Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Testing the Limits of Nonsense

A few weeks before being thrown out of college, I noticed that one of my professors didn't seem to read our class- or homework assignments. One day I decided to test the theory, writing a bunch of nonsense and turning it in. The theory was confirmed and the science settled: sense and nonsense were of equivalent value in this little oasis from reality.

Which, if there's no truth, actually makes sense. However, this was back when I was a business major, before I discovered my gift of being preternaturally ill-equipped to handle my business. In other words, I flunked out. One day I just stopped going. (This would have been in the second semester of my junior year.)

In the business world, unlike the academic world, a BA in BS will only get you so far. In academia, so long as one operates outside the STEM -- science, technology, engineering, and mathematics -- one's ideas need never come into contact with reality. One may relax in the comfort and safety of one's own delusions, even -- or especially -- at the taxpayers' expense.

Speaking of which, there are some harrowing -- but scandalously typical -- tales of academic malfeasance in this eye-opening book on how racial preferences harm their intended beneficiaries. Whatever you think about the anti-science academic left, it's even worse than you think. (Non-STEM) academia is a cancer on truth.

Anyway, I have so few commenters these days, I was wondering if I could just crank out a bunch of nonsense to see if anyone's paying attention? I've dropped out before. Don't think I won't do it again!

"Science," according to Schuon, "is the experience of that which we do see, or at least of that whereof we can have an [at least hypothetically] empirical knowledge." I love science, but science can only take us so far -- really, to the edge of the senses. Everything beyond the senses is up for grabs, except you can't grab it with your hands or any other sense organ. We can grasp it, of course, but with what exactly?

Faith, in contrast to science, is a conscious relationship with and "acceptance of that which we do not see, or rather, of that which transcends the experience of the average man."

Yesterday evening I had one of those long theological hot-tub discussions with my newly minted nine year-old. Here he is sitting in the light on his birthday last Sunday:

He was asking me some really difficult questions, more difficult than you get from the typical adult, and harder to answer in a straight-forward way, with no evasions, dissembling, special pleading, or deepaking the chopra.

He's very much preoccupied with the existence of evil, and why God allows it to persist. In particular, he loves animals, and is quite concerned with animal suffering (I don't even have the heart to tell him what chicken McNuggets are made of).

(I might add that he was tired, and when he's tired he starts to dis-integrate, so a lot of affect-laden stuff which is absent during the day bubbles to the surface. He's normally quite cheerful, but is subject to troubling questions when exhausted.)

In the end, the best I could do is to say that both theism and atheism engender puzzles, but that theism is by far the more satisfactory view, since atheism explains nothing. Of the two theories, there is simply no comparison in their explanatory power, despite the admitted conundrums of religion. Stick with it, I advised. It will make more sense as you continue to "live it" as opposed to merely thinking it.

Also, I told him that he needs to narrow his focus a little, and consider the concrete reality of his life as opposed to the nonlocal abstractions of "suffering" or "evil." He has precisely no direct experience of these, so it's good that he thinks about them, but one cannot do so in a disproportionate manner. Nor can you save the world except one assoul at a time, beginning with oneself. Much if not most of the evil in the world is caused by assouls who presume to save everyone else, Obama being one more nauseating example.

Speaking of whom, it occurred to me that this malevolent being makes no apologies for undercutting our most basic values, i.e., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness -- not abstractly or theoretically, but concretely and intimately, all the while pretending that he is promoting these same values.

How, you ask? Let's take Obamacare. This monstrosity was promoted with the explicit promises that it would preserve our liberty -- "if you like your doctor/plan, you can keep your doctor/plan"; advance the Pursuit of Happiness (AKA property) -- a savings of $2,500 a year and a general reduction in healthcare costs; and allow Life to flourish -- more people covered, and with better care for all.

In reality, we quite obviously have (or will have) far less freedom, wealth, and health. Now, wouldn't you feel bad if this were the signature accomplishment of your whole worthless life? You know how you think back on something embarrassing in your life, and you inwardly cringe? If I were Obama, I'd never be able to stop cringing. So, how does he do it? How does one miss out on the cringe gene?

Since man existed for 100,000 or so years before this thing called "modernity," I wonder if we aren't really adapted to modernity, or whether the old adaptations persists under the surface? Actually, I don't wonder about it. I'm sure of it. Much of the attraction to religion is due to the fact that religion is proportioned to human beings and human experience, whereas science deals with abstract worlds that no one can or ever will directly experience.

This does not mean that scientific knowledge itself is somehow "bad." It only becomes so when we attempt to superimpose it on man, or attempt to force man to conform to it, because the person always escapes its reach. Thus, Schuon writes that

"many forms of knowledge can be harmful in practice as soon as they cease to correspond to the hereditary experience of man and are imposed on him without his being spiritually prepared to receive them; the human soul finds difficulty in coping with facts that are not offered to its experience in the ordinary course of nature" (emphasis mine).

Thus, for example, man has never before lived without God, so it is truly a radical experiment to try to determine if this is possible on a widespread scale, or whether human happiness and flourishing are possible in his absence. Could be. But I seriously doubt it.

It reminds me of something in Vanderleun's snidebar describing all these pathetic old feminists who were "the first to abandon the way of life of their mothers, which meant they pursued careers, married and had children late, had affairs then got divorced, all in the name of liberation, are now imprisoned in debt, alcohol abuse and loneliness, wishing they could die, and do it soon."

So, how's that non-conformity to divine-human reality working out?

28 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

He's normally quite cheerful, but is subject to troubling questions when exhausted

I wish I had noticed that about myself much, much sooner.

