Friday, December 05, 2014

God's Absence and Our Presence

Ever since Tuesday's post I've been thinking about that gap between desire and reality -- the one that makes the world go 'round. I'm seeing it everywhere, generally in places it shouldn't be, in particular, politics.


"[T]he sensational and electric assertions made by liberals to further their agenda, especially on issues of race and sex, have a habit of being untrue. And it is the recurrence of such factually suspect accounts that raises troubling questions about the relation of liberal myth to human reality."

What the author is ultimately referring to is a curious gap about the gap; in other words, there is this gap between liberalism and reality, which then provokes a gap in the disinterested observer, who asks himself: why do they insist on believing things that can't possibly be true? The second gap is valid, while the first is entirely self-imposed. Or at least we wish it were only self-imposed.

The problem -- or what elevates it to a political problem -- is that liberals want to impose this gap on the rest of us, or in other words, force us to "not know" when the truth is there to be seen, or else to "know" a lie.

Furthermore, if this ponderous biography of Stalin teaches us anything, it is that this is not peripheral to the left, but at its very core. The book chronicles one long and tedious attempt to force reality to comport with ideology. Doing so resulted in, oh, a hundred million deaths, but they meant well. (One year into the glorious revolution, "Many Bolsheviks" who had been "bursting with conviction to serve humanity began to see that their dedicated efforts to end suffering and level social hierarchies were producing the opposite." Oops. Make that late Bolsheviks.)

From the same article: "Liberal myths propagated to generate outrage and activism, to organize and coordinate and mobilize disparate grievances and conflicting agendas, so often have the same relation to truth, accuracy, and legitimacy as a Bud Light commercial."

Surely the author could have come up with a better example, for beer actually exists, and even light beer is better than no beer at all.

But here is the key: "Marketing is not limited to business. Inside the office buildings of Washington, D.C., are thousands upon thousands of professionals whose livelihoods depend on the fact that there is no better way than a well-run public relations campaign to get you to do what they want. What recent weeks have done is provide several lessons in the suspect nature of such campaigns."

What are these aggressive campaigns attempting to sell us? Well, like any marketing campaign, there is a target audience, and you and I are not members of it. Rather, they are aimed at what marketing expert Jonathan Gruber calls "stupid Americans." These are people who know only what they are told, and don't know what they don't know, which provides a fertile field for liberal exploitation.

For example, representative Eleanor "Sherlock" Holmes Norton doesn't know what she doesn't know, and doesn't want to know, otherwise she couldn't tell us what to think about it. As she aggressively puts it, "My interest is not in what happened, my interest is in what should happen!" The same thing would apply if she were talking about global warming, or Keynesian economics, or black criminality, or the gender pay gap, or the destruction of the black family.

Or, in the delusional words of Robert F. Kennedy, "Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not." Science -- that is, any -ology -- begins with things as they are and asks why? Ideology begins at the other end, with a malevolent fantasy.

Now, if the ideologues restricted themselves to asking "why not?," we would have no objection to them, for this is how knowledge advances: "Why not socialism? Allow reality to explain!" But the leftist never condescends to ask, nor pay attention to the feedback; rather, he dreams up things that never were and never can be and says believe!, or else.

Its most attenuated form appears as political correctness, which is just a soft form of fascism. It is an invitation to get right with their strange god. Or at least they pretend it's an invitation, for there is nothing tolerant about tolerance, nothing diverse about diversity, and nothing equal about equality.

Equality -- as the left deploys the term -- is another word for nihilism. You might say that it is slow-motion nihilism, the gradual wearing away of distinctions and differences. Now, some differences truly don't make a difference, which is one of the core messages of Christianity.

But there are other vital differences without which we cannot even be human, for example, the differences between animal and man, between man and woman, between adult and child, between God and man, between sacred and profane, or between our higher and lower natures. Remove these distinctions and we don't have "equality" but nihilism. Such distinctions are the very basis of order, and without order there is nothing. (As Voegelin says, the order of history is the history of order.)

On the macro level, the most important distinction is of course between appearances and reality, or truth and falsehood. There is an ineradicable gap between the two, and the larger part of the human adventure involves closing this gap, both vertically and horizontally, i.e., knowledge of the world and knowledge of God. The first is impossible in the absence of the second, which is why all truth is of God and brings us closer to God, even if we deny the link.

