Obama and the Emperor's New Empty Suit (10.17.11)
UF begins with the observation that "the less superficial a person is -- and the more he knows and is capable of -- the greater is his authority." Specifically, "to be something, to know something and to be capable of something is what endows a person with authority." Being, knowledge, and/or action. The more of these one has, the more intrinsic authority. And importantly, this won't be any kind of secular or conventional authority. Rather, the person will simply radiate the authority outward, from the center to the periphery.
In turn, each of these categories has a dimension of depth. One can know superficially or deeply. One can do something adequately or with great depth, like the artist. But the most interesting category is that of being, for that is the most mysterious of the three. One of the primary purposes of religion is to confer depth at the level of being.
The other day I was reading an article about Schuon by the Orthodox Christian scholar James Cutsinger, whose initial experience of Schuon's "intrinsic authority" was virtually identical to mine. No one had to tell me that this man was an authority. Rather, the depth of his authority was communicated directly, center to center:
"Nothing had prepared me for my first encounter with a book by Frithjof Schuon. I vividly recall reading the opening page, and then rereading it again, then a third time and a fourth time, before proceeding" (Cutsinger). Now interestingly, the depth is not a matter of "complexity" or sophistication. Indeed, those things are often just tricks of the tenured to make you believe they are deep when their ideas would be recognized as utterly banal if conveyed in plain English.
Cutsinger agrees that "the words themselves were certainly not difficult, nor the style at all complex. Indeed, compared to many a modern philosopher's work, Schuon's books are noted for their simple, and often poetic, beauty. And yet for some reason I found myself unable to move with the speed I was accustomed to."
Precisely. Part of it involves the question of rhythm, in particular, the rhythm of eternity. I noticed this the other evening, when I was watching a baseball game. For most people who cannot appreciate baseball, it is often because they cannot attune themselves to its rhythm and its depth (which only becomes more difficult as the jagged rhythms of the culture around us "speed up"). Unlike most other sports, you have to imagine waves of greater length and deeper troughs.
Anyway, during a commercial, I switched over to the hockey game (hockey season has just begun), and it was a totally jarring experience compared to the leisurely rhythm of baseball. Instead, the rhythm was frantic and chaotic.
Now, after baseball season ends, I'll get back to hockey, because once you get used to its rhythm, it starts to slow down and become more decipherable. But I realized that one should "respect the seasons," so to speak, and not blend them, otherwise you'll miss some subtle elements. You cannot treat baseball like hockey or basketball, or you'll miss all of the deeper rhythms that slowly unfold from April to October.
It also reminds me of Keith Jarrett, who talks about how much internal preparation it takes for him to move between jazz and classical. I believe I read somewhere that it takes him about six months to make the transition, and I can well understand why. (cf. Will's comment on yesterday's post about the potentially dangerous and even deadly rhythms of jazz.)
I can also see it in my own life. My job has become much more difficult for me since I started the blogging. You can well imagine why. I greet each day by doing my best to resonate with the rhythms of eternity and bring down a little nugget of joy. But then I have to turn my attention to some loser who's trying to scam an insurance company, and write a 30 page report. I feel like a rabbi who studies the Torah one day and works at the kosher meat packing plant the next.
There is another corollary at work here, for just as only depth can recognize depth, only depth can recognize shallowness and superficiality. This is clearly why so many shallow people seem to think that Obama is deep, or nuanced, or even beyond that -- that he truly represents some sort of messianic or "transformational" figure. I feel as if his entire mind could safely fit into a little corner of mine. And I'm not bragging. I would assume that all Raccoons feel the same way.
(By the way -- and this would be a good topic for a post -- none of the shallow sophisticates -- both liberal and conservative alike -- understand that Sarah Palin's greatest effect is at the level of being (similar to Ronald Reagan). This reality is so much deeper than a Peggy Noonan or David Brooks column that to compare the two would be silly. When we hear about this liberal-approved elite "conservative intelligentsia" before whom we are supposed to show great deference, it is mostly a cult of entirely conventional mediocrities. In my world, there is a group of intellectuals that far surpasses these liberal-approved conservatives, precisely because they have evolved beyond the head and into the higher mind, or mind of light. Dennis Prager comes to mind. Mark Steyn. Roger Kimball. Victor Davis Hanson. They have no problem with Sarah Palin, and they run circles around a tiresome hack like Peggy Noonan.)
Oh yes, just to finish up with Cutsinger's observations about reading Schuon. He writes that it was as if he were running along the beach, and then suddenly found himself in the ocean. Very mysterious. In other words, he was merrily scampering on the surface of one medium, but then, to his surprise, found himself in a different medium. Let's just call it "being" for short, but being is not monolithic, and has "many mansions," such as the sacred, the holy, etc. As Cutsinger notes,
"Here was a new medium, no less able to support my movement, but requiring an altogether different engagement. There would be no more running now. I would have to swim."
And here is the irony: you will notice that our scientistic jester never stops trying to walk on water. Ho!
At the same time, he can't help thinking that we are trying to swim on dry land. Guffah-ha!
Back to the Emperor. Among other things, the Emperor is the symbol of divine authority on earth. He is not a replacement of divine authority, but its horizontal prolongation. And along these lines, perhaps the most important point is that, as UF writes, "God governs the world by authority, and not by force. If this were not so, there would be neither freedom nor law in the world."
This automatically excludes Obama from being a legitimate ruler, in that the left is all about governing by force. He will not "lure" you toward the good by his intrinsic authority, but compel you to "share" and "spread around" the fruits of your labor with his purely earthly power. And that's all it is. His profound lack of understanding of Christian doctrine is too well documented to discuss here.
God does not "compel" acceptance of his authority, or we would not be free. Thus, the typical atheist who asks for miracles in order for God to "prove" his existence is really asking for God to remove his freedom. But that is something he will never do. Rather, only humans can do that to themselves and to each other. UF elaborates:
"One is free to be believing or unbelieving. Nothing and no one can compel us to have faith -- no scientific discovery, no logical argument, no physical torture can force us to believe, i.e., to freely recognize and accept the authority of God."
The atheist says to Jesus: "Come down from that cross, then I might believe in your power!" But power is not truth. Rather, truth is power. And the truth is, Truth is crucified in history, and yet, survives. And that is a powerful miracle.
To be continued....