Notes on semiotics, FIML, Buddhism, and a bit of anthropology

  • The FIML practice described in How to do FIML outlines a basic skill that leads to deeper understandings of many other aspects of human life.
  • Deeper understandings occur because FIML partners are confronting or dealing with “semiotic bundles” the moment they arise.
  • Semiotic bundles are “groupings or constellations of meaning” containing signs, symbols, words, emotions, personal narratives, and so on. (See Dynamic semiotics, interpersonal semiotics for more on semiotics and FIML.)
  • Basic FIML practice works by having partners confront and discuss semiotic bundles as soon as they arise.
  • This is different from analyzing semiotics bundles at a distance as a traditional anthropologist, historian, or psychologist might do.
  • FIML could even be called “dynamic anthropology” for couples.
  • With FIML, the anthropological “meanings” of partners “social structures” become immediately available to them as objective data; data that is even better than data obtained from a gifted informant who belongs to a different culture.
  • As anthropologists working with each other, FIML partners truly are equals. Neither has any cultural authority or credentialed authority over the other.
  • Partners who are skilled at basic FIML practice will find that they are able to gain a wide range of insights into themselves that were unavailable before.
  • FIML partners will gradually see that they are able to shift their sense of what is authoritative from outside sources (often poorly understood) to inner ones and ones shared with their partner.
  • For humans as social, psychological, interactive, interpersonal beings, there can be no better foundation for existence itself than truthful, dynamic, interaction with an honest, reliable partner.
  • Skilled partners will learn how to generate their own semiotic bundles based on truthful mutual discourse.
  • FIML itself is a dynamic semiotic, a dynamic process. It has little or no “content”. It is not a static bundle.
  • Thus, it grounds us in an interpersonal process, rather than a static “belief system” or an external authoritative semiotic bundle.
  • FIML will help partners greatly appreciate the crucial importance of being honest with each other.
  • It will also help partners appreciate the importance of being honest with non-partners.
  • FIML is different than learning an idea or theory about something because you have to do it. FIML does have a theoretical basis, but it must be actively done to be fully appreciated.
  • FIML practice should be a great help to Buddhists because it does not contradict the Dharma and because is an active practice that draws on information obtained from a reliable FIML partner.
  • This information obtained from the FIML partner will in many cases correct distortions in thinking or feeling that Buddhism practiced in isolation or not practiced among equals may engender.
  • External Dharma–Dharma received from books and teachers–is susceptible to the same problems as all other external intellectual traditions (static semiotic bundles).
  • Internal Dharma–Dharma understood only, or mostly, while alone–is susceptible to the same problems as all other internal semiotics. If they are not checked with an honest partner they will tend to become neurotic (mistaken). That is, the practitioner will tend to form many “ongoing mistaken interpretations” of the self and others. This sort of problem cannot be corrected with external slogans or formulas, but only with truthful interaction with an honest partner.
  • I am pretty sure early Buddhists did something like this when they spent months of the year traveling in pairs and/or when they did their honest fortnightly discussions of their failings in their practice (a tradition that has sadly declined in too many places).

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