The antagonist as a limitation to dialogue

Some things just seem to keep coming around; like a bad penny.

I’m not entirely sure when I first ran into the book “Antagonists in the Church“, by Kenneth Haugk, but I do know where. It must have been some time close to 1995 when Isaac Bonewits posted “Dealing with Religious Jerks“. I read this review in which Isaac wrote:

“If I had read this book 30 years ago, many, many mistakes might have been avoided and Neopagan Druidism would be much further along in its evolution. In fact, if this book have been read by most of our ‘old timers’ three decades ago, our community would be easily ten or twenty times its current size and far more effective at influencing the mainstream death culture. Tens of thousands of lives — and species — might have been saved and the environmental crisis significantly slowed down. Instead, we spent literally millions of hours fighting unending battles with antagonists inside our own community who never intended to ‘fight fair’ because what they really wanted was the attention we gave them and the joy of destruction for its own sake.”

It was a couple years until I actually picked up a copy of the book, but I regretted waiting for so long. In fact, I note that it was almost a decade ago, in April 2001, when I finally picked it up, but I also know that it sat in my stack of “to read” books after that for a while before I actually read it; but this clearly places my reading of the book prior to my return to college where I studied dialogue in earnest. This book, then, is a forgotten influence on my work since then, one which I did not directly include in my thesis but which had been part of my thinking.

While the book is definitely within the context of congregational Christianity, a tradition which I do not find speaks to me personally; even the parts which are explicitly Christian, such as the section of quotes from the Bible, is interesting to a certain extent. But, the overall effect of the work on me was to give me another name for something which I’d recognized to exist, and by having language with which to speak about the phenomena it becomes easier to see those phenomena in the first place; and, it becomes more possible to develop conscious and intentional responses to times when I’ve been confronted by those phenomena.

To a certain extent, I have to admit that I’ve felt like a bit of a Cassandra because of my awareness of this sort of thing. Being able to see and name a thing for myself leads to a feeling of disconnectedness with those around me about whom I find myself wondering, “Why does no one else see this happening?” And, I’ll also admit that I’ve grown exceedingly tired of dealing with this phenomenon when I run into it, especially within groups that haven’t yet developed strong personal and structural responses to such phenomena. This is an example of the overall, deeply disappointing, cycle of lowered of expectations which leads to attrition within groups. For me, in many ways, I’ve found myself responding to what seems like a deafening silence in response to naming and identifying the phenomenon with an increasing willingness to find something else to do with my time. Instead of tilting at windmills within groups that seem to not respond, I admit that I have more often of late taken a pessimistic path of somewhat selfish cost-benefit analysis, and simply chosen to confront the phenomenon to the point where I feel doing more is futile and there’s probably something else more personally satisfying I can do with my time, and then tarry no further.

Still, this topic sure does seem to keep coming up for me. Just two examples will suffice to suggest that this has, for some reason, been something that has been on my mind for as long as I’ve been mindful.

When I was a kid in elementary school, I must have been shown the animated Animal Farm a bazillion times. Okay, maybe not that many times, but for some reason that film was de rigueur. My take away from that film was quite a strong influence on my thinking, but for some reason it didn’t seem to be the same as other people; and it finally occurred to me what was going on. I reflect on this a bit, back in 2006, in “Why do the bastards hate Animal Farm so much?“:

“But, when I was a kid and the schools kept showing the animated ‘Animal Farm’ I didn’t get the message that community was bad. I got the message that the selfish, evil bastards can ruin community for the rest of the animals.”

Ostensibly, the reason I kept seeing that film in school was, I imagine, that I was to understand that Communism didn’t work. But what I got from it was that communism did work, but that Communism didn’t because it was a broken form of communism, one that had been hijacked by bastards. So, be on guard! (Yes, I’m looking at you Capitalism.)

