Monday, January 16, 2017

Lord Save Us From the Bullshit

Over the last several days a thought has repeatedly popped into my melon, usually in the wake of some random idiocy. It is what it is, so you'll just have to pardon the French: Wasn't Jesus supposed to save us from this bullshit?

I claim no responsibility for the thought. Rather, it is just the spontaneous fruit of forgotten meditations, as the Aphorist might put it. But since the thought kept recurring, I decided to look at it, and lo and behold, it meant something.

We are all familiar with the idea that "Jesus saves." But from what, exactly? Most people would say "from sin," but that was not my point of entry into the whole mystery. Then again, I suppose it was, since lying is a sin, and inhabiting a Lie (such as secular leftism) must be even worse.

What I want to say is that Jesus (by which I mean the whole tradition that flows from him) saved my mind. From what? Well, for starters, from mountains of bullshit. Before the transition, my mind was a vast and fertile field for the cultivation of bullshit.

Matters were only made worse by an extensive education, for The learned fool has a wider field to practice his folly, and He who understands the least is he who insists on understanding more than what can be understood (NGD).

"Christ," writes Bailie, "went to the Cross to ram a stick in the spokes of the ritual for transforming sin into the delusion of righteousness."

But you could also say he does the same to the ritual of transforming utter bullshit into the delusion of righteous truth. We see this ad nauseam in the left's ritual of transforming self-styled victims into paragons of virtue, most recently, John Lewis.

Fifty years ago Lewis was knocked upside the head by some Democrat racist (but I repeat myself), which transformed him into a Civil Rights Icon. Ever since then he has been able to conceal his grotesque political hackery behind the meretricious penumbra of civil righteousness.

Oh please. Didn't Jesus save us from this bullshit?

What is the Ultimate Bullshit? It would have to consist of the Devil appropriating the Cross for his own purposes. Is this even possible? Stupid question. Rather, is there anything we can do to prevent it?

Yesterday Instapundit linked to an editorial by a leftist minister. Here's his take on American history:

I’ll let Ta-Nehisi Coates boil it down for you. White society was not achieved through “wine tastings and ice cream socials, but rather through the pillaging of life, liberty, labor and land.” In short, through three centuries of kidnapping, torture, murder and rape. Broken teeth, broken bones and broken spirits. Families ripped apart. Children taken from their parents. Men humiliated in front of their wives. Women brutalized within earshot of their husbands. Lash after bloody lash on bare backs. Then, sleep on a bare wooden floor. No doctor, no dentist, no nothing. Just non-stop misery with a few hymns on Sunday.

Okay then. The diffusion of a few drops of Christianity into a leftist mind transforms the idiot into a perfect idiot (NGD).

If we begin with the principle that man is fallen, then nothing he does should surprise us. We certainly would not attribute to "whiteness" what is universal in all men at all times. But once blacks are elevated to righteous victims, it is (apparently) easy for the leftist to forget that they too are subject to the law of ontological gravity, AKA the fall. If they weren't, then Africa would be a paradise instead of a place no black American would choose to live.

Roger Kimball writes of a campus group called Teach! Organize! Resist!, which "intends to stage a number of on-campus protests and consciousness-raising events between Martin Luther King Jr. Day tomorrow and Mr. Trump’s inauguration Friday":

“We intend to organize,” their web site informs the world, “against the proposed expansion of state violence targeting people of color, undocumented people, queer communities, women, Muslims, and many others.” What “state violence” would that be? While you wonder about that, note too that the organizers “intend to resist the institutionalization of ideologies of separation and subordination, including white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, and virulent nationalism.” Oh, I see.

I don't. Didn't Jesus save us from this bullshit?

Technically, yes. "[W]e live downstream from the atoning Event and in cultures profoundly shaped by it," and "live buoyed by consolations that first washed over the world at the Resurrection, consolations that were the first fruit of unconsoled suffering."

A touching story of Suffering, Death, and Resurrection:

In the spring of 2013, my worst nightmare came true. Everything that I and my closest friends had spent the previous three decades building came crashing down around us. The entire international body of students and centers, 27 years of tireless work and commitment, disappeared almost overnight.

Sounds bad! What happened?

The truth is, as crazy as it sounds, I believed I was infallible. And for a very long time, the majority of my students believed it too. In the end, I lost everything and caused untold suffering to many people only because of an irrational refusal to admit the simple truth: like most human beings I am deeply flawed.

