Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Home Version of Ask Petey

For reasons known only to them, my penurious publisher, Paragon House, said I could receive a slightly higher royalty rate--in other words, a higher percentage of nothing--if I purchased 100 books myself. So I did, and that's why I'm sellin' 'em here. Verrry slowly. Still, when they're gone, they're gone.

If you would like a signed copy of our One Cosmos Under God: The Unification of Matter, Life, Mind and Spirit, send your address & check for $20 (which covers shipping) to:

Robert Godwin
PO BOX 8962
CALABASAS, CA
91372-8962

If you would like something more than a mere signature--a lovingly handcrafted metaphysical wisecrack or insult from my discarnate collaborator, Petey, a paw print from my dog, a small vial of surprisingly intoxicating baby pheromones, whatever, just let me know. Any questions, e-mail me at: earthtobob@dslextreme.com

TESTIMANIACAL BLURBERMOUTHS

"A guerilla metaphysician and ontological jihadi who refuses to accept the slave wages of normality, this infidel has written an impudent book that is guaranteed to vault your ego out of its conceptual sand dune and expand your mind in places you didn't know you had places. A psychic cartography full of black-diamond cognitive trails that will delight extreme seekers of all fringe movements, One Cosmos unleashes a whirlwind of ideas that helps us see the vast spiritual forest for the materialist tree-dwellers. Two thumbs way off! Where is my damn machete?! (Just kidding. Ha!)"

--Mohammed, author of The Koran (or Idiot's Guide to Islam)

"Ever wonder what a new testavus for the rest of us would look like if we started from scratch based on what the devil's own science has revealed about the nature of reality? Full of old ideas that seem new and new ideas that give relevance and depth to the old, Godwin has deeply "mythunderstood" our existential predicament in light of the best of ancient wisdom and modern thought. This is an updated word from our eternal sponsor, delivered in a gravely amusing and mirthfully serious manner. I predict NO HURRICANES in Bob's hometown any time soon."

--Pat Robertson, author God is King, and I am His Jester

"Sounding every bit like he's been channeling a white salamander, Godwin bores through the cosmic mountain from all sides and meets in the most unexpected of places, the mysterious "I" whose center is in all of us and whose boundless circumference encompasses the whole of reality. One Cosmos is adult spiritual entertainment at its best, the most fun I've ever had mutating my neural networks to perceive higher worlds since 1827!"

--Joseph Smith, transcriber The Book of Mormon

"One man's attempt to sing the Song of Creation, a four-part cosmic suite that takes us from the tune up in the orchestra pit before the performance, to the opening chords of the Big Bang, through to the blissful crescendo of mystical consciousness. A euphoric and euphonious ululation across the nation in celebration of all creation, this best of all possible bangs, our one cosmos under God, inexplicable, with liberation and joyousness for all."

--I. F. Naughty-Bitz, Professor of Blurbology and Applied Inside Flap Notes


******

For an actual review, check out the Winter 2006 edition of What is Enlightenment? magazine. They allege that the book is "a remarkable integration of science, psychology, and spirit.... a thrilling contribution to the emerging canon of evolutionary thought--one that leaves us eager to embark on the next journey with this daring cosmic dharmanaut." In fact, the magazine recently conducted a grueling interrogation of this Daring Cosmic Dharmanaut that should appear in their next issue, although I can't be sure.

AUTOHAGIOGRAPHY

Clinical psychologist Robert Godwin is an extreme seeker and off-road spiritual aspirant who has spent no less than one lifetime in search of the damn key to the world enigma. A high school graduate at just seventeen and a-half, Dr. Godwin attended business school until the vagaries of academic probation and expulsion led him to pursue other missed opportunities. Capitalizing on a natural ability to simultaneously enjoy movies and lower his expectations, Godwin eventually earned a film degree in just four terms (Ford/Carter and parts of Nixon/Reagan. Initially denied admission to graduate school because of "inadequate" academic preparation (their words), Holy Happenstance intervened in the nick of time, and Dr. Godwin went on to obtain two advanced degrees in psychology without allowing it to interfere with his education or with ongoing spiritual research conducted in his suburban liberatoreum. Lengthy periods there of higher bewilderment and intense non-doing resulted in important advances in egobliteration and karmannihilation. At the same time, Dr. Godwin spent many years searching and researching for his book, only to conclude that it did not exist, and that if he wanted to read it, he would have to write it. Having now read it a number of times, he is happy to share that burden with a wider audience of fertile eggheads interested in peering behind the annoying veil that separates them from ultimate reality.

More Unswers to Your Questings

Taking some of your additional questions in order, Jodie D. asked, why is the Muslim religion so decadent?

The fact that this is a good question is problematic, isn't it? It's almost a rhetorical question that provides it's own answer, like "why are you such a jerk?"

It's especially problematic that it is possible to ask such a question of a religion. If a religion doesn't even make you a better person, then what good is it? And what evidence do we have that Islam is producing superior and spiritually evolved people, cultures, institutions, and nations?

I didn't know anything about Islam on 9-10-01. However, even on 9-12-01, I retained an open mind. I was fully receptive to the MSM bromide that Islam was an essentially peaceful religion that had simply been hijacked by a few lunatics and radicals.

I am familiar with all the world's most venerated scripture and sacred writings--the Torah, New Testament, Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras, Tao Te Ching, etc.--and I have very high regard for each of them. Although each is "relatively absolute" and complete in its way, I nevertheless feel that they all supplement and complement one another and that, for example, a Christian can benefit by trying to reconcile the Upanishads with the Gospel of John.

Once you are on a spiritual path, you start to develop a sort of sixth sense, or "third eye" that helps you understand spiritual matters. I don't want to overly romanticize this notion--I don't think it's really fundamentally different from any other kind of expertise. For example, a trained psychoanalyst is able to "see" or "feel" unconscious communication in a way that the untutored individual cannot. Or even a baseball or hockey fan can watch a game and see all kinds of things that the non-fan misses. The fan and non-fan literally see a different reality on the field or ice.

Anyway, I read the Koran with my spiritual detector switched on, but it was a sobering experience. I really don't want to be accused of bigotry here. Certainly you could say that my response was subjective, and that's fine. But I actually found the Koran to be rather disturbing. Although there are undoubtedly some passages that contain spiritual "light," there are also many passages that convey a deep darkness--again, based only on my subjective experience. I find no such darkness at all in, say, the Upanishads or Tao Te Ching. They are almost pure light.

One thing we must do at the outset is distinguish between the revealed vs. the "natural" religions. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are revealed religions, whereas the Upanishads are unrevealed, "positivistic" scriptures. Rather, they are much more explicitly philosophical and metaphysical. In fact, they are mainly experiential. Both Buddhism and Jnana yoga say to the spiritual aspirant: do this, and you will experience that. In their purest form--such as Vedanta or Zen--these traditions are very much free of dogma.

In a certain way, all of the revealed religions are more inherently problematic, because even if we are dealing with a pure revelation from God, it still has to be revealed to someone, specifically, a flawed human being. Judaism, to my knowledge, has never pretended that the prophets were perfect people. Nor does Christian doctrine maintain that the writers of the gospels were perfect beings who simply took dictation from God. In Judaism the Torah is perfect, but it still must be interpreted. In Christianity the perfect ideal is located in Christ, but in a very complex way that I won't get into here.

But in Islam, both Mohammed and his message are considered perfect, inerrant, and not subject to interpretation. This is problematic, for a great deal is known about the historical Mohammed, and the fact of the matter is, he was not just your average quiet, introspective spiritual seeker. For one thing, unlike Jesus or Buddha or Lao Tsu, he was a warrior, a conqueror. Like it or not, he was also a worldly man. He was married, not just to one woman, but to many women. Christians are told to "imitate Christ." How different would Christianity be if Christ had been a violent warrior with several wives?

Of course, one could say, "look at history. Are you naive? What about the crusades? The inquisition? The endless religious wars?" First of all, the crusades were largely a defensive action against an expansive Islam. But even leaving that aside, I believe that the Christian message is entirely self-correcting, given enough time. That is, there is no possible justification in the gospels for violent conquest, for treating others as less than fully human, for unfair treatment of women, etc.

I would be happy to stand corrected, but I don't see a clear-cut, self-correcting mechanism in Islam. Islam has a long and bloody history, but instead of being a departure from Mohammed's message, there are many, many passages in the Koran that quite clearly and explicitly justify and encourage such behavior. Again, this is not Muslim bashing. I'm simply repeating what I read in the Koran with my own three eyes.

Does this mean that all Muslims are bad people? Of course not. I actually tried to dislike the music of Cat Stevens, but I can't. He seems like a genuinely sweet and well-intentioned person who does a lot of good in the world.

But one thing that really troubles me is the lack of outrage in the Muslim world about the almost irreparable damage the terrorists are doing to something they hold sacred. I think about that poor journalist who has been captured in Iraq. Why aren't Muslims all over the world--millions upon millions of them--standing up, demonstrating, and demanding that she be released? Let's just focus on America, where Muslims enjoy the fruits of Judeo-Christian liberty. Why are our most prominent Muslim groups, such as CAIR, such dubious people? Every time they open their mouths, they just do further damage to Islam, and make one suspicious of their real motives.

Can one even imagine Christians sitting by quietly while such evil were being perpetrated in the name of their religion? The largest demonstration in the history of Israel occurred after that savage, may his memory be cursed, opened fire on Muslims in a Mosque. Why has there never been anything comparable in the Muslim world except recently in Jordan, but only after they were attacked?

By the way, just to show that I am not inherently anti-Islam, I've studied a fair amount of Sufism, and I am quite favorably disposed to it. They seem to have succeeded in eliminating the darkness and retaining the light. However, my understanding is that they are generally regarded by mainstream Muslims as a fringe, if not downright heretical movement.

Again, my mind remains open, and I would love for it to be changed. The main reason I supported the liberation of Iraq was that I felt--whether naively or not--that it would engender a transformation of that part of the world, and show that Muslims could create a decent, tolerant, and democratic society. I pray that I was right. The world-historical implications of being wrong about the capacity of Muslim nations to transform themselves are just too awful to contemplate.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Questionables to Your Unanswerables

Here are answers to some of the questions posed yesterday.