Fast forward to my undergraduate studies at The Evergreen State College, and the continuation and expansion of that work which culminated in my Master’s thesis, The Fifth Principle of Dialogue as an answer to a specific project:

“As a student and practitioner of Dialogue, I have constantly explored the question of how can we cross our thresholds to meet with the inimical other for the purpose of creating peace. Through my exploration of this question, I have developed a unique theory of dialogue that includes a definition of dialogue as an archetypal process that occurs in an enabling space and that has a set of observable phenomenon that emerge from that process.” [via]

I’m not entirely sure I ever integrated the notion of Haugk’s “Antagonist” into my work, but I have no doubt that it was an influence. Where I speak of the Unwilling Autonomous Principle, I realize that in my own thinking I include this idea of an “Antagonist”, which is to some extent like my interpretation and extension of Rosenberg’s “Jackal” as an archetype in my model of dialogue.

“The Jackal is that Other we are willing to engage and is willing to engage with us. Even though the Jackal may not be able to be compassionate and connected, the Jackal is willing to engage, the Hyena is not. The Jackal may take bites out of each and every Giraffe but will stop feeding when it is full, when needs are met. The Hyena will take bites from every Giraffe that it meets and will continue eating until there is nothing left to eat, including attacking the Jackals. The Jackal has authentic needs that can be met by the Giraffe archetypes in order to build a bridge between them. The Hyena archetype refuses to peacefully engage even if all efforts are made to satisfy its needs.

If the project of crossing thresholds into enabling dialogical space is to engage with our own Other, then staying with the safe intramural conversations in the Giraffe herd is not enough. If there is any hope for progress toward dialogue, the Other must be engaged even if that Other will consistently take a chunk out of every Giraffe. But it cannot be the point of the project to place us in suicidally dangerous places, pointlessly offering ourselves as a free meal to the Hyenas, because this also ends the project as surely as if it were not begun at all.” [via]

I’m not sure whether I managed to fully satisfactorily signify the “Antagonist” as either “Jackal” or a kind of hybrid, a “Hyena in Jackal costume”. But Haugk’s notion of the “Antagonist” is someone who, while unwilling to engage in actuality will constantly act as if they are willing to engage in order to satisfy their needs at the expense of others.

These inimical others are the most dangerous, because they are not just lurking about outside of our social groups and structures, but rather are actively hunting. These others are violently predatory toward our constructive social groups.

Paradoxically, as such things often are, these seriously dangerous organizational psychopaths are actually very often well thought of by those with whom they interact. The natural camouflage of these predators is such that they often appear to be the center of attention, and appear to be charismatic members of the social group.

Much like the apocryphal, prototypical serial killer, they seem to have adoring fans everywhere. And, that’s one of the most surreal things for anyone that finds themselves confronted or attacked by these predators within social groups. There is constantly this sense of the bizarre at the difference between one’s own experience and the way these predators seem to be seen by the group. One constantly feels like the protagonist in John Carpenter’s “They Live”; that everyone is blind to the true nature of what is going on around them, that they are surrounded by monsters and being manipulated into docility to ease their eventual slaughter or use as a pack animal (and yes, that’s a weak joke about being made into an ass, or moreover being made into the butt, or something to do with getting screwed there).

As they say, the first step is to admit that you’ve got a problem. The first step to dealing with the existence of those who would damage social groups from the inside without any remorse, beyond the way a predator mourns when all the easy pickings are devoured, is to recognize that such people exist.

Being able to recognize the existence of these “Antagonists”, these inimical others that are quite literally hunting us down from within (or perhaps to break my own metaphoric structure these are a kind of social parasite; dare I even say vampire? And not the fluffy bunny carrot sucking kind. Don’t even get me started on sparkles!), is not enough. Beyond the really, truly transformative experience of being able to name the phenomenon, as expressed by Bonewits above, and therefore validate the experience of that phenomenon, it is also necessary to respond to the existence of those phenomena. It would be nice if merely seeing that “Antagonists” exist was enough to, like some comforting fairy tale, magically dismiss them, but unfortunately what is required is an actual active daily practice of banishing.

In the conclusion of my thesis, I observe:

“I believe that meeting the inimical other is made possible through the practice of dialogue. This practice is for the purpose of human growth on a collective level, and to transform the self, others and the world.” [via]

And, indeed, this practice of dialogue is an intentional practice of both intra- and inter-personal transformation which has many possible similarities to the personal transformative practice of magick. There is need for a daily practice, a consistent commitment to the project. There is also a need for engagement within some kind of tradition, or within some kind of social group; after all, while I do admit to the possibility of internal dialogue, it is the external variety which is the more germane, or to re-use one of my invented terms “Relephant” [via].

