Shockwave Rider

The mouse-soul is nothing but a nibbler.
To the mouse is given a mind
proportionate to its need,
for without need, the All-Powerful doesn’t give anything to anyone.

Need, then, is the net for all things that exist:
A person has tools in proportion to his need.
So quickly, increase your need, needy one,
that the sea of abundance
may surge up in loving-kindness — Rumi, “Increase Your Need”

I once considered naming this blog “Shockwave Rider” rather than The Chrysalis. Shockwave Rider (1975) was the title of a seemingly prescient science fiction novel by the British catastrophist writer John Brunner (along with other dystopian novels of economic, ecological and environmental disaster like The Sheep Look Up (1972) and Stand on Zanzibar (1968)).

I actually don’t recall if I ever read Shockwave Rider, but the title of the book has always struck me as an appropriate description of our situation, reminiscent, as it is too, of The Doors song “Riders on the Storm”.

What I love about the name “Shockwave Rider” is its suggestion, as image, of a particular attitude and approach that must be adopted for “staying ahead of the game” (or “the curve”), as the popular saying goes. It brings to mind Rosenstock-Huessy’s project of survival by “outrunning” the demise of the Modern Era, of the attitude of amor fati commended by Nietzsche for surviving his “two centuries of nihilism”, as well as Jean Gebser’s sober-minded approach to avoid being drawn into the vortex of mass panic and paranoia — of “the maelstrom of blind anxiety” — that he anticipated attending our present civilisational decadence and ensuing chaotic transition (today again brought to mind after reading Thomas Homer-Dixon’s article on Chaos as the New Normal). Too some extent, too, it brings to mind Goldlin’s and Kutarna’s plea for a restored perspectivity or perspectivism — as “New Renaissance” — in their book Age of Discovery.

To ride the shockwave brings to mind, of course, the surfer, and one might say that the same degree of skill and self-mastery is required here to keep from being bowled over and going under. Perhaps even our contemporary fascination with “black holes” also has something of the resonantly symbolic and mythic about it — the theme of being compulsively drawn into the orbit of nihilism and being swallowed up and devoured by that abyss of nothingness, for nothing presently in our “post-everything society” resembles a “maelstrom” more than how black holes are envisaged.

Shockwaves aren’t linear and unidirectional, of course. They radiate and propagate in all directions — backwards, forwards, inwards, outwards. That’s certainly one of the reasons why Homer-Dixon looks at four dimensions of the present turbulence. Shockwaves dismantle and deconstruct the familiar, articulated social order of times and spaces. What is considered past and what is future, what is inner and what is outer (or subjective and objective, private and public, or national or global) become all higgledy-piggledy and helter-skelter. There is here, in those terms, a breakdown — a dis-integration — of Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality“.

The shockwave is the tremendous force of nihilism, which is the process of death in its social disguise, but which always seems to be a precondition for a radical mutation of consciousness structure (or what we refer to vaguely as “human nature”). The stress (and distress) of ages in decline seems to be a necessary precondition for that mutation. Because it is nonlinear and multidirectional, it dismantles and demolishes those social institutions erected to guard the past and future times and the inner and outer spaces of life, which are everywhere known in various forms and by various names, as “the Guardians of the Four Directions”. The shockwave blows them away, and it often takes considerable collective effort, enlisting many generations, to restore them after the social cataclysm.

And the reason too many, today, don’t also see the social cataclysm in the making — that post-modernity bears a striking resemblance to the waning of the middle ages or the last years of the “classical” ages of Rome and Greece, but are even in denial about it — is owing to the problem of Roderick Seidenberg’s  “Post-Historic Man” (who is also Nietzsche’s “Last Man”) who has no collective memory of these other social disasters, and so has not become inoculated against their repetition for following the same pattern.

A shockwave rider is a sur-vivor who stays atop of, or ahead of, the shockwave, yet also skillfully utilises that shockwave to reach the other shore.

As Rumi also put it, “the cure for the disease is in the disease”.

A prior death is the precondition, of course, for any rebirth (a “Renaissance”). Gebser simply calls that process of death and rebirth the “double-movement” in our time of dis-integration and a new integration of the consciousness structure. The intensifying dysfunctionality of an older structure of consciousness (in Gebser’s terms, its “deficient mode” of perception and action, or what we call “crisis”) is the necessary precondition for its creative restructuration. A Socrates appeared when the condition of Late Greek mythical civilisation became dire — the decadence of the mythical consciousness structure. The Renaissance emerged when the decadence of Holy Roman Empire and the Age of Faith became too painful. What emerged in all cases from the shockwave of disintegration, deficiency, decay and social pain, was a new human type — a mutation — for no other reason, it seems, other than the need was great.



10 responses to “Shockwave Rider”

  1. davidm58 says : – Surfing the Waves of Change is an animation made about six years ago, exploring the idea of community resilience using the metaphor of a surfer to explain how individuals and communities can make themselves more resilient in these changing times. More relevant now than when it was created. The video emphasizes the more hopeful vision of the wave riders being able to initiate positive change that increases resilience. Less emphasis on surviving long-term disintegration and increasing dysfunctionality, but that narrative (as in the post above) should also be kept in mind when watching the video.

    I’ll have to check out the Homer-Dixon links. I have his book The Upside of Down, but haven’t gotten around to reading it.

