Table of Contents for I, We, All, Pointers for Reading

Started sending my thesis out yesterday, as you likely know if you are reading this. (You can DL it here: Venezia-I-We-All).

It is long, and not everything is relevant for every reader, so I decided to to a “Table of Contents” with recommendations for reading for what I imagine most people are interested in who’d be interested in the thesis in the first place. It takes a hundred-page document down to around 40-50, some of which can also be skimmed.

I also, in reading through my thesis yesterday, realized that several sections could use some heavy editing, (especially in the first person section), and I’m not entirely sure when or if I will do that.

Here’s a Table of Contents. “Most Relevant” sections for We Space practitioners are in bold:

1: Quotes: some quotes to set the mood. 
2: Introduction: 
Overview of the paper, themes, reasons for writing, etc.
5: Methods. This introduces the methods that I used to generate data. Likely only interesting for theory-heads.
10: Second-Person Results: What is We Space? The meat of the paper. I suggest that if squeezed for time (or if you find the format repetitive) you scan through checking the italicized section titles, reading any sections that are interesting.
48: Discussion of Second-Person
51: First Person Results: Introduction and discussion of the psychometric data.
56: Results and Discussion: Intuitive Inquiry: This section contains a final set of ‘assumptions’ or ‘lenses’ through which I now (or at least, in June) understand We Space practice.
62: Third-Person Results and Discussion: a (very) short discussion of the survey I conducted.
64: Conclusion: A New Way of Being As The World Together: A summary of themes and learnings from the project.
68: Appendix A: Development, Post-Dialectics, and Post-Metaphysics: A roughshod explanation of some of the background/implicit psychological dynamics of development that I am drawing on, and how these effect our notions of what is real, and the resulting worlds we inhabit. Helpful to get a sense of what I mean by “metaphysical boundaries,” for one thing.
76: Appendix B: Practical examples of ‘boundary emptiness,’ along with write-ups of some experiences of interpersonal emptiness.
84: Appendix C: Subtle, Causal, Development, State, and Vantage Point: A discussion of the frameworks applied to the practice experiences.
87: Appendix D: Examples of We Space Practice: Helpful for one not familiar with “We Space.”
91: Appendix E: Original Intuitive Inquiry Lenses, used to compare with final lenses to track changes in my own understanding.
93: Appendix F: My Interviewees, and their associated groups. Helpful for those looking for practices and groups.
95: Appendix G: Interview Questions: The list of guiding questions that I used to guide the Second-Person In Depth Interviews.
96: Appendix H: List of Themes from In-Depth Interviews: The Bare-bones answer to “What are We Spaces,” as emerged in my coding of interviews, presented without explanation.

Rhizomatic Mind-Mapping

Rhizomatic Mind-Mapping is a technique/ method that I use to organize thought, and generate connections between sometimes seemingly disparate but intuitively related items. It’s simple, and I’ve found it to be quite effective, and have used it in organizing things as different as how I’m feeling on a particular day, to themes in my thesis.

Here’s a snapshot of one of the mind-maps that I did make while writing my thesis:


To do: first comes the brainstorm. Take the subject material, and simply write every relevant associated word down that you can think of on paper. What’s “relevant?” It depends, but you use your judgment for this, and can also relax: the process leads towards slimming what is not-relevant, and gives lots of opportunities for including what might be and was left out. The subject material, as noted, could be “things that I want to do this year,” “reactions to a movie I just watched,” or “themes from the interview I just conducted” or any other million things that it might be relevant to do a mind-map for.

Step two, which can partially be done while brainstorming, is to draw connections between different elements of the mind-map. If my subject was “things I need to do to learn Dutch,” two elements might be “Read De Morgen (a newspaper) for five minutes every day,” and “Keep a notebook on me with words I see around me that I don’t know.” One possible “connection” or “relationship” between these two elements might be “circle words in De Morgen I don’t recognize and put into notebook.” This can help open up possibilities that I hadn’t at first seen, and can help clarify the overall project or thought-patterning being mapped out.

With a full mess of a page, the third step is to locate which ‘nodes’ (words or phrases) are more and less central, and re-drafting the map to organize them (more) clearly. For a simple map like “Learning Dutch,” there may only be two or three levels of ‘nodes.’ Perhaps “Practice Dutch Everyday” becomes the central node, the new ‘subject’ of the mind-map, while “translate a complete children’s story” becomes a minor node around this major node.

There may be different kinds of nodes that come out as well, which I usually color-code. For example, “buy a Dutch dictionary” (something totally irrelevant today but what the hell) is a discrete and single actionable step, while “memorize verb forms” might have several repeatable actions associated with it, but is nonetheless a completable goal, and further “read De Morgen five minutes a day” is open-ended.

This is a pretty simple example, and the power of doing this may not be apparent with “learning Dutch.” Try to do a mind-map for “what do I want to be doing in a typical week?” “what does Love mean to me?” or “what are the major themes of War and Peace?” and it becomes more apparent, I think.

Why “Rhizomatic?” 

Rhizomes are root systems (ginger is a common example) that grow in a rather interesting, networked way. I am kind of mashing the idea of a rhizome together with mycorrhizae, which are (typically) symbiotic fungi that grow with roots.

