Passion, Nonattachment, and Jihad: Thoughts and What to Do About Them
At the same time, we all know that the opposite of anhedonia -- hedonism -- also leads nowhere, since it involves the mindless pursuit of pleasure for its own sake. Millions of people who are not depressed live this kind of pointless life, which might be thought of as a sort of "inverted depression," pursuing one fleeting passion after another. Their lives are truly "smoke driven by wind."
A big part of slack involves understanding the role of pleasure in one's life. The Buddha thought he had hit upon the solution by suggesting that attachment to our desires was the central problem of human existence. Desires come and go, but if we just stop identifying with them, then we can be liberated from them. While I studied a fair amount of Buddhism in my earlier years, I ultimately rejected it as fundamentally inadequate and incompatible with our own wisdom traditions in the West.
Yes, the West has problems, but Buddhist nonattachment is not the answer. Rather, the answer lay in a recovery of our own spiritual roots, which easily transcend and include the insights of Buddhism. Or, perhaps we can say that there are certain insights of Buddhism that can help illuminate certain ideas that are present but underemphasized in our own tradition. But Christianity is obviously fundamentally complete and needs no other revelation to complete it. It is missing nothing.
The other day a commenter rejected our metaphysics on the basis of something Confucius supposedly once said (I say "supposedly," since diverse translations make Confucius' point rather ambiguous at best -- in this case, it was unclear if he was making a point about Truth or recommending the kung pao chicken). But even if accurate, it is not possible to isolate a particular comment by Confucius, wrench it from its cultural matrix, and then apply it to a different culture that operates along completely different assumptions.
It is simply a truism that no one is more blind to his Christian assumptions than the anti-Christian atheist who is the beneficiary of 2000 years of Christian conditioning. Thus, he values all of the precious things that uniquely developed in the Judeo-Christian West and nowhere else: democracy, individuality, liberty, science, freedom of conscience, etc, but then attacks the metaphysical roots of these things -- as if any of them were developed by atheists living in purely secular cultures. In reality, the most atheistic cultures are tied (or is it hanged?) neck and neck with Islam for producing the most cruel and barbaric cultures (with the possible exception of primitive tribes).
It should be sufficient for us to reject Confucianism and Buddhism on the basis of the sort of societies that developed around Confucian or Buddhist values (again, while still appreciating timeless insights that illuminate our own tradition). In short, would you prefer to live in America, Great Britain, Australia, or Israel? Or China, Cambodia, Vietnam, or Sri Lanka? Ideas have consequences, especially the spiritual/metaphysical ones at the basis of a culture. Even it you entirely reject the Judeo-Christian tradition, if you live in the West, I can pretty much guarantee that you have a Judeo-Christian unconscious. (In the past, I have recommended Gil Baile's brilliant Violence Unveiled, which traces the profound anthropological consequences of the Christian revelation, which, in a certain very real sense, was the "cure" for religion -- including bad forms of Christianity)
We should also reject Islam on the strongest possible grounds on the basis of the horribly inhumane cultures it has spontaneously produced. Conversely, if it could produce a single place worthy of human habitation, then we might reconsider. But facts are facts, and even the UN acknowledges that the places on earth where Islam rules are among the worst places on earth to be condemned to live.
Just look at the so-called "Palestinians," one of the most comprehensively depraved peoples to ever appear in the human zoo. These people have hideous values, none of which are not rooted in Islamic teaching, by their own insistence. Indeed, this grotesque ideology is preached from their mosques day in and day out, year after year. And it is also embraced by treasonous terror-front groups such as CAIR, who are ironically only able to operate in the U.S. because of a certain pathological blindness that is unique to our Judeo-Christian culture -- what you might call the "intolerance that tolerance creates," the "discrimination produced by the indiscriminate," or perhaps the "moral perversity that flows from diversity."
Only in the West, because we value liberty, are we free to pursue whatever it is that pleases us. This alone vastly broadens (in ways both bad and good) and deepens our worldview in a manner that no other culture can match. For example, much of our clash with Islam is over the "content" of our culture, content that no one in the Islamic world is apparently mature enough to deal with. Therefore, there are strict controls on information, exerted from the top down.
And much of this objectionable content is psychosexual in nature, as their cultures revolve around a fear and dread of female sexuality, which must be sadistically controlled by men. And the understandable rage and frustration produced in these cultures is so destabilizing that they can only function at all by externalizing it into Israel and the West. In the absence of imaginary Jews and other infidels -- who serve as a psychological "pressure valve" -- these societies would implode from within.
