Thursday, November 08, 2012

I'd Rather Have a Battle in Front of Me than a Frontal Lobotomy

I was reading this sobering editorial by Melanie Phillips, which highlights all of the reasons to dread the future which began stalking us last Tuesday. Truly, it isn't just policies that are at stake, but our entire way of life.

And even then, it goes deeper than existential issues, all the way down to the ontological and spiritual. The latter two categories have to do with who we are and why we are here. For Obama, it's pretty simple: we are nobody special, and I am here to control you. Or, he is special and you are not.

Ironic, to say the least -- but this is always true of the left -- that Obama wants to stop policing the world. Instead, he just wants to police us. For him, we are the problem, not Iran or Egypt or Libya or Russia or North Korea. Which is the same problem Iran, Egypt, Libya, Russia, and North Korea have with their subjects.

This is precisely what Phillips is saying: "Obama’s agenda has been crystal clear from the get-go: to increase the power of the state over the citizen at home, and to neutralise American power abroad. Four more years of this and he’ll almost certainly have succeeded. The impact upon western security could be cataclysmic."

She speaks of security, which is again an existential issue. But then she gets to the ontological: "Britain and the Europeans love Obama because they think he will end American exceptionalism and turn the US into a pale shadow of themselves" (emphasis mine). We will become someone else, someone we have never been and were never intended to be.

However, Phillips then says something that leapt out at me: "What they don’t realise is that, all but lobotomised by consumerist rights, state dependency, victim culture, sentimentality, post-religion, post-nationalism and post-Holocaust and Empire guilt, Britain and Europe are themselves fast going down the civilisational tubes."

If you don't believe her, I would suggest you read some of Theodore Dalrymple's b-o-o-k-s, unless you're already dispirited enough, thank you.

But that word, lobotomized. First of all, we spell it with a 'z.' But as it so happens, the other night I watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with my son. I've seen it so many times that I was able to mute or fast forward the age-inappropriate parts.

I must have seen the film five times within the month it was released in 1975. The question is, why did it speak to me? After all, I was only 19, but more to the point, still a quasi-animal, although a harmless and good-natured one -- an amiable barbarian.

I was in college at the time, but it is fair to say that "learning" was the last thing on the agenda. I'm not sure I even knew there was such a thing as "graduate school," but the idea of continuing school beyond the bare minimum would have struck me as absurd -- unless there were some kind of dramatic payoff, such as extending adolescence into my late 20s. And so there was.

I suppose that many on the left would interpret OFOtCN in sociological or political terms, and this may even have been the author's conscious intent, for all I know. But for me it has deeply religious overtones, and is spiritual through and through.

Anyway, one reason I wanted the boy to see it is that lately we'd been watching a lot of crappy horror movies. It seems that every horror/monster movie ever made is shown in October. Boys have no qualms whatsoever about blood and gore, so I'm not worried about that -- so long as it isn't the propagandistic kind of gore that deals with "climate change."

After watching a dozen or so of these artistically vacant horror films, he could tell how truly bad and emotionally unsatisfying they are -- he could see that something vital was missing, something that defines the difference between art and dreck. So it was an auspicious Teaching Moment.

We actually had some preliminary conversations about this -- for example, how in a poorly done film you don't care about the characters, or how these films teach nothing, or how they have no satisfying resolution. Toward the end of one of them, he said "I don't see how they're gonna wrap this up in five minutes." And he was right. Everybody dies. The end.

Anyway, I wanted to contrast these with a great film, so he could see the difference. We actually watched The Gladiator too, and he could see right away that its violence is entirely different from the gratuitous violence of the horror films. But he could also see how the film made you care about Maximus from the very start, and how you identified more deeply with his character as the film proceeds.

Back to OFOtCN. I didn't expect him to say this, but Tristan discerned right away that R.P. McMurphy is Maximus, while Nurse Ratched is the evil Commodus (played by Joaquin Phoenix). Clearly, in both cases we're seeing a kind of dance between light and darkness, which he picked up right away.

He also totally understood the idea that McMurphy is Jesus. In this view, the insane asylum isn't "corporate America," "the establishment," "fascist Christianism," or some other leftist bogieperson.

Rather, it is the world, a fallen world in desperate need of redemption. From the opening scene, McMurphy provides this redemption, as his "spirit" at first disturbs this stifling world, and then begins "entering" the other patients.

After all, at the time, 2000 years ago, Jesus was also understood to be nothing more than a common criminal who was a nuisance to the world of Rome (which was the world). His Light was deeply disturbing to the darkness, so it had to be eliminated and deluminated. Or at least that was the best laid plan of mousy men.

Speaking of Jesus, there is a scene in which McMurphy hijacks the bus and takes the patients out on a boat. He says to them You're not nuts, you're fishermen! You don't say.

And just as Jesus heals the deaf and blind, McMurphy "heals" the "deaf and dumb" Big Chief. He also heals Billy of his stutter, at least until Nurse Ratched cracks down on him with the threat to inform his mother.

This occurs the morning after the "last supper," when McMurphy bribes the night watchman and they have a spirited all night party (with lots of spirits smuggled in). Remember, they're still in the mental institution/world, but no longer "of" it; somehow they are "set free" within its confines. Nothing has changed except their interior horizon.

But that won't fly, any more than it flew for the Romans. In the end McMurphy is crucified -- in his case, lobotomized -- and order is restored.