Oh please. Didn't Jesus save us from this bullshit?

Maybe, but for only 404 Euros you can join this deeply flawed man as he "continues his ongoing exploration of the role of both student and guru in a post-mythic context."

Did he say post mythic?

Lord save us from the bullshit.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

It's Your World. God's Just Living In It.

To review: the mature form of a thing discloses its reason for being, and for man this consists of theosis or deification or sanctification.

Indeed, this is axiomatic, for what could possibly be higher than these? It is probably for this reason that Leon Bloy made that crack about how “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”

Sure, it may be impossible for most people, but that's the point. Anything within reach won't really satisfy. What? Of course there's an Aphorism for that. More than one:

Any goal different from God dishonors us.

Christianity contradicts the trivial demands of man’s reason in order to better fulfill his essence’s deep desires.

Conversely, Hell is the place where man finds all his projects realized.

Hell was not invented by God. Rather, by man. It is simply a consequence of the gift of freedom misused.

The bottom line is that "Man is a finite being for whom God plans an infinite destiny. Consequently, man's existence was incomplete -- even in creation -- inasmuch as God intended for man a sharing in His own nature" (Reardon). Therefore, in order for human beings to share in this nature, God assumes "human nature and historical existence" (ibid.).

Note that God doesn't just assume a man, but human nature; and not just a personal history, but history as such: "The final transfiguration of the human race begins with the enfleshing of the Word," which is the only thing I can think of that could break through the walls erected by sin, by death, and even by existence itself.

Jesus is like man's window into God and God's window into man. Which is the purpose of an icon. Indeed, we could say that Jesus is the Icon of icons, a kind of two-way lens for the transmission of divine energies.

Somewhere in the distant past I wrote of These Things.

For example,

Among other things, Christianity "divinizes" both time and history. Indeed, it wouldn't be going too far to say that Christianity transforms mere time into real history, the latter of which is a movement toward something instead of just duration or decay. If time is not moving toward its own fulfillment, then it really is just a tale told by a tenured idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying a lifetime gig and adoring coeds.

Darwinians unconsciously convert science into an exciting drama of "progress," when progress is precisely what Darwinism excludes. Rather, there is only change, and change is not drama. Imagine going to a movie in which the characters and action merely change, but for no reason. You know, like one of those foreign films.

In this regard, you can see that nihilism is a kind of "reverse mysticism." A Darwinian is not permitted to say that a man has more objective value than an amoeba. The "journey" from amoeba to man is just one inconceivably long string of accidents. Therefore, it is not really a journey at all. Rather, that's just a phony narrative we superimpose on the facts, because deep down -- and even on the surface -- we would all like for reality to mean something instead of nothing.

But from a naturalistic perspective it means nothing, which makes us wonder why Darwinians were so excited the other day about the discovery of a new fossil. Why joy? I don't get it. Who cares if there are eight wonders if the eighth wonder proves that wonder is completely pointless? Let's grant Darwinians their fantasy, and suppose that this fossil finally proves that human existence is meaningless. Why would that be a cause for glee instead of sadness?

Unless -- unless we are again dealing with an unconscious narrative that is an inversion of the Christian narrative. Could it be that metaphysical Darwinians are parasites on the history they wish to deny? Yes, of course.

Right. That was all very amusing, Bob, but here is what I was actually looking for. Read it in light of how the Incarnation ingeniously deals with each of these infirmities:

As we have discussed in the past, man is always limited by what Schuon calls four "infirmities." First, we are creatures and not Creator, which is to say, "manifestation and not Principle or Being." Or, just say we are contingent and not necessary or absolute. We might not have been, but here we are.

Second, we are men, and all this implies, situated somewhere between absolute and relative, God and animal -- somewhat like a terrestrial angel or a celestial ape.

Third, we are all different, which is to say, individuals, and there can be no science of the utterly unique and unrepeatable. (Which is why, by the way, there can be no science of the cosmos itself, since there's only one; for that you need to shift cognitive gears into metaphysics and theology.)

This is a critical point, because as far as science is concerned, our essential differences must be entirely contingent, just a result of nature tossing the genetic dice. Suffice it to say that this is not a sufficient reason to account for the miracle of individuality. Well, individual jerks, maybe. But not anyone you'd want to hang out with.

