Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nice Dreams. Wrong Father.

One important point about reality that rationalists overlook is that it is a function of imagination; or, in the absence of the imaginative element, the wider (or deeper) world is foreclosed and one is excluded from the Real.

This thought occurred to me during a walk yesterday evening, around sunset. I don't intend to go all mushy on you, but it was one of those evenings that, to paraphrase Bertie Wooster, almost make a chap feel as if he's got a soul-thingy or something. How to communicate this feeling? Perhaps more importantly, how is it communicated to us in such a direct and unmediated (by discursive ideas) fashion?

I suppose we could communicate it via poetry or painting, or maybe even music, none of which can be reduced to, or contained in, mere instrumental reason.

More generally, man always has two methods at his disposal, the analytic and the synthetic. It is this latter that cannot take place in the absence of imagination -- although it also comes into play in determining what to analyze. But analysis in general is something a computer can handle, whereas putting it all together in a creative synthesis is something only the soul can accomplish.

Now all humans, whether they acknowledge it or not, are on a quest for reintegration. Moore writes of "two modes of thought," one of which corresponding to what he calls "the common mind," the other, "the disintegrative mind."

The skeptic, for example, has a hypertrophied disintegrative mind that is not so much wrong as partial: it simply cannot join together what it has ruthlessly put asunder, neither in space nor in time (i.e., tradition and the priceless wisdom of the Living Dead), since it is mechanical and not organic (or organismic).

If everyone were afflicted with this psychic imbalance, civil society would be quite impossible, because there would be no shared metaphysical dream. Of course, one cannot really abolish metaphysics (or dreaming), so what we would really share is the soul-stifling materialism of the left, a metaphysical nightmare in which the only thing that unites us is the state. But that is not unity -- unity implying diversity -- but a mere unicity or "totalism" that sacrifices individuality for coerced order. You're still living the dream. Just not yours.

"Without the imagination," writes Moore, "man is shut up in himself, in the present time, in the material world, and in his logical processes." Furthermore, without the imagination, he is apt "to shut up others, too, in his clean and tidy prison."

Have you ever been shut up in someone else's clean and tidy prison? If the answer is No, then you haven't been paying attention, and certainly not to your government.

But it actually happens much earlier than that, when the only govern-ment we know is family and school. Both institutions, when they are dysfunctional -- which they usually are -- place great pressure on the individual to unconsciously assimilate a metaphysical dream that strangles the imagination in the crib.

This can be done with "the best of intentions." I know that my parents, for example, had nothing against me per se. They just didn't have a clue as to what I was about. Same with school. My teachers no doubt didn't want me to be bored and unable to see the point of it all.

I am grateful, however, that neither institution forced the issue, which at least left in escrow an unoccupied space, a hidie whole for later development. After all, an empty lot is far preferable to a crater filled with BS, or to an ugly office building. Yeah, my soil was pretty barren, but at least it wasn't overrun with weeds and parasites. Reminds me of a sign I saw on the road to Happy Acres:

Yes, it is true that in school I didn't learn much. Thank God! My idea for educational reform is to confer a Ph.D. on every infant at birth, so one can get on with the serious business of properly unlearning all the stupidities of the tenured.

Above I alluded to the organismic nature of reality. If reality is organismic, it is because it is everywhere latently "alive." In other words, life is not a function of biology, but rather, the converse: biology is a function of Life. If this were not the case, then Life would be strictly impossible.

Moore writes that "rationalism is the imposition of a predetermined, mechanical form of reasoning that does not correspond to the spirit of nature"; it is, in the words of Coleridge, "a blind copying of effects instead of a true imitation of essential principles."

One might say it is an exterior copy as opposed to an interior prehension -- for example, as muzak is to jazz. What distinguishes these two?

One is ALIVE! and life-giving, the other dead and endeadening. The same with the gifted or banal writer: one transmits Life, the other something less. (Image courtesy Rick.)

There are obvious political implications, for example, say, in the distinction between the organically developed common law of Great Britain vs. the philosophical abstractions imposed in the French Revolution (and every revolution since). Revolutions do not lack their imagineers -- far from it -- but their visions are parasitic on their abstractions, as we have seen in Obama.

What is Obamaism but a fantasy of how the world ought to work? Nice dreams. Wrong world. And wrong Father.

