Fluidity: a preview

This page is unfinished. It may be a mere placeholder in the book outline. Or, the text below (if any) may be a summary, or a discussion of what the page will say, or a partial or rough draft.

This page (when written) will sketch a preview of the fluid mode. It will be only a preview, because most of Meaningness and Time will be about the fluid mode. This page specifically relates fluidity to its history: its evolution out of recent previous modes of meaningness.

One way of expressing fluidity is to say that cultural conditions are now right for understanding and acceptance of the complete stance. There is a widespread tacit understanding that social, cultural, and psychological systems do not “work,” and cannot “work,” if “work” involves any sort of guarantee. In other words, eternalism is unworkable. There is also widespread tacit understanding that nihilism is unworkable (and, in fact, silly). The atomized mode ideally dissolves all patterns, which is obviously impossible. So tacitly we all understand that meaning must be both nebulous and patterned—and this is exactly the complete stance. “The fluid mode” consists of working out what that may mean for society, culture, and self.

The fluid mode goes meta on the previous modes. That is, it understands meaning as a dynamic process of evolution through social, cultural, and psychological change. It recognizes all the problems that the previous modes tried to solve, synthesizes what was right in each attempt. It also abandons what was wrong in each.

The countercultures wrongly rejected rationality, because the systematic mode had absolutized it. The subcultures rejected universalism—rightly, but absolutely, which made nation-scale structures impossible. Atomization made coherence impossible, which could become disastrous. During the eras of these three modes, rational, large-scale, coherent systems became increasingly inconceivable—but without them, civilization is impossible.

The fluid mode must reinstate rationality, universality, and coherence, but with recognition of their nebulosity. In fluidity, systems are relativized, not eliminated.

The fluid mode follows the atomized one. Atomization’s great contribution is an instinctive appreciation of nebulosity. At an intuitive, kinesthetic level, we have all become much more comfortable with ambiguity, chaos, uncertainty, and volatility. What’s missing is an understanding of how pattern arises:

  • impermanently
  • creatively
  • biologically
  • collaboratively
  • spontaneously
  • in dependence on the non-human realm

Atomization bears new problems of meaningness: the overwhelming torrent of meaning spewed by the internet; its triviality, causing distraction from value judgements; and perceived tensions between internet and “real life.”

Atomization is a fact; it can’t be reversed. The question to ask is “how can we live enjoyably and effectively in a world in which society, culture, and self are atomized?” Part of the answer is: by constructing temporary assemblages of greater meaning—while recognizing that they can’t be answers or eternal or ultimate or universal or any of those obsolete absolutes.

Fluidity addresses atomization’s defects with watercraft that sail the sea of meanings. (This nautical metaphor will get quite complex, I’m afraid!) These ships must be collaborative, creative, improvised, intimate, transient, beautiful, playful, and spiritual.