Monday, April 24, 2006

One Cosmos Light: Tastes Coherent! Less Absurd!

In James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, is asked why he hasn’t left the faith. Stephen’s famous response is, “What kind of liberation would it be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?”

But clearly, not everyone prefers a coherent absurdity. When you think about it, we are faced with four possibilities. Either the world is a

1) Coherent absurdity
2) Incoherent absurdity
3) Incoherent non-absurdity, or
4) Coherent non-absurdity

While we’re at it, let’s define our terms. Coherent means “logically consistent,” with specific reference in this case to a logically consistent metaphysic, while absurd means “meaningless”or “lacking in order or value.” More specifically, it is “the state or condition in which man exists in an irrational and meaningless universe and in which man’s life has no meaning outside his own existence.”

Why do I bring this up, you ask? Well, I’m in the midst of a week-long relative swarm because of my son’s first birthday. I personally have very few living relatives, and those who are alive are more like me. I've never been interested in these kinds of organized and choreographed events, especially when the celebrant has no say in the matter and enjoys every day as much as the next anyway. So these relatives are all from the Mrs. Gagdad side. Mrs. Gagdad is now on my side of the family, both literally and metaphysically, but that is another story.

Anyway, it is fair to say that I am the white sheep of the family, in the sense that there is almost no area of agreement on any matter of political, religious, philosophical or cultural substance. That’s okay. These are good people. I actually understand them thoroughly and take them as they are. However, the reverse is not true. They do not understand me at all. Importantly, they don’t know that they don’t. They simply assume that I am either like them, or, in the case of divergence, not yet like them. Or else just eccentric.

I’m sure you know the feeling. For example, the air was full of casual, matter-of-fact Bush denunciation. This is a first principle, not something that need be justified or defended. Religion is both stupid and dangerous. Again, this is just a given. One relative is an eminent historian who has written widely acclaimed scholarly books. To paraphrase him, he would rather “open up a vein and bleed to death” than be accused of trafficking in anything called “truth.” No one is naive enough to believe that “truth” is a criterion of good history. Truth simply inheres in sentences, not history and certainly not in people.

I long ago abandoned arguing or trying to make any point that could possibly sway him from his position, or even make an impact, for that matter. Actually, I shouldn’t say that. Sometimes I do get sucked in, and I always regret it. In fact, that’s part of the reason I’m writing about it now--to try to regain my bearings, because it’s always a disorienting experience. I can’t even imagine the pressure a callow undergraduate must feel from being immersed in a whole environment like this, day in, day out. You have to be extremely strong to resist conformity. You can understand why leftist academia simply churns out more confused leftists.

To his credit, this man is absolutely authentic. He does not even attempt to conceal his contempt for my views. Again, I don’t take it personally, because he certainly doesn’t. He read the first page of my book and said it brought to mind the story of a German villager who had stumbled upon a volume of Kant. He read a couple of pages, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “I should have such problems.”

The implication being, of course, that my ideas are hopelessly abstract and ethereal, while his are solidly rooted in reality--despite the fact that he confesses up front that he has no “truth” to convey, only self-justifying sentences. This in itself is interesting, for I imagine that it is a widespread sentiment in academia (again, speaking of the humanities, not the sciences). Many academics--this relative is no exception--have spent their entire lives in academia. Especially in the humanities departments, their ideas are never tested against reality, so they never have to deal with the real-world implications of their ideas--for example, what the impact would be if everyone simply abandoned the concept of truth.

I, on the other hand, live and work in the real world. I work in the field of forensic psychology. I am a historian of sorts. I need to take a thorough history of a patient, so that I can answer very specific questions.

I’m trying to imagine what would happen if I wrote a report that said, “you know, let’s not kid ourselves, Judge. There’s no such thing as truth. There are only sentences that can be constructed in such as way that they either justify themselves or not. So I’m going to tell you a story about the plaintiff, but don’t be naive enough to evaluate it in terms of whether it is “true.” Rather, evaluate it in other terms: does it decenter and liberate our Eurocentric judicial discourse? Does it subvert the hegemony of your courtroom's heteronormative presumptions? Does its transgendered gaze playfully subvert your postcolonial categories of logic? Does its queered stance give voice to the inherently sexed nature of guilt/innocence? Does its ironic pose not demonstrate the absurdity of a bad faith judicial system that pretends to seek "truth" in good faith? Does its "brownness" speak for the marginalized Palestinian "other" living under the boot heal of Zionist whiteness?

