Militarizing the Space of Imagination
Well, the friend was eventually busted by store security and fired for smoking pot on the graveyard shift. This led to a few seconds of panic about how he would pay the rent, before it dawned on him that he could convert our condo into a pot farm. After all, it was just the two of us in a three bedroom condo, so there was that unused room.
So he bought a couple of tarps, obtained some 20 gallon containers and potting soil from the nursery, and got down to business. Oh, and he also purchased a 1000 watt bulb that he dangled from the ceiling and left on 24/7. Quite effective though, because in a matter of weeks it was a jungle in there.
Problem was, when the sun went down, it looked as if it had slipped into our condo, or maybe like we were hiding a nuclear reactor: our hothouse was also a lighthouse. So he threw a heavy blanket over the curtain rod, but even so, it still gave off an eery glow around the edges.
In addition to the glow, our little plantation gave off a distinct smell. The window was always open, so you couldn't miss it if you were in the vicinity. What was I thinking, living with this lawless Johnny Addleseed? Like I said, "carefree." In other words, I made up for in recklessness what I lacked in judgment.
I still remember when we received our first post-Midnight Sun electricity bill. I don't recall the exact figures, but in one month it went from something like $20 to $200. Nor did I know that this is one of the ways The Man can tell when someone is up to no good. But somehow we survived scrutiny, and not too long thereafter I moved out, because Port Hueneme was too long a drive to Pepperdine, where I had enrolled in grad school.
But none of this matters now. Or ever, really. I was just warming up my fingers. What really matters is some of the insights my schwaggrarian friend derived from being stoned around the clock. I should add that I no longer even partoke by that time. Among other things, thanks to ingenious sons of the soil, the THC content had become exponentially more concentrated over the years, to the point that it had become a major league mind-altering substance. I can only imagine what's happened since then.
One of my friend's oracular cannabis-fueled insights was that soon No One Would Know How To Do Anything. In other words -- and this was in the technologically paleolithic early '80s -- the complexity of society was growing beyond the means of people to keep up with it. More and more people were attending college, but they weren't really learning anything useful, i.e., the kind of practical knowledge needed to keep the whole shithouse from going up in flames or collapsing in on itself.
Well, first of all: can I buy some pot from you?
Secondly, is there any truth to this? There is an adage to the effect that every institution or program begins with some lofty or practical goal, but that the goal is eventually displaced by self-preservation and self-interest. We see this most vividly in the government and in education, where the Prime Directive is simply to increase in size, power, and influence. Any worthy goals -- e.g., helping children grow in wisdom and virtue -- are lost in the sentimental mists of once good intentions. As we have heard it said, the left is the Good Intentions Paving Company. And yet, their roads always somehow lead to hell. Ironic.
Believe it or not, I still haven't gotten to the main point. Don't you hate it when writers waste your time like this? My point is this: forget about the loss of practical knowhow and the flood of useless people with pointless college degrees in queer theory, feminist studies, climate *science*, political *science* (our worthless Dear Leader's major), leisure and recreation, Afro-American self-soothing delusions, and all the rest. The real problems lay in the metaphysical imagination, such that our culture has severed itself at its own roots. But like topping a dead marijuana plant, you can only do that for so long before you run out of leaves.
Analogously, imagine if people had thrown out all science prior to, say, 1960, in the desire to reinvent it from the ground up. Insane, right? But why is it any different to do this with tradition, which is precisely what the left has succeeded in doing over the past half-century? We have dropped the Object, the point and purpose of it all.
Borrowing Ken Wilber's four-quadrant map of human reality, there are the interior and exterior collectives, and the interior and exterior individual. Science is the spontaneous order produced by the exterior collective, i.e., a map of the exterior world. Culture, on the other hand, is a collective map of the human interior, and includes religion, art, manners, morals, etc.
Since the 1960s the exterior collective -- science and technology -- has proceeded apace, and yet, we've made no concomitant progress in moral excellence, let alone wisdom. Indeed, we have witnessed an obvious collective regression in those areas, and one of the main reasons for this is the soul-amputation that occurred then the left decided to throw out the collective wisdom of mankind and to use the power of the state to remake man from the ground up. You could say that the left is a movement that has forgotten more truth than it will ever relearn in this life.
As mentioned in a comment yesterday, there is an interesting article by Adam Bellow in the July 7 National Review, called Let Your Right Brain Run Free: Why Conservative Fiction is the Next Front in the Culture War. While I agree with the first part of the title, I reject the second. (His website is here.)
That is, "conservative fiction" per se will never be a front in the culture war; rather, as always, the front of the war is located where fiction -- or anything else -- conserves, extends, and converges upon truth, beauty, wisdom, virtue, etc. It is a truism that these things are always "conservative," because they are what we wish to conserve, precisely. We are under no similar imperative to conserve falsehood, ugliness, stupidity, barbarism, etc.
Being that the left controls the culture, conservatives are by definition the "counter culture." Except that the left has so debased the culture that it is more accurate to say that they are the reactionary anti-culture, whereas we simply stand for culture. I think this is where Bellow errs, because cultural excellence and conservatism are simply two sides of the same coin. There need be no specific content -- let alone political content -- to the excellence. Rather, the attainment of timeless excellence alone is more than enough to be worthy of conservation.
The left, by tossing out or devaluing historical excellence, has succeeded in undermining conservatism at the root -- the root of imagination. And we won't recover that root by writing new novels with conservative themes, although that won't hurt, so long as these works stand on their own as examples of excellence. But you will inevitably become conservative if you familiarize yourself with, as Matthew Arnold put it, "the best which has been thought and said in the world."
The Marxist idea is that if you control language, you control reality; and that he who controls the present controls the past, and therefore future.
But the present is always an imaginative engagement with reality; it can be profound or shallow; it can be ahistorical or extend into deep history and beyond the horizon of myth; it can be an isolated point or an endless line that unites us in community with the dead and unborn. It all depends upon the size and scope, the depth and luminosity, of the Imagination.