I’m listening to Daniel Thorson’s conversation with Zak Stein today and feeling deeply receptive to it.

Zak’s mention of McLuhan was particularly revelatory. It made me think of the loss/gain character of any new medium. New media extend us, but they also cut us off—like the car replacing the foot. Social media extends communication, but it also replaces the important, sensemaking embodiment of voice and presence.

…And so, when we open our mouths, we Tweet. We Facebook Status (as verb). We project a virtual world to side with. To text, to tweet, is to have a prosthetic voice. What other options are there? Zak analogizes this to smoking even when we know it’s bad for us. In this case, to speak, to reach out and in turn be received, we must inhale the toxic fumes of memetic polarization. And this is by design.

The recent “Stay At Home” episode on Jacobin with Amber Frost and Matt Christman also speaks to this problem:


But I think Zak offers some helpful ways to “seeing through” the media and orienting it toward “down to Earth” sensemaking ground, which may require use to get offline to rediscover. Voice, connection, communication, love.

I share Daniel’s frustration with meta-narrative discussions and framing—which, looking back, I think I partly expressed in our Emerge conversation over a year ago now (concerning meta thinking and metamodernism in general, which I’ve since come to appreciate in a more complex way):

Daniel might also appreciate the essay I contributed to @TheSideViewCo on this subject of going meta as participatory and phenomenological; not needing to climb higher heights of abstraction but rather to work at becoming more present to the felt-sense of what is happening to us and our involvement in the changes this world is undergoing. I would add today that the felt-sense of this planetary crisis (which the social media issue is but one, if not predominant concern), this structure of feeling, can itself become deeply instructive and re-orienting. The crisis is teaching us what has the potential to emerge. But as Zak and Daniel express so well in their podcast episode, it requires a turning toward uncertainty and liminality; Le Guin’s “nusuth” 1 in The Left Hand of Darkness.

And finally, Jason Snyder and Jared Janes talked with me about the “Meta, Modern” essay and going meta/integral in a more participatory and phenomenological way on Both/And podcast.

Certainties don’t seem to be yielding themselves— but that would merely be information, as Daniel mentions at the beginning of the episode. When we move beyond knowing or unknowing I think we can begin the process of mutual learning2 with the crisis, and so our certainties become replaced by transparencies, which invite us not to know but to participate.

  1. “The Handdara is a religion without institution, without priests, without hierarchy, without vows, without creed; I am still unable to say whether it has a god or not… It was an introverted life, self-sufficient, stagnant, steeped in that singular “ignorance” prized by the Handdarata and obedient to their rule of inactivity or non-interference. That rule (expressed in the word nusuth, which I have to translate as “no matter”) is the heart of the cult, and I don’t pretend to understand it… Nusuth, the ubiquitous and ambiguous negative of the Handdara…” — Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness.
  2. Nora Bateson, Small Arcs of Larger Circles: Framing through other patterns (Axminster: Triarchy Press, 2016), Kindle Edition, 499.