Friday, May 28, 2010

Cardiomyopia and Cosmic Nearsightedness

I was just reading yesterday in Pieper's The Four Cardinal Virtues -- about which we will be blah-blah-blogging next week -- of how odd it is that for humans, and humans alone, there is such pleasure associated with the senses. The pleasure of taste is perhaps not difficult to understand, as most animals seem to enjoy eating (although they certainly don't linger over it), and my dogs obviously get a kick out of going on a walk and sniffing the latest pee-mail left by their fellows.

But what about the intense pleasures of sound and sight? The lion is no doubt "attracted" to the form of the gazelle, but no one imagines that the pleasure is in any way aesthetic. However, for human beings, sound and vision provide our primary access to the realm of beauty. And there is such a gulf between this quintessentially human concern with beauty, -- which is so distant from the vital needs of the body -- vs. the practical uses to which animals put their eyes and ears, that it makes any Darwinian explanation risible.

Here's how Pieper describes it: "In the case of animals... no pleasure is derived from the activity of the other senses, such as the eye and ear, except as they affect the satisfaction of the drives of hunger and sex; only because of the promise of food is the lion 'happy' when he spies a stag or hears his call."

However, "one frequently reads and hears that in intemperance man sinks to the level of the beast," but this makes no sense, since a beast cannot be intemperate.

Only a human being can sink beneath himself (or his archetype, his reason for being), so that intemperance takes on not just moral connotations, but more importantly, psycho-spiritual/developmental ones. Intemperance is self-destructive because it relates all of man's higher possibilities to immediate sensual gratification, thus foreclosing any access to more subtle senses and sentiments (which of course correspond to and disclose more subtle realities), and ultimately his reason for being.

As we have mentioned in the past, one of the marks of spiritual development is a "subtle-ization" and refinement of senses and emotions. One thinks of our trolls, whose coarseness of affect and intellect always precedes them and infuses their every utterance.

Just as the higher realities may be known by their "spiritual perfume," the lower ones may be detected by that unmistakably acrid scent of miasmal swamp gas given off by the unwashed troll. Thus the truism that "only those who look at the world with pure eyes can experience its beauty" (Pieper).

Consistent with what we were saying yesterday about the relationship between time and music, Schuon writes that hearing "reflects intellection not in its static and simultaneous, but in its dynamic and successive mode..." As such, it "plays what could be termed a 'lunar' role in relation to sight; and that is why it is linked, not to space, but to time, the audible being situated in duration." Note also that "in a certain sense, the sun makes known space and the moon, time."

Now, that is an interesting observation because it implies that the ears are more "feminine," while the eyes are more "masculine" (bearing in mind that the one is always present in the other).

Clearly, men are more visual beings -- think of their fixation on the female form, for example, -- whereas women tend to be more auditory, hence the well-known ability of even gargoylish men to attract women with an appealing line of bullshit. For this reason, men are most often deceived by the beautiful form, while women are most often deceived by the seductive BS.

Note also that "female porn," such as harlequin romances, is primarily verbal, not visual. Also, single women (and feminized men) overwhelmingly vote Democrat, another instance of the tendency of our less evolved sisters to fall for the superficially appealing but vacuous rhetoric of seducers such as a Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, or John Edwards. Truly, leftism is "political porn," just as materialism is a kind of crude "cognitive porn" (and just as porn represents the domain of sexuality wholly exteriorized and materialized).

So sight can indeed become quite cramped and body-bound if it remains entirely invested in sensual pleasure. But in potential, it is the least "self interested" of the senses, for as Schuon writes, "Sight alone communicates to us the existence of immeasurably remote heavenly bodies that are perfectly foreign to our vital interests, and it could therefore be said that it alone is essentially 'objective.'"

And since objectivity is in many ways synonymous with truth, it makes perfect sense "to compare light to knowledge and darkness to ignorance" (Schuon), a metaphor that is present in virtually all traditions.

Furthermore, "the eye becomes the metaphysical center of the world, of which it is the same time the sun and the heart" (Schuon). Just as Eye and Light are complementary, so too Knowledge and Reality, which is why the sage is "illuminated by wisdom."

But the latter is again radiant "heart knowledge," like, say, the icon at the right. This "heart of Christ" is therefore the center of the individual and of the entire creation. Thus, it is "the Eye that sees God -- and that consequently 'is' God -- and by which God sees man" (Schuon). To see God with this heart is equally to be seen, but with an inward sight.

I'll leave you with a provocative quote by Schuon: "The two eyes represent a bipolar projection of the brain into a [horizontal] domain of lesser possibility; the brain is thus the intermediary between the analytical vision of the eyes and the synthetic vision of the heart."

And "if the heart and the brain be represented as two extremities of a vertical element, and the eyes as the extremities of a horizontal element," "we obtain the form of a T," which "symbolizes the relationship between two dualities" -- vertical/horizontal, analysis/synthesis, celestial/terrestrial, form/substance, etc. It's as if we are crucified to the senses, and only by losing the life of the lower do we gain the life of the higher -- and thereby transfigure the lower.

14 Comments:

Blogger black hole said...

I am fated to be, again, the first commenter. And I am an odious, miasmic troll.

By the looks of things, the only one you've got left.

Dupree emitted the stink also, but alas he's gone too.

Oh, and about the post: It was good. The analysis of the various kinds of porn is a "keeper."

I'll no doubt be using some of it at faculty functions starting next week.

Sincerely, the extremely wealthy, very tenured, far-left BH.