It is in developing a social system which is adapted to respond by individuals invested in a fundamental social bond, in recognizing “an inescapable, essential connection between people that is bigger than any of us” [via]; in this is the foundation of meeting the challenge of “Antagonists” as a limitation to dialogue. But, it is also essential to recognize that the implication of not developing an adaptable social system is to be at the mercy of those who will, no doubt, happily take advantage of every opportunity to feed off of the essential vitality in any group in which they are allowed to hunt for food, or in which they are allowed to suck, for several meanings of that term.

It may in fact be possible, as I suggest in my thesis, to develop systems within organizations, founded on personal willingness and ability, to develop enabling dialogical environments where confronting inimical others is both possible and constructive; but, doing so very likely will require a strong dynamic archetypal engagement, one which may require intermediaries, mediation of one kind or another. But, it may also require something which I didn’t fully develop in my thesis, and about which I’ve apparently only spoken about in passing elsewhere: enclaving [Look for “enclave” or “enclaving”: see, also, et, et, et]. But, in essence, it may be necessary, not to abandon the project of crossing our thresholds, but to be willing to exclude when necessary those that stand in the way of dialogue in order to have any hope of progress:

“Dynamic balance within dialogical space as part of the dialogic process includes the notion of balance between inclusion and exclusion, a dynamic balance between collective and autonomous principles. This is one of the qualities of the boundary between the circles of engagement. Including the truly inimical is something that can be fatal, so exclusion is an essential function of creating a boundary at the edge of a dialogical environment. In my thinking is the notion of ‘enclaving’ where groups determine their useful and necessary boundaries. But, it’s also essential to the overall dialogical environment that these boundaries, which create enclaves, have the possibility for permeability. It is not necessary to take in the inimical, but it seems necessary to have an open invitation to those willing, and moreover to those that become willing in the future as the dialogic process builds and then permeates the surrounding larger environment, to come willingly into a more interior circle of engagement. Further, it also must remain possible for a group to hive itself off from a larger group when the larger group does not offer an enabling dialogical environment.

Thus a sub-group choosing to enclave with those actually willing can become the catalyst for future change in the larger group because they’ve excluded disabling or inimical entities, until such time as it becomes possible to re-cross their group boundary to further, ongoing inclusion. But, even if it does not happen obviously that further inclusion becomes possible, in the meanwhile the emergence of dialogue can create change in the environments within and without the circles of engagement.” [via a response to a comment]

So, it turns out that I’ve ended up recommending Haugk’s “Antagonists in the Church” to people I care about in every social group I’ve been in since I finally picked up a copy and read it. It is a very quick read, but I think it has the potential for catalyzing some very important conversations within organizations, and perhaps also the potential for helping to develop an environment in which true dialogue can emerge.

While I admitted to a certain loss of faith, if you will, in the necessity for the project; I have had recent occasion to have the seemingly surreal experience of having a social group, in which I was heavily invested but from which I had distanced myself due to disappointment, suddenly have, if you will allow the unexplained irony, a “come to Jesus” moment with Haugk’s book. Apparently, the book has spread like wildfire and it seems that the topic of “Antagonists” will be included within several of the internal organizational development structures of the organization in relatively short order. Huz-freakin-zah!

I had one long time member of that organization echo in a private conversation with me the sentiment expressed by Bonewits, saying “If only I had read this ten years ago, so much pain could have been avoided!”

So, I’ve recommended this book to people in every organization I’ve been in since running into it, and now I’d like to recommend it to you, and to the people in whatever organizations you are in. There’s something that is both seriously validating that comes from reading this material, but also, I hope, and moreover, contained within is something that will catalyze your next step toward both personal and organizational change.

