Wednesday, April 11, 2012

On Becoming a Simple-Minded Heavyweight

Continuing with yesterday's post, if we could ascribe a "shape" to man, it would be a kind of inward spiral. Purcell says much the same thing; beginning with the ancient Greeks, "we make our own self the object of a quest," and this "odyssey within and beyond ourselves is a lifelong one, with the quest itself leading to a substantial deepening of who we are."

And substantial is the operative word, because it does indeed result in a kind of existential "heft" that is quite palpable when we encounter it, and more or less synonymous with (or even the measure of) real depth.

Conversely, we all know "lightweights" of various kinds -- intellectual, emotional, spiritual, artistic, political, ethical, etc. We routinely deal with so-called intellectuals who have no heft whatsoever, the types who generally compose our media and academic elite. The illusory weight they throw around results from mutual mirroring, or, to use the technical term, transactional fellatio.

As I've mentioned before -- and I'm not even sure how this works -- you can usually tell when you are dealing with one of these lightweights within a death sentence or two of their writing (following the Church of the SubGenius, I call it picking up someone's soul-stench, but you can call it what you want; perhaps "minus ≈" would be a good pneumaticon, in contrast to the resonant ≈ of the genuine saint, sage, or artist).

How are such persons able to instantaneously transmit so little with so little? Obama comes to mind. Probably because of the upward winds of affirmative action -- a perverse caricature of the inspiraling process -- he has never come close to discovering his own vacuity.

Which would also explain the absence of irony, wit, or self-awareness generally. And the nastiness, of course, since anyone who dares to notice the new emperor's empty suit is targeted as an Enemy of the People. The Democrat war on men never ends.

It's quite a nice little racket one has, when accurate perception of oneself is immediately transformed to racism (or sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, and all the rest).

This would be an example of a collective defense mechanism protecting a cultural mind parasite; it results in a kind of impermeable barrier to truth, and greatly impedes the progress of the groups who engage in it. It is hardly a coincidence that blacks have been the most damaged by Obama's policies, and yet, continue to support him, similar to how abused children will vociferously defend their parents.

Back to the inspiraling process as the shape of human existence, Schuon -- who is the opposite of the existentially heftless, since he communicates substantiality with striking economy -- agrees that

"The way towards God always involves an inversion: from outwardness one must pass to inwardness, from multiplicity to unity, from dispersion to concentration [read: heft], from egoism to detachment, from passion to serenity."

This serenity is not a "blandness," which is what I imagined it must be when I lived at the periphery, where "excitement" is really just restlessness and agitation in disguise.

Rather, "In order to be happy, man must have a center; now this center is above all the Certitude of the One. The greatest calamity is the loss of the center and the abandonment of the soul to the caprices of the periphery. To be a man is to be at the Center; it is to be Center" (Schuon).

I know what you're thinking: how does this differ, say, from the alarmingly egocentric Obama, for whom delusions of adequacy would be a great improvement? We can illuminate the difference quite easily with just three words: attractor, ego, and O.

As we have discussed in the past, there is clearly (for anyone can phenomenologically prove it to himself) something analogous to "gravity" -- or gravitational force -- in psychospiritual space. Just as, say, the moon is drawn into the orbit of the earth-attractor, and earth into the sun-attractor, vertical space is populated with a host of transpersonal attractors, to such an extent that it can truly be said that "you are what (or Whom) you orbit."

The very first step of the spiritual life -- for all subsequent steps follow from it -- is to leave one attractor for another. Call it what you will -- from the outer to inner, periphery to center, ego to nous, or just (•) to (¶), this is in a sense our "perpetual practice," in which we are always beginners, because we are always taking that first booby step over and over.

And why do we have to keep taking the first step? Because taking it by no means eliminates all the other attractors. There is still a fallen world, there are still seductive lies, there is still our own dubious nature capable of self-deception and ocular auto-pullwoolery.

Schuon raises a subtle but orthoparadoxical point, to the effect that there is a kind of good and bad movement at both the periphery and center. On the one hand, the "spiritual immobility" of the infinite Center is "opposed to the endless movement of external phenomena." But on the other hand, there is a kind of higher "spiritual movement" which "is opposed to the natural inertia of the fallen soul."

To put it in plain language, the people whose lives seem so full of activity are often the most static, whereas the Raccoon is never moving more swiftly than when he is just sitting still, say, banging out a blog post. No one could look at me at the moment and know that I am soaring on wings of slack, least of all my son, who is eager for me to play with him because he is bored sitting still (it's Easter vacation).

