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Overcoming Binary Options

Can modern nomads help institutions?

Yes or No – Black or White – Zero or One – Fight or Flight – To Be or Not To Be - is that THE question? These opposites, for sure, give us orientation between what we have a choice, between what we can decide – they open up spaces each of them in its own area.   

Yes or no leads to logic in well- accepted rationality, needing however taboos to exclude clearly existing non-rational phenomena. Black and white leads to sharp contrasts not always appreciated in arts and design and still lesser in colorful expression, and now largely rejected in colonialism and racism. Zero and one became the main fundament of modern computers and digitization enabling precise work but intrinsically not allowing to learn expression of feelings like joy or enthusiasm. Fight or flight became deciding for coping with singular situations like catastrophes, war and death, what to a large extent depends on tiny speed differences and certainly cannot be measured by counting steps of a certain more extended size. To Be or Not To Be – that is the famous question brought up by William Shakespeare.

Asian countries certainly feel themselves in a better position thanks to their deeply enrooted feeling for holism and the ability to sense small differences in the surroundings and to quickly react accordingly. These senses by far exceed the possibilities of pure rationality – a fact often little conscious to Western observers and especially to tourists visiting those remote areas hopping between largely different continents mainly for pleasure with their compatriots. Holism means weighing between slightly slightly different amounts of something – but what?

What is important – what is more important – is that the question? Language could be revealing or at least give hints. The German word “wichtig” just means measuring by weighing, but the English equivalent implies import – something coming in from outside. The difference between weighing and weighting is also a “smooth operator”.

A retired European scientist not only experienced in sciences, but at least learning several languages in his life and such an allegedly difficult Asian language like Thai still at an age of roughly 75 years disguised more and more as a so-called khlongraven. The designation derives from the channels of Bangkok that similar to Venice served as arteries pumping goods like blood through those cities and thereby creating a common feeling for community with high sensitivity for small differences in whatsoever. Is it just that what now would be needed in Western societies too proud of their economic successes? More and more the feeling is growing there that possibly exaggerated rationality as main basis of such success could miss essential parts of something almost forgotten – but of what?

The strange Raven after being forced to return to Europe by dwindling democracy in Bangkok rubbed his formerly pretty sharp eyes and saw on everywhere prevailing pixelated screens at many events showing up as leading representatives mainly men clad in black suits with a tie that remembers modern people in culturally different parts of the world rather to a penis. But this word is forbidden especially in this context by a taboo stronger than in most despotic former societies. Nobody contested it except initially a few green-clad leaders soon also silenced by the majority.

The Raven came from a country enjoying or, depending on the respective group, detesting a pretty active sexual life under in Western eyes undesirable conditions – even between elder men and younger women and not seldom twice a day regularly. Did just sexuality make up for the very visible difference of daily life in Bangkok and Berlin? It soon came out that other assets were at least equally important. Downtown Bangkok is notorious for air pollution between the skyscrapers serving as well for working as for living for people attracted by modern American-style business and capitalism. Large parts of the remaining population and also the Raven lived in the mainly Thai suburbs where ancient temples remained largely untouched by the bad air downtown. He frequently liked following the traditional habit of leaving the city for either the coast and islands or for the interior country with vast rice fields or jungle wildlife reservations.

Not only lifestyle appeared attractive there. More and more first in Asia and then after return to Germany enforced by repressive new dictatorship in Thailand he felt attracted by modern philosophy. Increasingly he began asking himself what might be the essence of modern philosophy and to question both words – modern and philosophy thereby getting interested in metaphilosophy.

As scientist and especially as physicist modern meant not just recent times, but especially included the dualistic view of particles or waves first introduced in the wake of quantum-mechanics. This was in agreement with uncertainty or, in simpler largely correct words, with transparent borders. These, however, also showed up in biophysical work on membranes which proved not to be sharp separations but transition areas with important properties as, for instance, photosynthesis.

Having lived in Asia philosophy not just meant logic and rationality or cognition and processing by the human brain. The other parts of the body and their associated abilities were equally appreciated. This mainly refers to feelings and fitness attributed to the upper body, power and sexuality attributed to the abdomen, and activities and mobility attributed to arms and legs. It is in agreement with actual concepts of nature and culture connected by smooth transitions.

The public interest for such considerations seems minimal as opposed to own convictions. This conflict especially could arise from and affect the role of institutions in modern societies, which largely rely on the idea of maintaining tight borders as well around themselves as between territories. It also questions the strict delimitation of parties and similar public organizations thus giving preference to more transparent institutions under the heading of movements.

This could cause us to understand the hesitant position of all those people possibly affected by such concepts which in own view would however mean essential progress towards a really modern philosophy nowadays meriting this designation. Philosophy had lost large parts of its appeal what seemingly was welcomed by religious circles. Religion and philosophy, despite all intentions to unite them, remain to a certain degree opposed to one another. The above described intentions can, of course, be conceived as support for further secularization.

The first step needed might be to free philosophy from the tight ties to institutions by controlling, teaching and examining it. Not all but many universities appear to be guilty in this aspect. Modern nomads could help to fill these gaps.

© All rights by Hans J. Unsoeld, Berlin 2021


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