Gumption 2 – The Forthright Individual

With the tremendous and increasing sense of divisiveness we are feeling in our country and in the world, I sense there is an alternate wing of development in the human psyche and that is the notion of the individual. It is the desire burgeoning in the collective unconscious to identify less with groups and more as individuals. Therefore, I would to draw your attention to this paragraph, written in 1968, by Robert Pirsig, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

My personal feeling is that this is how any further improvement of the world will be done: by individuals making Quality decisions and that’s all. God, I don’t want to have any more enthusiasm for big programs full of social planning for big masses of people that leave individual Quality out. These can be left alone for a while. There’s a place for them but they’ve got to be built on a foundation of Quality within the individuals involved. We’ve had that individual Quality in the past, exploited it as a natural resource without knowing it, and now it’s just about depleted. Everyone’s just about out of gumption. And I think it’s about time to return to the rebuilding of this American resource…individual worth. There are political reactionaries who’ve been saying something close to this for years. I’m not one of them, but to the extent they’re talking about real individual worth and not just an excuse for giving more money to the rich, they’re right. We do need a return to individual integrity, self-reliance and old-fashioned gumption. We really do. I hope that in this Chautauqua some directions have been pointed to.

What does individual worth mean? In Pirsig’s terms, it means becoming a person who makes individual, personal Quality decisions, and approach every aspect of their lives with Quality as a guide.

In the Gumption Chautauqua, which I addressed in my last blog, it is someone who learns how to let Quality guide his train, and the way to do this is to learn how to handle the “gumption traps” that get in the way of Quality. “Peace of Mind” is the antidote to gumption traps. Like the Zen, “beginner’s mind”, or Viktor Frankl’s noetic, it is the ability to step back and see the big picture, thus drawing yourself out of anxiety, out of ego, away from impatience and boredom and most importantly, out of the rigid value hierarchy that is keeping your heart set on the outcome you have pictured in your head.

Viktor Frankl proposed a similar antidote to this chaos,  in that a person who has had the good fortune to have insight has a responsibility to make the highest choice, the choice that would imbue his present circumstances not with happiness, necessarily, but with meaning. What is life asking of us at this moment? What can we do right now to make the situation, no matter how awful, better? There is always something you can do, whether it is giving your last crust of bread to your starving bunkmate or not letting the lure of irritation and projection keep you from seeing someone else’s point of view.

Professor Jordan B. Peterson, who I refer to frequently, has based key components of his philosophy on the divinity of the individual, and frequently advises, and sometimes even desperately pleads for us to recognize the critical problem of allowing group identity to substitute for the individual. Peterson, a scholar of the murderous ideologies of the 20th century, seems to agree wholeheartedly with Pirsig, via Peterson’s YouTube lectures, that changing the world for the better is impossible without becoming a “forthright individual”, one that can lay the foundation for society.

There often comes a time in our own lives when we decide that we can’t do anything to change the past, so we enter therapy. Sometimes addressing past issues is a long process, and to finally make peace with attachment deficits, tragic circumstances, and even abuse may take extensive time to reconcile and work through. However, hopefully in conjunction with doing so, we might remember that the ultimate objective of therapy is to become a stronger, more resilient, more “forthright” person. As Freud said, therapy is meant to free us to work and love, and that freedom is earned through strengthening our capacity to do both effectively and with the ability to withstand the “gumption traps” that stand between us and quality, meaningful relationships and vocations.

In chaotic times like these, we might be tempted to throw therapy out the window and go protest against whatever side we oppose instead, to actively fight an embodiment of “evil”. But think about this tidbit from Peterson – you will know probably 1000 people in your life, and each of them, the same. You are one person away from a million. Now, maybe the best strategy for “changing the world” is to let the good rub off on your neighbor. Stated differently, from Pirsig – “A person who knows how to fix motorcycles…with Quality…is less likely to run short of friends than one who doesn’t.” And of a friend or foe, who is more likely to be influential?