But not so fast. Something strange then happens. Because of McMurphy's influence, the Chief realizes his true stature. He has become "big as a mountain," and is ready to escape with him. (McMurphy's first words to the him are something like "Goddamn it Chief, you're about as big as a damn mountain!")

But the lobotomized McMurphy is "gone," without two cerebral cortexes to rub together. For him to remain in that condition would be analogous to leaving Jesus up on the cross to serve as a warning to all: come to life, and you too will die. The Chief won't allow this to happen, so he smothers McMurphy under a pillow.

Then it is Pentecost: the spirit fully enters the Chief, he hoists the hydrotherapy console from the floor (lots of water imagery in the film), chucks it through the barred windows, and escapes over the horizon into the great wide open.

I try not to talk about politics too much around the boy, since he's entitled to his childhood slack. Thus, I was a little taken aback when he pointed out that Nurse Ratched = Obama and that his supporters are lobotimized.

And lately the boy has taken to asking, Which one of you nuts has got any guts?

Well?

81 Comments:

Blogger River Cocytus said...

The real irony of Obama's policy is that if it were actual isolationism it might not be totally awful.

The Democrats think they will heal the world by parading around it with a kick me sign.

China will oblige.

As for us, the historic cultural majority of America is now a minority. We are probably in a one-party system now. I wonder what absurdities the next election cycle will bring? A mandate to end poverty by removing all property from those not in the Party?

I think though, some people might now be very angry. Do you think the center will hold?

11/08/2012 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Dick apologizes for himself, Petey, myself, el rushbo,
et al

"But the more proximate cause of my error was that I did not take full account of the impact of hurricane Sandy and of Governor Chris Christie’s bipartisan march through New Jersey arm in arm with President Obama. Not to mention Christe’s fawning promotion of Obama’s presidential leadership.

It made all the difference. ..."

11/08/2012 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's not over 'til the fat man sings... Obama's praises.

11/08/2012 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

I worry less about our future with young visionaries like Tristan on the way up. What a great world view being developed there on a sofa.

"One Flew" rung my bell but the spiritual scaffolding escaped me. Thanks for the illumination; it's back in the queue.

11/08/2012 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Skorpion said...

Never thought about ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST this way until now. Thanks for the insight.

11/08/2012 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

There's a scene in the beginning when one of the patients takes his medicine just like a communion wafer. Lots of other religious symbols like that...

11/08/2012 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"I don't see how they're gonna wrap this up in five minutes."

OMG, he is your son. I LOL'd out loud.

Back to the post...

11/08/2012 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I haven't seen it since I was a kid. Will have to add it to my wish list this year...

11/08/2012 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

One other funny point, before I gotta run. A friend wondered if it might be too intense for Tristan to watch those horror movies. To the contrary, he lets us know if something's too disturbing. For example, we were watching Charlotte's Web, and he asked me to turn it off because the thought to of that poor little pig being butchered and eaten was just too much. I'm pretty sure he'd be traumatized by Bambi and Dumbo, what with the maternal abandonment!

11/08/2012 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn,
Wire, briar, limber lock
Three geese in a flock
One flew East
One flew West
And one flew over the cuckoo's nest

To "fly over a cuckoo's nest" is to transcend the absurdity of man's earthly existence, symbolized by the hospital.

Hmmm, looks like you better update Wikipedia, Bob.

11/08/2012 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Leslie Godwin said...

Thing one: I am fairly sure that Bob is using Tristan's comments to illustrate what most kids would understand, as opposed to him being uniquely gifted..I think.

Thing two: "Which one of you nuts has any guts" should have been the republican slogan!

Mrs. G

11/08/2012 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Truly, it isn't just policies that are at stake, but our entire way of life."

Our entire way of life, and the possibility of it. The regulations that are already written and ready to be applied alone, will be devastating. Those to come, those they've been dreaming of, but didn't dare putting down on paper yet... the mis-Mayans may get their way yet, if we don't soon find someone else to battle them, you know, someone who doesnt' want to be a part of them.

Working on it.

11/08/2012 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...


"Anyway, another reason I wanted the boy to see it is that lately we'd been watching a lot of crappy horror movies. It seems that every horror/monster movie ever made is shown in October. Boys have no qualms whatsoever about blood and gore, so I wasn't worried about that."

I used to horrify the other parents (not to mention the kids) when, after a horror movie, the kids would ask "There aren't really such things as vampires & werewolves, are there?", and I'd answer "What, are you nuts? Of course there are such things as vampires & werewolves... it's just that in real life, they're harder to spot & not as easy to kill."

But that's what you get in a world that's be Quantified/Lobotomized - people who won't comprehend monsters. Just don't see them as being different in any important way, I suppose.

11/08/2012 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

What a fan-tastic post.
My son would really enjoy this one I think. He's big as a mountain for symbolism. I think he's seen this film at least once with us. I don't recall if he saw it symbolically. He did pick up on more things in Gran Torino than I did (and I had help from Father Barron).

By the way, I think the movie The 300 really illustrates well that concept of righteous violence and the whole light/dark concept.

Also, RE Pentecost: I really thought you were going to say that that was when Chief finally speaks.

The fisherman! line. Man, that's beautiful. How did I miss that..

11/08/2012 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Anyway, I wanted to contrast these with a great film, so he could see the difference. We actually watched The Gladiator too, and he could see right away that its violence is entirely different from the gratuitous violence of the horror films. But he could also see how the film made you care about Maximus from the very start, and how you identified more deeply with his character as the film proceeds.

