasized by the unexpected environments later recognized as romantic by those bonded there -- as in a student garret. Bonding in combat situations offers another indication.
Contrasts framed by assessment of musical performance: The performance of music (and dance) under competitive conditions involves the distinction between "technicality" and "musicality" by adjudicators. This language of assessment could be used to contrast technically-enabled discourse "at the table" from what is implied by "musicality" as it might relate to "soul" or "spirit".
The issue is fruitfully clarified by a description of a training course (From Technicality to Musicality, Music Warehouse Training):
... the course... provides sound operators who deal with musicians and bands with the tools to get the best out of their equipment and help deliver music mindsets. If you think all that is involved in operating a sound system is making sure that sound comes out from the loudspeakers, this course will dispell that myth. Find out how you as a sound operator can play an active part in delivering the right experience to the audience at your venue.
As noted with respect to music competitions, but clearly relevant to collective discourse:
While accuracy is something to continually strive for, most judges want to be emotionally moved by the music. Even with a few errors, music can magically connect people with ideas that transcend language.(How to Prepare for Music Competitions)
Inadequacies "at table" are readily ignored if the "music" of the discourse is especially attractive -- enhanced in some way by presence and authenticity, including that of the waiting personnel.
The subtle issue of "presence" (consistent with the description of duende below) is highlighted by recent research, as noted by Melissa Hogenboom (Sight dominates sound in music competition judging, BBC News, 20 August 2013). The study concluded that the best predictor of a winner's musical performance was the visible passion they displayed, followed closely by their uniqueness and creativity:
Classical music training is often focused on improving the quality of the sound, but this research is about getting to the bottom of what is really being evaluated at the highest levels of competitive performance.
Such conclusions recall the skills traditionally associated with rhetoric as the art of discourse.
Magical discourse at table: Use of "magical" is commonly made in relation to dialogue and discourse. Romantic discourse is readily experienced as "magical" by the participants. With emphasis on its experiential nature, it necessarily eludes descriptions which are liable to denature it. It might be better understood through what it is not -- through "unsaying", as in apophatic discourse (Michael Sells, Mystical Languages of Unsaying, 1994).
Comprehension is frustrated by the extensive references to traditional understandings of magic, however these may inform use of the term with respect to ordinary discourse (John Welwood, Ordinary Magic: everyday life as spiritual path, Shambhala, 1992; t Ann S. Masten, Ordinary Magic: resilience processes in development, American Psychologist, March 2001; Gershon Winkler, Magic of the Ordinary: recovering the shamanic in Judaism, North Atlantic Books, 2003)
Curiously the sense of magic can be recognized in the "twinkle" in the eye of participants in such discourse. This suggests a possibility of eliciting it in some way (Enabling a "twinkle" in the strategic "eye" of sustainable development, 2012). The experience can be explored through the wave-like sense of empathy in such a context, as discussed separately (Being Neither a-Waving Nor a-Parting: cognitive implications of wave-particle duality in the light of science and spirituality, 2013). As noted there:
Encounters with especially meaningful people or places, may be readily described in terms of "waves" -- possibly of empathy, sympathy, friendliness, love, or hostility. The "chemistry" of such encounters may be articulated in terms of "vibes" or "resonance". Again this significance may be embodied by individuals, then to be associated with that "resonance", rather than through more conventional framings (name, clothing, status, physiognomy, nationality, etc).
The experience, when shared, may be associated with a "look" of recognition, or a "twinkle" in the eye -- possibly as a prelude to other explorations of the relationship. Rather than conventional descriptions of "being in love", or love itself, this may well be experienced as an "overwhelming wave" -- as a "wave of recognition" transcending time, partly valued for being surprisingly inexplicable.
References to the experience of "being in the zone", or the more restricted sense of "being on a roll" (as in gambling or in other forms of risk-taking), may refer in large part to a wave-like experience. These are intimately related to the experiential nature of confidence, belief and trust. Such experiences have an integrative quality which contrasts fundamentally with any focus on "part" -- or on optimistic efforts to integrate disparate parts, as with unified science. Exploration of "wholth" is suggestive of "wave-like" possibility (Wholth as Sustaining Dynamic of Health and Wealth: cognitive dynamics sustaining the meta-pattern that connects, 2013). There is a case for "liberating" the approach to integration from "part-like" constraints, as previously argued (Liberation of Integration, Universality and Concord -- through pattern, oscillation, harmony and embodiment, 1980).
Distinctive feminine contributions to the dining experience
In a period in which the evident inadequacy of global summits could be considered to be strongly correlated with the very high predominance of male participants, the role of the feminine merits particular attention -- especially given the traditional symbolic association of the feminine with "soul".
Vital underside? Separately, the early study by Elise Boulding (The Underside of History: a view of women through time, 1976) has been used to frame consideration of Women and the Underside of Meetings: symptoms of denial in considering strategic options (2009). The latter was produced following commentary on the challenges posed by the so-called Masters of the Universe, notably in relation to the collapse of the financial system, its economic consequences, and their involvement in reforming the economic system.
That collapse elicited a variety of comments in support of another order of sensibility (Katrin Bennhold, Where would we be if women ran Wall Street? International Herald Tribune, 2 February 2009; Nicholas D. Kristof (Mistresses of the Universe, International Herald Tribune, 10 February 2009; Women's Voices for Change, Why Mistresses of the Universe Can't Wait, February 2009).