In his case the boredom is a good thing, because it means that he cannot be satisfied with the faux movement provided by the TV. For young children -- especially boys -- because their hardware is still being assembled and coming on line, they need external movement to feed the inspiraling process. For man -- chronologically, ontologically, and collectively -- discovery of the outer precedes discovery of the inner.

Here is another apt observation by Schuon:

"The soul must withdraw itself from the dispersion of the world; this is the quality of Inwardness. Then the will must vanquish the passivity of life; this is the quality of Actuality. Finally, the mind must transcend the unconsciousness of the ego; this is the quality of Simplicity. To perceive the Substance intellectually, above the uproar of accidents, this is to realize Simplicity. To be one is to be simple; for Simplicity is to the One what Inwardness is to the Center and what Actuality is to the Present."

Gotta run, but to summarize: Inwardness, Actuality, Simplicity, Present, and Center = heft. Don't worry, you'll see it when you know it.

(All the Schuon references are from his extremely pithy and yet weighty Echoes of Perennial Wisdom)

22 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Which would also explain the absence of irony, wit, or self-awareness generally. And the nastiness, of course, since anyone who dares to notice the new emperor's empty suit is targeted as an Enemy of the People.

I'm reminded of an observation someone else made recently, probably over at Vanderleun's: if the story of the Emperor's New Clothes were really based on human behavior, the crowd would have torn that kid to shreds immediately after he opened his mouth. Seeing how people tend to react to unpleasant truths, especially when they have a crowd backing them up, I'm inclined to agree.

4/11/2012 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Nietzsche was right about that: in individuals madness is the exception, but in groups the rule.

4/11/2012 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

No one could look at me at the moment and know that I am soaring on wings of slack, least of all my son, who is eager for me to play with him because he is bored sitting still.

Heh - story of my mornings. Thankfully, for a toddler he's pretty good at entertaining himself, which means he's not climbing on me constantly, just every other minute or so... :)

4/11/2012 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

We used to call that climbing Mount Mommy. The object changes, but the quest remains the same.

4/11/2012 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

This is kind of interesting. Haven't read the article, but there is a map of the very different attractors in cable-space inhabited by Democrats and Republicans.

4/11/2012 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Actually, there are a number of maps. That liberals are attracted to soccer and the WNBA pretty much tells you everything you need to know.

4/11/2012 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And geriatric track, of course.

4/11/2012 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I thought the beer track was pretty interesting, too. Though I guess it should be no surprise that Democrats would avoid "Sam Adams" in droves...

4/11/2012 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

...I call it picking up someone's soul-stench, but you can call it what you want...

I kind of like Orson Scott Card's phrase. Obama is a Speaker for the Dead.

This whole post does go along nicely with the data modeling. One's Center is going to be exhibited in priorities, choices, affiliations, etc.

If a person has no center or a vacuum at the center, they tend to follow the crowd and be more collectivist. They want to herd everybody together and "get on the same page". They are drawn to rhetoric and appearances and are more likely to ignore results and consequences.

I am surprised to find there is still a WNBA. In fact, I'm surprised to find there's still an NBA.

I can totally see the correlation between Diet Dr. Pepper and Romney.

4/11/2012 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

"To be one is to be simple; for Simplicity is to the One what Inwardness is to the Center and what Actuality is to the Present."

Its simple to make things complex. Its complex to make things simple. (A young person may not understand this, but it fits nicely with what you said)

"No one could look at me at the moment and know that I am soaring on wings of slack, least of all my son, who is eager for me to play with him because he is bored sitting still (it's Easter vacation). "

...and yet, when you've nailed the item you are slacking about, the action taken in reality thereafter- based upon that answer derived - is so ... 'right' that the air about you seems thick with ... something. Go figure. Too bad there is so much dishes to do in realspace.

"Conversely, we all know "lightweights" of various kinds -- intellectual, emotional, spiritual, artistic, political, ethical, etc. We routinely deal with so-called intellectuals who have no heft whatsoever, but since these types generally compose our media and academic elite, their heft, such as it is, results simply from mutual mirroring, or, to use the technical term, transactional fellatio. "

One way to identify a lightweight is to ask him what one of his 'big' words means. The lightweight simply loves "Buzzword Bingo":

http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?BuzzwordBingo

4/11/2012 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

" I call it picking up someone's soul-stench,"

Yes. The job I'm currently working on getting fired from, has a couple of those... curiously, they seem to think they can mask, or pretty it up with sprinkling s of eau de NPR & some Ira Flatto (too easy for the obvious pun) after shave. But they made the mistake of mentioning, at work, across the table from me, the wonders of obamaocare freedom... and you can guess the conversion that followed.

Unfortunately their mgr's. Amazingly I'm suddenly' on the bubble'.

Go figure.