Back to OFOtCN. I didn't expect him to say this, but Tristan discerned right away that R.P. McMurphy is Maximus, while Nurse Ratched is the evil Commodus (played by Joaquin Phoenix). Clearly, in both cases we're seeing a kind of dance between light and darkness, which he picked up right away."

Lucky boy, that Tristan. That is the way that all stories should be taught, it's one of the primary purposes of stories to begin with - Education. Good luck finding that in a school.

11/08/2012 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

...and what Leslie and Robin said.

Btw, been meaning to ask, Leslie, why the Spy vs Spy? What is the significance? Brings me back to my cousin's Mad Magazine collection days -- which we studied from margin to margin.

11/08/2012 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

So which disciple is Chief?
Voters?

11/08/2012 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Leslie Godwin said...

Rick...re Spy vs. Spy...it was just funny to me and reminded me of the old Mad Magazines. I was thinking about changing the pix to a recent one of Tristan I like a lot....but it was just funny to me.

Also, I can't use anything hockey-related since the Kings and the NHL are dead to me at this point.
L

11/08/2012 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Leslie, LOL!

I like the pic -- sort of heart shaped and ying/yang at the same time.

11/08/2012 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

Yikes. If you read Melanie Phillips ed piece, it goes 3-D horrorshow with
this soundtrack
.

11/08/2012 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. kids and movies, it turns out Bambi is one of Liam's favorites right now (a relative let him watch it on tv this summer), but I think that's because the scene where Bambi's mother dies flies right over his head at this point...

11/08/2012 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

That's strange. I don't think I've ever seen this film. I don't know how I missed it.

I agree about Tristan. He sounds like quite a young man.

It sounds like Chief -- who I believe was played by the late, great Will Sampson from down the road in Okmulgee -- would be the Church, the Body of Christ. Rather like the verse from the Song of Solomon -- Who is this who looks down like the dawn,
beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awesome as an army with banners?

11/08/2012 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Russell said...

And don't forget that if you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can move a mountain.

Or, in this case, the Mountain moves.

11/08/2012 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

the only people who will vote for elderly white males tend to be elderly white males. we have been the scapedest of goats these last decades, the thanks we get!

mitt would have been a marvel
and was being lyingly attacked and vilified by BO-axelhole machine before even nominated [as Ann C points out this week]---how can an honest achiever & pisces [maybe heavenly-gifted like washington] get himself elected with satan claus distorting you ----to those idiotic enough to watch the tv ads... & vote

11/08/2012 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

The following may simply be a statement of the obvious but it is the best I can do at the moment. I think given the reality of the situation, it is now incumbent upon all of us to find ways we can keep the torch of civilization lit when and if future generations desire to live as free people again.

Part of that is to pass the tradition on from person to person. Children are an obvious way. Though not limited to one's offspring. Basically to live as a remnant or in the catacombs, even if also in plain sight.

In my darker moments I am afraid this may not be enough. I will once again recommend--for all such a recommendation may be worth--the book "A Canticle for Leibowitz" as I think it is very relevant to our situation, though the particulars may be somewhat different.

This may sound a bit crazy, but I think that there is a need for a new monasticism. One who's goal is to keep the great achievements of Western Civilization alive. I think it should be as compressed as possible and widely distributed.

Also, I don't think the Western Canon can depend on the survival of the humans guarding it. It should be hidden yet still ultimately accessible when it is eventually(?) needed again.

That's the best I've got so far. Needs more thought. Maybe it's too crazy to work. Maybe there isn't enough time. Yet, I think it's something I would like to dedicate the rest of my time here to achieving.


11/08/2012 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Here's a movie not unrelated to OFOtCN that I rather love after several viewings; with mental illness and electroshock, UFOs, ancient boob implants, superstars, druggies & Warhol decadence, patrician lowjinx and laughs...

If one were crazy/lucky in the 60s one would find oneself in the same ward as ol' purty Edie, who dug hospitals in her own way, realizing they had the most-best drugs that she could bribe her way through!

http://vimeo.com/35370930

11/08/2012 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger Peyton said...

Jack, are you perhaps thinking along the lines of "How the Irish Saved Civilization"? Good book, and counters the notion that The Religion of Peace alone preserved Aristole and company.

11/08/2012 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Peyton-

Definitely along similar lines. I have been watching the old documentary, "Civilisation" (with an s rather than a z) by Kenneth Clark.

The first episode of which deals with Europe after the fall of Rome. Clark visits Skellig Michael and relates how Celtic Christians escaped there after the collapse of Civilization. As well as a refuge from the marauding of the Vikings.

It got me thinking that we might also need to find such remote locations and for similar reasons.

11/08/2012 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger Olden Ears said...

Jack, re your comment on passing on the tradition: I began thinking this way about a year ago. On Father's Day I gave my adult daughters an "intellectual inheritance." I bought them paperback copies of books that have been significant to me with brief inscriptions describing why I think they are important.

11/08/2012 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Jack, not to be Mr. Linky... but... Kenneth Clark's "Civilisation" series is available, in full, on YouTube. Works a lot better than my VCR set does now.

Kenneth Clark Civilisation

Also, and just as highly recommended, Roger Scruton's series on the importance of Beauty,

Why Beauty Matters - Full Version - BBC & Roger Scruton (1/9)

11/08/2012 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Olden Ears-

It seems that the word itself--tradition--is derived from the verb put "tradere" which apparently means, "to hand down (to posterity)". Also, quite interestingly, it means "to surrender".