Bias in global gatherings: That crisis can readily be shown to have been a creature of the mindset created and reinforced by discourse at the World Economic Forum in Davos To compensate for the bias in global discourse epitomized by the exclusive attitude at that annual, male-dominated gathering, the Women's Forum for the Economy and Society was created (Ruth Sutherland, Deauville forum: Women want a different business agenda, The Observer, 18th October 2009).
Appropriately this title offers a bridge to the social preoccupations of the World Social Forum, traditionally opposed to the narrow preoccupations of the Davos Forum. Missing however is fruitful understanding of the modes of discourse engendered by women and sustained in their relation to men, as notably highlighted by Deborah Tannen (You Just Don't Understand: women and men in conversation, 1990).
Photoshots of participants at global summits are especially strking as an array of grey-suited men from whom it is so naively assumed that insights of requiste variety for global governance will emerge, as discussef in relation to othert summits (Framing the Global Future by Ignoring Alternatives: unfreezing categories as a vital necessity, 2009; Considering All the Strategic Options -- whilst ignoring alternatives and disclaiming cognitive protectionism, 2009).
Recent research has shown that collective intelligence is not strongly correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group (Anita Williams Woolley, et al, Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups, Science, 330, 2010, 6004, pp. 686-688). As separately noted such intelligence extends beyond the cognitive abilities of the groups' individual members, and that the tendency to cooperate effectively is linked to the number of women in a group (Peter Dizikes, New study from MIT and Carnegie Mellon University on collective intelligence, MIT News Office).
Undeclared role of women: The organization of the Davos Forum, and its acclaimed capacity for influential global discourse, offers other perspectives through reports alleging the participation of women with roles extending into those traditionally associated with sex workers (Mariah Summers and Miriam Elder, What It's Like To Be A Woman At The Old Boys Economic Forum, Buzz Feed, 26 January 2014). The latter notes the comment of one participant:
Hanna Aase, the Norwegian-born founder of a Silicon Valley video profile platform called Wonder loop, is dressing differently in Davos this year. I think about what I wear more because there are a lot of prostitutes in Davos, especially at the Piano Bar, Aa se said, referencing the popular late-night hot spot during the World Economic Forum. I don't want to be mistaken for a prostitute.
As implied, restaurants (and bars associated with the dining experience) may well consider it appropriate to employ waitresses exaggerating their femininity -- possibly even topless. As argued by Michael A. Tooth (A Little Sex Still Goes a Long Way -- whether we know it or not, 1991).
It is recognized that financial firms often hold meetings in lap dancing clubs, according to evidence to the UK Treasury select committee hearing into women's role in the City of London. Prostitution is used in client deals or in ways to generate business (Kathryn Hopkins (City bankers 'regularly offer prostitutes to clients', The Guardian, 14 October 2009).
Despite vigorous formal effort by the European Parliament to curtail prostitution, sex workers are recognized as having a significant role in relation to its own meetings (Christopher B. Schlitz, Parliamentary Prostitution: MEP's demand hooker-free hotels, Die Welt, 16 October 2008).
Under-acknowledged traditional roles of women: There is a case for revisiting the dynamics and skills of the traditional role of the salon hostess -- now variously echoed otherwise (Utne Neighborhood Salon Associations, Utne Reader; Salons and Dialogue Groups, New Civilization Network).
From another cultural perspective, the extensive discipline and practice of the geisha of Japan merit attention. They act as hostesses whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music, dance, games and conversation -- mainly of course to entertain male customers.(John Gallagher, Geisha: a unique world of tradition, elegance, and art, 2003; These are framed more generally by understanding of the traditional role of the courtesan (Martha Feldman and Bonnie Gordon, The Courtesan's Arts: cross-cultural perspectives, Oxford University Press, 2006).
Missing dimension in global discourse: These examples offer a strong indication that male-dominated gatherings, variously (if only unconsciously) recognize that "something is missing". In the effort to distinguish how "soul" can manifest (or be perverted), the role of women in meetings could be explored in the light of the work of neuroanthropologist Terrence Deacon on the role of the "missing" (The Symbolic Species: the co-evolution of language and the brain, 1997; Incomplete Nature: how mind emerged from matter, 2011).
He explores the consequence of deliberately omitting, or unconsciously missing, a dimension essential to systemic viability. This encompasses the paradoxical incompleteness of semiotic and teleological phenomena in terms of information to demonstrate how specific absences (or constraints) play the critical causal role in the organization of physical processes that generates these properties. As discussed separately, with respect to Necessary Incompleteness (2014), for Deacon (in introducing his argument):
The problem is this: Such concepts as information, function, purpose, meaning, intention, significance, consciousness, and value are intrinsically defined by their fundamental incompleteness. They exist only in relation to something they are not.... The "something" that each of these is not is precisely what matters most. But notice the paradox in this English turn of phrase. To "matter" is to be substantial, to resist modification, to be beyond creation or destruction -- and yet what maters about an idea or purpose is dependent on something that is not substantial in any obvious sense. So what is shared in common between all these phenomena? In a word, nothing -- or rather, something not present. (p. 23, emphasis in original)
Exemplary new leadership? It could be said that a degree of "leadership" in recognition of what is missing has been inadvertently offered by the leaders of some countries, most notably the USA and France -- through the widely reported sex scandals with which they have been personally associated.
