Friday, June 10, 2011

Advice for the Modern, High Functioning Flasher

I don't know about you, but when I am facing a particularly thorny ethical dilemma, I always ask myself: what would Alec Baldwin say?

For example, let's say I'm a prominent politician -- one of the most visible and combative in my party, even -- and I'm caught gifting anonymous women with candid photos of my congressional staff. Predictably, our puritanical press goes nuts.

Now what do I do? I mean, after denying it, then lying about it, then asking the ladies (none younger than high school) to help me cover it up, and then smearing my accusers? I do what I should have done at the outset: obtain the wise counsel of my good friend Alec Baldwin.

First of all, Alec is a forgiving man, so long as you're not married to him, or employed by him, or maybe happen to be his thoughtless little pig of a daughter.

I know what he'd say: hey, kid, cut yourself some slack. You're a modern human being. No, check me on that: like me, you are a modern, high functioning man. Do you have time to figure out why you have a compulsion to open your raincoat over the internet?

Hell no! Besides, all that crap about "know thyself" and "the unexamined life yada yada" is for the ancient or medieval man, not the space-age modern man.

I know it takes a lot of time and energy seizing upon every opportunity to tell people how great you are as a human being. Hell, I'm the same way. Who has time at the end of the day for self-analysis? You've never been a business man -- or frankly had any way to make an honest buck, for that matter -- but you are surely a busy man. You are under the constant pressure of self-analysis before adoring and uncritical audiences, so forget about what I just said about having no time for it. It's all you do!

Like me, politicians are special people. Not as special as actors, but special nonetheless. We need something to take the edge off. The low functioning modern man might choose, I don't know, having a couple of beers, playing with his children, or maybe even having sex with his wife.

But you? You are always on the go. You don't have time for that. Besides, how can sex with a real woman compare with the reliable high of cyber-sleeping with someone?

Does this make you "pathetic?" Maybe in the eyes of the premodern world, but not to the modern, high functioning man. For us, this is sex nowadays. No time for romance! Porn? No way! Too two-dimensional for the modern man. You want someone breathing, something you can feel, someone -- okay, someone cheap, but nevertheless, someone doing it just for you -- unlike real women, who are so concerned with their own selfish needs that it's not worth the hassle.

Married? Yeah, that's a factor, but only one. You know what it's like to have that cell phone bursting with numbers of gals just waiting around to gaze at your junk mail. So you do what any modern, high functioning man would do: you open your digital trenchcoat, yield to the gentleman from down south, stand firm with the little guy, and wave your congressional probe.

To shift if not grind gears back to the subject at hand, we were discussing... what, exactly? I would say we are discussing universality, which is at once a hallmark of truth, but also the cure for the type of moral relativism that would place Baldwin's "high functioning, modern man" on the same plane as the actually high functioning man.

But if there is no high there can be no low, so low becomes high. As has been oft commented, one of the rewards of being a leftist is that it is impossible to be a hypocrite, since they have no objective standards.

Which is obviously not quite correct, not by a dongshot. For the leftist does have standards. It is just that these so-called standards replace -- and displace -- the classical virtues.

Thus, so long as one has the correct political stance -- unless it is a little too wide -- all else is forgiven. In the case of Weiner, yeah, it's not ideal that he's a pervert with a psychiatric disorder. But on the other hand, he's always fighting for you, e.g., the dispossessed, the disenfranchised, the disordered, the dissolute, the disgruntled, the dyslexic. As they say, troubled times require a troubled man.

Ratzinger, in the same lecture we were discussing yesterday, makes the critical point that in its earliest years, Christianity did not attempt to align itself with other religions. Rather, it "sought a connection with philosophies," even the finest philosophy available. Some misguided Christians regard this as some sort of error, an intrusion of "Greek thought" into what should be pure revelation. But this would not only particularize Christianity, but put it on the same plane as any other pagan religion.

The point was surely not to associate Christianity with a particular culture, but to attempt to transcend culture through the universality conferred by abstract philosophy. This is not to place philosophy above revelation. Rather, the point is to "connect with those movements that seek to escape from the prison of relativity."

Thus the identification of the Son with the logos, not to reduce the former to the latter, but to elevate the latter to the former. The logos is not just a philosophical abstraction that knows nothing of our being, but a person with whom we can form a vibrant relationship.

Conversely, the high functioning, modern man can know nothing of this relationship. Nor does he take full advantage of one of its analogues in the herebelow, marriage. The passionate interior relationship of sacramental marriage could hardly be more different from the externalized and self-divided relationship of two internet strangers.

In psychoanalytic developmental theory, there is a critical distinction between what is called "part-object relating" and "whole-object relating." Our developmental telos is away from the former -- situated in what is called the paranoid-schizoid position -- and toward the latter, which is in the depressive position.