From Mark, I won't ask if there's a God, but what is he like? And have you met him? Also, what is consciousness is a good question, but I'd really like to know what is the subconscious and unconscious, how do they operate, and can they be eliminated? Is it possible to be fully conscious?

All exteriors have an interior, however attenuated. Consciousness is the interior of the cosmos. It has been evolving along with the exterior for the past 13.7 billion years. One Western philosopher who emphasized this is Alfred North Whitehead. Although his magnum opus Process and Reality will be a bit much for most readers, his Science and the Modern World is quite accessible.

No, it is not possible to be "fully conscious," because our self-consciousness lives in the dialectical, generative space between the nonlocal, noumenal ground of consciousness-as-such and our evolved nervous system. Consciousness is refracted through the lens of this nervous system, and is as boundless and inexhaustible as our dream life. It generates constant novelty. In fact, consciousness is the reason why there is so much beautiful and meaningful novelty instead of mere chaos and ugliness. As you may have heard somewhere, all things were made through it, and without it nothing was made that was made. It shines in the dark, but the dorks don't comprehend it.

You cannot eliminate the unconscious, but you can have insight into destructive and self-defeating parts of yourself that have lodged there ("mind parasites"), while hitching a ride on the "higher" aspect of consciousness and using it to your--actually, its--benefit. As a matter of fact, the higher only operates if one approaches it with the utmost humility and sincerity, not to mention respect.

Consciousness extends vertically in both directions, toward a lower zero point of apparent infinite nescience to a higher zero point of empty plenitude. The idea is to orient yourself on the vertical plane toward the higher, and thereby generate what might be called "theologoumena" ("God phenomena," as opposed to surface phenomena or the unKnowable infinite noumenon). This is what it means to "be at play in the fields of the lord," or to experience "the joy of the harvest."

This is how you 1) "meet God" (so to speak) and 2) "find out what he's like." In the West, God operates through the Word. In the East, they say that the world is God's play, or lila. Thus, reality from God's perspective is a lot of extraordinarily clever wordplay. The world is actually made of language, but language is not of this world, if you know what I mean. Nor is our ability to comprehend the language. Both arise from the nonlocal Word--the world is intelligible because we are an image of the process that made it so.

I realized after I wrote this yesterday that it might sound a bit flip, but you must understand both "word" and "play" in the "broadest way imarginable," as Joyce put it. This is an idea with which I am currently playing at very diligently for my next book, and I will provide updates as they become available.

JWM asked, How do you define salvation? In our culture the term is most commonly associated with the Christian religion, but I have seen the term in Buddhist literature as well.
Do you have a definition that cuts across the differences in various religions? Is it up the same tree as enlightenment?


Salvation is spoken of in different ways in different traditions. I am of the belief that religion often involves metaphysics without knowledge. That is, embedded in any religious tradition are all sorts of metaphysical insights that are expressed in an obscure, ambiguous, symbolic, or mythological way. Thus, they have to be unpacked and understood.

What is salvation? From what do we need to be saved? I believe that the deeper meaning of the "fall" involves our entrance into the dimension of time. Time is not actually possible without eternity, but evolution is not possible without time. Therefore, we need to be saved from our apparent separation from the eternal, as we engage in our evolutionary sprint from monkey mind to divine mind.

For example, it is quite easy to fit Jesus into this paradigm. Adam's fall is the fall from timeless communion with God into the separative consciousness of duality and strife. Jesus represents the Universal Principle--the abstract absolute outside time and space--taking on particular form, the "concrete absolute." Thus, Jesus is the Ultimate made Particular, or word made flesh.

However, the Bible clearly teaches that we may share in this process--that it didn't just happen one time to one person. Rather, it perennially occurs in the eternal ground in which we participate at the deepest level. We may be sons of God "through adoption," and thereby be saved from the ravages of time, here and now. We may make the eternal present in us. But it must be "realized," because it is anterior to our surface being.

The Upanishads discuss the problem in a slightly different way, but I think it's the same idea: to disidentify with the local personality and see that atman and brahman are not-two.
That's a quick answer.

Is it up the same tree as enlightenment? Most definitely. The fully realized person has reversed the fall, or turned figure and ground inside out. He has reversed the vector flow that misleadingly draws consciousness downstream to the objects of the senses. In short, he has realized that the cosmos is tree with its roots aloft, its branches down here below. It's a Tree of Life for those whose wood beleaf.

Tamquam Leo Rugiens asked Back in October you had a series on Cosmic Solidarity in which you promised a continuation of the theme touching on Judaism and Christianity. It seems to have gotten as far as Swami Moishe, and there it ended. I would very much appreciate an explication leading into the Christian era.

Yes, I put the kibosh on that little series because it seemed to me that it was a little pedantic and wasn't generating much interest. The main point I would emphasize is that all religions, in my view, must be reconsidered in light of the sort of cosmic evolutionary paradigm outlined in my book or by people like Ken Wilber. With regard to the East, this has been most ably and exhaustively enunciated by Sri Aurobindo, who had the benefit of a Cambridge education and integrated Vedanta with the modern world. In the West, virtually the identical task was achieved by Teilhard de Chardin, whose Phenomenon of Man situated Christianity within a cosmic evolutionary scheme.

Both Aurobindo and Teilhard were pioneers and cosmic omsteaders who necessarily painted their symphonies with a somewhat broad brush. Aurobindo wrote his most important works in the nineteen-teens (before all of the implications of the quantum revolution had even been worked out), while Teilhard had most of his important insights in the 1920's, even though they were not published until after he died in 1959 because of church politics. (By the way, I'm sure someone like Pope John Paul would have been far more receptive to Teilhard's ideas.)

So our task is to fill in the details of the truly grand spectacle of cosmic evolution set forth by these two mighty explorers. So many philosophies are not worthy of man. Even if true in some small, technical sense of the term, they are false in their narrow ignorance of the upper reaches of the human soul and of the awesome adventure of consciousness--the only adventure there has ever been or will be.

KMac says I'm a lapsed atheist (broke away from the "religion" -- don't believe in a supreme being but know that there's more than what we can see, hear, and eat). I've been asked how I can say I don't believe that God created the universe -- I've answered that if God created the universe, what was God doing before then? Even that's absurd (i.e., what was God doing before there was time/existence) -- I routinely receive a curt "you shouldn't ask that question ..."

It is true that you cannot ask what God was doing "before" he created the universe. So much trouble is caused by our reliance upon language, which, in its superficial sense, is geared to the problems of matter, not consciousness, much less the ground of consciousness. We often mistake a deficiency of language for a key to truth. In order to discuss these deeper ontological questions, language must be deployed in a special, nonlinear, non-dualistic and poetic way. I attempted to achieve this in my book, whether successfully or unsuccessfully I cannot say (at least for others--it works for me). The ground of existence is ineffable, but not completely ineffin' so.

To disentangle this conundrum, you must understand the distinction between time and eternity. Eternity is not time everlasting, but timelessness. For reasons that I cannot completely elucidate here, time and eternity are actually aspects of one another--they are dialectically related. In one sense, time may be thought of as the serial deployment of something that lies outside time. Thus, it is not located "in the past," because no matter how far back you go, you are still dealing with chronological time. Rather, the only possible place it could be now. Again, not in a temporal now, but an eternal now. As it so happens the mysterious now, so inexplicable in terms of any model physics has ever come up with, is the intersection of time and eternity, and we are the self-aware locus where this occurs--where the vertical meets the horizontal.

I believe God is the universe -- and where it came from (or going, whether it's finite, infinite ...) - I have no idea; indeed, "God" is the most profound way to express that which a mere human can't know, unable to even form the question let alone answer it.

Of course God is the universe, but he is also radically beyond the universe. In order to understand fully, you must hold the paradoxical idea that God is both radically immanent and radically transcendent. And the immanence and transcendence extend infinitely in both directions.

Finally, a question (sorry for the preamble) - do you think common ground is possible between those who view The Bible as the literal word of God vs. allegorical text of the contemplation of God?

Yes, in the sense that the common ground is the Bible. It's like asking if there is common ground between people who believe a work of Shakespeare can be interpreted one way or another. Scripture is a very special kind of language that is hyperdense with meanings that correspond to whatever level of consciousness the exegete brings to it, from the simplest and most literal to the highest and most subtle. (One can easily relate religious understanding to, say, Piaget's stages of cognitive development. Earlier stages structure their knowing in one way, later stages in a completely different way.)

One must bear in mind that, ironically, the fundamentalist movement is a thoroughly modern development, having only gotten underway in the 20th century. It is actually simply a mirror image of, and reaction to, the metaphysically unsophisticated secular fundamentalism that surrounds us. The fundamentalist way of viewing the Bible would be entirely foreign to people like Denys the Areopagite, Meister Eckhart, John Scottus Eriugena, John Tauler, Nicholas of Cusa, and so many other Christian greats. They all regarded scripture as a sort of "kernel" that had an outer meaning that had to be penetrated, or "broken through." Indeed, the same can be said for the greatest of all Jewish theologians, Moses Maimonides.

This is actually what sets Christianity apart from Islam and makes it thoroughly compatible with an evolutionary paradigm. That is, Christianity evolves with our understanding of it, something that has always been standard doctrine until recent fundamentalist distortions. Islam, on the other hand, is set in stone in the 8th century. It is anti-evolutionary to the core (with the notable exception of Sufism).

Anonymous notes that he did "a lot of 'unpacking' in the sixties, but consider myself a recovering atheist now--happy in my state of suspended disbelief. I guess you could say I'm in denial of denial.

He continues:

Anyway, after reading your blog for the past few days, I can't believe I have the temerity to disagree with you, but my experience led me to conclude that deconstructing (or unpacking) religious belief left me essentially belief-less, unless you count my resulting atheism. My point and my question are the same: don't mystery and ambiguity have a place in religious tradition?

First of all, atheism is not a state of suspended belief, but a definite spiritual state. If spirituality may be understood as registering on a certain frequency of consciousness, atheism always resonates at a very specific frequency or "wave length" of the consciousness spectrum. In the end, it is simply a frank confession not of ignorance, but of "ignosis."