The IMAGINATION then, I consider either as primary, or secondary. The primary IMAGINATION I hold to be the living Power and prime agent of all human Perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM...

FANCY, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with but fixities and definites. The Fancy is indeed no other than a mode of Memory emancipated from the order of space and time..."

I was going to end with that, but Moore goes on to explain that Coleridge is speaking of "a way of seeing the world as a whole, like a living organic being, rather than a sum of working parts, like a machine" -- and of "two fundamentally different ways of looking at the world" -- of the head isolated from the heart vs. head and heart rejoined to gather in wholly matterimany.

So, to imagine there's no religion is to imagine there is no imagination. But it isn't hard to do. Just imagine the left is right, and gravity and decay will take care of the rest.


mushroom said...

...a blind copying of effects instead of a true imitation of essential principles

That makes me think that the mental processes behind a cargo cult are more or less universal.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, I think so. They operate on a universal but pre-personal, pre-individual basis in order to bind society, for society must survive if the individual is to emerge from it. But we have to be critical toward the cult, otherwise we can never transcend it.

julie said...

Mushroom - yes, the cargo cult mentality is one that appears over and over again, particularly in Leftist policies. For instance: "if we give people nice houses, they will live like nice people."

Van Harvey said...

"...What is Obamaism but a fantasy of how the world ought to work? Nice dreams. Wrong world. And wrong Father...."

That sums it up in a nutshall rather nicely.

HappyAcres said...

You're only embarrassing me, Bob. I'm a nitwit who doesn't play at your level.

Cousin Dupree said...

I'll be the judge of that.

Gagdad Bob said...

Great article in the July 7 National Review by Adam Bellow that goes to this post (also heard him on Prager a couple weeks ago). Specifically, the right wins every argument with the left, and yet, it doesn't seem to help. Why? Because the left has commandeered the cultural imagination. Thus, he has started a website called Liberty Island, with the excellent tag line, Let Your Right Brain Run Free.

julie said...

That's a good point by Prager. I'm just reading something now (via Vanderleun) that speaks to this as well:

"Pope Benedict spoke frequently of the “tyranny of relativism.” Essentially this means that when a culture decides there is no fundamental basis of truth (whether from Scripture or Natural Law), the result is that there is no real basis for discussion or resolution of issues. Thus, who “wins the day” is based not on reason but on who shouts the loudest and/or who has the most power, money, or political influence.

The way forward in a relativistic world is not to appeal to reason by reference to Natural Law (in philosophy), or to constitutional principles (in political discourse), or to Scripture and Tradition (in theology). Rather, the way forward is to gain power and to implement an agenda that binds.

Farewell to reason rooted in agreed upon principles; hello to tyranny rooted simply in opinion and power."

Gagdad Bob said...

I'd like to think I'm doing my bit by trying to re-imagineer traditional religion.

julie said...

I like the Liberty Island idea, but as always (with these sort of things) with reservations. If we really want to regain footing in the broader culture, conservatives need to make content that isn't aimed specifically at conservatives; rather, it should just be good.

Easy for me to say, I know...

Van Harvey said...

"One might say it is an exterior copy as opposed to an interior prehension -- for example, as muzak is to jazz. What distinguishes these two?

One is ALIVE! and life-giving, the other dead and endeadening. The same with the gifted or banal writer: one transmits Life, the other something less."

Alive and imaginative... and lacking the imaginative, we'd question if it were alive. Muzak. Imagination, the real thing, requires an inner understanding of your materials, and that instigates an outer application of it, often in ways that seem unique.

I don't think you can fully understand something, or Reason about anything, without engaging your Imagination. I don't think you can have an original thought without it. And I don't mean uniquely unprecedented, but one that originates from your understanding of the matter and the context of the moment.

The fact that our modern notions of education began with banishing the imaginative from the curriculum, predated and presaged it's falling to the level of useless trivia it has today. But at least it's ea$y to get a degree in.

Our aninny is an good example of this. He shows no signs of actually coming to grips with ideas here, and not just with ours, but not even with his own. He rants, repeats, and charges, but shows no ability to apply 'what he knows' to what we are discussing. Even when asked to communicate a fundamental, such as what his idea of Rights are and how they would prevent the unrestricted granting of govt power he so adores, from going the Sontag/Hitler route, he can only regurgitate something he's heard elsewhere (what was it aninny? FDR's four freedoms? Twit).

