They Think, Therefore We Are Screwed
When you think about it, the only thing in the cosmos that can go really wrong -- really, really wrong -- on a massive scale is human thinking. So stop it already!
What I mean is that everything else in the universe works perfectly harmoniously, without a hitch, from the solar system to the ecosystem to the human body. I suppose you could argue that birth defects and genetic illnesses represent "going wrong" as well, but these are obviously exceptions that prove the rule.
No, there is no question that human thought introduced something potentially satanic into the cosmos. When we say that people need to be "saved," it is almost always from their own thoughts, is it not? They need to be saved from other people's thoughts too, but that's in the political or economic sense.
In fact, if you want to know why the vast majority of political revolutions fail, it is because they only liberate one from the tyranny of other people's thoughts, only to re-enslave them in their own. The left is now "free" of George Bush. But are they now free? Ho! Now that Americans are seeing the true craziness that engulfs the left, they are abandoning Obama in droves. I don't think too many people want to be forced to live inside Nancy Pelosi's or Harry Reid's thoughts.
Now, Genesis, in its wisdom, obviously recognized this problem at the outset, in that the very origin of man contains the seeds of his fall. No sooner were "our eyes opened" than there was trouble in paradise. Before that, human beings were living in harmony with creation, just like everything else.
A psychoanalytic-developmental reading of Genesis would suggest that there was something in the evolution of man analogous to the innocent child "waking" to consciousness. In fact, you can tell when your child has become "conscious" when he tells you his first lie. Before that, there is no reason to lie, and no means to do so. But soon enough the child becomes implicitly aware of the cynical adage that man was given speech in order to conceal his thoughts.
In The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis, Kass makes many salient points along these lines. For example in the first version of creation, "things are said to be 'good'; in the second, there is a tree of knowledge of good and bad, nothing is said to be 'good,' and one thing -- man's aloneness -- is said (by the Lord God) to be 'not good'.... In the first story, human freedom appears to be our badge of distinction; in the second story, human freedom is the source of our troubles."
Interestingly, the first version of creation is a macro view, from which all appears good. Imagine if you could actually stand outside the entire cosmos, as Petey has, and regard the whole existentialada as a beautiful and benign star-making machine. What's the problem? No problem. Look at all the stars and galaxies!
But wait! What's that?! Down there -- walking around on its hind legs on that little blue speck. It reminds me of the opening scene of Blue Velvet, which shows the man watering his lush suburban lawn. But then the camera moves in for an extreme close-up, showing all of the disgusting terrestrial creatures crawling and slinking below.
Thus, just as in a movie, the second version of creation zooms in for a micro view of the goings-on of a particular planet at a far corner of creation. Imagine if you could actually stand outside history, as Petey has done, and regard the whole crazy collidorescape, from primitive premoderns to postmodern primitives, as one continuous thread with an underlying pattern that keeps repeating again and again and again.
As Kass writes, the first version of creation "offers a cosmic vision, majestically presenting man's place in a cosmic whole.... [T]he scene viewed is remote and all-encompassing, and what is seen is eternal." The story provides "metaphysical scope and knowledge, and it inspires in us wonder and cosmic awe." It is the ontological beginning.
But the second version is more epistemological and moral. It "maintains a strictly terrestrial focus and addresses the reader as a suffering moral agent, presenting him a poignant account of why misery shadows human life."
This second version of creation does not contradict the first. It's just from a different perspective, that's all. A different "vertex," as Bion would put it. But this difference goes to the heart of man's problems, because the one view presents us with eternal, intelligible, nonlocal metaphysical principles, while the other presents us with man's deviation from these principles, i.e., his own thought, and the mischief that ensues, right down to the present day:
"A life of sinless innocence and wholeheartedness is virtually impossible for human beings, thanks to freedom, imagination, reason-and-speech, self-consciousness, and pride, and in the face of neediness, sexuality, ignorance, self-division, dependence, and lack of self-command."
In baseball, there are a couple of sayings that apply: Don't think, you'll hurt the ballclub, and No brain, no problem. And so we see that misery shadows human life, especially the Chicago Cubs.
Speaking of sports, I'm sure many of you remember a book that came out in the 1970s, The Inner Game of Tennis, which taught that... Rather than trying to think back on what the book taught, I'll just cite the amazon review:
"A phenomenon when first published in 1972, the Inner Game was a real revelation. Instead of serving up technique, it concentrated on the fact that... 'Every game is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game.' The former is played against opponents, and is filled with lots of contradictory advice; the latter is played not against, but within the mind of the player, and its principal obstacles are self-doubt and anxiety. Gallwey's revolutionary thinking... was really a primer on how to get out of your own way to let your best game emerge.... 'No matter what a person's complaint when he has a lesson with me, I have found the most beneficial first step... is to encourage him to see and feel what he is doing -- that is, to increase his awareness of what actually is.'"
In short, the purpose of Gallwey's book was to help tormented players overcome their own divided selves and return to tennis eden -- just like the Bible. For it too posits "two natures" within man, who is ultimately divided against himself:
"Human troubles are foreshadowed by man's dual origins: he is constituted by two principles, the first one low ('dust from the ground'), the second one high ('breath of life')." On the one hand, we are stardust, we are golden, but on the other, we are earthdust, we are fertilizer. Either way, we've got to find our way back to the garden. No wonder man is crazy! For once he has eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, "the human being cannot without trouble enjoy his own existence. In its presence, he cannot remain undivided within himself."
Now this problem of "thought," as we were saying yesterday, is undoubtedly worse for the intelligent than it is for the stupid. But it is a catastrophe for the tenured. As Thomas Sowell writes, "To create a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs": "There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs."
And just as Genesis emphatically teaches, the problem is not so much thought as it is the pride associated with it: "Such people have been told all their lives how brilliant they are, until finally they feel forced to admit it, with all due modesty. But they not only tend to overestimate their own intelligence, more fundamentally they tend to overestimate how important individual brilliance is when dealing with real-world problems. Many crucial things in life are learned from experience, rather than from clever thoughts or clever words. Indeed, a gift for the clever phrasing so admired today by the media can be a fatal talent, especially for someone chosen to lead a government."
God save us from the do-gooders. And God save us from the experts. But when confronted by a mob of do-gooding experts intent on ramming their goodness down your throat, it is on. Time to drop the gloves at center ice. Revolution time, baby.
Because they ignore the lesson of Genesis, the ideas of the secular left are particularly catastrophic. They seem to be clueless about the double-edgedness of human thought, and therefore, the irony-rich Law of Unintended Consequences -- to say nothing of the fact that in order for government to do something for you, it must first do something to you.
There are so many areas in which the "rational" thought of the left only makes matters worse. In his Vision of the Anointed, Sowell devotes a chapter to this, but it's really one of his central points: it takes a kind of breathtaking hubris to imagine that one can deploy dry reason to arrive at "solutions" that are superior to the collective wisdom of man, honed over centuries of contact with real experience. Thus, for example, the leftist no doubt feels that vetoing man's collective wisdom and redefining marriage is the rational thing to do. But doing the merely rational thing is hardly rational.
There is a higher form of thought that transcends reason while fully embracing it. And there is a lower form of thought that clings to reason while completely obliterating its own roots in transcendence. To live in the paradise of the latter is hell for one who knows the former. It is the difference between "I think, therefore I am," vs. "I AM, therefore we think." And you know what they say about putting Descartes before d' hearse.... Oh, and those road apples aren't really apples, so don't try to eat one.