I should have such problems. In the real world in which I live, I must deal in coherent non-absurdities. A report that is incoherent--that is, either internally or externally inconsistent--will be picked apart on cross examination. And a report that is absurd will obviously be a non-starter.

I believe the world of the academic left is largely a world of incoherent absurdity. To cite just one example that is close at hand, if you were to listen to the above-referenced relative in unguarded moments, you would hear him constantly make sweeping statements that he seems to be claiming as truthful. Otherwise, why make them? I maintain that you cannot engage in any kind of rational discourse at all without an implicit understanding of Truth. In other words, rational discourse is guided by a Truth that we cannot necessarily possess, but which we perpetually aim for. We do this quite naturally, although in truth, it is actually a supernatural capacity that is built into us. To deny Truth is to live in absurdity, and to live in absurdity is to try to deny Truth.

There is also a world of coherent absurdity. This is the world of science--not the scientific method, with which I have no quarrel at all, but the materialist metaphysic that is embraced with science as its justification. This is “scientism,” the excessive reliance on the methods of science to disclose the nature of reality. Clearly, science, unlike, say, deconstructionism, is fully consistent and coherent, or at least aims to be. But it is nevertheless absurd, in fact, every bit as absurd as any doctrinaire leftist subhumanities department. Science is a closed system that makes perfect sense within itself, but generates metaphysical absurdity the moment we even attempt to explain the mysterious presence of the scientific knower. For if consciousness did not exist, science would have no trouble explaining it.

We next come to the realm of the incoherent non-absurdity. This is the realm of pre-reflective religiosity. In fact, many sophisticated moderns shun religion because it seems to them incoherent, that is, illogical, even childishly so. They would prefer to honestly live in an absurd universe than forsake logic to live in a comfortable delusion. Coherence is their God, even if elevating it to the supreme good is patently incoherent.

Lastly, we come to the realm of the coherent non-absurdity. Does such a thing exist? As a matter of fact, that is what this blog is about. It is what my book is about. For I believe that the universe is both coherent and ultimately meaningful. This coherence and meaning are not to be found where the secular leftist, the scientist, or even the exoteric religionist look (although in the latter case, they are infinitely closer to the truth). Rather, coherence and meaning are actually two sides of the same process, for meaning is revealed through coherence, and ultimate meaning is revealed in ultimate coherence.

Look at it this way: science is the reduction of multiplicity to unity. A good scientific theory will tie together a whole mass of disparate data and reveal their hidden, inner coherence.

Likewise, religion is the ultimate case of reducing multiplicity to unity. This unity goes by many names, but it is not to be understood as a mere object or aggregation of particulars. Rather, it is the ultimate subject through which the entire universe coheres and toward which it is oriented. It is the prior condition that makes the world intelligible at all, and even more mysteriously, makes us capable of knowing it.

The problem is, how do we convey the idea that the solutions to our most stubborn existential dilemmas and conundrums are found not in any secular philosophy, but in religion?

That’s my big problem. We should all have such problems.


"I'm just a baby, but I agree with my GagDad. It's absurd to think that this impressive thing just landed here all by itself... Although I suppose it could be an ironic phallocentric gesture."


Anonymous said...

And then there's the Existentialists, who seem to have a view of the world as coherent only in its absurdity.


will said...

Bob 'n heads -

Lil Guy looks like he's taking a hit off a very large high tech milk bong . .

I know that disorientation from being encircled by dedicated secularists. Very dry bones, No Exit sensation. I gotta believe that, at root, there's something vampiric going on.

And I'm serious. I can be all friendly-like with the secs, share wheat thins with them, etc., but Dostoyevky's saying is always in my head - "If there's no God, then all is permitted." Plan as they may for utopia, just under the surface is chaos with a hit list, and I'm on it.

It will have to get around to that, eventually. Won't take much in the way of a breakdown of social order, and out will come the torches and pitchforks.

Gee, I'm just overcome by jolly thoughts on this Monday . . .

But I'm really being realistic here. Things are sliding toward their own essential source.

dilys said...

I call it Holy Communion at the Cargo Cult.

At last, a fellow paranoid. Pssst, Will, hi. I think of it not so much a hit list, as a "do not resuscitate," a "let the church burn," a "well, we can't defend xxxxophobes" [name your term]. Whether serious exoteric religionists or not-with-the-program on-our-own independents, the exposure we're heading for seems to be materializing ahead in foggy outlines.

Cheers, all, and carpe diem!

dilys said...