At least for me, "deconstructing or unpacking" religious belief does not result in belieflessness, but actually liberates consciousness from its enslavement to the literal. One is vaulted into a different space, the space from which the primordial mystery perpetually arises. What I have discovered, to my everlasting surprise, is that once in this space, one finds that it actually has its own very real characteristics and attributes. I know this because every day I receive confirmation from other explorers who see and experience the same thing. It's as if they are all setting voyage into an unknown sea but all returning with vaguely similar--sometimes strikingly so--descriptions of the flora and fauna on the other side. I can only reemphasize that this is most mysterious indeed.

The mapmaking continues. In fact, we've hardly begun. Look at it this way. Europe only made its way westward to the New World in 1492. The westward exploration continued until the late nineteenth century, when the frontier was closed. Then the exploration began delving "within" matter and time with Einstein's revolution, outward into space, and back to the origins of the material universe with big bang cosmology. The detailed exploration of the unconscious only got underway with the publication of Freud's Interpretation of Dreams in 1900. 21st century spirituality will involve more detailed mapping of the post-egoic realm, and situating it within the grand evolutionary epic in which we are the central players.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Breaker Breaker, Anyone With a Copy, Come On

Let's see.... I've been doing this blog since 10-4-05. Ten-four is CB code for "message received." A big ten four signifies hearty agreement.

Today, in keeping with the CB theme, I'd like to say, "Anyone with a copy, come on." Do you read me? Message received? Understood? And mainly, do you have any questions?

I've received a surprising number of interesting questions and comments via e-mail, but those are obviously not for public consumption. I was wondering if anyone had any anonymous or public questions for either me or for Petey (who may or may not have any interest), or any topics they would like me to further discuss.

These can be questions about yourself--spiritual impasses, doubts, dark nights of the soul--questions about me, questions about the book, questions about anything I've already posted on, ideas for future topics.... As I said, feel free to post anonymously.

Obviously, this is not an invitation to vertically challenged trolls to pester us with inane, incoherent, vulgar, and predictably annoying questions. In CB terms, I'll have to pull the big switch and give a negatory to any wind-jamming bootleggers and button-pushers, channel hoggers or savages with fake handles and peanut butter in the ears.

Simple questions, stupid questions, metaphysical questions, religious questions, psychological questions, musical questions, political questions, yes/no questions, complex questions....

Actually if it's too complex, it may not be answerable in blog form, put perhaps I'll be able to point you in the proper direction. Feel free to be creative or to ask anything that pops into your head, like, "Where did the cosmos come from?," "What is consciousness?, "How do you know this thing called God exists?," "What is this painful rash on my thigh?" (your thigh, not my thigh -- I have no idea what this thing is), "Will you share your award-winning chili recipe?" (no), "What happens when we die?" (actually, don't ask that just yet -- I don't have a simple, bloggable answer).

Hopefully this will be both innertaining and instructive. With luck, perhaps even frivolous. If I don't know the answer, I promise to say so or to provide a confabulated response that seems so plausible that it even fools me. Especially me.

UPDATE--

Mrs. Gagdad has also agreed to answer any general questions. She's a therapist and career & life transition coach who is currently a barefoot, chained-to-the-kitchen, stay-at-home mom, raising our young 'un and doing her level best to set the feminist movement back. I have a question. What's it like to live with an eccentric neuronaut? Is he always like this?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Further Reflections on Art, Beauty and the Spirit

Small artists can flourish in an age which is not fit for heroes to live in.... It is only the greatest kind of artist who presents us with experiences that we recognize as fundamental and as in advance of anything we have hitherto known. --J.W.N. Sullivan, Beethoven: His Spiritual Development

For the spiritual aspirant, art and beauty are not merely entertainment or worldly distraction, but an occasion for vertical recollection of the higher world. Beauty is the splendor of Truth, a quaint truism no longer recognized in the mechanistic desert of higher criticism. It is an ingression of the divine plenitude from the nonlocal into the local mind.

Although art emanates from a realm that is suprahuman in nature, it requires an agent to manifest locally. Apparently, the universe is filled with these empty fields of pure logos awaiting a nervous system sophisticated enough to evoke their potential and give them concrete form.

The problem with much contemporary art is that it is merely human--it is wholly man-made, severing the divine-human partnership that is required to produce truly transcendent art. Part of this has to do with the relatively recent emergence of the individual self on a mass scale, which has only been going on for perhaps 400 years now.

That is, human individualism was only gradually wrested from the more primordial group mind, and although it is a necessary stage in human evolution, there is obviously a dark side to the ontologically isolated ego, as it brings with it spiritual inflation, self-aggrandizement, rebellion against the divine order, and the illusion of self-sufficiency. Instead of cooperating with God, artists have by and large attempted to replace or become God. (For the same reason, museums are the temples of our highly cultivated but spiritually bereft Last Men.) As Fritjof Schuon noted, the type of deviant art produced by and for such individuals should properly be called "subrealism" rather than realism or surrealism, for it operates on a level below the realm from which true art arises.

Art is literally divination: it is to discover or locate, as in "divining" water. However, it is also to make divine, to divinize. It is a kind of real magic, a communion between the inner being of the human Self and the inner being of whatever medium the artist is working with: sound, stone, words, color. How can sound convey something that isn't sound? How do words express states that are so far beyond words? How can color be the medium through which a noetic light far beyond color passes through?

Indeed, why is the world so beautiful? Why does it "speak" so endlessly to us? Who is speaking? Why are cloud patterns moving across the sky or the changing conditions of the sea so fascinating? Where is that beauty? Is it in the world? Why? Or is it in us? How?

Could it be that the human mind is a membrane through which the infinite passes through the finite, the meeting place of time and eternity, the interior of the cosmos contemplating its outward aspect? Is divinity so thoroughly entangled in the cosmos that the outside is in and the inside is out?

Yes, art imitates nature. But it is equally true that nature imitates art. And our greatest artists are mirrors--better yet, the windows--through which the logos shines. Through art, an unknown quality of ourselves is given birth and returned to us.

In a way, spiritual work is very mundane. It involves nothing more than cleaning windows, so that what is invisible can become visible. At the same time, a channel is opened through which the immense reality of the human soul is revealed from behind the veil. Who is the dreamer who dreams our dreams? Surely not the ego, which is an object the dreamer employs like a bit actor in a play. Who is the artist who dreams the art? Surely not the little man with the paint brush.

The cosmos is not merely what it is. Nor are we. Everything is perpetually passing beyond itself, revealing more of itself in the fulness of creative time. From the first cave paintings 40,000 years ago to the Sistine Chapel--and everything in between--is but a day's work in the interior life of the divine imagination.

As Petey has often muttered under his breath, "Give us this day our daily crock, that we might dip it into the sacred river and trundle back with some portentous bloviating to post this morning."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Rock! Pornography! Drugs! Insomnia!

Wow. You just never know what's going to be controversial, do you? Thanks to you people, Petey woke me up at 4:00 AM with a torrent of thoughts about music, art and society. Finally I had to just get up or risk losing all of the thoughts and be left empty-handed after my usual nine hour night-sea journey. Petey generally says something once, and that's it. You can ask "what?," but then he just gets evasive, sometimes even a little passive aggressive. So here I am at 4:30, trying to remember all of his talking points.

Something about art... What was it... Oh yes, what is art, anyway? Among other things, a work of art is timeless, it is universal, and it bears repeated viewing and listening--in other words, it has the quality of being "inexhaustible."

Now none of the originators of rock music--or even jazz, for that matter--thought for a minute that they were producing art, much less "great art." Remember, there was no such thing as rock criticism until the late 1960's. Up to that point, no one thought of it as anything other than ephemera--just disposable teenage music.

Of course, that all changed with the Beatles, who actually had self-conscious artistic pretensions from the beginning, even if the masses didn't notice it until the release of Sgt. Pepper in 1967. But even then, you will note that the Beatles were rarely heavy-handed and didactic in their approach. I don't believe that Paul wrote any overtly political songs, and George wrote maybe one: Taxman, which is actually a conservative rant about the exorbitant tax rates in Britain needed to support their welfare state--at the time, the Beatles were paying a ninety percent marginal rate!

And even Lennon, at least while in the Beatles, wrote only one overtly political song, Revolution. He became much more political in his solo career, which is precisely why most of that music is so lame, such as Imagine or Give Peace a Chance. These songs have the baleful and pretentious influence of the sinister Yoko written all over them.

In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce's alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, discusses the criteria for great art. He believed that it was the task of the true artist to record "epiphanies," that is, sudden spiritual manifestations. Following Aquinas, he says that the three things necessary for beauty are wholeness, harmony, and radiance, or claritas.

It is this third category that has to do with epiphanies, when the soul of the thing, its essential whatness, leaps through its outer appearance and reveals its true nature. This supreme quality of beauty captures light from another world, through which the artistic medium is but the shadow. In the "silent stasis" of aesthetic arrest, we are in a spiritual state in which we apprehend the luminous beyond.

Didactic art is the opposite of this--in fact, it is not art at all. That is, it takes the medium of an art form and tries to cram some merely worldly message into it. In other words, instead of transmitting radiance from another dimension--from the higher--it forces in a message or "lesson" from the lower, from this side of manifestation. This is why nazi or communist art is so tedious. It is also why a lot of contemporary art is so bad. It's not really art, but what Joyce called pornography.

Pornography has nothing to do with sex per se; rather, it occurs whenever we completely despiritualize anything and divest it of its otherworldly radiance. Therefore, there is much that is pornographic that is not sexual at all. By this definition, most contemporary music is indeed pornographic--obviously most rap and hip hop. Most TV is pornographic. Most literature is pornographic. Even most religion, I'm afraid, might well be pornographic! And certainly most politics. Dailykos is a porn site, pure and simple. I defy anyone to find a trace of radiance, of claritas, emanating from that infrahuman swamp.

Speaking of which, this is one of the real meanings of the culture war, the battle over the complete spiritual divestment of our culture. On the one side we have radical secularists who wish to erase any vestige of spirituality from the public square, on the other hand, evangelicals and conservative Christians who are trying to preserve it. Now, as I have said before, I am not a right wing Christian or evangelical. And yet, if I have to choose sides in this battle, I am certainly on the side of those who are trying to stand athwart this degenerative process yelling "stop!"