Antagonists in the Church by Kenneth Haugk
Augsburg Books
January, 1988
ISBN: 0806623101 (ISBN-13: 9780806623108)
Paperback, 192 pages

Hermetic

The term “hermetic”, or “hermeticism”, is one that gets used a lot in esoteric study. There’s several meanings for this term, and there’s oppositional terms. Inspired by the possibility for a project recently, I thought that one of the first things I would do is to outline my own thinking about the term and how I use it. I wanted to do this so that I could think about the scope of what a project focused on hermeticism or using a hermetic viewpoint would look like. This is not so much meant to be a serious treatise on the topic, but rather an exploration of my current thoughts and ideas. This is more of an exploration than an essay, a marker at the beginning of a journey to help me see where I was when some point down the road I look back.

Hermes Trimegistus

The term hermetic is related to Hermes Trimegistus, the thrice-great. In fact, the late Latin term hermeticus is as much to say alchemical, and is derived from the name Hermes Trimegistus [see,amzn,amzn]. This is the hellenic Hermes-Thoth and, also like Ganesha being the scribe of the Mahabharata [amzn], is an archetypal magico-religious figure.

You know, one of the earliest references may not be to thrice-great but rather to triple-hero. This makes me instantly think of Triptolemos, literally threefold warrior, a demi-god in the Eleusinian mysteries [amzn,amzn] who was sometimes priest of Demeter, sometimes inventor of the plow (which is then a kenning or synecdoche for agriculture). Also, in the tripartite social structure of indo-european society [amzn], the semi-divine hero often fulfilled all three categories, being magician-king and warrior-poet and farmer-laborer combined. For example, Triptolemos already mentioned; and Orpheus who’s magical music commanded even the rocks and trees to his bidding, who was one of the warrior-poets of the Argos in the Odyssey [amzn], and who cursed the bees of the bee-keeper. These semi-divine heroes walked the line between human and divine with the task of both upholding and challenging the world-order [amzn,amzn]. Also, it seems to me that to pass into life and through the two veils of the tree of life, that of Paroketh and of the Abyss, is to be thrice-born.

So, the term hermetic means related to Hermes Trismegistus or the many materials he was supposed to have written on the topics of alchemy and magic.

The term hermetic is also a more general term for the overall syncretic tradition that is evidenced in much of the specific Western esoteric traditions. In other words, the term hermetic, includes those parts of the western tradition which use the hermetic modality in their thoughts and works. These include a cornucopia of what often seem to be wild-eyed, fridge, and alternative groups throughout history: Alchemists, Rosicrucians, esoteric Christians, Kabbalists, Theosophical and the Illuminist or Perfectibilist currents within Freemasonry. This current continues in many of the modern occult and esoteric traditions, especially with so many having some connection or exposure to the materials from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a true nexus point in the Western tradition.

This is to say that the hermetic philosophy is a kind scientific illuminism, which further term is familiar to those who’ve read Crowley [amzn]. This hermetic modality is a philosophy that attempts to relate, perhaps universalize, magico-religious principles. To the extent that this universalization denatures the originals, I think that’s not a good thing; but to the extent that this philosophy is one that normalizes the diversity of human understanding of the human relationship to the more-than-human, in essence facilitating the conversation between the blind men about the elephant, there’s enormous value.

Hermetic vs Mosaic

One way I often use the term hermetic is to mean esoteric and symbolic. So not more generally semiotic, but more specifically symbolic within philosophical, spiritual and religio-mythic contexts. Although, clearly, semiotic analysis and interpretation are useful. An example of this in use is from Campbell’s An Open Life [amzn]:

“Now, the distinction between the Mosaic doctrine and the Hermetic doctrine is that the symbols which are shared are interpreted historically by the Moasaic tradition, and in the Hermetic tradition they are interpreted spiritually. So there grew, during those first centuries of Christianity, a whole literature of the Hermetic sort in which the symbols, interpreted in the orthodox Christian tradition as historical, were being read in a proper mythological sense. And these then began to link the Christian myth to pagan analogues. The Gnostics, for instance, were in that boat. But the orthodox Christians insisted on the historicity of all these events.” (p77)

Notice that this introduces the oppositional relationship between hermetic and mosaic. I suppose it’s quite possible and reasonable to see Campbell as the source from which I started to use the terms hermetic and mosaic as meaning symbolic and literal. I don’t know now where or when I started to use these terms, so it seems as likely as any.