If he actually understood 'what he knows', he'd not only want to apply it, he'd be busy imagining ways for it to be applied, he'd be trying to grapple with us here with them.

Competition too, is a product of imagination. But the leftist is Left out of the game. He's just a filled slate. No imagination, nothing but a block head full of mental post-it-notes dying to adhere to something.

To apply what you know, requires having an imaginative grasp of it. Simple rote recall will not do for anything other than rote recall.

julie said...

Speaking of music vs. Muzak, Sipp's boys are writing their own now. And it's definitely not Muzak.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"But analysis in general is something a computer can handle, whereas putting it all together in a creative synthesis is something only the soul can accomplish."

Which is why "AI" will never be alive, only something that is programmed. AI cannot be creative in any sense of the word.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I like the Liberty Island idea too.
The first thing we must do to be effective in the culture war is to get more conservatives back into culture.

Obviously, well made films that have conservative principles do well at the box office, but, as Julie said, a good story must come first .

Hopefully, more conservatives will recommend any good stories they read at LI to their lib friends or relatives, or those who simply are not engaged and try to ignore what is happening to the US.

Frankly, I'm tired of the conservatives who would rather ignore culture altogether and are proud they never watch films or tv shows and they let you know it at sites like Big Hollywood, although I don't know what they get out of it. A feeling of superiority I guess.

When there is good films or tv shows (The Last Ship is quite good) that ain't ideology bound, and ain't afraid of the truth, we must do what we can to let others know about it.
Not ignore it and cede the battle to liberals, because we know they will never give up.

mushroom said...

That's a good point, Ben. First, why are they reading Big Hollywood if they never watch films or TV? Second, Father Barron and many others use the cinematic mythology in good (and some not so good) films as a conversational wedge. It seems to me that even secular people can have an Aha! experience when they see that there is a deeper, more archetypical truth behind something they liked. Most of the time even the filmmakers don't know half of what they are portraying. They know what works and what is appealing in their art, but they may not know why.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

It often surprises me that liberals like Josh Whedon can make a series (Firefly) and a film (Serenity) that is so conservative through and through.

I think you're right, they know what works but they don't know why.
If Whedon ever thought deeply as to the why he would certainly hafta reconsider the merits of liberalism.

The villain in Serenity was Big Govt. trying to force everyone to do their will for the greater good while covering up the evil they were doing.

wild said...

"I'd like to think I'm doing my bit by trying to re-imagineer traditional religion."

You remind me in this respect of Robert Pirsig. Have you read "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"? It is an attempt to situate the analytic (and the synthetic) within the context of our experience of reality - our experience of the objectivity of value i.e. Quality.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I do like this quote by Persig:
"Traditional scientific method has always been at the very best, 20 - 20 hindsight. It's good for seeing where you've been. It's good for testing the truth of what you think you know, but it can't tell you where you ought to go."
Robert M. Pirsig

Anonymous said...

It often surprises me that liberals like Josh Whedon can make a series (Firefly) and a film (Serenity) that is so conservative through and through....The villain in Serenity was Big Govt. trying to force everyone to do their will for the greater good while covering up the evil they were doing.

Somebody is confused about the relationship between liberalism, big government and conservatism. Have you considered the possibility that it might be you, rather than Joss Whedon?

Van Harvey said...

Somebody is confused about the word confused. No need to ask who.

Magister said...

Speaking of good novels, my son is required to read three for 9th grade honors English in the fall: A Separate Peace (Knowles), Treasure Island (Stevenson), and Animal Farm (Orwell). Not bad summer reading, though I think it's light. He'd love the Pirsig book, so I'll add that, plus a little book on electrical circuits (he wants to build a kit computer), and the US Army's standard issue "Survival" guide to keep him sane. And the US Bill of Rights (again) ...

Anon, he read the Communist Manifesto on my recommendation and concluded that socialism/communism is fundamentally unjust. He's more interested in basic economics (Sowell) and how to evaluate stocks. I'm thinking of giving him $250 and a Schwab account this fall to invest in tech stocks (his interest) with me looking over his shoulder. Should be fun.

julie said...

I read the Pirsig back in 10th grade. Don't remember much about it now, except that it wasn't a bad read, and I picked up a couple of concepts I might not have encountered otherwise. Might be interesting to read again at some point, for the perspective.