Here is another example of liberals marketing a false gap (or filling it with falsehood): "So, in the end, what was global warming? It seems to have grown up largely as a late-20th-century critique of global-market capitalism by elites who had done so well by it that they had won the luxury of caricaturing the very source of their privilege.

"Global warming proved a near (sic) secular religion that filled a deep psychological longing for some sort of transcendent meaning among mostly secular Western grandees. In reality, the global-warming creed had scant effect on the lifestyles of the high priests who promulgated it. Al Gore did not cut back on his jet-fueled and lucrative proselytizing. Obama did not become the first president who, on principle, traveled with a reduced and green entourage."

In short, their interest is not in the fact that the earth's temperature hasn't increased in 18 years, their interest is in what it should have done. Sure, empirical observation works in reality, but does it work in theory? You will have noticed that in the liberal mind, softheaded credulity masquerades as hard-bitten skepticism.

Empiriwha? "Ferguson illustrated many of the problems of postmodern liberalism: the anti-empirical insistence that the facts of the shooting of Michael Brown did not matter much; critical legal theory, which ignored the time-honored role of a disinterested grand jury; [and] the tolerance of illegality as some sort of acceptable protest against the system."

Again, there is a real gap, without which there can be no distinctions at all. The very first (upper case) Gap -- and the one that makes the others possible -- is obviously that between God and world. Hence the First Commandment, I Am the Lord your God, not to mention the first sentence of the Bible, "in the beginning God creates the heavens and the earth." Deny these, and not even chaos ensues.

I am partial to the Kabbalistic idea that, in order for this Gap to exist, God must "withdraw," so to speak, from his creation. Think about it: if God is by definition everything and everywhere, how can there be a space of human freedom? Whether or not we take it literally, God must in a sense absent himself from the scene, similar to how, in order for our children to grow into independence, we stand back and allow them their spontaneous play.

This orthoparadoxical concept is called tzimtzum, and if it's not true, it might as well be. One of the best treatments of it I have found is in the works of Lawrence Kushner. I will now ask Rabbi Kushner to bail me out and wrap things up with a nice quotation.

"[T]here is a whole other Torah written in white letters in what we sometimes think are the spaces between the black letters" (emphasis mine; that's from a different book, River of Light).

In Raccoon terminology, the Gap is where our bewilderness adventure takes place: "The wilderness is not just a desert through which we wandered for forty years. It is a way of being. Even if for a moment every now and then each day.... It is the only way to begin.... For there and only there might we be able to encounter the mystery" (ibid.).

If you think you know what you will find, / Then you will find nothing. / If you expect nothing, / Then you will always be surprised. / And able to bless the One who creates the world each morning. --ibid.

The One Cosmos promise: we give you nothing, and a little more of it each morning!


Blogger Paul Griffin said...

...he dreams up things that never were and never can be and says believe!, or else.

No time to look up sources to back this up right now (maybe later), but this is a long-standing coercive technique of most authoritarian regimes. It forces you to participate in the lie, the more outrageous the better (preferably something to do with Dear Leader), because you will feel complicit in whatever other madness is going on. It destroys people's sense of moral authority, and along with it, their desire to resist anything else the regime says.

The general pattern is to force people, usually on pain of horrible death, to publicly say they believe something laughably unbelievable. The silliness of the lie is important, because who would be willing to be torn apart by wild dogs, just because he doesn't believe that Kim Jong Il shot 32 under par the first time he played golf? Enough of these insane little beliefs are parroted as fact, and soon when the regime tells you that we have always been at war with Oceania, the ones that might have been willing to fight over the big lie have already been killed, and the rest have given up caring enough to resist what to them is just another lie.

This sort of pattern is beginning to be used against an awful lot of people (and especially churches) in our society today. Who wants to lose their livelihood just because they aren't willing to publicly announce that they believe that men and women are exactly the same?

12/05/2014 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And the more outrageous the lie, the more likely a person is to believe it, because the decent person thinks to himself that no one would tell a lie of such magnitude.

12/05/2014 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Theodore Dalrymple says that the underlying mechanism of political correctness is shaming. They make you feel ashamed to speak up in the presence of the Lie. In California it's like an ever-present toxic cognitive smog.