These two oppositional terms also for me have connotations of fun vs. boring as well as flexible vs. uptight, permissive vs. strict. Beginning to become more poetic in my analysis, I also see this opposition as curious vs. close-minded and multivalent vs monovalent and polysemious vs. synonymous. Maybe even to go overboard I also think of many other oppositions when using hermetic and mosaic: nominalist vs realist, existential vs essential, freedom vs slavery, existentialist vs positivist, empiricist vs realist, allegorical vs tautegorical, antinomian vs legalist. I could go on and on.

Clearly, I have some value judgements about this pair, and have a bias toward the symbolic, mythical side. I feel that the hermetic thinker is one that is curious and skeptical, one looking to test propositions instead of blindly accepting them. The discipline of symbolic thinking seems to me to be one that is necessary in the face of a modern world where propaganda and persuasion, in the form of not just political discourse but also in marketing and advertising, seem the most common styles of communication. Many times I find myself baffled by people who’s mode of thinking is mosaic, and most likely they by me.

To make my string of comparisons less pejorative to the literal, perhaps these can also be seen as meaning, to hint at the Tantric, expansive vs contractive, and thus akin to the Alchemical solve et coagula. Following this thought, these two form an functional set necessary for change to occur, just as the action of solve et coagula results in transmutation. This is the tug of war between the Asuras and Devas that results in the churning of the waters of the world through the action of the Axis Mundi so beautifully represented at Angkor Wat [amzn]. This is the analysis and synthesis of the ancient dialectic, the thesis and antithesis of Hegel leading to synthesis, and the dialogism of Bakhtin [amzn]. Seen this way, these are the yin-yang, the unity of duality, and here were now back full-circle to ideas of Gnosticism, Neo-Platonism and more, which can be seen as coming under the umbrella of Hermeticism; thus, the opposition is contained by one of the polar pairs, just as the yin contains the yang.

It is to me no small irony that another meaning for hermetic, which I’m not talking about except for here, is to be tightly sealed or impervious to outside influence (although also derived from Hermes Trimegistus) [see]. Because this seems to me to be generally the opposite of the meaning I’m exploring. Hermetic is a one word oxymoron. But, then again, here’s the unity in duality. And, indeed the universalist movements within the overall hermetic umbrella are a form of this contractive, simplifying, unifying effort even within what I take most often to be the opposite.

This opposition-within-position is completely non-Aristotelean, and warms the cockles of my evil little black heart. This is philosophical wabi-sabi. Put that in your pipes and smoke it, you frakkin’ Randroids!

Hermetic Drift

I’m not sure where I first heard the phrase hermetic drift but it’s a great description of the kind of lateral surfing through correspondences that often happens when thinking about esoteric topics, ideas and terms. Connections can be made between things which are symbolic, even poetic; not based necessarily on logic or science. The risk seems to me that this can become a trap in Chapel Perilous or a dinner-date with Choronzon (Watch out for those meat pies, Saturninus! [see]). There’s a term for the mania of seeing connections and patterns everywhere in meaningless or random data, apophenia. It is possible to get lost in Chapel Perilous and go insane unless one is prepared.

I’m not saying hermetic drift is a Bad Thing™. I’m just saying it’s a double-edged sword, so be conscious of where you’re swingin’ that thang.

Some of the worst of the new age is an overbearing universalism, which seems to me to even become appropriation. This denaturing of difference is the worst kind of old-school anthropology, like the Romans trooping around always engaged in a procrustean project to transform others into the familiar: “Oh, when you say Odin, you mean Mercury! Why didn’t you say so?” This seems to be one of the major projects, and thus I think failings, of movements like Theosophy; this essentially anti-intellectual, anti-academic haze that everything is the same and differences are mistakes in people’s understanding of their own traditions; it’s hierarchically arranged so that the so-called expert always knows better than the actual practitioners. This kind of expertise is really just another hall of mirrors, the echo chamber for the expert to see only what they are already conscious of in themselves everywhere else [see]. That kind of expert might as well be a brain in a jar never really engaging beyond their own illusions of self.

