I'm attempting something difficult. I want to expose a normal way that people think and make an argument for why I dislike it and sometimes, despise it. Yes. Although I hesitate to fully commit to the operatic intensity of despising something, in this case, it fits; this way of thinking is everywhere, and it's going to take a strong emotion to dismantle it and, with the feet, mulch it into the dirt.
I want to examine a paradigm of thought, which I call the "hierarchy of self." It's everywhere, from religion to corporate culture to high school sports to yoga studios to the hippies on the street. It's a way of living based on the assumption that certain processes of body are actually not body, rather they are experiences conceptualized to have infinite properties...emotions, mind, consciousness, ah experience. The belief that these processes have infinite properties creates a conceptual separation of self, dividing processes of body into two separate groups: one group for the processes with designated infinite properties, and another group for everything else that decidedly dies. Perhaps you can guess which class is more favored as superior, and which is designated inferior. Yes. The hierarchy of self. It's everywhere--a normal habit of thought that I think contributes to an extremely unbalanced society.
Some people know me as a singer, but actually the majority of my creative work is in body philosophy. Body philosophy is a system of ideas and a methodology for investigating how the core muscles--muscles of the torso, neck, and head--contribute to shaping human experiences. I focus on the core muscles as the landscape for exploring philosophical questions, which includes understanding how consciousness, emotion, mind, ah experience are all body processes. After many years of mapping how the core muscles contribute to these body processes, I have come to the conclusion that the "I," the self....is body.
For the sake of getting to the point of my essay, I'm not going to explain all of my theories here. My goal today is to challenge the "hierarchy of self" with an argument that draws from the foundation of theory I've already created. Having come to the conclusion that I am body, I want to challenge the hierarchy of self as a false conceptualization of humanness, then I want to suggest how it prevents people from organizing a sustainable human society.
EXAMPLES OF HIERARCHY OF SELF
I'll start with some observations. I mentioned that people favor "infinite-designated" processes over "body-designated" processes. As a result, people try to maximize the exercise of the infinite-designated processes in their lives. For example, many people think that the exercise of love has infinite properties, say in romantic or in family relationships. Armed with this belief, some people endeavor to exercise love at all times and with intensity, for instance always trying to meet other's needs while feeling an abundant swell of love. However, because the exercise of love is a body process, and is meant to be exercised within the parameters of the body, people who believe love is infinite continuously run the risk of overextending themselves toward exhaustion and injury. Now I know that sometimes sacrifices are necessary, however, I'm talking about society, and particularly, how to structure a society that's sustainable. Millions of people collectively overextending themselves toward exhaustion, injury, (sometimes death) is not a good formula for a sustainable society, but as I see it, that's how the current society is structured. The overexercise of love is one example of many, in which people push themselves past their limits based on the belief that certain processes of self have infinite properties.
Another example involves people who work to accumulate financial wealth and status, while not taking care of themselves and not considering how their work affects other bodies. Working toward wealth and status is a process of accumulation. Mathematically, wealth and status, can accumulate in number toward infinity. In an effort to accumulate toward infinity, a person (thinking part of self is infinite) confidently overexercises the part of the self he believes is infinite. He works intensely for long hours and expects others to do the same. He ignores the aches in his back, the hunger, the fatigue, while rationalizing his behavior that the "body-designated" processes are not as important compared to the "infinite-designated" processes. He believes the continuous exercise of "infinite-designated" processes will yield more infinity--wealth and status--creating a way of life (a career) that could be acknowledged as a reflection of the infinite self.
Because of his unbalanced lifestyle, the person may likely develop unreasonable expectations of others, a spouse for example, to care for his body needs (toward infinity). He may also choose to purchase goods and services: pills to numb the pain, gadgets to remind him to exercise, special treatments to heal the body, contributing to an industry for people who regularly push themselves past their limits. He may even push himself to the point that he becomes injured, which requires an industry of safety net services to help him recover from abuse and neglect of body. My point is, the exercise of the hierarchy of self creates an industry--and because this industry is built on the hierarchy of self principles, it does not include a value system for planning for people as bodies.
PLANNING FOR PEOPLE AS BODIES
Before I continue forward, I would first like to take a step back to ask: How did this happen? Why does this hierarchy of self exist? I've observed that 'hierarchy of self' thinking gives people a special way to think about death, which includes a pleasurable experience of imagining part of the self continuing forever. What people don't realize is that on a societal level, it creates a value system of body neglect and degradation.
Here's where I start to suggest a different value system--one that values planning for people as bodies. Planning for people as bodies requires a emotional skill set for quickly assessing different body states--hunger, fatigue, pain, boredom, depression, overstimulation--and then strategizing a plan to address these body states. This strategic plan of action addresses needs of body toward health and balance. By learning to quickly identify states of being, then strategizing solutions to bring body back into balance, a person cultivates an emotional intellect to plan for self and others as bodies.
I think that everyone should develop this skill set to some degree, but not everyone will be good at it. I think some people have more talent to develop this emotional skill set than others, especially when it comes to leadership. In my opinion, the talent for sustainably planning for bodies requires an ability to accurately observe and subposture felt states of other people, analyze those states, then strategize a plan of action to address body needs. I accept that some people are better at this than others. What I don't accept is a society led by people who can't plan for bodies at all.
