Theresa Anderson "I Theresa Anderson "I heard a lot of things" 2012 minimalist painting, enamel on dropcloth on pedestal
Theresa Anderson “I heard a lot of things” 2012 minimalist painting (4′ x 15′), enamel on dropcloth on pedestal

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an interesting blog on binary thinking, thaumaturgy, Voluntary Simplicity, Thoreau, “voluntary poverty”, “simpler” consumer products, marketing campaigns, New Age movement, magical instruction, ternary, a threefold relationship

an excerpt- “A bit of jargon will unfortunately be necessary. Human beings, according to the teaching you’re about to receive, normally think in binaries—that is, polarized relationships between one thing and another, in which the two things are seen as total opposites. That habit is universal and automatic enough that it’s most likely hardwired into our brains, and there’s good reason why it should be. Most of the snap decisions our primate ancestors had to make on the African savannah are most efficiently sorted out into binary pairs: food/nonfood, predator/nonpredator, and so on. The drawbacks to this handy set of internal categories don’t seem to bother any of our primate relatives, and probably became an issue—like so much that’s part of magic—only when the rickety structure of the reasoning mind took shape over the top of the standard-issue social primate brain.

The difficulty, like so many of the difficulties that beset humanity, is one of overgeneralizing a good idea. There’s no significant middle ground between food and nonfood, say, or between predator and nonpredator, and so the reactive response we’re discussing excludes the possibility of middle ground; it’s either edible (or considering you as edible), or it’s not. The more complex classifications that the reasoning mind can use, though, admit of a great deal of middle ground, and so do the equally complex relationships that develop in societies once the reasoning mind gets to work on relationships between social primates. When we have the opportunity to consider such things carefully, it’s not hard to see this, but the hardwired habit of snap judgments in binary form is always right below the surface. In most cases all it takes is a certain amount of stress to trigger it. Any kind of stress will do, and over the years, practitioners of mass thaumaturgy have gotten very good at finding ways to make people feel stressed so that the binary reaction kicks in and can be manipulated to order.

That’s when thinking in binaries goes haywire, the middle ground becomes invisible, and people think, say, and do resoundingly stupid things because they can only see two extreme alternatives, one of which is charged to the bursting point with desire (food rather than nonfood) or fear (predator rather than nonpredator). Watch the way that many people on the American right these days insist that anybody to the left of George W. Bush is a socialist, or for that matter the way that some people on the American left insist that anybody to the right of Hillary Clinton is a fascist. Equally, and more to the point in our present context, think of the way the peak oil debate was stuck for so long in a binary that insisted that the extremes of continued progress and sudden catastrophic collapse were the only possible shapes of the postpetroleum future.”


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