Friday, April 22, 2016

Conservatism = Enjoyment

So, acedia is at bottom a refusal to carry out the work of becoming oneself. It is both a cause and consequence of boredom, and boredom is a much more serious problem than people realize. It is the source of much liberal mischief and mayhem, since a person who isn't bored with his own life won't generally try to get his jollies by interfering with other people's lives.

In fact, experts say that the #1 cause of aggravated noodgery is boredom.

Acedia is associated with a "wandering unrest of the spirit" (Pieper). This is because the spiritual life draws us toward our center, such that the alternative is a flight to the periphery of ourselves; the acediacidal mooniac "has to make the vain attempt to break out of his own center -- for example, into restless work [or "activism"] for the sake of work," or "into the unquenchable curiosity for pure spectacle," or into the myriad ways "of abandoning oneself to the world" and ultimately avoiding onesoph.

This is the same unrest that drives one of those compulsive fallow travelers "from one part of the world to another." It also goes to "the endless talk that fills up everyday existence." Ever been to a house where the TV is on all the time, even though no one is watching it? More generally, it's becoming impossible to avoid the Screen, whether at the doctor's office, airport, gas pumps, etc. Why is that? I would say it's not even distraction; rather, distraction from distraction.

Which is again a capital sin. Acedia is full of possibilities, none of them good. It is as if the acediac "wishes that God had not given him this gift" -- i.e., the Adventure of Consciousness -- "but had 'left him in peace.'" He "does not want to attain the end which is really designed for him and is appropriate for him" (Pieper).

Interestingly, because acedia is misleadingly translated as "sloth," you wouldn't know that acedia and leisure are at antipodes. In other words, laziness has nothing to do with genuine Slack.

Many things in life legitimately serve other purposes, such as working in order to eat. But leisure involves activities -- or inactivities -- which serve no purpose outside themselves. Their value is intrinsic, not extrinsic. And all of the higher and laughty things in life are intrinsic, e.g., love, truth, beauty, humor, music, baseball, this blog, etc.

There is servitude and there is freedom, and only the intrinsic is truly free. This was originally the difference between the liberal and servile arts. Which is ironic, because today's unemployable liberal arts major has, of course, obtained a degree in a "useless" subject.

However, the degree is doubly useless, because it has neither extrinsic nor intrinsic value. Rather, it's just very expensive unalloyed bullshit -- a total waste. And it certainly doesn't contribute to personal liberation, rather, to the auto-oppression of liberal victim ideology.

Someone left a comment on yesterday's post adverting to the importance of ears over eyes, of hearing over seeing. Well, "Leisure is precisely that form of silence which is a presupposition for hearing something" (ibid.).

Like right now, I'm banging at the keys but I'm listening at the same time, for "Only the silent person is able to hear. Leisure is the attitude of purely receptive immersion of the self into reality; the soul's openness, to which alone are given the very great fulfilling insights that no [mere] 'intellectual work' can achieve" (ibid.).

Not so much cerebration as celebration. I think it was Russell Kirk who said that the essence of conservatism is enjoyment. It is enjoyment because it is rooted in the feast of the now which extends backward and forward, down and up, all the way into eternity. It is "to see the world as a whole and to celebrate it," to experience ourselves as "related to the totality of the world through a free activity" (Pieper).

And through such truly free activity we crown the creation which has only been groaning for this liberation for like 14 billion years...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Liberalism: The Lazy Man's Way to Hell

Continuing with our little exploration of the nature (and supernature) of selfhood, Pieper has a relevant chapter in his book Tradition as Challenge (meh, not really recommended), called The Hidden Nature of Hope and Despair. In it he discusses an important subject -- acedia -- that we maybe haven't blah-blah-blogged about as much as we should; a quick search finds it mentioned in only seven posts.

For Kierkegaard acedia is a kind of "despair from weakness" which, according to Pieper, "consists in man not daring to be himself, even explicitly not wanting to be himself. He refuses to be what he really is; he does not accept his own being."

Now, this usually occurs as a result a failure of one's being to be affirmed by one's parents. In other words, what begins with a perceived rejection (of the child's developing self) ends in a refusal (of one's being). The child internalizes this rejection, essentially foreclosing his true self before the world can re-traumatize him by rejecting it again. It's a pre-emptive auto-destruction.

