Thursday, June 02, 2011

Come for the Salvation, Stay for the Play!

One of the reasons Christianity can be a tough sell these days is because of this word "sin." Yet, there was a time that this wasn't remotely problematic.

Rather, it seems that people were spontaneously aware of its persecutory presence, both in individuals and in history. One can deny it, repress it, project it, or sublimate it, but one cannot get rid of it (unless one is a sociopath). It always comes back in one form or another.

For example, who is more sanctimonious and judgmental than the PC secular liberal whose very identity is rooted in the idea that he is "beyond the superstition" of religiosity? As Bob has discussed a number of times, the liberal has the same moral impulses as anyone else, only worse.

Remember, morality is intrinsically "aggressive," in the sense that the conscience is precisely that which sanctions behaviors that are normally forbidden. For example, we are not normally permitted to kidnap people and hold them captive in a small cage. But we routinely do this if said person is a violent criminal.

Likewise, we shouldn't aggressively slander and verbally abuse good people, but the liberal is permitted to do this because he knows in advance that the people with whom he disagrees are racists, misogynists, and homophobes. The abuse is sanctioned by their -- albeit corrupt -- conscience.

The apostles apparently didn't have to spend a great deal of time convincing people they were sinners before getting down to isness. Rather, they cut straight to the choice -- e.g., John the Baptist, who warned people that they had better repent before it was too late. His message would have made no sense if people weren't already aware of this vague need to repent -- which simply means to "turn around" from the path one is on.

If such were the case, then JB's pitch would have been analogous to a television commercial trying to sell a product for an imaginary problem. One of the purposes of advertising is to first create the imaginary problem or desire it supposedly solves or fulfills. He didn't have to say, You know that uncomfortable feeling that some busybody is judging you even when you're alone? That even if you get away with it, you still feel guilty as hell? Have I got the answer for you!

From the very start, there have always been two sides to Christianity, a "positive" and a "negative," justice and mercy, good coptic/bad coptic: a stop doing that, assoul! and a come in and enjoy the slack, brother! You can hear it in the Forerunner, who says knock it off! Why? Because the Kingdom of Slack is at hand!

More deeply, this repentance means to turn away (the negative) from one cosmic orientation and toward another (the positive). For in the ultimate sense, there can be only two (or at least the illusion of two): O and Ø.

Thus, the apostle of slack might say: turn away from Ø, because O is right under your nous! I'm not sure the words "sin" and "salvation," what with their overly saturated connotations, adequately convey the principle we're driving at.

What is that principle? On the one hand, "original sin," or man's "fallenness"; on the other, his deiformity, i.e., the idea that he is fashioned in the "image and likeness" of the Creator.

Thus, one can pursue the matter even more deeply, and say that one path leads "down and out," the other "up and in"; man is deiform in potential, but so too is he potentially "terraform." In the case of the latter, he reflects only "the world" and all this implies.

In the final analysis, we could say "celestial" vs. "terrestrial," except that this is a principial distinction made by every religion in some form or fashion.

The difference with Christianity is that it resolves this false duality through the Incarnation and its many ramifications. Celestial and terrestrial -- matter and spirit, soul and body -- become "one," but not in any pagan-pantheistic manner which only con-fuses the two, whereby God is reduced to nature.

Rather, it is the opposite movement, through which nature -- including human nature -- is divinized from above.

I don't want to get sidetracked, but yesterday we ran across a post by the atheist believer, Sam Harris, called Morality Without Free Will.

In order to save time -- which is the form of slack -- we have trained ourselves to stop reading any article with the first sentence that is unalloyed horseshit. Thus, we are breaking mama's rule by proceeding beyond the intrinsically absurd title of the piece. The first sentence reads:

"Many people seem to believe that morality depends for its existence on a metaphysical quantity called 'free will.'"

Really? Many people believe free will is a "metaphysical quantity"? How come I've never met one? And what does he even mean by words such as "people,""morality," "existence," "quantity"? Forced to define his terms, you would immediately discover that his conclusions are simply his premises.

"There is simply no description of mental and physical causation that allows for this freedom that we habitually claim for ourselves and ascribe to others."

But if this is the case, then nor is there any description of mental and physical causation that allows for Harris's to habitually deny free will in himself and others. Besides, what does he mean by "mental causation"?

In any event, either one understands the following, or one does not: if free will didn't exist, then we couldn't know it. Or, conversely, if free will exists, it is obviously beyond the ability of mere science to account for it.

Might as well try to use the crude tools of a neuroscientist tool to disprove the existence of truth. To succeed is to negate one's conclusion. Sometimes the only way to make an intellectual appreciate free will is to forbid it, as in the case of National Socialism or Russian communism.

This is not a minor point, for the existence of slack is predicated on the reality of freedom. Nations that value freedom will obviously have infinitely more slack than those that don't.

Now, slack is also closely related to the concept of "play," which is what man is born to do; to say that a line has some "play" in it is equivalent to saying there is some "slack" in it.

Think of your life as a line that stretches from conception to death. If you should reach a point that there is no play in this line, then your life is pretty much over. At that point it would indeed be accurate to say that the person has either abdicated his freedom or has had it stolen from him.