ZAMM’s Practical Advice from the Philosophical – Gumption and its Traps

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the 1973 classic of philosophy, is filled with profound and practical observations on all manner of our relationships with being. These reflections and revelations are so numerous, and so useful, that to attempt to condense them into one blog does not do the book or ourselves any favors. I propose the objective is to use the book as a guide to live a better life. If that is the case, then it makes sense to break these useful and edifying concepts down into usable bits. This blog addresses the notion of “Gumption”, the drive that keeps us working productively toward our goals, while always keeping us oriented toward the “Good”. This includes a brief overview of Quality, a discussion of gumption and it’s barriers or “traps”, and what are the remedies. Endeavors of all sorts should be approached with the Zen “beginner’s mind” – an open and fresh outlook, or as they say in psychodynamic circles – without memory or desire.

The narrator of ZAMM presents much of his philosophical reflections in the form of written “Chautauquas” – which were sort of travelling Ted Talks of a bygone era “to inform and edify”. This blog is derived from the “Gumption Chautauqua” in chapter 25.


Quality is the sort of dynamic underlying pattern that can be detected as what is Good. Some ways to point the finger at the moon: it is the bridge between Science and Art. It is the sense of value that emerges between your purpose and the environment. It tells the right direction to go. It is the purposeful and right track of a well-constructed train of classical knowledge (roughly science, forms) led on the track of Quality by romantic knowledge (roughly art, aesthetic).


This quaint, old-fashioned word aptly describes a real-world application of Quality and how it guides the orientation towards value. It is the “psychic gasoline’ that keeps the endeavor going. When someone taps into Quality, they are “filled with gumption”:

A person filled with gumption does not does not sit around dissipating and stewing about things. He is in front of the train of his own awareness, watching to see what’s up the track and meeting it when it comes. That’s gumption

Gumption, however, can get stuck or disappear altogether through “gumption traps”, things that force you off the track of Quality. These are what lead to frustration, anger and just wanting to give up. They can be “setbacks” – external/environmental problems, or (using 70’s terminology “hang ups”, internal problems.

External problems, setbacks, are pretty obvious. When forces beyond your control come between you and your goal, there is not much you can do, especially if you are pushing yourself to tackle something particularly difficult, or which you are still learning and are lacking previous experience. The remedies to “setback” generally involve slowing down, rather than hurrying up to make up for the time you’ve lost. In this way, you can often solve the problem with a clearer vision – or realize you have to start again. A way to prevent this trap, or at least reduce its likelihood, is to try to be as organized as you can. Setbacks often go hand in hand with paid employment, so it’s important to somehow acknowledge that the pressure of “deadlines” or leaving the office sooner rather than later will likely be undermining.

The second category of gumption traps, “hang ups“,  venture into the category of self-improvement and the more “spiritual’ realm. These traps can be divided in seemingly infinite ways, but Pirsig puts these hang ups into three categories: value traps, which block affective understanding, truth traps, which block cognitive understanding, and muscle traps, which involve your bodily relationship to the problem.

Value traps

These occur when you have a set idea of how something should be. Facts are infinite, so your present value creates the facts you see. You see facts, but you don’t see all of them, because you are stuck in an old value system. This is a time to drop your idea of the way things “should” be, and deal with what is. An example of this sort of barrier is the South Indian Monkey Trap, in which a monkey can stick it’s hand into a trap and grab rice within, but can’t pull both it’s hand and the rice out. If it wants to escape capture, it must temporarily drop the value system that puts food at the top of the value hierarchy and relinquish the handful rice. The remedy is again, reminiscent of the Zen vein that runs throughout the book, is to pause deliberately and allow new facts to emerge.

Value traps are perpetuated by sub-traps including ego, anxiety, boredom and impatience traps. These will all be familiar to all of us, and need to be observed and remedied if you want to reconnect with Quality and get back on track.

