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Substack Newsletter #1: Pure Love, Something Deeperism, Politics, Race, The Give Up

This project began ten years ago, when Bartleby Willard wandered into a worldhistoric publishing house, sat down at a desk or the lunch table (depending on which version you hear), declared himself a live-in staff writer, and began writing.

Pretty much immediately, the Titanic (original sense of the word: as in they exist prior to timespace) chief editors of this little-known but universally-celebrated publishing house made Amble Whistletown (brother to one of the aforementioned publishing Titans) Bartleby’s editor, and Bartleby told everyone that he would now honor capitalism’s unspoken but ever present promise of manufacturing, marketing, selling, and delivering Pure Love at reasonable prices. So everyone could finally own Pure Love and be happy like the ads say they will.

In one sense, this all happened within fiction and thus outside of the flow of time. In another sense, all these big hopes occurred about ten years ago. That, at any rate, is when they were first writ down and so began to believe in themselves.

Many books, many advertisements for Pure Love, many essays and poems — much was written by Bartleby and Amble. But nothing, and I mean nothing, ever came of any of their efforts.

Now they are making a newsletter. Why? What news have they to share with the world?

“We give up again!” ??

Here’s a couple ads from our 2019 Pure Love Ad Campaign: Should we consume what we deserve?Pure Love for Sale (but not for pickup or delivery)!

The various Pure Love ad campaigns and a few other go-nowhere ventures can be found in the Love Book part of Pure Love Shop.

What is it like to work on a project for ten years without anyone caring? It’s just kind of empty.

I don’t know if it was the actual original idea or if it came along a little later, but early on in the notion, Bartleby declared that he’d manufacture Pure Love in fictional realities — where one can, so long as one abides by the in many aspects more forgiving aesthetic Laws, do pretty much anything — and then push and pull the Pure Love out into our experienced reality (such as it is, and relating to Reality in ways that we don’t quite fathom), where he would sell It at a reasonable but yet still profitable margin.

I guess he never figured out the details, because we’ve never sold Pure Love, our souls, or anything with any metaphysical consequence (do we overstep ourselves in allotting metaphysical significance to our measly mortal souls?). What we did do is release a collection of stories about manufacturing, marketing, buying and selling Pure Love. This book is called Love at a Reasonable Price, Volume 1: First Loves. No one who started it liked it enough to finish it, and no one even ever started the companion essay book, First Essays. So, still relatively free of discouragement or other natural reactions, we drew what we thought to be particularly readable and entertaining selections from those two volumes and the websites, and released A Readable Reader. To our knowledge, one person read this book and liked it pretty well.

We can return to a discussion of the loneliness of writing without an audience on another day. Now let us move to another great regret: Nobody cares about our philosophy. We are serious Something Deeperists. Or at least we seriously mean to be serious Something Deeperists. We feel like Something Deeperism can save the country and the world, but nobody cares to hear about it and we don’t even understand why or what we’re doing wrong.

We created the Something Deeperism Institute many years ago. Maybe it was eight years ago. We don’t know exactly how many years ago it was. We could easily find out by going through the revision history of the main page that we just linked to. But we choose not to because it seems to us an uncritical detail.

What is Something Deeperism? It’s the general worldview that there is a Truth, and humans can relate to It meaningfully, but not in a literal/1:1/definitive type of way. The goal is not scientific, objectively-measurable/-verifiable knowledge about the Truth, but rather an organization of one’s feeling/thinking/acting around the Truth shining in and through all things. In this way, a person could hope to grow in whole-being (feelings/notions/ideas all interacting meaningfully with one another and with the Truth at the center of one’s conscious experience) insight into the Truth, so that one could gain more and more insight into that and in what way it is True to say, “We are all in this together.”

This insight about the Truth could of course only be expressed in language poetically (not literally precise, verifiable, or true; but not therefore necessarily inadequately precise, verifiable, or true), since the Truth would have to be (if It is to be what we need It to be) wider and deeper than human feelings and ideas; so again there would be no literal definitions and demonstrations, but instead a gentle pointing-towards.

In short, Something Deeperism is the belief that the mystics are really onto something and we should all work to grow in the kind of experiential wisdom that they pursue.

We (would-be?) serious Something Deeperists generally break our arguments for pursuing Something Deeperism (ie: the whole-being wisdom that from the inside out ratifies and explicates our innate belief in Pure Love) into two main categories: private motivations and public motivations.