The cases of some candidates to the highest office deserve particular attention (Pre-Judging an Institution's Implicit Strategy by the Director's Private Behaviour: remarkable parallels in the case of the IMF and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 2011). Ironically, even with respect to the process leading to the UN Conference on Climate Change, a leading official was obliged to resign through association with sexual harassment (UN climate head Rajendra Pachauri resigns, BBC News, 24 February 2015; IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri resigns, The Guardian, 24 February 2015).
The widespread evidence for (previously) questionable sexual behaviour could usefully be seen as indicative of misplaced manifestations of emotional intelligence -- taking forms readily framed as perverted. However the transition from "scandalous" to "tolerable" (if not normal) behaviour in modern times has been evident only over recent decades. Notable is the transition from attitudes of extreme disapproval in this regard by other leaders -- including refusal to shake the hand of divorcees -- to the acceptance of "partners", even at formal dinners and receptions. However this acceptance of "partnership" translates only infrequently into participation on an equal footing in formal summits. Ironically the equality of "footing" might be said to be more evident "under the table" or off it.
Underside of dialogue: Borrowing Boulding's title again, it could be said that there is a case for exploring "the underside of dialogue" through the role of women (Epistemological Challenge of Cognitive Body Odour: exploring the underside of dialogue, 2006). the latter gives particular attention to the dysfunctional relations between leaders of schools of thought -- irrespective of gender.
However, in a world of shambolic governance, with increasing recognition of the soullessness of corporations and bureaucracies, questions can be usefully raised regarding the proficiency of institutions and professions dominated by men.
The institutionalization in many cultures of the "place of women" as being "in the home" is reinforced by major religions. The inadequacy of global governance with respect to any understanding of the "home of humanity" suggests that this dissociation of function is inhibiting forms of dialogue vital to more meaningful governance -- with respect to the planetary hospitality necessary to delivery of dreamables.
Duende and saudade as transformative animation of intercourse
Daimonic radicalisation: In the light of the above argument there is a case for exploration of radical insights into transformation of the collective experience associated with discourse at any gathering, however enabled by dining or wining.
The question is what processes are suggestive of new understanding of animation with its connotations in relation to "soul" and "spirit". In undertaking any such exploration, it would be an unfortunate constraint to imagine that the processes would lend themselves readily to articulation in words characteristic of conventional discourse. As an act of imagination, for which many appeals are made at this time in response to global crisis, such an approach is consistent with an earlier exercise (Aesthetics of Governance in the Year 2490, 1990).
Reference to a necessarily radical dimension is consistent with the challenging recognition of the increasing radicalisation of society and cognitive modalities (Radicalisation of Existence and Identity: recognizing the global emergence and influence of daimonic dynamics, 2015). In a period of simplistic demonisation, specific attention is appropriate in carefully distinguishing the intangible nature of "daimonic" from "demonic" (Radicalisation versus Demonisation? Enabling radical initiatives under conditions of strategic stalemate, 2015).
Arguably this is necessary to counter simplistic strategic framings (Norms in the Global Struggle against Extremism: "rooting for" normalization vs. "rooting out" extremism? 2005; Eradication as the Strategic Final Solution of the 21st Century? 2014).
Duende: Expression of the daimonic is a dimension characteristic of duende and its inspiration, as separately discussed (Daimon, Djinn, Muse and Duende: variations on a timeless experience, 2007).
It is in this sense that there is a case for using duende to reframe the experiential preoccupations outlined above. Connoting emotion and authenticity, as noted by Wikipedia this is a difficult-to-define (in English) phrase in the Spanish arts. It is loosely understood to mean having soul, a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity. Understanding of it as a transformative moment in Spanish is often associated with the experience of Flamenco.
That the spirit of duende is associated with that of Flamenco is no coincidence as is evident from a review by Stephanie Merritt of Jason Webster's Duende: A Journey in Search of Flamenco (2002):
"Duende" is one of those words that is almost impossible to translate into English, because its meaning relies on a wide frame of reference that even many Spaniards would have difficulty explaining, so intimately is it rooted in Andalusian culture, particularly the music and lifestyle of Flamenco. Perhaps the closest rendering would be "spirit", but duende is far more than this -- it is the essence of Flamenco, a moment of transcendence, almost possession, that is produced as the singer, dancer and guitarist merge into each other's rhythm. But its meaning spills over from the music into a way of life, as Jason Webster reveals in his memoir of a search for the elusive spirit of Spain and its music....It is impossible to convey the feel of cante jondo (the 'deep song') in any language.... [more]
Articulations of the nature of duende have been most notably offered by the Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca (Christopher Maurer, In Search of Duende, New Directions, 1988). For Lorca, prior to his assassination in 1936:
These dark sounds are the mystery, the roots thrusting into the fertile loam known to all of us, ignored by all of us, but from which we get what is real in art. . . . Thus duende is a power and not a behavior, it is a struggle and not a concept. I have heard an old master guitarist say: Duende is not in the throat; duende surges up from the soles of the feet. Which means it is not a matter of ability, but of real live form; of blood; of ancient culture; of creative action. (Play and Theory of the Duende, 1933):
Although the following may not be ideal illustrations of the spirit of the term, they are examples of the term applied to contemporary, non-Flamenco contexts.