Lastly, there are human differences that are indeed contingent and not essential or providential. These include negative things such as mind parasites that result from the exigencies of childhood, but also the accidental aspects of culture, language, and history. In order to exist at all, we must surely exist in a particular time and a particular place.

Elsewhere Schuon summarizes the accidents of existence as world, life, body, and soul; or more abstractly, "space, time, matter, desire."

The purpose of metaphysics is to get beneath these accidents, precisely, and hence to a realm of true objectivity and therefore perennial truth (even though, at the same time, existence, life, and intelligence especially represent a continuous reminder, or breakthrough, of the miraculous).

So, Incarnation solves all of these "problems." In short, the Creator, via Incarnation, takes on world, life, body, and soul; or space, time, matter, and desire.

"The truth is that God is drawn to us by love, that He has forcefully thrown in His lot with us, to the point of becoming one of us.... Human theotropism and divine anthropotropism are both fulfilled" (ibid.).

The moment of the Incarnation was not static.... [for] to be a living human being is not a static thing. A human being -- any human being -- is a work in progress.... Strictly speaking, therefore, the doctrine of the Incarnation does not refer simply to a human state, but to a full human life.... [God makes] himself a subjective participant in human history, someone whose existence and experience were circumscribed by the limiting conditions of time and space. --Reardon

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why Are We Here?

How can any conscious person not wonder about that? And how can he not realize there are only two possible reasons, one of which reduces to no reason at all. God or nihilism. The rest is distraction.

In a book called Reclaiming the Atonement, the author outlines the following reason, which sounds about right to me:

"Man was created to be joined with God in an intimate union, whereby he would be incorporated -- in the elevated measure divine grace makes possible to a human being -- into the very life of God. Man was created in order to be 'at-one' with God. Man was created for theosis. Theosis, then, is the true and proper ordo rerun [order of things]."

And "order of things" is correct, because it isn't just that man is ordered to God, but that the cosmos itself must be ordered to man if man is to be ordered to God. In a very real sense, man is the reason for the cosmos. This is why, for example, it is intelligible to us. But we can't just leave it at that; rather, we must ask why it is intelligible, and for what reason. Which goes back to the divine purpose.

As to the latter, Reardon further points out that we couldn't "share in the divine nature unless the Word shared a human nature," which is precisely why man's theosis requires God's Incarnation.

In the absence of the latter, we can still know that the cosmos is preternaturally ordered to us, but we couldn't know that we in turn are reciprocally ordered to its very creator.

Of the four causes -- material, efficient, formal, and final -- it is final cause that answers the question of why something exists. Eyes are for seeing; a car is for driving; hands are for grasping.

If you ask why cars exist, you can point to the materials of which it is composed, the people who built it, and its design, but none of these make sense without final cause: it was built in order to take us somewhere. Duh!

Note that the final cause is the last to be realized in time but the first to be contemplated in thought. I don't know how long it takes to realize a car from conception to fulfillment.

But it takes about 10 million years for solar-type stars to form, and about 10 billion for habitable planets. After that, life appears pretty quickly, but it takes another 3.5 billion years or so for self-conscious persons to arrive on the scene. It then took about 50 to 100,000 years to prepare man for the God-man.

And we've only had 2,000 years to assimilate him. As discussed in yesterday's post, the assimilation is ongrowing. As Kerouac said, walking on water wasn't built in a day.

So, when we come right down to it, everything exists for the sake of theosis. This makes perfect sense, because the purpose of something resides in its mature state. We all -- secular and religious alike - believe man "matures," the question being "how high?" -- does maturity extend all the way up, or end at some arbitrary point?

The latter makes no metaphysical sense, because a hierarchy is conditioned from the top down, i.e., it exhibits final causation.

Which helps to make sense of fallenness and sin, or at least looks at it from a slightly different angle.

By way of analogy, think of the concept of "pathology," which can only apply to living things. There cannot be a sick rock, although Al Franken comes close. The purpose of the heart, for example, is to pump blood. Anything that interferes with that -- clogged arteries, arrhythmias, valvular damage -- is pathological. Pathology only makes sense in light of final causation.

It has always been a pet peeve of mine that psychology attempts to speak of pathology in the absence of purpose. In reality it cannot be done. Rather, there will simply be an implicit and unarticulated purpose.