12/05/2014 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

Furthermore, the lie will quickly become "what everyone believes," or in our society, "what all decent people believe" (bringing the above mentioned shame into play). Group pressure will do most of the work once the process has been started.

12/05/2014 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

To stray from the herd is to leave liberalism behind. And vice versa, so I guess people cling to it for the emotional security.

12/05/2014 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

I've only had time to skim this, but it looks more than interesting enough to read the whole thing:

A couple excerpts towards the beginning:

Arendt argues that totalitarianism is distinguished from all historical forms of government, including tyranny, insofar as it has no use for any ‘principle of action taken from the realm of human action’, since the essence of its body politic is ‘motion implemented by terror’ (Arendt 1954a: 348; see 331-3). In other words, totalitarianism aims to eradicate entirely the human capacity to act as such (Arendt 1979: 467). For totalitarian rule targets the total life-world of its subjects, which in turn presupposes a world totally conquered by a single totalitarian movement.

...we encounter Arendt’s conception of society reduced to ‘One Man’ or a single, undifferentiated Mankind as a condition of a ‘perfect totalitarian government’.

12/05/2014 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, just reading in Stalin how there are no individuals, only the Party.

Except for the individuals who run things.

12/05/2014 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

These are people who know only what they are told, and don't know what they don't know, which provides a fertile field for liberal exploitation.

To which I might only add, they don't know that they don't know. In other words, they believe they really have all the information they need to make a sound judgment. And they believe this the more firmly the less they know.

12/05/2014 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

...bursting with conviction to serve humanity began to see that their dedicated efforts to end suffering and level social hierarchies were producing the opposite.

Reminds me of the pig Napoleon at the end of Animal Farm. He allies himself with the farmers and restores all the old practices. The other animals are watching a dinner party through the window and can't tell the hogs from the humans.

12/05/2014 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

The only kind of equality the left can bring about is to make sure all our windows are broken.

I'd like to ask all the protesters what they really want. Do you want a black man to be president? Do you want government bureaucracies run by people of color? Do you want a black attorney general? Do you want black mayors and black police chiefs?

It's like public sector unions. Who is "the man" the teachers' unions are fighting?

Stop and think what you're doing one in a while, people.

12/05/2014 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"...Furthermore, if this ponderous biography of Stalin teaches us anything, it is that this is not peripheral to the left, but at its very core. The book chronicles one long and tedious attempt to force reality to comport with ideology..."

That IS the history of the last several centuries of the proRegressive left in a nutshall.

12/05/2014 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Equality -- as the left deploys the term -- is another word for nihilism. You might say that it is slow-motion nihilism, the gradual wearing away of distinctions and differences.

Speaking of which, so apparently the atheists got their way this year and had something to add to the public Christmas display. Because atheist satanist "traditions" are just as valid as Christian and Jewish ones.

What is it about nihilism that it is never content to just degrade on its own and never mind the rest, but instead it must proselytize? I've never understood that. When I was an atheist, I really didn't care if other people had faith; I felt no need to make them share my unbelief, because if I was right none of it matters anyway. Why shit on the things that help others find meaning, especially when they generally make the world better by living their faith?

12/05/2014 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

The One Cosmos promise: we give you nothing, and a little more of it each morning!

Notably, this nothing is actually the polar opposite of nihilism. The nothing of life preparing to flow through, vs. the nothing of utter destruction.

12/05/2014 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

A tale of two nothings: one is pure potential, the other its total absence.

12/05/2014 01:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Re what Van said:

This would be freaking paradise if only governments weren't incapable of learning.

12/05/2014 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

"The One Cosmos promise: we give you nothing, and a little more of it each morning!"

Or as Judge Smails said "You'll get nothing and like it."

12/05/2014 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

The only kind of equality the left can bring about is to make sure all our windows are broken.
Totally tweeted that!

12/05/2014 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"For example, representative Eleanor "Sherlock" Holmes Norton doesn't know what she doesn't know, and doesn't want to know, otherwise she couldn't tell us what to think about it. As she aggressively puts it, "My interest is not in what happened, my interest is in what should happen!" The same thing would apply if she were talking about global warming, or Keynesian economics, or black criminality, or the gender pay gap, or the destruction of the black family."

