Sunday, July 1, 2007

Grok Around the Clock

So, with no new developments to report (see my last two blog entries if you don't know what I mean), here's something different.

I set up a page on MySpace not too long after I started this blog, which has been an interesting experience in and of itself, but I won't go into that right now. But, in my explorations through those uncharted realms, I came upon a blog with a spiritual emphasis, written by Cristina Smith, and in particular to the following blog entry (you can click here to go to that page, but I'm reproducing the post here):

Aha Moments of Sublime Grokking

Last night a visual artist was telling me about how he works with his blank canvas. He knows there a vision is ready to manifest on it. Sometimes he can even name it. It is just a matter of invoking it, courting it, waiting for it. Nurturing it like a seed. Finding ways to nourish the dance of creation without birthing it prematurely and not being attached to what it looks like when it does appear.

Another friend describes what he does as 'making stuff from crap'. When I asked him what he meant by that he said that he can usually surmise the way a device is used based on a handful of parts because they kind of resonate and have an affinity for each other. They love to be part of the harmony. He is talking about mechanical things. I find this approach to life to be an art form and a wonderful spiritual experience...being open to, as Heinlein called it in Stranger in a Strange Land, awaiting fullness.

This kind of experience takes patience, perseverance and dedication to being in a co-creative process with the Universal Force. The result of achieving fullness is grokking, another Heinlein term meaning innate knowledge, quintessential understanding beyond intellectual reason. Grokking transcends the physical plane context of the application~ what matters is the process.

One way I regularly experience aha moments of sublime grokking is with food. Sometimes I can be at sitting with an abundance of homegrown produce or wandering around a grocery store awaiting inspiration for a dish. Then a picture, smell and flavor enter my mind. The entire alchemical process of creation unfolds symphonically within me as I move in a space of mergedness to gather the ingredients and/or write down the concept. These are moments in food alchemy that I live for. And then it gets even better as I prepare the dish and feel the dance moving me. The result of that blending often culminates in culinary ecstasy.

In what parts of your life do you practice achieving fullness?
Is there a specific medium in which you have a natural talent for grokking?

Oh, and if you would like a recipe for Green Goddess Soup, the result of one of my grokkings, I will be happy to share it with you.

Those of you of a certain age may recall that Robert Heinlein's science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land was enormously popular during the sixties and into the seventies, the title alone becoming emblematic of the sense of alienation associated with the counterculture, and the Heinlein neologism grok became popular as well at that time. It referred to understanding in a very deep and complete way, and it complemented the use of rap back then, which didn't mean reciting poetry to hip hop music, but rather referred to a very deep, meaningful, intimate and honest dialog, one that opened the door to the participants really grokking one another. Wikipedia has an entry on grok, of course, and they include a quote from the novel where a secondary character defines it:

Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because we are from Earth) as color means to a blind man.

The entry also notes that, in the novel, the literal meaning of grok is to drink, and given that it's a Martian word, and Mars is pretty much hurting for water, that says a lot. So, anyway, I decided to post a comment to Cristina's entry, and the first part went like this:

Heinlein based much of his SF on general semantics, including the idea of grokking, which does refer to understanding that goes beyond intellectual reason, but not to innate knowledge, per se. Both intellectual reason, in the sense of deductive logic, and innate knowledge in the sense of turning inwards into our own thought worlds which are dominated by the language and symbols we use, would be examples of what's known as an intentional orientation in general semantics. Instead, what's recommended is an extensional orientation, opening ourselves up to the outer world, opening the doors of perception, getting past symbols and labels that lead us to prejudge and categorize reality, getting as close as possible to direct contact with the phenomena we experience, with the human lifeworld.

Another general semantics based concept that appears in Stranger in a Strange Land is the fair witness, a person so well trained that they will always describe exactly what they see, and never contaminate his or her statement of fact with a judgment, opinion, or inference. The example Heinlein gives in the book is that if you ask a fair witness what is the color of the house he or she is standing in front of, the answer will be along the lines of, "white, on this side" (because you can't be sure for a fact that it is also white on the other side if you can't see it and have never been there before, to assume that it is would be to make an inference, and the distinction between fact and inference is essential in general semantics, and law for that matter, and an inference is an assumption you know, and after all we all know what happens when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me, thank you Felix!).

