Friday, January 23, 2015

Beauty and Sadness

Let's see if we can extract any more nuggets of joy from Schopenhauer's manifesto of melancholia.

Here's some good news: "The inexhaustible variety of possible melodies corresponds to nature's inexhaustible variety of individuals, physiognomies, and ways of life."

But with Schopenhauer there's always a catch: "the transition from one key to an entirely different one, since it breaks the connection with what went before, is like death, in so far as the individual ends there..."


You, see, that's what makes Schopenhauer such a sad guy. He always sees the worst case scenario, the glass half empty. On the one hand, the Blind Cosmic Will in which we participated while alive "lives on, appearing in other individuals," -- BUT -- this "consciousness has no connection with" ours. So we got that going for us. We're still dead, but at least the meaningless impersonal will that willed us wills on forever.

C'mon, Art. Lighten up.

This is better: music is an "unconscious exercise in metaphysics in which the mind does not know that it is philosophizing." Thus, "our imagination is... susceptible to music" and "seeks to give form to that invisible yet lively spirit-world which speaks to us directly, and clothe it with flesh and blood." But for Schopenhauer, this "lively spirit world" is just an impotent Wiener process of the same old impersonal World Will.

Nevertheless, he gets the broad outline correct, that "we may regard the phenomenal world, or nature, and music as two different expressions of the same thing," such that the "unutterable depth of music" reveals the "truth, the inner nature, the in-itself of the world..."

Music is "a perfectly universal language," but unlike, say, the universal abstractions of mathematics, it is both embodied and experienced in the body. Thus, "we might just as well call the world 'embodied music' as 'embodied will."

That's right, Art, so why build your system around the latter instead of the former? Why reduce music to blind will instead of elevating the will to conscious composer?

I'll tell you why: because you are depressed, that's why. When we are depressed, our depression feels like "the truth." In short, your philosophy is an expression of your clinical depression. Dude, you said it yourself:

I would recommend an antidepressant, but they won't be invented for another 100 years or so. Try getting a bit more sunlight, or maybe eat more fish.

Okay. Be that way.

I suspect that Schopenhauer tried to use art in general and music in particular as an antidepressant. In fact, according to his biographer, Bryan Magee, he felt "there is one way in which we can find momentary release from our imprisonment in the the dark dungeon of the world, and that is through the arts." Thus, Schopenhauer regarded art as providing more the temporary removal of pain than the revelation of cosmic joy:

"In painting, sculpture, poetry, drama, and above all music, the otherwise relentless rack of willing on which we are stretched out throughout life is relaxed," and for a moment "we find ourselves free from the tortures of existence." Woo freaking hoo.

True, music does stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that mediates pleasure and reward. But chronically depressed people are probably low on dopamine, accounting for their anhedonia, i.e., difficulty experiencing pleasure and joy.

Schopenhauer was a major influence on Wagner, who attempted to embody the world will in his music. Magee has written of this in another book, The Tristan Chord.

Wagner was, of course, a Nazty Piece of Work, but some people think he is the greatest musical genius in history. I have no opinion on that, but Magee writes that for Wagner, "the function of serious art" is "to reveal to human beings the most fundamental truths of their innermost nature." His music "is the direct utterance of the metaphysical will."

But I'm not sure someone as nasty as Wagner can know the fundamental truth about humans. Magee writes that very early on, "he felt unable to relate to other people," for "they did not understand him." This is a common feature of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, in that the narcissist is so special that he is in a category all his own.

"As a result, the world always seemed to him an alien place, both puzzling and hostile. He did not understand it, was not home in it, did not like it. He wanted to escape from it."

In fact, "Until his fifties not a year of his adulthood went by in which he did not seriously contemplate suicide."


But again, consistent with clinical narcissism, the depression alternated with intense grandiosity, in that he was convinced that he was the only person in history who could express the ultimate truth of existence: "it is a question here of conclusions which I am the only person able to draw," for "there has never been a man who was poet and musician at the same time, as I am, and to whom therefore insights into inner processes were possible such as are not to be expected from anyone else."

Well, aren't you special. I can't say what it means about his music, but Hitler was absolutely crazy about it, attending performances of it as often as he could, even when he was poor and broke. It "nourished" him like nothing else.

The Blurb from Hell.