But ultimately, if theosis is man's purpose, then anything interfering with it will be pathological. On the spiritual plane, this is sin, precisely. Sin can only be understood in the context of what man is for. Sin, you might say, is "spiritual illness."

I'm thinking of a couple of Aphorisms:

The radical error — the deification of man — does not have its origin in history. Fallen man is the permanent possibility of committing the error.

And Radical sin relegates the sinner to a silent, gray universe, in which he drifts on the surface of the water, an inert castaway, toward inexorable insignificance.

Note that the deification of man goes to what was said above in paragraph three: it is to believe that the cosmos is mysteriously ordered to man, but to leave it at that -- to not realize that this is because man is ordered to God.

As to being relegated to that gray and silent universe, this is simply the logical consequence of denying God and hierarchy: it is as if the cosmos is ordered to man, but man is nothing. Therefore, everything is nothing.

Reardon notes that the early fathers were more aware of this than we seem to be. "The more traditional approach begins, not with fallen man, but with man in his Christian fulfillment: union with God."

So, our ultimate purpose explains sin better than sin explains the need for a sacrificial atonement.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Christ Mind, Beginner's Mind

Back in the day, there was a popular book called Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. If Zen is counted as a religion, I suppose I never qualified as an unmitigated atheist. Zen is advertised as a godless religion, which isn't necessarily oxymoronic. Schuon felt, for example, that Buddhism in general has the signified (the reality), just not the signifier (the name).

Zen appeals to western intellectuals because it seems to offer the advantages of religion with none of the scandals: no dogma, no miracles, no Bearded Old Man in the Sky.

The amazon description says the author "always returns to the idea of beginner's mind, a recognition that our original nature is our true nature. With beginner's mind, we dedicate ourselves to sincere practice, without the thought of gaining anything special. Day to day life becomes our Zen training, and we discover that 'to study Buddhism is to study ourselves.' And to know our true selves is to be enlightened."

It's quite experimental, even empirical: do this, discover that. Indeed, the ultimate discovery is that this is already that, and vice versa. It sounds annoyingly paradoxical, because it seems like a long process of trying to give up trying, or a long road forward to back where you started.

It seems to me that Buddhism is essentially backward -- or downward, at any rate, i.e., to the Ground -- looking, while Christianity is unavoidably forward looking. Is this just a semantic difference -- different names for the same thing?

Back when I rejected Christianity, it was because I didn't understand it. Indeed, it can be argued that it is strictly impossible to understand Christianity without practicing it, i.e., through faith.

The above preluminaries were provoked by something Bailie says: that, as we know, Jesus promised "a Spirit would come to lead those trying to be faithful to Christ into ever greater understanding of the truth" revealed in and by him.

Thus, from the perspective of Total Truth -- of the revelation fully revealed -- we must all count ourselves "early Christians." Although "the revelation of Christ is full and complete, we are far from having surveyed its vast scope and meaning." Indeed, "the understanding that comes by faith embraces more truth than it can comprehend" (Balthasar, ibid.). We are all beginners, and every day is a new beginning.

For practical purposes -- i.e., from our side -- revelation is very much timebound; it can only reveal itself "in the fullness of time," analogous to an organic process of growth. You can't command the seed to become a mature tree; time takes time.

Thus, where Zen seems ineluctably "reductive," Christianity is necessarily "expansive," so to speak. "It is part of the mystery of the Christian revelation that it functions like a time-release medication." Conversely, we might say that Zen involves a release from time, into the eternal moment (or the moment of eternity).

Both approaches have their potential drawbacks. Bailie notes that for Christianity, the temptation always exists of forgetting "the danger of being bewitched by the spirit of the age" and separating "its healthy potential from its poisoned fruit..."

Regarding Zen, Schuon says it may "become easily mingled with anti-intellectual" sensibilities, "for it is one thing to place oneself beyond the thinking faculty and it is another to remain below that faculty's highest possibilities, even while imagining one has 'transcended' things of which one does not comprehend the first word." This is to deepak all over the chopra.

For "He who truly transcends verbal formulations will be the first to respect the ones which have given direction to his thinking in the first place and to venerate 'every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God'" (ibid.).

Schuon alludes to an old gag to the effect that "only the pig overturns its trough after emptying it," which is like kicking the religious ladder out from under onesoph, the very ladder by which one ascends.

