Tuesday, June 07, 2011

You Shall Have No Gods Before the New York Times

As we know, liberal politicians are generally loath to articulate their actual principles, because those principles are unpopular if not offensive to a clear majority of Americans.

Therefore, they have developed the dual-track strategy of, on the one hand, defensively concealing their true motivations under clouds of rhetoric that is at once empty of specific content, but, for that very reason, potentially omnipotent in its reach, such as "helping the little guy," "diversity," "tolerance," "fairness," and "social justice."

In other words, if one's first principle is, say, "social justice," this term is so elastic as to authorize virtually anything to attain it -- whatever "it" is.

Never mind that the Constitution makes no reference to the term, and with good reason, since the Founders were well aware of how such mischievous rhetoric could be used by demagogues to inflame the passions of the mob. Let the heirheads of the French Revolution speak of such laughty principles.

The other prong of the liberal strategy -- to which any conservative prongee can personally attest -- is slander, vilification, and smearing. The reason for this second tactic is the corollary of the first.

That is, because our ideas are both popular and susceptible to fact and logic, it is necessary to attack our motivations. This means that the liberal needn't do battle with us in the arena of ideas, but in a kind of rhetorical underworld where they are much more comfortable, as they are already acclimated to the darkness.

One might say that, Rather than an ideological strategy, the Left is a lexicographical tactic. But Reducing another’s thought to its supposed motives prevents us from understanding it (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

For example, I would really need solid proof before branding a particular individual a racist, or misogynist, or homophobe, or greedy bastard. But conservatives are routinely accused of these evils with no proof whatsoever.

Rather, being conservative is its own proof, so to speak. The charge is a metaphysical/theological one, not dissimilar to our belief that man is a fallen creature, except that our principle applies to everyone, not just our political opponents (which in turn is an important reason why we oppose big government).

A couple of years ago, Howard Dean said that the difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals don't like to see children go to bed hungry at night. Such a manichaean worldview must be comforting in its childish simplicity; but not really, because it is necessarily persecutory, since it means that the liberal is surrounded by vicious people who wish for children to suffer. That's got to feel a little creepy.

Similarly, liberal racers who are obsessed with racial animus are undoubtedly comforted by their own nobility and moral rectitude, but this virtue is purchased at the high price of being condemned to a Nazi-like country in which more than half its citizens secretly embrace a doctrine of racial superiority. This is not a recipe for happiness or peace of mind.

Truly, as Taranto observed yesterday, liberals are not ready for a black president. The liberal cannot just be "enlightened" about race, and let it go; rather, he must be obsessed with the "racists" under every bed and behind every bush:

'As early as April 2008 we learned that it was "racist" to call then-Sen. Obama "elitist" (which means "arrogant," which means "uppity") or "out of touch" (another word for "other"). In August 2008, "skinny" joined the list. Slate's Timothy Noah observed:

"When white people are invited to think about Obama's physical appearance, the principal attribute they're likely to dwell on is his dark skin. Consequently, any reference to Obama's other physical attributes can't help coming off as a coy walk around the barn."

'Noah added that this was foretold by the prophet Fonzie. In February 2010, "professor" joined the list of putative racial slurs. Harvard's Charles Ogletree said "professor" is another synonym for "uppity," and he's a professor, so he should know.'

If you are a conservative and haven't yet been slurred as a racist, it just means that you're not trying. You haven't yet appeared on the liberal radar. Ironically, what this means is that the conservative does indeed inhabit a persecutory world, except the persecution is real.

We are not complaining, mind you. But we constantly hear and read about our own racism, xenaphobia (hatred of lesbian warriors), greed, misogyny, anti-intellectualism, etc. If there were any truth to the smears, they might actually sting, or at least provoke embarrassment. As it is, it's just a little surreal, and surreality is not without its charms, so long as one is lucid as it is occurring, and the bullets are only verbal and not metal.

Exaggeration? Hardly. For example, a few days ago, Nicholas Kristoff, star fifth columnist of the New York Times, penned a surreal idiotorial in which he explained how tea party conservatives would like the United States to resemble Pakistan. That being the case, what else do you need to know about us? After all, we want to enforce traditional Islamic values, behead petty criminals, and abolish civilian rule of the military. Who wouldn't detest such menaces to republican government?

We often say that contemporary left/liberalism is not so much an ideology but a substitute religion, hence the emotionalism and moralism that attach to it. It also becomes the "crusade" around which the liberal activist organizes his life, thus his source of meaning and identity (which amount to the same thing).

And because his politics is so entangled with his identity, it is difficult to detach from them. One loses one's perspective, and also cannot keep things in their proper place, largely because the vertical has been collapsed into the horizontal.

Therefore, horizontal things are inevitably imbued with the power and significance of the vertical, while vertical things become idols and graven images. Contemporary liberalism would be unthinkable in the absence of this idolatry.

For example, the newly named editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson, is refreshingly transparent in disclosing her liberal idolatry, in that she frankly regards the Times as God: "In my house growing up, the Times substituted for religion.... If the Times said it, it was the absolute truth."

How oppressive. But I have friends and relatives who would essentially say the same thing if they were as honest with themselves as Abramson. In fact, we are all familiar with the liberal paradox that "truth doesn't exist, and only I know it," but rarely do we hear it expressed so candidly by one of their heaviest eliteweights.

It reminds us of a comment by then Cardinal Ratzinger, that although Christianity developed "its most effective form in Europe, it is necessary to say that in Europe a culture has developed that constitutes the absolutely most radical contradiction not only of Christianity but of the religious and moral traditions of humanity."

The important point is that this new ideology is not a negation of the Judeo-Christian metaphysic, nor its contrary; rather, it is its converse, i.e., an inverted form of it.

In fact, if you will review your Ten Commandments, you will see at a glance that doctrinaire liberalism embodies a mirror image of them. But I guess I don't have to belaborate the point, since I have apparently already posted on their sacred dreckalogue.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Truth is a Poor Excuse to Swindle Us of Our Slack

They always come at you with the TRUTH, don't they? -- even the ones who otherwise have no use for the concept.

As we have mentioned before, even if a person is unable to know truth directly, he can know it indirectly by virtue of what evildoers pretend is true.

For example, all evil regimes that are manifestly steeped in falsehood claim to be aligned with a Truth that confers their bogus legitimacy, from the world-historical powers and principalities embodied in National Socialism or communism, to more regional demonocracies such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Berkeley.

In each case, they not only maintain that they are founded upon truth, but that in most cases they are the very guardians of a precious and beleaguered truth to which the world is implacably hostile.

This has led many secular sophisticates of the postmodern left -- okay, all of them -- to reject the very concept of Truth. But this is like rejecting medicine because of what Nazi doctors did with it, or education because of how our elite universities disfigure it.

You might even hear a proglodyte of the left accuse us of "anti-intellectualism," which is only to miss the point entirely. It is because we cherish education that we criticize the educational establishment, just as it is because of our compassion for the poor that we champion the most demonstrably successful ways to escape poverty, none of which involve statism.

For that matter, it is because it harms blacks that we oppose state-mandated racial discrimination. We know this is true, if only because it is considered a terrible offense to suggest that Obama is our first "affirmative action president." If racial discrimination is such a wonderful thing, why take offense when we point out that some individual has benefited from the practice?

Speaking of how evildoers claim to be acting in the name of truth, just yesterday we were reading of how the uncompromising pursuit of truth was largely responsible for Hitler's downfall. For example, in invading Russia, he was simultaneously engaged in a battle of annihilation and a war of racial genocide.

But because National Socialism was founded upon the "truth" of racial superiority, it often interfered in completely irrational ways with the prosecution of the overall war, which took a back seat to the sadistic elimination of "inferior" races. Precious resources were committed to the latter enterprise, in ways that severely hindered the allocation of resources.

In a perverse way, we can be thankful that Hitler was such a principled man, because if he weren't, he would have been a much more rational and formidable enemy.

In comparison, Stalin and his heirs to power were much more unprincipled. The USSR pursued its irrational beliefs in relatively rational and predictable ways, whereas, say, Islamists are willing to pursue their irrational ideology in completely irrational ways, up to and including self-destruction (as was the case with Imperial Japan).

In any event, "truth" is clearly a problem, because most of the wholesale evil in the world is committed in its name. Ratzinger writes that although we all supposedly cherish freedom, "we are inclined to react with suspicion to the concept of truth: we recall that the term truth has already been claimed for many opinions and systems, and that the assertion of truth has often been a means of suppressing freedom."

Thus we see at once that there is some sort of relationship between truth and freedom. But is it a direct or inverse relation?

