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2019-10-03 | Subject | Standing in the Way of Control

It seems to me that in general civilization is about gaining control. This might be dominance over people, ability to store and distribute water, more bling, light at night, advanced medical care, access to food 24x7, etc. Whether control is gained by letting market forces guide behavior, or a command economy enforcing the mix of control and beneficiaries of control, the end goal of civilization is the same: control. This isn't that strange of an observation about civilization.

Current civilization mostly runs on oil. Even if civilization ran on magic material X, it is hard to imagine that it wouldn't deplete resources and cause destruction at a similar rate. Even if magic energy source X existed, and it didn't deplete resources or create the kinds of negative externalities that current energy sources and raw materials create when utilized, we still need to convert the existing infrastructure to something that uses magic material X, and this would be done mostly with oil. This is the situation with solar energy, but we also have issues with scale, intermittency, and storage. Further, oil is ingrained deeply in many products, including food production. I think it is fair to say that there is still a hard correlation between current civilization and consuming the earth and creatures on it. We are feeling the effects. The idea of rolling back civilization to some form that might work, is equally unthinkable and politically impossible, almost by definition. We just have to ride this one out, and the end of the ride looks scary (i.e. collapse and severe drop in population). If we had simply bootstrapped our civilization with oil, as Buckminster Fuller advised, we wouldn't be in this predicament.

That isn't what this is about, though, this article is about the idea of control. As the civilization example shows, there are issues with control, mainly that it can be elusive and illusory. Did we grip so hard trying to gain control that we lost all of it? It appears there is a decent possibility of that. As we ride this out, what else can we do? Well, let's look at the idea of control a bit, and come back to that.

What is the opposite of the kind of control I'm talking about as far as principles? It seems to me that the sermon on the mount, or the more concise version, the sermon on the plain, might very well be the opposite of control. This is a wee bit of a strange observation. At the time of Jesus, civilization was not really in a balanced state. Civilization was generally oppressive, although it gave citizens various mixes of control as described above, usually at the price of submitting: ceding individual control. Now, of course, when civilization is in play, it is to the benefit of those in control to convince people to let go of control so that they can jump into the control void for themselves. From this perspective, then, Christianity might be a good tool of control. I am thinking that Gossip's song Standing in the Way of Control is an interesting way to address this problem, as standing in the way of control could illustrate a way to keep the void, to keep God, instead of simply letting somebody else into the control room.

I suspect there is a double meaning of this song, where you can stand in the "way" of control as a stance, personally, or you can "stand in the way of control" which creates a void, or simply prevents others from controlling you. Now, we all came from this idea of needing control, but what is the opposite? At a personal level, what does it mean to stand in the way of control, to use my bastardization of the Gossip song? Do the teachings of Jesus fit these principles?

First off, while I was raised as a Christian and was officially confirmed as both Episcopal and Catholic as a youth, I am not religious in that sense as an adult. My interest is one of a socio-economic-ecological perspective. While it is true that the sermon on the mount has been part of my life for many years, I had to look up the general points for this essay. With that caveat, let's do a quick run through of the ideas of the sermon on the plain/mount and apply an initial reaction from the perspective of control:

Head trapper, Larn Claver, and family destroy the town windmill after the preacher goes rogue. Red Headed Stranger, Charter Entertainment (1987)

16th century Eastern Orthodox icon of Jesus Christ as the True Vine.

I am not alone in this correlation, it turns out. What started as a kind of thought experiment appears to be somewhat of "a thing". In his book Christ and Culture, H. Richard Niebuhr quotes Rabbi Joseph Klausner as he writes about Jesus:

...instead of reforming culture he ignored it. "He did not come to enlarge his nation's knowledge, art and culture, but to abolish even such culture as it possessed, bound up with religion." For civil justice he substituted the command to nonresistance, which must result in the loss of all social order; the social regulation and protection of family life he replaced with the prohibition of all divorce, and with praise of those who "made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake"; instead of manifesting interest in labor, in economic and political achievement, he recommended the unanxious, toilless life exemplified by birds and lilies; he ignored even the requirements of ordinary distributive justice when he said, "Man, who has made me a judge or divider over you?" Hence, Klausner concludes, "Jesus ignored everything concerned with material civilization: in this sense he does not belong to civilization."

