Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A Completely Selfish Post

When I'm stumped about what to write about, it's usually for the same reason: I forget about the purpose of this blog. Which, you might say, is entirely selfish.

That is, I write in order to find out what I think. But when I get boxed in, it's usually because I'm unselfishly thinking of my readers, which means that instead of writing to discover what I think, I'm doing so in order to tell what I know.

Which isn't much. Moreover, whatever it is, it must be rediscovered every day.

This also explains why, just as I begin to pick up more readers, I lose them, because things get weird again. But it would never occur to me to write for "the day." Why bother? Rather, the only purpose I can see in writing is to try to do so for ever: to infinity, and beyond! Or in other words, to try to write "from" eternity. I'm not saying I succeed, only that a man needs a hobby.

The bottom line is that to write unselfishly ends up a kind of self-centered and self-aggrandizing act. Conversely, to write selfishly results in a more selfless product.

Of course, this is all predicated on the notion that to plunge Bobward eventually ends in something universal. We all have to "look within" to discover anything, but that doesn't mean that everything we discover there is hopelessly tainted by our own beastly presence.

So in this post I'm just going to forget about you all, leap into the Subject, and see where he takes us.

In yesterday's post we embarked on a discussion of the complementarity of individual <--> group, or personal <--> universal. For Perry, this comes down to "remembering our divine essence, on the one hand, without forgetting our human nothingness, on the other." In short, "Noble radiation and humble effacement."

You might say that Perry's prescription involves simultaneous recollection of two opposites. Which isn't invalid, but does omit an awful lot of the in-between where we actually live.

It's as if there is nothing between complete nihilism and mystical union; or that nothing short of mystical union has any real value. But if that's the case, why do we have this magnificent cosmos? Why does the Creator go to all the trouble?

This last question is critical, I think, and cannot be resolved in the purely metaphysical and extra-revelational manner of the Traditionalists. For they come very close to suggesting that the cosmos springs into being of necessity (i.e., "emanationism"), and that it is subject to inevitable decay for the same reason. It is in the nature of the Sovereign Good, they say, to radiate itself, which results in a Manifestation, i.e., the cosmos. But then the cosmos, as it inevitably becomes more distant from its ground and origin, succumbs to entropy. Game over. (But which then begins a new cycle.)

Some of that is true as far as it goes, but it cannot ultimately be reconciled with the Judeo-Christian view of a creation that is pure gift and completely unnecessary. The Traditionalist would probably say that the real purpose of such an assertion is to remind us of our nothingness -- our pure contingency -- before God; but this then implies a very different sort of God, one that is rather impersonal and doesn't really care about individuals.

To jump ahead to our conclusion, we believe that person is the ultimate category of existence; and that personhood is neither thinkable nor derivable from any kind of purely monadic metaphysic. I believe one comes from two, not vice versa. Which means that love is not so much "higher" than truth, but rather, the truth of existence. And love is impossible in a matrix of unalloyed oneness, unless you have a very different definition of love, or you are Barack Obama.

I hope this isn't getting too abstract, but it is important. The Traditionalist (and they would say universal) metaphysic begins with Beyond Being. I do not disagree with this, because it is fully consistent with the apophatic Godhead about which we can say nothing. Unless we are very sneaky. Eckhart, for example, has many fine orthoparadoxical descriptions of the Godhead. In Sermon 2 he tells us that the intellect -- man's highest faculty --

"is not worthy even for an instant to cast a single glance into this citadel... neither power nor mode can gaze into it, not even God himself! In very truth and as God lives! God himself never looks in there for one instant, in so far as he exists in modes and in the properties of his persons..."

It is here "wherein God ever blooms and is verdant in all his Godhead, and... ever bears his only-begotten Son as truly as in himself, for truly he dwells in this power, and the spirit gives birth with the Father to the same only-begotten Son, and to itself as the self-same Son, and is itself the self-same Son in this light, and is the Truth."

As you can see, words begin to fail at the threshold of the Godhead; language begins to disintegrate -- or perhaps we should say "re-aggregate" in the light of the divine darkness. At the very least, we must try to outfox language in order to see around the coroner, or past our own headlights.