I forget why Wagner was such a vicious anti-Semite, but certainly the Biblical view of music is quite contrary to his -- for example, it is God our maker "who gives songs in the night" (Job 35:10), and who puts those new songs in our mouths (Ps 40:3). In other words, music doesn't come from the primordial below, the noumenal will, but is a gift from above.

Then again, maybe I'm just not depressed enough to understand the awful truth about the world.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cosmic Rhythm, Divine Harmony, Planetary Funkmanship, and the Prodigal Melody

This will be a transitional post, since Petey has not yet informed me of the updated bus schedule. I've picked a subject more or less out of thin air, although it came to me while driving the boy to school. We were talking about my own childhood, and I was telling him that in my youth I had two, and only two, interests: music and sports. This continued until about, oh, age 26, although by then beer and women were in the mix.

The first thing I want to say about music is that it had damn well better be important, because if it isn't, then I've wasted a huge chunk of my life.

To put it another way, does the near universal attraction to music imply anything about its significance, or is it nothing more than ultimately pointless noise, just sound and fury signifying sound and fury? The fact that it "speaks to us" implies that there is something in us spoken to. But what is being communicated, to whom, and why?

I made an initial foray into this subject in the book. I believe I've mentioned before that one its working titles was The Cosmic Suite, in that it has four movements -- matter, life, mind, and spirit -- each with a motif that is developed in different ways. Plus, the opening Cosmonaught section is supposed to be like the overture that previews the motifs that will later be developed in the individual sections, while the Cosmobliteration section is the crescendo or finale.

Along these lines, one of my initial inspirations was Schopenhauer, who is one of the few philosophers to appreciate the meta-cosmic significance of music. I'm guessing that he too needed a grandiose alibi for spending so many hours listening to AM radio as a kid and hanging around in used record stores.

Let's drag some Schopie from the shelf and see what he says. The idea that he was only a pessimistic sourpuss is a bit of a caricature. Like Bob, Schopenhauer basically wrote one book that he never stopped working on (in his case, editing and adding new material), The World as Will and Idea. From the introduction:

Schopenhauer wrote of all forms of art, but felt that music was the highest: "Whereas architecture makes transparent rather elementary Ideas, music expresses most distinctly (partly because of its non-spatial character) the inner nature of the whole world" (emphasis mine).

Ah ha! Now we're on to something: we are drawn to music because at its core, it actually communicates essential truths about the very nature and structure of existence.

That's what I think. Music is able to "capture what has evaded scientists and philosophers and theologians," because it is in a non-discursive language they do not speak; it communicates truths that cannot be articulated in such cutandry & wideawake terms. Plus, music is essentially temporal, so it reveals some important things about time.

Here he analogizes the cosmic hierarchy to a kind of great resonant chord of existence, in which "animal and plant are the descending fifth and third of man," while "the inorganic kingdom is the lower octave."

I might express it slightly differently and suggest that nature is like the rhythm section, with a repetitive groove consisting of day, night, seasons, lunar phases, years, etc., while the biosphere -- or, let's say our instinctual life -- provides the ground notes, or the bass guitar that serves to unify and hold together the rhythm below and the melody above. Or, we can only "improvise" above -- i.e., exercise free will -- because of the excellent and very tight rhythm section below.

The piano is also considered part of the rhythm section. In particular, it usually provides the chords over which the soloist improvises. I like to think that tradition feeds us those chords, but that it is up to us to use them to jam. In the words of John Lee Hooker, let that boy boogie woogie.

Thus, to paraphrase Schopie, the melody "surges forwards," and "may be regarded as in some sense expressing man's life and endeavor." The melody is played over "the ponderous bass," and "completes" the music, incorporating "the animal kingdom and the whole of nature that is without knowledge."

In other words, only man may play the cosmic suite, and this may even be man's sufficient reason -- as I put it in the Coonifesto, "we are each a unique and unrepeatable melody that can, if we only pay close enough attention to the polyphonic score that surrounds and abides within us, harmonize existence in our own beautiful way..."

Later in the book he devotes another ten pages to the subject, reiterating that "we must attribute to music a far more serious, deeper significance for the inmost nature of the world and our own self."

Here he implies that music is a kind of two-way mirror, as indeed is nature, in that the endless intelligibility of the latter is a mirror of our infinite intelligence, and vice versa. "In some sense music must relate to the world as does a representation to the thing represented."