BTW, Bob, when Sr. Dilys saw this and other pictures, he was visibly envious of the array of toys, had to be reminded to notice the child.

Ergo, for girls' demography post pictures of babies, for boys', toys.

In general, of course there are exceptions, yadda yadda...

LiquidLifeHacker said...

Bob, I felt your pain as I read this. "it’s always a disorienting experience" ... dang it if it isn't! Thats the perfect description for it!

Do you remember when at around Thanksgiving I was asking for a few tips about sitting around the dinner table with "the leftist" in my family? I have to admit, that your advice came in handy, but it does always end up being a 'disorienting experience' and each time I am thrown together with this adorable group, which includes family that I truly love, I always have to ride over that hump of anxiety, because although I have gotten use to their comments and Lefty conversations, which for me being in the midst is like spending a day stuck on the Daily Kios website with no exit button to surf on. Imagine that?

At family get togethers and celebrations, I still catch myself looking around at these faces and wondering how they came up with their conclusions! I don't argue with them anymore...but like you, I do get caught up in some type of interaction which is verbal every now and then and like you always regret it, but the more I interact, even being as careful as staying outside the political jargon, I can still see the ultimate separation in almost all things between us! This being connected via a gene pool is about all there is it seems! They are wonderful people...very well educated and established in their own part of the world and some are accomplished beyond anything I will probably ever do in this lifetime, but I am not kidding, it seems that I have had to slap myself a few time, because I think I am being judgemental and letting their every vibe roll over into everything about them, but seriously, its like doing time as if my spirit it trying to tug me away during some of these events! A spiritual challenge? I guess it is. I am learning to be more silent and just listen. I am learning to love them in a deeper way. I get asked alot if I am feeling well because I sit, hands folded, using anything else to distract me when they get on some of these far fetched topics or lefty ideas and I have found that I rather choose to hang out with the children in the crowd or maybe even the dog which is looking at me like "Can you believe this crap?" and it's not like I don't love these people, because I's just some of them are like aliens when they start to share their politics or religion or lack of religion! So I ask myself...what is important and valuable about this time with them? Why do I have them in my life and why do they have me in theirs? Should I worry about it if we are not all yoked in the same egg? Does everything I say seem as alien to them too? Did 'aunt so and so' just roll her eyes when I made that last comment? Do they really think I am going to 'grow into" their way of thinking?

Like you said, and I tell you this amplifies it all, is that it is always a disoriented experience! So the thing I always walk away with now is that I must be affecting them the same way! They gotta be walking off with that same disoriented feeling...or do they? Are they capable of it?

I get my answers to this in tiny little feedbacks and the answer is YES...they do!

In fact I think they have long distant phone conversations and exchanges of email about it! Ha Ha And sometimes, when you get one on one with one of them, on their own terms of course, they will sneak in a question or two about something where I get to answer without an audience and although I can tell they don't agree with my replies...I can see that a little seed gets planted. Will it grow? It's anyone's guess. But it got heard this time only because they asked straight up and not because I was part of any input via a family discussion (at a family event) on any given topic! I stole no one's thunder!

I guess what I am saying is that we do make a little rattle in their cage! Our spirits do not go unnoticed, even when we are sitting off with the children or outside throwing a ball to the dog! In fact, I just recently got some feedback from a previous "family get together" where I practiced just loving them in my silence and get this response to the 'why of my silence on certain topics' there were comments given back from some of those that I usually disagree with the most like, "She has such a sweet peaceful way about her" "Her spirit is so gentle" "The children adore her" "She always is so nice"
It was as if in my silence and lots of physical hugs that I was able to send a vibe that pushed out there more love towards them by my spirit that they saw something positive. retrospect, I am not making any head way at the family's round table of politics or topics of the day anymore since I have renounced the arguing with them...but guess my spirit is leaving it's fingerprints on some of them! And I guess that's what I want to share with you the most here today in response to your post here...
Some of those that we feel the most distant to and perhaps feel the most misunderstood might suprise you that sometimes they are the ones that we really make the most influence with. Otherwise why do you think they have such strong comments about our ideas or our truth? We rattle something in their cage! Sometimes our spirits shine some light on dark spots that we don't even know about yet. It's startling I suppose to even accept, yet in the future we might later find out that a little seed did grow somewhere and that somewhere might be closer to the tree than we thought.

Lisa said...