In Sermon 101, Eckhart speaks of "the eternal birth which God the Father bore and bears unceasingly in eternity, because this same birth is now born in time, in human nature." He quotes Augustine, who asks "What does it avail me that this birth is always happening, if it does not happen in me? That it should happen in me is what matters."

Selfish, right?

No. Contemplating the complementarity of individual <--> group leads in a very different direction if we begin in a Christian rather than, say, Vedantin metaphysic. The orthoparadoxical Christian view is that the Godhead is a kind of "group," even while not being anything other than one.

Conversely, the Vedantic view (at least for Shankara) is that the illusion of twoness ultimately dissolves into the Oneness of Brahman. For truly, when all is said and done, it never happened. The illusion of separateness was just a dream, for all This is That.

I used to believe that. For one thing, you don't need revelation to tell you that "all is one." Rather, you need revelation to tell you it isn't. Or at least to confirm your suspicions and let you know you're on the bright trek.

And if you understand what I just said, then perhaps you can understand Eckhart's understanding that "It does not now seem to me that God understands because he exists, but rather that he exists because he understands."

For it takes three to understand: knower, known, and knowledge. Or better: lover, beloved, and love.

*****

Just because I like the photo. Captures that interior we've been talking about:

49 Comments:

Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'll bet that magnificent bastard Iowahawk is called "genius" more than just about any other living person. It is unimaginable that he would ever be published in the MSM.

10/09/2012 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

That is a gorgeous photo of FL. Of course, it helps that he's such a handsome subject. He's growing up fast :)

***

I write in order to find out what I think.

Funny, that's the same reason I comment. Not to find out what you think, but what I think, which is why it bugs me when I don't have anything to add. It's harder to process the post, whereas a conversation helps bring it into fruition, as it were. As a reader, the post comes to life somewhere between the main page and the comment box.

Ripples in a pond...

10/09/2012 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's weird how some people are so easy to photograph, others so difficult. With future leader, it's as if his whole inside is exteriorized, so he hardly ever takes a bad photo. Other kids are so inward-faced, that the photos come out blah.

It seems to me that most of the best actors have that outward-turned thingy. A very mysterious quantity. Needless to say, it is amoral, and can be used for good or evil!

10/09/2012 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Indeed, especially in the days of Facebook, etc.

10/09/2012 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Brazentide said...

"This also explains why, just as I begin to pick up more readers, I lose them, because things get weird again."

The weirdness incidentally serves as a barrier to entry for the humorless and as repellent against conceit - both the new readers' and our own.

10/09/2012 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

But if that's the case, why do we have this magnificent cosmos? Why does the Creator go to all the trouble?

Why do people have families? Reproduction or the reproductive act we can understand. But families are a lot of trouble. Nobody with any insight thinks having a family is fun -- not all the time. It is kind of a self-imposed slavery, but we do it.

As the Hag once said:

Sometimes I think about leavin', do a little bummin' around
Throw my bills out the window, catch me a train to another town
But I go back workin',
I got to buy my kids a brand new pair of shoes
I drink my beer at a tavern and cry a little bit of these workin' man blues

10/09/2012 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

I had a mother and I have a daughter who have never taken a bad photo. I think that is what it is- what is inside comes out.
You have a beautiful child!

10/09/2012 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Great moments in headline-writing:

"Barack Obama, The Misoverestimated President"

10/09/2012 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

This item seems sorta relevant to the post at hand: [offspring & all]

Gotham [that IS a cool name anyway] Chopra: Unpacking Deepak
In the documentary 'Decoding Deepak,' Gotham Chopra — filmmaker, journalist, and self-help cynic — traverses the globe with his father, Deepak Chopra, to uncover the man behind the myth, and find out why millions are drawn to his motivational message and teachings.

10/10/2012 04:19:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

"This also explains why, just as I begin to pick up more readers, I lose them, because things get weird again. But it would never occur to me to write for "the day."

As you know, Bob, creativity is not something under our control. When it comes, it can come as a torrent and then leave just as suddenly.

These times of fallow are a great time to clear the workbench, clean the tools and just be glad in the day.

" I write in order to find out what I think. "

I am amazed what comes out of your keyboard, Bob.