But, hermetic drift can be fun at parties, but probably not that useful for panty raids. Then again, no reason not to try anyway, I suppose …

Hermetic man vs Mosaic man

The old Golden Dawn was really uptight about the use of the inverse pentacle. Seeing the pentacle as the five elements, with spirit being the point either up or down; the inverse pentacle had spirit beneath the rest of the elements. The triumph of matter over spirit could be seen as being lost in the world of illusion. However, it’s also possible to see the inverse pentacle as being the process of manifestation, and thus an appropriate pair with the upright pentacle; this is the lightning path bringing manifestation down and the snake wending back up the tree of life.

In a pyramidical arrangement, the elements form the base with spirit as the apex. The capstone of an ancient pyramid was said to have been golden, and seems like a better representation of the perfect ashlar. This perfect ashlar is not cubical but rather, like the Benben, representative of the primeval mound that rose from the primordial waters before the beginning of time, sacred as the place where the first rays of the sun-disk fell to create the universe. In the Amarna period, the Aten disk’s rays were hands extended giving the symbol of life, the ankh.

From Yates’ Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition [amzn]:

“The Egyptian Adam is more than human; he is divine and belongs to the race of the star demons, the divinely created governors of the lower world. He is even stated to be ‘brother’ to the creative Word-Demiurge–Son of God, the ‘second god’ who moves the stars.” (p27)

Indeed, “Every man and woman is a star” [see,amzn], and “… a star in the company of stars …” [see] ring true to my ears. And, moreover, part of my own daily practice has been what I’ve called an Orphic spell, reconstructed from my reading on such things, a spell spoken to the guardians of the underworld by the initiated:

I am a child of earth and starry heaven. But my race is of the stars, as you well know. I have come here guided by the gods themselves. I am parched and dying of thirst. Let me drink from the well of memory.

Moreover, from the short “The Crimson Permanent Assurance” from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life [amzn]:

“Exec #1: Item six on the agenda: “The Meaning of Life” Now, uh, Harry, you’ve had some thoughts on this.

Exec #2: Yeah, I’ve had a team working on this over the past few weeks, and what we’ve come up with can be reduced to two fundamental concepts. One: People aren’t wearing enough hats. Two: Matter is energy. In the universe there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source which act upon a person’s soul. However, this “soul” does not exist ab initio as orthodox Christianity teaches; it has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation. However, this is rarely achieved owing to man’s unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.

Exec #3: What was that about hats again?”

Again, from Yates:

“… the difference between Hermetic man and Mosaic man, the one created divine, the other created out of the dust of the earth. The fall of Hermetic man is more like the fall of Lucifer than the fall of Adam.” (p27 footnote 1)

This distinction reminds me also of the notion I recently read in a collection of Steiner essays, The Temple Legend [amzn], of the Sons of Abel, or sons of God, and the Sons of Cain, or the sons of Man; those of Men to prepare the worldly and those of God to prepare the divine.

To equate hermetic man with the one created divine versus the mosaic man who is divinely created but of the earth is like the dichotomy between the upright and inverse pentacles. One is spirit triumphant over matter, the other is matter triumphant over spirit. Both are necessary parts of the process of creation, or existence.

The person that is developing a relationship with their divine self, whatever term one wants to use for that, and whether one thinks that that exists ab initio or is created through the process of communicating with it, either way this connection is made through developing a relationship; is a process by which one might be said to be remade from a mosaic into a hermetic being.

Then, in combining the two ideas, I might suggest that to think symbolically is to be closer to divinity. It is the mythological level which is more divinely imbued and more divinely directed. This is, I think, to say something very similar to how practitioners of traditional chinese Feng Shui talk about Chi, and that the information form is more important than the physical form [amzn].

I have running through my head right now the spoken word by Robert Anthony on Trance Mission’s track “Every stone’s dream” [amzn]:

“Every stone is light slowed down, tied in a knot; and light is every stone’s dream.”