11/08/2012 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

It seems to me that we can no longer count on our institutions to "hand down" the values of Western Civilization. As we all know, they not only abandoned them, but actively seek to destroy them.

What interests me is how to best protect this tradition so that no matter how hard they try they could never eradicate it.

I am currently reading The Starfish and the Spider which was recommended by Bill Whittle in one of his videos. It is highly relevant.

It dawned on me today that perhaps there could be some use for a "Catechism of Western Civilization". Sort of the Operating System (American Version, of course!) for how to create a society around ordered liberty. Condense Civilization down to its basic principles, so that they can be distributed widely and handed down.

11/08/2012 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11/09/2012 12:00:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

At some point all human endeavor succumbs to decay and it is no different for traditional Western Culture. For as noble as it is to try to preserve our culture, I can't imagine it can ever be the same once lost - the words will never have the soul of those who lived it.

Rather, it is the eternal truth the must and will be handed down - never to be lost. It is the essential ingrediant of future cultures worthy of God's providence

11/09/2012 12:01:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

ER-

Yes. I agree. Tradition can be disrupted, perhaps permanently. Yet, recoveries do take place. The rediscovery of Aristotle in the the late 12th century. Or Plato in the 14th.

This could only have happened because generations of nameless monks etc made the effort to preserve these works. Painstakingly, by hand. They might not have really even understood what they were copying. Yet, they did it anyway.

If they hadn't there would have been no Aquinas or Dante or Rafael etc.

History--to the degree one is wise to personify it--works in mysterious ways.

11/09/2012 05:04:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Maybe something like this from Andrew Klavan.


11/09/2012 05:40:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

There's two senses to culture. The second and lesser form is the familiar habits and activities of the people within a culture, and the heart of that culture which their activities happened to result from. Baseball, hotdogs and apple pie.

That second is doomed to death by change which never stops.

But the primary sense of culture (if one has it, Russian culture does not, Nazi culture did not, etc), which what we call the West is concerned with, the identification and pursuit of what is Good, Beautiful and True, does not need to end (cannot?)... though it can be abandoned.

The second sense of the Greek and Roman cultures, died with them. The Greeks attended the plays that Aristotle's favorite playwrite, Sophocles, and his fellows wrote, as demonstrations of religious piety - that culture died a couple thousand years ago, and it ain't coming back, no matter the spiders.

But the first sense, which in varying degrees of success, Homer, Sophocles & Aristotle exemplified, as did (do?) the Jews & Christians, that can survive in the words that are passed down in their stories, philosophies and plays, and be rediscovered - that sense of culture can be resurrected by any person or people who stumble upon them, today, or a thousand years from now.

11/09/2012 06:09:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of crazy notions (and as an aside, I too would recommend Canticle, it occurs to me just now that the narrative of our culture in recent decades has been that of the Fall all over again. What I m ean is, one of the greatest shifts has been in the domain of What Woman Wants, and this time around it was the knowledge of living like a man. It may be that until such time that Woman again gives a wholehearted Yes to being feminine (and not just embracing Girl Power!) that things will truly turn around...

11/09/2012 06:23:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

"But the primary sense of culture (if one has it, Russian culture does not, Nazi culture did not, etc), which what we call the West is concerned with, the identification and pursuit of what is Good, Beautiful and True, does not need to end (cannot?)... though it can be abandoned.

Yes! This is it exactly.

So the question I am asking is how to best conserve the work of thousands of years of investigation into the Good, the True and the Beautiful.

Admittedly, I am still unclear as to what exactly I am asking...

11/09/2012 07:07:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Julie, I happened to think that what you say about the Fall is a brilliant observation.
And sonofagun, if it ain't the fall at this very time that it is revealed.

11/09/2012 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

I guess I'm being the skunk at the garden party but I'm not convinced the saving of Western Culture is all it's cracked up to be, because Western Culture itself isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Yes - beauty and truth and love are the things that make us human, but it seems to me those are not culturally nurtured and maintained, but rather they are spiritually nurtured and maintained, and Western Culture doesn't have a monopoly on spiritual truth.

As a man grown up in Western Culture, I appreciate the masterful works of Western man, but I also acknowledge the inevitable final acts of our culture as they play out before us.

Hey - if we can squeeze out a few more generations of the American experiement - great, I'm all for it. But unless there is a great spiritual awakening across our country - the handwriting is indelibly written upon the wall.

11/09/2012 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

"the handwriting is indelibly written upon the wall."

I might be misunderstanding your point when you say "saving", but if we get rid of the record of cultures gone bad, no one will know what even that phrase means anymore. I think.

11/09/2012 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Ebony Raptor said "those are not culturally nurtured and maintained, but rather they are spiritually nurtured and maintained, and Western Culture doesn't have a monopoly on spiritual truth."

Do you suppose that spiritual truth can be nurtured and maintained outside of a culture? If so, do you have any examples? If not, can you think of a culture that has resulted in a greater development of, nurturing of, and maintenance of, the spirit?

" but I also acknowledge the inevitable final acts of our culture as they play out before us."

Likely and inevitable are two very different things.

"But unless there is a great spiritual awakening across our country"

There will be nothing of the sort, outside of chaotic Whirling Derbishes, without the rediscovering the best system developed to date, for enabling a mind to determine what is important, and focusing on it.

