zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » When you have a worldview, it all fits together

When you have a worldview, it all fits together

[by Charles Cameron — the difficulty of difference, plus a poem for M ]


When you have a worldview, it all fits together pretty seamlessly. You see a map of record high temperatures such as the one above, swiped from emptywheel today, and it’s either global warming, and maybe:

this is getting to a point where the terror industry and the homeland security industry, generally, needs to come to grips with the fact that the biggest immediate threat to the “homeland” is not terrorism or drugs or even hackers, but climate change…

or it’s the hot face of an angry God:

And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.

— Revelation 16.8


I read the Book of Revelation in much the same spirit in which I read William Blake or WB Yeats — as figurative, imaginative thinking rather than future history. Record high temperatures, rising sea levels, dazzling storms, wildfires and the like I tend to view as natural phenomena belonging to the realm of science as far as causation is concerned, and to first responders and FEMA in terms of crisis response.

But they’re still awesome, the poet in me still stirs…


What concerns me here, though, is not to explain my own position nor to refute or approve either the prophetic or scientific explanations, but to emphasize that when you have a worldview, you have explanations ready-made in place for (almost) whatever happens.

And that goes for the Taliban, for Al Qaida, for the Brotherhood, for Christians of the Dominionist or Soon Coming or Episcopalian varieties, for Buddhists, for Scientists, and for many who are braiding their own, picking up different strands in different places as they go along.

If someone else’s worldview is not your worldview, it may very well be as different as the world in which God is blasting His displeasure at Washington DC is different from the world in which Washington DC needs to do something about global warming before nature re-balances our ecosystem in a manner we find decidedly inhospitable.


In a shared worldview, you can talk face to face. Across worldviews, you can only talk worldview to worldview — and the “other” worldview may well be unable to make sense of what you say or do, or take a meaning from it that has serious negative consequences for you in your world.

Just yesterday, Gulliver tweeted:


But it’s true, as Paul Van Riper said and I know, I’ve quoted him before, but this is good:

What we tend to do is look toward the enemy. We’re only looking one way: from us to them. But the good commanders take two other views. They mentally move forward and look back to themselves. They look from the enemy back to the friendly, and they try to imagine how the enemy might attack them. The third is to get a bird’s-eye view, a top-down view, where you take the whole scene in. The amateur looks one way; the professional looks at least three different ways.

The thing is: how do you get inside a magical head with a rational mind?

It’s not impossible, mind you — but it takes great strength of imagination.

That’s the point I’m trying to make here. Done. Finished.


And this is for Madhu, who encourages me to post my poems:

Storm words

There are no words for the stride of thunder –

pounding stride of clouds across a drumhead of plains,
the traveling downpour, drenching
the dry gullies and passing, words cannot
see nor show what the eye sees, the great lights
thrown, the target trees scorched and left —

but for man who lives in the path of thunder,
wrestling a little grass for soup from the parched land,
feeling thrum of a god’s advance under bare feet,
seeing the lowering god with his bright arms striding,

sensing the god’s strong coming, longing
for the fresh grasses after the storm’s passing,
the calm that follows the god: fearing
the god’s blasting, scorching, man’s words are prayer.

6 Responses to “When you have a worldview, it all fits together”

  1. Scott Says:

    As Sun-Tzu said:
    It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.  

  2. larrydunbar Says:

    But why fight a hundred battles? It seems like Sun-Tzu could use some Optimization. 

  3. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    Larry:  Hah!
    The problem w/ “worldview” in general is the fact that it is complete.  In some old diagrams of OODA, my own concoction to make the OODA useful in understanding consciousness (generally speaking), I used a pentagon to designate the objective, material “World” and a pentagon inside the abstract OODA to designate the Worldview (generally speaking, though I called it “Mental Constructs.”)  The objective worlds has many gaps, blank places; first, there are some aspects of the world no one observes; but also there are individual gaps that individuals do not see because they haven’t observed it though others might have.  But for the Mental Constructs of each person—sake of argument, call it Worldview—I showed no gaps.   The Worldview is complete, whole; but, not if you compare it to the objective world.

  4. Charles Cameron Says:

    No gaps, I would generally agree, Curtis, though there are exceptions, eg: the anomalies that eventually topple an established paradigm per Kuhn; the “spirit trail” left by Navajo weavers to escape a patterned regularity that would otherwise imprison them — and wabi, marked by the “quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object” in zen-bathed Japanese aesthetics.
    The people who devised and work within each of these systems knew and know the importance of, shall we say, loosening the conceptual tie and rolling up their sleeves..

  5. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    Not familiar with those.
    I think the worldview is often changing, although the changes are ever so slight most of the time.  Maybe this is why it is possible to remember how one was as a youth and see that person as being quite different than one’s older self, almost a second person.   Cumulative change will eventually produce great change in relation to much earlier states.  New observations alter the present worldview, the new worldview is still whole just changed, but these alterations are often so minuscule that we tend to not notice them at the time.  (If ever, in some cases.)
    I would say that no two people share exactly the same worldview.
    For the longest time now, I’ve been trying to conceptualized the mind in terms of strange attractors a la chaos theory. With any introduction of data into the system, the whole system changes, the “strange attractor” changes.  Many of the constituent parts remain (in this case, perhaps, memories, even those we can’t bring to consciousness), but the system as a whole is a new thing in comparison to any previous whole of the system.  The difference might not be noticeable at all times, of course, and I would say that it generally is not except when comparing much earlier states to later states.  An added fold might consider earlier states as themselves still being present, but relegated to being “parts” of the later whole whereas before they were the whole.
    Of course, I’m approaching the idea of “worldview” a little differently than the typical use.  Typically, even though it might be admitted to be vague, people might describe it in terms of a handful of markers:   like religion, philosophy, political opinions, social opinions, aesthetics, etc.
    I’m reminded by your comment of something Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Every spirit makes its house; but afterwards the house confines the spirit.”   My own opinion is that the house is never finished being built—although there may be innate limitations that prohibit some alterations while guiding others.  But are there limitations to those limitations?  I would guess, yes.

  6. Madhu Says:

    Lovely poem.
    I’m glad you post them from time to time.
    the traveling downpour, drenching I like this because it becomes a million pictures in my mind, immediately. I have images of the midwest plains where I grew up in my head and the sky always mattered. The sky was more real than the land, sometimes.
    I’m sorry I haven’t been reading or commenting much lately. You are impossible to keep up with, you post so much! 🙂 Not complaining, observing.
    Anyway, I am tending an online garden of my own at the moment and reading papers for the tending….
    So, your stuff on identity as legitimacy is interesting and pertinent to the thread!

Switch to our mobile site