We might say that the psychospiritual left maintains that the relation is inverse, and that the only way to secure our freedom is to deny any kind of epistemological totalitarianism from gaining power. Thus, as Ratzinger observes -- since he has often been their target -- "Anyone who maintains that he is serving the truth by his life, speech, and action must prepare himself to be classified as a dreamer or fanatic."

This is hardly an intrinsically meritless point of view, given man's bleak track record. History is a chronicle of malignant stupidities masquerading as truth, so why not chuck the whole nasty business, and limit "truth" to what can be empirically demonstrated, like climate change, or Keynesian economics, or queer theory? That way, only the good people will have power over us.

In some ultimate sense, man is oriented toward the One, Good, True, and Beautiful. But only because he is so oriented, he is susceptible to becoming dis-oriented. Although many people are uncomfortable with the idea of absolute truth, they all know a lie when they see one.

But in the absence of absolute truth, there is actually no real ground for arbitrating between various lies. Rather, one opinion is intrinsically no worse than another, hence the absurd doctrine of multiculturalism -- an "absolute relativism" that somehow coexists with its ideological opposite, the dogmatic absolutism of political correctness.

Is there a course between these two varieties of false absolutism? Yes, but only if man has free will. Everything is rooted in this principle, without which there is obviously no freedom, but more subtly, no truth -- including, of course, the "truth" that free will is an illusion, for what can an illusion prove? It's like asking how to obtain food from a dream of it.

Now, if truth is an illusion, then at once human intercourse is reduced to a matter of will. One could say that in such an existentialist worldview, man is condemned to freedom. Truly, freedom becomes just another word for "nothing left to lose," or, more succinctly, nothing.

Such a system would understand freedom "as the right and opportunity to do just what we wish and not have to do anything we do not wish to do." It "would mean that our own will is the sole norm of our action" (Ratzinger).

This raises the immediate question of whether, say, an irrational man is actually free in the pursuit if his irrational ends. If we do not believe in free will anyway, then it is a moot point. Nor do we have any basis to object if we don't believe in truth. Rather, freedom only becomes meaningful -- and therefore valuable -- if it is exercised in the light of real -- not "false" or illusory -- Truth.

In the Raccoon view, Truth is absolutely real. Indeed, it is the real Absolute. That being the case, no relative being could ever "contain" it.

This has some resonance with Gödel's theorems, which, among other things, prove that man has access to a whole world of transcendent truth that cannot be proved with mere reason. Rather, any such system is always founded upon assumptions the system cannot prove, rendering all such systems epistemologically closed circles in the lost roundup.

The Raccoon prefers to call this absolute truth O, so as not to confuse it with something we already know. For example, it is quite easy for an atheist to disprove the existence of God, but fundamentally impossible to disprove the beyond-existence of O without absurdly disproving oneself.

Now, tradition, properly understood, is not supposed to be a kind of binding tyranny from which we need to be liberated. Even so, one must not absolutize the system and conflate it with that to which it points, O.

Rather, you might say that it is a whole system for the articulation of O, generally worked out by people much better and smarter than you -- unless you believe there is no one better than you, in which case your faith in yourself is total. And I never argue with another man's faith.

Gotta get ready for work. To be continued...

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Fruit of Forgotten Meditations

Here are a few random aphorisms of Don Colacho -- or what he calls "the spontaneous fruit of forgotten meditations" arrived at by a man who is "but a rag blown about by sacred squalls."

--Liberty is the right to be different; equality is a ban on being different.

And how. But how do they sell the latter? Easy:

--To corrupt the individual it suffices to teach him to call his personal desires rights and the rights of others abuses.

This results in a new race of humans: a race to the bottom, comprised of

--individuals dissatisfied with what they have and satisfied with what they are.

But linguistic sleight of hand comes to the rescue, so

--“Social justice” is the term used to claim anything to which we do not have a right, while “Raising awareness” is the modest version of indoctrination.

As a result,

--Each day we demand more from society so that we can demand less from ourselves.

This appeasement of envy only ends in frustration, since

--Man would not feel so unfortunate if it were enough for him to desire without pretending to have a right to what he desires.

In any event,

--A man is called a liberal if he does not understand that he is sacrificing liberty except when it is too late to save it.

Which is why

--Wise politics is the art of invigorating society and weakening the State.

For in the final analysis,

--It is not to realize his dreams for which man can strive, but to appear worthy of their realization.

Now, our first principles are the opposite of the left's, in that we believe

--The permanent possibility of initiating causal series is what we call a person.

In other words, man is a subject with dignity, not a mere object to be manipulated by third parties who know better how to run our lives. The whole catastrophe is rooted in an absurd metaphysic, whereby

--Modern man treats the universe like a lunatic treats an idiot.

Indeed,

--Nothing makes clearer the limits of science than the scientist’s opinions about any topic that is not strictly related to his profession.

Ho! But at least these tenured barbarians unwittingly teach us that

--To become cultivated is to learn that a particular class of questions is meaningless,

thus allowing us to "move on." The ignorantsia speak of "evolution," oblivious to the fact that

--To change thoughts repeatedly is not to evolve. To evolve is to develop the infinitude of the same thought.

Yeah boy, the real action takes place on the vertical plane, which is why

--Religious thought does not go forward, like scientific thought, but rather goes deeper.

I mean,

--Everything is trivial if the universe is not committed to a metaphysical adventure,

right? But how does this effect Bob? In a couple of ways, I suppose. For

--Intelligence is enabled to discover new truths by rediscovering old truths,

and

--To write honestly for the rest, one must write fundamentally for oneself.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Lord, Teach Us to Play

Is this subject not reasonating? In the absence of comments we never know, for the intersubjective circle remains broken. We are not complaining. Rather -- in the colorful argot of your urban youth -- we are "just sayin'."

Is it the word "play" that rankles? Need I remind you that we are not talking about frivolous play but of the dead ernest kind? Playing as if our lives depended on it (very much unlike the Miami Heat)? Let us recall the words of our esteemed UnKnown Friend:

"The little child does not 'work' -- he plays. But how serious he is, i.e. concentrated, when he plays! His attention is still complete and undivided, whereas with he who approaches the kingdom of God it becomes again entire and undivided."

UnKnown Friend -- who is one of our fundational raccoondati and a coronary teachstone -- regards this principle as a key to the whole innerprize, so perhaps we should spend a moment dilating on it to see if we pupils can't open our third eye, arrest our cardiomyopia, and make some progress toward 20/∞ geistzeit.

Do you really think the SlackMeister is here just to amuse you? Do you?

Then you are correct. That is indeed why we are here. To paraphrase Hippocrates or some other old quack, the primary job of the physician is to amuse the patient while the body heals itself.

Ah, but physician heal thysoph!

Yes, precisely. We are first and foremost amusing ourself.

Well then, Maestro, what distinguishes this from the vulgar Ønanism of any other infertile egghead?

This is like asking how the metacosmic love of the Trinity -- you will pardon the analogy -- differs from some perv politician exposing himself to a constituent. The latter is hardly "sharing." Rather, it is mere exhibitionism, which is always just the other side of shame, i.e., a compulsion aimed at undoing unconscious inadequacy.

The problem with this little Weiner dog is not that he is shameless, for anyone who follows politics at all knew this before last week's national erection.

Rather, it is that he cannot tolerate shame, and continues to deny shame in ways that only deepen it and then require more frantic and transparently absurd denial. Dysregulated shame provokes both the uncover- and the coverup.

The point is that just because we are sitting here playing with ourself, this hardly means that we are doing so in the immature manner of an adolescent Weiner.

We are reminded of a passage in Ratzinger's excellent (and misleadingly titled) Introduction to Christianity (and in citing him, we do not mean to imply that he would ever endorse our methods):

Actually, while searching for that passage, we were guided to another relevant one from a different book: "A Christianity that has really been accepted interiorly comes with the dynamic requirement to communicate."

By this he does not mean the exterior directive to evangelize, but a spontaneous impulse to share: "It's exactly like when you are filled with joy about something, you have to express it and communicate it in some way, otherwise it's not authentic joy at all. The fact is, then, that the dynamism of passing on the gift is an essential component of the mission that Christ gave his followers..."

Thus, if something of the interior joy isn't conveyed along with the message, there are two problems, one interior, the other exterior.

As Ratzinger suggests, the joy that isn't shared is not the true joy. Secondly, if we communicate only the message denuded of the joy, then it loses much of its appeal -- you know, like the grim news of Islam.

Put it this way: the principle message of Christianity is not an idea but a person -- the fruit, not the tree. And this principle shall apply forever. Hence the necessity of the saints, who are the very embodiment of the joy ("ananda" might actually be a less misleading term) of which Ratzinger speaks.

Can't find the passage we were looking for, but this one will do:

"God's dialogue with men operates only through men's dialogue with each other.... Man's conversation with God and men's conversation with one another are mutually necessary and interdependent."