In March 2005 Jan Zwicky used the notion of duende in the context of contemporary music at a symposium organized by Continuum Contemporary Music and the Institute for Contemporary Culture:
[The second way music can be new is] when it possesses duende: "black sounds", as Lorca called them, the dark counterpoise to Apollo's light, music in which we hear death sing.... Duende lives in blue notes, in the break in a singer's voice, in the scrape of resined horsehair hitting sheep gut We are more accustomed to its presence in jazz and the blues, and it is typically a feature of music in performance, or music in which performance and composition are not separate acts.... In reflecting on the key images of Western music's two-part invention - the duende of the tortoise and the radiance of Apollonian emotional geometry - we are reminded that originality is truly radical, that it comes from the root, from the mythic origins of the art. [Note: in Greek mythology, Hermes killed a tortoise to create the first lyre, which he traded to Apollo who was enamored by its music. This is strangely reminiscent of the legendary discovery, on the back of a turtle, of the Lo Shu magic square with its own relation to music]
Australian music artist Nick Cave discussed his interpretation of duende in his lecture pertaining to the nature of the love song (Vienna, 1999):
In his brilliant lecture entitled The Theory and Function of Duende Federico Garc?a Lorca attempts to shed some light on the eerie and inexplicable sadness that lives in the heart of certain works of art. All that has dark sound has duende, he says, that mysterious power that everyone feels but no philosopher can explain.
All love songs must contain duende. For the love song is never truly happy. It must first embrace the potential for pain. Those songs that speak of love without having within in their lines an ache or a sigh are not love songs at all but rather Hate Songs disguised as love songs, and are not to be trusted.... The love song must resonate with the susurration of sorrow, the tintinnabulation of grief. The writer who refuses to explore the darker regions of the heart will never be able to write convincingly about the wonder, the magic and the joy of love for just as goodness cannot be trusted unless it has breathed the same air as evil... so within the fabric of the love song, within its melody, its lyric, one must sense an acknowledgement of its capacity for suffering.
The reference to love highlights the sense in which expressions of love for nature, humanity or the planet need to be informed by an acknowledgement of the capacity for suffering -- if they are to be trusted.
Saudade: As experienced, there is an understandable relationship between the Fado (of Portugal) and the Flamenco (of Spain). As with the duende engendered by Flamenco, Fado is understood as engendering saudade -- of an equally elusive nature (Tom Schnabel, Saudade and Duende: two elusive words that defy translation, KCRW Rhythm Planet, 11 June 2013). As noted there:
Saudade is a sad and gentle longing, maybe for one important person, a true love in the past, that has turned inward to an infinite sadness. It was once characterized as "the love that remains". It can also mean a sweet melancholy, taking pleasure in revisiting, if only psychically, some great romance.
As noted by Wikipedia, saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. The transitional role of both modes has been related to the European fin-de-siècle experience (Ian Biddle, Saudade/Duende: voice and nostalgia in the early recording era, IASPM International, July 2003). Saudade often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.
In a description of the Project Iberico seeking to relate duende and saudade, they are termed Old Friends!
Both Fado and Flamenco have arisen from the melting together of different musical cultures and have their origins in the same period...
What is essential with both Flamenco and Fado is that "the sparkle spreads over". That's why the stress is always on expressivity and emotion. Neither Flamenco nor Fado is music which is just being played for the sake of it. It really is an interaction between the artist and his audience. When it turns out really fine, the Saudade in Fado and Duende in Flamenco are the magic result of that.
Both have evolved from the fringe of society. In the poor quarters of the fast growing cities people lived, or better survived, together with people with often a totally different ethnical background. They created their own, proper culture. A mix of fatalism, pride and energy became the soundtrack for their daily struggle for survival. Their's was a need for a new kind of music for them to express and identify themselves. As a result of this Fado originated in Portugal and Flamenco in Andalucia. Since quite some time now, they have become the two most famous music styles by far from the Iberian peninsular. [emphasis added]
Mono no aware and Sehnsucht: Wikipedia links Saudade to the German understanding of Sehnsucht. As with the above, the latter is also recognized as a deep emotional state, translated as "longing", "pining", "yearning", or "craving", or in a wider sense a type of "intensely missing". A link is also provided to the Japanese understanding of Mono no aware, understood as "the pathos of things", and also translated as "an empathy toward things", or "a sensitivity to ephemera". Neither is however associated by name with a musical form, although both are deemed to be evoked by music.
Dreaming of the undeliverable
"Last chance"? The 2015 UN Climate Change Conference is framed by many as a "last chance" to save civilization as it is currently known (Mark Hertsgaard, ï?? The Paris Climate Conference: last chance for Planet Earth? The Nation, 3 November 2015; Kathy Marks, Climate change talks our 'last chance', say Pacific islands: 'This is not politics, it's survival', The Independent, 7 September 2015; Helen Briggs, Climate change: Paris 'last chance' for action, BBC News, 22 April 2015; Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu, COP21: Humanity's Last-Chance Saloon, The Huffington Post, 1 December 2015). On the opening day of the summit, a dedicated issue of Le Monde is themed as Peut-on encore sauver la planète? (30 November 2015).