Put simply, whole-object relating is between person and person, in a fully integral sense. Conversely, part-object relating is unable to transcend the ambivalence attendant to any relationship. The person in the paranoid-schizoid position deals with ambivalence by splitting it off into a sub-personality that is impelled to seek an object relation outside the central self. (This is essentially the same as a mind parasite.)

For example, let us say that I am unable to integrate love and lust in the same object. Love is reserved for, let's say, the wife, while a more immature and unintegrated form of primitive desire is split off and directed toward another object, say, a stranger in cyberspace (which is all the better, because knowing the real subject might interfere with the fantasy needs of the part-object relation).

According to the Dictionary of Kleinian Thought, "A part-object exists... in relation to the bodily sensations of the subject. Through projection into the object it becomes a narcissistic extension of the ego's own experiences and the separateness of the good object is not acknowledged. Only when the object comes to be recognized as whole does it properly take on a separate existence from the subject."

It is fair to say that this represents not the opposite, but an earlier stage on the way to what Pope John Paul II wrote of the "celebration of human sexuality as a gift of God for the sanctification of husband and wife," and "marital intimacy as an icon of the interior life of the triune God."

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Screwtape Letters and Screwy Lettered Types

In a lecture on Culture and Truth, Ratzinger speaks of the peculiar attitude of our cultural elites, who always exclude themselves from the relativism they proclaim. Seemingly oblivious to the irony, they simultaneously embrace "a false humility and a false presumption."

With the left hand they do "not recognize in the human person the capacity for truth," but with the further left hand they covertly place themselves "above truth itself, while making the extension of one's power, one's domination over things, the objective of one's thought."

That's a neat little trick, in that it is a way to appropriate the genuine power that would normally be attendant to truth -- for even the most jaded atheist has a vertical recollection of the exterior radiance and interior attraction of the True -- and wield it not to understand reality but to change it.

But ultimate reality cannot be changed, for just as I AM WHO I AM, IT IS WHAT IT IS. Only the former can assure us of the latter; conversely, the latter is indeed a kind of ladder that should lead the genuinely curious mind to the former: I AM, therefore IT IS. Anything short of this formulation is to put Descartes before de' source, mon.

Being that another word for truth is "reality," one might say that the current intellectual fashion is to simultaneously deny reality while defining and limiting it to one's vulgar tastes.

If this sounds like an exaggeration, just think of how political correctness operates -- and how it operates most fiercely in the very environment that is supposed to safeguard and transmit truth, the university. Speech codes define what is thinkable and therefore knowable, and prevent truth from getting out of hand should someone stumble upon it, since there is a whole mechanism in place to suppress it.

Just as it requires intelligence to credibly "play stupid" in a play or film, it requires a kind of fundamental stupidity to pretend to the type of knowledge that is impossible in the absence of the correct metaphysic.

In short, truth must be received by its would-be knower. Science operates on the assumption that the scientist receives information by submitting, so to speak, to the world. Thus, the world is his "revelation," just as it requires submission to a revelation by God in order for us to know anything about him. Just as there is junk science, there is obviously junk theology, or deepakin' the chopra or jackin' one's jesse in public wouldn't be such kookrative endeavors.

Speaking of which, on a more or less banal level, think of Congressman Weiner's transgrossions, which, until last Monday, were officially impossible in many prominent quarters of the left.

Although any person of sound mind and good faith could see what was going on, a whole media structure was in place to assure us that we couldn't trust our own lyin' eyes. If not for new media, the story would have been disappeared by the MSMistry of Truth, effaced from the day and whitewashed from history.

I know this sounds hopelessly out of date, but if one is not learning the truth in a university education, what is one learning? And why does it cost so much, when one can get the same thing for free by listening to NPR?

I don't know about you, but where I find truth, it doesn't cost me a thing, which is why I don't charge folks for it. There's no overhead, since it's right here, just slightly overhead. Conversely, my secular indoctrination did cost a lot, which is why I do have to charge for that stuff. In a way, it's like punitive damages to reinstate my wholeness.

One of the reasons the culture war has become so contentious is that we are far beyond the point of mere "disagreement," which is why neither side is susceptible to the arguments of the other. Rather, the real struggle is over the very nature of reality -- more particularly, who defines it and who shall acquire the power that flows from conformity to the Real.

Here again, this is not an abstract discussion, but quite concrete. Let's suppose I believe buses are real, whereas my neighbor thinks they are an illusion. Only one of us can be correct, and being correct will give us a certain power of reality.

Now, just apply the same principle to everything that transcends matter (with the exception of mathematics, which is a kind of mirror of reality, and cannot be so easily manipulated).

For example, economics is a discipline that seems to revolve around (at least) two very different realities; let us call them Hayekville and Krugmania. People who live in the one not only "disagree" with the others, but believe them to be inhabiting another reality -- a "false reality," to be precise.

