Cultured Vultures and Refined White Trash
Come to think of it, I should really try to weave in some of the Theo-Drama while we're discussing the Theo-Logic, since I'm currently well into the former, and it's more on my mind. It is full of provocative and paradoxical insights that I don't think I'll be able to assimilate until I've gotten to the end of the series, or the "last act" of the play.
Just the idea of God's revelation being a drama that unfolds through time is pregnant with meaning. For example, HvB compares the Father to the author of the play, the latter of whom is always "transcendent" to his work, very much like the Dreamer of your dreams. In order to make the play come to life, it will require actors, a stage, and a director. While realizing the inadequacy of the analogy, HvB compares "the God-man with the play's hero and the divine Spirit with the director."
But what about us? Well, on the one hand, we are the audience. But this is an unusual play -- you know, one of those postmodern ones that breaks the rules of drama -- in that the "fourth wall" of the stage is transgressed: "man is startled out of his spectator's seat and dragged onto the 'stage'; the distinction between stage and auditorium becomes fluid, to say the least."
For example, what's happening right at this moment? Am I writing about the theo-drama? Or am I now a participant on the stage? What about you? How did we get here? This is not my beautiful house. Water dissolving... and water removing. Into the blue again, into the silent water. Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground.
Who could disagree? Speaking of once in a lifetime pop references, HvB's erudition is at times off-putting, because it seems to literally be the case that he has seen, memorized, and interpreted every great drama that has ever been staged, from the ancient Greeks to 20th century masters such as Eugene O'Neill or Bertold Brecht, and everything in between. And not just the major works, but all of them. Which is fine. The problem is, he's constantly making reference to these, as if the mere mortal is supposed to be able to make sense of what he's referring to. I won't bore you with examples.
Where did the man find the time to attend the theatre every night? Because on top of that, he is also thoroughly familiar with every novel, every painting, every poet, every theologian, and every philosopher. He talks about a fine point of Hegel or Heidegger in the way you or I might talk about David Byrne or the Talking Heads or the Honeymooners or Gilligan's Island.
Then I realized. We simply are what we are exposed to, and that is what he spent his life being exposed to. You know the old crack, "the soul is all it knows." He probably didn't do anything special. He just never spent a moment watching sports on TV, playing video games, or listening to Boss Radio KHJ in the 1960s.
Since I did the latter -- obsessively -- I know more musical trivia from 1965-1973 than any other person I've ever met. I didn't "try" to memorize it. It's just that especially when you're young, your mind is truly a sponge that sops up everything in sight, with no participation of the will. Indeed, I've long since forgotten the things I "tried" to remember in school. Who knows what the soul will remember and use to develop and articulate itself?
We have no control over the cultural environment into which we are born, so we are placed in the position of using whatever materials are at hand to guide us through our soul journey. Again, we all must identify the people and objects we need in order to find and articulate our true self. But is it possible to do this with "low culture," so to speak, not just the immortals -- the Shakespeares, Dantes, Bachs, and all the rest?
I hope so! After all, Jesus was not a "cultured" man. This is obviously a critical point, for one of the most provocative elements of the Theo-Drama is that God should cast such a lowborn "nobody from nowhere" in the lead role. He didn't choose a prince, a scholar, a religious authority, or an affluent man with the leisure to attend the latest works of Seneca the Younger. You know what they say: nothing cool comes out of Nazareth.
Nor was anything groovy supposed to come out of Liverpool, or Hibbing, or Hoboken, but I don't think we would have ever had the Beatles, Sinatra, or Dylan if they had grown up in London, or Beverly Hills, or the upper east side of Manhattan. Not to romanticize material and cultural impoverishment, but I think the creative genius can take just about anything and turn it into art, whereas many more privileged people can take any cultural treasure and turn it into kitsch. Look what Pinch has done with the New York Times, or Obama to the Constitution.
Is this post going anywhere? What is my point? Take the example of Lileks. Look at how he is able to take so many seemingly worthless cultural artifacts that nobody notices, and elevate them to some kind of weird transcendence. How does he do it?
Simple. The man is a genius, and when stuff gets filtered through a genius, it somehow gets elevated beyond itself. This is the secret of the great blues musicians -- Howlin' Wolf, or Muddy Water, or John Lee Hooker. Sure, it looks simple, but you try turning three chords and a tapping foot into transcendent art. Creedence Clearwater is "simple." But if you think simple is easy, let's see you produce a perfect song such as Born on the Bayou.
So I was thinking along these lines the other day in contemplating HvB's freakish erudition. Then it dawned on me that I know as much as he does, except that it's all different stuff. But I don't go around tossing out all of these bobscure references that I know no one else will get. Sure, I could talk about the fine points of the cult classic of sunshine pop by the Yellow Balloon, but what would be the point? I could go on and on about the twin telecaster and freight train rhythm of the Buckaroos, but how many readers are connoisseurs of the Bakersfield Sound? I could talk all day about the healing powers of Liquored Up & Lacquered Down by Southern Culture on the Skids, but who else would know what I'm talking about?
So I am a cultured man. It's just that I take culture where I find it, and try to Bobtize it, which is all a man can do. In fact, this is what I was trying to do in the Coonifesto -- see p. 298, footnote 6.
All right. Enough of that. Back to serious business, The Administration of Truth. How's this for starters: "God does not wish to be in sole charge of the truth but appoints human beings to be his joint administrators." How do we know this? Because we can know and administer truth, that's how. To be shattered by truth can never be a "neutral" experience, devoid of any moral imperative. Rather, it seems that to know truth always carries with it the responsibility to tell -- and even "be" -- truth. How strange!
But even the leftist is aware of this meta-truth -- for example, in their absurd self-flattery about "speaking truth to power." Of course it's not true, but they believe it is true, again because this is what truth does: it speaks down to power. But not just any power. Rather, it speaks to -- and convicts -- purely worldly power. But since the left is all about worldly power, the best thing we can say about them is that they are a bunch of spiritual perverts sitting on a park bench, eyeing little girls with bad intent and watching the frilly panties run.
Because man is spirit, he "must bear witness to truth." One way or the other, you could say that man is condemned to truth -- either embracing it or fleeing from it. But "embrace" is a misleading term, for that subtly implies "containment," which is something we can never do. Rather, we can only "open" and surrender to truth, which comes at us from all directions: from deep within ourselves, from others, from the world, and from God. We must be open to all of these sources, and somehow metabolize them into a living unity.
And none of this can take place in the absence of freedom, which is again why the left is such a deathly caricature of liberalism. Statism and political correctness are death to truth, or simply death for short. Truth can only be spiritually "disclosed," not coerced by the state or culture. We must bear free witnesses to truth, not be compelled to give only a preconceived testimony on the witless stand of political correctness.
I would go even further: in the absence of the God of love, it is not possible to sincerely embrace and disclose truth, for a whole host of reasons. After all, there is a reason why we have people swear on the Bible in a court of law. Why not have scientists do the same? For if a scientist were to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, he might be far more circumspect in his grandiose truth claims.
Yes, for the benefit of readers in Rio Linda, that was a rhetorical point. But HvB is perfectly accurate when he says that "The mouth of falsehod can be dripping with individual truths; it can build up astoundingly, flawlessly coherent systems. But, detached from the fundamental movement of love, even these formally correct propositions serve falsehood, and their 'truth' only helps to multiply it."
Folks, love it or hate it, that's what you always get here at One Cosmos: my honest testimony, to which I swear on a stack of Van Morrison CDs.