big yang motorcycle?

From Le Guin’s remarkable essay A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be:

Utopia has been euclidean, it has been European, and it has been masculine. I am trying to suggest, in an evasive, distrustful, untrustworthy fashion, and as obscurely as I can, that our final loss of faith in that radiant sandcastle may enable our eyes to adjust to a dimmer light and in it perceive another kind of utopia…

Utopia has been yang, In one way or another, from Plato on, utopia has been the big yang motorcycle trip. Bright, dry, clear strong, firm, active, aggressive, lineal, progressive, creative, expanding, advancing, and hot.

Our civilization is now so intensely yang that any imagination of bettering its injustices or eluding its self-destructiveness must involve a reversal.

The ten thousand things arise together
and I watch their return.
They return each to its root.
Returning to one’s root is know as stillness.
Returning to one’s destiny is known as the constant.
Knowledge of the constant is known as discernment.
To ignore the constant
is to go wrong, and end in disorder.

To attain the constant, to end in order, we must return, go round, go inward, go yinward. What would a yin utopia be? It would be dark, wet, obscure, weak, yielding, passive, participatory, circular, cyclical, peaceful, nurturant, retreating, contracting, and cold.

In the italicized portion she is quoting Lao Tzu – the essay also brings her into conversation with Levi-Strauss, Dostoevsky, Kundera, and others. Le Guin’s uncanny imagination at its best. I’m now resolved to re-read The Left Hand of Darkness this break.


~ by staticandme on March 18, 2009.

4 Responses to “big yang motorcycle?”

  1. i like your blog, and your thesis sounds interesting…

    where are you writing it/do you go to school? im an m.a. student at the new school.

  2. Thanks for reading.

    I am finishing my undergrad at Carleton College, and the thesis I keep referring to is my senior exercise… not actually anything so long or intensive as a Master’s thesis, but nonetheless something I’ve been working on for a long time. Next year I’ll start working towards a PhD at Duke, studying political theory.

    What do you study at New School? Since I have interests in critical theory, pragmatism and post-structuralism, I’m familiar with their political theory and philosophy programs… Nancy Fraser and Richard Bernstein are both there, right?

  3. thats right – ill be taking classes with both of them next semester. fraser is teaching ‘habermas and beyond; contemporary critical theory’, and bernstein is giving a year long class on the phenomenology of spirit. we also have, as a visiting prof, christoph menke, a prominent german critical theorist. he has been doing classes on nietzsche, adorno, and the philosophy of right.

    im in the philosophy department, but am considering switching to polisci for the phd. i do critical theory and political theory (european, not american-analytic), also theories of action, recognition, and identity.

    good luck at duke! great program. ill be applying there (to the polisci program) as well, next year though. top choice will be uchicago polisci, with markell. butttttt thats a long shot.

    any hints on the application process? this was a tough year… you must have shined to get a spot at duke… did you secure $$$?

    • those courses sound great, and our interests in theory certainly overlap in a few places. listen, if you would like to hear my take on the application process and my own results, why don’t you give me your e-mail and I can send you a more substantive message than what I’d post here? mine is if you’d rather not post your address here

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