10/10/2012 06:30:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

"These times of fallow are a great time to clear the workbench, clean the tools and just be glad in the day. "

...and to remember where the creativity comes from.

10/10/2012 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Slack Deprivation Alert:

No post today, probably not tomorrow, and maybe not Friday either. Next week hazy. Wife is having a procedure on the low back Thursday and can't drive for a week, which means I'll be chauffeuring the boy during usual blogtime.

10/10/2012 07:46:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Even worse, I have to attend an all-day continuing education seminar Friday and the Friday after that. The horror!

10/10/2012 07:53:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

No worries, Bob.

Time runs a little different here in cyberspace. :)

10/10/2012 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I hope the procedure goes well for Mrs. G!

As to the re-education seminar, it could be interesting (in a train-wreck sort of way) this close to the election. Especially if tomorrow's debate has anything noteworthy to offer...

10/10/2012 08:29:00 AM  
Blogger JWM said...

On the continuing ed. seminar-
How do you resist the urge to hijack the lecturer, and/or discussion with switchblade questions? Or do you?

JWM

10/10/2012 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Bob, you're book is really "out there".

10/10/2012 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

I find a great symmetry between your pursuit to bring your readers along with you on your journey of exploration, rather than instruct us - and the latter part of this post when you speak of the pursuit to know God. In both cases, it is the act of listening rather than speaking that is most efficacious.

As you listen - explore - receive revelation, your passion and creativity are stimulated and that comes through in your account of it to us. Whereas, trying to push out a post becomes more of a chore and less a labor of love.

Likewise, searching for words to describe God is relying on your own faculties to know the unknowable. Rather, prepare yourself to let God find you and you will better come to know His essence.

10/10/2012 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

What Julie said at the top. The most frustrating part about this new job is the lack of time to comment here... I can squeeze in reading, but without commenting on the post, it's only really half read.

10/10/2012 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

new Paglia interview:
"I don’t like the situation where the Democratic Party is the party of art and entertainment, the party of culture, while the Republicans have become the party of economics and traditional religion. What that does is weaken both sides. One of the themes in my book is the current impoverishment of the art world because of its knee-jerk hostility to religion, which is everywhere. That kind of sneering at religion that Christopher Hitchens specialized in, despite his total ignorance of religion and his unadmirable lifestyle, was no model for atheism. I think Hitchens was a burden to atheism in terms of his decadent circuit of constant parties and showy blather. He was a sybaritic socialite and roué — not a deep thinker — whose topical, meandering writing will not last. And I’m no fan of Richard Dawkins’ sniping, sniggering style of atheism, either.

A responsible atheist needs to be informed about religion in order to reject it. But the shallow, smirky atheism that’s au courant is simply strengthening the power of the Right. Secular humanism is spiritually hollow right now because art is so weak. If you don’t have art as a replacement for the Bible, then you’ve got nothing that is culturally sustaining. If all you have is “Mad Men” and the Jon Stewart “Daily Show,” then religion is going to win, because people need something as a framework to understand life. Every great religion contains enormous truths about the universe. That’s why my ’60s generation followed the Beat movement toward Zen Buddhism and then opened up that avenue to Hinduism — which is why the Beatles went to India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Then it all disappeared, when people became disillusioned with gurus. But spiritual quest was one of the great themes of the ’60s that has been lost and forgotten — that reverent embrace of all the world religions. This is why our art has become so narrow and empty. People in the humanities have sunk into this shallow, snobby, liberal style of stereotyping religious believers as ignorant and medieval, which is total nonsense. And meanwhile, the entire professional class in Manhattan and Los Angeles is doping themselves on meds and trying to survive in their manic, anxiety-filled world. And what are they producing that is of the slightest interest? Nothing. Nothing is being produced in movies or the fine arts today (except in architecture) that is not derivative of something else..."

http://www.salon.com/2012/10/10/camille_paglias_glittering_images/

10/11/2012 04:20:00 AM  
Blogger Dougman said...

"As a reader, the post comes to life somewhere between the main page and the comment box."

Well said Julie!





10/11/2012 07:17:00 AM  
Blogger Dougman said...