Where was I? Oh yes, back to music. Goesh, in full flashback mode, wrote of his "old fashioned reefer madness enhanced with Janis Joplin, full volume, ahh, the old molotov cocktail reverie of my youth and long hair--grass in the lungs and Janis in the brain," noting that these intoxicating "memories of narcissism and anarchy linger still and pull at me from time to time."

How very true. To a certain extent, rock music is adolescent music. It is the soundtrack to adolescent rebellion, to the surge of hormones, to the power of sexuality, to idealism, to the perception that the world is fake, phony, and hypocritical, and needs to be torn down. Now. And guess what? They're right. This stance, placed in ts proper context, is spiritual through and through--if you want it to be. Yes, it's a radical viewpoint, but all true spirituality is overtly radical. Institutions always try to tame and contain the spiritual impulse, but it cannot be contained or institutionalized. Jesus was nothing if not radical in his critique of existing society. Buddha dismissed it entirely. Petey says that "in the symbolic pyramid of culture, very few bricks touch the ground."

This is what Elvis was about. Again, he would have been the last person to know that he was engaging in an artistic endeavor, and yet, his music is nothing if not universal. It is as if he discovered one of the keys to the universe just lying around on the floor in a tiny studio in Memphis. Once people heard the message, they got it, both instantaneously and cross-culturally. If you have ears to hear, the message comes through loud and clear in the early material Presley recorded for Sun Records in 1954 and 1955. It is as if he pierced a hole between this world and another, and something refreshing, revolutionary, and liberating came flooding in. But also something that was just joyously fun.

Now Jodie d, whom I do not think should be dismissed as a sanctimonious church lady, expressed some very legitimate concerns about what came flooding in thereafter, writing, "EEGADS, aren't these the folks that led to the decline of western culture and fed the decadent lefty culture you attack so ably?" She noted that many of the musicians I mentioned "led us to surrender in Vietnam and those who haven't dropped dead from drugs are lined up behind Cindy Sheehan and Kos today. Add in the sexual libertinism and sexual ambiguity and you see just the kind of forces that have set the groundwork for the sick mass culture of today... Bruce Springsteen = Howard Dean." She also wrote that 60's musicians "were the role model for the pot smoking, LSD popping, sexually immoral millions, and a coarsening of our society."

From the other side of the cultural divide, Anonymous responded to Jodie, asking "If the left/Hollywood nexus is full of sloppy thought, self hate and low morals, how can one embrace their soundtrack as wonderful art ? Or could it be part of their art is (heaven forbid) breaking down societal barriers and opening up the world to new creative ways of looking at both art and society?"

Here I would simply reemphasize that great art, to the extent that it is great art, is about much more than the conscious intentions of the artist. If it is only about their conscious intentions, then it is likely not art at all, but simply the type of didactic pornography discussed above. The true artist is always a mouthpiece of the beyond, saying much more than he realizes.

I once heard it said that it must have been easy for Shakespeare to write his plays. That is, if it was difficult for him, then it would have been impossible, for it would have simply been too difficult for any human to do! Shakespeare wasn't siting around consciously thinking about all of the multiple meanings of Hamlet. Beethoven wasn't "trying" to carry back musical messages from the noumenal realm. Nor was Bob Dylan trying to convey any unambiguous messages in his songs, much less any worldly political agenda.

Anonymous cites the Dylan song, A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall, asking "how can you divorce the societal views of Dylan, Beatles, the Clash, et al, from their music? It WAS (IS) their music.
And how can you decry artists whose politics and social views you oppose as decadent (Springsteen campaigning for Kerry, Jackson Browne against global warming). Is that the distant whisper of mom telling you to 'turn down that junk music' from 35 years ago the sound I hear in the background as you tell your kid not to go see Brokeback mountain or listen to Kanye West?"

I don't even have to hear it to know that a Jackson Browne song about global warming is pop porn. Bruce Springsteen has been reduced to a sad, didactic hack who has lost all contact with the pure spirit that animates the noble impulse to Rock. It is Springsteen who has bowed to the distant voice of his authoritarian father, as his music has fully embraced the conformist, constricted, humorless, anti-spiritual, anti-evolutionary bromides of the left. Kanye West? Not even infrahuman, for it is unnatural for a human being to be in his natural, animal state.

There is a hilarious moment in the new Dylan DVD, in which he is asked about A Hard Rain. Surely it is about nuclear fallout and about the need to end the arms race? No, said Dylan. What is it about then, asks the clueless interviewer? "It's about a hard rain," deadpans Dylan. Dylan refused to be categorized. For one thing, I truly believe he didn't understand where his songs came form. The words just came tumbling in. Like Shakespeare, if he had tried, he couldn't have done it. And when he did try, it likely wasn't art, such as The Times They are A-Changing or Masters of War.

In point of fact, Dylan wrote only a handful of overtly political songs, and most of those on a single early album. Moreover, he quickly saw through the intellectually and spiritually bankrupt left--who had embraced him as the "spokesman for a generation"--and ran away as fast as he could. The left tried to co-opt Dylan, but by 1964 he had left them far behind. They still haven't realized it, as Joan Baez remarks in the new DVD. Of his brief involvement with the humorless, stilted, narrow-minded leftists who tried to get him to dance to their grim tune, Dylan famously sang, I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

Today I can enjoy the Who's Won't Get Fooled Again without hearing any explicit or implicit leftist message. After all, it is a revolutionary song, and in the contemporary world, conservatives are the revolutionaries. I don't know about you, but I won't get fooled again by the Clintons, by Howard Dean, by Ted Kennedy, by Jesse Jackson, by the liberal media, by the New York Times... the list is endless.

And sometimes, dammit, even I can't get no satisfaction. And all last week, while watching the Alito hearings, I was wondering to myself, "what's goin' on?" with these Democratic buffoons. And when I hear the Clash proclaim London calling, to the zombies of death, I conjur up bloodthirsty one-eyed imams with hooks for hands preaching their death-cult theology. And one of my great spiritual heroes, Meister Eckhart, was trying to break on through to the other side during the summer of '67. 1267, that is.

Kahn made some excellent points--almost as if he's been in contact with Petey: "There is much more to a song than its social context, or the opinions and mindset of its composer. By this logic an atheist could dismiss Bach, braying that his music was sponsored by the church, and reinforced a religion that killed and plundered and enslaved and raped children. A true work of art stands on its own merits, independent of its creator; just as a child need not be a reflection of its parent."

He kahntinues: "A great song--like any great art--is open to many interpretations, and can resonate beyond its own time... Personally, I sometimes hear Blowing in the Wind as more a deterministic resignation than a revolutionary anthem. Perhaps we are still too close to the history to strip these songs of their accepted contexts."

Well, this has already gone on a bit long. I'll have to finish tomorrow, Petey willing. There I promise to talk about drugs. And more sex, pornography and rock & roll. I just hope he lets me sleep in.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Smiling Through a Bad Mahmoud

I hate to say ayatollah ya' so, but it looks like Iran is well on their way to having a nuclear weapon. Frankly, I wasn't so worried until they detected large shipments of leather crossing the border into Iran. This can only mean one thing. They're trying to build a suicide belt large enough to deliver a bomb.

It's pretty odd when you can be less than twelve months away from the atomic bomb but more than twelve centuries away from the atomic age.

As usual, the Europeans are busy trying to appease the Iranians. But you know what they say: if you feed the allahgator, he'll just blow you up last. And then he'll shed Qur'acodile tears.

But at least this is triggering a debate in the Muslim world. Traditional Muslims are rightfully outraged at so-called moderates trying hijack Islam and reduce jihad to a mealy-mouthed internal struggle with oneself instead of a glorious war of conquest and colonization to impose a worldwide caliphate.

I don't know. I think we need a moratorium on the inane "hijacking Islam" phrase. Instead, we ought to consider LoJacking Islamists, so we know where they are at all times.

Of course, some people say that Israel has nukes, so why can't Iran? Yes, but blurring the distinction between terrorists and their victims is clearly anti-semantic. Or is it allahgory?

If Iran feels so threatened, here's an idea: why don't they just build a big fence to keep all the Jews out?

People say that Islam and Judaism are similar, since they're both based on the inerrant word of God, but I'm not so sure. After all, thinking critically about the Torah makes you Jewish, whereas thinking critically about the Koran makes you an infidel. Apparently there are other differences as well. I saw a bumper sticker that read "Jesus saves. Moses invests. Mohammed plunders."

Some people say we need to be more culturally sensitive, perhaps teach the Koran in our schools. After all, it's only fair, since they teach Mein Kampf in every Muslim country. I have a better idea. I think we might begin by showing deep respect and sensitivity to the Islamic tradition of blowing up people with whom we disagree.

Personally, I do think we've got a wrong-headed approach. Instead of questioning terrorists and flushing the Koran down the toilet, how about questioning the Koran and flushing terrorists down the toilet?*

And Kofi Annan is very concerned about the situation. This is bad, because you know what happened the last time he was this upset--he nearly skied himself senseless in Switzerland. Plus he's already busy dealing with his son's misbehavior. The other night he had to send Kojo to bed early without his oil-for-food.

But Cindy Sheehan doesn't care. She still thinks President Bush is the biggest terrorist in the world. Which only goes to show you. To lose a son is a tragedy. To lose your mind is just plain careless.

I'm kind of surprised not to see "Gunga Dan" Rather over in the Middle East, doing a kiss-ass interview with President Ahmadinejad. You know, after he was canned, CBS said they'd let Rather do sixty minutes. Apparently, not a second more.

It's too bad, we almost got "number two" in al Qaeda, the infamous Dr. Zawahiri. He's an Islamic pediatrician, which means that he cares for children from the time they're born until the day they blow up. He still gets the occasional call from a worried parent, asking for a psychiatric referral for a teenager obsessed with not killing himself. His prescription is always the same: "Take out two infidels and call me in the morning." By the way, did you know that Zawahiri graduated summa boom loudly from Holy Martyr Medical School?

They recently held a counter terrorism conference in Saudi Arabia. In fact, they say that never has so much evil been arrayed at one table since Yasser Arafat dined alone. Where else can the president of Libya hobnob with the president of Iran? "Mr. Gadhafi, meet Mr. Godawful." They're calling it an "Arab think tank." Now there's an oxymoron. Shouldn't it be "rage tank," "resentment tank," or "seethe tank?" Or how about "whine cellar?"

