Imagine that the left loop on the infinity sign is labelled, "Consciousness" and that the right hand loop is labelled, "Community." The neck where the two intersect is the crossroads sacred to Hermes, the winged messenger of the gods. He is the god sacred to all who frequent that shadow land: beggars, pickpockets, minstrels, strolling players, merchants, demobilized soldiers, spies, itinerant poets, and thieves. His marker is the Herm, a stone figure with prominent phallus. (I hear that one of Socrates's students in a time of war went around knocking the cocks off the statues. Socrates was convicted for teaching students to desecrate the gods. His punishment was to drink poison and die. This story too is about consciousness and community, about sacred and profane truth, and coming to enlightenment, and its rewards.)
Between consciousness and community the roads go both ways. Our consciousness is formed by the intentional and accidental communities of birth, family, town, tribe, nation, ethnicity, and by the artistic, ethical, political, and spiritual traditions that animate the communities with which we identify and by which our identity is formed. Marketing, brands, propaganda, no less than pickpockets, prostitutes, and thieves frequent this crossroad, forming our minds as befits not citizens or humanity, but as befits consumers and loyal subjects of a King, or loyal followers of a political party.
At the crossroads (where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in return for unholy riffs on the blues guitar) you also find the voluntary associations that carry on what is best in our culture, our communities, and our consciousness: schools, religious organizations, arts groups, libraries, open source projects. These organizations carry forward through the ages what would otherwise be lost or scuttled by those who would have us be their servants, producers, or "hands."
At the crossroads (where money is exchanged for goods, pleasure, and power) there also we find businesses selling whatever money will buy, whether for good or ill: potion, poison, drugs, fodder, food, whatever it might be.
At the crossroads (where advisors meet the client as King and Queen with Courtier or Fool) plans are laid, financial plans, estate plans, legacy plans, venture plans, political plans. It is from such plans, for good or ill, that money flows to the intermediary organizations that express the client's consciousness, and flow over into creating the consciousness of a community, for good or ill. When gifts from the gifted are well planned with conscience they support the intermediary structures that make us human, in the honorific sense. When the dollars flow to the worst of these consciousness creating institutions (where think tank thinkers, pundits, journalists, and marketers trade lies for dollars and preferment) what is expressed and passed on and perpetuated is our humanity in its most horrific aspect: falsity, cunning, oppression, war, and death.
At the crossroads (beside the squeegee man) stands the Beggar. "Give me a penny and I will sing you as song, but give me the penny first" (Swift). Or call that Beggar, that Dumpster-Dweller, The Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families and to the Professionals who with the god Hermes serve the wealthy so well on their Journey from Success to Significance. May Hermes blow out the tires and leave them stranded, clients and advisors alike, some dark night, as far from Success as from Significance, at an unmarked crossroad, with no option but to get down and walk the rest of the way. I know a man who wrote a poem about it. In fact he wrote at least two more about how your getting lost at the crossroads is about right and may be the only chance you have. If you are lost enough to find yourself, you are past significance on that journey to where it feels more like humility, or brokenness and surrender. When the cry of despair comes out as laughter, call me, ok? You will deserve your own Dumpster, and we will honor you as one our tribe.
End Notes: Dedicated to Hermes, Pan, Dionysus, Rabelais and that whole tribe
For the infinity circle as encompassing consciousness and community, I am endebted to a talk by Gerard Senehi of EnlightenmentNext. I also endebted for this post to two books by Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property and Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art. As a Trickster Genius myself, I cannot explain to you the full brilliance of my own work and all its hidden meanings, much less that of Lewis Hyde who actually won one of those Genius Grants. I am not shitting you. He did. As for me, I was Inspired, I guess, writing this post. In any case, I am a bit disoriented, if only from the beer I had beforehand. For a good gloss on this post, please see my ever serious colleague, Dr. Amrit Chadwallah. He can get you squared away with the literal truth should that be your own speed. It will cost you though. As for my obscenity, you go knock the cock of the Herm at the crossroads between art and philanthropy. I won't. If philanthropy is as bloodless as you make it, what will save us? We really would be lost.