"A responsible atheist needs to be informed about religion in order to reject it."

So True.

10/11/2012 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Actually, uninformed would be better.

10/11/2012 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Paglia wants to have it both ways, or rather, neither. But it doesn't work that way. It's either yes or no, God or nihilism. She says No, but still wants some of the Yes.

To imagine that art can replace religion is to not know what either is. But I will give her credit for being about as right as it is possible for wrong to be. She's at the penumbra of truth, but unwilling to take the leap.

10/11/2012 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Tagore on Shelley in "Creative Unity" reminds me a little of Bob --
Religion, in Shelley, grew with his life; it was not given to him in fixed and ready-made doctrines; he rebelled against them. He had the creative mind which could only approach Truth through its joy in creative effort. For true creation is realisation of truth through the translation of it into our own symbols.

10/11/2012 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's true. I'm forever trying to make sense of it all in a way I can wrap my mind around. It's like I'm trying to trancelight it into bobspeak or something...

10/11/2012 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

For better or worse, I think modern man's mind is in a very different kind of conceptual space, for which reason the old symbols don't necessarily communicate in the same direct way. If we concede that the symbol is only a vehicle of truth, then it seems to me that we can tweak the symbol to make it more resonant with the modern mind, but without in any way disfiguring the truth....

Like I said, a man needs a hobby...

10/11/2012 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

"A responsible atheist needs to be informed about religion in order to reject it." -ge

"Actually, uninformed would be better." - Rick

Total agreement, Rick: The nearer to the absolute atheism singularity, the less they'll talk about it (Reptilian comes to mind... but that would be an insult to Reptiles as they won't eat the very eggs they lay).

Yappy Atheists make me happy (and giggle sometimes, too). :)

10/11/2012 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

"A responsible atheist needs to be informed about religion in order to reject it."
-CP, not moi

10/11/2012 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

ps ~
Sexy Camille seems on the side of religion, and critical of blowhards like Hitch & the Dawkster

10/11/2012 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"For better or worse, I think modern man's mind is in a very different kind of conceptual space, for which reason the old symbols don't necessarily communicate in the same direct way. If we concede that the symbol is only a vehicle of truth, then it seems to me that we can tweak the symbol to make it more resonant with the modern mind, but without in any way disfiguring the truth...."

I personally like your symbol set.

It kind of reminds me of math, a set of metaphysical symbols for spiritual calculation, so to speak.

So long as your equation ends in "= Truth" I suppose.

10/11/2012 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

To imagine that art can replace religion is to not know what either is.

Yes, that's just what I was thinking. I cannot imagine professing faith in a painting; rather, to the extent the painting represents Truth one might (at best) profess faith in a painting's subject.

10/11/2012 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Mad Men's a great show.

George Lucas is our greatest living artist?

10/11/2012 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Paging all guitar aficionados -- Guitar World Poll for top 100.

All I can figure is that most Guitar World readers are white suburban males under 50.

10/11/2012 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Actually, I have less of a problem with who is on the list than the order. I haven't listened to Van Halen that much, but Paige is sloppy and should be much lower.

And we have Ace Frehley but no sign of Bo Diddley? I'm clearly living in an alternate universe.

10/11/2012 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger son of a preacher man said...

mushroom

Thanks for the article, always good for a laugh (and a groan).

My biased thoughts:

03. Alex Lifeson

finally getting some recognition.

Where's Freddie King, Doc Watson, Unknown Hinson ...

"All I can figure is that most Guitar World readers are white suburban males under 50."

I resemble that remark.

10/11/2012 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I resemble that remark.

Not that there's anything wrong with that ...


Yeah, I have more of Doc on my MP3 than just about any other artist, but I can understand other people not being able to fully appreciate what Doc could do -- or Merle, for that matter. The same with one of my other favorites, Junior Brown. It's like setting down a bottle of Buffalo Trace Bourbon at a French wine-tasting. It's really good, probably better than most of what they'll taste, with a lot more kick, but it's not what they are there for.

Looks like they did it by brackets, so that may go a long way to explaining the order.

10/11/2012 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Completely off topic, reading some of the commentary on last night's debate suddenly reminded me of a joke I heard in high school:

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Interrupting cow.
Interrupting c---
MOO!