What I am most interested in is a pattern of networktivity: think a view of the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. from space at night: (de)centralized hubs, whose connections are composed of the same material as the hubs themselves. (What connects a city to another city, especially in these dense areas, is not only a highway, but other cities.)

Here’s a fascinating article that shares a lot of the same thinking.

What this allows for, as a mind map, is a relationality between the separate elements of the map that is not merely hierarchical, or categorical (like a 6th grade history outline). While verticality (category size) and horizontality (degree) are one-dimensional in a traditional mind-map, a rhizomatic mind-map allows for these important dimensions to be fluid: relationships can be multi-directional, networked connections between one or two nodes can become their own node, and relationships can simultaneously become horizontal and vertical. This process, then, allows for a much more surprising and dynamic creativity than traditional mind-maps, at least in my experience. (Though I do not think that I am the only one to experience mind as cluttered and also unproblematic.)

And trees can still grow from the roots. 

Human Family, and GYPSYs

I could never forget the moment–Christmas 2012, just four days after the apocalypse, sitting in my childhood room in New Jersey and talking on Skype to my then fiancee who was in Belgium. “I have another gift I forgot to give you,” she said, and reached to her right. She picked up a postcard that said “Merry Christmas,” from an angel on the front, and with tears in her eyes and a bit of nervousness she turned it around. “We’re pregnant!” with many stars and hearts.

“Oh my God!” I said, and began to cry as well, and we spent the next brief and precious little bit of time loving each other wordlessly.

That moment I can’t possibly forget happened as I cognized what the card said, but itself was something that happened outside of time. I was different. However fragile and preliminary, I was a father. Bathed in that love, enjoying my family and our yearly Christmasing, for the rest of that day life made sense.

“You know what, it’s not your life. It’s life. Life is bigger than you. If you can imagine that. Life isn’t something that you possess; it’s something that you take part in, and you witness.” I remember this quote from an episode of Louie, recognized it as something I was coming to apprehend at the time I saw it, knew it on some level to be a deep truth but only had it flash through me that morning.

Oh. I am life. I am life, and I’m here to serve and support life. [end communication]

This has worked itself through me the last nine months, and the last three days since the birth of our healthy daughter Lucia have been three of the most wonderful days of my life as I have have spent literally every waking hour up until now cooking delicious and nutritious food for my wife and myself, cleaning up our house, doing laundry, changing diapers, bonding with the little source of awe that is our baby, and falling asleep exhausted, heart love full of the contentment of a day well lived and fully embraced (only to be woken up in the middle of the night with more to do somehow as I trip over myself in the dark stupor).

But this really wasn’t much of a surprise to me.

What has been a surprise to me is that I see my daughter in literally everybody I come into contact with. So obvious, so ordinary: every person has a mother and a father! Every person has been a beautiful little infant waving their arms and legs around with absolutely no sense of what the hell is going on. Every person has their place in this great lineage of (human) life.

In a moment I’d found my place in life, carrying our humanness, primateness, mammalness, animalness, lifeness, forward one more tiny little step.

Ah! How hard I had searched for it!

And the day before I was just reading this piece on Millenials, which gives a pretty good overview of some of the internal dynamics of my (American, at least) generation, and some of the cultural factors behind our narcissism. While I am also very much in resonance with the commenters that point out that we’ve gotten a pretty raw deal compared with the baby boomers (who, for instance, could find a good-paying blue collar job to support an entire family of four and live in the suburbs, something totally impossible now even with a decent white-collar job), there is much in the post that stings, and that I recognize in and as my own suffering.

My name is Andrew, and I am a “special protagonist.”

And having a daughter makes the narcissism inherent in such a way of being in the world blatantly obvious.  The world does not owe me a damn thing. I want to live in a beautiful and fair world, a world where it is culturally obvious and assumed and structurally overdetermined that what is best for you and I and all in the long run is exactly the same thing.

Perhaps all I realize now is that I have to work for that, that that work is a wonderful thing, and that that kind of work is inherently joyful. Or I realize that I don’t have to be different, or worthy, to express that way of being, even in an imperfect world. I have a place, no matter where I am, and I always did and do. Things I’ve always known, and never grokked.

I want my daughter to feel loved, to appreciate herself, to cherish her life and others’. I want to celebrate her uniqueness, and I want her to nourish her own. That, I think, is a far different thing than “specialness.” Specialness assumes some kind of separateness, some kind of ‘better than,’ ‘exempt from.’ There’s a need with specialness to differentiate, to push off and away from. I do not think we will be able to face the issues we must now as a human family if we do not appreciate our uniqueness and let our specialness collapse into sand like the unicorn mirage it was.

A little artifact of life coming into alignment with Being offered in service.

And I, where I am not Andrew Venezia learning ways of being but am only, I be myself life upon itself, iterating such again every moment to moment as bubbles grow from bubbles blown into milk with a straw, I expand again and collapse, and expand and collapse, eating this whole everything I am to emerge bright and new and yet unseen, surprising especially and only myself.

And back on Earth, we are in this together, and there’s no escaping that.

We’re in this together, and it is beautiful and poignant beyond words, where there is only love, thanks, and service.