Back in the 1970s, a brilliant and sensitive psychoanalytic theorist named Heinz Kohut elaborated a whole developmental theory based on this idea, called self psychology.

It's quite simple really (and also common freaking sense). In order to avoid various developmental catastrophes, the child most needs two things: a person to empathically mirror him and a person to idealize. With obvious overlap and exceptions, the former role often fell mostly to the mother, the latter to the father. Failure of either results in various forms of pathological narcissism and other psychological illnesses.

A normal person never loses the need for both types of relationships. And now that I think about it, it is easy to see how, for example, failure to have a proper ego ideal can result in acedia and developmental stasis. In other words, we always need exemplars to look up to and emulate. I can totally see this in my son. It began with me, but it has branched off into other similarly awesome heroic and virtuous self-objects (the technical term for these relations).

If you want to bring this down to a very concrete level, consider the failure of Obama's self-objects (his worthless mother and alcoholic, bigamist, and manslaughtering father), and how he found his ego ideals in disreputable types such as Frank Marshall Davis, Jeremiah Wright, Saul Alinsky, Bill Ayers, and other lowlife demonoids.

You can't ask someone who has never known normality to understand why, say, we have different restrooms for boys and girls. And our culture is cranking out more and more narcissistically damaged and therefore fundamentally confused people, in my opinion (partly) because of widespread single parenthood and abandonment of children to daycare. How could this not have damaging psychological consequences?

As we've mentioned before, acedia has been poorly translated as sloth, which connotes laziness or lack of productivity. But what it really means is "that a person does not engage in working at his own self-realization, that he refuses to make the required contribution to his own truly human existence" (Pieper).

Again, it doesn't refer to exterior but interior work, i.e., "to the carrying out of [one's] personal being, a duty which we know -- without a word being spoken, yet unmistakably -- that we are required to perform" (ibid.). It's your cosmic duty! What did that fellow say? "The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint."

Failure to answer your telosphone is a Big Mistake, because it's God calling: there's a reason why acedia is a capital sin, because so many other sins flow out of it: "In sloth..., man resists the demand which comes with the dignity of his own status.... above all, he does not want to be that to which God has raised him -- a level of being far above what his purely human nature can achieve" (Pieper).

And the most catastrophic outcome occurs when the narcissistically wounded person props up his own damaged self as his ego ideal. This is why sin and madness flow from the Obama administration like a toxic stream from its swollen headwaters.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why Liberalism Smells That Way

If there is no free will, then it would make no sense for human beings to have emotions such as guilt and regret, not to mention hope, responsibility, and merit.

If everything had to be the way it was, and will be the way it must be, then these realities aren't just superfluous but without foundation; philosophically we're simply eliminating one inexplicable reality -- free will -- at the cost of introducing several others. Deploying Occam's razor, we can cut away a lot of loose nonsense by simply accepting the perfect nonsense of free will.

Genesis realizes this at the outset with the focus on shame. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first recorded emotion in the Bible, and it stands as testimony to the reality of our freedom: presumably if Adam hadn't chosen to disobey, then he wouldn't have felt ashamed.

In fact, the existence of shame is full of implications, isn't it? There is no question that a shameless human being hardly qualifies as human. A shameless psychopath is (presumably) genetically human, and yet, his very existence is anti-human to the core; he is the mirror image of a proper human, i.e., a genuine monster.

The implication is that without a capacity for shame, we can't be free, and vice versa.

I wonder what Schuon has to say about the subject? "The purpose of freedom is to enable us to choose what we are in the depths of our heart. We are intrinsically free to the extent that we have a center which frees us: a center which, far from confining us, dilates us by offering us an inward space without limits and without shadows; and this Center is in the last analysis the only one there is."

What about Don Colacho? "Liberty is not an end, but a means. Whoever mistakes it for an end does not know what to do with it when he attains it." And a warning: "Freedom intoxicates, as the license to be another."

