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The highest form of life, or the mysterious life of consciousness, is an invisible continuous flow that never repeats itself. Human beings, dead or alive, have a special and unique relationship with the life of consciousness.
Humans as humans are not and cannot be objects of any positive knowledge or science. The Socratic search for and cultivation of what is specifically human in human beings is one of the driving forces of philosophy as a form of examined conscious life without which human life loses its specificity, turns into imitating other life forms (mushrooms, vegetables, insects, vultures, etc.) or the non-life of machines, and becomes the producer of bullshit.
Bullshit—as a multifarious form of self-stupefying pseudo-consciousness feeding on itself, procreating by imitating others and proliferating rotten speech—is a powerful and infinitely renewable resource. This is because it is automatically produced on a daily basis by each individual darkened consciousness and solidified in external activities, events and institutions, which thoughtlessly promote and activate the continuous production of varieties of deadening bullshit that is difficult to recognise due to its omnipresent, repetitive and imitative nature.
The main front of resistance to the omnipresent influence of bullshit produced internally and encountered externally is the development of an individual way of thinking that strives for non-repetitive and non-imitative forms of conscious life. If there is any meaning left in the word ‘culture’, then at its centre remains the cultivation of this inner line of defence once captured by the Ciceronian phrase cultura animi.
The development of an individual way of thinking may be coextensive with uniquely human forms of conscious self-transformation or self-creation that is unavailable to other living beings, which, unlike very questionable human beings, have a predetermined ecological niche.
Framed from above by known or unknown divine laws, limited from all sides by various laws of nature and pushed from below by stupid or wise criminal laws, the development of individuated thinking needs a bullshit detector that helps to recognise and limit the influence of various forms of rotten speech and imitative pseudo-consciousness both within itself and without. There is no replacement in this regard for an educated soul that forms itself in a simultaneous search for goodness, beauty, wisdom, truth and ultimately strength, fully realising that it strives for the unreachable.
The unreachable horizon of the search for what is specifically human in humans indicates that the process of becoming human may have a beginning, but it has no endpoint. The Six Rules for Becoming Human in no way replace the education and cultivation of the soul but may serve as a safe and self-explanatory guide for practicing conscious life in the practical realm of interaction with other beings, some of whom are involved in the search and cultivation of what is specifically human.
From the time of Plato, one way to understand the minute inner workings of the invisible life of the human soul has been to look at the larger and visible life of the city. While the city is a kind of externalised consciousness or external life of the soul, the life of the city is determined by the interconnection of the inner movements (intentions, passions, interests, instincts) of its inhabitants. Insofar as the city limits the range of possibilities of the conscious life, the soul or the presence of consciousness informs the city and the city forms the life of the soul. In this sense the city is the largest and most complex educational institution invented by humans. Obviously, whatever has educational and formative potential has an at least equally large potential to deform.
Unlike homogenous entities, cities by their very nature resist ethnic, ideological or religious monopolisation. At the same time, cities, being historically much stronger and resilient entities than states, are the main producers, cultivators and consumers of meaningful signs whose inter-related network forms a framework for the conscious life of a citizen. Taken together, these factors—populational and spatial heterogeneity and production / consumption of meaningful signs—channel and colour the educational potential of the city and the forms of life suitable to and attracted by it.
For the most part, the production of meaningful signs, including dreams, visions, aims and goals worth pursuing, takes place in the non-public space of minds interested in and passionate about the invisible life of consciousness; what reaches the public space and influences public opinion are flat traces and often cheapened and weakened by-products of such work. Nevertheless, the invisible, attentive and concentrated work of human consciousness is the only resource available for energising and magnetising city-space and occupying the future. What remains of the city—and where—as an educational institution in the debris of global village, info-bubbles and new tribalism, remains to be seen. For the time being, publicly invisible underground activities are the only source for humans’ continuous conscious life as humans.
Based on Vilnius’ May theses discussed at the Vilnius Club on 18 May 2017.