I think we'll wrap this up with a passage by the former Cardinal Ratzinger: "play, though it has a meaning, does not have a purpose and... for this very reason there is something healing, even liberating, about it. Play takes us out of the world of daily goals and their pressures and into a sphere free of purpose and achievement, releasing us for a time from all the burdens of our daily world of work.

"Play is a kind of other world, an oasis of freedom, where for a moment we can let life flow freely."

So, what is the purpose of our writing? There isn't any. It's how we know we are free. The meaning? That's for you to play with.

14 Comments:

Blogger Dougman said...

I imagine The Play-right asking," So, how did you enjoy my creation?"

6/02/2011 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

"In any event, either one understands the following, or one does not: if free will didn't exist, then we couldn't know it. Or, conversely, if free will exists, it is obviously beyond the ability of mere science to account for it."

Keep hammering this point SlackMeister. It's beginning to sink in to me thick skull.

Lemme take a whack at it:
If free will doesn't exist then what physical process is causing Harris to bother trying to convince his readers it doesn't exist?

One possible answer, he sees our world view as some sort of physical threat to him. (Has to be a physical threat since there isn't anything else.)

6/02/2011 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Seriously, Sam Harris may merely be reporting on his own condition. He just can't help himself. He has no play. And, having rejected the only Source of Slack, he no longer has a free will.

It would be frighteningly analogous to 1 John 5:16-17: If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. (ESV)

6/02/2011 10:47:00 AM  
Anonymous The SlackMeister said...

John:

Put it this way: the moment one realizes one is in the Matrix, one is no longer in it, even if ever so slightly. This little crack of slack is how the Light gets in. Follow the Light -- i.e., reorient yourself to it -- and the crack gradually widens out to become a vast gorge.

6/02/2011 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

the moment one realizes one is in the Matrix, one is no longer in it, even if ever so slightly.

Notably, though, there's no small number of people who've had that realization for a moment, and then run screaming back into willful ignorance. After all, it reveals so many unpleasant things about themselves they'd rather not see.

6/02/2011 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous scory said...

Isn't Harris the fellow who wrote that it might be necessary to kill religious people for the good of all? He must have been suffering from some chemical imbalance that day.

6/02/2011 01:36:00 PM  
Anonymous flunky said...

I don’t think that Mike (aka Nasty Edwin) wanted to be allowed to play in the last plays of the season’s last football game and then be carried off the field. But I also don’t think that anything lasting would have been created, if everybody else had been forced to make it so.

I think Mike wanted the freedom to be himself, without incurring as much malice as he did. But sadly in this world, one mans freedom is another mans target. Or tool. Or scapegoat. Or worse.

Is there anything wrong with enhancing the kind of freedom that “allows one to be oneself while minimizing undeserved malice”? The other kind of freedom seems to justify Darwin a bit too much for me.

6/02/2011 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

to say that a line has some "play" in it is equivalent to saying there is some "slack" in it.
-nicely noted!

you know the book/term Homo Ludens?
Homo Ludens or "Man the Player" (alternatively, "Playing Man") is a book written in 1938 by Dutch historian, cultural theorist and professor Johan Huizinga...
]]I just flashed on 'Deus Ludens'[[

&
"Love is but to play with a girl like a toy....yes, but nobody confesses" [from a song by Spider Barbour]

"Play, magic fingers, play!"
-Smothers brother

6/02/2011 04:41:00 PM  
Anonymous INdelible Ink said...

Speaking of playing, are there musicians among you?

What instruments do you play?

Do any recording?

6/02/2011 05:26:00 PM  
Anonymous flunky said...

Rumor has it Van toured the West Coast with a band back in the 80's.

Played the cowbell I think.

6/02/2011 09:38:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

@ge at 1:09 Is where I first heard "play magic fingers" oh, about 45 years ago I suppose.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkgAj0rtGZU

Will any AI ever be created that would bother to look up that little bit of info and share it? I think not.

6/02/2011 10:03:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

""Many people seem to believe that morality depends for its existence on a metaphysical quantity called 'free will.'"

Really? Many people believe free will is a "metaphysical quantity"? How come I've never met one? And what does he even mean by words such as "people,""morality," "existence," "quantity"? Forced to define his terms, you would immediately discover that his conclusions are simply his premises."

Yep. I saw his post too, he also put out a reply to those who were dumbfounded by it - so there is hope, even among those who follow him, that there are people who manage to wonder why.

I didn't make it much past the first paragraph. Later. Off for 5 days, 9 relatives staying at our house... the oldest took off yesterday for the mid-east, the middle takes off from high school tomorrow. Too much slack, not enough time to bother with the determinymystics.

It's enough to know that what begins with 'There is no free will', will end with there is no freedom. Those who 'know' you have no choice, feel they must tell you exactly what you must think, how you must live, what you must eat and everything that is not a sin and which you must enjoy tolerating.

Zombies. Ugh.

6/03/2011 06:55:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

flunky said "Played the cowbell I think."

Yep, cowbell. The four string variety with the 20lb Ash wood yoke.

I think most people here are musicians or artists... or the same in different mediums.

6/03/2011 07:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Bulletproof Monk said...

I agree with Sam Harris, he has no free will...

...on account of being afflicted with the disease I call "metaphysical autism." Poor fellow, I hope he gets his 'choice' back someday. Lord, have mercy.

6/03/2011 07:32:00 AM  

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