Combining this with what Schuon says, we could affirm that freedom misused enables us to be someone other than who we are in the depths of our heart. It allows us to move in the direction of our true self, but also to inhabit the false self and erect the as-if personality: to be someone else (and therefore not be). (And the most common reason why a person chooses to be someone else is shame dysregulation, i.e., intolerance of shame.)

Here's another aphorism, this one on sin: "Nothing makes more evident the reality of sin than the stench of souls that deny its existence" (Don Colacho). Therefore, sin and misused freedom emit the same soul stench.

I might add that millions of people have rendered themselves insensate to this odor. We call them liberals. For various reasons, their pneumatic olfactory gland has become shriveled.

Along these lines, we have this passage from a seven year old Koon Klassic:

"As we know, certain persistent traits set the Raccoon apart from his peers, including a sense of essential Truth, a sense of the sacred, a sense of beauty, a sense of the eternal, a sense of grandeur (or dignity), a sense of mischief, a sense of soul-smell (or stench, depending on the case), a sense of the ridiculous, and a tendency toward ecstasy (often at inopportune moments)."

One more jab from Don Colacho: "Metaphysics is the olfactory nerve rather than the optical nerve." And from Petey: "Who you gonna believe, me or your lying nose?"

This biography of Russell Kirk has a chapter on Christian Humanism that has some helpful tips. For example, Kirk "saw liberalism as little more than a transitional stage between Christianity and totalitarianism. It corrupted everything while solving nothing, he believed."

Thus the purpose of Christian humanism is to humanize men, precisely, over and against the perpetual leftist project of dehumanizing them.

The properly humanized man "has received a training of mind and character that chastens and ennobles and emancipates. He is a man genuinely free; but free only because he obeys the ancient laws, the norms, which govern human nature.... He knows what it is to be a man -- to be truly and fully human. He knows what things a man is forbidden to do. He knows his rights and corresponding duties. He knows what to do with his leisure.... He knows that there is a law for man, and a law for the thing" (Kirk).

Just as with society, order is the source and foundation of personal freedom. The humanized and liberated man "seeks to preserve a society which allows men to attain manhood, rather than keeping them within bonds of perpetual childhood" (ibid.).

Conversely, the malodorous liberal seeks to enforce a repressive (and regressive) society which prevents men from attaining the rights and duties of manhood in exchange for the comforting bonds of perpetual childhood.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The St↺ry of ʘur Lives

The self must first be a vertical emanation, a spark of divinity that extends from G⧬d; and second, a horizontal line that persists through time. Visually it must look something like (↳).

However, it also has a telos that runs back to God, so the most compact way to write our autobiography would be 〇 ↓ ☞ ↑ ʘ.

Or perhaps just ↺.

If I had all day, I could toy with the meaning of other promising pneumaticons such as ⇥ (hitting a wall), ⇸ (breaking through the wall), ⇈ (sacramental marriage), ⇤ (regression), ↮ (stuck in the purgatorial middle), ⇝ (psychodrama), ⇢ (discontinuity), etc.

Anyway, "the self is the psychological or ontological thread that runs through our lives connecting the person I am today with the person I was yesterday, and again with the person I will be tomorrow" (Hill).

But before that is the vertical ingression, my favorite description of which comes from the Rabbi. Picture "a line drawn from above," "a continuous line of spiritual being, stretching from the general source of all the souls" down to ours. This is of course a line of Light with a little sparkler at the end. That spark in the dark would be you.

"The human soul, from its lowest to its highest levels, is a unique and single entity, even though it is multi-faceted. In its profoundest being, the soul of man is a part of the Divine and, in this respect, is a manifestation of God in the world" (ibid.).

Indeed, "only man, by virtue of his divine soul, has the potential, and some of the actual capacity, of God Himself" -- e.g., truth, reason, love, creativity, transcendence, freedom, slack, etc. But precisely because we are free, we have the capacity "to reach the utmost heights -- or to plumb the deepest hells" (ibid.).

"Every soul is thus a fragment of the divine light." I might add that it is a fractal of God, i.e., "a part containing something of the whole..." (ibid.).

This is why it takes all kinds to make a world; in other words, one unique individual reflects something of the absolute uniqueness of God, but we really need to add all of these singular persons together to get a sense of God's infinite uniqueness. Or in other other words, his creativity is literally inexhaustible.