  • Ego – If your ego is tied up in your endeavor, and if the subtext of your goal is to somehow bolster your positive vision of yourself, or that your successful accomplishment will be highly regarded by others, you will get stuck quickly in a value trap. A high estimation of yourself weakens the ability to recognize new facts. You won’t admit your mistakes and will become defensive. If you aren’t naturally modest, fake it until you make it. This is a tool in lieu of true beginner’s mind. Assume you don’t know what you’re doing and let the emerging facts prove otherwise, which some won’t and some will.
  • Anxiety – this is a trap many of us know well. Anxiety can arrest your desire to do anything at all, and can masquerade as laziness. This stems from a desire not to err. The remedy is to educate yourself to the best of your ability on how to reach your goal. The act of educating yourself is both distracting and compelling, so is anxiety reducing in itself. Education always increases confidence and interest in any project.
  • Boredom: You aren’t seeing things freshly. Your Zen beginner’s mind has become jaded. This is a setup for mistakes. Stop what you’re doing and do something else for a while. Sleep and caffeine can be remedies as well. For Pirsig, the most boring task is cleaning the motorcycle. But using this tedious chore as an opportunity to reacquaint himself with the parts and the whole, it was infused with interest.
  • Impatience: If you underestimate the time it will take you to achieve your goal, impatience and eventually anger will easily set in. It is common to underestimate time, so internalize this and don’t fall into the habit of telling yourself or others in giving rigid time frames when at all possible. Immediate goals may have to take precedence over long-term goals, which is a value trap compromise that must sometimes be made. Organization, again, is a time-saver.

Truth Traps

When a Zen monk was asked, “does a dog have Buddha nature?” the monk replied “mu” – “no thing”; there is no answer. You are not asking the right question. If a question cannot be answered with a yes or no, a zero or one, un-ask the question. You now need to “think outside the box”. The content of the question needs to be enlarged. It is obvious all computer data is zero and one. Oh really? What about when it’s turned off? MU! Your answer is beyond the question.

Muscle Traps

These include inadequate tools, and bad surroundings. Make sure your work environment is optimal as can be achieved. This might include adequate lighting, temperature, a bad chair, too hot or cold etc. This also includes practice. If what you are working on requires some degree of dexterity, you may have to develop a “feel” for what you are doing.


So, if you solve all the gumption traps, the track to your goal is clear and all you have to do is drive the train, right? Not really. If you don’t live in Quality at other times in your life, what makes you think you can automatically evoke the remedies and the beginner’s mind just when you are goal-driven? This really is the crux of the whole Chautauqua. Ultimately, the real train you are driving, the real motorcycle you are maintaining, is the cycle of yourself. Your environment and yourself, in very Eastern terms, is one and the same. “They grow toward Quality or fall away from Quality together”. Ultimately, the highest goal is to live a Quality Existence. The remedies for the barriers to Quality are not just ways to solve problems, setbacks and hangups; they are also spiritual “practice”.

ZAMM Reflections – Phaedrus’ Quality

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is known for being one of the best selling popular philosophy books of all time, and for encouraging a slew of disaffected youth to study philosophy. However, one of its major lasting contributions was an exploration of the notion of Quality.

Phaedrus, the “crazy” genius, who is the narrator’s electroshock annihilated self, but re-emerging ghost throughout the novel, became early in his professorial career, obsessed with the quest of Quality. Ultimately the sheer magnitude of the meaning implicit in this “metaphysical mountain climbing” led to his psychic demise. The narrator picks up where Phaedrus left off, and with snippets of memory and having read the “a trunkful of notes”, attempts to create a useful version of the theory.

As Phaedrus goes through the ringer trying to figure Quality out, his thought process is something like this:

As soon as you try to define quality, you lose it. Yet, you know what it is. You could name certain attributes: unity, vividness, authority, economy, sensitivity, clarity, emphasis, flow, suspense, brilliance, precision, proportion, depth and so on. But how do we understand it? Any irrational attempts to define it fall apart. Since you can’t define it, it has to be defined irrationally – it has to be sensed.

We know it exists, he says, because if you were to imagine a world without quality, it would be a rational world – a world where all needs were met, but nothing more. It would be grey, bland, banal. There would be nothing else but life support delivery. Imagine 1984, or Communist Russia. These are quality-free dystopias. To us, this is unsettling at best and hellish at worst. A lack of quality is apparent, and is negative. Therefore, Quality exists and is critical.