Most people think of music as a non-representational art form, in that it supposedly conveys nothing except its own abstract patterns. But Schopenhauer agrees with Bob that music actually does represent something -- a little thing called reality. In semiotic terms, if music is the signifier, the world-process is its signified.

This relationship is "very deep, infinitely true, and really striking, for it is instantly understood by everyone, and has the appearance of a certain infallibility..." By examining -- or dwelling in -- the "inner essence of music," we may perceive "its imitative relation to the world."

Interestingly, we perceive how low notes persist longer than high notes which are heard and gone. Here gain, the bass is an expression of the biosphere as such, not the individual species, whereas, say, birds darting around in the sky are like the notes of a flute (and often sound like notes of a flute). These latter notes "die away more swiftly." But all living things are grounded in those resonant bass notes.

Where we differ from Schopenhauer is that he believes the score was essentially "written" by nature, or is a product of the impersonal world-will, whereas we believe the score is written by God, at least in its harmonic outlines and overall structure.

At the lowest level of quantum mechanics, we see a kind of music of pure vibration -- which is precisely what audible music is, i.e., vibration.

Again, it is up to man to harmonize the whole existentialada: "all these bass and other parts which make up harmony lack that coherence and continuity which belong only to the upper voice singing the melody."

Man is the quintessential melody maker, or improviser, taking the repetitive rhythms and unchanging chords and then making sometune of himself. "The deep bass moves more slowly and.... ponderously of all.... It rises and falls only in large intervals..." If it were to suddenly improvise all over the place, it would produce earthquakes and extinctions. Indeed, a real revolution might be thought of as a change in the bass line.

But we can all participate in our own private revolution by creating our own melody: with its relative freedom, it can express the meaning and coherence of the whole, or in other words, weave the whole thing together in a three minute pop masterpiece. (By which I mean that the span of our lives in comparison the the 14 billion year old cosmos is like a pop jingle.)

Even so, "Only the melody has significant intentional connection from beginning to end." It "is a constant digression and deviation from the key-note in a thousand ways," but "always follows a return at last to the key note" -- like one of those marathon thirty minute solos by John Coltrane or Keith Jarrett. Call it the prodigal melody.

The composer reveals the inner nature of the world, and expresses the most profound wisdom, in a language which his reasoning faculty does not understand... --Schopenhauer

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Past: An Interesting Place to Visit, But I Wouldn't Want to Live There

Let's race through the last 100 pages of Inventing the Individual in order to mine any final insights.

Insights into what? Into how something as utterly strange and unlikely as "you" or "I" came to exist. There are so many necessary conditions for I AM to appear in time that it bobbles the Bob.

Which raises the question: would different conditions have caused another "subjective entity" to emerge, something so different from our familiar selves that we can scarcely imagine it?

This is similar to asking if it is possible for a different form of life to exist, something not based on carbon. What would it be like? Who knows? Likewise, what would a universe with different laws be like? It is unimaginable, because for one thing, imagination is only a feature of this universe. It is very unlikely to exist in other universes.

It's the same with the desire to discover "intelligent life" elsewhere. The necessary conditions for life to emerge on this planet are so insanely specific, that I can't imagine they are found anyplace else. You may find one, or ten, or a hundred of these variables, but they all need to be proportioned to one another. For example, earth has a much larger planetary wingman, Jupiter, to attract all the cosmic debris, so it won't plow into us and destroy our little floating biology lab.

Even knowing as much as we know about antiquity, or about the Middle Ages, our ability to project ourselves into these periods hits a kind of wall that we cannot venture past, for the same reason we cannot imagine what it is like to be a bat or a cow. The reason why we can't break through the wall is that we have to jettison a part -- the central part -- of ourselves that wouldn't have existed at the time, or would have only existed in a weak or nascent form. This probably sounds more controversial than it is, but it strikes me as self-evident.

For example, we all know that it makes no scientific sense to ask what came "before" the Big Bang, because time is supposedly a function of the Big Bang. Therefore, there is no before, so ignore that man behind the curtain of tenure and stop asking childish questions.