10/12/2012 06:18:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

I like that Paglia sees so much art as stuck in a parenthesis.

It certainly seems to me like the dominant visual approach these days is a clubby Mannerism, self-referential, narcissistic, even when it's "political."

In short, a great deal of contemporary art is simply shallow. That's what Paglia can't stand. That shallowness comes from a lack of courage, which ultimately comes from a lack of commitment or faith.

Hence her adoration of the honest and visceral, from wherever it comes.

10/12/2012 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

Guitar polls! I remember those. Yes, they're silly, but one good thing about them is that they show that some young men still feel competitive (and male) about art and technique. That's a good thing.

My vote goes to Django. Frightening physical technique, total command of the fretboard, powerful in both rhythm and lead, creative in all his ideas, expressive all the way from anger to delicacy, and always pushing himself outside categories (he was getting into bebop by the end). The music is dated but still accessible, and how he approached it is still inspiring. He's the kind of guitarist that you hear and go, "that guy could play anything if he wanted to." That's not something that can be said of a lot of guitarists.

Not that that's a criticism of those other guitarists. It takes all kinds to make a world. R. L. Burnside, Wayne Krantz, Wes Montgomery, Buckethead, Doc Watson, Brent Mason, Marc Ribot, Eliades Ochoa, Eduardo Eguez, Tomatito, Jason Vieaux ... the list is endless.

In the House of Guitar, there are many mansions.

10/12/2012 06:39:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

Merle played some nice lead at the Anaheim concert, I think it was. Right there alongside Roy Nichols, who was a mighty fine picker!

10/12/2012 06:41:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Agreed on the shallowness. It occurs to me just now that even though art students are required to study art history (and thus they study religious art over the centuries), they are never required to look beyond themselves for inspiration in what they create.

10/12/2012 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

(doh - too slow. My previous comment was in reference to the 6:24 comment...)

10/12/2012 06:47:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

For country pickers, how about Jimmy Bryant.

10/12/2012 07:03:00 AM  
Blogger philmon said...

"I forget about the purpose of this blog. Which, you might say, is entirely selfish.

That is, I write in order to find out what I think."

I know the feeling. It's the real reason behind my blog as well. And as Julie says, it often happens when I comment as well.

"This also explains why, just as I begin to pick up more readers, I lose them"

Well, you never really "lost" me, though I did go away for a while. You're still linked and I still think what a worthwhile place your blog is (not trying to inflate your ego or anything, it just is) ...

I will say that it is both a joy and a chore to read ... I tend to want to read *all* of it when I read it, and it takes some doing not only because you're verbose (which is fine) but because the concept-density is so .... high. I spent a couple of months trying to keep up every day, but ... other interests in my leisure time were being neglected ... such as trying to learn to play guitar, photography, hanging with the wife, and playing with my grandson ... not to mention reading the books I want to read and even keeping up with my own blog ... (and then managed to accidentally light my house on fire putting all that further into competition with other necessary tasks for several months) I unintentionally dropped off the face of the One Cosmos blog.

But I've always missed it. I miss reading the posts, and I miss your regular readers comments, and I should try to get back to it.

Not for you, of course.

But for me. :-)

10/12/2012 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Biden's coach

10/12/2012 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Finally getting caught up. Sure gets hectic when the wives are convalescing.

"The bottom line is that to write unselfishly ends up a kind of self-centered and self-aggrandizing act. Conversely, to write selfishly results in a more selfless product."

Sort of like a free market in sense. Works out best that way.

PS- I hope n' pray Mrs. G. is feeling better.

10/13/2012 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Bob- Iowahawk is indeed a genius, surpassing even the great Wile E. Coyote.

The last genius I saw the MSM print was Bob Larsen, who's material would certainly be considered "too insensitive" by today's MSM standards.

But Larsen can't hold a candle to Iowahawk's blistering assaults.
Although it would be funny to see Larsen's rendition (not sure what his politics are since his works was apolitical).

10/13/2012 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

From Andrew Klaven: Was the Joker cloned?
The Joker Reborn?

10/13/2012 09:30:00 AM  

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