Higher Living Standards

Kirby Urner
5 min readSep 27, 2018

Just having a bigger balance in the bank doesn’t add up to Youtube. “On demand video” was one of those dreams that came true. Thumbs up engineering, for paying off, making good.

As a younger guy, I was into reading Alan Watts (expositor of Buddhism to a California audience) and later James Hillman (2nd generation Jungian), to pick two examples, but I had no easy access to recordings of either.

Nowadays, thanks to podcasts and Youtubes, I’m in the middle of a very impressive library. Impressive to me anyway, and I have high standards coming from the Princeton campus, with its Firestone library and so on.

Let me say I’ve always been fascinated by library science and see the medical record stuff I got involved with (long story) as an adjacent space. I worked to refile books with Arabic titles in one chapter (Georgetown).

So what was on my plate today?

I’ve been coasting through some of the Rupert Sheldrake, Terence McKenna, and Ralph Abrahams, trialogues, which in turn got me to listening to Rupert’s views on Jordan Peterson.

I’d not heard of of Russell Brand, nor Yuval Harari. Thanks to Youtube, I was watching Brand interview Jordan, in London, as a logical next follow-up. Lets put that puzzle piece in its place.

I listened to more than one interview with Rupert, but recall in one the topic was Youtube celebrities, a somewhat new phenomenon, given the newness of the platform, let alone of film and television more generally.

Again, engineering paid off, and people going from no radio, no lights, to lights and radio, experienced a kind of transformation.

Glenn and I were talking about that over lunch, as his dad had been one of those tasked with extending electrification to a huge rural area. Armies are needed, to maintain infrastructure on that scale.

Then I switched to Hillman for awhile and listened to him talk about War, reading passage after passage about what’s attractive in it. As a practitioner of an empathetic lineage in psychology, he’s not about to turn his back on getting himself in the warrior mindset.

I’ve brought up war syntax, if we want to call it that, as it appears in Quakerism, a practice of conducting meeting business without any threats of outward violence.

The Good Order of Friends allowed space for the non-violent, from some angles a kind of freak in their clinging to utopian standards that could only be totalitarian. Heaven allows guns, in the Westworld vision. I’ve recently gone through Season One. “The Lamb’s War” you’ll see it called. The warrior is within, as is the real war.

Anyway, what I was planning to say about the emergence of “guerilla celebs” through Youtube and such services: we’re also seeing a resurgent awareness of pre Youtube personalities (example Dick Cavett) because the AI recommendation engines don’t always connect contemporaries. They go by other criteria, such as by how others make connections.

If your theme is Buddhism, you might stumble on Alan Watts, not his books at first, but in the form of podcasts.

As my most loyal readers well know, I like to flow with the Jungians quite a bit, which more recently has included workouts at the Process Work Institute here in Portland.

Arnold Mindell was on a physics path but got switched over to Jungian in the Zurich area. He and his wife have created a Portland-based institution. Sometimes the work is open to the public. My friend Alex invited me.

I sometimes think of the whole psychoanalytic school as an extension of the Vienna Circle, as that gets me reconnecting with some old philosopher friends, people I met through my readings at Princeton. And Sigmund Freud of course, whom I was reading in 8th grade.

I take the Vienna Circle figure, Wittgenstein, and connect his anthropological look at language (“tool use”), to the somewhat alien-seeming 20th Century New England Transcendentalist corpus.

Making this connection has not been that easy as there’s no strong consensus that New England Transcendentalism ever continued, past the usual suspects. That’s a died out movement.

My casting back from Buckminster to his great aunt Margaret Fuller is not original, nor sufficient to persuade every teacher of American Literature that Synergetics is on their plate.

However I’m under no obligation to prove my claim in a court of law. The narrative works for me and some others. So let’s add Bucky to the cast of Youtube celebs, along with Alan Watts and those others. The puzzle pieces fit. History makes some sense. Why muddy the waters?

I’m not saying it’s my way or the highway, in terms of our having alternative media. Quite the contrary: given the superfluity of digital cyberspace, we’re each free to join the clamor with records of thoughts. That used to be for nobles only, and scribes, and like that. Now it’s pixels for everybody, and lots of them.

Do I live high on the hog with all this Youtube? I’m consuming a lot of Soylent and ramen, which doesn’t mean I’m poorly managed. Today I treated myself to a most excellent cobb salad, which is not vegetarian for those who don’t know. I’m the proverbial 150 watt bulb doing my best to shine brightly, for what it takes to keep me lit.

Actually I’m in a gig economy which means hustling a living and getting old, all at the same time. The Oregon health care system has saved me from early expiration on at least one occasion, I’ll say more. I’m a homeowner. A gray (referring to hair and age, not to ET status).

The Nation of USTV, if I may be permitted some science fiction, is a nation of TV viewers focused on US TV dramas, such as we see unfolding on today’s news (Brett Kavanaugh hearings). People are glued to their soaps, from that capital of soaps, Washington, DC, while I’m being proudly standoffish.

Actually, it’s not that. I’m watching soaps of my own, such as Westworld and Real Humans (Swedish). I’m not saying I’m better than anyone, just I’m catching my seasons in a different order. “Real time” can’t be everyone’s time. That’s somewhat been my point all along.

Fuller was “pro God” as Rupert might say it, so why all this shying away from Synergetics? Ralph Abraham seemed impatient when I showed up with the Bucky map that time.

I think it took another generation or two to see what the half life might look like and where “the disciples” might take it. I’m not saying I actually count as a disciple, if we go by hours shared on stage. Werner Erhard tops my score there.

However I’m surveying much the same turf and thinking the Bucky stuff will add sense to the conversation in some places, if only to supply missing puzzle pieces.

An example puzzle piece is “figurate numbers” as shared in school (such as triangular and square), with “polyhedral numbers” (sequences like 1, 12, 42, 92…) chiming in, and how such considerations bridge to both architecture and virology.

Adding pieces doesn’t mean cutting people out, already in the story. I’m not that mean little censor with the scissors, hoping to expunge every mention, of X or Y, from every history.