Particularly with my recent focus, the Phlegm House Bathtub vision has a bit of a different meaning to me now. One other interesting coincidence about this entry is that as I started writing this correlation of civilization vs. Jesus, Sean sent me a video of a church near her childhood home. I told her that I just so happened to be writing an essay about Jesus and civilization, so she sent me a picture of it:

The church, without the extensions, looks quite a bit like the one in Red Headed Stranger, a simple church archetype, much like Little House on the Prairie.

I am going to try and cultivate some of these ideas in my own life. In what way can I stand in the way of control and protect the void that remains? I think there is some hope in that. I suspect that this is one way to dampen the extreme tendencies of current civilization. I get it that we have to ride this, but I don't think practice will hurt. Further, we will be forced to face some of the realities of control as we face extreme stressors to our socio-economic-ecological system. I am also interested in the idea that teaching doesn't have to be about control. One of the things that I'm shifting to is the idea of being a docent. It does not demand control; it facilitates understanding.

control church civilization jesus forest sean

Articles tagged with church on O.R.N.G.:

2011-08-01: Cloud Slackware
2011-02-13: Bros K and a few IPAs
2010-03-19: Implosion and Explosion
2009-10-13: Back Church Lot
2009-09-28: Top of the Church
1986-06-18: World Peace Flier
1976-02-01: Bus Driver and Principal

Articles tagged with civilization on Mud Hut Club:

2021-01-16: Little House of Information Technology
2020-12-24: Letter to the Future
2020-07-25: Consume Outside 23
2020-07-03: Tech Won't Save Us

Articles tagged with jesus on Mud Hut Club:

2020-07-25: Consume Outside 23
2020-05-24: The Big Lie

Articles tagged with jesus on O.R.N.G.:

2019-04-09: Wake up like Ezekiel
2014-04-20: Resurrection
1986-06-06: Give a Man a Coat

Articles tagged with forest on O.R.N.G.:

2012-01-15: Colored Seaweed
2008-04-22: Hot Rods, Earth Day, Nash Ramblers, and Timothy Leary
1986-01-02: Mountain Climbing Metaphor - The Mountain

Articles tagged with sean on Mud Hut Club:

2021-01-11: Frozen Snake
2020-11-19: Wrapped Car
2020-09-15: 2nd Place Turn
2020-09-14: Needs Water
2020-08-01: A Tale of Dishwashers: A Decade of Musty Water
2020-06-07: First Week & Jalapeños
2020-06-01: Pee in a Bottle
2020-05-24: The Big Lie
2020-05-23: House Move

Articles tagged with sean on O.R.N.G.:

2019-02-19: Who'll Stop the Rain?
2019-02-14: Fish Sticks
2018-11-10: Interim Sun
2018-10-20: What is O.R.N.G.?
2018-10-13: Where Do We Stop?
2018-09-18: Mr. Lucky's
2018-07-21: Gathering Journal Items
2018-06-30: Basement Punish
2018-06-21: Cookie Crush
2018-06-16: Outraged Southern Grandma
2018-06-15: Best Two Beers
2018-06-09: Red Rope
2018-06-02: Kantors
2018-06-02: Two Layers Down
2018-05-12: Knee Bubble
2018-03-03: Her Smile
2017-11-19: face_words
2017-11-09: dragon_and_rose
2017-07-16: Knight and Maiden
2017-05-28: Interesting
2017-05-24: Luscious
2017-02-22: ignition switch
2016-11-28: Starting Overish
2016-02-28: three legged goat
2016-02-04: Sean's Dad's Grave
2015-08-06: Boxes of Beads
2015-07-23: Dental Gulag
2015-04-06: Big Ford and Torn Fences
2015-03-19: Sean's Arms
2015-03-18: hand-in-hand
2014-12-19: White Album Letter to Sean
2014-12-17: Back and Forth Emails
2009-10-19: Yay Pick Sweep!
1980-10-31: Musical Chairs
1979-10-13: The Beatles and the Annex