Of course Western Culture cannot stand separate from its spirit... but such a thing is not a product of the aims of Western Culture, only of its errors, and no system, culture or spirituality, is or ever will be, immune to error.

And only one has found a way of correcting such internal errors, and that'd be Western Culture.

11/09/2012 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Western Culture - the worst culture Evah!!!... except for all of the others.

11/09/2012 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

On the other hand, I won't lose any sleep if rap music doesn't make it into the time capsule.

11/09/2012 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Wow - lot's-o-responseseses needed.

Let me start from whence I start, and that is I do not believe we will enter a dark age where truth must be preserved by hiding it from the evil eye. And the reason I believe that is the information age has saturated the earth. I don't believe monasterial hiding places are necessary at this point in human history. The volumes of truth will hide quite nicely between the volumes of fiction.

Maybe I'm naive - quite possible.

Cultures? I'm quite in agreement that Western Culture has marked the pinnacle in human history but it has inevitably led us away from spiritual truth as the pendulum of human endeavor always swings too far. I can't conceive of anything better to take it's place but I'm limitted. I also think other cultures can and have had beauty, truth and love, albeit not with the socio-economic heights that Western Culture has enjoyed.

Ultimately, I believe the people of a small underground Christian church in China have as much claim on beauty, truth and love as I do freely walking into my church here in my homeland. Do the persecuted Christians of China have a culture? I would argue they do and they see beauty in things we don't see, and they know truth juxtaposed with lies we have never heard, and I would argue that in their persecution they may feel God's love deeper than we do.

I don't mean to sermonize and I didn't intent to throw Western Culture under the bus any more that any other culture should be thrown under the bus. Just that Western Culture isn't necessary for what is the most important thing - as Bob might term it - the verticle life.

11/09/2012 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

oops - I wish I know how to edit my posts as my slow fingers have difficulty keeping up with the flood of thoughts and egregious spelling is the result.

11/09/2012 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

"Let me start from whence I start, and that is I do not believe we will enter a dark age where truth must be preserved by hiding it from the evil eye. And the reason I believe that is the information age has saturated the earth.

This is a very good point. I do think that the internet can and very likely will provide a way of protecting the great books, works of art etc of Western Civilization. Or any other civilization for that matter.

Yet if the following chain of inferences hold true then it may not be enough:

A diminished/bankrupt America -> Global political chaos -> rogue nuclear states e.g. Iran + sub-replacement birthrates + deranged ideologies e.g. islamism = a potential planetary catastrophe.

I admit these are far from given and give the United States far too much credit for keeping the peace. A Pax Sinica may very well prove sufficient. Yet I do think these inferences are at least plausible, even if they turn out to be far-fetched.

My point is that there may not BE a internet if any of this comes to pass. Though who knows the "dark age" we all seem to agree is on its way may very well include a full suite of cable and internet service. Stranger things have happened.

None of this requires any disparagement of non-Western Civilizations. I am simply more concerned with someone saving--if it even needs saving--the great works of Western Civilization. Though I would agree with Van that Western Civ is the worst, except for all the others.

Granted, all of this I am saying might very well be outright, bat guano madness and more a symptom of experiencing a major, but not necessarily apocalyptic, loss in the recent election than any real imminent danger.

Just working through the options here.

11/09/2012 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger ZZMike said...

That's a great twist to the "lobotomy" saying. And it is surely the Truth. We all of us have a battle in front of us. As of today, the outcome is uncertain. Right may be on our side, but might is on theirs.

They have managed to have lobotomized about half the population, who would now rather have stuff than freedom, liberty, or dignity.

Spiritual truths have been replaced by the Religion of Free Stuff. Eventually, though, the supply of Free Stuff, and the people who have to produce and pay for it, is going to run out. Then the torches and pitchforks come out, and Dark Ages reign.

That may explain the popularity of "apocalypse" novels, movies, and TV serials is getting to be popular - we're starting to see the future. It may be a case of subconscious pre-planning.

Jack: "Part of that is to pass the tradition on from person to person."

That's one of the main functions of the Family. And since the Left has been working diligently for some decades to break that institution, culture and tradition don't get passed on - not nearly as much as they used to be.

11/09/2012 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Ebony Raptor, I hope you don't feel like I'm Hectoring (ahem) you here, I enjoy and find great value in your comments; I'm just pointing out what I think is in error, and if you can show me that the error is mine, fantastic.

"I do not believe we will enter a dark age where truth must be preserved by hiding it from the evil eye."

While I certainly understand the emotional response from people, that what we value feels like it's coming to an end, no, I don't think there is likely going to be any need for that either.

"And the reason I believe that is the information age has saturated the earth."

Well... while I don't see it as anything remotely approaching a likely possibility, still... to go all total survivalist mode on you, there is the conceivability of Greenie-Meenie-Mania going wild, and with an infusion of Luditeism, and/or a lack of ability to provide the energy for server farms to be run, the electronic age would be reduced to a worldwide collection of expensive paperweights.

I don't think that likely, at all, still, if we're positing the possibility of prospering after the demise of a culture, those are the types of scenarios that are equally worthy of consideration.

"...Western Culture has marked the pinnacle in human history but it has inevitably led us away from spiritual truth as the pendulum of human endeavor always swings too far...."

All human endeavors, cultures, etc, will at some point err and lead people astray and into darkness, it is almost pointless to consider humanity ever achieving anything other than that. The more interesting and relevant question is, what cultures have ever led people towards the Good, the Beautiful and the True... and the spiritual. None has done so more effectively than the West.