What is actually going on is that the scientific model simply breaks down at that point. It is similar to what happens at the quantum level: anomalies and conundrums arise because our common sense models simply don't apply. Thus, with no model, there is no way to imagine what is going on down there. We can invent purely mathematical models to try to tie up the anomalies -- which is what string theory is all about -- but these are more like pre-Copernican speculation about planetary epicycles. In other words, the 26 (or whatever it is) dimensions of string theory "save the appearances," as did epicycles for geocentrism.

We're getting a little far afield, aren't we? The point is that naively projecting ourselves into the past is more problematic than we may realize. For me, reading history often provokes WTF?! moments of stark incomprehension.

I'll give you a little example. I'm reading in Berman what pre-Christian law was like. While I understand the words, I find it impossible to actually put myself in the mind of a person for whom the following form of justice would have made perfect sense:

In pagan Germanic society there were two types of ordeal to determine innocence or guilt, trial by water or trial by fire -- fire for elites and big shots, water for the rest of us. "Originally these were invocations of the gods of fire and water.... Those tried by fire were passed blindfolded or barefooted over hot glowing plowshares, or they carried burning irons in their hands."

Exactly what does this have to do with justice? What, it's not obvious? "If their burns healed properly they were exonerated."

The other type of ordeal involved either freezing or boiling water. "In cold water, the suspect was adjudged guilty if his body was borne up by the water contrary to the course of nature, showing the water did not accept him." Excuse me, but WTF? Accept him?

"In hot water he was adjudged innocent if after putting his bare arms and legs into scalding water he came out unhurt." Again I respectfully ask: WTF?

Yes, this form of justice is "one way of looking at things." But is there any part of you that can really look at it this way and agree that it makes perfect sense? Nevertheless, the folks were content with it. Even with the influence of Christianity, "there was considerable resistance to the abolition of ordeals in the thirteenth century." You know, why mess with a system that is perfectly adequate?

That is just one teeny tiny example of how the past is a very different country. I could easily find more extreme examples, but you get the point: we can only pretend to understand much of the past.

"It is difficult for us to re-enter a social world where so little was shared." In other words, not only are these people different from us, but they were all different from each other. There was no "universality," because "In the twelfth century each group -- whether of feudatories, serfs, or townspeople -- was a world unto itself. People did not locate themselves in a world of commonality."

This has direct contemporary relevance, because, for example, we do not live in the same world as the Islamists. Here again, we can only pretend to understand people who torture children, burn Christians alive, and decapitate journalists. Well, maybe we kind of get the last one, but the point is that they are "missing" something we take for granted. Liberals pretend the terrorists simply want what we have, or are angry at us for something we did 500 years ago, but they are actually motivated by an entirely different mentality. The terrorists too.

Speaking of the moral insanity of the left, look at how they equate Chris Kyle -- the Sniper -- with Nazis and terrorists, as if he shares the mentality of our enemies and is motivated by the same ends! For Michael Moore, the imaginary sniper who murdered his make believe uncle is no different from a real sniper who kills evil people who want to destroy civilization and every person in it.

It is no different than equating trial by fire to trial by jury. But if you are a multiculturalist, that's what you do. We are "invaders," "occupiers," and "torturers," just like ISIS.

So, that's about the size of it. We'll end this series with a quote by Siedentop:

[T]he defining characteristic of Christianity was its universalism. It aimed to create a single human society, a society composed, that is, of individuals rather than tribes, clans, or castes.... Hence the deep individualism of Christianity was simply the reverse side of its universalism. The Christian conception of God becomes the means of creating a brotherhood of man, of bringing to self-consciousness the human species, by leading each of its members to see him- or herself as having, at least potentially, a relationship with the deepest reality -- viz., God -- that both required and justified the equal moral standing of all humans.

You say you want a revolution? That is a revolution, the most consequential ever. And it is ongoing, because there are reactionaries everywhere.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Great Disentangling

I'd like to wrap up Inventing the Individual before moving on. One theme that emerges from the book is that while it took centuries for the individual to be disentangled from the group, it has been the work of less than a century for the left to re-entangle us.

For both Siedentop and Berman, 1075 is a truly revolutionary, world-historical turning point, for that is when Pope Gregory insists on the independence of the church from secular authorities. As a consequence, the king, at least in theory, is demoted to a mere layperson instead of combining spiritual and temporal power in his person. Indeed, he can't do that, because only Jesus does.