During that interview, Norton got increasingly agitated and loud whenever Hannity spoke about the evidence.
She took the truth as a personal insult and assault, and was angry that Hannity was making her look bad.
How DARE! Hannity mention the evidence!

Of course, she need not be concerned about Hannity making her look bad. She does a fantastic job doing that with her own mindless ideology, thus removing all doubt that she is a dithering idiot.

12/05/2014 06:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

Wait, Bud Light commercials ain't true? How long has this been going on?

12/05/2014 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ben- I've been reading the Sowell book this afternoon. Pure light!

12/05/2014 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Not Bud Light. Economic light.

12/05/2014 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I cooncur, Bob.
I received my copy of Basic Economics today, much faster than I anticipated.

What I like about Sowell's writing is, not only is he clear and concise, but he is interesting and fun to read.

Anyone that can make economics interesting and fun has an extraordinary gift!
Sowell is a national treasure.

12/05/2014 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Uh oh...

Zimzum is always a risk and Zimzuming may not work for everybody..

12/06/2014 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Looks like a hideous book, but satire shouldn't be tedious.

12/06/2014 08:14:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

Not to harp on this too much, but my above linked article has proved a wealth of interesting material as I have started to read through it today:

Since ‘totalitarian government [exists] only insofar as it is kept in constant motion’ (ibid.: 344), the comparatively stable positive legal framework guiding the actions of ruler and ruled within the finite territorial realm of the modern nation-state is antithetical to the requirements of a totalitarian regime. Individual subjects of totalitarian rule either surrender to the dynamic process of becoming, or they are consumed by it: ‘”guilty” is he who stands in the path of terror, that is, who willingly or unwillingly hinders the movement of Nature or History’ (ibid.: 342).


Their totalitarian character, moreover, presupposed emptying racism and revolutionary socialism of their ‘utilitarian content, the interests of a class or nation’ (ibid.: 348), generating a precedence of form and function over content, of infallible prediction over interest and explanation, driving ‘ideological implications into extremes of logical consistency’ (ibid.: 471).[iii] In this way, totalitarian ideologies manufactured a total explanation of reality freed of inconsistencies, unhampered by mere facts, and independent of all experience.

Sound familiar?

12/06/2014 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Paul: This biography of Stalin reminds me of what I've said before about how studying psychotic patients can teach a lot about neurotic patients, because it is as if the psychotic manifests the same mechanisms and processes, only in an obvious and exaggerated way.

In the same way, many of the descriptions Stalin and Bolshevism are like caricatures of Obama and the left.

For example, a police report in 1901 characterized Stalin as having "no specific occupation" but "a teacher of the workers." In other words, a community organizer.

He and his comrades provoked "the police to make arrests and shed blood, which, in the twisted terrorist logic, would galvanize society to revolt."


"Most fundamentally, Lenin sought a party of professional revolutionaries," since the workers were only interested in bettering themselves materially. Bitter clingers and stupid peasants who don't know what's good for them.

"Bolshevism possessed nonpareil recruiting tools: the absolutely hated war and the all purpose explanation of class exploitation of haves and have-nots, which resonated beyond anyone's wildest imagination."

Wait, is he talking about 1917 or 2008?

12/06/2014 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"They had an all-encompassing, scientific answer to everything.... Party thinking equated Bolshevism with the movement of history and thereby made all critics into counterrevolutionaries...:"

Get on the right side of history and don't stop thinkin' 'bout tomorrow!

"Lynch law and self-dealing, otherwise known as class war..."

Today it's anti-police riots and crony capitalism.

Stalin: "rabidly partisan" toward class enemies, "headstrong and prickly," but "militarily ignorant."

"Behind mundane disagreement he saw not legitimate opinion but malevolent forces. His conception of politics did not even allow for politics" (even Democrats are starting to realize that last one of Obama).

"He rejected the rule of law as an instrument of class domination.... He repudiated any separation of powers among executive, legislative and judicial branches as a bourgeois sham."

"In short, unaccountable executive power, which was vastly enhanced in its grim arbitrariness by a radiant ideology of social justice and progress."

12/06/2014 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

Wait, is he talking about 1917 or 2008?