From the individual perspective, we reason that none of our feelings/thoughts/acts are meaningful to us except to the degree we are aware, clear, honest, competent, compassionate, kind, and joyfully-sharing. But these goals make no sense within a setting of pure relativism: we need to know what is Actually going on, how we should Actually behave, and that love is Actually Real and Actually strong enough to win the day, and how we can Actually participate in that ultimate victory of Truth, Goodness, Beauty, and Justice. We can tell ourselves that we can make due with less, but in so doing, we lie to ourselves and simply exchange {purposefully-vague feelings about how our not needing to know what is Actually going on is part of Actually knowing what is going on} for {the idea that we need to know what is Actually going on}. Or we can pretend we have literal insight into the Truth, but here we also lie to ourselves and no it.

To the degree that we lie to ourselves about our need for the Truth or about our having the Truth, we cannot understand, believe in, or care about our own feeling/thinking/acting and so step outside of our own feeling/thinking/acting, and so lose any meaningful way to choose one feeling/thinking/acting-path over another.

So far so good, and one will realize that we’ve reached Camus’s Absurd. But, unlike the young Albert Camus who wrote The Myth of Sisyphus, the Something Deeperist says, “But that is all fine. We don’t need literal insight into the Truth. We can’t have literal insight into anything. Even with math, we can follow all the arguments, but we cannot with our literal thought fathom what they really mean, or how they relate to anything we might truly care about (such as why we bother doing math in the first place, and if math relates to any thing like a Reality, and if it matters how we treat one another). Literal thought has never understood, believe in, or cared about anything. It is a tool that follows hypothetical causal chains and other logical connections. Insight requires something deeper; insight requires an organization of all aspects of consciousness around the one aspect of consciousness that Actually Knows anything: that deeper wider Light within and shining through everything. There can be no literal proof of that Light and no literal explanation of It’s meaning; but there can be whole-being growth in insight into a holiness within and through all things. And that is what we long for in this life. We can’t even imagine what it would be like to have minds that could literally understand things like Reality, so we can’t really wish for that, at least not now, here in human form. What we can wish for is exactly what the mystics say we can attain: whole-being insight into that and in what way it is True to say poems like: “We should love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and minds, and souls, and our neighbor as ourselves: We should fully embrace and purse the Light within us while recognizing that that same Light is found in everyone else — so to know Reality we must know ourselves and everyone else as fundamental equals in the Light that binds us all together.”

It’s not that The Myth of Sysiphus’s Absurd doesn’t exist, or that we can make that longing for literal insight go away without destroying our own core insight about ourselves. But Something Deeperism suggests that our literal thought never really knows what we want or need, and what our thought as a whole finds within itself is not the belief that it should stop at the Absurd, but the belief that it should do all it can towards figuring out what is Actually going on and how we should Actually move within the flow of what is Actually going on, and that that requires it to pursue a experiential whole-being insight of the kind posited by Something Deeperism: If we can make progress towards answering the core question beneath all our inborn values — what is Actually Real and Worthy? — then we have to pursue that lead. And if the mystics and our own inner sense of things is correct, in time we will as whole conscious spaces gain more and more insight into the Truth, and how It relates to our core inborn values, without which none of our thoughts are meaningful to any of us.

As groups, the matter is a little more delicate. It’s hard enough not fooling ourselves about how much wisdom we’ve attained. But when you get together with other people: Forget about it! The situation is ripe for self- and other-exploitation as we find ourselves tempted to take on the pose of the group’s understanding of “wisdom” (be it in the language of scientific determinism, religious fundamentalism, Something Deeperism, or etc).

For individuals there is already the need to set up bumpers around one’s mysticism. For example, if it isn’t kind and gentle, it isn’t wise. And, whatever the story of Abraham may ultimately mean, God does not ask you to hurt innocent children; if anything, he sides with Jesus and says you’re better of putting a millstone around your neck.

For individuals, there is some need of a Kierkegaardian fear and trembling, but with walls around your faith like the need to be honest, clear, gentle, kind, humble, etc. But for groups, we need to go further. Because demagoguery loves nothing more than to twist words like “honesty” and “decency” to their own purposes.

For groups, we need clear structure. A structure that makes transparency, openness, honesty, and fair play doable, and a system of oversight that enforces these rules.

For groups, we need to satisfy ourselves with this fundamental shared insight: None of our worldviews are meaningful to us or anyone else, except to the degree that we feel/think/act aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, kind, and joyfully generous; therefore, to the degree we would meaningfully share anything (be it a school, a church, a neighborhood, or a nation state) we must keep that shared resource a place that promotes and selects for aware … joyfully generous feeling/thinking/acting.

