Don't Get Stuck on Smart!
We have now endured six or seven years of disparaging references to President Bush's intelligence. First, these references are generally from boneheaded liberals who are intrinsically less intelligent than President Bush, but let's leave that aside. Obviously, the question is not whether someone is intelligent, but whether they are correct -- and probably even more importantly, whether they are good. But once you have acceded to the cult of intelligence, then questioning someone's intellect serves the same purpose that questioning someone's faith did in an earlier age.
Think of all the left-wing "geniuses" who excoriated President Reagan, not just during the eight years of his presidency, but from the 1960s right up to the present. Does Christopher Hitchens have an IQ higher than president Reagan? Maybe yes, maybe no, but it certainly didn't stop Hitchens from devoting his intellect and talents to a stupid and evil ideology, Marxism, while Reagan was devoting all of his gifts -- heart, mind and soul -- to driving a dagger through its vampiric heart. That one was a God lover, the other a God hater, is certainly not incidental to their ability -- or lack thereof -- to spontaneously apprehend reality and know moral truth.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned my blog to a colleague. Usually I keep it a secret, since I don't want to offend anyone's sensibilities, and psychologists are nearly always leftist and irreligious. In the course of the conversation, she said words to the effect of "so smart!," but I immediately said, "no, that's not the point. If it were just about being smart, about displaying my intelligence, I would have no interest in it. Rather, it's solely about truth, and about my being subordinate to that. Yes, I want to be entertaining and amusing, but mainly I want to be elevating. If I fail at that, then any intelligence that went into it will have been wasted. It's certainly not about any kind of ego gratification, or exaltation of me."
Interestingly, I had a somewhat similar conversation with a staff member who is not a psychologist. However, she is religious, and she seemed to understand in a nanosecond where I was coming from. You will notice that many of our trolls complain that I am only here to strut and preen before my audience of adoring Coons, and to devour their slavish compliments in order to glorify my ego. As a result of your charcoal activated cOOnvision, every single one of you knows that that is not true and that it could not possibly be true. For one thing, if it were true, there is simply no way I could write about the things I do. The moment it were to become about me, the source of my inspiration would close tighter than a leftist's mind on Sunday. Likewise, if I were to ever become "popular," I would know that something had gone terribly wrong.
To put it another way, I guarantee to all Coons here and now, that if the tentacles of fame ever come close to me, you will see someone torpedo this opportunity in the most stunningly self-defeating way you have ever witnessed. For example, I've imagined once or twice what it would be like to be interviewed by Larry King. At some point, I promise to say, "Larry, I can't answer your questions because I've forgotten how to be so stupid."
There is no philosophy more anti-human than humanism, since, as Schuon puts it, it exalts fallen man and not man as such -- the latter being pre-fallen man, which is to say, our divine blueprince. Thus, "the humanism of the moderns is practically a utilitarianism aimed at fragmentary man; it is to make oneself as useful as possible to a humanity as useless as possible" (emphasis mine).
Think about the implications of that last Wise Crack, for it "explains everything" and pretty much embodies the doctrine of the whole existentialada. From the viewpoint of the left, mankind is indeed useless -- except for the purposes designated by the left. It has no higher, intrinsic purpose whatsover. In fact, we see the naked expression of this odiology in the fanatical environmentalism of Al Gore and other greenhouse gasbags, who believe that we are here to please the earth rather than vice versa. In reality, we have reversed cause and effect: the barbarism of radical environmentalism is the logical outcome, the "final common pathway," of a soul that has long since abandoned God.
Schuon makes reference to the truism that "every soul contains two poles, but normally they are complementary and not divergent." The two poles can be conceptualized in diverse ways, but ultimately it is a matter of horizontal and vertical. To overvalue one at the expense of the other will lead to an imbalance and loss of one's "transcendently immament" center. Nor can one have "two centers," for this is functionally to have no center.