In short, ironically, we have no need whatsoever for the Islamic world, but they desperately need us. Or, to put it another way, we need their oil -- a material thing that is only accidentally theirs, and in fact, worthless without superior cultures to buy it -- while they desperately need our very existence in order to have something to psychologically project into. People say that we must become "energy independent" from the Middle East, as if that would really solve the problem. Oil is a global commodity, so no matter what we do, more and more money will flow into the Islamic world, if only because of the rapidly expanding Chinese and Indian economies.
What the world really needs -- but which no one talks about -- is for Islamic countries to achieve "emotional energy independence." That is, they must stop relying upon imaginary sources of hatred -- i.e., Israel and the United States -- and realize that they are sitting on the goldmine. They don't have to import a drop of hatred from us, since they produce it in such abundant quantities, if only they could appreciate it. Black gold, indeed.
But it seems that in every Islamic country, there is a fundamental confusion over "where all this hatred is coming from." They all feel it, but amazingly, no one recognizes its source. Even a casual visit to LGF or memri.org will confirm that this rabid hatred permeates the Islamic world. And yet, no one is allowed to raise his hand and say, "Hey, you know what? I think I see the problem, and Israel has nothing to do with it." This thought is not permitted, any more than a Democrat is permitted to "see" the thriving Bush economy.
Indeed, the psychological state of affairs in the Islamic world forms a fascinating parallel to the situation in the West, where it seems that at least half the population -- the left half -- is on board with the Islamists, and cannot say, for example, "I think I see the problem, and it's not us. It's radical Islam." But then, to compound the problem, after failing to recognize their own hatred, the leftist projects it into that half of the West that sees reality with moral clarity! Therefore, someone like... I don't know, like me, will be equally hated by the freaks of Islam and the freaks of the left. Both recognize the hatred they are immersed in, but misidentify its source as being outside themselves. We more or less get an example of this projection here on a daily basis.
For example, yesterday it was "The hypocrisy of it all is that the One Cosmos blog is the most restricted and speech-coded place I've ever seen," or "The truth of our existence is love. Not much of that on this blog." It would be easy to address trolls if they merely disagreed with us. But all of them, without exception, come in here with their projections leaking all over the place. That is the first thing we always notice, way before the content arrives, for the content -- such as it is -- is simply riding piggyback on the energy of the angry projection. As we know, the bulk of Dupree's work involves mopping up after all these leaky projections spilling all over the floor. Which really bothers Dupree, because the area rug under his murphy bed really tied things together in the garage, and now it's a mess.
And this all comes back to the problem of desire and what to do about it, for hatred is a form of desire, in the sense that it is a libidinal attachment to an object. As we have mentioned before, we can be connected to others through an L (love) link, an H (hate) link or a K (knowledge) link, but it's the link that counts. You might say that Muslims don't so much hate Jews as they are in "minus love" with them as a poor substitute for their loveless lives. The bond is just as strong -- indeed, perhaps even stronger, since love often fades, while hatred can endure for centuries with just a little nurturing and a lot of frustration.
Even more fundamentally, Bion identified the central problem of the human condition as follows: thoughts and what to do about them. One would think that the obvious answer would be to build an apparatus to think them, but history proves that this is something of a rarity. Rather, people will do almost anything to avoid taking responsibility for their thoughts and to actually think them. For example, they can act them out, they can project them, they can deny them, they can convert them into physical symptoms, they can try to control others as a substitute for controlling one's own thoughts. Once you understand that thinking is the exception, not the rule, then everything starts to make more sense.
To requote Schuon, "whoever does not know how to think, whatever his gifts may be, is not authentically a man; that is, he is not a man in the ideal sense of the term. Too many men display intelligence as long as their thought runs in the grooves of their desires, interests and prejudices; but the moment the truth is contrary to what pleases them, their faculty of thought becomes blurred or vanishes; which is at once inhuman and 'all too human.'”
We often use the word "infrahuman" to designate the enemies of human evolution. But we could just as well say "all too human," for the human being is nothing if he is not a bridge between the is and the ought, the form and the essence, the now and the not yet, time and eternity, the vertical and the horizontal, the kingdom of earth and the kingdom of heaven. First and foremost, you must live a life that is ruled by desire for what is permanent and transcendent: which is to say, a passion for the true, the good, and the beautiful. Extinguish this passion, and you will have killed man. Or, at the very least, man will drift in a kind of gravity- and friction-free existential space that some might confuse with "nirvana." Yes, it is a kind of "liberation" -- from the human being, properly so called.
Or as Joseph Campbell once said, participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.