From a historical perspective, all civilizations and empires dream of immortality -- perhaps currently to be framed as "sustainability". None achieves it, as reviewed by Johan Galtung and Sohail Inayatullah (Macrohistory and Macrohistorians: perspectives on individual, social and civilizational change, 1997). All are denied it and collapse in various ways (Jared Diamond, Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed, 2005; Thomas Homer-Dixon, The Upside of Down: catastrophe, creativity, and the renewal of civilization, 2006). The current global civilization, with its problematic American Imperium, will be increasingly obliged to face a reality of dreamables denied. Collapse becomes the deliverable.
The condition is usefully evoked by a well-known verse composed by an Irish poet in a triumphant period of the British Empire -- when its possible collapse would have been vigorously denied.
|Second Coming (1920, extract)
by W B Yeats
|Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
"Last Supper"? The global crisis, of which the preoccupations of the Climate Change summit are but one instance, merits reflection in terms of the elusive experiential understandings indicated above -- a nostalgia for what is missing and may well be lost forever. Since a final dinner will indeed be a feature of negotiations amongst world leaders at the gathering, this could be compared -- melodramatically -- to the archetypal Last Supper, similarly subject to security threats. So framed, its venue could also be compared to the imaginative presentation of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980) by Douglas Adams.
This dimension is presented otherwise by David Suzuki (Healing Humanity's Grief In The Face Of Climate Change, Common Dreams, 10 December 2015):
Although global warming discourse typically ignores our intense feelings and grief in the face of environmental change, Cunsolo Willox argues it can expand our capacity to act. Re-casting climate change as the work of mourning means that we can share our losses, and encounter them as opportunities for productive and important work, she says. It also provides the opportunity to stand up and publicly object to injustice. Shared experiences of grief can build solidarity, support healing and inspire collective action.With theParis UN climate talksunderway, we have an opportunity to expand the conversation to include environmental grief and loss. Today's social and environmental leaders need to understand the psychological implications of a world in distress....
Instead of knee-jerk reactions that so often accompany fear and emotional pain, what if we summoned the courage to experience our sadness, disorientation, and grief in all its fullness? More importantly, what if we did this together? The feelings surrounding change and loss highlight our shared vulnerability and expose our connections to one another. We can consciously foster a heightened sense of human and ecological fellowship.
Such an end-times theme can be used more generally to frame other events responding to the crises of a global civilization facing collapse (Enacting Transformative Integral Thinking through Playful Elegance: A Symposium at the End of the Universe? 2010; Implication of the 12 Knights in any Strategic Round Table, 2014).
Despite the controversial significance with which the original Last Supper is imbued, the tragedy lies in the apparent failure of dialogue at that table to anticipate and address the issues so systematically engendered by the People of the Book (Root Irresponsibility for Major World Problems: the unexamined role of Abrahamic faiths in sustaining unrestrained population growth, 2007; Systemic Reliance of World Religions on Human Sacrifice: covert use of fatal conflict to ensure vital resource management, 2014).
The point was highlighted with respect to the 2009 Climate Change Conference (United Nations Overpopulation Denial Conference: exploring the underside of climate change, 2009). It is noteworthy that weather warfare is also not on the table at that gathering, as remarked by Michel Chossudovsky (Weather Warfare: beware the US military's experiments with climatic warfare, Global Research, 29 November 2015). Such omissions call into question the ultimate deliverability in practice of what the summit dreams of achieving on paper.
Will the "Last Supper" in Paris prove to have been soulless? Will the sparkling wine on offer be recognized as having other implications -- more profound? Comparing global consensus to the finest of wines would suggest a fruitful way of exploring the multitude of agreements, treaties and resolutions formulated internationally -- perhaps even by "millésime", since they are so systematically dated. The deprecated consumption of wine might then be compared with the delusional nature of such consensus (The Consensus Delusion: mysterious attractor undermining global civilization as currently imagined, 2011).
Pathos: As an evocation of mood, the pathos of the situation is partly highlighted currently by the tragedy of millions of refugees in transit (and anticipated) who benefit to a surprising degree from the severe political deprecation of any conventional soulless response. More generally the pathos could be suitably echoed by works such as the following:
- George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Eds.): Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance (Subterranean Press, 2009) -- a a collection of short fiction and shorter essays composed in appreciation of the science fiction author Jack Vance, especially his Dying Earth series of which the author wrote:
Earth. A dim place, ancient beyond knowledge. Ages of rain and wind have beaten and rounded the granite and the sun a feeble red. A million cities have fallen to dus. In place of the old peoples, a few thousand strange souls live. There is evil on Earth, distilled by time... Earth is dying
- Harold Bloom (Ed.): Till I End My Song: a gathering of last poems (Harper 2010). An assembly of the final poems of 100 poets, of which the editor writes:
We turn to last poems at whatever age because we both desire and fear finalities. We want to know and not know the exteen of our temporal spans, and we hope to learn from the poets not how to die but how to stand against uncertainity.