But I don't know if they can solve the terror problem so long as Saudi banks are funding it. That's right: the loan arranger is really a mosqued imam! Where else but a Saudi bank can you visit your moolah and mullah at the same time? True, they're not supposed to charge interest, but their loans have cost many people an arm and a leg. In order to get one, you have to provide a lot of collateral. Damage, that is.

Amazingly, the president of Iran doesn't believe the Holocaust happened. That's right, he's even suggested a "scientific conference" to investigate the matter. He's actually open to a change of heart. If their scientific conference "proves" that the Holocaust really happened, he'll be saying "hey, I think we can work with these people."

But I just don't think this Ahmadinejad is going to back down. He's an example of what I call ghoul under fire.



*Yes, I know we didn't really flush any Korans down the toilet.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Weekend Sermon: What's Before the Beginning & After the End?

If, before beginning serious investigations, we were jestingly to say that all beings are striving after contemplation--not merely those endowed with reason but unreasoning animals as well, even plants and the earth that begets them--and that they all, in their degree, attain to contemplation of reality here below, who would listen to such nonsense? --Plotinus

I'm guessing that a majority of readers will not fully understand why my book begins in the unconventional, "jesting" way it does--in the middle of the sentence it ended with, and with the word nothing, followed by a few pages of possibly indecipherable puns, neologisms, and homologues. A fair point. Allow me to explain.

In beginning and ending the book this way, One Cosmos is very loosely based on the circular structure of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Indeed, I found that this was the only way to illogically begend the book, since the big bang seems to have evolved out of a nothing that vastly transcends the horizon of dualistic knowability, while the highest state of consciousness returns us to the “nothing” of pure emptiness (which at the same time is the unmanifest plenum containing the potential for everything).

Despite the best efforts of science, we remain engulfed in a Mystery--the mystery of our origins, of our present being, and of our final destiny. Science searches outward, toward the periphery, looking at the data of the senses and the mathematically projected past to find the answers. Mysticism reverses our gaze from the periphery to the center, looking for our source and origin in the mysterious withinness of the cosmos--by following that withinness all the way back "upstream" to its non-dual source.

An esoteric cosmology--including Genesis--is only secondarily about the creation of the physical world. It is primarily about the mysterious manifestation of reality from the darkness of nonexistence to the light of conscious experience. Out of the Great Unborn, the timeless womb of eternity, forms and beings are ceaselessly given birth. As I hint at in the book, we are all beneficiaries of this voidgin birth.

This timeless ground, or "divine nothing," is the one place in the cosmos where we may truly gain first hand knowledge of the source of All, since the cosmos is psychic through and through, and we share that psychic life (or so we have heard from Petey). I like to use the analogy of a lampshade with millions of pinprick holes in it. Looking at the shade from the outside, it will appear is if there are a multitude of little lights. But in reality--looking within--there is but one source of light, the luminous source at the center.

Consider this statement from one of the greatest Christian mystics, Meister Eckhart: "If anyone wishes to come into God's ground and his innermost, he must first come into his own ground and his innermost, for no one can know God who does not first know himself." Here, "the eye with which I see God is the same eye by which he sees me."

This is the real meaning of esoteric cosmologies--that, on the one hand, they tell the story of the outward manifestation of the cosmos. But at the same time, they convey "hidden" knowledge of the inward procession of phenomena from the noumenal within, from a zero point of infinity at the heart of our own being. It is a matter of listening to and "hearing" this timeless wisdom that is perpetually sounding in our own depths.

Consider it this way: the big bang did not just happen once upon a timeless, some 14 billion years ago. Rather, a cosmos mysteriously explodes into being every moment, in every individual's consciousness. Likewise, an entire cosmos comes into being with each new birth, and a whole unrepeatable world fades into oblivion with each death. And it's all happening now.

In this view, the vexing duality of mind and matter are resolved in the only way they can be--by showing how both poles of the dialectic arise from a single, nonlocal source, outside space and time. Every moment--that is, the ineffable now--represents a ceaseless flowing out of eternity into time, accompanied by a simultaneous "flowing in" of time back to eternity.

The beginning of my book--through page seventeen--attempts to convey in poetic language the "flowing out" of the Infinite One into the dynamic many--for example, "The molten infinite pours forth a blazen torrent of incandescent finitude, as light plunges an undying fire into its own shadow," or "He expectorated a mirrorcle, now you're the spittin' image." On the one hand, these statements could be about the big bang. On the other, they could be about our own consciousness.

The end of the book--pages 252-266--simply reverses the process, taking us on the ascent from the many back to the One. Again, the reality of the situation is that this is occurring on a moment-by-moment basis. You might even say that this perpetual process represents the "interior life" of the Godhead (with certain modifications introduced by the Christian trinity or Jewish Sefirot that I won't get into here; both, in their own ways, are trying to describe this "interior life" of God.)

Thus, a sample from the end of my book reads as follows: "Reverse worldward descent and cross the bridge of darkness to the father shore; on your left is the dazzling abode of immortality, on your right is the shimmering gate of infinity." Here is another example, as we approach the singularity at the bigending of cosmic history: "Returning to the Oneself, borne again to the mysterious mamamatrix of our birthdeath, our winding binding river empties to the sea." Here we are "cured of plurality" and we experience "the blissful wave of the immortal now rising forth from the effulgent sea of existence." We are back before the beginning, the "Unborn body of the bodiless one, dark rays shining from a midnight sun, your phase before you were bearthed and begailed, empty tomb of a deathless child."

Traditional cosmologies--like any other spiritual truth--will not yield their meanings to the cognitively greedy accustomed only to linear, scientific ways of knowing; one cannot simply grasp at them, but must approach the endeavor with open hands (and more importantly, open heart and mind). And whatever you do, don't be serious. Sincere, absolutely. Serious, never. For,

Could it be true that in jesting we are contemplating? Yes. As do all who jest, in jesting we contemplate. --Plotinus

Friday, January 13, 2006

Memes, Literary Schemes, and Dietary Extremes

Next up: Four websites you visit daily:

First and foremost, amazon.com. At least for me, it has become the greatest research tool imaginable, and there is no way I could have written my book without it. Once I had instant access to every book ever written, my own little project took a a quantum leap forward toward its eventual fruition.

I don't know how other people write their books, but it's probably not in the way I did. For, just like my life, it was a matter of simply following where my curiosity led, and then trying to make sense of what I discovered. As I explain in the book, it all began as a skeletal vision during meditation of how the story of the cosmos might be told in one continuous, circular narrative. Originally, it had the working title of "Singularities," the idea being that the sudden creation of the cosmos out of nothing--the big bang--was followed by several more, equally sudden ontological mutations, specifically, the appearances of Life, Mind, and spiritual Realization.

Because the book began only as a "vision," I really had no idea whether or not I would be able to transpersonalate the vision onto paper. But at each step along the way--often with the assistance of amazon--I encountered the right thinker at the right time, to either reinforce my own ideas or help provide solutions to riddles I had been puzzling over, some of them for years.

When I started the project, I went to my personal library and pulled from the shelves every book, irrespective of the field or topic, that contained truths without which any vision of the whole of reality would be, in my view, incomplete. And when I say "truth," I don't just mean that in the banal, colloquial sense of the term. Rather, there is a way of knowing truth that is literally a physical sensation--call it the erotic effect of the logos, if you want. I'm sure many of you are familiar with it--when Truth comprehends you, rather than you it.

So I removed all of these shiver-inducing books from the shelves (my wife actually took a picture--if I knew how to post photos, I would) and literally placed them on the floor in no particular pattern, staring at them while waiting for Petey to tell me how they were connected to one another, how they comported with my hallucivision. The problem was how to unify the "truths" from these seemingly unrelated fields into a more generalized "Truth" applying to all of them, without reducing one to the other. In gazing at the books, it gradually occurred to me that they were obviously linked together by an evolutionary thread, in the sense that the cosmos was here prior to the biosphere, the biosphere prior to the emergence of self-aware minds, and minds prior to the discovery of non-dual awareness of mystical union.

However, as I explain in the book, if my own spiritual experiences revealed Truth--a point on which I increasingly had no doubt--then the question was not simply to explain how matter eventually came alive, started thinking, and realized its essential divinity. Rather, the central question became, what must the cosmos be like for such a transcendent experience to be possible? (And please, I'm not trying to set myself apart here--these spiritual truths are available to most anyone who seriously sets out to discover them, just as musical truth is available to you if you undertake the discipline of learning how to play an instrument.)

A related issue was the importance of envisioning the largest possible world consistent with spiritual reality, rather than artificially narrowing the world down in order to somehow wedge in a traditional notion of God. (Which, it seems to me, is what the ID theorists attempt to do. But even if ID did prove the existence of a creator, one must still engage in a spiritual practice to know anything about the creator. Spiritual truth is realized, not deduced or gleaned solely from books, including the book of nature.)

Again, the book was written in an entirely intuitive manner, in which I gave free rein to my freakishly hypertrophied curiosity. I would be in the midst of reading one book, see an obscure source cited in the bibliography, and instantaneously be able to look it up on amazon. There is no way this process could have been as free, fluid and spontaneous if I had had to drive over to some big research library and follow up on every single holy hint or ecclesiastical clue that Petey whispered into my ear.

For example, there was one point that I was fascinated with the topic of human sacrifice. Why on earth did every primitive culture known to man engage in this barbaric practice? There are surprisingly few books on the topic, but I was able to quickly get my hands on all of them--everything except for a "how to" manual, but I'm sure I could have found one if I had tried. During the writing of the book, I had at least several books a week--often several a day--arriving at the drawbridge outside my suburban liberatorium. Sometimes the books were helpful, sometimes not, in which case I would simply sell the book back on amazon marketplace.

Speaking of which, I probably couldn't have afforded to write my book without amazon marketplace. It's not that I have a fixed "budget" for my book buying. However, I was able to spend many thousands of dollars a year on books because I was able to actually sell the ones I didn't need, and make a lot of the money back.

But the primary benefit of amazon was that it allowed me to quickly follow up on a cognitive or spiritual trail when it was still "hot." I learned to pay much closer attention to the little flares that are constantly sent from above through intuition--little thoughtlets bubbling beneath or above the surface, waiting to be fished out of the formless infinite and given a voice. Often they don't come back. When they're near the surface, you have to relax your way into their realm and haul them out.

The identical thing is going on now with my present project. Once again it has begun as a vague vision that I don't know if I will be able to complete. But that's what makes it interesting. I would never want to write a book that I already understand, or has essentially been written before. It's another "meta" book that will require instant access to a whole range of subjects, so once again, my multiple daily visits to amazon will be central.

Four blogs I visit daily? Lileks, Little Green Footballs, ShrinkWrapped, and Dr. Sanity (I often leave comments on the latter three).

Four of your favorite foods:

Well now that's an interesting question, because it completely changed in July of 2004, when I was diagnosed with type I diabetes. Interestingly, that is the same month I submitted the final manuscript for my book and my son was conceived. In short, that fateful month represented a Triple Crucifixion of body, mind and soul.

That is, the end of the book was a real death, in that the vision that propelled me to write it had been the organizing principle in my life for several years. For that mad dash toward the eschaton to come to an end was a bit of a jolt. Took some adjusting, to tell you the truth.

And having a first child at my age--I was 49 at the time--was definitely a death. In fact, as I once heard Christopher Hitchens say, when you meet your son, you're looking at your own funeral director. Shudder! Then again, when you look into his eyes, you're also staring into eternity, into eyes that will be looking at the world long after you're gone, hopefully with some tools you gave him to do so in a deep and fruitful way.

On a more mundane level, fatherhood is the end of total self-absorption, which was actually okay by me. I was ready for the death of the old Bob. By completing the book, his work here was through anyway. He had done his best. Now it was time to allow someone else to be "bearthed and begaialed." One life was over. A new one set to begin. Plus, I'm old enough to know the secret of life. That is, you can never really fix your own life. You can only wreck someone else's. (That was a joke. Except for Palestinians.)

Right. Back to the food question. My diabetes has rendered the question moot. Before July of 2004, I might have responded "pizza." But my one post-diabetes experience with pizza made me realize that I'll probably never have it again. The white flour actually elevates your blood sugar faster than pure sugar, so I have simply cut it out. It has been relatively easy for me to be completely fanatical in controlling the disease, so that my average blood sugar may well be lower than yours. It takes a lot of work, but I would like to be around to see my son drop out of high school.

I guess I'm lucky, because I always loved eating as much as anyone I know. However, at the same time, I could also, to a certain extent, take it or leave it. Although I'm pretty slender, people would be amazed at the amounts of food I could put down. I could easily devour a whole extra large pizza in one sitting. In restaurants, I would finish my meal and two thirds of my wife's plate, all without gaining a single pound.

But now, in order to preserve what function I have left of my pancreas, I limit my carbs to what I need to stay alive, and stretch them out to six small meals during the day. No more eating contests at the all-you-can-eat Mongolian Barbecue with my friend Dr. John Corso, with bemused wives looking on at the grotesque spectacle. No more eating half a cheesecake in one sitting. No more wolfing down that 12" sub for a little snack.

But in a way, the diabetes is a perfect disease, if you must have one. It's not like dying instantly, or being told you have six months to live. And yet, unless you're an idiot in denial (which so many diabetics are), you must live with death shadowing your every meal. It's an end-loaded disease, so every dietary decision you make today has consequences 10, 20, 30 years down the line. Surprisingly, I don't really mind. In fact, I've never given it much thought. I just do what I need to do. I feel like those Buddhist monks who meditate over corpses in order to transcend death. For me, every meal is a meditation over my own sorry hide. You could say I'm a sorry hide and seeker.

Still left:

Four TV shows you love to watch
Four places you’d rather be
Four albums you can’t live without

Thursday, January 12, 2006

All About Meme: The Eternal Vacation at the Edge of the Known

Continuing with the Meme of Four:

Four places you've lived: I have always preferred to live at the edge rather than the center, an area where civilization abuts nature, where the manmade world ends and the simply "given" world begins. Although I enjoy visiting, say, New York, I could never live there. It would feel completely unreal to me. Like Hesse's Steppenwolf, I like to skirt about the foothills just outside civilization, occasionally coming down for nourishment.

I think this is a metaphor for where I like to live conceptually, at the edge or boundary of the known--where the known comes right up against the unknown. All of our sophisticated knowledge is like a giant spotlight. The spotlight is so bright, that we think that is all that exists. However, the vast majority of reality is outside the spotlight. I think of those astronomers who have to go to places far away from any sources of human light in order to see the starry heavens. To give birth to a novel idea, you really have to get far way from the influence of what the grazing multitude down in the valley think they know about the world.

Likewise, it's very difficult to unplug yourself from our modern cognitive light and to make your way in the dark. This is why people crave mystery. For ninety-nine percent of our existence, humans lived in an utter mystery. We awakened to an awesome cosmos that was here waiting for us, and yet knew nothing about it. Just as our primitive furbears set up safe little encampments around the fire, our civilizations are nothing but the same little campfires writ large. We revere real artists because they are the ones who make the "raids on the inarticulate" outside the boundary of the well-lit known.

So I've lived in several beach communities--Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, and Port Hueneme, which at the time, was a quite underpopulated place about 25 miles north of Malibu. It was like having the entire beach to ourselves. I've also lived in Chatsworth, which is in the northwest corner of the San Fernando Valley, in the foothills of the then unpopulated mountainous region. Currently I live in a horseshoe shaped area that is completely surrounded by open space, where I take my mountain bike and do some of my best non-thinking.

Four places you’ve been on vacation. Now that's an interesting question. I almost never take what you would call a vacation. And yet, I take a vacation every day. Remember yesterday, I mentioned my boyhood dream of never working on a full time basis? One of the reasons for this was so I'd be able to take a daily vacation, to completely slip the moors of the space-time continuum and live in the deep and formless expanse of unstructured time.

After all, this is the experience people are after when they go on an expensive vacation, isn't it? Life becomes so stale, so routine, so boring, that they crave novelty. They work hard all year, save up some money, and then go to some exotic locale, where the sights are different, the sounds are different, the flavors are different, and even the smells are different. As such, it provides a spurious sense of aliveness, as all of your senses have come back on line, where they should have been to begin with. Novelty is always here, but it seems that for many people, they don't appreciate it unless their senses are being bombarded with fresh stimulation. People that are addicted to invasive and hypnotic things like television, computer games, or barbarous rap music are hopeless in this area.

I have taken the opposite tack of trying to refine my senses so that every moment seems like a novelty. This requires a lot of "unsaturation" of the mind, aided by daily meditation. The idea is to experience the world as arising and dissolving away on a moment to moment basis. It's always new. We just have to realize it.

Every day I try to complete my work by mid-afternoon, and then knock off so that I can enter the unstructured world a few microns away. This has admittedly been more difficult since my son was born nine months ago. Then again, he's in that realm all the time so it would not be an exaggeration to say that he has become my new guru. We take walks together (actually, I do the walking, he's in the front pack), and I watch him watching the world. It's all radically new to him--literally like a waking dream. His eyes are almost bugging out of his head as he takes everything in, studying, gazing, categorizing. What a place to be! He has a much more favorable known-to-unknown ratio than we do. And yet, if we can only open our minds a little, we can recapture that state of radical wonder. We just have to do it in a different way, for example, with ideas rather than things.

One thing I recently discovered is that when I take my camera with me on my mountain biking excursions, the experience is radically altered. Although the area is quite beautiful, it is possible to completely miss the experience. The beauty is actually impossibly rich, and yet, it can go unnoticed. Which means that it might as well not be there. But by virtue of bringing the camera, I regard reality in a completely different way, almost the delighted way I imagine that God would experience things. The beauty is everywhere--from the smallest to the largest scale. I play with angles, with light, with perspective, and all of a sudden, the aesthetic possibilities are truly limitless. Go at one time of the day and you see one tree, go later in the day and it's a different tree. It's an entirely new landscape in the morning, on a rainy day, in the spring, or in the dead of winter. And each is packed with beauty just sitting there waiting to be appreciated.

But why? Why is there beauty? I can imagine the cosmos being neutral, or ugly, but why beautiful? My dog doesn't think it's beautiful. Sure, there are some interesting smells, but her olfactory sense can be directly traced to some Darwinian utility. But what is the Darwinian utility of aesthetic arrest? I've heard a lot of explanations, but I find them rather pathetic--about as sophisticated as the literal creationists who think the world is 6,000 years old. If you want to talk about one of the weaknesses of the Darwinian paradigm as an all-encompassing explanation, that would be a good place to begin. We have so many "luxury capacities" that natural selection connot possibly account for, unless you are suffering under the weight of the most crimped and hidebound imagination possible.

The imagination, properly understood, is the true estate of man. It is the leading edge of the evolving cosmos, where the eternal breaks into time, where the roiling infinite spills over into the finite, and where we become fully human--in the post-biological sense.

Still left:

Four websites you visit daily
Four of your favorite foods
Four places you’d rather be
Four albums you can’t live without

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Meme, Myself & I

Since I can't think of anything else to post about, I've submitted the infamous meme of four to myself:

Four jobs you’ve had in your life: I've really only had three. Psychologist since 1988, retail clerk from 1976-1988, and mostly unemployed, vapid and shiftless beer guzzling bum from 1973-1976 (and a bit thereafter). However, this Dionysian period proved to be quite formative, laying the foundation for my future interests and passions. That is, the loathsome excesses of my early adulthood led directly to an abiding interest in the possibilities of consciousness.

To back up a bit, I actually independently discovered the concept of Slack quite early in life, and by the age of ten conceived the notion that, whatever I should become as a "grown up," it would never involve full time work. I have hewn to this childish, er, childhood philosophy ever since, although it has of course deepened into a mature eccentricity.

There is something about my edenic childhood summers from which I never recovered. Call it a reverse trauma if you want--an AM-U-ART. I always detested school, and to this very day, I well remember the anticipation of that trackless oasis of slack extending over the sunlit horizon from June onward. No school. No work. No time. Just the day-to-day exhilaration of pure, spontaneous play: of unalloyed being. Wake up. Eat. Play. Eat. Play. Eat. Play. Sleep. Very Zen-like, don't you know.

So much of our "doing" in life is actually a defense against being. Most people actually do not know what to do with spare time, with nothing, and are immediately compelled to fill it with something, no matter how trivial. The great psychoanalyst W.R. Bion built much of his theorizing around the idea that the mind is something to which we must adapt. In other words, unbidden thoughts appear out of nowhere, causing disturbing ripples on the smooth surface of being. What do we do with them? How do we manage them? If you really take the time to notice, you will see that for most people, their problem is not this or that conflict or complex, but the mind itself. It is a persecutory presence which must be managed by an elaborate network of defenses, instead of tackled head-on.

This is one of the reasons why I was always attracted to the Eastern religions (including Orthodox Christianity), for they too recognize the ubiquitous problem of "thoughts without a thinker," and prescribe definite means to deal with it. Buddhists call it "hand to hand combat without hands," while the early fathers of Christianity called it "unseen warfare." This is a war you must win in order to be able to enjoy being, or life itself, that is, the unqualified joy of simply being alive, prior to "doing" anything: walking with Dobbs at all times.

Four movies you could watch over and over: Funny you should ask. After graduating high school in 1973, I entered college as a business major. But by 1976, I had flunked out. Or to be perfectly accurate, I simply quit going in the middle of the semester. There was no way I was going to pass my classes anyway: accounting, money and banking, statistics. It wasn't for lack of trying. It's just that I had a sort of intellectual ADD that absolutely prevented me from mastering anything I was disinterested in. In other words, I couldn't artificially muster the passion necessary to focus my mind on something I couldn't care less about. Still can't.

But after a couple of years toiling in the market, I decided to try to return to college. It wasn't that I minded working in the market. In fact, I was quite happy working there. I enjoyed the camaraderie with my beer-drinking mates, our proletarian pastimes, those inebriated days innocently frolicking together on heterosexual Brokeback Mountain. And the job actually paid quite well, with medical benefits I could scarcely afford today. (I'm not even sure if such benefits exist today--just walk into any doctor, any time, and they pay for everything.) My thinking at the time was that, if I was going to be a "lifer" in the retail clerks union, at least I'd get a college degree, so people would see that it had been a choice--not something I had to do because I had no other options in life.

The only reason I'd chosen business as a major was that I couldn't conceive of anything else I might do. But a friend in the market was attending the same college (CSUN, the Harvard of the San Fernando Valley), and told me he was majoring in film. Film, you say? You're kidding! You can't go to college and major in something as frivolous as that! But I was wrong. I had always been very athletic, so the only other real possibility was P.E., but now I had found something even less challenging: I'd major in watching movies!

But as it so happened, this was one of those real turning points in my life. I was lucky enough to cross paths with the right teacher at the right time, the estimable Professor John Schultheiss. For up to that point, I had never had a teacher who was so passionate as he was about his subject. But that was not all. The way he could extemporize and pull various strands of an argument together, it almost looked as if he were in a trance, weaving the lecture out of his own psychic substance. This was so different than the typical robotic dullard that presided over a classroom, that it alone awakened something inside of me--call it an incipient sense of a love of Truth, if you want to get Platonic.

Later in life I realized that when anyone does what Professor Schultheiss did in the classroom, it creates an automatic charisma, because one is literally "in-spired" or "en-thused" when speaking in that unscripted but highly informed way. (It's also a lot like jazz improvisation, where one must spend a lifetime of study but then forget all about it when playing, in order for the performance to be fresh and vital. The ability to do that in any field is the mark of a true master.)

As it so happened, Professor Schultheiss's writing assignments were far more weighty and demanding than any other teacher I had ever had, but some theretofore unfamiliar impulse caused me to keep taking his classes--five or six, if I recall correctly. And that is what really began to turn things around for me, because not only did my papers get high marks from him, but on one memorable occasion he actually approached me and asked if I was an English major, because Radio-TV-Film students normally don't write so well. This was probably the first time any teacher had really praised me, and here it was coming from the only teacher I had ever really admired.

Schultheiss influenced me in another way, in that one of the virtues of his lectures was that he brought to bear so many other subjects in his discussion of film, including philosophy and psychology. As such, even though I did not have an undergraduate degree in psychology, when I did later attend graduate school in psychology, I was actually better prepared than my colleagues because of my background in treating "film as literature." In graduate school I later specialized in psychoanalysis, which is a heuristic science that analyzes character along different lines, so it came naturally for me to look at people as victims of their own bad movie that they themselves had unconsciously written, directed, and starred in.

We especially studied a lot of the great, but often unknown, films noir of the 1940's and early 1950's. Many of these film noir writers and directors were indeed influenced by psychoanalysis, and the best film noir captures that eery and preternatural sense of being pulled down into the "undermind," where a different sort of "night logic" presides. Doh! The fell clutch of circumstance!

So back to the question: four of my favorite films are Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, A Place in the Sun, and Night of the Hunter, for each in their own way has to do with the main characters being suddenly dragged or seduced into that murky underworld of being, the dark side of their own selves. It is a parallel world where the logic of the unknown dreamer who dreams us governs the action, and the unThought unconscious is destiny. Back to the idea of our thoughts thinking us, instead of vice versa.

I've already gone on too long with this exercise in self-indulgence. To be continued. Or not.

Still to come:

Four places you've lived
Four places you’ve been on vacation.
Four websites you visit daily
Four of your favorite foods
Four places you’d rather be
Four albums you can’t live without

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The MSM-Democratic Propaganda Mill

I do a fair amount of work in a thoroughly corrupt industry known as the California Workers' Compensation system. This system, which began with the noble idea of avoiding litigation and treating injured workers in a fair and efficient manner, has become a hideous bureaucratic monstrosity, especially when it comes to allegations of psychiatric injury. (Although thanks to Governor Schwarzeneggers' recent reforms, it's not nearly as bad as it used to be.)

That is, the system was set up to assist people with obvious injuries--say, a meat cutter who accidentally severed a finger. It was not designed to deal with a paranoid or narcissistic personality who is stressed out at work because he unconsciously provokes others and is universally disliked. Or with an incompetent person who is simply upset because he is being criticized at work. Or someone who is fired, and then retroactively decides that he was stressed out during the entire time he as employed.

Especially when it comes to psychiatric injuries, the legal process often comes down to a battle of competing experts. There is the applicant side--the person alleging that he has been injured--and the defense side--the the workplace or workers comp carrier that will have to cover the injury.

The reason why the system is so corrupt is that patients quickly became ancillary players in the process. Instead, the system became a way for doctors and lawyers to make vast amounts of money on the backs of injured workers. Therefore, there developed a built-in incentive to claim injuries, even if no injury was present. Lawyers began luring patients into the system with advertising, assuring them that they would receive extensive medical care at no cost to them. Medical "mills" were set up in conjunction with the lawyers, so that workers would be sent to any number of useless, wasteful, and expensive medical evaluations.

As such, someone, say, with a back strain, might be sent to an orthopedist, an internist (in case the pain is causing an increase in blood pressure or a stomach ache), a chiropractor, a neurologist (perhaps the pain is causing headaches), and a psychiatrist or psychologist (in case they had become depressed or anxious as a result of the alleged pain). (Would it surprise you to learn that these mills, like a certain political party, defend their dubious practices by suggesting that they are truly "looking out for the little guy?" Or that thousands of jobs will never be created for the "little guy" as a result of the high cost of doing business in California because of spiraling workers' comp costs? )

These psychiatric mills issue thoroughly predictable reports which always--always--maintain in the most florid terms you can imagine, that the injured worker has developed dozens and dozens of psychological symptoms, that they are completely psychologically disabled from them, that they require extensive treatment, and that, even then, they will never, ever be the same. Often, believe it or not, the worker does not even know that a psychiatric injury has been filed on their behalf (especially workers from third world countries who don't even have a frame of reference for what it is a psychologist does). They just do as directed by their attorney, by going for appointments and filling out the paper work. Many times I've asked a patient, "Dr. X says you are hearing the voice of your supervisor. Is that true?" The patient will be surprised, and often offended, to learn that they are being depicted as psychotic.

In fact, I have seen many cases in which the report is already written: all the doctor does is insert the name of the patient into a pre-formatted report, with all of the same boilerplate language and adjectives--lots of adjectives. In an applicant report, adjectives generally substitute for facts and details, as they often do in any bad writing. Other times the doctor's staff will even forget to change the pronoun in the report from "him" to "her," as in, "Mr. Jackson says that she and her husband now have no sexual intimacy, whereas before his boss yelled at him, they enjoyed sexual relations six times a day."

My job, as an ethical evaluator, is not to submit a report that is simply the mirror opposite of the other side's report, but to find out what's actually going on--to determine the truth of the matter. I will spend many hours with a patient, reviewing their current condition, their allegations of injury, their past history, medical records, investigative reports, and sometimes even sub rosa video tape in order to arrive at my conclusions, each of which will be thoroughly supported by facts, logic, and evidence. I try never to speculate--in fact, the system dies not allow idle speculation, only opinions based on medical probability.

I see an almost exact parallel between the corrupt workers comp system and our current political scene. On the one side we have the applicants and their mills--the Democrats and the MSM--on the other side, the defense--the Republicans and the alternative media. The Democrats operate by throwing out as many outrageous statements as they can think of, hoping that something will "stick," and perhaps persuade the trier of fact: the American public. Therefore, when dealing with the MSM and their political action wing, the Democrats, you must constantly wade through the most outrageous, wholesale lies and distortions--America is a racist, sexist and homophobic country, Bush is a liar, Bush wants to impose a theocracy, Bush is a torturer, Bush is spying on us, the economy has never been worse, the environment is being ruined, Bush caused the hurricanes, Bush hates black people, etc., etc., etc. You know the dreary drill.

Just yesterday, I believe someone counted at least seventeen demonstrably outrageous lies in Ted Kennedy's opening remarks at the Alito confirmation hearings. Of course, since the MSM is part of the corrupt system, they will not do their job and determine the factual basis of Kennedy's allegations. Rather, they will simply repeat them.

It is now up to the alternative media to serve the identical purpose in the political system that I do in the workers comp system: to independently evaluate the issue, gather the facts, dispassionately assess the situation, and arrive at a logical and reasoned opinion. Are there ethical Democrats and unethical or careless Republicans? Of course. For example, although I might ultimately agree with much of what a Sean Hannity says, I don't trust him or rely upon him to tell me the truth, for he is the equivalent a Republican "mill." He will come down on the side of the Republicans, no matter what. Joe Lieberman would be an example of an ethical Democrat, for example, willing to independently assess the truth of the Iraq war as he sees it.

But by and large, the reason why it is so difficult to engage leftists in debate is the same reason why it is so difficult to deal with an applicant report. There is almost nothing in an applicant report that I can rely on as being factually true. It might be. It might not be. You just have no way of knowing. You have to assess the situation independently.

Democrats say this is a racist country. Is that true? Not in my analysis. Obviously there are some individual racists, but the country itself is remarkably free of racial animus. Was President Bush lying when he said he believed there were WMD in Iraq? I've seen no evidence for that, only lurid accusations. Is this the worst economy since the Great Depression, a "jobless revovery"? Not based on the facts I have seen. Is Bush spying on his political enemies? I have no basis for believing that. Were blacks disproportionately killed in hurricaine Katrina? As a matter of fact, no. Is Bush running the highest deficit in history? Not if you place it in the proper context as a percentage of GNP. Are terrorists covered by the Geneva Convention? Not based on my understanding. Did Saddam have intimate and extensive ties to the international terror world? No doubt.

So being a neo-con paleoliberal has come quite naturally to me. It just means ignoring the distorted allegations of the MSM-Democratic propaganda mill, independently evaluating the "patient," and arriving at conclusions based on fact, logic and reason.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Thought and Language: Do Not Saturate Before Using

ShrinkWrapped is conducting an interesting experiment to determine if it is actually possible for leftists and neo-cons to engage in substantive debate without it quickly degenerating into name-calling and mutual demonization. To make things manageable, ShrinkWrapped is going to narrow the focus down to the differing perceptions between left and right as to the existential threat posed by Islamofascism. Obviously, those of us "on the right" regard it as a much more serious threat than do those on the left, who generally believe the threat has been manufactured by the President in order to consolidate power and impose a theocracy of his own. Not much middle ground between those two positions, for they aren't just "opposite," they're operating in two irreconcilable realities.

Although I am hoping for the best, I am personally pessimistic, as the first day of the experiment didn't seem to go particularly well. Partly my fault (you should read all the comments to get a sense of how it went). As I posted on ShrinkWrapped, "It's very simple. Leftists are naive about human evil, and always have been. For example, during the cold war, leftists refused to characterize the Soviet Union as evil, and castigated those who did. The identical pattern is occuring now with regard to Islamofascism. This has all sorts of ramifications. For example, if one cannot recognize true evil, one will see the non-evil as evil. As such, the left saw Ronald Reagan as evil, and now see George Bush as evil.... Leftists suffer from a poverty of imagination on the one hand (with regard to the true evil of Islamofascism), but an excess of it on the other hand (with regard to the fantasied evildoings of President Bush)."

Harsh words, perhaps, but are they inaccurate?

I find it virtually impossible to debate with most leftists, not just because they are wrong, but because they cannot possibly be right. In other words, they are not even wrong, for being wrong presupposes some rational basis upon which one can reason someone into, or out of, a position. Not so with with the typical leftist of contemporary America. As I posted, it would be pointless "to debate Cindy Sheehan as to whether George Bush is a bigger terrorist than Osama bin Laden, Howard Dean as to whether Republicans enjoy seeing children go to bed hungry, John Kerry as to whether this is the worst economy since the Great Depression, Kos as to whether Americans working in Iraq are mercenaries that deserve to get killed, Kennedy as to whether the Iraq war was 'cooked up' in Texas for political gain, and Michael Moore as to whether those with whom we are fighting in Iraq are 'minute men' analogous to our own founders."

The psychoanalyst W. R. Bion used the term "saturated" to describe a particular kind of pseudo-thinking commonly encountered by the psychologist. That is, the proper use of language in a healthy mind fosters the evolution of thought. A word or concept is saturated when it cannot do this--it is already so full of meaning that it loses its capacity to actually facilitate thought. Words and concepts can become so overloaded with personal meaning that their use for communication with others becomes extremely problematic. Among other problems, when words are saturated, there is no space left for them to accumulate meaning through experience: the word has become functionally dead insofar as its capacity to allow a space for thinking about internal or external reality.

I believe this is one of the key problems that underlies leftist thought. It is so saturated with meaning that it is absolutely useless for conveying ideas to anyone who doesn't already believe them--anyone who isn't already franticly twirling about in the end-times liberal Ghost Dance.

To illustrate my point, I went straight over to Petey's favorite idiotarium, huffingtonpost, knowing that there would be many fine examples of what I'm talking about. I plucked one off the top, entitled Bush as Bad Theatre, by a playwrite named Sherman Yellen. Although I am a film school graduate, I'd never heard of the man, but that doesn't mean anything. Apparently he's quite eminent in show biz circles, having won two Emmys and a Peabody Award, among other various encomiums.

Yellen's bio states that, having grown up in New York under FDR, he "has watched with great sadness the Bush administration’s dismantling of social programs and social progress in this country." That's quite an accomplishment to have escaped my notice, but no examples are given. I can't help wondering if it didn't really happen. Yellen "believes it is the obligation of artists to speak out against the erosion of our democracy during these troubling times." Again, no examples of the erosion he's so concerned about. No need to give any. Everyone who agrees with him already knows exactly what he's talking about, wink wink.

In fact, in the piece, one searches in vain for anything resembling an unsaturated thought--anything that can actually convey a fact or create curiosity in the unpersuaded, but persuadable, reader. Again, note the difference between Yellen's brand of saturated writing vs. writing that would allow a space for you to engage your curiosity as to just what has him so manifestly overwrought:

--"Bush is our own Tartuffe, Molière's insufferable pseudo-religious comedic character who uses his so called piety to gain power over the lives of others.... it is Bush's voice we hear as Tartuffe pronounces, 'How dare you even hinder or annoy when I've the means to ruin and destroy. You should have thought before my toes you trod. Attacking me, you set yourself 'gainst God.'"

Got it? Bush uses religion and so-called piety to gain control over others, whom he will ruin and destroy in the name of God if they resist. (Yellen is a pretty brave--even reckless--fellow to trod on this vindictive President's toes.)

Okay. Next?

--Bush "would serve nicely as a foolish father in a sit-com, or a ridiculous boss in an office comedy, but he is the Commander-in-Chief who can and does send young men and women to their deaths. Sadly, he does not even have the true villain's consciousness of when he has done wrong. This is why apology and admission of error is so difficult for him. He believes in his God-given rectitude in all situations."

Right. Bush is so stupid, he doesn't even know how wrong and evil he is. Plus, he thinks he is infallibly guided by God. This is convincing stuff. How foolish of me not to have recognized it myself.

Next?

--"Nobody can accuse George Bush of eloquence or locate his courage and love of country as he labors to strip it of its natural wonders, and sell his power to its worst exploiters. What he shares with Henry V is a ruthless ambition wed to a sense of royal entitlement. As Henry exploited his soldiers' patriotism, Bush exploits his nation's fears."

Haven't you been curious about what happened to all the natural wonders of the country? Stripped! That's right. Gone. Kaput. Bush did it while he had you looking the other way, at those two big buildings that fell down on TV. Because he thinks he's king. Plus he's not even eloquent. Not like a deep-thinking, silver-tongued New York playwrite, anyway.

Any more Emmy-worthy thoughts from our serious thinker of the left?

--"Like most incurious people Bush starts with a belief and then searches desperately for the evidence to support it. This faith-based approach to the world is one that most often has tragic consequences for others, rarely for the man himself, protected by his power and by the fear he has exploited in others.... In his heart of hearts he still believes that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to be found if only we had the right dogs to sniff them out."

Incurious. When Yellen calls Bush "incurious," this is code for "not interested in what fascinates secular New York intellectuals who have never encountered an alien thought in their hermetically sealed cognitive bubble." Thus, it is Bush who "searches desperately" for evidence to support his beliefs. In fact, Bush was so desperate in his search that he somehow got every single intelligence agency in the world to confirm his wacky beliefs about WMD--before he even became president!

Yellen continues his analysis:

--"... in Bush we have a man who cannot understand and feel the emotional weight of any situation, or recognize the consequences of his actions. If becomes clearer over time that he has never learned in the course of his misadventures, as he kept failing upwards toward the Presidency, the most essential lesson of life -- the value of other people's lives. For this inherited characteristic we need only look at his mother, Lady Barbara..."

So, not only can President Bush not think or understand consequences, he cannot even feel! Now we are in the realm of the truly monstrous--the reptilian. Bush is a sociopath: he places no value on other people's lives. And there's not a thing he or you or I can do about it, because it's an inherited trait from his beastly mother.

Yellen saves the most devastating critique for last. That is, President Bush cannot be dramatized, no, not even by an Emmy award winning playwrite!

--"A character such as Bush who lacks such consciousness may preside over a country but he cannot command a stage. Bush's smirk is a poor stand-in for Richard's hump." Yes, the hopelessly "boring," "self-righteous, unexamined bad behavior," that "we see in Bush on a daily basis" is just impossible to bring to the stage.

Noooooooooooooo! Not that! You can't make a TV movie out of his life? Scott Peterson? Sure. The Menendez Brothers? Of course. Tonya Harding vs. Nancy Kerrigan? Yellen would write that script in a New York minute. George Bush? No way. Worse yet,

--"We have three more years of Bush as the main player in our national drama, three more years of platitudes, certainties, grinning, winking, cajoling, but never owning the consequences of his own actions. Since he cannot change his act, we will continue to get what we see -- an empty man propped up with a foolish sense of his own worth, taking us from one new disaster to another..."

Hmmmm. Platitudes. Certainties. Inability to change. Empty. Foolish sense of his own worth. And, I might add, saturated. Who does that remind me of?

What's that, Petey?

I won't say it. That would just cheapen the debate.