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