Further, therefore, allegory and symbol seem then to be the way the mind of the divine works. To understand even a bit of the divine is to understand art, poetry and music; to be touched by metaphor and myth; and to realize that all is metaphor, all is in flux; and, flux is merely the appearance of waves on an ocean too vast and deep to ever be fully comprehended.

Fragments of Dialogue

In the last day or so, I’ve put up on my unbook site the first few fragments in a collection of further thoughts about dialogue not included in my Master’s Thesis, “The Fifth Principle of Dialogue”. I’ve called this collection “Fragments of Dialogue” and will be recovering sections that were cut out of my thesis, but which are still part of the work as well as what led to and came out of the work.

Beginning with a few fragments, I will continue to add to this over time as I go through the material. I had quite a lot of material that didn’t make it. Mostly, I just ran out of time and started cutting things that weren’t done yet or things I had already more or less mentioned before but on which I had more to say. There’s almost as much that I took out as ended up in. In fact, although I didn’t completely flesh it out, I’d envisioned three parts of which the material in my thesis was really only part one. Although part three in that vision was very rough even in my thinking and the least complete, I had quite a bit of part two fleshed out. All the thoughts that I had done something with beyond envisioning, I hope to put up as part of this addendum over time.

Some of this additional material is enhanced recapitulation of older material but there is new work and understanding there. By the time that I got to my thesis, I’d been actively writing about these thoughts for almost five years already. Quite a bit of the foundation for my thesis can be found in my earlier undergraduate work at Evergreen and woven in and out of the papers I wrote throughout my graduate program at Antioch. (I put quite a bit, but not all, of that earlier work up on my academic pursuits page.)

Anyhow, check out that new, and ongoing, collection of thoughts about dialogue if you’re interested.

Putting Community In

I wasn’t sure I’d ever even actually post this particular paper publicly. Maybe a little too revealing about myself and a community I was involved in, but it’s something that I was pretty proud of as a paper. But, it’s part of the work I’ve done connected to my thesis, so I decided to go ahead.

I examine questions of community engagement, place, dialogue and trust in “Putting Community In” and I’ve put that up on my unbook site today.

Crazy Together

Over on my relatively new unbook site, I’ve posted an even newer essay about social media, “Crazy Together: Searching for dialogue in the age of social networking“:

The thing about Twitter, and other online tools, is that it seems all really just like talking to yourself out loud in a public place. If you happen to be a stand-up comedian, that might be cool and entertaining. If you happen to be Hamlet, it might even be a literary device. But if you’re not, then it seems not much different than being crazy.

And yet, there’s this persistent feeling that something is going on that isn’t the usual. Somehow, it seems that, in spite of everything social media has progressed from merely one way broadcasting, through into an exchange of dialog, and even has the feeling, to those using it, of being a dialogue.

This is essentially the first essay of this kind that I’ve completed, from the many I’ve started, since leaving graduate school. It uses the theory I developed in my Master’s Thesis in an examination of dialogue in online environments. I was inspired to this mainly because of the main title which I developed in a posting a couple of days ago to an online community organized around Dave Gray‘s new work-in-progress “Marks and Meaning, version zero“. After that, I kept thinking about it, but then another colleague posted a response that really helped trigger, as a catalyst, the rest of the essay. Over the last couple days, the essay has really tumbled together out of my brain.

It felt really great to me to do this, and to have it come to me so quickly again. It’s been so very long. I don’t know if the motivation to this will last, but it feels a bit like coming out of a coma. (Has it really been so long since graduate school? Have I really been so turned off to my own work by the experience? Is it possible that I’m finally past the recovery stage?)

The commenting is broken over there on my unbook site because I’ve messed with the theme so much, but you can at least check out this new essay. Also, you can actually check out my Master’s Thesis and another essay about landscape and mapping while you’re there. Both my thesis and the other essay had not been published publicly before now, even on my academic pursuits page.

Although commenting’s broken so they kinda aren’t really unbooks after all right now, if you’re interested in what ‘unbook’ means you might check out Dave Gray’s post about the the unbook movement, unbook.com’s about page, or the CommentPress theme at The Institute for the Future of the Book.