(break)

11/09/2012 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

(cont.)
"I also think other cultures can and have had beauty, truth and love, albeit not with the socio-economic heights that Western Culture has enjoyed."

China has come tantalizingly close to making many of the same discoveries that the West has, in everything from Philosophy (Confucius, Lao-Tze, etc), to the Free Market (I can't think of the emperor they practiced something nearly interchangeable with Bastiat, but it only lasted about 50 yrs and vanished without a trace), or the scope of Rome (in many ways they surpassed them), but something has always left them at 'almost'... I wonder why? Korea and Japan likewise but less so, neither, and no other, has come to value the individual, and I'd argue that true spirituality cannot develop without that.

"Ultimately, I believe the people of a small underground Christian church in China have as much claim on beauty, truth and love as I do freely walking into my church here in my homeland."

Hmmm... well a couple things here.

1st, the West is THE only culture I'm aware of that is not racially based. If you ask a traditional philosophers of China, Japan, India, etc, to describe their culture, it is unimaginable to them that such a thing could have been imagined without their being populated by Chinese, Japanese, Indian, etc. Whereas the Greeks, those notoriously xenophobic (as they are portrayed today), purveyors of barbarism onto the rest of humanity, considered very early on, that, something to the effect of (going on memory here) 'Hellenes were less a distinction of blood than those who share our ideals; those who believe as we do, Are Hellenes'. True, they pretty much presumed that no other people DID share their ideas, but that was more an empirically based observation, than prejudicialy presumed.

2nd, you must be aware that were there no Greeks, there would be no Christians? What language were the first gospels written it? What did Paul write in? What was the dominant culture that Jesus's Jerusalem suffused in? What language did most ROMANS speak? It wasn't Latin, and it wasn't Hebraic. The forms and arguments of Christianity are inseparable from Greco/Roman culture. Period.

" I would argue they do and they see beauty in things we don't see..."

Separately from their Greco/Roman-Judeo/Christian roots? Doubtful. Highly doubtful. At least not any more so than the Egyptians and Babylonians knew anything of Mathematics. They did not. True, they discovered the mechanics and operations of geometrical calculations millennia before Pythagoras, but they did not have the conceptual, theoretical understanding of them, it was simply 'this thing needs to be stretched that far to hold that much', they had No conception of mathematical ideas - that came from the Greeks, and barring that way of looking at the world, of seeing more to the world than the perceptual, there would be No being 'born from above'.

"Just that Western Culture isn't necessary for what is the most important thing - as Bob might term it - the verticle life. "

Again, as above, I find that extremely unlikely to be true. And also again, find me the culture, prior to the influence of Greco/Roman culture, that would even write the sentence you just did? The Indians I think come closest to the possibility of framing an idea in that way, but again fall short. The fruits of the West are simply not born, without its trunk and branches and leaves.

11/09/2012 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Jack said "Though who knows the "dark age" we all seem to agree is on its way may very well include a full suite of cable and internet service."

Very true. A new Dark Age does not require a dearth of technology... in fact (consulting my Sci-Fi mind), in some ways, technology could be used to promote such a thing, ala 'Brave New World", etc.

11/09/2012 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

"That may explain the popularity of "apocalypse" novels, movies, and TV serials is getting to be popular - we're starting to see the future. It may be a case of subconscious pre-planning."

Though I have only seen the first season, it strikes that "The Walking Dead" seems to be about how the world will end. A small band of fully human humans being chased down by a planet full of the undead.

I think it is significant that the main character is a police officer. One who puts on his uniform even after all authority has collapsed. It was also a running gag of sorts that he--as well as others--were always going back into danger to get his sheriff's deputy hat.

The Living Law vs. Dead Chaos. Who wins? If my reading is correct it is definitely a, if not the, relevant issue of our time.

11/09/2012 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Van-

I agree re: Brave New World. A scenario that appears more plausible than the 1984 version. Though of course they are not mutually exclusive.

That being said, I started thinking about the movie "Brazil" and how, if things actually head south, somebody is going to have to be Harry Tuttle, Heating Engineer.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dht_3NziwSw

11/09/2012 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Ooh. It struck me as I was driving my daughter to a friends, that I conveniently left out the one other culture to strike a tone that harmonized with, and in some ways anticipated and even perfected, the Greco/Roman - the Jews.

There is a quote, I can't search it out at the moment (Moses Maimonides?) who remarked on Cicero's discussion of Natural Law, something to the effect of "Remarkable, this gentile arrived, independently, upon the core ideas of the Torah".

Gotta go again.

11/09/2012 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

"Looking at these great works of western man and remembering all that he has achieved in philosophy, poetry, science, law making...it does seem hard to believe that European Civilization can ever vanish. And yet, you know, it has happened once. All the life-giving human activities that we lump together under the word Civilization have been obliterated once in Western Europe. For two centuries the heart of European Civilization stopped beating.

