Monday, May 22, 2006

Unhappy Kampfers

In case you didn’t make it all the way through yesterday’s post, it ended with the following paragraph: “So are One Cosmos readers intolerant? You bet--if they agree with me, they are. Intolerant of the totolerantarianism that masquerades as ‘unconditional positive regard,’ the horizontal license that mocks vertical liberty, and the tyrannical absolutism that passes itself off as moral and cultural relativism. The unity of mankind cannot be found in its superficial diversity, only in that unchanging end toward which its diversity is converging. Mankind is one because the transcendent Truth to which human beings have unique access is One. Leftism in any form whatsoever proceeds in the opposite, descending direction: E Unum Pluribus, out of One, many. Gravity takes care of the rest.”

Sometimes I wonder if some of my most important points aren’t buried in a post. When you’re dashing about cyberspace, going from blog to blog, you probably just skim around, looking for the essence of what the blogger is saying.

Anyway, I want to focus on those last few sentences “The unity of mankind cannot be found in its superficial diversity, only in that unchanging end toward which its diversity is converging. Mankind is one because the transcendent Truth to which human beings have unique access is One. Leftism in any form whatsoever proceeds in the opposite, descending direction.”

There are two ways to misunderstand what I wrote. One is to imagine that I was just being poetic or metaphorical, when I was actually being quite literal. The other is to be offended by it, when I was simply being descriptive about what I regard as the deep structure of all leftist thought. In other words, it’s not meant as an insult. Rather, an honest leftist should nod his head in agreement and say, “yes, exactly. That is how we differ. You believe in some imaginary transcendent unity, while I am a hardheaded realist who honors the obvious diversity of human beliefs. There is no ultimate truth, and if there were, human beings could not know it.”

As I hinted at in the post, thinking either ascends toward a transcendent unity that is actually the organizing principle and substrate of thought; or, alternatively, it descends into a bewildering multiplicity and fragmentation, where the unity of thought is lost. Genesis treats this critical existential choice with the symbol of the tree. There are two, and only two, trees from which we may “eat.” Depending upon which one we choose, there will be predictable results. One leads to ascent and union, the other to descent, fragmentation, and illusion. And with illusion comes all sorts of secondary and tertiary ill effects, because one’s existence will be organized around a primordial lie.

This may appear overly abstract, so I thought I would provide a concrete example, taken from a prominent left-wing website. I don’t think I’ll even provide a name or a link, because the purpose of this is not to insult or ridicule the person. Rather, I just want to demonstrate the frivolousness of leftist thought as it pertains to metaphysical questions. Whenever the “reality based community” discusses religion or spirituality, you can bet that they will do so in a way that is far more naive and silly than the most unfun fundamentalist.

This writer begins his meditation by saying that “We are programmed. Programmed by our DNA to act as we do. If we had the DNA of a turtle we would move slowly and have a shell. If we had the DNA of a horse, we would be sleek and sinewy and have the unremitting urge to gallop.”

Stop right there. If we are merely programmed by our DNA, is this statement an exception? Or is this writer somehow violating his own DNA by communicating something called “knowledge?” Conversely, if he is only programmed to say what he is saying, why should we believe him? Do we have a choice as to whether or not to believe him? Or are we programmed by our DNA to believe or disbelieve him? Why even write an article and try to prove a point to someone, when the reader doesn't have a choice to agree or disagree with it anyway?

The writer acknowledges that “there is some little thing inside us that allows us to choose from option A and option B. It is not a random decision guided by a random switch.” He confusingly suggests that this little thing is “life. Its essence.”

In other words, there is nothing special about human beings. Rather, this “life essence” is “shared by the turtle, the horse and me. The other animals appear to be happy to ride the DNA treadmill. But it is maddening for us--how can we think and know but still share the same essence as the dumb turtle? How can we be so much smarter and it doesn't affect our essence?”

Hmm. Objection. Assumes facts not in evidence. Has he proven the point that there is no relationship between human intelligence and human essence? In fact, the ontological gulf between humans and animals is so wide, that no materialistic or deterministic philosophy could ever bridge that chasm.

He goes on: “The turtle is so content because he is unaware there is a riddle. We don't have a choice stronger than the turtles; we are simply more aware of the choice we have. Aware enough to know awareness, but not aware enough to understand it.”

Further confusion. Free will is an illusion--”We don't have a choice stronger than the turtles.” Rather, we are just turtles who are aware of the "turtle choices" facing us. Does that make any sense at all? Isn’t a turtle who is aware of choice a fundamentally different creature than a turtle who isn't?

No. There is really no choice, only “internal will. It is the strongest of all forces [emphasis mine] and it is so plain that it can fit into the turtle just as well as the horse. It does not distinguish between tortoises and porpoises, different looks and purposes. It does not care that we have toes or tails. It does not seem to be effected by our knowing glare. We sit outside its window and look at it in the darkness--and amused by our shape and struggle, it sits unmoved.”

