Alan Briskin’s HDR photography involves multiple shots at different exposures combined into one image so the viewer can see more of what’s actually there.




Becoming Conscious Of Capitalism

The Death & Rebirth Of Prosperity’s Dream

Chapter Fourteen

Moving From Duality to Wisdom
Part One: The Limits of Duality
Time Range: Starting Now




There is so little of the world that we are able to take in without cognitive dissonance,” writes colleague Elizabeth Doty, “our blind spots are so big, and our worldviews so often fragile.”  How might we then proceed?  How might we begin to navigate beyond our small islands of understanding toward something larger and genuinely collective?

If we are to do so, we will need to strengthen capacities for tolerating ambiguity and paradox while still embracing action.  We will need to draw on wisdom traditions and spiritual knowledge without negating the impact of history, social institutions, economic arrangements, or the value of the individual.  In other words, we will require a capacity to hold opposites together personally and in our social interactions to such a degree, and with such fierce intent, that something new is born.

In duality, we are left with two choices, yes or no, up or down, good or bad.  This is the obvious part.  What is far subtler is how our minds begin to organize everything we encounter into two irreducible elements.  We are either comfortable with a certain attitude, ideology, or viewpoint or not.  For simplicity, we begin to polarize our choices and see others as fitting in with our view or not.

More insidiously, our views are shaped by intangible forces barely conscious to ourselves — genetics, family background, place of geographical birth, economic status, educational achievements, personal experience, and so on.   The science of cognitive psychology teaches us we are unconscious most of the time about the reasons for our actions.  We do our best but it requires great effort just to keep up with life’s demands.  At some point, there is a natural progression from a chaos of inputs — conflicting information, internal emotions, social pressures, economic incentives — to a feeling of being overwhelmed by complexity.   We all experience this to some degree.

In duality, our worldview shrinks to a smaller and more manageable subset of the world, but as Elizabeth noted above, we are prone to blind spots, insecurities, and a sense of having to protect our fragile grasp of a barely cohering reality.  Duality is a fine and necessary instrument of human consciousness, allowing us to choose salmon or steak from a restaurant menu, but it is a tragically dysfunctional orientation when dealing with complexity.  In the prison of dualism, ambiguity and the paradoxes of life become dangerous dilemmas to be met with rules and predictable responses.



Continue Reading


* * * * * *


Becoming Conscious of Capitalism by Alan Briskin is a serial journal of cogent reflections and irreverent insights on the social effects of capitalism and the roots of partisan politics.  Pairing prose with HDR photography and “flash points” drawn from current and historical perspectives, the author seeks to recover lost wisdom and courageous action beyond the shouting and noise of today’s headlines. 

Comments are closed.