But this is the ultimate source of man's value and dignity, that "The life of a person is something that has no possible substitute or exchange; nothing and no one can take its place" (ibid.).

Okay. What then do we do with this self? The "life line of the soul" is "the way of man's ascent to perfection; the more one rises, the closer one comes to the realization of the highest purpose of one's being" (ibid.). And of course we cannot do it without grace, even if we are one of those heroic do-it-yoursophers. Schuon has an interesting observation regarding the latter.

A grace-based approach such as Christianity relies on the easy yoke of surrender to nonlocal assistance. It is what you call other-powered. Conversely, the Buddhist exerts himself to eliminate everything that obscures ultimate reality, in particular, himself. Anyway, here is what Schuon says:

The “power of oneself" is "that of intelligence and of will seen from the point of view of the salvific capacity which they possess in principle," such that "man is freed thanks to his intelligence and by his own efforts..."

Conversely, "other power" "does not belong to us in any way," but "belongs to the 'Other' as its name indicates... in this context, man is saved by Grace, which does not however mean that he need not collaborate with this salvation by his receptivity and according to the modes that human nature allows or imposes on him."

Thus, in reality we must co-upperate with this Other Power. And at the same time, for Self Power to be fruitful, "it is necessary that such an effort be blessed by a celestial Power, hence a 'power of the Other.'”

So if you follow, it's the same Self-Other complementarity looked at from different angles. Thus on the one hand, Jesus' yoke is easy, but on the other, the road is difficult and the gate narrow. And the Buddha's approach is a grind, but there are helpful bodhisattvas everywhere.

Let's go back to our auto-pneumography, ↺. Steinsaltz suggests that "the sinner is punished by the closing of the circle, by being brought into contact with the domain of evil he creates" -- beginning in this life, but more importantly, continuing into the next.

I have a question. I am in some ways so different from the way I was 20 or 30 years ago, that oldBob, or my former Bob's, seem like different people. Although I remember some, if not all, of the things Bob did, I find it literally impossible to "enter" his person and understand what he was like. I have no idea what occupied his mind, what he talked about, what really motivated him.

This must go to the question of the Felicitous Death, or ontological discontinuity, we must all sopher along the way, but I'm just about out of time, so we'll pick up this cross tomorrow...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Condemned to Personhood

I have almost no time this morning, only enough to set a course and pull up anchor. But we won't be able to sail out until tomorrow.

I can't necessarily raccoommend After the Natural Law (a little too basic), but the chapter on The Classical Conception of the Person is a helpful review, plus it converges on what we've been discussing lately.

It begins with a quote from Kierkegaard to the effect that [T]o have a self, to be a self, is the greatest concession made to man, but at the same time it is eternity's demand upon him.

Ooh. I suppose you could say that man -- at least in the Christian West -- is condemned to self- or personhood.

Yeah, the Creator has given us the priceless gift of a unique personality, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it.

Except develop it. In the East the idea is to extinguish it, and maybe that works for them. Hey, maybe it's even providential for those particular cultures.

But in the West, even if we are not Christians we have been conditioned by 2000 years of Christianity, so might as well get with the program.

According to Hill, when we talk about the reality of the self, we're talking about three main questions: whether the self is real and not just the side effect of something else that is more real or fundamental; whether it is active, i.e., a genuine cause of its own decisions and actions; and third, whether it is morally significant in a special way.

The thing is, everyone thinks and behaves as if the self is real, causal, and morally significant, even if they pretend otherwise.

Again, "For the self to be real -- for it to be more than [just] a way of speaking -- it must possess a unity of its own and persist through time. To say that the self is a unity is to say that human personality is not hopelessly fragmented, that there are not 'plural' selves, that there is some centralized locus of identity, decision making and action that serves to bind the person into a whole" (Hill).

"It is to say that there is an integrated foundation underlying the tensions we commonly experience between conflicting reasons, desires, and emotions. It is to point to a moral, psychological, and ontological center of gravity in the person -- that which gives us our identity and makes us responsible for our actions" (ibid).