The Classicist wants to define it, but it is the Romantic who understands it. Yet, we see it in Classicism too. So what is it? Is it what unites the two? Is it somewhere in between? Perhaps the Quality of the Romantic is aesthetics and the Quality of the Classicist is function. Romantic problem is the experience of aesthetics in the present. Classic quality is long term, looking to things working in the past, now, and in the future. Again, these reflections point to an immaterial emergence. So it is not subject nor object, but where the two meet. In the Trinity, God is the Object, Christ is the subject. So maybe Quality is the Holy Ghost?

All of us seek quality, what’s better. If we did not seek what is better, we would cease to exist. So, Quality is an innate goal-direction that keeps us looking for food, looking for mates, looking for warmth. As we build up a repertoire of analogs of quality, our specific notions of Quality become individualized dependent on these experiences. Quality is the continuing stimulus that our environment puts upon us to create the world in which we live. Collectively, in this way we end up creating all the categories of man, creating our world: Heaven, Earth, Good, Evil, Philosophy, Art, Science “ All of it, every last bit of it”, he says.

With this statement, something shifts in Phaedrus – He then realizes he can no longer attempt to break it up as “types” of Quality, Romantic, Classic, elements of the Trinity, any component at all. “He put his pencil down and then—felt something let go. As though something internal had been strained too hard and had given way. Then it was too late.” He has begun his climb up the metaphysical mountain, into the mystic.

His realization: Quality is the source of everything. He sees it now, not as a completion of the Trinity, not Classic vs. Romantic, but as absolute monism. Quality is the pattern behind everything. He picks up the Tao de Ching, and, by replacing the word “Tao” with “Quality”…

Quality is all-pervading.

And its use is inexhaustible!


Like the fountainhead of all things—

Yet crystal clear like water it seems to remain.

I do not know whose Son it is.

An image of what existed before God.

…realizes that Tao is Quality. “He had broken the code”. With this realization, he tumbles down the mountain into madness.

The narrator picks up where Phaedrus leaves off. Not only is he not certain about Phaedrus’ conclusion, he does not believe any comparison will do. All Phaedrus has done is come full circle back to Reason, that which he was bent on destroying. He has come to compare Tao with Quality, acknowledging two absolute entities and attempt to grasp them, neither of which they are, or can be.

Quality is, yes, indefinable. Like the Tao, you can point to it, but you will never catch ahold of it. All you can do is, like the Taoists and like the mystics, live you life in accordance with it.

The narrator finds something in Phaedrus’ research that parallels his own view of Quality – the revelations of 19th century mathematician Henri Poincaré. Poincaré, mulling over the crisis in mathematics, being the early 19th century discovery of the impossibility of proving Euclid’s fifth postulate (parallel lines), realizes neither geometry is “true”, they are tools for handling facts. Since facts are infinite, we must choose from the best ones, but how do we do so?

There is not an absolute, a priori “truth” that we discover in science and mathematics, rather, something else that facilitates the emergence of something that seems right and true. This something he called the “subliminal self”, that which guides through the morass of facts and determines an underlying harmony that we, as a species, innately agree upon. These patterns become apparent through the work due to something like elegance – an aesthetic that the scientists and mathematicians know. His reflections left an “unfinished edge”, though. What about the aesthetics that artist knows?

“What brought tears of recognition to my eyes was the discovery that these unfinished edges match perfectly in a kind of harmony that both Phædrus and Poincaré talked about, to produce a complete structure of thought capable of uniting the separate languages of Science and Art into one”; The unification of Classic and Romantic. While categorically entirely different, the way an artist and a scientist determine quality is the same – it is universal.

So how does Quality manifest in day-to-day existence? Through Care and Meaning. What is meaningful, what you care about – this is where you will find Quality. The narrator cares about the maintenance of his motorcycle and demonstrates this care in the ongoing narratives of its maintenance. His careful, in-the-moment attendance to his machine is propelled Quality; the “psychic gasoline” that keeps him suspended in timeless pursuit of “better”.