There is another kind of pig who steals from the trough before kicking it over: "We live in a world whose strategies for expelling the Christian truth draw on underlying forms of Christian thought for their legitimacy" (Bailie).

The left is filled with such pigs -- for example, a Meryl Streep, who bullies and slanders under the guise of being opposed to bullying and slandering. Likewise, the left embraces racial discrimination in the name of equality, coercion in the name of freedom, theft in the name of charity, entitlements in the name of rights, etc.

This morning I have one ear on the senate hearing for Jeff Sessions, in which Democrats are shamelessly engaging in all of the above. If this post is a little lame, that's why: I am slightly distracted and out of my beginner's mind.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Cure For Death Announced

A provocative point: "In the ancient world, death is fungible" (Bailie).

Which means that in the modern world death is fungible, human nature being what it is.

"Fungible" means "of such nature as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable," "the property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution." It is "the property of essences or goods which are capable of being substituted in place of one another."

Therefore, death is just like money, only worse. You can quite literally use it to purchase life, at least in theory. It doesn't actually work, but that has never stopped people from trying. How else to understand human sacrifice, which is again the "attempt to evade death by foisting it onto another"?

Bailie makes a subtle point about how death "entered the world" as a result of the fall. As discussed in a previous post, it is not biological death that resulted, but rather, something much worse -- a total destruction of personal being, such that human life becomes haunted by death. Let's call it Death as opposed to the mere biological cessation of death.

Theologian Adrian Walker (in Bailie) suggests that "had man not fallen, he would still have to undergo an earthly end, though he would have known it as a purely joyous transition to the eschatological state, without any stain of constraint, privation, or corruption."

I wonder. Recall what was said about prelapsarian "innocence" only being known retrospectively. If true, it equally implies that the idea of a "joyous transition" can only be posited retrospectively. Nevertheless, a powerful lesson is conveyed having to do with how we regard Death: as absolute end or as some kind of new beginning.

"[I]t is in the specifically human realm that we find a strategy for evading [D]eath that consists of redirecting it toward another."

Imagine we are in a death camp. Which of course we are. Every day we observe that Death will pluck some individuals out of the camp. Can Death be bribed? Can we toss someone else into its jaws in order to appease its appetite, even if only for one day?

Sure. The Aztec certainly thought so, and they are hardly alone. But again, there must be lingering traces of this pattern in the modern world, human nature being what it is. In short: whom shall we sacrifice today?

Much of the news of the day comes down not only to locating the victim, but creating the victim. For example, each time a black person is killed by a police officer, no matter how justified, the left turns the officer into a sacrificial victim. His life is effectively over. He must disappear into the underworld and live incognito.

Bailie suggests that Death doesn't so much follow from sin as vice versa: "because of [D]eath all men have sinned." It is precisely Death that "corrupts our nature" and prompts us to do the worst things to evade it, e.g., "turning death into a cure for [D]eath, eluding [D]eath by exploiting its mystique and becoming its unwitting accomplices..."

Clearly, there is no human cure for Death. If there is a cure, it can only come from God. Which is precisely what Christianity -- or Christ -- communicates: that "at the Resurrection, the 'power of [D]eath' was broken, but not the fact of death."

"Christ came to rob [D]eath of its sting, not primarily by providing us with consolations or promises of future happiness, but rather by drawing our suffering and [D]eath into his and thus assimilating our suffering and [D]eath into the redemptive economy in ways that we simply cannot fathom."

As you all know, I flunked out of business school, so I never fathomed economics anyway. But it seems that participation in the divine economy provides a way to avoid flunking out of isness school, AKA Life.

[T]he Resurrection relieves those on whom the Easter Sun has shone of the desperate project of trying to achieve in history what can be fulfilled only eschatologically -- a fool's errand that has turned the late-modern period into a crematoria like no other in history. --Bailie

Friday, January 06, 2017

Who Gets To Be Jesus?

"A solicitude for victims and those who might remotely be seen as scapegoats is one of the most distinctive features of societies that have fallen under Christian influence" (Bailie). However, Bailie adds the important caveat that "Moral improvement operates on the individual level, where each moral agent faces particular dilemmas."

Consider how the left is struggling with how to deal with the recent brutalization of a Trump supporter by four African Americans in Chicago. They are not accustomed to interpreting victimhood on an individual basis, but rather, a collective one.