He adds the critical point that what can be communicated of God is never just an unambiguous "something" that can be sharply designated, like an object. Rather,

"No real dialogue yet takes place where men are still only talking about something. The conversation between men comes into its own only when they are trying, no longer to express something, but to express themselves, when dialogue becomes communication."

What this means is that the con-versation -- "flowing together" -- becomes trinitarian, in the sense that it involves both intersubjectivity (the ground) and soul-to-soul contact (as opposed to the mere depositing of exterior facts from brain to brain).

Some are better speakers, others better listeners. The SlackMeister cannot play a musical instrument -- okay, he can noodle around with one -- but this by no means diminishes or interferes with his love of, and need for, music.

Ratzinger cites this as analogous to theology, which is centered around the "word," which, in order to be itself, requires both creativity and receptivity, or "passively active" and "actively passive" modes (the latter is our formulation, not his).

"Passively active" is none other than play, while "actively passive" is openness to (vertical) experience.

In terms of the "experiential theology" of which we speak, there are more who are adept at receptivity than expression; but again, this should by no means interfere with our in-joyment, since genuine communication provokes joy at both ends:

"Over against these few, for whom the divine thus becomes undisguised certainty, stand the many whose religious gift is limited to receptivity, who are denied the direct experience of the holy yet are not so deaf to it as to be unable to appreciate an encounter with it through the medium of the man granted such an experience."

So "hearing" is no less a gift than "speaking," or at least they are two sides of the same game: a "duet for one" or "solo for two."

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.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Persons and Other Absolute Miracles

There can be no science of the utterly unique, which is why science can only pretend to understand such things and events.

In other words, it is not possible to do a controlled study of the one-of-a-kind, since there are not two of them to subject to variable conditions.

Science can only deal with aggregates and statistics, but it cannot disclose the secret of the individual for the same reason it can't reveal the nature of the One.

Science must assume the existence of this One, for all science is predicated on the reduction of multiplicity to unity.

At once this reveals a possible totalitarian temptation, since there are some things that simply cannot be reduced to anything less than themselves. But the state never stops trying.

Science divorced from theology leads toward an incomprehensible one -- incomprehensible because it has no other to comprehend it -- no genuine partner in the climb.

What is unique in the world? First and foremost, persons. I assume that even the most jaded materialist -- if only for the sake of propriety -- will concede that each and every person is a unique and unrepeatable cosmic event.

One can always speculate about how things "might have been different" if one had made this or that choice, but it is impossible to subject oneself to a controlled experiment in order to examine the alternate outcomes.

But just because it is what it is, this doesn't mean that you am what you am, with no I in the matter.

This metaphysic can also lead to the stubborn illusion of an absence of free will, since there aren't two of you to prove the case scientifically.

And even then, the two of you couldn't have identical circumstances, so there would still be no way to prove that the differences weren't a result of free will.

What else is unique? I just said "first and foremost," persons. But that can't be correct -- at least without a qualification.

That is, First and Foremost must be God -- or what we should probably call O, since "God" can be compared to other gods. We can always assign a name to the unique, but that hardly means that we understand it. Rather, to the extent that something is truly unique, there is no possibility of complete understanding.

This shouldn't be confused with the necessary existential barrier that forbids complete understanding of anything whatsoever. In other words, we can all gain sufficient understanding of, say, rocks or gravity, without knowing what either is in its essence.

But in the case of a human being, we can keep knowing more and more without ever getting to the bottom. The unique individual is a kind of inexhaustible fount of his own uniqueness.

As we have said before, the world is only relatively intelligible because it is absolutely unintelligible. In other words, it is only because the world is created that we can understand it at all.

But for the same reason, we can never completely understand it, since we can never be the Creator. Therefore, in the ultimate sense, the cosmos too pours out its own inexhaustible stream of truth and beauty.

In a cosmos that could be completely "contained" by science, science would be impossible, for the same reason that a person who could be completely understood wouldn't be a real person, but more like a machine.

This is not to say that many, if not most, persons end up living like machines, but that is a different story. It is difficult being unique, and in the absence of a unique God who cherishes uniqueness, there is a tendency toward conformism or rebellion, blandness or eccentricity, dependence or pseudo-independence, group identity or faux individualism. Two sides of the same worthless coin.

Science necessarily deals with a world of accident and necessity, but then covertly assimilates the view that all reality is governed by them.

Thus, if necessity rules, then free will is an illusion. But if accident does, then identity is an absurd and pointless iteration of material shuffling. There would be no point to self understanding, since there would be no self to understand (although, curiously, there would still be an impoverished "scientific self" to understand this banality).

What else is unique? For the faithful, the Incarnation is unique, for the same reason God is. The one follows from the other, if not strictly "necessarily," then certainly logically.

But more generally, one could say that any miracle is unique. To put it the other way around, anything that is scientifically repeatable is not a miracle.

Wait a minute, SlackMeister. You just said that human persons are not repeatable. Does this mean that each person is a miracle?

It most certainly does. How could it be otherwise, and still be? As Bob has said in his uniquely annoying way, human persons are "mirrorcles of the Absolute." What does this even mean?

It means that each human person is somehow a unique image of the singular uniqueness at the bottom -- or top -- of it all.

But... wouldn't that make us all the same?

Yes, precisely! This is the common source of our cosmic brotherhood. But the Absolute is absolute, whereas we can only be his middling relativities who are here for a brief visit, so we can mirror without ever completely exhausting the One we reflect.

In Salt of the Earth, Ratzinger is asked how many ways there are to God. His answer may surprise you: "As many as there are people."

For otherwise we wouldn't be persons, nor could God be One.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Miserable Life -- And Over So Quickly!

We all want slack -- or at least we think we do. But history emphatically demonstrates that man has great difficulty distinguishing true from false slack.

Indeed, one of the primary engines of history is the pursuit of false slack -- or the attempt to generate slack in ways that are certain to diminish it, most conspicuously in the form of socialism and other false religions.

I assume that most socialists do not consciously set out to contract the slack supply, but this is what inevitably happens.

Look at social security and medicare -- two of the less dishonorable socialist schemes -- which, in order to create the illusion of giving us slack, must ransack untold slack from future generations.

This smash-and-grab crime against the future is fundamentally immoral unless the slack pays tangible dividends to those from whom it is taken. I see no evidence of this. Even the most mush-filled adolescent skull should be able to see his slack account draining away before his eyes.

As we have been discussing, the ultimate purpose of Christianity is to liberate man. This is not true of most religions, and certainly not of the slackless pagan religions for which Christianity was and is the cure. Man has been aching for a restoration of primordial slack ever since that unfortunate incident in the garden, but his own efforts always come to nought.

Now, "liberation theology" is the quintessential example of a path of false slack, not only because it is false -- which is bad enough -- but because in articulating its principles it negates the true path.

In the words of Ratzinger, it poses a "fundamental threat to the faith," in large part because it is so seductive, especially to the young and innocent, to whom it can appear to be a just and proper "prolongation" of the unspoiled innocence of unfallen man.

Thus, in the heart of every progressive is a deeply atavistic longing -- a vertical recollection -- for paradise. It caters to youthful hope and idealism while clothing itself in a pseudo-scientific veneer, i.e., the dialectic of class struggle.

But when you peel away the layers of tenure and get to its mythic bottom, you see that this is a remurmurance of the same serpentine seduction that got man off to such an inauspicious start. It is the same old tantalizing promise, you shall be as gods. But the serpentine salesman always sells the sizzle, never the slack.

Having said that, Ratzinger makes the excellent point that liberation theology could never have found a congenial home in the heart of man if it didn't contain a grain or two of truth.

But this is small consolation, since "an error is all the more dangerous the greater that grain of truth is, for then the temptation it exerts is all the greater." (And you can well understand how the left uses this seductive "grain of truth" strategy for everything from abortion, to homosexual "marriage," to Palestinian victimhood, to "climate change," to state rationed healthcare, etc.)

As Bob has said many times, truth does not require a thinker, since it simply is, regardless of whether anyone happens to come along and think it. For example, the theory of relativity was true even before Einstein discovered it, just as the Trinity was true before the Holy Spirit revealed it.

Conversely, the Lie not only requires a thinker, but is parasitic on Truth. Thus, one quick way to know the Truth is to simply look at what evil people must pretend is true. As someone once said, a tyranny is any country that has "Democratic" in its name.

More mundanely, it is why leftists call themselves "liberal," why self-hating gynephobes call themselves "feminists," why compulsive fecal smearers are called "artists," why sufferers of Tourette's syndrome are "poets," or why Bill Maher is a "comedian."