We got through by the skin of our teeth. In the last few years we have developed an uneasy feeling that this could happen again. And advanced thinkers, who, even in Roman times, thought it fine to gang up with the Barbarians, have begun to question if civilization is worth preserving. This is why it seemed a good moment to look at some of the ways in which man, over the last 900 years, has shown himself to be an intelligent, creative and compassionate animal. I don't think that civilization will disappear as long as we believe in it. But it will if we don't"

-from Kenneth Clark's notes for the documentary "Civilization", July 24, 1968

11/09/2012 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Jack - following the conversation on both pages, that is an excellent point as well. One other thing occurred to me, apropos Van's point about the Jews, is that if the worst possible case should happen, and all of the written knowledge of Western Civ. should crumble into dust and empty electrons, so long as man is man and a remnant exists, there will still exist an oral tradition. If I'm not mistaken, that has historically been the norm. Considering that the New World was conquered and tamed by people who usually had, at most, a Bible plus a couple of other books to accompany them into the wilderness, I don't think the spoken tradition should be written off, even if we don't use it much these days.

Further, taking a very long view, if I have learned nothing else I've learned to be patient, and trust that if we allow it, O's will can and will be done. They meant it for evil, but He means it for good...

The details will work themselves out, and what will be, will be. It is still all of it miraculous.

11/09/2012 06:59:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Julie said " if the worst possible case should happen, and all of the written knowledge of Western Civ. should crumble into dust and empty electrons, so long as man is man and a remnant exists, there will still exist an oral tradition. If I'm not mistaken, that has historically been the norm."

Yep. And there's one other distinction that the Greeks hold, they are the only people in all of (known) history known to have once attained literacy - and then lost it.

There was a long, deep, dark ages, from something like 1,200 B.C. to 750 B.C. which Homer & Hesiod signaled a coming out of, and his telling of the Iliad, later written down after the rediscovery of writing, and the other myths, are all that survived it.

But as I said, I think yesterday, the daily doings & habits of a culture are doomed to die away by unstoppable change.

But the undying heart, assuming a culture attains it (and alarmingly few have swerved enough from preserving power, to even attempt it), the quest for Truth, that never dies, and it is what can be resurrected through the logos, what was worthwhile in that culture, which is what we have of Greece and Rome and even of the Renaissance, today (and our Founders era). The general sense and tastes of those cultures, those are lost to us.

But what animated them, that is what can be tapped into today, and tomorrow, as long as the something of it survives. It strains imagination to imagine, what with all the Bibles that have been printed over the last 500 years, that none would survive, let alone the reams of others, such as the several variations on sets of 'Great Books' that I have.

But even if they did, if everything completely vanished, so long as people and reality remain, so does Geometry wait (and so logic), and of course human nature does as well, and with careful attention to that, it is a bread trail that cannot be swept away, one that people as varied as Abraham & Cicero can locate and follow, so long as they seek it.

11/09/2012 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, thanks Van - I think that's where I was headed with my last comment on today's post :)

11/09/2012 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Julie-

I believe you said you had read, "A Canticle for Leibowitz". The book is unlike anything I have ever read and has definitely captured my imagination. That should be no surprise given my thoughts on how to respond to the possibility of an incipient dark age.

Perhaps the book influenced me beyond what good sense--never mind that of having any concrete evidence one way or another-- might recommend. The romance of the idea of an "Order of St. Leibowitz" is one, I must admit, I find very alluring.

The seeming inevitability(?) of the Fall repeating itself through cycles of history is one that makes intuitive sense to me. Of course, that doesn't necessarily make it so.

11/09/2012 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, it does have an allure. And of course, there is a danger in believing too much in the lasting nature of books and especially the internet; it treads dangerously close to being hubris, I know. The very fact that people worry about it and try to prepare will help to keep all from being lost. It's not a pointless concern.

As to the Fall, I think it repeats itself on both the large scale and within the individual, over and over again. If it didn't, there'd be no point in the rituals of confession and Communion; having been done once, they'd never need to be repeated.

11/09/2012 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Van Harvey - first know that I don't feel hectored so please be unguarded in your comments to me. I enjoy the OneCosmos comments section almost as much as Bob's posts. There's a good group of people here and I'm happy to be accepted.

I think I need to clarify something that may go a long way to explaining my earlier comments. To me, Christianity and Western Culture are two distinct things. It is Christianity that brings the light of beauty, truth and love and the Word has taken root in all corners of the world - not just in the west.

Yes the Greek culture paved the way for Christianity to spread, but I attribute that more to good timing by God, much in the same way the Protestant Reformation happened to occur right about the time the printing press was invented. For all the virtues of Greek culture, it was ultimately a polytheistic celebration of man which would never lead to the source of beauty, truth and love. It was a human endeavor bound to fall short.

I'm afraid I'm getting too wordy - a fault of mine. Let me conclude by admitting I may be selling Western Culture short and there is certainly nothing wrong with trying to save what is good about our culture. I agree with Rick - I won't be disappointed if rap music doesn't make the time capsule.

11/09/2012 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Julie-

Yes, I agree. There is a vanity
to it.

11/09/2012 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Trick question!
Rap is not music.
Gotcha.

Another thing,
there will never be another David, or Pieta or The Starry Night. There might only be things like them.
Or,
Perhaps the final creation will be a negative image of a single hand print. Paint spit on a cave wall from the last man's lips. Who says you can't go womb again.

I'm going with the first one and save what can be saved just in case. Action items: we're gonna need to find a big time capsule for David. And by "we" I mean you, Van.

11/09/2012 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Rick, sorry, I didn't mean to ignore your posts - it's been a grandchildren night at the ER house tonight and total focus on this is not possible.

Rick said "I might be misunderstanding your point when you say "saving", but if we get rid of the record of cultures gone bad, no one will know what even that phrase means anymore. I think"

Good point - I agree. I think I overstated my case a bit. I didn't intend that we lose history - just that culture is less important than the source of beauty, truth and love.

