Thursday, January 29, 2015

Law and Music

"Law and music."

While gazing at the blank computer screen, that phrase popped into my head. Should I follow up? Is it another cryptic memo from Petey? Or is it just craptic noise? Only one way to find out.

As an aside, I was very much influenced by Herman Hesse's Glass Bead Game (AKA Magister Ludi), even though I don't think I understood a word of it. But I did understand the description of what the book was supposed to be about, and that was enough.

This experimental novel "is set in a 23rd-century utopia in which the intellectual elite have distilled all available knowledge of math, music, science, and art into an elaborately coded game." Just like here in Upper Tonga.

Another review says the book is an intricate bildungsroman....

Excuse me. Bildungsroman?

Ah: "a novel dealing with one person's formative years or spiritual education." As if I didn't know that.

Anyway, as I was saying, Magister Ludi was a big part of my own intricate bildungsroman. It is "about humanity's eternal quest for enlightenment and for synthesis of the intellectual and the participatory life.... Since childhood, [the protagonist] has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game, which requires a synthesis of aesthetics and scientific arts, such as mathematics, music, logic, and philosophy. This he achieves in adulthood, becoming a Magister Ludi (Master of the Game)."

So, the folks who play the game realize that all truth is related, and that it is indeed One Cosmos after all. And although I didn't understand the book, I've been playing the game ever since. It goes like this: take two subjects or disciplines that appear to have nothing to do with each other, and show how they are related. I do it all the time. Or, maybe I can't help doing it.

So, the whispered fragment "law and music" is like an invitation to play the game. Or maybe a taunt. In any event, it doesn't mean I'll win the game. After all, if the outcome were known, it wouldn't be much of a game, would it?

It says here in Law and Revolution that "the most significant difference between Roman law" and law as it later developed in Christendom is that the former, "with certain rare exceptions, was treated as finished, immutable, to be reinterpreted but not changed."

In contrast, the canon law of the Church, for example, "had a quality of organic development, of conscious growth over generations and centuries." "This gave it a somewhat disorderly character," whereas Roman law was nothing if not ordered.

Applying a musical analogy, we can say that the Christian development of law was much more jazzy and swingin', whereas Roman law was staid, static, and predictable.

But of course, it's always a balance of complementaries, isn't it? At the opposite extreme from Roman law is Obama-style lawlessness, whereby the law is so flexible that it is anything he wants it to be.

But even Obama always obeys the law in a rigid manner. It's just a question of deducing the law he obeys and the tune to which he is dancing. For example, what is the ancient law that makes him treat Prime Minister Netanyahu in the hateful manner he does? It is not any explicit "law of the land" -- being that this is a deeply philo-Semitic land -- but rather, an implicit law that governs the squalid precincts of his soul.

Whatever it is, it is very rigid and not subject to learning via experience. One could say the same of his warm feelings for Islam, which seem to be insulated from the influence of any real-world behavior of Muslims. Thus, as of yesterday, the Taliban is not a terrorist group, just an armed insurgency, like the Continental Army.

So you can see that Obama plays his own twisted version of the Glass Bead Game whereby he proves to himself that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." He is indeed an "intellectual," a word that does not imply any quality of the thought.

Rather, as Sowell describes it, an intellectual is simply a person who deals in ideas, whether we're talking about someone as brilliant as Thomas Aquinas or someone as retarded as Thomas Friedman or Charles Blow. Being that most ideas are bad ones, most intellectuals are therefore harmful, in particular, if their ideas should be put into practice via politics.

Everyone talks about the "separation of church and state," which, despite the hypertrophied vertical hostility of its votaries, at least reflects a kernel of truth, in that problems arise when terrestrial and celestial powers converge in the same person or institution. This salutary principle found its first historical instantiation with the idea that the Pope is the Pope and the King is the King: two heads of two hierarchies.

Few people, however, talk about the separation of ideology and state. But since leftism is a secular religion, my own glass bead game long ago led to the recognition that the consequences of their fusion are worse even than the convergence of church and state, since it redounds to the consolidation -- the re-fusion -- of unalloyed power unleavened by a trace of spiritual truth.

This is why the politico-media or the university-politico complexes are so destructive of our liberty. It is as if they play an outwardly improvisatory melody rooted in pure expedience, all the while dancing to a predictable Marxian tune.

Consider the movie critic Howard Dean, who makes the outwardly insane observation that the people who like The Sniper are just angry and hateful tea-partiers. But the comment makes perfect sense from a Marxian class warfare perspective. The latter is Dean's "higher law," even though it makes his utterances sound like chaotically insane word salad to us.

More generally, the left masks its power under the form of chaos. It is like compulsory chaos, if you like. For example, a ruling just came down in California that judges are not permitted to be members of the Boy Scouts. Why? Because the latter would prefer to conform to the eternal vertical order, and not have members who might be posing as Boy Scouts while scouting for boys. Being that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, the freedom-loving Boy Scouts are just homophobic terrorists.

Back to music. Now, music cannot actually be static, in the sense that it is always deployed in time. But it can be repetitive, like an Obama speech or a troll comment. Berman describes how, as the seeds of Christian moral intuitions began sprouting in history, "a new sense of time" appeared, and with it, a "new sense of mission to reform the world. A relatively static view of political society was replaced by a more dynamic view."

Politics is always about order, but here we see a radically new conception of order, which is oriented toward an open future, instead of the future being foreclosed by the repetitions of the past. Note that those living in the old order will resist the new order, either because of fear, or inadequacy, or settled habit, or because it threatens the legitimacy of their power, which is rooted in custom and tradition.

