Monday, July 13, 2015

It's About Time

We've been discussing the economics of spirit, which revolves around two intertwined principles, 1) that our life is a scarce thing -- there's only one -- and 2) that our lives have alternative uses -- especially under conditions of freedom, in which we are confronted with an infinitude of alternatives as to how to spend -- or squander -- our lives.

Thus, in a free society there is a somewhat paradoxical combination of finitude -- our lifespan -- and infinitude -- or what we might call "lifebreadth," i.e., the overwhelming number of uses to which we may put our lives: so little time, so many choices.

Which goes to why freedom is not, and has never been, especially popular. That is, it exposes us to the infinitude referenced above, and in the absence of a telos, infinitude equates to nothing.

This is necessarily so: in a horizontal world, choice is either determined or arbitrary. To the extent that it is free, there is no intrinsic reason to choose this over that. Rather, there is will and there is power. Or just say leftism.

In this counter-cosmic view, the fact that we can choose most "anything" renders us nothing; unlike all other animals, we have no fixed nature or essence. Therefore, man is a freak of nature, in that he is the animal whose essence is no essence, AKA nothingness. (I've just spared you the burden of reading Sartre's Being and Nothingness. You're welcome.)

But in the real world, freedom is not arbitrary. It is not here "by accident." It is not a freakish mistake of nature, but rather, its freaking purpose.

If we go back to our civilizational uber (or better, unter) text, Genesis, we see that the Creator spends five days creating the world of necessity, while on the sixth day he creates the being of freedom, AKA man.

However, on the seventh day we dwell in the meaning of that freedom; on it you shall do no work, i.e., the necessary things, but rather, focus on the unnecessary, the non-utilitarian, the horizontally pointless: being as opposed to doing; receptivity over activity.

Con-templation relates to being in a space of observation, a temple; or, a temple is a vertical observatory in which the created good converges upon the uncreated good.

Allegorically speaking, of course. One can enter the temple at any time, not just Saturday or Sunday. We all have a key to the door that opens onto the luminous and noble peace of the desert (Dávila).

Along these lines, Pieper notes that animals are not capable of happiness -- contentment maybe, or satiety. Happiness is a -- the? -- human category, for which reason we need to mark it off from mere animal contentment.

I mean, there's nothing wrong with pleasing your monkey, but as Dávila reminds us, It is impossible to convince the fool that there are pleasures superior to those we share with the rest of the animals.

It seems we are granted the power to make ourselves unhappy, but not to make ourselves happy. In other words, although all men want happiness, it is not something we can simply will into existence. If we could, then everyone would be happy, and there would be no liberals. And happier still because there would be no liberals ruining everybody's lives and eating all our steak.

This alone should alert us to our irreducible dependence, since the one thing we are born wanting most of all is annoyingly outside our control. Or in other words, in the absence of God we can truly say that happiness exists, and you can't get there from here. For happiness is never just "satiation of the will," or Hillary Clinton's eyes wouldn't look so dead.

In a purely horizontal world, the desire for happiness would be like an ineradicable itch we are powerless to scratch. For the will strives for happiness "by necessity," and yet, cannot reach it -- like those Buddhist demons with enormous appetites and pinprick mouths.

It seems to me that this in-built desire for happiness speaks to our trinitarian nature, because it means we are born with this desire for a relationship to the transcendent other. If happiness were simply a given, then we would be self-sufficient, and not motivated to seek it beyond the horizon of the self.

Remember what we said about prices being messages about supply and demand, but how the left prefers to shoot the messenger? "Price" occurs at the confluence of scarcity and desire. But the desire for happiness is rooted in a desire for the boundless, so again, it cannot be satisfied if it isn't directed toward its proper end and object.

Really, it's no different than the intellect, which also cannot find its measure in the world, but rather, is conformed to the Absolute-Infinite beyond this world.

So, today's bottom lines:

Liberty is not an end, but a means. Whoever mistakes it for an end does not know what to do with it once he attains it (Dávila).

And,

The brevity of life does not distress us when instead of fixing goals for ourselves we fix routes (ibid.).

In other words, don't waste your scarce time trying to draw your own map from scratch, but ask for directions to the nearest faraway place.

14 Comments:

Blogger Van Harvey said...

Those bottom lines for today, are the tops!

7/13/2015 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

...focus on the unnecessary, the non-utilitarian, the horizontally pointless: being as opposed to doing; receptivity over activity...

Truly. The root of the 20th century's "existential angst" was too much doing and not enough being -- even when the doing is fun.

I wonder if 9/11 didn't offer us a reset to start the new century that we missed?