Contemporary usage notwithstanding, this sleight of language should not lead one to conclude that liberalism, femininity, art, poetry, or comedy are somehow bad and noxious things.

The error of liberation theology would not be so seductive if there were adequate models of the truth. For this, Christianity has only itself to blame, for if truth isn't both joyously lived and vigorously defended, it will not incarnate in the world. Love, truth, beauty, virtue, justice -- unless personally lived, they are "nowhere."

Likewise, there is no artistic beauty until the artist brings it down into the world. Left to his own devices, he can only strain but not reach it.

Beauty is not something contingent monkeys could ever have "invented" on their own. Rather, it is obvious to every person who awakens to the ambient cosmos that it reflects a generously bountiful and often terrible beauty. We didn't just make it up, any more than we made up quantum theory or the Ten Commandments.

What are the fundamental errors of liberation theology? There are two, one in space, the other in time.

The spatial error horizontalizes the vertical, thus transforming the open sphere of Spirit to the closed circle of political economy. At the same time, this necessarily relativizes the Absolute, and in more subtle ways, feminizes (in an imbalanced way) man, for man is the horizontal prolongation of the Absolute herebelow (since only he can objectively know the Good, True, and Beautiful). Put another way, man cashes in absolute truth for infinite shades of relativism.

The temporal error involves what Voegelin calls "immamentizing the eschaton," which simply means trying to establish our post-judgment spiritual end here on earth. This merely ends up collapsing the spiritual attractor that functions as our faithful guide on this earthly sojourn, so there is no point to our life except more of it.

As the old Catskills joke goes,

"Such terrible food."

"Yes, and such small portions."

"And oy, what a miserable life."

"Yes, and so short."

Slack is inextricably tied in with meaning and with freedom, the former being impossible in the absence the latter. For again, truth cannot be compelled, but can only be freely discovered.

As such, our freedom is truly principial, and not for nothing does the Bible assure a few -- and threaten the many -- that "where the Spirit of the Lord is" -- i.e., his third person -- "there is liberty." Thus it is equally true to affirm that where there is true liberty, there is the Lord, for liberty would be literally unthinkable in a world without his persons to live and love in it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

At Long Last Love: Is it a Birthquake or Simply a Crock?

The first time the SlackMeister heard the phrase "God is Love" -- he was no older than five at the time -- he already regarded it as so much sentimental claptrap.

He has a distinct recollection of this, for the words were written in big block letters on the wall behind the podium of the Sunday school he was forced to attend. He remembers thinking to himself, "If God is Love, then why do I have to suffer through school five days a week, only to be dragged to this boring place on one of my precious days off?"

It just made no sense, and continued to make no sense for many years thereafter. Maybe even until today, depending upon how this post unfolds.

It still strikes us as naive, sappy, and mawkishly ernest to proclaim Hi-diddly-ho neighborino, God is Luv! But it is intended to embody a metaphysical principle, not a schmaltzy greeting card or hippy-dippy sentiment.

It is also intended to be shocking, which it most certainly was in the context of a brutal and barbaric ancient world. Just on the face of it, how does one reconcile a God of love with a tortured man on a cross? If this is love, could we please have a little less of it?

Yesterday we discussed the idea that ultimate reality is intersubjective, meaning that it is at bottom a unity of two subjects related by a love that reveals oneness without extinguishing twoness:

"This forms a unity, to be sure, but one that, 'through the unifying power of love,' doesn't 'destroy the twoness of I and Thou, but welds it into a profound oneness.' It is the losing that is finding, the giving that is receiving, the surrender that is victory, the supreme attainment that is abject humility. Ultimately it is the Love that is our cause."

It reminds us of an aphorism, in that "the materials are not fused in a new alloy; they are integrated into a new element."

Ratzinger goes on to explain that love is a kind of independent causality operating in the world: "As a cause, love does not vitiate the world's mechanical causality but uses and adopts it. Love is the power that God exercises in the world."

Love, like its causin' cousin, Truth, is the quintessence of freedom, since it cannot be compelled and remain what it essentially is. Just as you cannot compel someone to understand, you cannot force them to love. Thus, "to put oneself on the side of this love-causality" is to align one's energies with the "causality of freedom, in opposition to the power of necessity."

Love does not come from "below" -- i.e., physics, chemistry, biology -- but surely enlists the latter in order to express itself in the world.

This is fundamentally no different from any other higher reality that uses the boundary conditions of a lower order in order to progress in- and upward -- for example, the manner in which the twenty-six letters of the alphabet are used to create words, which are in turn used to create sentences and paragraphs, and ultimately to reveal meaning as such.

To put it the same we around, as we sit here typing we are attempting to transmit various "meanings" as they pop into our melon. The fingers are just following orders, even though material causation can only work in the other direction, from the bottom up, not the top down.

To even affirm that top-down causation exists is to have left the scientistic world far behind and below. You might say that materialism can account for everything except for the one who believes it. Drawn to its logical end, it inevitably paints itself into a coroner who proclaims it metaphysically dead on arrival.

Now, love is a two-way street, flowing from Creator to creature and back on up. Schuon expresses it well:

"Love is on the one hand our tendency towards God -- the tendency of the accident towards the Substance -- and on the other hand our consciousness of 'myself' in the 'other,' and of the 'other' in ourselves; it is also the sense of beauty, above us and around us and in our own soul."

This is precisely what we have been saying about the intersubjectivity of the human world. When God says to "love the stranger," he is essentially talking about a horizontal prolongation of his trinitarian love.

And it is only possible to do this because we are already members of one another. And again, love, freedom, truth, and beauty, all converge upon the One. All are simultaneously disclosed, so that God must be Love just as he is Truth, or Beauty, or Justice.

Thus, "Love is the tendency towards Union: this tendency can be a movement, either towards the Immutable, the Absolute, or towards the Limitless, the Infinite." And "to the extent that it transcends itself in the direction of its supernatural source," it "is the love of man for God and of God for man, and finally it is Beatitude without origin and without end" (Schuon).

We all intuit that love is both eternal and infinite -- for example, when we fall in love. No one tells their new loved one, "I am madly in love with you. Today anyway. But it's just a trick of the hormones. I'll get over it soon." Would the latter involve waking up from the illusion or falling back into it?

This is the point of marriage, not to force two people to love one another until death do they part, but to orient coonjugal love toward its higher source in the Oneness that is Two, and vice versa.

Frankly, I don't know how a marriage can survive in the absence of this higher love, because merely human love does indeed wear off without the divine infusion of a renewing grace. Schuon: "Pure love is not of this world of oppositions; it is by origin celestial and its end is God; it lives, as it were in itself, by its own light and in the ray of God-Love."

This is the only way we know of to always have that "new wife smell."

Likewise, "progress" is only possible if it is rooted in truth, freedom, and love. This is the only "path" that leads anywhere. All other paths not only proceed in the wrong direction, but can only lead "nowhere" -- like the genetic shuffling of merely Darwinian "evolution."

As Bob has discussed in the past, evolution in the original sense of the word is strictly impossible in a Darwinian metaphysical framework, for there is no higher or lower, no good or evil, and no meaning at all. When they say "evolution" what they really mean is "change!" And certainly no hope.

In the words of Ratzinger, "progress into new territory is made possible precisely because the right path has been found."

Isn't this obvious? This is certainly how science progresses. As it does so, any number of false paths must be cast aside. The same is true of Life, quintessentially. I mean, haven't you ever been on a false path? If you haven't, then it's probably because you're on one now.

The true path leads one onward, inward, and upward toward the alphomega of our ground and source. It is covalent with our dynamic integration, drawing us toward a communion that is simultaneously creative and full of meaning. In other words, it is where the crystal waters flow from their inexhaustible source.

I wish I was a fisherman, tumblin' on the seas
far away from dry land and its bitter memories
Castin' out my sweet line, with abandonment and love
no ceiling bearin' down on me, save the starry sky above
With light in my head, and you in my arms...


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shining a Radiant Celebrity Ferret On Our Limitless Capacities to Hookup with God

Just saw this SteamingLoad at HotAir: Oprah Winfrey: The greatest existential philosopher ever?

But it really poses some different questions: What is the value of a Ph.D. in the humanities from an elite university? Less than nothing. And if the author weren't an associate professor of sociology and African Diaspora studies, would he be employable? Yes. In the Feminist Studies or Queer Theory departments.

The piece is impossible to parody: "Her celebrity guests, book club inductees,'hookups,'and numerous selected themes help us tap into our limitless capacity for growth and change." Is this where he learned his limitless capacity for bad writing? From a celebrity?

"The breadth of Oprah's personal talent and the scope of her intellectual reach enlist us to ferret the deep-seated metaphor lurking at the surface of our core being." What does this gibberish even mean?" Ferret a metaphor at the surface of our core?