  2. davidm58 says :

    Hmm, the wrong video got posted. I’ll try again for “Surfing the Waves of Change”

  3. abdulmonem says :

    what is resilience but coping with challenges in a rightful way on both the inner and the outer or as Polanyi said, to do things in light of the rules of rightness. Rumi narrated this story, to show the faulty path of those who want to reach truth without pain, strife or struggle, of a man who went to a barber to make a tattoo of a lion on his back to prove he is daring like a lion and when the barber starts working with the tail of the lion ,the man start feeling the pain and told the barber to make the lion without a tail and when the barber moves to make the ears the man feeling the pain told the barber to makes it without ears and so with the legs then the barber turned and said even god can not make a lion with these missing parts. Biologists start realizing that there is a bio-semiotic code more important than the bio-physical code that needs to be recognized if we want to understand what is life and the subtle ways of divine creation. At the end I like to translate chapter 103 of the quran speaking about human predicament which reads, the human is at lose, save those who have trust in the divine truth and do good and abide by that truth and call others to do the same and use the embankment of patience to fulfill that.

    • Steve Lavendusky says :

      “The fantastic, mythological world of the Middle Ages has, thanks to our so-called enlightenment, simply changed its place. It is no longer incubi, succubi, wood-nymphs, melusines and the rest that terrify and tease mankind; man himself has taken over their role without knowing it and does the devilish work of destruction with far more effective tools than the spirits did.”

  4. Scott Preston says :

    Some folks are more realistic than others

    The residents of Gary Indiana aren’t the only ones who know Trump is blowing hot air about jobs coming back. Coal boss Robert Murray really loves Trump, of course, but he knows reviving coal isn’t going to bring back the jobs people expect

    In consequence, working people are being thrown into fierce competition with one another for an increasing scarce resource — income and employment. This is only going to intensify social fracturing even more seriously than it is now. The conjunction of neo-liberal capitalism with robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence is going to be devastating (if climate change doesn’t get us first, that is).

    You really don’t hear too much about this in contemporary discourse (except the occasional warning from guys like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, etc). I was reading something by Maureen Dowd (a good journalist I think) yesterday “Elon Musk’s Billion-Dollar Crusade to Stop the A.I. Apocalypse”)

    Presently, I’m reading Yanis Varoufakis’s “The Global Minotaur” about neo-liberalism, and though a very good book, A.I. hardly comes in for a mention (Varoufakis was notable as Greece’s finance minister who negotiated with the EU for the Greek bailout, so he has a few insights into how the system works). It’s pretty clear from reading it that Varoufakis’s “Minotaur” is not just the Wall Street “Bull”, but Blake’s “Urizen”.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      working people are being thrown into fierce competition with one another for an increasing scarce resource — income and employment. This is only going to intensify social fracturing even more seriously than it is now.

      Too true, especially among the “over 50 and out of work” and “recent college graduates” here in the US and elsewhere. In fact, I’d wager that’s the source of the anxiety among the young folks on anxiety medications I spoke of earlier.

      The conjunction of neo-liberal capitalism with robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence is going to be devastating

      The nexus of neo-liberal capitalism and the corporate “Human Resources” mentality also mentioned earlier has been, is and will continue to be utterly devastating in and of itself. With the addition of the robotics, automation and AI aspects, it’s only going to get far worse before it gets better.

      Our most (hopefully not) prescient “mainstream” artistic connection is the Fallout series, imho. Not necessarily the video games themselves but the inspiration for them, which likely includes just about every dystopian science fiction novel we’ve ever read and, perhaps, some we haven’t. [Here’s the intro movie that presages Fallout 4, for the interested. Note the “steampunk,” futuristic-retrograde artistic style.]

      This is one among many of the indications I take to mean that everyone in the world knows on an intuitive level what we’ve been talking about all these years. We, as a species, just haven’t quite figured out just what to do about it just yet.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Some of the Plains tribes have a prophecy about the imminent “purification of the Earth”, which sounds quite ominous.

        Yesterday I took part in a webinar with the Treaty Alliance Against Tarsands Expansion and the Coast Protectors (against the Kinder Morgan line). While it was good, I was puzzled by the apparent lack of First Nations consensus about stopping “extractivism”, particularly as it affects indigenous communities. There is almost no aboriginal representation in the Treaty Alliance from the two fossil fuel provinces, Saskatchewan and Alberta — ground zero for pipelines and fossil fuels.

        It occurred to me that perhaps some First Nations don’t want to arrest climate change, because of the prophecy of purification. I hope that’s not the case, but it might be playing into the apparent lack of consensus (and, of course, some First Nations will be wanting the “jobs” that come with extractivism also).

        The prophecy of the purification might be connected with the return of White Buffalo Calf Woman (especially amongst the Sioux). White Buffalo Calf Woman is uncannily like the Virgin Mary to Catholics, and her re-appearance is heralded everytime a white buffalo is born (of which there have been quite a few lately — in Manitoba and South Dakota, which usually results in pilgrimages to see the White Buffalo Calf). So, the sense of an ending is pretty widespread.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          Every “ending” is also a “beginning.” Let’s hope “the miraculous” happens…though, of course, not necessarily in the ‘Fallout’ sense, except in the terms of “awakening,” perhaps.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Appropriate. This just arrived in my inbox shortly after you posted your comment and my reply

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