And definitely a good idea to have him read the Communist Manifesto. Did you juxtapose it with anything, so that he could get an alternative viewpoint for comparison?

Teaching your son about investment is a great idea. Someday, I hope to do something similar for my kids. At the very least, they will have some idea how to handle money - something my parents weren't able to teach me, beyond "pay for your house first, your transportation second, and then sort out everything else."

Magister said...

If you like Bellow's idea, search the net for stuff from Big Idea (Veggie Tales) and Sight & Sound Theatre. These are successful evangelical firms with an important place, I believe, in heartland American culture. It's a trap to think Hollywood and New York define American culture alone. I think their days are largely over. Bellow is right that Liberty Island could help give their rotten cultural houses a push over the edge.

Magister said...

Hey Julie

The CM came after a few years of real life doing chores, saving earnings, selling muffins, etc.

The light bulb went on for all of them when I asked them to consider communism in the context of grading at school: "If all students were guaranteed an A at the start of the class, and there were three tests in the class, what would the average grade for the class be at the end?" I asked them to think about their actual classrooms and peers.

They quickly concluded that the average grade of the class would be an F. Why? Because some would slack, some would ride coattails, some would work hard and then see how it didn't get them anything, etc. The average grade for the class would slide down from B to D to F, a kind of constant undercutting or race to the bottom.

"What is socialism, then?" Answer: "same slide, just slower."

They get it.

julie said...

Good lessons - especially helpful when they have to consider in the context of real people that they know, as opposed to some idealized group of, say, "workers" or "oppressed people" who would surely be willing and able to live communism perfectly.

Magister said...

Oh, and your parents taught you good lessons there. I try to teach the kids about budgeting and use a pie chart. Pay yourself first (savings), then your basic needs in descending order (they get real grateful real quick when they realize they won't need to do that until they're 18), and then your tithe, hobbies, and entertainment. I show them how savings must be broken down further as they think about future needs and desires.

My oldest is really on fire about all this now because he wants to build a computer with expensive parts and has to budget carefully for it and earn/save the money. His eyes lit up when I told him that he could make some of his money "work" for him by investing it carefully. The challenge now is to get him to tamp down his enthusiasm for the idea that playing the market means "easy money." Hence the $250 experiment, half of which has to be his own money.

Kids are work, but they sure are fun.

Magister said...

Yeah, exactly. I also want them to trust and build from their own experience.

Magister said...

My oldest boy was smart enough to think through the socialism problem and say "well, we could all get A's if we worked together, but we would *have* to work together for it to work. We'd have to force everybody to study hard in the study group, or everyone would lose. Even one or two C's could sink us."

He knows it's about force, first. So when he read the CM, he saw the violence of it immediately.

julie said...

I bet he's been stuck with doing group projects. Those can be a real eye-opener, too - they almost always end up as the work of one or two kids, with the rest doing as little as possible. But they all get to take the credit. The freeloaders usually like it, but the workers learn to drop out pretty quickly.

Van Harvey said...

Julie said "The freeloaders usually like it, but the workers learn to drop out pretty quickly.

That's the one lesson my kids and their friends learned from school, which no one meant to teach them, and which I don't think I could have taught to them any better.

They don't have any party politics attached to it either, which is nice, they understand it.

Magister said...

Right, and sometimes group projects work well enough, but even then there's always a recognition that some did more than others, or did some things better.

I tell him to just do the best he can and know, whatever the outcome, that he at least did his best. Rightly, he sees satisfaction in those terms as less than optimal.

Teamwork is for stuff you can't do on your own. There's no magic. Worthless individuals make worthless teams. You have to *know* or know how to *do" something in order to make a team work.

I was surprised when he connected this the other day to the minimum wage argument. We drove past a McDonald's. Out of the blue, he says "I can't believe they'd ask for 15 bucks an hour just to make french fries." I said, "why stop at $15? Why not $50? McDonald's is rich enough."

He laughed. "Because it's making *french fries*."

Van Harvey said...

Another unintended lesson learned from the group projects, was that there are some situations which should not be approached as a group, that all would be better off having engaged in it individually.

Interestingly, both our boys have a large group of friends, with much overlap. But they've got no problem doing something solo when they see that's necessary.