For those of us who hang out in Hayekville, the origins of our current economic meltdown have been known from the start, c.f. here, here, and here. But now comes another comprehensive account from a member of their own reality club, Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon.

This is just the kind of thing that is extremely upsetting to the parochial yahoo living in an unreal world, because it exposes and undermines the whole elaborate narrative structure that simultaneously shields them from reality while authorizing them to define and impose it upon everyone else.

The liberal doesn't require "proof" for his self-evidently elevated worldview. But disproof? Forget about it. This they really don't need. Repelling it usually requires attacking the messenger in a battle of annihilation with no rules. And when we say "annihilation" we mean this literally, because to disprove a lie is to annihilate it once and for all.

Conversely, to maim the truth results in real harm to most everyone except those who directly benefit from the lie. (Which is why I never get excited about elections, because they do not and could not ever result in the annihilation of falsehood, evil, and illegitimate power; rather, it seems that this thrilling competition is one of the unfortunate but inevitable conditions of human existence).

Thus, The fool exclaims that we are denying the problem when we show the falsity of his favorite solution, but There exists no truth in the humanities that does not need to be rediscovered each week (Don Colacho's Aphorisms). That last one is a lie, because you actually have to do it every day.

In his talk, Ratzinger mentions the Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis's famous tale involving the practical education of an inexperienced demon by a more worldly-wise one. Note the word practical, for this is one of the adjectives the leftist substitutes for truth.

The younger demon expresses concern to his better worser "that intelligent people are prone to read books containing the wisdom of the ancients," which might cause them to accidentally stumble upon the truth (note that the demon knows the truth, since the lie is parasitic upon it).

Not to worry, assures Screwtape, for this type of knowledge can be easily nullified by simply elevating history above reality. Thus, the last thing the tenured will ask about, say, the Bible, is whether it is "true."

Rather, the "learned man" will ask "who influenced the ancient writer, and how far the statement is consistent with what he said in other books, and in what phase in the writer's development, or in the general history of thought, it illustrates... and so on."

This is how the kingly truth ends up being royally screwtaped. Remember our lengthy series of posts on the Divine Comedy? Ratzinger notes that in communist countries one was still permitted to be exposed to such subversive literature, so long as it was placed in the proper context, or narrative, which is always political and ultimately rooted in power (for again, who defines reality wields the power).

Reducing the real meaning of such a protean text is a way to immunize scholarship against truth. It's very effective, because it confines the scholar to a closed world from which he cannot escape and to which he cannot inscape, no matter which way he turns, for he has his head up his own assumptions. What is outside those assumptions is literally unthinkable.

But in truth, "Man is not trapped in a hall of mirrors of interpretations." Rather, "one can and must seek a breakthrough to what is really true."

And what is true is that there is one world and one human nature to go along with it, which is why truth can be, and is, timeless, universal, and harmonious (or integral). Everything fits together in a neat little giant coonspiracy, which literally means to "breath-together" in one Spirit.

In the formulation of Eckhart, our "breaking out" is simultaneously God's "breaking in." And we all know what it's like to be arrested (?!) by God's breaking and entering in the middle of the night.

Ratzinger names some of the barriers to truth, which enclose modern man in his little thought bubbles: historicism, scientism, pragmatism, nihilism -- to which one might add deconstructionism, reductionism, materialism, feminism, radical environmentalism, metaphysical Darwinism, and Obamaism.

Truth unites. The lie fragments.

In another sense, truth not only sharply divides (for it is a [s]word), but is the source of division -- one might say discrimination -- itself.

Conversely, the lie unites, but it is a false unity (for example, Hitler's mission to unite Europe, or Marx's to unite the wankers of the world). In truth, it is merely an agglomeration with no interior or exterior consistency, harmony, or wholeness. For there is only one complete, consistent, and harmonious metaphysic. And if they ask what it is, tell just them I AM sent it.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Human Existence: The Perpetual Mid-Life Crisis

This is truly one of those posts that begins "nowhere" but will hopefully end somewhere.

The only way this can happen is if the post is "guided," so to speak, by its own end, which is to say, its own implicit purpose. Even if I don't understand the point, perhaps the Other with whom I am in dialogue will. It's certainly not something I could ever accomplish on my own.

I always begin in the bewilderness, which, you might say, is a repetition of where everyman and allmen must begin. Every day begins in slavery and ends with the promised land at least in view. And the whole innerprize is founded upon faith, in both its active and passive modes.

In other words -- again, like life -- one must in one sense "give up," but in another sense, actively deliver oneself over to the mysterious Other who shadows us through life, goading and pulling us along by the ear if we still have one.