LLH- That was absolutely beautiful. I really like your approach to handling moonbat relatives and friends. I hope I have the strength to silently stand by in their spiral into madness. It is really saddening when you realize that sometimes it is hard to talk or be with them for too long. The values we each cherish seem to be so different but our past experiences or blood tie us lovingly to eachother. I am continually surprised by the "types" of people I actually do share values and ideals with. Keep spreading those seeds, Liquinn, the mighty wind!

Hoarhey said...

Happy Belated Birthday to Master Gagdad.
One blessing you can count in this birthday season is that your wife sees things as you do. Imagine the hell if she were like some of the other relatives.
Life is hard when people don't realize they aren't yet like you.

I read what you write and consider you an absolute plugged in genius.
Granted, many years ago I may have been clueless to what you are trying to convey and would have glossed over your blog and continued on. But one trait I have had throughout my adult years is an attraction to what I perceive as Truth and I have been following that path, fully realizing that without it, everything else is meaningless.
Looking back I may have held some shallow left leaning beliefs, backed by zero conviction, but some part of me knew beyond a shadow that I was clueless. So I kept searching.

You wrote:

"In other words, rational discourse is guided by a Truth that we cannot necessarily possess, but which we perpetually aim for. We do this quite naturally, although in truth, it is actually a supernatural capacity that is built into us."

One question,

Not to try and get you in any trouble with the relates but is it possible that the supernatural capacity to perceive Truth is NOT built into some? Or would it be more a case of an inability to subjugate the ego to the wisdom of Spirit?
One would think that by the time a person hits middle age the capacity for Truth discernment has either taken hold or without a divine lightning strike, never will.
I believe Lenin refered to those shallow thinkers unable to see the cause and effect big picture and not yet struck by lightning, as useful idiots.
I said that, not you (in case the Historian is listening).

Gagdad Bob said...

Oh, I think it's built in. Some just fall farther than others. Secularism gives you no floor to arrest the fall, plus a shallow ceiling to boot. Religion gives you a solid floor and no ceiling.

ben conrad usn (ret) said...

That was communicated coherently, LLH!
Children and dog's are preferred company to absurd leftist ranting's.
I'm lucky, because I was never close to my leftist relatives, and I never go to family reunions.
I'm far closer to unrelated friends than to blood related relative's.
The only family I was ever close to, are passed on now, so I'm not compelled to make appearances for their sake.
I guess that sounds a bit cold, but there is more to it than that.
Suffice to say, I'm content and hold no grudges. They know my number if they wish to talk, but they know I won't talk about the absurd.
Shared blood means nada to me.
Kindred spirits are my family now.

LiquidLifeHacker said...

"walls without ceilings"

"oooooooh that ever ending loving feeling"

"So I am Re-Joycing......Yeah I am Re-joicing"

LiquidLifeHacker said...

Ben, I understand, it's because your spirit is more in tune with your spiritual family and the kingdom that is not of this world.

You know, I think for those out there that have their spiritual family included within their biological blood family here, that they surely have a treasure and are lucky! What a wonderful blessing for those that do have that! When a family can pray together and lean on each other in spiritual harmony...WOW!

I remember once Ben, when I was a kid, I spent the night with this friend of mine, ummm, I guess I was around the age of nine or ten, anyway, I had never been to her house...they were such a loving and kind family, and I remember that night that all the family, including the guest which was me, went into the parents bedroom and we all got on our knees around the bed and the father lead a prayer. This was their famiily ritual every night! I remember after that how the parents hugged and kissed each kid and told each kid that they were loved by God... including me! I remember how much my spirit enjoyed that and it was amazing that I left their house not coveting the material things which they had or the wonderful toys they had....but I coveted that special prayer time they shared before bedtime.

Anyway...what I am learning is that it's always what we say that leaves such a lasting influence sometimes when we hope that it would...but more lasting is what we do! I guess where simple words can sometimes not have such an impact; our actions and our behavior shine through!

jwm said...

My in-laws (wife's brother's family) still have their Kerry for President campaign sign in the window. Oddly enough they are all church goers. Chuch goers who believe the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a moral draw. Go figure. I never say anything when I go over there, which isn't hard because they seldom speak directly to me or respond at all if I do say anything. I don't think they like me very much.

I've mentioned this before, but it seems that the 9/11 attacks opened some peoples eyes- some, but not all. Although I was never much of a leftist, my moonbattery fell with the twin towers. In its place grew a love for this country, and a spiritual yearning that eventually drew me here.
For others the 9/11 attacks may as well have been just another plane crash. If anything their moonbattery got recharged.