4/11/2012 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

If I remember correctly, Aquinas says simplicity means a lack of parts or divisions.

When it comes to simplicity in people, the old guys used to call it "integrity."

And they were right. People with integrity aren't living a life without excitement and adventure: on they contrary, they are actually living "a" life (not multiple lives), and their lives are filled with tests, trials, and almost constant adventure because there subsists something stable that can have an adventure.

The opposite is multiplicity, frustration, and dissipation. Easy pickings.

This serenity is not a "blandness," which is what I imagined it must be when I lived at the periphery, where "excitement" is really just restlessness and agitation in disguise.

Exactly. It gives new meaning to "static electricity." Cf. MOTT

God is wild

Following God requires poverty, chastity, and obedience. In order to fall in love upwardly, you have to give in, inwardly. You are then set in motion in ways you'd never predict, and you come alive in a way you had never been, perhaps never even conceived of, before.

Because you will be more wholly *you*.

At least, that's how it happens here.

4/11/2012 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Just wow: echoes of perennially existentially heftless

4/11/2012 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

*the

4/11/2012 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Interesting observation at that link, relevant to today's post:

"A good sign that a man is praying to a being other than God is this: His prayers will be boring."

4/11/2012 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Planned Parenthood praying. I'm no prophet, but I'm pretty sure I just heard God say, "Bullshit!"

4/11/2012 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

I just looooove that Wonka picture, Julie. Thanks!

4/11/2012 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of people of depth, I suppose one way to know you're dealing with such a one is that what they have to say has a timeless validity and relevance. Tomberg, for instance.

Re. the gathering of information, while the charts are indeed fascinating, most people find it unnerving that there is so much detail about their lives being mined for the use of shadowy others, whether for political campaigns or for general corporate marketing. The first thing I thought of when seeing the article Bob linked this morning was another, a couple of months back, about how Target collects and uses information on their customers. On the one hand, the practice seems perfectly reasonable, particularly in aggregate. After all, businesses stay in business by figuring out what their customers want, then providing for those wants. On the other, though, Tomberg touches on why there is something disturbing about the practice as well, when he discusses materialism (from Lazarus, pg. 99):

"The temptation to 'turn stones into bread' is obviously at work in the materialistic attitude of mind. The materialistic (or materializing) attitudes turns beings into things. Thereby, however, the beings at the same time become 'possessable'things, i.e., things that one can manipulate according to one's desires. To possess something means to be able to do what one likes with it, i.e., to have power over it."

On the preceding page, he also has much of relevance to say about the intoxication of crowds, which resonates particularly with the goings-on in Sanford, Florida. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

Perhaps oddly, I find that somewhat comforting; it's easy to get caught up in the news of the moment. Knowing it is the news of most every moment, one way or another, makes it easier to take it all with an eye toward eternity.

4/12/2012 04:33:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

That's good. It seems that most all of modern life -- everything that isn't genuine art, maybe I should say anything not done out of love, but it's pretty much the same thing -- is an attempt to 'be as god'.

It is not enough for those who are fallen and won't get up to: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion ... over every [other] living thing that moves on the earth.

They have to control one another and allow some to set themselves up as little gods, idols.

The proper order is for God to be the sole Sovereign over all humanity, speaking directly to each of us, as we, in turn, reach out horizontally to one another.

Sometimes He creates hierarchies and priesthoods and even governments because of "the hardness of our hearts" but, as Jesus said on a similar topic, it was not so in the beginning.

4/12/2012 05:49:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

As Joyce said, and as most every page of Finnegans Wake attests, "it's the same told of all," just the endless nightmarical circle that goes round & round unless you somehow fly through the nets that would ensnare us.

For some reason this one arrested my attention this morning: convicted rapist and all-around savage Mike Tyson says that it's a disgrace to this great nation that George Zimmernan hasn't yet been tied to a car and dragged around.

Must always appreciate the gossamer thin line between civilization and barbarism that runs through each human heart. Not that Tyson is human, but you get the point.

4/12/2012 07:31:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

By the way, one of the original purposes of this blog was, instead of focusing on the so-called "news" of the day, to write about the "eternals." After all, the latter is the only new and renewing thing in the world. Conversely, the news is always stale before you read it, just man doing what he does and being what he is. Man is an assoul? Some bulletin.

4/12/2012 07:35:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

:)

I'd say you're still succeeding.

Re. the Tyson link, it reminds me of this over at Ace's yesterday. No calls for true justice under the law, no leaders among the black community standing up and admonishing people to rise above the situation, merely the screaming of the lynch mob, out for any blood they can spill that isn't like theirs.

Proving once again that man is an assoul, especially in groups.

4/12/2012 07:57:00 AM  

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