Once as established as best he can, much of the novel, and many more of the narrator’s “Chautauquas” (edifying reflections) are dedicated to pointing at the moon of Quality. He also gives some advice on how to get back Quality engagement when it is lost to a “Gumption trap”, which I addressed earlier in this blog and in this one. So now that a sense of Quality is outlined, really the best way to further understand it is to see it in action and learn some life lessons. I advise you read, or re-read the great ZAMM.


Consider the Lilies


I have a delightful ongoing back and forth with a friend – a scientifically minded fellow who Alan Watts would refer to as a “prickly” person, as opposed to myself, a “gooey” person. The gist of our debate I guess could be called ontological as its substance is essentially whether or not the spiritual realm can qualify as “existing” and if so, in what form. My friend’s take on it is that the neurological mechanisms can cause what seem to be spiritual states and/or feelings whereas I posit that there is a miraculous a priori that expresses itself in the form of our relationship with the universe and that we tap into when we engage.


As an illustrations of our conflicting viewpoints; he thinks that the “words” of Jesus are suspect at best and likely irrelevant due to 2000 years of transcribing, re-transcribing, meddling, mistranslation and co-opting; whereas I see, regardless of the obvious problems of separation from the source through time and space, something of universal truth shining through. I have been trying to make the point that some of what Jesus supposedly said has much validity for transforming our consciousness to a higher state. Naturally, this assertion prompted him to ask me for an example. Grasping (with my limited knowledge of NT scripture) for a teaching that was obviously relevant, I brought up Matthew 6:28, “consider the lilies of the field” to which I described, in a simplistic and Pollyannesque way as, “having faith that everything will work out”. As my friend looked at me with bemused and deserved skepticism, I realized how embarrassingly off the mark I was.

The interpretation I proposed, implies that Jesus was saying have blind, sheep like belief in the benevolence of a higher power (God) to provide for you because you are a follower. This interpretation is both naïve and in fact, nihilistic – in the sense that nihilism is making and active decision to passively open yourself to the randomness that fate dishes out without thus manipulating the material world. Not only that, but it is in the same sense of forcing your relationship with the universe as you would be were you to grasp for an outcome (the guarantee of food/clothing/shelter). By asking his followers to consider the natural beauty and being of the lilies, he implies that by going with the flow of the world as it presents itself, you will not have to worry about that world not providing for you.

If this illustration does not clarify any further what he means by being provided for, consider it something more akin to advice given by the Tao de Ching:

Open yourself to the Tao

Then trust your natural responses

Everything will fall into place.


On the basis of this excerpt, consider that Jesus meant, the world provides within it a natural unfolding that results in the beautiful lily, which, being an expression of nature is provided for by that very nature of which it is a manifestation. We too are manifestations of nature, no less than the lilies. However, our survivalist minds, not being assured of being provided with means of survival, worry ourselves into a sense that we must control what the world doles out to us by forcing it to give us what we need. Neither Jesus nor this excerpt is advising us to give up and let things mow us over like victims. On the contrary, the advice is to engage by trusting – “trust your responses”, which are in themselves what we have been given by nature to guide us along.

Jesus advises, rather than worry and grasp for food, clothing, shelter:

Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

This passage seems to negate my earlier assertion that the teaching does not recommend a passivity, and can be interpreted to mean “just be holy and God will give you stuff”, but in fact, what is meant by the “kingdom of God” and “righteousness”? I again assert that the meanings here is parallel to “opening yourself to the Tao”. At the time Jesus was giving these teachings, the church was hundreds of years away from co-opting what Jesus said and formulating a series of “do’s and don’t” of social behavior. This passage not a behavioral directive, this is a call to allow something transcendent to guide you, not the world to act upon you. That transcendent “something” cannot, like the Tao, be named, so Jesus and/or subsequent translators have chosen “the kingdom of God”, meaning this world right now but viewed through a very different lens – one in which you are aligned with the realm of Nature; the kingdom of its own creator. In righteousness- alignment, you are opened to receive that “kingdom”, the Tao. This alignment opens you up to things as they are and your nature guides you appropriately to respond as needed to what is happening now.