5/28/2010 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"And "if the heart and the brain be represented as two extremities of a vertical element, and the eyes as the extremities of a horizontal element," "we obtain the form of a T," which "symbolizes the relationship between two dualities" -- vertical/horizontal, analysis/synthesis, celestial/terrestrial, form/substance, etc. It's as if we are crucified to the senses, and only by losing the life of the lower do we gain the life of the higher -- and thereby transfigure the lower."

Quite the set of posts, yesterday and today, well done.

Oh... I see the pee-mail account is still active... oh well. While it may be true that "I know it when I see it", I like this definition much better,

"Truly, leftism is "political porn," just as materialism is a kind of crude "cognitive porn" (and just as porn represents the domain of sexuality wholly exteriorized and materialized)."

, interesting that bh likes it too. I guess the pee-mail is an even better illustration than I first thought.

5/28/2010 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Van, yes, unfortunately. I'm suddenly reminded of a guy I knew in college, who had a job working in the computer lab. His personal hygiene was so terrible, you knew he was in the lab just by walking down the hall toward the door. And it was a guarantee that if he was in, the only other people in any of the adjoining rooms were there because they absolutely had no other alternative. People in his dorm would leave deodorant, bars of soap, shampoo, etc. in front of his door, with instructions. I don't know that he ever took the hint.

One had only to mention his name to see most people exhibit a microexpression of a gag reflex cross their faces.

The really bizarre thing about it, though, was that this guy still managed to get a girlfriend. Looking back, I can only wonder if she had experienced some type of trauma that destroyed her sense of smell.

Apologies on the odious stroll down memory lane; I just knew there was something familiar about that smell...

5/28/2010 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger f/zero said...

"Eye heart you," she signed.

"You fit me to a T," he interpreted.

5/28/2010 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of the senses, to make up for my earlier comment, here's a sweet little something for the eyes and the ears. Go look - it'll make your day. At least for a minute or two ;)

5/28/2010 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Another wonderful, insightful post, Bob.

"only those who look at the world with pure eyes can experience its beauty" (Pieper).

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

I recall that you've written before on Jesus' observation that the eye is the "lamp" of the body, and must be healthy, if you are to be full of light.

I'm going to be chuckling over "pee-mail" for an awfully long time. Memorable opening 'graph!

wv: oplity

5/28/2010 07:41:00 PM  
Blogger Rusty Southwick said...

Thus we see that marmots don't gaze at the sunset in awe. The beaver doesn't artistically admire what it has just carved, therefore it wasn't creative as craft. Nor do any in the animal kingdom we know produce a type of art for art's sake. A spider's web may surely be a masterpiece, yet only so in the human eye, where all the beauty resides.

5/28/2010 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Once this would have been to me only a philosophic theory, but today it is like someone talking about my job or my home, except that I only spend a third of may day at work and have only lived in this house for a short while, whereas the human gradient is something I experience over and over day in and day out, for better or for worse.

At the outset, we may not be much different from a dog, who clearly takes pleasure when eating or being praised. But if we explore gradually more subtle realms where the mind may go, pleasure of the instinctual body is overshadowed by joy of the mind, then happiness of the soul, and eventually the enlightenment of the spirit. Or that's my current names for them, I am sure others have named the terrain more precisely who have experience to do so.

But conversely, it is possible to take humanness to the opposite end, where even pleasure becomes an unbearable ennui and where all temptations cease, because they have been hunted down and overtaken by a depraved mind, so that only a diabolical energy of the contrary mind makes it possible to persevere ever deeper into Dissolution.

I'm no big fan of exterminating endangered species for fun and profit, but it seems to me that the sheer span of possible experience and behavior within our single species at least rivals that found among our furry and feathered friends, and then some.

5/29/2010 04:07:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Bob, God's timing. I have a yet unopened copy of Pieper's The Four Cardinal Virtues and as the school year ended yesterday I have the time and the will to make mind and heart space to slack back in the hammock, book in hand, as you blah-blah-blog along.

Wishing all a blessed Memorial Day weekend.

5/29/2010 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

What Magnus said about it being

"possible to take humanness to the opposite end, where even pleasure becomes an unbearable ennui and where all temptations cease, because they have been hunted down and overtaken by a depraved mind, so that only a diabolical energy of the contrary mind makes it possible to persevere ever deeper into Dissolution"

goes very much to what Pieper has to say about the true meaning of the virtue of temperance, which we will be discussing in the next week or two (after the first three virtues, Prudence, Justice, and Fortitude). The main point is that temperance increases and facilitates real pleasure, while intemperance gradually dulls and eventually destroys one's capacity for appreciating it. Details forthcoming.

5/29/2010 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Mizz E:

It's a gem of a book, and I didn't know why I hadn't blogged about it until I realized that I first read it in 2004, before the birth of the blog. Now it's like a new book. I got much more out of it the second time. BTW, it's so much deeper than what passes for "psychology" these days.... It's really 2000+ years of meditation and accumulated wisdom on the nature of the human soul and its relationship to happiness, the good life, and our reason for being (three aspects of the same reality).

5/29/2010 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Rusty said “. A spider's web may surely be a masterpiece, yet only so in the human eye, where all the beauty resides.”

Resides? No, but the human is the only place where beauty may be recognized and realized.

5/29/2010 08:12:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Really looking forward to Pieper's The Four Cardinal Virtues.

5/29/2010 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Old farts at play sounding young and full of funk
actually one of my favorite debut albums

5/29/2010 02:07:00 PM  

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