11/09/2012 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Ebony Raptor said "To me, Christianity and Western Culture are two distinct things." Yeah, I know, but obviously I fundamentally disagree. I do not think the one could have occurred without the other, and of course, in fact, one did not occur without the other.

"and the Word has taken root in all corners of the world - not just in the west." It has taken root in all corners of the world, as it as traveled from the West. It has appeared, and can appear, nowhere, without having come from, and deeply imprinted with its origin, IN the West, and it seems revisionistic to imagine otherwise.

"For all the virtues of Greek culture, it was ultimately a polytheistic celebration of man which would never lead to the source of beauty, truth and love." I don't have a rose colored glasses view of the Greeks (well... maybe just a touch), but neither do I make the mistake of measuring them by our standards. Theirs were the first steps form out of the darkness and towards the light, and they lose no status by not having reached the standards that we could not have reached without them.

I think the later portion "would never lead to the source of" is discredited by the fact that it in fact did lead to just that, in the end.

See Aquinas for reference.

"It was a human endeavor bound to fall short." Heh, name me the human endeavor that does not fall short by virtue of being a human endeavor? Church included.

"... happened to occur right about the time the printing press ..." I think very few things of real moment 'happen' to occur, one thing very much leads to another, and a deeply intertwined mesh of 'anothers', and without which, would not have.

"I won't be disappointed if rap music doesn't make the time capsule. " Agreement!!! LOL.

11/09/2012 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

ER,
You're ignoring my posts!?
How dare you...

Let me be perfectly clear!
If I catch anyone ignoring my posts,
I probably deserve it.

Anywayz, I speak for myself at least that we're thinking out loud here in the midst of the after-shocks. Or the thoughts, when they arrive ARE the aftershocks, as we think-throw the future shocks.

11/10/2012 06:18:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

So when I think I'm thinking about "saving" western culture, I don't think I'm thinking I was claiming we should try to restore it. I might also be thinking that, but not primarily.
I mean to save the beautiful results of it, and even the stuff we got wrong. As sign posts, maybe. So a really scratched-up CD of rap music should go in the capsule. But not the whole collection. Not necessary. And even (gulp) "Piss Christ" (that is not easy to even type). But you know, the Bible doesn't leave anything out. Things beyond unpleasant are "kept in". For very good reasons. As in, "abandon all hope, all who enter here".

11/10/2012 06:27:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

It may also not be necessary to include the copy of the New York Times issue with the headline: LINCOLN ASSASSINATED, because that truth of human nature (which never stops happening) is already covered in the Bible somewhere.

11/10/2012 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Here's another aftershock I experienced late last night. I was actually repelled from reading it as I was going through the comments section. If I'd have stayed any longer, I might have vomited it out.
Vomit what out?

The last paragraph is litter-rally amazing. The author thinks he's a journalist (a brilliant mind who sees things others can't)

Sorry, Conservatives, De Tocqueville Did Not Call the 2012 Election

11/10/2012 06:39:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

A clip from it:

"They're pretty sure it was one of those old prophetic white guys. You know, the ones with the wigs and the quill pens. Never mind which one, they're basically interchangeable.

Back in the real world—a world where voters aren't looting the Fed and proper attribution matters—none of the men cited above wrote these words."

Maybe it's a parody.

11/10/2012 06:45:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead – often not recognizing full what they were doing – was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. if my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached the turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another – doubtless very different – St Benedict.

-Alasdair Macintyre, "After Virtue" 1981.

11/10/2012 06:54:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Rick, Cripes that was bad. The takeaway: some old white guy didn't say it, so it can't be true. Now let's get back to sticking it to the rich bastards who don't want to give the government our fair share!

11/10/2012 07:08:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Jack, that's a good one to ponder. Thanks.

11/10/2012 07:09:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Don Colacho: "Civilization is what old men manage to salvage from the onslaught of young idealists."

And "We reactionaries provide idiots with the pleasure of feeling like daring avant-garde thinkers."

11/10/2012 07:38:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"I'm not some conjurer of cheap tricks!!!
I'm trying to help you.
You jackass."
~Gandalf the Gray

I might have added that last part.

11/10/2012 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

The more I think about it, the author of that article sees plenty. Everything south of wrong. To know nothing would be better.

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

That broken clock is wrong twice a day.

11/10/2012 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Van Harvey - Yes, the Greeks paved the way for Jesus' arrival and yes, the West spread the Word to the coners of the world - but those things are now accomplished - and Hallelujah! I believe where the Word has been planted it will bear good fruit - regardless the culture.

I don't think of it as fatalistic, but if humankind is headed for a new (dark) age, it will be the Word of God that will sustain beauty, truth and love, even if only among the remnant. All human culture is a secondary thing.

I may have too simplistic thinking - unable to grasp the deeper meanings of things like cultural effect, but I offer this self defense - I truly believe God is in His heaven and His will be done. I don't mean that in a sanctimonious way - more like the faith of an ignorant child.

So I guess to beat my dead horse a little more - even if the extreme happens and all memory of Western Culture is forgotten, I trust that God will use another device for His purposes and history will unfold as it should - not in a predetermined way, as we would define predetermined - but in His will. And I believe that is the most important thing - more important than any and all human contributions made along the path of history.

11/10/2012 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Ebony Raptor - I can live with that.

11/10/2012 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Me too.

11/10/2012 11:05:00 AM  

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