As always, timelessness takes time: "Gregory's vision of a social order founded on individual morality" instead of "brute force and mere deference, had taken centuries to prepare" (Siedentop). You know, like the way a person goes bankrupt: very gradually and then all of a sudden.

So, suddenly "relations of equality and reciprocity are now understood as antecedent to both positive and customary law." Thus, law is disentangled from custom, and seen more abstractly as a universal category. This constitutes a "reversal of assumptions," such that "instead of traditional social inequalities being deemed natural... an underlying moral equality was now deemed natural."

This Great Disentangling "freed the human mind, giving a far wider scope and a more critical edge to the role of analysis. It made possible what might be called the 'take off' of the Western mind" (emphasis mine), vaulting mother Europe "along a road which no human society had previously followed." Vertical liftoff!

Here we can see how the left's retarded project involves a Great Re-entangling: again, it took thousands of years for "individuals rather than established social categories or classes" to become "the focus of legal jurisdiction." But now, thanks to the left, the individual is subsumed into race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc., and we're back to where we started: post-Christian necessarily redounds to the pre-Christian.

"The papal claim of sovereignty" furthered the transition to the "meta-role" of the individual "shared equally by all persons." Seen this way, the self is the essence, while social roles become mere accidents instead of being in the nature of things.

It seems to me that this idea of disentanglement is key; it reminds me of how the fertilized egg first divides into two, then four, eight, sixteen, etc., becoming more complex and specialized along the way. There is still unity, of course, but it is a deeper form of organic unity because the diversity is unified on a higher level.

Just so, once the secular-spiritual cell divides in two, this initiates further divisions and distinctions. For example, philosophy becomes distinct from theology, and more generally, "logical studies" develop "with astonishing rapidity during the twelfth century."

Likewise, a new distinction is seen between the moral and physical elements of crime. Because of the new interiority, the concept of "intent" or motive comes into play: "intentions had scarcely been distinguished from actions in 'barbarian' justice." "Degrees of guilt" are perceived, and punishment becomes distinct from mere retaliation.

Marriage changes too, as measures are adopted to ensure that it is "based on consent rather than coercion." Politics too: instead of authority flowing in one direction only, from the top down, "The authority of superiors thus became a delegated authority. Authority is again understood as flowing upwards."

If we stand back and look at the overall arc, we see that "under way was nothing less than a reconstruction of the self, along lines more consistent with Christian moral intuitions." This ushers in "a new transparency in social relations," for now we relate to another person, not just his role. Conversely, "in societies resting on the assumption of natural inequality," this interpersonal transparency is obscured.

Another major development is the distinction between free will and fate, choice and necessity. If human beings are personally accountable to God, then this emphasizes not only our moral freedom, but the need for political freedom so that we are free to exercise moral choice. In other words, nothing less than eternity is at stake, so the freedom to do good becomes a matter of urgent necessity; for what is free will but "a certain ability by which man is able to discern between good and evil"?

Note that if people are fundamentally unequal, then we can make no generalizations about them: there is one law for the sheep, another for the wolf; or one law for us, another law for Obama.

With this new self, there is a kind of interiorizing of the logos: instead of the logos being only a sort of exterior reason that controls events, it is "understood as an attribute of individuals who are equally moral agents." Here again, in the post-Christian world we see a regression to determinism, for example, the idea that we are controlled by genes, or neurology, or poverty, or race.

The empirical becomes distinct from the general, induction from deduction: "The Christian preoccupation with 'innerness' and human agency," or "between the will and the senses," leads to "a growing distrust of the coercive potential of general terms or concepts, if an extra-mental reality is attributed to them."

Conversely, leftism is always rooted in the projection of an abstraction onto the world, thus giving it the illusion of an "extra-mental reality" or self-evident fact. Scientism, materialism, metaphysical Darwinism -- each elevates an uncritical naïveté to the highest wisdom.

Come to think of it, this is one of the major themes of The Great Debate: conservatives begin with the world as it is, whereas the left begins with the world as they wish it were. We'll be hearing a lot about this tonight, but it all comes down to an atavistic desire on the part of the left to undo the work of centuries and re-entangle mind and world, individual and group, state and citizen, time and eternity, freedom and compulsion, messiah and politician, executive and legislature, class and guilt, etc.