"She shines a florescent radiance on our fragility"? Why florescent? What does that have to do with anything? Besides, I don't think people want to have their fragility exposed. Would Dr. Lee like it if someone shined a radiant light on the fragility of his prose?

I would have a lot more respect for liberals if they would just come out and be straight with us: "Look, we all know that we have a lot of morons in this country. Someone has to employ them. The real purpose of big government is to create a vast jobs program for the talentless, the mediocre, the dysfunctional, the person who cannot compete in the marketplace. You don't want to see what would happen if these people all lost their jobs and were on the street. California is set to release 46,000 prisoners due to overcrowding. How would you like to release 5 million freeloaders from federal, state, county, and city governments?"

Okay, I get it. But why do we have to pay them so much? It's not like they can go anywhere else. And why can't it be a (supposedly) temporary remedy, like racial quotas?

It reminds me of an article by Kevin Williamson in the May 2 National Review, A Nation of Sharecroppers: "This brings up the uncomfortable fact that the public sector presently serves as a supplementary welfare state. For a person of average intelligence and the endurance to muddle through at the local community college, the surest route from real poverty to the middle class is a government job.... government work offers above-market compensation and glorious shelter from the Darwinian competition of the global marketplace."

Granted, that isn't nothing. But we should at least be honest about it.

Williamson cites hard evidence that "government work attracts disproportionately those not endowed to thrive in more competitive markets." For example, college students who major in education have markedly lower SAT scores, so the public school system ends up being another way to employ these folks. But it's for the children!

"People of modest intellectual ability are the biggest part of the unemployment problem." But it's still a real problem, since 50% of the population is of below average intelligence. Again, I am sympathetic to the idea that government work is a way to allow such people to attain a standard of living that would otherwise be out of reach. But there must be a more efficient and less costly way.

Anyway, let's move on. "Work" is perhaps the SlackMeister's least favorite subject. He agrees in principle with the sentiment expressed by Bobby "Blue" Bland: Now lookie here / I don't like work / And work don't like me / And we stay away from each other / That's the way it ought to be.

We have been shining a florescent radiance on the idea that slack is woven into the very fabric of being. Or, put it this way: if it isn't, then there is no possibility of slack.

And if you don't believe me, perhaps our celebrity guest, the Pope, can tap into your limitless capacity to ferret the slack from the surface of your core:

"If there is only one kind of causality" -- the horizontal kind -- then the human person is "reduced to an element in mechanical causality, in the realm of necessity." If personality -- our individual essence, our very own I am -- does not abide in the very ground of reality, then it is nothing: "Either freedom is a possibility inherent in the ground of reality or it does not exist."

Personality is a very strange thing. In the scientistic worldview it is (necessarily) explained away as a meaningless side effect of brain activity, thus dragging itself by the brutestraps into the void.

But in our view, the trinitarian person is at the very heart of reality. With this properly right-side up orientation, we are able to illuminate (without eliminating) any number of cosmic mysteries without creating a host of new ones. One has only to accept the initial premise that persons are real. At once this establishes our dignity and supreme worth on inviolable grounds, and explains how we are able to know the truth of reality.

This view is also distinct from any simple or rationalistic monotheism that places God beyond the reach of men. If reality is "intersubjective relation," then our personal subject always has access to the metacosmic Subject of which it is an image and potential likeness.

This also has profound implications for the mystery of communication. For human communication doesn't just involve passing exterior objects from mind to mind. Rather, minds are a priori intersubjectively related, and this intersubjectivity is the actual "medium" of transmission. If it weren't present in the background, then there could be no true communion of minds, only the passing of objects, like ants that bump heads with each other.

Now, God is Word, and a word always has two sides: it is simultaneously idea and comprehension, or signifier and signified, or message and receiver, or speaker and hearer, or intelligence and intelligibility, etc. A word is pointless unless it is addressed to someone who can hear and understand it.

The cosmos as such is word -- or a derivative thereof -- which is why it "speaks" to us in such a multitude of ways: scientifically, aesthetically, poetically, mystically, musically, etc. None of the latter would be "in" the world unless there were simultaneously an intelligence to comprehend the messages.

Here again, this two-way relation is at the heart of Christian metaphysics, in which Father is the archetypal "speaker" and Son is the archetypal "hearer." As the Pope translates the first line of John, "In the beginning was the Word, and the word was in communion with God." Thus, God is interior relation -- as are we.

This being the case, we also have a basis for understanding how it is that eternity may be present in time, and vice versa. More specifically, it not only makes the Incarnation possible, but makes it possible for us to "share" in this eternal dialogue.

As the Pope explains, when Jesus says Abba, or Father, "It expresses his whole being," so that "all he says to God in prayer is ultimately only an explication of his being." The Son eternally speaks to the Father who speaks him, which one might say is the ever-renewing spiral of being.

If the Father is a polite ?, then the Son is the emphatic !, a Yes to the free gift of our being. This forms a unity, to be sure, but one that, "through the unifying power of love," doesn't "destroy the twoness of I and Thou, but welds it into a profound oneness." It is the losing that is finding, the giving that is receiving, the surrender that is victory, the supreme attainment that is abject humility. Ultimately it is the Love that is our cause.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Brief History of Slack

We don't really have any way of knowing whether early man was consciously aware of slack. But we can be sure that the two -- human and slack -- coaraise.

What we mean by this is that the animal has no slack. Again, it is constrained to do what it does, limited by what the genes permit.

But at some point, a protohuman said to himself, "hmm. I believe I am in the mood to do this instead of that." It doesn't matter what this was. The point is that this sets the human as far apart from animals as life is from matter. The distance becomes infinite -- as infinite as the abyss between truth and falsehood.

But with slack necessarily comes antislack. This is because once we are aware of having free will and preferences, we obviously know when they are not being fulfilled, which brings frustration and pain. "I believe I am in the mood to do this instead of that. But circumstances do not permit me to do this. D'oh!"

It's very difficult to know how much slack there was for primitive man. There has been a strong tendency over the last couple hundred years -- beginning with Rousseau in the late 18th century -- to project our own perceived absence of slack onto premodern peoples, as if they had it in abundance. But the more we learn about them, the more we see a demon-haunted imagination swimming with mind parasites.

Myth (in the non-vulgar sense) takes shape at the horizon of history. These are akin to collective dreams that embody a kind of vertical recollection of "events" that are (note the present tense) before and beyond written memory.

Analogously, no one doubts that their own infancy happened, even though one cannot consciously recall it. There exist means, however, of finding out about it. One can never know the "thing in itself," but it is possible to decode certain effects, including dreams, symptoms, mysterious but overwhelming preferences, and most importantly, the disorienting experience of falling in love, when we are plunged into a dimension that obliterates the psychic membrane between self and other.

Someone once said that a myth is a collective neurosis, while a neurosis is a private myth. This isn't too far from the truth, except that one shouldn't necessarily pathologize the myth.

Than again, doesn't our is- and ur-myth, Genesis, diagnose a kind of enduring pathology in man? It is indeed like a physician's SOAP notes. Peek into your own mythic chart, and you might find something like this: Subjective: wants to be God, desire for infinite slack & absolute independence. Objective: ate something bad, shifts blame to reptilian charmer. Assessment: narcissism, self-centeredness, infantile omnipotence. Plan: find out the hard way -- banishment; toil; marital discord; labor pains.

With the help of Dr. Ratzinger, let's look a little more closely at these notes. First, as alluded to above regarding the nature of myth, he writes that the text proclaims a truth "which surpasses our understanding."

Myth -- as are dreams -- is highly imagistic, and the images are always dense with meaning that must be unpacked. The images are like facets of a gem; turn it this way, and one theme emerges, turn it that way, and another pops out. Merely manmade stories tend to be rather "flat," shallow, and linear by comparison.

Ratzinger turns his attention to "two great images in particular -- that of the garden, to which the image of the tree belongs, and that of the serpent."

Garden and serpent. What is a garden? On the one hand, it is a cultivated area, something made by man. On the other, it is something man could never have made without the "nature" that precedes him. A garden is a pleasing arrangement of nature.

More broadly, it is "an image of the world, which to humankind is not a wilderness, a danger, or a threat, but a home that shelters, nourishes, and sustains." It embodies "two movements," one from the Creator (↓), one from man (↑). The created world clearly "bears the imprint of the Spirit," while man becomes co-creator, building and developing it "in keeping with what it was created for." (For there is no "creation" without a "for," i.e., end and purpose.)

But a third movement enters the picture, by way of the serpent. Ratzinger links this movement to ancient fertility cults which essentially conflate nature and God; worse yet, these pantheistic religions actually elevate nature to God. Their dionysian prescription is very different from that of the Bible: "Plunge into the current of life, into its delirium and ecstasy, and thus you will be able to partake of the reality of life and immortality."