4/22/2014 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Doing what is right in one's own eyes has a bit of history. I can even admire some of the people who manage to remain defiant to the bitter end. Most, though, just lack sufficient intelligence or imagination to see the harvest until the sickle has passed.

4/22/2014 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Hey Bob. Thanks for takin' my call. Every-day reader, not-as-often-commenter... you said:

"I wonder if we aren't really adapted to modernity, or whether the old adaptations persists under the surface? Actually, I don't wonder about it. I'm sure of it."

I thought that's what was meant by "...nothing new under the sun."
A comment on human nature.

4/22/2014 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

I've dropped out before. Don't think I won't do it again!

Don't you dare!

"If I only succeed in winning one good student, I will die happy." --Anonymous

4/22/2014 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

(I don't even have the heart to tell him what chicken McNuggets are made of).

I wouldn't worry about those. I'm pretty sure they are grown in a vat of engineered bacteria.

Now the Mountain Gorilla McNuggets, those pose an ethical problem.

4/22/2014 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Anyway, I have so few commenters these days, I was wondering if I could just crank out a bunch of nonsense to see if anyone's paying attention. I've dropped out before. Don't think I won't do it again!

We may be few, but being self-selected we generally are paying attention...

4/22/2014 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Kurt said...

Boy, that is the best advice to your son - know how YOU are really feeling, have some idea as to your true internal condition as you make choices in your life. It's back to Schuon's interiorized man vs. the exteriorized one. That, I think, is the root of the problem in our society: so few folks seem to have a genuine interior life. They live completely externally with other people telling them how to think, feel, act, dress, speak, etc. How do you get folks to tune out and drop into themselves, into that vast interior landscape? It is a mystery...And I read your blog everyday, Bob.

Kurt

4/22/2014 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"I've dropped out before. Don't think I won't do it again!"

Oh yeah? Well as of this moment, you and your entire Cosmos are now on double-secret probation!

You mess with the cow, you get the udders.

4/22/2014 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger DrG said...

I appreciated the point you made about personal impact. Societal factors influence, but redemption, meeting and changing a soul, is person to person.

I have read your blog everyday for months.

4/22/2014 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Hi Kurt, I agree with your point that so few folks seem to have a genuine interior life. But that may not be sufficient. Many Buddhist friends of mine have a strong interior life and practice, but still resonate with postmodern leftist values. Seems like critical reasoning needs to be there too.

4/22/2014 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger JWM said...

Hey, still here after all these posts- Just lurkin'. What super toy does the young'n have there?

JWM

4/22/2014 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Just a 691 piece Lego Ninjago MechDragon with spinning saw blades, ground attack and glider modes, and a missile launcher.

4/22/2014 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I remember my 9th birthday. Got a Vroom bicycle.

4/22/2014 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Bet you were a girl magnet with those wheels! :)

4/22/2014 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yeah, pretty much like this. The Wild One.

4/22/2014 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

In reality, we quite obviously have (or will have) far less freedom, wealth, and health. Now, wouldn't you feel bad if this were the signature accomplishment of your whole worthless life? You know how you think back on something embarrassing in your life, and you inwardly cringe? If I were Obama, I'd never be able to stop cringing. So, how does he do it? How does one miss out on the cringe gene?"

By ignoring the cringe gene and focusing on his singe gene...in his mom jeans.

4/22/2014 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Thucydides Jr. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/22/2014 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger Kurt said...

Ted, thanks for your thoughts. An excellent point which leads to the proposition that the spiritual path is best walked within the triple field of a personal interior life, an established religious tradition or perspective and an openness to Grace. Sounds like your Buddhist friends may be missing out on Grace, without which the whole exercise is pretty much pointless...

4/22/2014 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger Hale Adams said...

I second Ted's motion about you dropping out:

"Don't you dare!"

Hale Adams
Pikesville, People's Democratic Republic of Maryland

Every-day reader, very occasional commenter.

4/22/2014 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Peyton said...

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

4/22/2014 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

There's a Wiki on that passage, and here's the expanded translation of the usual page filler quote:

"Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?"

4/22/2014 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

One day I just stopped going.

Am I the only one who thought of Office Space at this point?

4/22/2014 06:40:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Also, he's Nine? How did that happen?

Time is a slippery bastard.

4/22/2014 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Peyton said...

Julie, wikipedia is where I got it! No original research here!

4/22/2014 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger Christina M said...

To pay for university, I worked three part-time jobs, one of which was working in my own tiny dental lab in my parent's garage, prepping and finishing study models for an orthodontist.

The professor for my university technical writing class asked us to write a technical paper. To fulfill that assignment, I wrote an instruction manual for the orthodontist on the work I was doing, so that he could hand it on to the person who would come after me. It was about twenty pages with drawings. All the original material was written and drawn by me describing how to do the work I did. The technical writing professor rejected the manual, not because of it's quality, but because it did not include any footnotes. Why should it? I went back, added some fake footnotes, and the professor accepted the assignment.

4/23/2014 07:12:00 AM  
Blogger Christina M said...

P.S. One day I stopped going too.

It's a relief to know I'm not the only one.

4/23/2014 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger Brazentide said...

Anyway, I have so few commenters these days, I was wondering if I could just crank out a bunch of nonsense to see if anyone's paying attention?

Quality over quantity.

"For what does it profit a man to gain MSNBC's audience but lose his mind?"

4/23/2014 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

He's normally quite cheerful, but is subject to troubling questions when exhausted.

Aren't we all? I think that Eve must have had a long day before Satan entertained her mind with new ideas. Lewis paints an image of this as Perelandra's green goddess was assailed daily by the Tempter. It was his relentlessness that was his most powerful weapon. Much like the Left's.

4/23/2014 07:52:00 PM  

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