So anyway, I quoted Cristina's post with the original wording above, but she very graciously responded on her blog with the following comment:

Thanks for the further definition of grok. I've changed the word innate to gestated.

And if you go back and read the post, you'll find that it now reads:

The result of achieving fullness is grokking, another Heinlein term meaning gestated knowledge, quintessential understanding beyond intellectual reason.

Now, I'm not saying that it's of earth-shattering importance for anyone to grok grokking, but holding that aside, I think the new phrase, gestated knowledge, is much improved, and actually quite evocative. In fact, I wrote another comment in response:

I like that, gestated, it's very pregnant with meaning.

And we can grok around the clock here, but I had a second part to my first comment, which went like this:

I very much like the question you raise about the relationship between specific media and grokking. Different media lead us to different understandings of the world, or as Marshall McLuhan put it, the medium is the message. Much of my own grokking comes through the medium of words, by working with and playing with words. But I rely on the interplay of the verbal media of speech, writing, printing, and electronic text. And I try to balance all those words with nonverbal perception, ritual and art, and a variety of other media. I find that grokking often comes by way of the juxtaposition and joining of different media, as opposed to reliance on one specific medium.

It's very interesting to see here a kind of nascent media ecology applied within a spiritual context. It's not surprising, as I have long maintained that media ecology does allow for religious and spiritual approaches that does not just reduce things down to some sociological or psychological effect. And, of course, media can be communication technologies, or any other kind of technology or technique, or any mode or code of communication, or any situation, context, or environment.

McLuhan referred to media as extensions of the human body, but the body itself is also a medium, and for this reason I found it interesting to read the following in an earlier post by Cristina:

Perhaps the only thing every person on this planet has in common is that they inhabit a body. These bodies are the medium through which we engage the Earth. No matter what the individual shape, color, size, or life condition, bodies are born and will die.

I think of my body as the temple in which I practice the ritual of life. It is the vessel through which I manifest the form and force of the Universe and the vehicle through which my soul enacts this chapter in its evolution. My body is my constant companion; I carry it with me wherever I go. I am not my body, though we have a mutualistic relationship~ when I serve it well, it serves me well. It's the only place I have to live right now, so I like to listen to it, nourish it and consciously interact with it.

My point in bringing this up is that the concept of medium is more than a topic or object of study, it is a method, approach, a way or tao if you like. In any given context, we might ask what is the medium here, and what is its content, and in this way gain new insight into whatever we're studying.

And on a related topic here's an except from one other post from her blog:

Magickal shapeshifting is a great way to transform your world. Think of Madonna and the different ways she has intentionally shifted the public's perception of her as an icon. She has exercised her right to express herself as a changeling…someone you can't pin down or box up or hold into any preconceived role. She has done this quite intentionally, masterfully crafting each shift intricately.

When I use the term magick it means the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with your will. And, what follows is that every intentional act is a magickal act. Magick is an external manifestation while mysticism is internal. I have found the alchemy of the self to be the blending of the two through practice of both.

When I think of magickal shapeshifting, I think of the chameleon. Although the chameleon adapts its appearance to its surroundings, I also have experimented with not adapting…being proactive and outrageous as a matter of fact. Both seem to have their place.
Or course, Madonna is a favorite subject of Camille Paglia, who sees the icon as representing a kind of pagan magic. And in Part Two of Echoes and Reflections: On Media Ecology as a Field of Study I wrote that media ecology is about transformation and metamorphosis, be it symbolic or material. For that matter, I wrote on the topic of Magic Ecology in a previous blog entry.

I'm not trying to advocate anything here, mind you. Nowadays, we're all seekers, although some of us try to hide it. So, with the clock ticking away, we might as well rock around the grok, don't you think?

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