In short, the serpent is proposing an alternate means of acquiring slack. Does it work? Of course it works. Until the delirium and ecstasy wear off. One morning you wake up, look at the person sleeping next to you, and ask, "do I know you?" This inevitably leads to the question, "do I know me?"

Listen to the SlackMeister: true slack cannot be an escape from self, but only a finding thereof. Nor can it be an escape from the world as such; rather it is a transformation of the world.

The would-be master of slack leaves the world in order to allow the world to take leave of him. This leaves a space, a psychic womb, for a "new birth" to take place. The new man lives dialectically in a new world. It is the same world, only seen with a new I.

Now the serpent is symbolic of that "wisdom of the world" that is folly to God. This worldly wisdom is a temptation, a seduction, and ultimately a kind of hip gnosis that leaves God out of the equation. It is so easy, even the tenured can do it -- i.e., convince the impressionable soul that he is being had, and that true freedom can only occur with a radical rejection of gods, of tradition, of superstitious myths that cash in this life for an illusion.

Freed from such constraints, man may finally soar as high as his mechanical reason -- or as low as his mercurial passion -- permits.

But is it true? In other words, is it true that man is radically free, independent of any supernatural constraints? Because if he is not, then pretending otherwise cannot be real freedom. Again, it will just be a fleeing-from disguised as a running-to. To the extent that there is an Absolute, to pretend that one is it is to live in delusion. One way or another, an epic fall awaits you. Frankly, it has already happened, but you will simply be the last to know.

For Ratzinger, man's primordial sin results in a "topsy-turvy" world that necessarily changes oneself with it. There is no being without relation, so this new relation to the world results in a new self. But this is a derivative self, a kind of side effect of the imaginary world one has created and entered.

Thus, "sin is, in its essence, a renunciation of the truth" -- the cosmic, ontological, and metaphysical truth of our situation. Such persons "are living in untruth and unreality. Their lives are mere appearance."

What then is our "real" situation? This, we believe, is revealed in the Trinity, which we will, for the moment, attempt to treat in a more metacosmic sense than a specifically Christian one.

The essential point is that the human person is not an isolated monad. Rather, a person is always in relation, not just objectively -- which doesn't matter much, for one could say the same of any animal -- but subjectively. We are intersubjective through and through, meaning that we are members of one another, in a space that is clearly transcendent and immaterial.

As a result of this entanglement of consciousness, human beings "live in those whom they love and in those who love them and to whom they are present.... I alone am not myself, but only in and with you am I myself. To be truly a human being means to be related by love, to be of and for."

Conversely, "sin means the damaging or destruction of relationality." It brings into being the diseased maninfestation -- which is really an adolescent peter pandemic -- that tries to be its own cure.

To be continued...

Check out American Digest for some ancient new riffs on the above (and as we know, Cohen means "priest"):

And everybody knows that you live forever / Ah when you've done a line or two.

And now the wheels of heaven stop / you feel the devil's riding crop / Get ready for the future: / it is murder.

And I just don't care what happens next / looks like freedom but it feels like death / it's something in between, I guess / it's CLOSING TIME.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Trialogues At the Edge of Slack

The SlackMeister does not attack people. He discredits ideas -- specifically, ideas that run counter to slack.

Okay, he sometimes makes fun of the high and mighty and likes to cut the pompous down to size, but he always favors the smiling bon mot over the scowling malediction. He's just trying to get you to join in with the rest of your so-called friends and laugh at yourself.

But the SlackMeister is fully aware of the fact that most liberals are perfectly decent and well-intentioned people. That is not at issue. The only question that concerns us is whether the ideas they champion will result in more or less slack.

If so, bring it on. Not that there is any chance we will regress to our outgrown adultolescent belief system, but go ahead if you must.

But in any event, stop whining and being so sensitive. It reflects badly on your femininity. Unless you are a male, in which case your overheated rhetoric sounds like the weak man's impression of a strong man.

Ah. I see that the reader called Mushroom has already expressed it well, freeing us to move on:

"I just don't understand why so many people want to force other people to 'be good' by their definition. If your way is better, make your pitch. Convince me. Stir my conscience. Make the argument. If you're all reason and logic, lay it out. That is the Christian approach. We make disciples by presenting the truth."

"Controlling the government police power and using it to force me to do what you want is not the same as winning hearts and minds. Of course, the preference for conversion by the sword is something the left and Islam have in common."

Consistent with his entire approach to life, the SlackMeister offers only. He is not trying to change anyone, nor does he have a shred of power to compel, although he does believe that to the extent his principles are seen and understood, his conclusions arise ineluctably. Conversely, "The left’s theses are trains of thought that are carefully stopped before they reach the argument that demolishes them" (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

But perception of higher worlds can never be compelled, since they are a function of faith. Faith is a kind of prior declaration that they exist based upon the reliable witness of others, but it is an empty letter until it is filled out by experience. We will discuss this in more detail as we proceed.

By the way, nor does the SlackMeister believe there is any other political solution to the Problem of Man, including contemporary conservatism (much less randy Aynism, whom he would never embrace). Just because he passionately argues for the lesser of two evils, it hardly means that he is passionate about evil. Where is your sense of irony?

The liberal looks at America and fantasizes how much more perfect it could be. The conservative looks at the same world and is amazed and relieved that the system works at all; which also makes him wary of tinkering with it in fundamental ways -- which always carries with it unintended, and usually baleful, consequences that will ripple through the entire system.

Will my life change if my "dream candidate" becomes president? Well, first of all, the SlackMeister has no dream candidate, since this is a transparent form of idolatry displaced from the spiritual to the political realm.

But in any event, his life would not change, since he places no hope in politics as such. Indeed, to imagine one's life would change in fundamental ways with the election of this or that politician makes one a little pathetic, don't you think?

The vast majority of human pain is a result of his existential situation, a situation that no politician can undo. But politicians almost always exploit this reservoir of human pain in order to make their promises of change. Remember when they exploited Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox in order to generate a Five Minutes Hate toward Republicans who want more quadroplegia and Parkinson's Disease?

Perhaps the SlackMeister was just raised by a pair of child abusers, but he was brought up to believe that if things didn't go well in his life, it was pretty much his fault. He was never even exposed to the novel idea that his screw-ups, laziness, greed, underachievement, and self-defeatism were the fault of someone or something else, least of all a politician in Washington.

The SlackMeister was raised in freedom, which is a terrible thing for the Loser, because it leaves one naked to the world without so much as a fig leaf of plausible deniability and misattribution.

And even if he were the victim of circumstances, the young SlackMeister intuitively grasped that wallowing in this and expecting someone else to rescue him was a doctrine of failure. It never even occurred to him to wait for the State to make things right for him.

Thank God, or he'd still be waiting. Government-issued slack may look like the real thing, but it is a false and meretricious substitute. Tool's gold.

Now, among other things, Christ is slack-made-flesh, for he is the quintessence of God's absolute freedom dwelling in the finite and relative human form. The "purpose" of this enfleshment is to infuse our humanness with the ultimate slack, thus delivering us from the principle of antiSlack that seems to prevail on earth. Or again, to assimilate man into this more slackful divine reality.

Christianity (and Judaism) is fundamentally a religion of descent. What this means is that, unlike the religions of the East, we do not attempt to lift ourselves by our own buddhastraps and ascend out of it into the world of impersonal slack, but bring the slack into the person -- and into the world with him, for there is no slack without persons: "When he died, Christ did not leave behind documents, but disciples. A person left behind new people" (Don Colacho).

Here is how the Pope expresses it: the Neoplatonic or Eastern approach

"signifies deliverance as far as finitude (self-awareness) is concerned, which in the final analysis is seen to be a facade, the abolition of myself in the ocean of the completely other, which as compared to our world of facades, is nothingness but nonetheless the only true being." In ether worlds, you can have all the slack you want, except that you can't be there to enjoy it.

Please note that this wasn't really problematic prior to the emergence of the modern self. If you have no distinct self anyway, you have little to lose by chucking it aside.

But what if yourSelf is not an illusion but your most precious asshat?

Here "union is seen in a completely different way: it is the union of love, in which differences are not destroyed but are transformed in a higher union of those who love each other."

This is none other than a trinitarian mirrorcle of the Absolute interior. Thus, Christianity "sees finitude not as negation but as a creation, the fruit of a divine will that creates a free partner, a creature who does not have to be destroyed but must be completed, must insert itself into the free act of love."

Here "difference is not abolished, but becomes the means to a higher unity." Therefore, as it pertains to politics, this is necessarily a philosophy of liberty, since the individual must be free to become who and what he actually is.

