On Writing Well

T Dan S-, modified 9 Years ago at 3/2/14 8:30 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 3/2/14 8:19 AM

On Writing Well

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts
In the middle of a mini-project on AIP (actualism-inspired practices) that will involve summarizing a lot of the harder to find discussions/threads, mostly for my edification. Should be useful to others as well. Should be done in a day or two.

While reading through varied archives, I was thinking about writing. I thought this would help resolve a bit of the political confusion/conflict that has occurred over the years.

Richard, and a lot of people on the DhO for that matter (myself included) are really bad at writing.
In attempting to communicate complex, inter-related ideas there is a tendency to sacrifice readability for integrity of the message. The goal is still maximizing comprehension since the writer found a way to fit all relevant ideas into the sentence. The resultant use of parentheses, nested lists, run on sentences, and an overly conversational writing style often has the opposite effect. Usually it's confusion with regard to what is being said, but more importantly it raises barriers to entry for someone trying to enter the discussion...one who might be able to contribute something of value. I don't know what to do about this apart from continually improving my own writing and explicitly stating this problem.

Example: http://www.actualfreedom.com.au/richard/articles/attentivenesssensuousnessapperceptiveness.htm
"Apperceptiveness is a word describing a condition which happens of its own accord and attentiveness depicts an activity that one vitalises with remarkable verve and vivacity which activates the quality that the word sensuousness specifies. "

Two sentences. Both attempt to define something. My high school English teacher (Hi, Sandra!) proceeds to facepalm and get out a red marker...
1. Apperceptiveness is a word describing a condition which happens of its own accord.
2. Attentiveness depects an activity that one vitalises with remarkable verve and vivacity which activates that quality that the word sensuousness specifies.

The first sentence is colourful but has no useful practice-oriented meaning.
The psychological definition of Apperceptiveness: “introspective self consciousness” works better here.

The second sentence simply means “pay attention to the senses”.

In more detail:
1. Apperceptiveness....describes...something that happens by itself (or automatically)

2. Attentiveness...an activity you undertake with spirit (verve)/energy (vivacious)...which activates sensuousness (the quality that the word sensuousness specifies).

So he's saying:
-Paying attention with verve/vivaciousness will activate sensuousness...or...
-If you pay attention with a positive feeling-tone/energy, you'll activate sensuousnes

Defining Sensuousness...“perceived by or affecting the sense”
If you pay attention, you'll activate this quality (noun) of affecting the senses.
If you pay attention, you'll affect the senses.
Why not just say “pay attention to the senses”?

To all practitioners with experiential familiarity with what these terms imply, wouldn't a neophyte be better instructed with something more like:

(1)Pay attention your experience, (2)with special attention to the nice parts.

1 takes care of the introspective aspect, maybe adding the word “gentle” would help avoid certain modes of orienting the mind
2 takes care of the point of the word sensuousness...which, imo, was chosen because of its indirect link to nice feelings anyway (sensuous → sexual → positive affect)

Edit here, since I clearly made a mistake. The article stresses use of the word sensuous over "sensuous", so he's stressing this is way more about the bare senses, than any gratification of desires...a useful distinction. That said, I think the average person would be more likely to understand to "bare senses" (using two simple words to stress a point) than "sensuous" (which required multiple paragraphs of clarification to differentiate it from its similarity to the word sensual).

Tarin does a great job of this explaining it to Daniel on that really old Hurricane ranch podcast....and uses the same words.
The quasi-koan he presents: "How is it that this is heaven?" hits all those points. It implies increased attentiveness, the context emphasizes the senses, and alluding to heaven references the right feeling tone.

It's the same message, just written better. There's no gaping hole in approaches here.
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago at 3/3/14 1:08 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 3/3/14 1:06 AM

RE: On Writing Well

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Hey Dan,

Glad to see you're interested in actualism!

I agree that the writing that's available on actualism doesn't seem to be extremely effective. There are very common aversive reactions and not many people seem to get it. The question I don't fully know the answer to, though I lean towards a particular answer, is - why is that the case? Is it the writing style, or the content?

I used to think it was the writing style and I tried to explain it better, back before I visited Richard in Australia. People seemed to appreciate my thoughts and style and to generally agree with what I wrote. During the visit my understanding of actualism changed quite dramatically, to the point where what I wrote before I now saw as factually and explanatorily incorrect. Then I thought ah ok, maybe it is the writing style - so I strove to explain my new understanding in the same way I had explained my old one. Yet the result was writing which caused much the same reactions as the writing on the AFT - quite different reactions to what I had written before! So either it is the content, or it's not but my writing style also changed to the same non-functional way, or it is a combination...