Interestingly, I think the solution is not so much challenging leaders as it is challenging the industry and everyone who upholds it. Because the industry is structured by the hierarchy of self paradigm, I think part of the solution is to break down the paradigm and create a different value system that acknowledges people as bodies. Many people don't want to. For many, this change in thinking is too uncomfortable. The hierarchy of self is a kind of "fountain of youth and eternity" mentality. I understand. People want to be infinite, but it isn't practical and it isn't sustainable, and I don't even think it's that much fun. I'd rather be a body. I'd rather create culture around what it means to be a body, and there are many creative ways to do it. Challenging the hierarchy of self is a matter of changing culture, and changing culture is a creative project.
I see these kinds of changes happening. I see people questioning religious and spiritual beliefs en masse. I see people intentionally withdrawing from the industry. I see people investigating humanness as a body experience and thinking of themselves as intelligent animals. It's happening in many ways. It's messy, but often that's how change happens. My work focuses on the deeper levels of things, and on that level, I want to criticize some groups of people who try to create change while maintaining the hierarchy of self. While I think their work is in some ways beneficial, I don't think it's a good long term strategy for creating change because ultimately, it upholds the paradigm that upholds the industry.
NEW AGE/RELIGION CULTURE
First of all, the hierarchy of self paradigm favors a certain kind of person for positions of power: one who exercises certain human processes as superior over others, believing some are infinite, others are not. Automatically this favors people who exercise those processes (toward infinity), who don't think of the impact of their work on bodies, and who figure out ways to morally justify it.
An example of moral justification. The New Age culture expresses a belief system different than traditional Judeo-Christian belief systems, however they both share the belief in the hierarchy of self, again the belief that certain processes of self--emotions, thoughts, consciousness, ah experience--have infinite properties. As an added bonus, many people believe that their accumulation of good things, good fortune, and good experiences are helped by a bodyless conscious entity with infinite properties (god, spirit, energy, metaphysical phenomena, etc) which exists independently of body, and exercises positive preference for people with "spiritual merit." In other words, people who have good things happen to them attribute it, at least in part, to an outside influence that wants good things to happen to them. This belief, constructed out of the hierarchy of self, creates a moral problem: it leads to the rationalization that the evidence of one's privilege justifies one's privilege. In other words, "I deserve to be rich because I am rich." This rationalization may seem silly, but when you apply the formula: the idea that good things happen to people with "spiritual merit"--with the understanding that people frequently acknowledge good things as gifts from an infinite entity that exercises positive preference for them--then you can see how people easily rationalize that the accumulation of their privilege was entirely deserved.
It's a destructive way of thinking. It gives people with an excess of privilege a means to justify their privilege. It also gives them a green light to continue accumulating more wealth and privilege. As for those without privilege, many, despite their poverty, believe that wealthy people were gifted with privilege based on the same rationalization: "they deserve to be rich, because they are rich," (a result of the process of accumulating good fortune determined by spiritual merit) and so, even poor people accept the economic disparity.
And finally, there are some people don't like the disparity, but they ironically exercise hierarchy of self thinking to change it. They believe that if they achieve more "spiritual merit"--say through certain kinds of prayer or protest rituals or ecstatic music festivals--then the bodyless entity will exercise positive preference for them and give them power to change the system. Unfortunately, from my analysis, this does more to perpetuate the industry because it creates more culture to reinforce the idea that the hierarchy of self exists.
ACTIVISTS CONTRIBUTING TO HIERARCHY OF SELF
I am aware that there are many people who believe that part of the self has infinite properties, but also deeply care about people and work to help them. They see the injustice of the industry. They see how the system destroys lives and environment. Many are activists. I think it's important that people speak out against injustices, however, I want to make the argument that many activists, who work to speak out against injustices, but still believe in the hierarchy of self, are perpetuating a way of thinking that fundamentally keeps the industry in place, and therefore contribute to the problem.
Here are a few observations of activists:
1. Many activists who believe in the hierarchy of self exercise self-sacrifice; they push themselves to extremes to protest the industry. By pushing themselves to extremes to protest the industry, I think activists actually help maintain its existence by exercising a way of life shaped by the "hierarchy of self" principles. Therefore, I think activists can feed the industry in the same way that people who beat up the body to attain wealth and status feed the industry: both groups work to achieve a goal, with the intention of working toward infinity to achieve it, believing that part of the self is infinite, and neglecting the needs of body.
2. Some activists assume that the powerful people in the industry are deficient in certain human experiences like deep emotion, bliss of consciousness, or ah experience. They believe that if industry people could only have these deep (infinite) experiences, not only would they be inspired to change their business models, they would get positive spiritual help from spiritual forces to restructure their business to care for people as bodies.
