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Dangerous Knowledge Part 1: Tired of Searching

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011: Dangerous Knowledge, Philosophy.

An older artist friend recently told me, “You’re a searcher. You’ll always be searching.” That made me want to cry. I’m really, really tired of searching. I want to find what I’m looking for and be content.

I was planning to start this blog by telling the story of my intellectual journey, as a way of explaining my radical philosophy and scandalous opinions. But after a few episodes I realized the story just couldn’t be told in anything shorter than a book. And in fact, the story was not over.

More to the point, my philosophy doesn’t seem to be doing me much good. My life is still conflicted and contradictory. Maybe that mess is the real story I should be telling, in case other people are facing similar dilemmas.

Like many of my colleagues, I was a beneficiary of the dotcom boom and a victim of the dotcom bust. In 2002 I found myself out of work, broke, and in debt. Yes, everyone said the boom would come back, but I wasn’t holding my breath, and in any event, I had never intended this to be my life’s work.

Overwhelmed by life’s challenges, seeking guidance and social support, some of my friends had latched onto gurus or joined cults. But I thought I had already learned a lot of life lessons that might be useful. I decided to apply my skills and experience as an artist, scientist, philosopher and information architect to the questions that kept bugging me: What was the meaning of all these powerful, mystical dreams and visions I’d had? How could I sum up everything that I had learned in culture, society, and the natural world, and how did it all fit together? Had I accumulated any wisdom that might be useful to others? What should I do with the rest of my life, for my community and habitat as well as for my own benefit?

My youthful studies in philosophy, and many subsequent arguments with very smart people, had shown that verbal communication is fraught with difficulties; words are slippery and emotionally charged. But in early childhood, even before I learned to read and write, I’d begun to explore and make sense of my world by making pictures of it. Maturing in the bohemian milieu of San Francisco, I used art to investigate the human wreckage festering all around me. And as I fell in love with the deserts of the Southwest and studied Native American pictographs and petroglyphs, my art morphed into mysterious symbolic narratives evoking mystical dreams and visions. Finally, during the dotcom boom, I used storyboard drawings and diagrams to communicate effectively with entrepreneurs, corporate executives, writers, designers, and engineers. My inquiry would combine all of this into a new kind of art project: research through art, art as a way of investigating, perhaps even comprehending, human experience in a way that science and academia could scarcely attempt, because of their deep investment in conventional paradigms.

So – I spent much of the next five years on a project which became known as Pictures of Knowledge: a visual philosophy based primarily on direct observation and shareable experience. I summarized and organized everything I’d ever observed and learned firsthand. I delved deeper into science for points of reference. I developed a symbol lexicon and a series of fundamental pictures or models, in the timeless tradition of Tibetan mandalas or Navajo sand paintings. I talked to everyone I knew and shared my work with people in different places.

To sustain this project I had to evoke my roots in the old “counterculture” – I had to question everything, taking nothing for granted, accepting none of the assumptions which are at the root of our dominant social and cultural paradigms. If you’re not prepared to go this far, you’re probably not going to like my observations. I had to ask questions that undermine most people’s identities and ways of life, their sense of self-worth, their value systems and worldviews.

The next post will summarize what I learned!

  1. Christine Abedini says:

    Inquire of Reggie in your dreams…Since you have experienced communication with him in that manner, ask what he has observed since his passing and add his observations to your reflections. I would love to hear. Staying positive and looking and doing everything through love is always a comment I’ve heard is the way….Love your energy

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