I have something akin to this thought frequently whenever I crack open Dostoevsky. Or Chesterton, for that matter. In some ways, it is reassuring to know that there is nothing new under the sun. Also, terrifying...

I think the apocryphal Chinese curse about living in interesting times is more or less moot, as it seems that we will live in interesting times whether we wish or no.

12/06/2014 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Just looking up tsimtsum in this book on Kabbalah by the most prominent Jewish follower of Schuon, Leo Schaya. It's pretty convoluted, and probably shouldn't be applied outside the total context of its own tradition, but that's never stopped us before.

In a general sense, it is the attempt "to express the mysterious genesis of the finite in the midst of the infinite." It's a solution to a real metaphysical puzzle.

But ultimately, "in denying himself by tsimtsum, God is denying his own negation by his infinity, so that in truth his 'contraction' or denial is purely illusory."

If that makes sense.

12/06/2014 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

Oh hell, I'm not getting anything else done today:

Once seized upon by totalitarian movements, notions of a classless society or a master race presuppose ‘dying classes’ and ‘unfit races’. The ‘monstrous logicality’ inherent in such ideological constructs dictates that whosoever accepts their initial premise but does not draw the logical conclusion of exterminating ‘class enemies’ or ‘inferior races’, is ‘plainly either stupid or a coward’ (ibid.: 471, 472).

"Master race" is not an expression you hear much today, but "classless society" is being thrust in your face everywhere you turn. For some reason, most of us seem to think they are speaking metaphorically when people say they intend to eat the rich, when in reality, it is only the logical conclusion of their assumptions...

the greatness, but also the perplexity of laws in free societies is that they only tell what one should not, but never what one should do.

In the popular attraction of totalitarian ideologies, which derives from their all-encompassing explanation of life and the world, secures the leader in his role as ‘the functionary of the masses he leads’

Our default setting seems to be to run from freedom whenever it is offered to us, mainly because it doesn't tell us what to do, only what not to do, and we can't seem to handle the congnitive dissonance, especially when "what not to do" seems to encompass all of our base instincts...

12/06/2014 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Freedom without a real telos reduces to nothingness, dread, and meaninglessness, just as the existentialists say.

12/06/2014 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

Also, I can't seem to get the sidebar list of books to load today, what is the aforementioned biography of Stalin that you are reading?

12/06/2014 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Which is why God entering history is like the future -- the telos -- becoming the present, so that the present might know the future toward which to orient our lives.

12/06/2014 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I took it out of the sidebar, because I can't give it an unqualified recommendation. It is extremely dense and scholarly, not a causal read. Gotta pass through a lot of trees to see the occasional forest.

12/06/2014 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I need to get some work done before the day slips away....

12/06/2014 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

However, this is the book.

12/06/2014 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

Okay, one last one and I'll stop spamming your comments :]

If Arendt regards neither class-thinking nor race-thinking as inherently totalitarian, this is because any ideology or system of ideas, insofar as it is articulated as a definite theoretical or political doctrine or formulated as a party program, is incompatible with totalitarianism. For doctrines and programs, like positive laws, set limits, establish boundaries, and introduce stability (ibid.: 159, 324, 325). Nevertheless, all ideologies have totalitarian ‘elements’, for every ideology adopts an ‘axiomatically accepted premise’ that forms the basis of a logically or dialectically constructed argument, whose absolute consistency is a function of its complete emancipation from all observable facts, contrary evidence or life experience (ibid.: 470, 471). This is a crucial aspect of Arendt’s argument, for she stresses that the ‘arrogant emancipation from reality and experience’ points to the nexus between ideology and terror characteristic of all totalitarian regimes, and accounting for their unprecedented destructive power. The key to unlocking this power resides in the totalitarian organisation of society. Freed of the customary standards of lawful action and verifiable truth claims, totalitarian movements unleash terror in accordance with the imperatives of the ideological reconfiguration of society. All members of society are now the potential targets of a regime of terror that functions independently of both the interests of society and its members (Arendt 1954a: 350).

By the time I finish reading this article (and its apparent part I), I may have done better to have just bought the original book. Maybe I will do that instead.

