1.1 A response to Daniel Hill's posting (Deborah Barlow)

In his posting Daniel Hill wrote, “The way back will take place as artists recognize they are holding the keys to the main commodity of the future: meaning.” 

 I would phrase that differently. From my view, the main commodity of the future is the ability to emphatically embrace not knowing. The humanism we are discussing is closely tied to knowledge, sense-making, meaning. I am more interested in what shows up in the absence of those formalizations. 

 In speaking about her father, Gregory Bateson, Nora Bateson expressed a similar idea: “My father used to say, ‘The new comes out of the random.’ Mutual learning happens in the entropy; we need the confusion to release the new. This dance exists everywhere in nature. It is the swarm of confusion that becomes the grace of the way things come together. The individual paradoxically is both erased and brought to another kind of existence in noticing her participation in a larger context. In the space between the instrument, the musician, the notes, the audience, and silence, the song arrives. It is not in the instrument, nor is it in the musician, nor in the silence. The notes on the page are a map, not a territory. New meanings, new levels of understanding, come pouring into combinations born of our eagerness for contact.” 

 To take the philosophical position that we are essentially adrift in an inexplicable and ineffable state is usually dismissed as facile, lazy and unproductive. There is little respect for mystery as a meaningful part of our lives. And for all the embracing of the other that is evident right now, there still isn’t really a place at the table for the mystic. 

 It is a hard vision to defend and describe in any logical manner. But for many of us (including many artist friends) that’s the place where we keep finding ourselves. “The swarm of confusion that becomes the grace of the way things come together.” That experience can be inclusive or exclusive, small as well as large. But that is an experience I know something about.

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