First of all, I don't think people who accumulate wealth and status can be assumed to be deficient of deep emotional and/or spiritual experience. Now, I'm not dismissing the possibility that they might be total assholes, but I think it's more accurate to assume that those who accumulate wealth and status do so because they are good at it. They're good at accumulating wealth and not good at sustainably planning for people as bodies or planning for the environment. In other words, they lack an emotional intellect for understanding the needs of large groups of people and they lack the ability to strategize to meet those needs. In my assessment of people in general, I think some people have a brilliant emotional intellect to plan for people as bodies. And some don't. The current system favors those who don't.
In addition to the assumption that industry people don't have deep experiences, some activists believe that upon having certain deep experiences, industry people will immediately be spiritually guided to restructure their huge and complex businesses to care for people as bodies. It's an idea that I find not only naive, but strategically ineffective. Again, I think the industry does not include a value system for an emotional skill set for planning for people as bodies, a value system that takes time, talent, and training to cultivate. I think we need to create a value system that acknowledges that people are bodies and elect leaders who can plan for people as bodies. It takes strong people to do this, but I think that's what activists should be focusing on: creating a new value system, while simultaneously challenging the hierarchy of self, with the understanding that the hierarchy of self is maintained by spiritual and religious dogma.
I think the most significant world problem that requires people to reject the hierarchy of self is climate change. When I consider the ultimate effect of climate change: the death of all humanity as a result of the unsustainable industry humanity created, I immediately look for paradigms preventing action to solve it. Hierarchy of self fits the bill. Because the purpose of the hierarchy of self is to emotionally help people avoid fear of death and feel pleasure at the idea that part of the self is infinite, it's easy to imagine people collectively rationalizing that some part of human self will survive the effect of climate change even if all bodies die. This is bad. If people don't exercise a visceral "No" core posture when imagining the death of humanity from climate change, and instead exercise a "yes" that they associate with their conceptualization of the infinite self, they will not establish a sensible emotional framework for solving the problem. If they rationalize that they will be spared based on spiritual merit, they will not establish a sensible emotional framework for solving the problem. By foolishly exercising the hierarchy of self paradigm to avoid problems for bodies, people avoid exactly what is needed to solve the problem: action and planning for bodies. In the case of climate change, the effect of not planning for bodies is clear. For this reason, I think it is important for people to culturally challenge the hierarchy of self, to dismantle it, and propose a new way of conceptualizing the self as a body and from there, reshape society.
To review....People think part of the self has infinite properties which creates the hierarchy of self paradigm with people favoring infinite-designated processes over body-designated processes. From this paradigm, people create a way of life, which creates an industry. The industry favors people in power who accumulate wealth toward infinity and cannot plan for people as bodies. In an effort to figure out how they fit into this system, many people turn to spiritual and religious dogma which tells them how to live while reinforcing the existence of the hierarchy of self paradigm.
As for solutions, I'll start big picture and then move to more individual suggestions. I think humans need to create a culture that acknowledges and celebrates humans as bodies. I think we need to map deep human experiences as body processes, which is where I primarily work; I map how core muscles significantly contribute to shaping deep human experiences. I think people should challenge hierarchy of self and generate a new value system for planning for people as bodies, and value leaders who can plan for people as bodies. I don't think there will be one driving movement. I think the more people begin to think in similar ways, the more organization will happen. With the internet and the patchwork nature of modern change, I think a new value system will emerge as people create it in small groups and organize themselves to collaborate together in ways that clearly demonstrate a new way of thinking.
On a more individual level, here are some suggestions for cultivating an understanding of self as body and creating new culture:
1. Learn how to be a body. There are lots of ways to do this, and it can start simply, like figuring out what you like to do as a body. Then it can progress toward mastering something you love to do. Mastery involves understanding the parameters of self as body and learning how to do it within parameters of body. From your practice your can create a lifestyle demonstrating your body wisdom and use your skills to collaborate in projects toward creating new culture. And when you do create new culture, do a good job. Take healthy pride in yourself and your work.
2. Question how your lifestyle contributes to the hierarchy of self. Examine your thinking. Are there imbalances in your life caused by thinking that part of the self is infinite and superior to an inferior body?
3. Make adjustments to your lifestyle to develop an emotional relationship with life that does not feed the industry. Develop an emotional sensibility of nature and the urban environment. Develop and explore ways to create emotional intimacy with people in a way that is pleasurable for you and others and cultivates a thriving lifestyle. Also, simplify your stuff.
4. Encourage/help more women to become leaders. Without getting too much into this, I think that women in general, not all, but in general, have a high aptitude for planning for people as bodies.I would like to see more women planning society.
5. Support a culture rich with arts toward body awareness and body intelligence. These arts take years to learn and learned well, they cultivate a rich and nuanced emotional intellect, which can then be intelligently applied to help people understand processes of the self--like emotions and ah experience--as body processes.
6. Support body philosophers and body thinkers. This is a shameless plug for myself, but holy shit, do I have a lot to say about understanding the self as body. It's awesome, and if you got this far, I think you might like it. One of my goals is to create culture around ideas of how self is body. The culture would include performing arts that are commonly part of spiritual rituals, but different because they would explain and celebrate deep human experiences as exercises of body with the core muscles being active and sensory contributors.