Also, here is Hannah Arendt's Wikipedia page. I may be an ignoramus for not having heard of her, but she appears to have been a fascinating writer, especially as I follow the arc of her topics. Her concept of conscience as that which "...tells me what I cannot do if I would remain friends with myself when I re-enter the two-in-one of thought where I must render an account of my actions to myself" is an interesting way of putting things.

12/06/2014 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Two others from very different times and places that say much the same as above, are Solzynetzzzzzzn's (probably not the correct spelling) "Gulag Archepellago" (and who would know better), and John Adams, this from his defense of the Red Coats in the Boston Massacre trial:

"...In the continual vicissitudes of human things, amidst the shocks of fortune and the whirls of passion, that take place at certain critical seasons, even in the mildest government, the people are liable to run into riots and tumults. There are Church-quakes and state-quakes, in the moral and political world, as well as earthquakes, storms and tempests in the physical. Thus much however must be said in favour { 250 } of the people and of human nature, that it is a general, if not universal truth, that the aptitude of the people to mutinies, seditions, tumults and insurrections, is in direct proportion to the despotism of the government. In governments completely despotic, i.e. where the will of one man, is the only law, this disposition is most prevalent.—In Aristocracies, next—in mixed Monarchies, less than either of the former—in compleat Republick's the least of all—and under the same form of government as in a limited monarchy, for example, the virtue and wisdom of the administration, may generally be measured by the peace and order, that are seen among the people. However this may be, such is the imperfection of all things in this world, that no form of government, and perhaps no wisdom or virtue in the administration, can at all times avoid riots and disorders among the people.
Now it is from this difficulty, that the policy of the law hath framed such strong discouragements, to secure the people against tumults; because when they once begin, there is danger of their running to such excesses, as will overturn the whole system of government. There is the rule from the reverend sage of the law, so often quoted before.
I. H.H.P.C. 437. “All present, aiding and assisting, are equally principal with him that gave the stroke, whereof the party died. For tho' one gave the stroke, yet in interpretation of law, it is the stroke of every person, that was present aiding and assisting.”16
I. H.H.P.C. 440. “If divers come with one assent to do mischief, as to kill, rob, or beat, and one doth it, they are all principals in the felony. If many be present, and one only gives the stroke whereof the party dies, they are all principal, if they came for that purpose.”..."

Sorry, on phone, no blue linky thingy :

12/06/2014 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. tsimtsum, yes, that makes sense. I think I understand it, more or less. What struck me about the article I linked this morning was how they started with some of the same concepts I've seen used with wisdom, then sucked all of the depth and meaning out of them to create something like the opposite. Again, the difference between nothing and nihilism, this time from a spiritual perspective.

Notably, when people move on from that sort of spirituality (as people often do), they don't usually become more faithful, they generally become more atheistic.

12/06/2014 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Also shows how people generally go off the rails if they venture outside tradition. Anybody can pick their five favorite biblical passages and start a new sect.

12/06/2014 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Anybody can pick their five favorite biblical passages and start a new sect.

That's pretty good. Probably tweetable... ;)

May I recommend Vladmir Bukovsky's To Build A Castle as a perfect adjunct to Solzhenitzyn? Think of it as, The Petty Gulag: A Battle of Inches

12/06/2014 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Not a parody:

"Columbia Law School is permitting students claiming to be impaired due to the emotional impact of recent non-indictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner matters to postpone taking their final exams."

12/07/2014 07:10:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I should have been allowed to call in sick since 2008.

12/07/2014 07:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

After all, Obama and Holder have undermined my sense that the law is a fundamental pillar of society designed to protect fairness, due process and equality.

12/07/2014 07:14:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Oh, lord. These are likely to be the politicians of tomorrow.

Seems to me anybody claiming this impairment ought to find their graduation and final exams are postponed until next year, after they a) can demonstrate that they understand how the legal system is supposed to work, and b) can show that they have the emotional fortitude to deal with what happens at such time as they inevitably lose in court. Most judges don't have time or patience for emo lawyer outbursts.

12/07/2014 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Apropos of nothing, it occurred to me that one of the first grand promises of the Obama presidency was that the rise of the sea levels would begin to slow (as a result of stopping or at least diminishing global warming). One might think they would trot out that quote with pride every time some new iced of evidence is put forth that, indeed, global warming is not happening.