The emergent sensitivity to "soul" -- in reaction to "soullessness" -- can also be explored as a speculative exercise heralding the emergence of a new humanity (Authentic Grokking: Emergence of Homo conjugens, 2003).
Like the dreamables evoked in anticipation of dining by a menu and those at the table, reference to any such aesthetic creativity makes the further point that there is the need to engage with what may well be undeliverable. In the case of performance of flameno, fado or poetry, it may not correspond to personal taste -- or give meaningful form to the dream. There is a need to bring the death of a dream into focus -- if only through metaphor (Metaphors To Die By: correspondences between a collapsing civilization, culture or group, and a dying person, 2013).
Engendering "animation" at table: why are we "waiting"?
Pattern language: The widespread cultivation of taste, as associated with the dining experience, provides a rich pattern language through which the quality of discourse can be enhanced -- rather than lost in conflation. The great variety of foodstuffs, beverages, cooking styles and preferences serves to illustrate the point.
How does the capacity and enthusiasm for those distinctions enable the distinctions of richer and more nourishing modes of dialogue -- more nourishing to the soul? Where do distinctions come from -- as implied by a cognitive psychological approach to mathematics (George Lakoff and Rafael E. Nunez, Where Mathematics Comes From: how the embodied mind brings mathematics into being, 2000)?
Mention is occasionally made by the creative that in every problem lies the key to its solution. This insight can be explored with respect to current crises of deliverability (Systemic Crises as Keys to Systemic Remedies: a metaphorical Rosetta Stone for future strategy? 2008). Whether confronted by plenty or scarcity at table, what subtle forms of nourishment are too readily neglected? Is the focus of dialogue at table currently "fit for purpose", especially at the global level? Does the much-deprecated pattern of consumption itself offer vital clues -- with food itself as a framework?
Animation: In distinguishing so assiduously the restaurants at which an enhanced dining experience is available -- through attributing stars -- is an opportunity being missed to distinguish dining experiences in which dialogue is correspondingly enhanced? Through the intercourse thereby enabled, can restaurants in which qualities of soul are especially evident be suitably distinguished? What criteria might be applied?
Much is indeed made of the role of meeting "animators" and "facilitators". The International Association of Facilitators maintains a Methods Database. Given the evident inadequacies of dialogue, why have these proven to be insufficient? Why is dialogue "at table" so impoverished and soulless in relation to its potential role of enabling "soul"?
How are professional facilitators to be compared to the "master chefs", so competitively acclaimed in the media in relation to the dining experience? How are the jealously guarded "secret recipes" of the latter to be compared to the legally protected franchises of certain animators?
With respect to the emergence of agreement at the Paris gathering, who are the "facilitators" and what qualifications do they have -- especially if convergence proves to be elusive? What are the implications of the confusion between "animation" -- as it relates to anima and to soul -- and "animation" as it relates to imagery and graphics, rendering them dynamic to facilitate greater understanding? Does the confusion in Paris derive from "animation" as the French translation of "facilitation"?
Has France been empowered -- effectively as "restaurant owner" or "master chef" -- to provide the "facilitators" with instructions, as indicated by foreign minister, Laurent Fabius:
If there is no agreement by Saturday, of course I will take the initiative. I will see the different groups with the facilitators (Paris Climate Summit: world leaders told to iron out differences before talks end, The Guardian, 28 November 2015)
In the new reality is an appropriate level of human sacrifice now a prerequisite -- empowering the host of a global summit with unquestionable rights with respect to a consensual outcome?
Waste? As a metaphor, the dining experience offers a further consideration in the light of what is wasted -- the food waste so characteristic of modern consumption and the failure of adequate delivery systems (as dreamables). This wastage is tragically evident in the manner in which packaging, notably of food and beverages, endangers the environment and the oceans. This is remarkably exemplified by the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Metaphorical equivalents are readily to be found in the accumulation of information packaging and factoids polluting the information of a civilization acclaimed as knowledge-based. Should other systemically dangerous levels of emission be recognized (Sins of Hot Air Emission, Omission, Commission and Promission: the political challenge of responding to global crises, 2009)?
Such wastage is a reminder of the extent to which people, projects and creative possibilities are "remaindered" -- effectively endangering the psychosocial environment (Reintegration of a Remaindered World: cognitive recycling of objects of systemic neglect, 2011). There is the intriguing question (with theological implications) as to whether those at any "Last Supper" make use of a doggy bag for leftovers.
Planetary overheating of both physical and social environments: The increasing global temperature with which the Climate Change Conference is so preoccupied indeed takes the form of increasing agitation amongst the molecules of the atmosphere.
However, understood symbolically and metaphorically, increasing "heat" also takes the form of increasing agitation within the "atmosphere" of world opinion amongst the peoples of the world -- potentially activitating more turbulent "winds of change". The phenomenon may well match the rising sea levels in their implications for civilization. This understanding is consistent with recognition of Climate Change as a Metaphor of Social Change (2008), as suggested on the occasion of an earlier UN Climate Change Conference (Poznan, 2008), stressing the systemic implications of emissions, ozone, sunlight, greenhouse and overheating. This complemented exploration of the possibility that the focus on "climate change" obscured -- conveniently for some -- issues of more fundamental significance (Climate of Change Misrepresented as Climate Change: insights from metaphorical confusion, 2008).