In any case, I do notice that in your rewrite you have changed the meaning of the words you are seeking to explain better! I can't address every single point right now, but one important one stood out. You eventually transform the sentence "Attentiveness depicts an activity that one vitalises with remarkable verve and vivacity which activates that quality that the word sensuousness specifies." to “pay attention to the senses”. Yet what does "attentiveness" refer to? Take a look at these sentences from that same article and consider whether they indicate that attentiveness refers to paying attention to the senses, or whether it refers to paying attention to feelings:

To enable apperceptiveness to haply occur it is essential to allow a reflective attention – attentiveness – to one’s psychological and psychic world.
To one's psychological and psychic world, not to the senses.
It is impossible for one to intelligently observe what is going on within if one does not at the same time acknowledge the occurrence of one’s various feeling-tones with attentiveness.
Again, this refers not to paying attention to the senses, but to paying attention to feeling-tones - which are non-sensory.
Whatever feeling one may be having, a fascinated attention – attentiveness – freely divulges it ... it is looking with discernibleness.
Again this points to being attentive to a feeling, not to the senses.
With attentiveness one sees the internal world with blameless references to concepts like ‘my’ or ‘mine’.
Again referring to the internal world, not to the world of the senses.
Attentiveness is the observance of the basic nature of each arising feeling; it is observing all the inner world – emotional, passionate and calentural – which is whatever is presently taking place in the affective faculty.
Again, this explicitly points out that attentiveness refers to the observance of feelings, not the senses.
Attentiveness is seeing how any feeling makes ‘me’ tick – and how ‘I’ react to it – with the perspicacity of seeing how it affects others as well.
Again explicitly pointing to feelings.
The actualist who is allowing attentiveness is concerned with the habitual superimposition of the inner ‘reality’ onto the world of people, things and events.
Again referring to being attentive to the inner reality and how it is superimposed onto people, things, and events - not being attentive to the senses.

I think these sentences make it clear that attentiveness at least has a very large part to do with paying attention to feelings, an inner reality, and not the sensate world. I should also point out that feelings are not just bodily sensations plus thoughts. There's also the affective aspect to them, which is the most important one. Yes, they cause physical changes, but the thing to look out for is the intuitively-felt part - that part is the affective one. So by paying attention to just the senses (and maybe thoughts), you end up essentially ignoring feelings.

I hope this helps to redirect your understanding!

- Claudiu
T Dan S-, modified 9 Years ago at 3/3/14 11:33 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 3/3/14 11:33 AM

RE: On Writing Well

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts
Thanks for the detailed response, Claudiu!

I see now that my rewrite leaves out the feeling-tones, which for long time was something of a hang-up for me.
What ended up working was reading some of SW's posts on examining one's identity as the source of the feeling tones. I'm having a much better time of practice these days, and glad I took the time to apply the advice on this forum.

Some thoughts, in response to your post.
-I agree that the rest of the article does refer to feeling-tones.
-The original two sentences don't, at least without the support of the rest of the article.
-I remember Richard ties them together by attempting to define terms specific terms, and then stating something along the lines of "what exactly I mean with these sentences will be clear later"...and then proceeds to load the words with a lot of subtlety and nuance, as you are clarifying here.
-Note that these terms are not often in common conversational usage.

Perhaps I can be more clear here:

"Attentiveness depicts an activity that one vitalises with remarkable verve and vivacity which activates that quality that the word sensuousness specifies."

"I think these sentences make it clear that attentiveness at least has a very large part to do with paying attention to feelings, an inner reality, and not the sensate world."

Attentiveness is a noun, that refers to an adjective (attention), which is objectless.
If you mean to say "paying attention to feelings (and senses, or alternatively: feelings but *not* senses)", would it not be more concise to say *just that*, instead of loading attentiveness with "attention as it pertains to this specific object", thus creating an "actualist" context for use of the word and much potential confusion?

I'm not debating the meaning of the article or the intent here, which as far as I can tell, is "happy and harmless".
I'm suggesting a practice-oriented examination of methods used to communicate the method, in this case specific word choice.
My impression is a lot of the conflict and controversy over the years related to the pursuit of Actualism can be attributed to the language used/pioneered by the AFT to describe its method(s).

There is a lot of good here, and I wouldn't have found it without the filter a bunch of the good folks on the DhO provided.