Indeed, the left is essentially a coalition of self-designated victim groups, which, in a perversion of Christianity, confers an air of sinlessness upon the victim group. Therefore it is unnecessary to actually cultivate the ability to think morally, for morality is known a priori: blacks, women, Muslims, homosexuals, and illegal immigrants are intrinsically innocent.

Even if they film themselves torturing a white person. The Washington Post conceded the attack looked bad, but couldn't help equating the torturers with the Trump supporters who will no doubt exploit the incident to misappropriate holy victim status: the "gist of the article is this: Kidnapping and torture is bad, but it's also bad that Trump supporters are using the attack to reaffirm their false notions about violence in Chicago, media bias and persecution of white people."

Here are some similar sentiments: "Calm down my white friends… your white privilege is showing." "You’re acting like white folks haven’t been doing this to [People of Color] throughout history, but now a Caucasian man gets attacked and it’s suddenly wahala (sic)." "[W]hite people cannot suffer racism, it’s an actual impossibility if you understand WTF racism is.” “I’m sick of these white men crying 'racist' when crimes are committed against whites. “[B]lack people die at the hands of white terrorists everyday." Etc.

Countless additional examples could be found. What's really at stake here is Who Gets To Be Jesus? These leftists can't help imagining that we think the way they do: that if this white person in Chicago is a victim, then all white people are victims. Which only an idiot would think.

A morally normal person doesn't think this way. Rather, we judge each case on the merits. This is precisely what the moral perverts of Black Lives Matter cannot do, in that their founding myth is the victimhood of the psychopathic thug Michael Brown. Or at least he is the exemplar and symbol of the deeper and more pervasive myth of victimhood.

The "quintessential function of primitive sacrifice" is the "attempt to evade death by foisting it onto another" (Bailie). What is so intriguing about the left is that they manage to indulge in the sacrifice while imagining that the sacrificers are the victims. Not to invoke Godwin's law, but this is precisely how the Nazis justified their genocide: to the end, they insisted they were victims of the Jews.

In Hitler's last known statement he spoke of his great "love and loyalty to my people in all my thoughts, acts, and life," and of how he was only thwarted by International Jewry, "the real criminal of this murderous struggle." He even killed himself in order to avoid being a human sacrifice by the Jews: "I do not wish to fall into the hands of an enemy who requires a new spectacle organized by the Jews for the amusement of their hysterical masses."

He makes another appeal to the sacrificial motif: "From the sacrifice of our soldiers and from my own unity with them unto death, will in any case spring up in the history of Germany, the seed of a radiant renaissance of the National Socialist movement and thus of the realization of a true community of nations. Many of the most courageous men and women have decided to unite their lives with mine until the very last." Martyrs, Vine, and Resurrection.

I've mentioned before that one can learn a great deal about mental illness by seeing it in its more extreme versions. Similarly, Hitler lays bare the sacrificial mechanism in a completely transparent way -- as did, for example, the Aztec. Their psychic economy was similar to the Third Reich, except it lasted for a couple hundred years instead of just twelve. Carroll places the number of human sacrifices at 50,000 a year, possibly more. What were they thinking?

Interestingly, Carroll writes that "While the lords and common people of the Aztec empire were rigorously conditioned to think and act collectively rather than individually" (emphasis mine) their Christian "counterparts in Spain were exactly the opposite..." For them, God himself had "been a Victim of the dark powers which ruled Tlacaellel's Mexico."

In all of history this was perhaps the most sudden and shocking confluence of the two streams of history, the sacrificial and the post-sacrificial. But that divide nevertheless persists in the human heart.

Again, so long as the creatures of the left can sustain their victim status, then their a priori innocence shields them from moral condemnation. They can rob, murder, riot, and burn down their cities, but if you hold them accountable, then you are blaming the victim. This provokes a "Christian outrage," minus the Christianity.

Once there was a world within the world, self-contained, complete within itself. On its every side were impassable barriers made by the gods... --Warren Carroll

The leftist screams that freedom is dying when his victims refuse to finance their own murders. --Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Remystify what You Have and Demystify what You Want

Not only do we want, but we want to want. Yes, that's a bit of a cliché, but let's see if we can scratch beneath the sophist.

I'm thinking in particular of collecting. Do you collect anything? For me it is music. I've been collecting since I was about 11 or so, but if I had kept everything I've collected since then, it would probably fill my house. This hasn't happened because I mainly patronize used record stores, and trade things I no longer want for the things I do. It's a never-ending process.