In God and World, then Cardinal Ratzinger is asked how we can know when this Other is communicating with us:

"God speaks quietly. But he gives us all kinds of signs.... we can see that he has given us a little nudge through a friend, through a book, or through what we see as failure -- even through 'accidents.' Life is actually full of these silent indications. If I remain alert, then slowly they piece together a consistent whole..."

Like the human life of which they are a fractal, the doing and knowing -- the exploration and discovery, the journey and arrival, the alpha and omega -- must occur simultaneously, since they are parts of "one being" or "beingness."

For example, you could show an infant the university degree he will eventually acquire at the age of 22, but he will still have to go through the formality of earning it. Knowing that you will someday know is not the same as knowing. For example, I "knew" I would someday get married. But I never knew it would be like this!

In this regard, we are all beneficiaries of the amosing grace who delivers us from the exterior slavery of Egypt, through the perilous Red Sea, into the bewilderness, and on to the interior freedom of Israel.

For who is Yaweh, aside from Who He Is? For starters, he is the entity responsible for bringing the people of God -- whoever they might be -- out of the house of bondage, or from the matrix to the patrix.

For bondage is the rule in nature, and nature is sufficient in most every way to account for it. We are slaves to our genes, or appetites and desires, or culture, or family, or historical epoch. Man's slacklessness doesn't require much of an explanation, just as man's selfishness and greed would appear to be the factory setting.

Rather, what cries out for explanation is this mysterious irruption of freedom in a closed world where material and efficient causes rule with one fist of iron, the other of steel, if the right one don't gitcha' then the left one will.

Come to thinkin' on it, that song actually provides a vivid account of the slackless man's sorry lot:

Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood, skin and bone
Got a mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, and what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

The "company store" is Egypt in any one of its legion of manifestations. The Judeo-Christian arc of salvation -- i.e., its historical ground -- begins in this movement away from necessity and toward freedom.

However, being liberated from slavery is by no means synonymous with freedom. For example, I could turn my child out the door today and say "congratulations. You're free!"

But until one arrives at the destination, there is no way of knowing what lies ahead, hence the bewilderness adventure in between. If you haven't faced the perils of the bewilderness, then it's likely that your freedom -- i.e., self-determination -- is correspondingly narrow, brittle, or even somewhat illusory.

Now, an important point is that this arc of salvation cannot be thought of in purely linear terms. Rather, it must be regarded vertically, so that each stage of the journey is simultaneously present: bondage --> bewilderness --> freedom (or in another sense, Incarnation --> Death --> Resurrection).

Furthermore, the journey must be reenacted each and every day. Otherwise the path is soon covered over by the fauna and flora of various entities that live within us, so that communication is cut off between the various levels of being.

In other words, there is a lack of integration that prevents us from being the "totality" we were meant to be. Think of the Son, who eternally descends from the zenith to the nadir and back up again. Thanks to him, this benign circle was opened up for man, but we still have to step onto the path and take the first step(s). It is a permanent gift, but we must open to its presence.

Ratzinger expresses it well, speaking of how "the organ of sensitivity to God can atrophy to such an extent that the words of faith become quite meaningless. And whoever no longer possesses a faculty of hearing can no longer speak, because being deaf goes together with being mute. It's as if one had deliberately to learn one's mother tongue."

This reminds me of a patient I saw awhile back, who had suffered a stroke to the parietal lobe of the brain, which is the "language center." She was a Mexican-American woman, and prior to the stroke had been fully bilingual. While Spanish was her native tongue, she later mastered English after emigrating to the U.S.

Interestingly, the stroke caused much more damage to her native tongue than to the acquired one. Thus, while she could still communicate in her "secondary" language, she could no longer do so in her primary one.

This caused a great deal of pain, in that her mother and father (she was a relatively young woman) were not bilingual, and only spoke spanish. Thus, in an interesting metaphor, she was cut of from her source and ground -- her Father, as it were -- because of damage to the "organ of communication" alluded to by Ratzinger.

This reminds me of someone with uncontrolled diabetes, who may not be aware of a problem until the sudden appearance of "end organ damage" in the eyes, feet, kidneys, heart, etc. Just so, spending one's life walking like an Egyptian will end in blindness, amputation, infertility, a damaged heart, and a dangerous accumulation of toxins.

So you always have a choice: crisis or catastrophe.

Abraham, our father,
Was simply told to leave.
Go forth from your land and from your kindred...
to the land I will show you.

This is the setting out.
The leaving everything behind.
Leaving the social milieu. The preconceptions.
The definitions. The language. The narrowed field of vision. The expectations....
To be, in a word: Open.

So it is with setting out on the path of liberation, leaving everything.
He would even have to discover
The way he would discover
While he was on the way.
--Lawrence Kushner, Honey From the Rock


And he was told:
Go forth from the dugout to the position I will show you.
Where he would even have to catch on to
The way to catch
While playing on the field of dreams.

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.


--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,


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