It is such a tragedy to me that clues for living a decent, compassionate life are available (albeit somewhat cryptic) in the book that I see people reading on the subway and underlining with a neon highlighter. I would hope they are getting this message of transformation, but I fear what they understand is encapsulated in the following verbatim threat from a pamphlet left on my windshield yesterday:

Admit you are a sinner and you are going to hell unless you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior.

When really they could have interpreted the Golden Rule as this passage in the Tao de Ching:

See the world as your self

Have faith in the way things are.

Love the world as your self;

Then you can care for all things


Charlottesville – Sorting out Extremism

To begin the blogs on this site, I wanted to present an overall assessment of Quality in the context of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM)  by Robert Pirsig, in a both a practical and a transcendent way. However, while I am still muddling through ZAMM trying to get ahold of an understanding of Quality I can use in practice and in life, I feel the need to start off by sharing some insights and ideas I have had while trying to make sense of the Charlottesville massacre. It is the immediacy of this tragedy that I feel this should be my first blog, and how ZAMM Quality can be of use in my understanding. My articulation of Quality here is incomplete, but I feel the need to post this nonetheless, due to timeliness.

Quality, according to ZAMM, is based on a pre-conscious affective response. This response finds an underlying pattern of the “Good” in the phenomenology of experience. The capacity to determine Quality is something we all possess, but it is easy to miss if we are not coming at our experience with the wrong mindset. One informed by ego or anxiety, or self deception,  rather than a more meditative mind will not have ready access to that capacity. The experience of Charlottesville and what is likely to be an aftermath is a chaotic mess. To determine what is happening and who these people are is not as cut and dry as it seems. What’s worse, without any precedent, we are heavily reliant on our own faculties. We need to make meaning of this mess lest we get swept away, as many good people are already taking ideological positions. I propose that revisiting ZAMM’s notion of Quality as a remedy to rote party-line reactivity. But first, I would like to tie the divide to thoughts I have pertaining to the division, and to who these people are.

Because the evidence given for the reasons why people enter political fringes is so complicated, appears often to be politically divided (the left favoring economic factors over psychological), and mostly because I presently don’t have the time to launch a full investigation of this, I am only going to make this speculation that I offer up for debate: It is very possible that the fringes are not places optimally socially functional people tend to inhabit. These could possibly be places where people with social deficits go to, among other things, obtain a community they cannot acquire due to antisocial inclinations or other attributes that cause societal rejection. The fringes are also places where they could go to air their resentment and sometimes to find retribution. Essentially, I propose that both extremes could be heavily populated with people who use membership in the extremes to fulfill a personal vendetta (conscious or otherwise) against the society that rejects them. In terms of diagnoses, both personality disorders – Borderline on Left (love/hate extremes), Anti-social on the right. Additionally, the underlying temperaments and inclinations of these people will determine to which side they will go. I have recently come across some enlightening material that describes those inclinations.

Last month, my exploration of Jon Haidt’s The Righteous Mind – Why People are Divided by Religion and Politics led me to better understand the moral experience of each side. Now, as I continually reign in my natural left leaning to stay in the center (recommended by the Tao de Ching btw) I continue to attempt to organize the chaos of our political and cultural worlds in my mind. Jon Haidt illustrates the differences between the morality of the right and left. Haidt indicated that there are 5 Moral Foundations: Care, Fairness, Authority, Loyalty, and Sanctity. While the left tends toward care and fairness, the morality of the right is based on equal measure of all five. This implies that the left is not likely to see religion (sanctity) as something that should influence morality, and in fact, often denounces religion. Interestingly, the religious mind is a gene-culture emergence, so in the left that predisposition manifests onto the “sacred victim” of oppression. In the extreme, for example, these considerations would incline the extreme left towards communism, a doctrine of equity, over fascism, a doctrine of in-group superiority. The right does indeed value traditional sanctity, as well as authority. These considerations might incline the extreme right inclination towards loyalty to a more tribal fascism, led by a pseudo-religious authority.