It seems that you can't Want what you already have, or at least in the same way. We need a different word for the relationship: wanting a CD I don't have is phenomenologically very different from wanting one I already have. Something is demystified the moment I have it. Or perhaps "wanting" the object imbues it with mystery. But once you have it, poof. Mystery solved -- if "solved" is the right word, which it isn't. Rather, the mystery is just displaced to a new object.

No doubt "womanizing" partakes of the same process. Some men go through supermodels the way I go through CDs.

Back when I was in graduate school and pondering dissertation topics, one idea that came to mind was The Remystification of the Mind. I see that my auto-spell quickly corrected me and insisted upon Demystification. I can see why: probably nothing demystifies as quickly as a computer, particularly one connected to the internet. With it, one needn't even take the time to cultivate a robust Want. Think about what's going on when you find yourself -- and you know you do -- mindlessly clicking from site to site, looking for... what, exactly?

"Much that passes for desire today is so ephemeral and evanescent that it must be acted upon posthaste before it dissipates or is replaced by yet another mimetic enticement. Such feeble desires are quickly recycled, each giving rise, phoenix-like, to yet another effervescent faux-desire" (Bailie).

Quick! Fulfill me before the sensation passes! What's the old line? Instant gratification is too slow, or something.

Our liberal unintelligentsia speak of "micro-aggression," which comes down to a perversely cultivated ability to discover victimhood in any context. But there really is something like "micro-desire," isn't there? At the far end of wanting to want, "the halfhearted impulses that pass for desire are likely to grow more fickle, more impatient, and more in need of external stimulants and pharmacological enhancements."

Soon enough, now! isn't fast enough, and micro-desire shades off into quantum desire. This has the effect of dismembering the human now, which is all we ever have in this life.

I'm not sure if we're succeeding in getting beneath the surface. So far, just a lot of pneumababble.

Another more subtle aspect of collecting is the creation of what I would call a "micro-world." It is as if the collection stands in for some completed dream-ideal. If you can just acquire that last missing piece, the world will be complete! Which of course it never is.

By the way, I don't want to imply that I still fall for such obvious tricks of the devil. Rather, I am very much aware of the phenomenology of it all, and see it as a way to indulge my futile desires in a low-cost way. It is not as if I am throwing my money away on Porsches or fine Italian shoes or supermodels or whatever.

It seems that Jesus tries to tackle this whole desiring business head on. We know that the Buddha did too, in his own way. Come to think of it, religion is in many ways a means for properly structuring and directing desire, isn't it?

Bailie notes that in Jesus' case, he famously claims that "Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Such a bold statement can only be made by someone who has long meditated on the nature of desire. What he's implying is that we don't actually want what we think we want, with the result that we can never get enough of what we don't really need. That is the endless cycle of desire, and he is offering a way out of it.

So many the Aphorist's truth grenades go to this.

But before getting to them, a thoughtlet just occurred to me vis-a-vis politics. What is the left but the ideology of wanting? Everything about it comes down to compelling the state to convert desires into rights and wishes into entitlements. Your wanting becomes the state's taking.

The act of despoiling an individual of his goods is called robbery, when another individual does the despoiling. And social justice, when an entire collective entity robs him.

A proper conservatism is a much tougher sell, because it revolves around who we are as a people rather than what we want. Just make America great again, and we'll take care of the rest. Indeed, America's greatness consisted in just that: a system through which we could actualize our latent potential and rise or fall based upon our own merits.

Having said that, beware: for The gods do not punish the pursuit of happiness but the ambition to forge it with our own hands. The only licit desire is for something gratuitous, for something that does not depend on us at all.

Oh really?

That's right: Desire thinks that it desires what it desires, but it only desires God.

Indeed, One single being can be enough for you. But Man can never be enough for you.

Nevertheless, Man does not feel free as long as his passions do not enslave him -- so long as he isn't lost in the evanescent satisfaction of fleeting micro-desires.

That is a perversion of our God-given freedom. What is its real purpose?

Freedom is not indispensable because man knows what he wants and who he is, but in order for him to know who he is and what he wants.

Perhaps we could summarize by saying that we should start by remystifying what we have and demystifying what we think we want.

Everything that makes man feel that mystery envelops him makes him more intelligent (all aphorism by Nicolás Gómez Dávila).