7/13/2015 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"But in the real world, freedom is not arbitrary. It is not here "by accident." It is not a freakish mistake of nature, but rather, its freaking purpose."


I've been in an extended discussion with a few Libertarians who invited new to explain why I'm Not a Libertarian, when they agree with so many of my comments & positions.

So I started with what you'd expect would be a no-brainer, that Reality exists, that what exists, exists as something (establishing its Identity), and that in perceiving what Is, you find that you Are. That in order to make any statement at all, you have to accept these as axioms, that you can't even deny Reality, Identity and Consciousness, without resorting to all three to do so.

Unless of course you're a scientismic Libertarian, impressed with not only Hume, but Peirce (pragmatism). I managed to get a grudging acknowledgement that Reality exists (!), but very little acceptance of Identity, and only highly qualified instances of that from one, the others wouldn't even go that far. The irony of my asking if they could identify the nature of their denials was not appreciated, and one felt I was being fairly nasty by not accepting their denials if it at face value.

And yet they identify themselves as Libertarians. And these are some of those who typically are on my 'side' in economic and legal debates.

But as I often point out, or agreements go down only so far, barely past appearances, and obviously not so far as Reality.

Beware of who your friends are!

7/13/2015 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Van, agreed to your top comment about the bottom lines. Those spoke to me as well.

I have a good friend who is apparently having difficulty with her oldest son, about to start his last year of high school. She's a devout Christian, and it sounds like everyone has plans for this boy and what they think he ought to do. Apparently, though, all he wants to do is act like a teenager. I feel for all of them.

7/13/2015 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"It seems we are granted the power to make ourselves unhappy, but not to make ourselves happy. In other words, although all men want happiness, it is not something we can simply will into existence. If we could, then everyone would be happy, and there would be no liberals. And happier still because there would be no liberals ruining everybody's lives and eating all our steak."

Aye. We have seen how happy everyone is when the left tries to force everyone to be happy with their dictates.

7/13/2015 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Remember what we said about prices being messages about supply and demand, but how the left prefers to shoot the messenger? "Price" occurs at the confluence of scarcity and desire. But the desire for happiness is rooted in a desire for the boundless, so again, it cannot be satisfied if it isn't directed toward its proper end and object."

Indeed. Otherwise, it can only result in more unhappiness that serves to feed only envy and pride.

7/13/2015 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Van, I know what you mean. I was attempting to communicate with a few self-decribed libertarians awhile back, who also identified as socially liberal.
Apparently, there are a significant number of self-described libertarians who don't know what libertarian actually means. Same with the so-called anarchists who want to establish their own order of govt. brownshirts.

It's as if they pick these words to describe themselves because it sounds cool and rebel-y, not because that's what they really stand for.

7/13/2015 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

IRT willing something into existence, that's essentially the foundation of leftist ideals. However, Reality don't play that.

7/13/2015 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Liberty is not an end, but a means. Whoever mistakes it for an end does not know what to do with it once he attains it (Dávila)."

This cannot be said enough. Because of our pathetic public miseducation system, there are, sadly, far too many conservatives and libertarians who don't know this.
I've also noticed there are many populists that consider themselves comservative or libertarian, or a hybrid thereof.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of ignorance concerning what liberty is, let alone how to use it properly.

I gno I'm still learnin' about it myself, but thanks to Bob, Van, Sowell, our past Founding Fathers, the Mystics, Saints, the Trinity of God, and all my fellow raccoon brothers and sisters (as well as revealations and experience), I gno a lot more than I used to. :)

7/14/2015 06:40:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

BTW, thanks Bob, for this present series of posts. I'm seeing so many connections now from the economic angle.
One doesn't hafta be an economist to see the value in this gnoledge n' wisdom.

7/14/2015 06:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OT.

Just came across the works of two related authors--Gregory Cochran (author of the 10,000 year explosion) and Gregory Clark (author of The Son Also Rises), wondered if you have come across them? Basically, Cochran's view is that human evolution didn't cease at 30-50,000 years ago as Gould claims, but is increasing ever more rapidly since the advent of agriculture/civilization. Clark more or less takes the same stance from the point of view of economics. It dovetails, somewhat, with your work.
Do you think behavioral genetics have merit? Do you see any evidence that culture effects genes?

7/14/2015 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Give Iran more money, expand Iran's nuclear program, plus we are not allowed to inspect all of their nuclear facilities.
What a deal! We can all sing kaboombayah now.

7/14/2015 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Kaboombayah.

7/14/2015 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Don't know Cochran or Clark, but I'll check 'em out.

I am, however, investigating the works of Barbara Oakley, who seems to be saying some similar things.

7/14/2015 10:09:00 AM  

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