More curious is the possibility that the changing "weather", which is the focus of global climate change preoccupation, may offer vital clues to the problematic nature of global decision-making in a critical period (Enhancing Strategic Discourse Systematically using Climate Metaphors: widespread comprehension of system dynamics in weather patterns as a resource, 2015; Weather Metaphors as Whether Metaphors: transcending solar illusion via a Galilean-style cognitive revolution? 2015).
The preoccupation at the summit with ensuring only a 2-degree rise in temperature is now conditioned by recognition that a 1-degree rise has already been registered. In the quest for mnemonic clues to recognition of such significant distinctions, it is useful to recall a comparable preoccupation of the Occupy Movement with the 1-percent -- through its slogan We are the 99-percent. The movement is one embodiment of social unrest and "overheating". To what would a "2-degree" in social unrest give rise?
Poetry as an aid to self-reflexivity: Did the Conference but choose to recognize it self-reflexively, the preoccupation with "climate change" is indeed its own metaphor, as articulated by Gregory Bateson with respect to the role of aesthetics. In explaining why "we are our own metaphor", Bateson pointed out to a conference on the effects of conscious purpose on human adaptation that:
One reason why poetry is important for finding out about the world is because in poetry a set of relationships get mapped onto a level of diversity in us that we don't ordinarily have access to. We bring it out in poetry. We can give to each other in poetry the access to a set of relationships in the other person and in the world that we're not usually conscious of in ourselves. So we need poetry as knowledge about the world and about ourselves, because of this mapping from complexity to complexity. (Mary Catherine Bateson. Our Own Metaphor, 1972, pp. 288-289).
Although the initiative is to be applauded, that of The Guardian should invite critical review in the light of the challenge and the potential (Carol Ann Duffy, An Anthology of Poetry on Climate Change, 11 May 2015; Celebrities Read Poems on Climate Change, 20 November 2015).
Could any agreement emerging from the Climate Change Conference be fruitfully articulated in poetic form -- even as an epic eliciting the requisite popular appreciation, as with the Kalevala or the Mahabharata? Such as case is explored separately (A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic? 2006).
However, as with the creative in every domain, for whom identity is overly associated with any creation, there are a number of challenges to such elaboration which themselves call for clarification (Poetry-making and Policy-making: proposal for an exploratory international conference, 1993).
|Symbols symptomatic of problem and potential
in quest of harmonious concordance on a changing climate
||The photoshot above of the opening session of the United Conference on Climate Change (COP21) can be seen as primarily emblematic of "grey", "male", "static" decision-making -- essentially unmemorable, with implications for the form of any final agreement.
In musical terms this could be understood as a monotonous, terminal dirge -- framed in medical terms as flatlining
|The animation on the left of a rotating segment of DNA can be seen as emblematic of the dynamic of life -- potentially echoing the systemic structure of any final agreement.
Expressed as music or song, this could be understood as a configuration of complementary "voices" -- variously associated and mutually reinforcing, such as to engender a viable ensemble
[Image in public domain via Wikimedia Commons]
Fundamental to sustainable life, the structure of DNA recalls the possibility of memetics as a conceptual analogue to genetics -- and the requisite diversity to enable biodiversity and the sustainability it implies. Expressed in terms of musical organization, the variety of modes of thinking recalls how distinctive notes are identified within different tuning systems, each enabling different forms of harmony. An implication for social organization is suggested by polyphony and multipart singing, as discussed separately (Enabling a 12-fold Pattern of Systemic Dialogue for Governance, 2011). With respect to any signed agreement, a vital matter is raised by Lenore Taylor (Paris climate talks: the real test is whether countries will keep their word, The Guardian, 30 November 2015). In musical terms, beyond the requirement to "sing from the same hymn sheet", this raises the question of how any ability to "hold a note" or "sing in tune" might then be recognized, especially given any tendency to creative interpretation of variations -- as a form of "memetic mutation".
Enabling the higher art of conversation at table: In the argument above, reference was made to the problematic understandings of "magical conversation" as variously appreciated. Whether understood as dialogue, discourse, intercourse or rhetoric, the challenge would seem to be partly one of transcending the fascination with point-making as so assiduously cultivated in competitive sports and so characteristic of competive debate. Support for the latter through "bullet-point" presentations offers appropriate echoes to the inappropriateness of the military mindset in such contexts (Enhancing Sustainable Development Strategies through Avoidance of Military Metaphors, 1998).
The question is where the art of conversation is cultivated, and understood to be a "higher" art, as separately explored (Transforming the Art of Conversation: conversing as the transformative science of development, 2012; Future Generation through Global Conversation: in quest of collective well-being through conversation in the present moment, 1997). As noted, it is widely recognized and promoted in the form of dialogue processes of which primary examples are Bohmian Dialogue, Structured Dialogue, that of Anthony Blake (The Supreme Art of Dialogue: structures of meaning, 2009).
Missing would appear to be any self-reflexive appreciation -- within any dialogue process -- of the sense in which current practice is less than adequate for the challenge of the times. How many skilled conversationalists might be required to transform discussion at a table from tendencies to tedious point-making debate and monologue? How is the art to be distinguished from that of repartee -- typically exploited to the advantage of the witty through "put-downs"?