Of course, even to claim victory against the weather would mean a loss of power, as people might assume that increasingly draconian environmental regulations are no longer necessary...

12/07/2014 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

*iced = piece. Thanks, autocorrect!

12/07/2014 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Those students were impaired before the Grand Jury decision.
They are gonna get savaged by reality someday, and they won't be able to take a timeout when it happens,

Reality don't fare if they are whimps.
Reality don't play that.

12/08/2014 01:36:00 AM  
Blogger John said...

It's amusing to read commentary on examples of leftist totalitarian regimes (redundant, I know), whilst not recognizing that the state police is murdering people, at times, with impunity. You fail to recognize that we are already in a totalitarian society, though it is quite different from Stalin's. We drone strike civilians overseas with impunity, we strangle tax avoiders to death on our streets. This is law and order?

12/08/2014 05:53:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

"But ultimately, 'in denying himself by tsimtsum, God is denying his own negation by his infinity, so that in truth his "contraction" or denial is purely illusory.'

If that makes sense."

Ah, well ... no, not particularly. It sounds tsimtsum is just giving a different name to the same problem.

Explaining how the idea of God's omniscience/omnipotence sits comfortably next to real freedom is difficult. How does God's vision and presence to our future actions *not* make those actions predetermined? In God's view, our lives are already "done" -- He can see them completed already. But ugh, where does that leave our sense of real freedom as we live?

Is that how you all feel the problem? I don't feel it quite the same way, but it still bothers me. I can acknowledge that God sees my life in its totality and yet feel that I can shape it as I go. I'd like to feel that God is sort of cheering me on as I move around in life, trying to become more faithful and in the zone. But the fact that God can see the end result sure is unsettling.

Maybe I just don't like to be judged. It has such finality, and I like being free.

12/08/2014 06:04:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

@ John - Obviously, there are people who fail to recognize that we are already in a totalitarian society. But I think everyone here is pretty well aware of that fact, which is why we tend to generally be in favor of a drastically pared-down government.

When out-of-control government, laws and enforcement are the problem, the answer is not more regulation.

Re. Eric Garner dying over selling loose cigarettes, there's a great point made here: Don't support laws you aren't willing to kill to enforce.

The reality is, any law, no matter how seemingly trivial, which requires police action has the potential to turn deadly at the point where the police contact the perpetrator. People often react in strange ways to conflict, and very rarely someone will die over something trivial. This is terrible, of course, and this is also why (just as an example) laws regulating sugary sodas being sold in particular venues are a bad idea. Think this case is tragic? Just wait until some business owner gets shot because they decided to keep selling Big Gulps in the back room of their movie theater.

12/08/2014 06:11:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Magister - when I think of tsimtsum, it reminds me of what happens when you put a drop of dish soap into a pan of oily water (purely as a visual).

But anyway, in line with recent posts it seems to me there is a dynamic tension between what is predetermined and what is free will. Thinking of man as the image, how often in life do we have an overarching plan to achieve some goal, then find we need to adjust it according to circumstances? Pretty much constantly, right? I have a plan each night to get my kids into bed; making it happen doesn't mean they have no free will, nor does it constitute predestination. And while they do get to bed, every night is a different version of the play to make it happen, some more fraught with drama than others.

Reading through Exodus, God is given by the author of the Pentateuch a very human character, even as His ultimate essence is unknowable. If the story is to be taken seriously, it's clear that even though there is always a Plan, that Plan is always under attack. The parts that are the least subject to change are set forth with the direst consequences, but being essential they are what they are. The foundation upon which everything else rests, as it were. Everything else can be shifted.

It seems to me that Christ would have come even if David had been a judge and not a King, or even if Moses had opted to be a second Abraham instead of pleading for mercy after Aaron made the golden idol - even though I can't begin to imagine how that might all have gone down. The way it is written, God spends an awful lot of time changing His mind. We are free to go with the Plan or to fight it, and the Bible is full of accounts of what happens, over and over again, when people choose either course.

"Choose" being the operative word.

12/08/2014 06:55:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"The One Cosmos promise: we give you nothing, and a little more of it each morning!"

The food here is terrible.
And such small portions!

12/08/2014 08:59:00 AM  

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