Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Praxis, the root of theory

  Sethren, winter is back again and where I have been I know not.  My robes are stained, I have a copious and hacking cough, my mouth is dry, I shiver, I have a significant contusion on my left temple, a headache, and my hernia and piles are not at their best.  All thought, all remembrance, of what I might have been going to say about Othello and myth has vacated my ideoverse, leaving not one huddled, hypothermic demon behind.  But I am delighted to see you foregathered, and in no lesser numbers than before.  Your faith is a modern-day beacon, one LED pricking through the moorgrime that swirls down from the grey brown dereliction of Holme Moss and wuthers round the ring road.
  Let me try to gather what is left in and about my abused neural substrate.
  I leapt too far ahead with the myth.  First we must deal with the praxis.  And praxis is primarily about things.  How things evolve.  All of evoculture is dependent on the evolution of things, myth as much as anything, the cross, the swastika.  The original Palladion, a wooden carving of Athene, of numinous antiquity, was carried by Aeneas to new-found Rome, and when Constantine completed the relocation of Roman power to Byzantium he took the Palladion with him and buried it under an eponymous (with Constantine, not Athene) pillar in the new forum.  So let us turn back to the bedrock for a while, to the evolution of things.
  Praxis precedes theory, because the thing, the flint blade, the bone needle, precedes the concept.  That infinitesimally fine-grained progression of cultural evolution that started maybe three million years ago was located in things, in in-the-world praxis, and it was the Ha!?’s pondering upon how things behaved in the world that began the expansion of the metaverse to encompass what we traditionally call ideas.  But, fuck me, sethren, it was a slow process.  Too slow to be noticeable over a lifetime, or a hundred or a thousand lifetimes.  Nonetheless, look at the continents, what speed they move apart at or together, measurable in millimetres per year, and yet it is a fair swim today from Luanda to Buenos Aires.  Even when things speeded up, when the modern neural substrate was more or less up and running, maybe 200,000 years ago, there wasn’t a noticeable burst of speed, no smoke and burning rubber down the drag strip.  Cultural evolution of the earliest antiquity would make a snail look like Usain Bolt.
  When we gaze at one of the bedrock praxes, flint knapping for instance, we see something fully human, and fully part of evoculture.  Things have moved beyond the furthest horizons of a chimpanzee.  Things have also moved beyond mere acts and concepts.  Acts and concepts will account for the adventitious flake which might be used to cut or scrape.  But think of the barbed flint arrowhead.  Think of the knowledge that must never be lost — because as we have seen if it is lost for a micro-second it is lost for ever, or at least until it has re-evolved — that is the tradition of making barbed flint arrowheads.  The quarry of suitable mineral substance must be located, either by way of the metaverse or by searching with intent in the world, the core excised from the quarry, sometimes carried a distance to the work site, prepared, and only then the flake struck off and knapped, with a manual skill greater than most found today, into a complex shape.  And the next bit is where the evolution of things is crucially different from the evolution of life.  The next bit is where the praxis emerges.  The next bit is where the arrowhead is attached to the shaft, either with an adhesive, or a binding, or both.
  Suddenly, the immense power of evoculture is there before our eyes.  In the attachment of the arrowhead to the shaft, two, three, four complex traditions are combined in one thing, the barbed mineral-headed arrow.  These four complex traditions parallel the evolution of four things, the stone, the stick, the cord and the glue.  We see in an instant how, once up to speed, like now, today, on the Huddersfield ringroad, evoculture can outpace the evolution of life by orders of magnitude, until it may consume complex life itself, sparing only the scorpion and the sand viper.  It is this combination of things that were once separate, and the parallel combination of on the one hand traditions, and on the other of the operative Ha!?s who are the hosts of those traditions (the flint knapper, the fletcher, the cord maker, the bitumen or vegetable gum specialist, the bow maker) that is the praxis.  It is the praxis, sethren, which, beyond acts and concepts, is the supercharger, the afterburner of cultural evolution.
  But sod all that for a lark:

…Aprille, with his showres soote
Has perced every droghte to the roote,
And drowned every vein in swich licour
By which vertue engendered is the flour…

  And now it’s May, whan the swete byrdes shulde singe, but we are chilled to the swyving bone, sethren.  More praxis anon, but mine very own sether wenden from afar on pilgrimage tomorrow, and I have stuff to do.

No comments: