Sometimes a Snake is Just a Snake
There are a lot of critters in our area, but there is just something otherworldly about encountering a snake in the wild. It's very difficult to describe the feeling, but it's so distinct that it may be one of those things that's hardwired into us. It's almost as if time stands still and you suddenly hear the theme from Jaws in your head.
I'm no Crocodile Hunter, but there is also something mesmerizing about a dangerous snake. I slammed on the brakes so I could get a better look at the old boy, but he hissed and slinked away into the brush. That's one thing about a snake. There's something about them that makes them appear permanently hissed off, almost bitter -- perhaps about having no legs and having to slither around on their belly. They could almost serve as the symbol of envy, because they seem so mean-spirited, almost as if they'd bite you just for the hell of it. And the way they eat -- like the envious person, it's not for pleasure, but just to greedily incorporate the object as quickly as possible. They don't chew, they just swallow and it's gone. Where's the pleasure in that, Rosie?
As I continued my ride, it made me think about Genesis, and why the writer was inspired to choose the symbol of a serpent, or snake, for the Tempter, the Father of Lies, and the author of man's fall. The serpent was said to be the most cunning of God's creatures. Other translations use the words crafty, clever, subtle, shrewd, sneaky, and "more able to fool others." Interestingly, one of the alternate translations for "snake" is "French diplomat."
Thus, although man is ultimately responsible for his own fall, nevertheless, it seems that there is something "impure," so to speak, that precedes the fall -- not just the clever and cunning snake, but more importantly, our attraction to him. For "cleverness," "craftiness," "shrewdness" -- these are all faux forms of intelligence, and substitutes for wisdom. When someone says that a Bill Clinton or Bill Maher are "intelligent," I scoff, for it is an abuse of the term. If intelligence does not lead to wisdom, truth, and prudence, then it does not deserve the name "intelligence."
If you want to see how intelligent Bill Maher actually is, you must ignore the clever jokes written by others and read what his mind is actually capable of producing on its own. In this regard, his blog entries at huffingtonpost are embarrassingly clumsy, trite and childlike. Likewise, in order to assess Bill Clinton, we must ignore his sliver-tongued charisma and read his actual thoughts. I think you will agree that they are technically unreadable as a result of their soporific blandness. In other words, they are so vacuous they put you to sleep. But most politicians fall into this category: clever and calculating as opposed to wise or deep. Hillary almost looks as if she is hypnotizing herself when she speaks. Her eyes are dead, almost like a reptile.
I cannot even imagine living that way, for it goes well beyond speaking untruth. Rather, the entire being is a lie -- a false self, or "as if" personality. The personality becomes an object from which one detaches and observes from the outside. Intuitive souls always gained this impression of President Clinton -- that whatever the situation, he was, like the rest of us, observing himself from the outside, playing a role -- now tough, now compassionate, now outraged, but always in a detached and calculating way. His presidency was a narcissistic performance in which one part observed and enjoyed the other part, in the same way the parent adoringly observes the child (for this is where the roots of this pathology lay).
Not to get all French linguist on you, but if we think of the snake as a signifier, what does it signify, and where is the signified today? Where is it hiding, slithering around in the psychic underbrush, below the reach of contemporary language? If we were to write the Bible today, what symbol might we use for the signified -- or in Bion's terms, what semantic "container" for the perennial content? For if we don't have a name or a symbol for it, it will be as if we are blind to things that are right in back of our eyes.
I think without question we would use the symbol "lawyer" or "professor." Obviously there are many good and decent lawyers -- including, of course, some who read this blog -- which should give them all the more concern that we can so easily replace "serpent" with "John Edwards" in Genesis 3 and not miss any of the meaning. When I was a kit, my image of a lawyer was Atticus Finch. How, in the course of one generation of vipers, do we go from Atticus Finch to such oily scoundrels as Johnny Cochran, John Edwards, and Bill Clinton?
First of all, Atticus Finch wasn't real, but a literary creation and a symbol. Nevertheless, what he symbolized was important, for ideals are always important, as they serve as guiding stars that draw us to our better selves. And less than fifty years ago, one could, without irony, employ a lawyer as a symbol of the anti-snake -- a finch, or creature of the air, the higher planes; which is to say, the opposite of the snake, who can never leave the earth plane.
According to Wikipedia, Atticus is the "embodiment of quiet, intelligent strength and conscience." One of his most memorable lines is, "If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." But you can only do that from the "air," not the ground. No one has less perspective than the snake, the horizontal personified.
Atticus is the diametrical opposite of the clever narcissist. The narcihisstic snake is the embodiment of the cold and ruthless absence of empathy. Not only do they not "climb inside your skin," but they shed their own, which has always been a demonic symbol of immortality. It is not the true immortality, but a faux form, in that it symbolically substitutes a sort of willed "self birth" as opposed to surrender and resurrection. If you don't believe me, just look at how many times Hillary Clinton has already sloughed off her skin in the past four years. For example, she was a much more passionate and articulate advocate than George Bush for going to war with Saddam. What happened to that Hillary? A LexisNexis search will reveal the trail of dead skin.
But I didn't intend this to be an exercise in lawyer bashing. Rather, I wanted it to be an exercise in leftist professor bashing. As a matter of fact, it was a good lawyer who sent me the following link to a fascinating article that does a good job of explaining -- for the 100th time -- why I think the left is so very dangerous -- why they are the embodiment of the cunning snake in the garden.
Pay particular attention to the axioms of the "suicide thinker" of the left, who complements the "suicide bomber" of Islam, for the latter could not flourish in the absence of the former:
--There is no truth, only competing agendas.
--All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.
--There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
--The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
--Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
--The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
--For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
--When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.
Now folks, I went to college. I have seen the snake up close and personal. Just as on my bike ride yesterday, I was mesmerized by the snake. Believe it or not, there was a time that I believed each and every one of these items on the snake's agenda.
Wait a minute, I'm reading them again.
Yup. I believed every one of them, some more implicitly than explicitly, but nevertheless, I more or less believed these things to be true.
Now obviously, all of these ideas are warped, twisted, and unnatural. No innocent person could ever spontaneously come up with these perversions. No one can believe these things unless they are placed there by an outside influence, or leftist reptool. Nevertheless, as in Genesis, the snake can have no influence over us unless there is something in man that is drawn to the dark, lower world of the snake.
Now, I wonder. Is there something analogous in the soul to that eery and otherworldly feeling of happening upon a snake in the wild? In a way, it is a sort of "high," for it does take you out of the ordinary, into a sort of thrilling and dangerous existential space. It certainly isn't boring.
Could leftism represent the dizzying thrill of the fall? After all, falling is a thrill, at least until you hit bottom, just as -- no disrespect intended here -- being the Crocodile Hunter was a thrill until he hit a stingray, and being a Euro-socialist will be a thrill until their experiment against reality is conquered by Islam.
You don't learn anything useful in a liberal education at an elite university -- nothing that you won't have to later unlearn. But what a thrill to fall so far in just four years!
A soulful lesson in snakes (apologies to George D).