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, using the Big 5 Aspect Scale of personality, which you can take here, has done extensive work on determining personality traits of political orientation, and has indicated he is working on determining the trait attributes of fringes. Peterson’s research shows that people on the left tend to be high in openness to experience, and subsequently like the idea of open boundaries at all levels of abstraction, from the free-flow of ideas and images, to disliking too much order, to feeling that immigration should be an open policy. People on the right, according to his research, tend to be higher in concientiousness. This manifests in preferring closed boundaries, “conserving” the status quo, being comfortable with predictability, closed borders, and strict immigration policies. Peterson indicates that the fringe left is also overly high in agreeableness, which translates into something along the lines of a “mother grizzly bear defending her cubs” in their rabid defense of their children, the oppressed groups, where the fringe right is overly high in orderliness (a variation of conscientiousness), which (in my interpretation) manifests in over-emphasis of the rigid borders to the extent that anyone outside that border is an inferior human being.

In ZAMM, as the narrator and his ghost Phaedrus lead up to an exploration of Quality, he determines two ways of being in the world: Classical and Romantic. The classical mode is concerned with underlying form, the romantic with surface appearance. The classical viewpoint sees the past as an informant of the future. The romantic viewpoint primarily appreciates the experience and appearance of the present. You could say, in this regard, that there is a time factor differentiating the two viewpoints. Romantics tend to be left leaning; Classicists tend towards the right. The time factor inclination of the right, following classicism’s long-term perception of time will find communism more objectionable than the left in part due to it’s historically long term damage it has caused and could potentially cause again. The left, inclined toward the free-spirit, in the moment, romantic perception of time, will find communism less objectionable than the immediate, emotionally charged realization of the short-term damage of fascism.

There is an important consideration that needs to be mentioned. There is presently a mode of thinking, which Ken Wilber calls the “green level”, which has progressed f from the “orange level” of the Enlightenment. The green level which values equal opportunity for all, not only the men who were considered citizens during Enlightenment times. In general, the “green level” has infiltrated all both left and right belief in a productive way as far as I’m concerned, in that most people see that determining others as inferior based on their biology as the among worst ways to view our fellow man, and views of this nature are deemed socially unacceptable across the West. Therefore, while the right may be more opposed to Communism by temperament and otherwise than the left, who see Fascism as the greater evil, all reasonable people find the neo-Nazi viewpoint particularly heinous, and as popular science author and podcaster Sam Harris recently indicated, gives fascism a particular poison in the immediate present.

That being said, that does not erase the specter of the left. Blatantly toting red hammer-and-sickle flags of their ideology, the more extreme protesters did not display the violence in this conflict – although I detect they were equally capable. They may not have been determined to be the worse of the two, and presently they are excused from the perception of manifesting the lowest form of hatred – the egregious belief in the inferiority of people according to their biology, per se. However, they have managed to distill their identity stance into a collective hatred for an identity group, lumping all white men into one category, and of which pathological members of that group have organized in direct opposition. While the fringe left are not the bad guys in this particular manifestation of the battle of these ideological demons, they are still the flip side of the coin, pairing with the mutually arising Jungian shadow of the fringe right.

So what do we do with these extremes? While the Alt-Right is particularly objectionable at this time, due to the reasons discussed, both sides are pathological, and both sides are causing chaos. This chaos is infiltrating society in ever-more worrisome conflicts. We are faced with a confusing phenomenology at this time. This confusion is one that has to be sorted out, lest we handle these conflicts badly or worse, get sucked in to one side or another based on our own inclinations. If our meaning-making of this chaos is one that, if informed by “low quality”: ego, anxiety, impatience, deception, etc., it can misguide us. However, when it is informed by authenticity, from a state of “peace of mind”, the Zen “beginner’s mind” and the state of quiescence, it allows us to make a meaning out of chaos that has Quality and can guide us on the right path. A path we must find quickly as all Hell begins to break loose.

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