Something Deeperism for groups reminds me of Heraclitus’s “The people must fight on behalf of the law as though for the city wall.” But for what law? We can only work together on the law we all agree on. Even if you forced everyone to believe in xyz shared religious and/or secular dogmas, the inner insight into xyz shared dogma is what gives it it’s meaning — people have used every doctrine under the sun to legitimize bad behavior. What we need to share is not xyz set of religious or secular laws, but those laws that we already all have to accept to the degree we want to be meaningful to ourselves: aware … joyfully together.

Granted, that properly employing those laws relies on insight into a spiritual Reality to be used safely and effectively. But at this point, we are already deep into poetic pointing-towards. We need to head in the other direction. If we are honest with ourselves, we can all agree that these fundamental shared values are much easier to collectively maintain if we keep our organizations open and transparent, and we keep our press free to call our leaders on their fibs. And, if we are honest with ourselves, we will agree that we stand a much better chance of collectively policing the forms required for our government to promote and select for the fundamental values than we have of policing those values in ourselves, others, and the spaces between.

What does Something Deeperism do in the age of Trump?

You can easily learn that Trump has routinely lied and that he undermined democratic checks and balances and norms while in office [we worked on an overview Trump’s Threat to Democracy towards the end of the 2020 election cycle; no one read it or anything in our NYC Journal – Politics Section]. It is also not hard to find out that his statements about the 2020 election being stolen from him are patently untrue and historically unprecedented.

Stopping Trump from corrupting government and the election process is fundamental to protecting our ability to meaningfully share government and thus to serve as a final check on madness and corruption in government.

Two thirds of republicans agreed that the many times over disproven statement “voter fraud helped Joe Biden win the 2020 election” This boggles the mind, and it makes Something Deeperism for groups appear to be a hopeless pipe dream.

But didn’t we have an adequate group Something Deeperism before? Didn’t “honesty” mean something in the past?

A standard trick of demagogues is to call imperfect but still essentially fair and functioning governments unfair and hopelessly corrupt. This both helps them get in and undermine the existing government and muddies the water if anyone dares point out that the bulk of what they are saying is untrue, and much of what they are doing is detrimental to a healthy government.

Trump seems to easily manipulate notions about the fundamental values so as to convince his base that he is defending those values in both his actions and his proposed changes to the government. His followers not only fail to recognize his behavior as destructive, but go so far as to imagine it helping democracy. The case for meaningful group Something Deeperism therefore seems hopeless.

We cannot share the tools that allow humans to relate to Reality because we do not share reality, but it isn’t a “he said / she said”: Trump loyalists are lying about a stolen election that wasn’t stolen even as they work at the local level to gain power over state election processes — presumably so that the next time Trump tells a state’s Secretary of state to help him find votes to overturn the election results, that official will say, “Sure thing, boss!” and proceed to thwart the will of the people. We seem as a collective to be helpless in the face of the lie.

Something Deeperism is letting us down. Why? Why can’t we agree to protect the forms required to protect democracy?

In The New York Review of Books, Lawrence Lessig makes a very convincing case for “Why the US is a Failed Democratic State” .

He starts with the state legislatures.

The corruption of our majoritarian representative democracy begins at the state legislatures. Because the Supreme Court has declared that partisan gerrymandering is beyond the ken of our Constitution, states have radically manipulated legislative districts. As Miriam Seifter, associate professor of law at the University of Wisconsin–Madison summarized in a recent article for the Columbia Law Review, “across the nation, the vast majority of states in recent memory have had legislatures controlled by either a clear or probable minority party.”

Lessig goes on to explain that these unrepresentative states then make partisan election laws and gerrymandering The House of Representatives. As well as the power grabs at the machinery of vote counting and certification.

Barring a legislative miracle to safeguard voting rights, by the next presidential election Republicans will have secured through gerrymandering the control of the House of Representatives, whether or not they succeed in winning more votes than Democrats. And if the plans of some extremists come to fruition, a critical mass of state legislatures will also have passed laws by then that give them the power to overturn the results of a popular presidential election in their states.

And then there’s money in politics, especially since the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United vs The FEC that any limit on individual campaign contributions infringed upon freedom of speech:

In a nation of hundreds of millions, a few hundred families now dominate political spending.

And then there’s the Senate, where modern Filibuster rules (Lessig explains the newness of these rules in his article) make it possible for a small minority of senators to keep legislation from being debated:

What that means is that we have now introduced a procedural requirement into the passage of legislation that makes the process more institutionally minoritarian than that of any legislature in any comparable representative democracy. Senators from the twenty-one smallest and most conservative states, representing just 21 percent of America, now have the power to block any non-budget legislation.