No. The task in this life -- at least for a Coon -- is to embody unity in diversity, the archetype of which -- at least for Western man -- is Jesus Christ (I am quite sure there is a Jewish equivalent, but I don't have time at the moment to elucidate; in fact, balancing these two poles forms the essence of Jewish spiritual life, which addresses the issue in the most beautifully comprehensive manner).
Immediately we appreciate the problem of the "decentered genius" of modernity, and why genius in the absence of spiritual grounding tends twoard the duomonic. You will have noticed that America has never trusted the intellectual, and with good reason. It is one of the reasons why America is the greatest nation the world has ever known. In Europe and South America, things are different. There, intellectuals wield great power, and with disastrous results that are there for everyone to see. For there is no idea so stupid or evil that has not been championed by some prominent left-wing intellectual.
And now you are in a position to understand the great gulf that exists between lefitst academia and normal Americans with traditional, classical liberal American values. In reality, we shouldn't wonder why these ghastly pinheads hate America so. They hate America because Americans don't take them seriously, as they do in Europe.
In Europe, Noam Chomsky is a "rock star," whereas in America he is a paranoid crank embraced only by empty-headed celebrities, addle-brained kids, and their developmentally arrested professors (although in the past decade or so, we have also seen a marked deterioration in our MSM, to the point that there is no longer any discernible difference between, say, a Chomsky and the idiotorial pages of the New York Times, which is the real reason for the latter's economic failure and increasing irrelevance).
Schuon had some very astute things to say about the modern cult of genius, which, in the postmodern world, has replaced the saint and hero. He writes that the genius is "all too often a man without a center, in whom this lack is replaced by a creative hypertrophy." Again, think of the prolific Chomsky, who writes one book after another, each more worthless than the last.
This attitude also embraces the "art for art's sake" credo. That the lives of these so-called artistic geniuses are so full of decadence and strife is of no consequence. I have mentioned before that when I was in a rock band, I could see that I lacked the requisite "desperation" to succeed in that world. I simply had too many other options. Which in turn explains so much of the darkness that comes out of the pop music world. With notable exceptions, these are often desperate losers, any accidental genius notwithstanding. The list is far too long to chronicle here.
But as Schuon says -- and he was referring to the wider artistic trends of the 20th century -- "That geniuses of this kind have often been unfortunate and desperate persons [whose lives] have ended in disaster, does not deprive them of any prestige in public opinion; quite the contrary, people find them all the more interesting and 'authentic,' and let themselves be attracted by the seduction, indeed the fascination, which emanates from their siren songs and tragic destinies." Just yesterday I read a quote from some musician - the name escapes me at the moment -- who was wondering when and why music became so ugly. Life is ugly enough. The purpose of art should be to elevate us above the ugliness, not wallow in it.
The so-called genius who is alienated from the higher planes will tend toward materialism and self-indulgence: "as an intellectual, this man will forge a philosophy, but it will be determined by his materialism and his love of pleasure." But these are not actually joyous people who take pleasure in "the simple things." Rather, you will often see that their pleasure-seeking takes on a compulsive quality. At best, they become an epicure or an aesthete who is often reduced to making ultra-fine distinctions in the realm of what displeases him, to the point that the capacity for true innocent pleasure is lost.
I see how this absurdity operates in my own hobby as a hi-fi enthusiast. I can chase better sound until the day I die, but I know in my heart that music will never sound better than it did when the Beatles were coming out of the AM radio of our 1964 Ford Country Squire. To put it another way, I can always get better sound, but it will never sound better.
American movies have always recognized the demonic possibilities of the horizontal or inverted intellectual. Villains are routinely depicted as off-kilter geniuses, and with good reason. As Schuon writes, "it is not astonishing that a man who is at once a man of genius and lacking a true center should easily become a psychopath -- and this is precisely on account of his unbridled subjectivism -- whether he be a schizoid artist, a paranoiac politician or some other caricature of grandeur."
There is much, much more to say about this topic, but I'm running out of time here, so we we'll continue this line of thought tomorrow. Just remember: don't ever call me an intellectual, much less an artist. Them's fightin' words.