Monday, January 19, 2015

We All Worship the Same God, We Just Agree Different

I award this post the Raccoon Squeal of Approval, and declare it to be nihil bobstat, that is, vaguely plausible and free of anything Bob wouldn't say, and probably containing some things he wishes he had.

We all know that contemporary liberalism is a secular religion -- only the most successful one ever -- and that man, as homo religiosus, cannot not be religious, but rather, only pretend not to be. Kristor implicitly argues that this is because we come into the world with certain universal archetypes that shape our experience:

"Not only is there always a state religion, but there is always a king of some sort, a father of the country. Likewise there is always a class of priests and judges, always a class of warrior nobles, always a class of merchants, always monastics and hermits, a market, a language, families, patriarchs, prophets, sex roles, etc. These things are built into man. They can be suppressed for a while, or injured, but not permanently eliminated from the constitution of human society. You can’t get rid of them, any more than you can get rid of the pancreas or the spleen. The functions they mediate must be mediated, and one way or another they will be mediated."

Actually, you can get rid of the spleen. But no sane person asks for it to be removed. Rather, it usually follows some terrible accident. Likewise, there are some archetypes we can dispense with, but this usually results from a terrible developmental accident of some kind, say, sexual abuse.

First of all, what is an archetype? I would say that they are to the vertical what instincts are to the horizontal. Our minds are not "blank slates," any more than our bodies are. Rather, our bodies have built in needs, expectations, and abilities. Similarly, we come into the world expecting, say, a mother and father. Thus, we are also entitled to a mother and father, just as infants are entitled to milk and not bourbon.

You could also say that an archetype is an "empty category" awaiting experience to fill it out. While it has a general outline, it has no specific content until we encounter it in life. It is the blueprint (or clueprint), not the building materials or finished project. Therefore, it is a kind of final cause. Archetypes operate as attractors in the subjective phase space of the interior world. Kristor alludes to several: father, judge, warrior, hermit, prophet, sex roles, etc.

In a subsequent series of posts I hope to discuss the classic Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition. While doing a little research on the author, I came across an interview in which he speaks of how the Law is built into us. Yes, we are all little lawyers:

"Belief in law comes from early childhood," he said. "A child says, 'It's my toy.' That's property law. A child says, 'You promised me.' That's contract law. A child says, 'He hit me first.' That's criminal law. A child says, 'Daddy said I could.' That's constitutional law."

From the same piece: "Berman's main contention is that law is a foundational principle of Western society that derives its moral and religious dimension from God as the first lawgiver." Thus, any law must be grounded in the Law, just as any truth is a reflection of the One Truth.

So, because there is Law, there are promises, contracts, private property, justice, injustice, and a supreme court, or a final court of appeal.

And in fact, although we appeal to this court in this life, our real hope is that it is still very much in session in the next life -- in other words, that in the end, justice will prevail and the scales will be balanced.

I suppose we could say that social justice warriors imagine that the scales can be balanced in this life. Like all leftists, they immanentize the eschaton, in this case eschatological justice. This results in the "divine judgment" taking place right here and now, only promiscuously mixed with the demon-haunted wrath of the social warrior. This is why, when the radicals succeed, life looks like a vision of Hieronymus Bosch, as in the French, Communist, and Nazi revolutions.

Just as truth implies a truth-giver, law implies a law-giver. Kristor points out that language is only a kind of prolongation of this primordial Truth. Language cannot not speak of truth, because its substance is truth. It reminds me of a current in the ocean: the current is distinct from the ocean, and yet, nothing more than the substance of the ocean. Likewise, a word is distinct from the truth while being composed of it. Language converges on truth; or, truth is its alpha and omega.

Back to our religious nature. Since the leftist denies his religiosity, it naturally expresses itself in a covert and subconscious manner. For us their religiosity is transparent, whereas for the leftist it is hidden, because it must be denied by the person who regards himself as superior to religion. In other words, the leftist has a hypertrophied vertical defense mechanism deployed to repress spirit.

Today's holiday is only peripherally about the human being named Martin Luther King. Rather, he has been swallowed by his projected archetype, just as other leftist icons have been eclipsed by theirs -- FDR, JFK, Nelson Mandela, etc. So thick is the ideological penumbra surrounding these icons, that the actual person can't be seen at all. And if you try to point to the man beneath the projection, the left's reaction bears an uncanny resemblance to how Muslims react to cartoons of Muhammad.