Is the Paris summit distinguished by 5-star dialogue at the negotiating table -- to match the 5-star cuisine presented for the appreciation of participants? By whom is such dialogue recognized and how -- in contrast to dialogue of lower quality? There is then also the possibility of using the very challenges of climate in order to reframe discourse (Enhancing Strategic Discourse Systematically using Climate Metaphors, 2015).
Who are the "waiters"? The focus above on waiting, waiters and emotional intelligence in relation to the dining experience frames the question as to the identity of the waiters associated with any global negotiating table. As suggested, they could indeed be readily identified as the sherpas -- offering a reminder that the women of a household might be so perceived at a table of male diners, and even excluded from the table whatever their role in preparation of food.
However there is also the sense in which the "waiters" are those awaiting the decision-making outcomes of those at the table -- the peoples of the world, also effectively excluded from the table. Understood in this way, we are all waiters. As intermediaries, the case of the climate activists, excluded from any direct interaction with those at the table in Paris, therefore raises many questions -- however much these have been conveniently sidelined by security considerations (Paris climate activists put under house arrest using emergency laws, The Guardian, 27 November 2015; COP21 climate marches in Paris not authorised following attacks, The Guardian, 19 November 2015).
More problematic is the sense in which the "waiters" are those awaiting further disaster, in the light of the track record of previous failure of those at the table to deliver on promises formally made and possibly enshrined in agreements..
Why are we waiting? Rather than being framed as "waiters" in the outmoded sense of the term favoured by the privileged at global summits, the question of "why are we waiting" can be usefully raised. The point has been usefully made on Australian SBS in the following terms:
But, instead of expecting these talks to deliver final solutions to the climate crisis, we should also pay close attention to the many forms of action occurring all over the world, particularly on the streets where the largest ever People's Climate March will take place in cities from Melbourne to Montreal, from Brisbane to Barcelona.
What occurs inside the negotiating rooms of the Paris climate conference is obviously crucial, but the real barometer of global momentum is taking place elsewhere.
All over the world we are hearing from people who have found themselves impacted by climate change and are increasingly frustrated by governments pressing on in a 'business as usual' mode, ignoring accumulated and compelling climate science and blithely approving new coal mines and thwarting the transition to clean energy.
Bring your own dynamic to the table -- but what? However, rather than assume that conventional dialogue is appropriate to the challenge -- in the light of past experience -- there is a case for reframing discourse by use of the elements of the crisis as metaphors. Rather than the strategy of protest of the Occupy Movement, there is a case for a "do it yourself" approach, namely one of engendering appropriate dynamics within the discourse at any tables where such concerns are highlighted. However there is a need for a transition from the art of "whining" to that of "wining" -- recognizing the challenging art of the wine-maker.
This frames the question as to what has proven to be inadequate on such occasions and what to do about it. The point has been notably highlighted by Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism, 2007) regarding the counterpoint offered by the World Social Forum (More Democracy - Not More Political Strongmen, Global Policy Forum, 3 February 2003):
But wait a minute: how on earth did a gathering that was supposed to be a showcase for new grassroots movements become a celebration of men with a penchant for three-hour speeches about smashing the oligarchy? Of course the forum, in all its dizzying, global diversity, was not only speeches, with huge crowds all facing in one direction. There were plenty of circles, with small groups of people facing each other. There were thousands of impromptu gatherings of activists from opposite ends of the globe excitedly swapping facts, tactics and analysis in their common struggles.
But the "big" certainly put its mark on the event. Two years ago, at the first World Social Forum, the key word was not "big" but "new": new ideas, new methods, new faces. Because if there was one thing that most delegates agreed on (and there wasn't much) it was that the left's traditional methods had failed, either because they were wrong-headed or because they were simply ill-equipped to deal with the powerful forces of corporate globalisation....
Perhaps the reason why participatory democracy is being usurped at the World Social Forum by big men and swooning crowds is that there isn't much glory in it. To work, it requires genuine humility on the part of elected politicians. It means that a victory at the ballot box isn't a blank cheque for five years, but the beginning of an unending process of returning power to that electorate time and time again.
For some, the hijacking of the World Social Forum by political parties and powerful men is proof that the movements against corporate globalisation are finally maturing and "getting serious". But is it really so mature, amidst the graveyard of failed left political projects, to believe that change will come by casting your ballot for the latest charismatic leader, then crossing your fingers and hoping for the best? Get serious.
What indeed was specifically learned from activist intervention at the previous Climate Change summit (Insights for the Future from the Change of Climate in Copenhagen, 2010)?
Make it your own? The dynamic individuals are free to bring to any table can be imagined in cognitively radical terms in contrast to the inadequacy of conventional approaches -- and despite current simplistic efforts to frame anything radically new as dangerously engendering terrorism. This was articulated in relation to an earlier environmental summit (My Reflecting Mirror World: making my World Summit on Sustainable Development worthwhile, 2002).
Expressed otherwise, the challenge is to engender the dynamic at table in one's own eyes, if only to enrich one's own interaction (En-joying the World through En-joying Oneself: eliciting the potential of globalization through cognitive radicalization, 2011; Embodiment of Change: Comprehension, Traction and Impact? Discovering enabling questions for the future, 2011)
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