But man is never "complete," the reason being that he is always dependent. Furthermore, as a consequence of his divine freedom, he has a kind of inexhaustible creativity.

On the one hand, creativity implies an absence of completeness, since we lack the created thing until it is created. But in reality, dynamic creativity is superior to static oneness, even if it confers a kind of restlessness on our existence.

Seen in the proper light, this is the "eternal restlessness" of the Trinity, which does not imply a passive One-for-itself, but being-for eternally coarising with a being-from in the context of being-with -- i.e., Father, Son, Holy Spirit; or Principle, Manifestation, Return; or One, Many, Love; etc.

In any event, this fractured place herebelow is a holy matterimany that includes the possibility of a higher union, not a negation of one or the other into mystical union on the one hand, or mystagogical materialism on the other.

Monday, May 23, 2011

There's No Escape From Liberal Freedom

In Bob's absence we have been taking a leisurely stroll through the hyperborean gardens of slack, conducted by yours threely, the cosmic SlackMeister.

I believe we left off discussing the innersection of Christianity and slack, which is a rather important subject, since there are many people -- the erstwhile youngBob included -- who consider them to be not just incompatible but antonymous.

In other words, to become Christian is to abdicate one's slack. Could this be true? For example, how could dwelling on our sinfulness be any kind of highway to slack? Doesn't slack involve dispensing with all that medieval superstition so we don't have to be troubled by that nagging old crone, the conscience? Let's find out!

Again, instead of dealing with proxies and intermediaries of dubious qualification, we're going straight to the top to see how Pope Benedict's words square with the sphere of slack. As always, we will do this in a rigorously unplanned manner by doodling what comes supernaturally, if at all.

I am given to understand that even the dimmest among you realize that man is born into a kind of prison. Who is to blame for this prison? Political sensibilities are often determined by which side of the question one falls on.

Is culture to blame? Bad luck? Corporations? The hidden hand of the White Man? Or could there be something within man himself -- or man as such -- that imprisons him?

If the latter, then all of the solutions proffered by the former will not free man, since he will still be a prisoner of himself. This will then lead to a cycle of evermore liberal "solutions" enacted to overcome the problems created by liberal solutions.

Furthermore, compassion is twisted into an ideological weapon that serves to keep the masses in their cramped cells.

Through the magic of "social justice" our untransformed desire is converted to "rights," which undoubtedly feel like slack to the person making the demand upon his fellow citizens (who are obligated to finance the slackless). But it is really a form of institutional stupidity, with bars as strong as one's autovictimhood.

In other words, Each day we demand more from society so that we can demand less from ourselves (Don Colacho's Aphorisms). This works until the system runs out of other people's slack.

Compassion -- not thought, not reason -- is the master key for the acquisition of left wing power. But compassion for one group always comes at the price of exploitation of another.

For example, if I want the state to compassionately "give" slack to blacks through the imposition of racial quotas, clearly other groups must be punished. If one group does too well -- say, Asians or Jews -- we must confiscate some of their slack and distribute it to more slackless groups.

Which would be the fair thing to do if slack were randomly distributed, with no connection to one's values, behaviors, and achievements.

Now, what is a prison? The Pope says that "in ancient times, the really terrible thing about prisons was that they cut people off from the light of day and plunged them into darkness."

The same is true of man's existential prison, which casts him into another form of darkness. And "Truly, the prison that alienates us from ourselves can be anywhere and everywhere" (ibid). But "What makes man a prisoner, incapable of being himself?"

A man who is aware of his imprisonment has two options. He can escape "horizontally," into the field of desire and sensation; or, he can inscape vertically, into a different kind of relationship with his source. There is surely "freedom" in both, but in very different ways.

For the Pope, "at a deeper level, the real alienation, unfreedom, and imprisonment of man consists in his want of truth. If he does not know truth, if he does not know who he is, why he is there, and what the reality of this world consists in, he is only stumbling around in the dark. He is a prisoner." He is not a freeman of Being but a hostage to existence.

Therefore, freedom has a purpose, a meaning, a vector, without which it is only the illusion thereof: "Liberty is indispensable not because man knows what he wants and who he is, but so that he can find out who he is and what he wants" (Don Colacho).

Now, human beings have a cosmic right to truth, for without it they cannot be properly human. To bar the truth is to prevent freedom. Thus, all forms of tyranny must, in one way or another, limit access to truth or systematically denigrate and devalue it.

For example, in the former Soviet Union or in contemporary Iran or Saudi Arabia or North Korea, the only way to control the populace is to systematically deprive them of access to truth.

In the West a more subtle apparatus is put in place in order to bar truth and therefore freedom. On the one left hand, political correctness enforces the current truth; on the other left hand, deconstruction and multiculturalism undermine the very basis of truth, so the leftist is really saying either "Truth doesn't exist and only we know it," or "That there is no truth is the absolute truth."

Either way real freedom is denied, since its rational foundation is obliterated. An irrational man is only a parody of freedom, since his choice is rooted in error or illusion.

Truth is a kind of food; but so too is the Lie. Recall that man's very first error consists in consuming the wrong type of food. At the other end of the cosmic spectrum, the treatment for this malnourishment involves eating the right type of food, e.g., communion.

In one way or another, we must engage in theophagy in order to assimilate truth; but this isn't quite accurate, since it is actually a means for us to be assimilated into Truth. If we could "contain" Truth, it wouldn't be True. Only because it contains us is it true. Conversely, an inferior man is indeed capable of containing the Lie.

The Pope says that "Liberation is our continual and fresh acceptance of truth as the path of life set before us." Thus, truth is both path and goal, which are the form and substance of our real freedom. This freedom has a vertical source, but it is prolonged horizontally into time and space.

As the Pope writes, "Behind the human exterior stands the mystery of a more than human reality," whatever one wishes to call it. If this were not the case, then we would be reduced to mere animals doing what we are constrained to do, and knowing only what nature has willed.

Absent the vertical, we can never really be free, for we will simply go from prison to prison, with no way out short of death. But because of the vertical there is always a kingdom of slack just a few microns away.

The leftist says "to hell with that." For Marx and his leftwing heirheads, existence is prior to essence -- which, as we know, is the very essence and recrapitulation of that fatal error in the garden. Thus his shrunken dictum that philosophers only interpret the world, when the real point is to change it. Change!

Into what? What we will it to be. But what if your will clashes with another man's slack? Then he is in a state of bad faith, and doesn't know what's good for him. What is good for him? That is for me to know and you to find out. It pretty much depends on the needs of the day. So, you state managers are free to exercise your power in the way you see fit? What do you think, chump? Power is the only real freedom, baby. Then slack is the opiate of the deluded masses? Correct.

Unlike the Biblical archangel, Marxist archangels prevent man from escaping their paradises. --Don Colacho

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Purity

The other day we picked up Tristan from school. We ran into his teacher, and stopped to chat. Off in the distance, we were surprised to see Tristan kneeling down to pray, right out in the open.

Later we asked if he wanted to tell us what he had been praying about. He said, "I was just thanking God for loaning us the world."

We never put him up to these outbursts of spirit. Rather, they just come out spontaneously.

"Pride" is not the word for the feeling it evokes; if anything, it is humbling -- to know that one has been profoundly touched by the real presence of the sacred in all its naked innocence and purity. It pierces the heart like few other things.

Friday, May 20, 2011

False Slack and the Tyranny of Relativism

Don't ask me. I don't know what the deal is. I suppose I'll continue geistposting so long as Bob goes through whatever little phase he's going through. Probably just one of those periodic dry spells when he threatens to quit blogging and then everybody -- yeah, all three of you -- begs him not to and he feels oh so special.

About Bob's reverence for slack, the question often comes up: why would he playgiarize with a concept from a so-called "pretend religion" and expect anyone to take him seriously as an original cosmedian? He's not stupid. Can't he just invent his own crap, like L. Ron Hubbard or Reverend Wright?

Plus, there is already a real Bob. Isn't it a little misleading -- or confusing at best -- for a man calling himself "Bob" to be preaching the gospel of slack? Why hasn't he been sued?

Is there a better word for slack than slack? I don't know, let's consult the thesaurus. Various related words are: rest, repose, take it easy, lighten one's load, recline, slow down, knock off, take time out, suspend operations, take a leave of absence, take off one's shoes, unbuckle one's belt, relax, call it a day; also, most significantly, sabbatical, weekend, Sunday, Christmas.

So is there a laughtier concept that encapsulates these disparate terms? The SlackMeister has not found one.

I suppose one could say "heaven" or "paradise," but these have certain connotations that do not quite capture and convey our meaning; they are either too full or too empty of specific content. One might say there is not sufficient slack in those terms. We need a little more elasticity, a smidgen more growing room.