Here again, we're talking about a repetitious tune grounded in some self-serving murky-mythic encounter with ultimate authority, vs. a new reality in which we are at liberty to compose our own damn melody, free of the state's tedious ditty blaring in our ears.

"In the twelfth century there appeared the first European historians who saw the history of the West as moving from the past, through stages, into a new future." The Christian "yearns ardently," in the words of Peter Brown (in Berman), "for a country that is always distant but made ever present by the quality of his love and hope."

The leftist flatlander collapses this love and hope into the now, and as we all know, "Attempts to create heaven on earth invariably produce hell."

Brown also suggests that the great disentanglement of secular and spiritual was analogous to nuclear fission, accounting for the tremendous "release of energy and creativity" that followed. Which is why America quickly became the most energetic and creative nation. And which is why we should be every bit as frightened of the left's attempts at nuclear fusion as the Mullah's efforts at nuclear fission.

Well, we didn't get too far with the music side of the game. We'll end today with a quote by Zuckerkandl:

How is music possible?.... [W]hat must the world be like, what must I be like, if between me and the world the phenomenon of music can occur? How must I consider the world, how must I consider myself, if I am to understand the reality of music?

16 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

It goes like this: take two subjects or disciplines that appear to have nothing to do with each other, and show how they are related. I do it all the time. Or, maybe I can't help doing it.

The distinguishing mark of the Raccoon clan.

1/29/2015 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Kook Lux Klan -- crazy for the light.

1/29/2015 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh - yep.

On the legal note, there was a brief aside in last night's RCIA lecture about some of the thought behind Vatican II, and how many people in the church had gotten so caught up in various overgrown and overly rigid legalisms that they had lost sight of the Spirit - thus, for instance, fretting over a morsel of meat on a Friday while having no concern about a habit of being cruel to the unfortunate. It brought to mind UF's talk of crystallization.

Conversely, though, it seemed to me there's a real jeopardy of throwing out the law altogether and replacing it with feelings of goodness. And we already know how well that tends to turn out...

1/29/2015 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you haven't read Moldbug at Unqualified Reservations; you should.

1/29/2015 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

A bit longwinded, no?

1/29/2015 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

In general I don't like "writers" and do not consider myself one, because they generally take a whole book to say what can be said in one sentence, as if we have all the time in the world. Besides, few writers are as good as a Don Colacho anyway.

1/29/2015 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Give me a word-slinger who boldly mansplains in broad daylight instead of fumfering around with his pen for 500 pages.

1/29/2015 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"How is music possible?.... [W]hat must the world be like, what must I be like, if between me and the world the phenomenon of music can occur? How must I consider the world, how must I consider myself, if I am to understand the reality of music?"

There really is something BIG here - this connection between us and music. That it should connect so well (hand in glove) and that we recognize this perfect fit as beautiful. As if all this beautiful music lies waiting in the listener to be revealed. Why should is be there? Why should the composer be able to create something that fits the other listener (another person) so perfectly?
This mystery is full of meaning. And it seems, we might not have discovered music at all.
It seems to be a quite unique type of beautiful in the world. Or rather not in the world. You don't just stumble across it walking in the woods and then make some of your own (say, like a landscape painting). And yet so much of it has been "found".

1/29/2015 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

The closer one gets to Truth, the less that can be said.

1/29/2015 02:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

The left is KFC: Kooky Fission Clan.

1/29/2015 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

The left is so caught up in reductionism that they reduce order to chaos.

Which is ironic since they so desparately want the opposite. The problem is, until they eventually hafta pay, like the restuvus for their short-sighted thinking (and lack of thinking about the consequences of their thinking) they just continue blindly following the path to destruction.

And even then there are dome who never learn from their mistakes or the mistakes of others before them, such as Obama.

1/29/2015 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

The stupid intellectials were the first ones to reduce white achievements to privilege.

Which is so idiotic because anyone who achieves either directly or indirectly help others in one way or another.

1/29/2015 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Here again, we're talking about a repetitious tune grounded in some self-serving murky-mythic encounter with ultimate authority, vs. a new reality in which we are at liberty to compose our own damn melody, free of the state's tedious ditty blaring in our ears."

Damn straight! Amen! And the state expects a Grammy for their blaring, ear-splitting performance.

1/29/2015 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"So, the folks who play the game realize that all truth is related, and that it is indeed One Cosmos after all. And although I didn't understand the book, I've been playing the game ever since. It goes like this: take two subjects or disciplines that appear to have nothing to do with each other, and show how they are related. I do it all the time. Or, maybe I can't help doing it."

Now that is interesting. Ayn Rand and the Objectivists used to talk about playing a parlor game, I don't remember what they called it, "Integrate" or something, which was exactly that. Someone would throw out two seemingly unrelated topics, and you had to find the principle which united them, and if you couldn't you were out. Winner being the last One standing. Particularly interesting as Rand Despised Hesse.

"Kook Lux Klan -- crazy for the light." To qualify as a Raccoon player, gots to keep in mind that the Light is more than the output of wattage.

1/31/2015 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Anonymous said "...Moldbug at Unqualified Reservations..."

He is interesting on the surface, very good at identifying symptoms, and the seemingly unexpected relations between them, but he flat out sucks in the solutions Dept. Cynicism, skepticism and power don't work out well together.

On the other hand, he does sometimes make me seem shortwinded, so there's that.

1/31/2015 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"W]hat must the world be like, what must I be like, if between me and the world the phenomenon of music can occur?"

Yes. Math, Music, Geometry, Poetry, Beauty, Goodness - Truth. As far as materialistic man is concerned, they do not need to be. But to become Man, he cannot be without them.

Ariadne's thread taunts us to be threaded....

1/31/2015 08:37:00 AM  

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