And also of course we have Trump’s lie about the 2020 election coupled with a push by Trump supporters to get at the workings of their local election machinery.

It feels like it will just be dumb luck if democracy survives 2024. But why? Why is defending our democracy from the inside an impossible task for us?

It feels like we are watching the parade go by on Main Street, except instead of fire trucks throwing candy and marching bands making noise and clowns honking their noses, we are standing around watching people disassemble our democracy.

And Something Deeperism is just as hapless, hopeless, helpless as everything else. Why? Why is our personal philosophy so useless?

It’s right. Something Deeperism is right. We none of us can believe in ourselves except to the degree we are serving the fundamental shared values; and therefore we cannot meaningfully work together without together defending and following those fundamental shared values. It is a trick of demagogues to pretend we have to do this perfectly for it to count. But we have to do it somewhat for it to count. Are we doing it at all?

Is there any way to just push “Pause” on everything except democracy and work on saving it? Of course, climate change could also prove to be an existential issue with no more room for error.


Is there nothing to be done?

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr’s Day.

We gave up trying to write about race in the USA. It never seemed to come out right.

The closest we ever came to successes were a poem or two.

Here’s one, a reaction to Melville’s 1860 “Misgivings”. Let’s do both, since Melville’s is better anyway.

[Battle Pieces & Aspects of the War #2]

Misgivings by Herman Melville

When ocean-clouds over inland hills
Sweep storming in late autumn brown,
And horror the sodden valley fills,
And the spire falls crashing in the town,
I muse upon my country’s ills—
The tempest bursting from the waste of Time
On the world’s fairest hope linked with man’s foulest crime.
Nature’s dark side is heeded now—
(Ah! optimist-cheer disheartened flown)—
A child may read the moody brow
Of yon black mountain lone.
With shouts the torrents down the gorges go,
And storms are formed behind the storm we feel:
The hemlock shakes in the rafter, the oak in the driving keel.

Our Maryland, 1795

I’m just as white and free as you
demands brash backwoods hunterboy.
He’s right! he’s right about that too,
agrees rich family man, his wife much annoyed
by no-account with oldest daughter’s eye
oh silly woman!: no better suits pass by
our farflung, rifle-cracked bear-thick glade
(aged thirty-five; a milk cow, five chickens cooped,
a shack with rug and hearth, wife, saw blade,
plus shovel, ax, some maxims ready looped–
rich worldly patriarch, good Christian soul.)

I’m just as white and free as you
Joshua fit the battle of Jerico
and the walls slide trembling through–
pale sand in our blooddark Godly throw.

Joshua won the battle of Jerico
and God said take no wealth, no slaves,
but lick life from every beast and foe.
all Vengeance is mine cry crashing waves.

Two hundred years on,
four thousand years gone,
No identity ever once was real;
but how to stop the mad reeling?
to meet and greet
church potluck style

Forty-Four Years of the Life of a Hunter; Being Reminiscences of Meshach Browning, a Maryland Hunter; Roughly Written Down by Himself [1859, Meshach Browning lived from 1781 to 1859]

from Joshua chapter 6:

15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16 The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! 17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. 18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. 19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.”

24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. 25 But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.

26 At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:

“At the cost of his firstborn son
    he will lay its foundations;
at the cost of his youngest
    he will set up its gates.”

27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.

What does it all add up to? Humans rarely if ever say fully true things, and we never say anything True. But some of the things we say are closer to true than others; and some of the things we say are also closer to True than others. Groups should focus on getting as close to “true” as possible. That way each individual can in good faith work relate to the Truth within, and work meaningfully with others to do what is best for everyone. But we all know this. We’ve all seen the corrupting effect of conflating political truths with spiritual Truth. What good does repeating such platitudes do? If we have a will to misconstrue it, we will. This is the problem of Something Deeperism: people willfully feel/think/act shoddily — so they can get what they want without admitting to themselves that they shouldn’t get that, at least not that way, not through self-deceit and thus the abandonment of one’s own free will, conscious choice, and meaningful responsibility.

That’s our first Substack newsletter. Why did we do this? Who are we kidding? Why should this be any more read than anything else we wrote? And how many pages did we devote to Something Deeperism? And was anything resolved? Does the world need us to tell it once again that we give up? That we can’t? That we don’t know how to put the pieces together?

What now, God?

Author: Bartleby Willard
Editor: Amble Whistletown
Copyright/Time-waster: Andrew Watson