Dilys: Don't be too hard on the ol' man over the toys. I'm a die hard toy geek, admin on a robot collectors' BBS, and author of a weekly toy shelf serial. Toys are an important part of- of- er-- Well dang it they're just important, that's all. Actually, I have to get to work on the next exciting episode as soon as I sign off here. All my characters are in trouble. Gandalf has been turned to stone, and Jigglypuff is trapped in the void with the Lizardoid Minions.


LiquidLifeHacker said...

Correction to my last statement...

...what I am learning is that it's always what we say that leaves such a lasting influence sometimes when we hope that it would

Should have been....

...what I am learning is that it's NOT always what we say that leaves such a lasting influence sometimes when we hope that it would

LiquidLifeHacker said...

JWM --it seems that the 9/11 attacks opened some peoples eyes- some, but not all

Oh I think they are well's just they choose to not accept it...because to accept it means they have to deal with other issues that they sure are not willing to face up to!

Seriously...I think it will take jihadist on their back porch for some to finally wake up and say, "Oh I know who you are...and ummm I know what you are here for!"
But it will be too late won't it then?

ben conrad usn (ret) said...

LLH- Thanks for sharing that.
That is what my Grandparents (not blood, but adoptive) gave to me, when I was with them. They were my father and mother, not my biological parents.
They cared, and it showed.
Wisdom, love, peace and joy, flowed like a river from their hearts.
I hope my biological (long divorced) parents, wherever they may be, acquire the wisdom and spiritual enlightenment my Grandparents had.
They must first, break through their malignant narcissistic shells, and delusional thinking.

Kahntheroad said...

You're never going to change someone's mind on the spot, and if you do the change won't last longer than the next commercial break.

I find that subtlety is the most effective way to plant those seeds. A favorite past time for my buddies here in San Franmoonbat is to hang out at the cafe and chat up the locals. Talk about music, art, film...whatever. Then, drop little hints, get them suspicious; first, they'll shift in their seats a bit when it appears you don't quite hate George Bush...and then...oh, the look on a stunned moonbat's face when confronted with someone who is hip, intelligent, cultured, friendly...maybe even an artist or musician...but also *gasp* a-a-a-a-a NEO-CON(!!) is priceless.

But seriously, the first step is shattering their clichés. In practice, its somewhat similar to the way blacks or gays or any stereotyped group gained acceptance - it was a process of sheltered people being exposed to them as individual human beings, just like them, until it became impossible to maintain their culturally indoctrinated hatred and biases. But it was a process of millions of tiny interactions that turned the tide.

We all love to focus on the irredeemable screaming moonbats, but most people are just well-meaning products of 40 years of leftist propaganda from schools, newspapers and every facet of our culture. These people maintain their curiosity, and their interest is generally piqued when they talk to a someone who is clearly an intelligent 'normal' person who calmly holds views they have be told their whole lives are evil, mean, heartless, etc.

These normal people - the ones with a life outside of hating Bush - are all around us, they are the key to turning the tide.

However don't waste your time in a shouting match with the old naked women snacking on swastika cookies on a sidewalk in Berkeley.

Oh, and, whatever you do, DO NOT give someone a generic link to Bob's site! Especially a woman. Last time I tried that I woke up the next morning to find Petey taking on gender issues...baaaad news.

Jenny said...

LiquidLife - I agree with you 100% and also with Bob. My entire family looks at me like I'm some kind of alien from outer space. It's like we live in two different worlds. I know them, but they don't know me and don't seem particularly interested in finding out. Altho I'm good fodder for their gossip mill. It seems they subconsciously feel the need to tear me apart to make themselves feel better or something weird. I can't understand why if they disdain me so much they feel the need to engage me at all. I think they invite me for holidays because if they didn't - what would the neighbors think - and it would be uncivil of them to just be honest and put their cards on the table and come right out and say "we don't like you, you're not like us," (haven't spent holidays with them now for several years - I moved to a different state so they can't meddle in my life and during holidays I can't get away from work ;). I just accept that I'm different somehow and try to consciously treat them all with kindness even when they are nasty to me - which only pisses them off even more. Seems my very existence rubs them the wrong way - kind of like liberals with GWB. Could it be because I escaped from the herd? I generally just stay away from them and go about my own life.

And LOL! LLH - I have found that I rather choose to hang out with the children in the crowd or maybe even the dog which is looking at me like "Can you believe this crap?" Been there.

Gagdad - I really appreciate your blog.