A reader once accused or flattered Bob by calling him a "Christian SubGenius." Is there any truth to this? And if so, does this represent some heretical new development, or is it just the same old orthoparadox with a space age twist?

Well, why don't we consult the Pope? He ought to be able to adjudicate this matter. If slack is intrinsic to Christianity, he'll surely tell us.

Let's start with his first principle: that "at the origin of all reality is loving intelligence." I ask you: what could be more slackful than loving intelligence? Certainly not hateful stupidity, or entering paradise would be as easy as attending a Democratic convention.

The alternative view is that the world is woven of chance and necessity. If this is the case, then there is -- and can be -- no slack. For what is necessity but the complete absence of slack? A machine has no slack, no freedom, no will.

But it is not just materialism that would deny our slack, for so too do most other religions. If the Absolute is completely transcendent, this means that it does not interact with man.

We begin with the idea that slack is real, and that it is man's birthright. The converse position is that slack is an unreal illusion. We might think we have it, but that's just a tenured monkey babbling on about his stupid relatives. Even I can do that.

As the Pope affirms, anyone who embraces Marxism in any form -- and contemporary "progressivism" is one of them -- "not only accepts a philosophy, a vision of the origin and meaning of existence, but also and especially adopts a practical program."

This much is obvious. But on an even more deeply superficial level -- one might call it "anti-principial" -- this "philosophy" is not rooted in the Word (i.e., Reason, or that Loving Intelligence just mentioned), but the deed: it "does not presuppose a 'truth' but rather creates one." "Truth" becomes merely a fig leaf over that Nietzschean willy thing, which, excised from Truth, reduces to power. Thus,

"The redemption of mankind, to this way of thinking, occurs through politics and economics, in which the form of the future is determined." The middling relativities of the left never stop preaching slack, even while holding a philosophy (either explicit or implicit, it doesn't matter) that renders it null and void.

Man is of course a political being -- not to mention economic, biological, and social -- but he cannot be reduced to any or all of these categories. If so reduced, he becomes a mere object, so there is no longer a foundation for his dignity, morality, or epistemological strivings.

This miserable philosophy prides itself in "demystifiying" the world, but it is really a remystification, for it can provide no rational explanation of our humanness.

Rather, after so much random shuffling, man just "happened." This is what they call an "explanation." But to reduce man to material and efficient causes is to preclude understanding, since it excludes the very domain in need of explanation, i.e., the Explainer. One might say that materialism is the embalming fluid of the left.

Another first principle of Christianity is that the Absolute is person. Being that we are in its image, our own personhood is rooted in this principle.

Thus, "Where there is no uniqueness of persons, the inviolable dignity of each individual person has no foundation, either." "[H]owever one may try to spin or turn it," this "ultimately deprives moral values of their grounding." Therefore, "all that is left is traffic rules for human behavior, which can be discarded or maintained according to their usefulness."

The tyranny of relativism has been sold to the masses by dressing it up as freedom. Once purchased, the citizen finds out too late that he has mortgaged his soul to a system that cannot create slack, but only parasitize existing slack.

For leftism has not created a single thing in this world. Getting something done requires lots of cash, technical inventions, and power. With the all-powerful state, these dangerous mediocrities can get their barbarous hands on all three.

Meanwhile, in the real world of vertical flow, give us this day our daily slack:

(photo courtesy mizz e)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Looking for Slack in All the Wrong Places

In Bob's mysterious absence, we shall continue our exploration of the origins and development of slack.

Yes, we realize most of you don't care about this subject, but perhaps you don't realize that we don't care that you don't care. For if we did care, it would diminish the very slack we are trying to cultivate and maintain.

Or, to put it another way, we care very much about you and your slack, but slack is often at odds with one's own perceived self-interest. Slack is no respecter of persons, at least in the anonymous sense. Slack is, however, a great respecter of individuals, and in many ways one could say that individualism is slack lived.

What I mean is that if you are not yourself -- if you are living a lie in one form or another -- then you have no slack. Where 1 cannot be 1 self, 1 is a kind of zero, or Ø.

Therefore, the first rule of slack is to become who you are, or at least to stop pretending to be what you are not.

Sadly, many people are so immersed and invested in the Lie, that there is no turning back. Not surprisingly, such a person is heavily defended, so it is difficult to penetrate his dense farcefield and storm his hidden slacktuary.

If your home is not a peaceful and loving I-land of slack in an Øcean of general slacklessness, then you're probably not going to find it. Yes, your religion is here to deliver you from slacklessness, but for most people, family is the field in which this becomes most operative and apparent.

Naturally, the ingression of slack affects other areas -- e.g., intellect, creativity, and social relationships -- but there is a good reason why family is so central to Judaism and Christianity -- why marriage is a sacrament, why children are a gift, and why the family in general is a laboratory of trinitarian Love.

Some form of monasticism also works -- either exterior or interior -- but to the extent that we are drawn down into the world drama, we will probably lose ourselves.

Don Colacho has many perceptive aphorisms along these lines, for example -- and this is a big one -- Few people do not need circumstances to complicate their souls a little.

It should all be so simple: man woman, hungry eat, tired sleep, mind learn, spirit truth, freedom play. But truly, most people cannot handle the simplicity. Complexity inevitably creeps in, which then requires a constant output of slack in order to maintain. Complexity is the way of anti-Slack; conversely, unity, or communion, is slack's seal and crown.

In the end you will lose, because Death is the most dreadful form of slack removal awaiting you at the end of all the complications. Death is so simple! He cuts you down to size, whoever you are, and renders you as simple as a date on a headstone.

If Death is simple, so too must be its "adversary." This occurred to me yesterday while reading a passage by then Cardinal Ratzinger. For the Christian, Jesus has transformed death itself into the ultimate slack, freeing us from its icy grip. Therefore, there is no need to construct elaborate psychic defenses against it. Life is no longer a project of death denial.

Freud had a saying about the purpose of psychoanalytic therapy: where id was, there ego shall be.

What he meant by this is that our psychic world expands as the personal conscious mind colonizes and transforms more of the impersonal and unconscious "it" within (id is German for it). In other words, in each of us is the I and the It, in a dialectical process of gradual transformation.

As you watch your child grow, you can see more of his It becoming I. But most people, as they mature, have to leave a lot of unresolved It behind, only to be unwillingly dealt with later in the strangest and most inconvenient places! For example, residual It from one's relations with parents may haunt a marriage.

Look at a couple of recent examples, the political actor and the socialist predator. Both were waylaid and overtaken by their It.

When the It is roaming free, it always feels like slack. But it is false slack unless it is unified with, and personalized in, the higher self. Look at the fine mess Strauss-Kahn's It has gotten him into! His false slack has been abruptly foreclosed, and all of his power cannot retrieve it.

Such complicated lives those two must have been leading. For a secret life is a complicated life.

We all have a public life, a private life, and a secret life. The public life is our persona with which we negotiate the Conspiracy and get through the day. Our private life is where we are free to be ourselves without reserve.

However, the more of one's private self can be expressed in public, the more content we will be. In other words, you don't want your public life to be too much at odds with your private life. To take the first example that comes to mind, if you are the type of person who cherishes truth, it would be quite painful to be a trial lawyer.

Likewise, the more of our secret life we can get into our private life, the more fulfilled we will be. This is where true intimacy arises -- where there are no secrets, and each can give him- or herself to the other without reserve.

We have all felt this vast realm of slack at one time or another. For example, when we first fall in love, one of the reasons why it is so blissful is because of this expansive feeling of intimacy: of two private selves in communion.

But what happens? The It! It is commonly the case that, to paraphrase Freud, people have a hard time loving the person they desire and desiring the person they love. These two are split apart into an I of love and an It of desire. The goal, of course, is their union and marriage.

This is why most relationships do not just passively "die." Rather, they are actively killed. There is a chilling book about this subject, Can Love Last?: The Fate of Romance over Time.

Many partners unconsciously seek security over intimacy, and accomplish this by covertly undermining the intimacy, which drains the relationship of passion. The relationship feels "dead," which then makes it easy to imagine that the passion is elsewhere. Rinse and repeat.

This "is not intrinsic to the nature of love itself but is a degradation, a defense against the vulnerability inherent in romantic love" (Mitchell).

Of note, the secret life isn't really so secret unless one is oblivious to its absent-presence. It is always picked up on in one way or another, especially by children -- who won't know what to call it -- resulting in the internalization of the family It.

"The parents' secrets are often a palpable presence in the household, even if, sometimes especially if, they remain unarticulated" (ibid). The secret It-self can become "alluring, forbidden, and mysterious." It is imbued with temptation, which holds out a promise to the It that is always broken.

Life and intimacy are always dangerous and unsettling, which is why most people draw back from the abyss of love and look for slack in all the wrong places.