This is exactly what I meant by leftist thought descending downward until it reaches its logical limit. This is the same limit reached by Nietzsche and Schopenhaur: if God is at the ascending limit of the arc of thought, pure will is at the descending limit. We are not really alive, we are simply “lived” by an impersonal will that blindly expresses itself through us. Therefore, we might as well admit this, and realize that the struggle of the will is all. My will over yours, or yours over mine. That is the epic struggle--the unholy political kampf--in which the leftist is engaged.


Tomorrow, time permitting, I think I'll discuss Schuon's statement that "there is no freedom without objectivity of the will," for that is a key that opens many mysteries.


Lisa said...

And that is precisely why those Leftists are continually so unhappy with their lives. They become the perfect victim. They are powerless and really are no better than a turtle or a horse! They are very close in thought to their Islamist kissing cousins who do not value life and cannot wait for death to be rewarded.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes--"jihad" is the Islamist word for "kampf." Their's is also a God of will.

Vox said...

Dear Bob,

I am wondering if you can post the "rules of engagement" as it were, for giving observations which may disagree with your perspective. While I would not presume to disagree with your spiritual perspective, there are times when I think left and right are missing each other's points here. Since somehow this seems to have become, perhaps to your chagrin, a windmill for the Don Quixotes of the spiritual Left, I wonder if you could give some guidance toward expressing disagreement in a manner that will not provoke enmity here. And I suppose that by enmity, I mean, a request to "hie thee hence."

Gagdad Bob said...


I think just being polite and thoughtful will suffice. I would hope that no readers jump on someone who offers a calm and intelligent challenge.

Gagdad Bob said...

By the way, being a classical liberal, I would love to see contemporary liberalism pull itself out of its philosophical mire. We need that.

But right now I need to go to work.

Hoarhey said...

>>"Sometimes I wonder if some of my most important points aren’t buried in a post. When you’re dashing about cyberspace, going from blog to blog, you probably just skim around, looking for the essence of what the blogger is saying."<<

I realized on my first visit here that if a post you've written at first seems superficial.... I need to read it again........

Mason said...

Excellent Bob:

The left though, refuses to examine, critically of course, the most important statement in the Bible: John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word..."

The information provided to us, for us, and through us, by the "Logos," can never be comprehended by a mind closed to all but the supposed programming of DNA. It is why the left consistently refuses to share the Gospel ie: the good news.

Thanks for thinking and sharing. I enjoy reading your blog.

Symba the code monkey said...

It has been observed that if you add a spoonful of wine to a barrel full of sewage you get sewage, while if you add a spoonful of sewage to a barrel full of wine you get sewage.

I think this may apply to trying to find a middle ground between left and right.

jwm said...

I have heard a lot of people say stuff like: "I am an ecomomic conservative but a social liberal." Meaning that they want lower taxes, less government and all but were all for social justice equal rights etc. I used to think somewhat along those lines. My position has almost completely reversed.
Should we have higher taxes, and a lot of government spending, or lower taxes and less money for libraries and parks? I can have that discussion. I'm not really passionate about it.
What disturbs me is the erosion of values: the drumbeat for equivalence, the war against differentiation. The war against common sense. Men are the same as women. Heterosexuality is equivalent to homosexuality is equivalent to bisexuality is equivalent to transgender, is equivalent to whateverism. Christianity is equivalent to islam is equivalent to Judaism is equivalent to new ageism. Racism is equivalent to bigotry is equivqalent to sexism, is equivalent to ageism... Secondhand smoke will kill you.
As rock n' roll guru Sonny Bono once put it- and the beat goes on and on and on (By the way Sonny Bono was equivalent to the Beatles)

Ignore the pole star. You can navigate just fine by the little light on the bow.

So much of PC dogma is clearly insane. How, you wonder, can people believe some of this stuff?
That's why I don't argue with these people anymore. I just get a sense that they are on the far side of an unbridgeable gap.


Lisa said...

I just finished the book. It was sad to see it end or did it just begin?! I must say that it was nice to confirm that I have been wandering on this path since a kid. Whenever I was asked by adults what I learned in school today or what I was doing, I usually replied, "nothing". It explains everything. I am glad you had the resolve to put it into wor(l)ds.

Thanks for being such an arrow up in a circle, Bob. Hopefully it is contagious!

jwm said...

Wasn't it a great read? I especially like the part at the end when they find out that the holy grail is really a soda dispensing machine in Tel Aviv, and that Judas was actually a cable guy for Pontius Pilate. And who would have guessed the part about Moses actually getting a ride from Zechariah Sitchen in an all terrain UFO? Bob tells truth to power and he doesn't care whose toes he steps on!


Hoarhey said...

I look around and often see what’s called “diversity days” or “diversity week” being implemented by many city governments and I wonder; Why can’t we celebrate commonality and the values that bind such a diverse nation and hold it together to prosper? It seems that the very values which can bring prosperity and hold together a vibrant, diverse culture enabling it to evolve are mocked as unsophisticated by people who haven’t the ability to see where the tower of babble called diversity is leading them.
Bob, thanks for the visual picture of the choice between the tree of knowledge and the tree of life.

Lisa said...

Yes, JWM, he doesn't care if he steps on toes or tails. Now you've gone and broken the code! I may just have to read it again. Did you feel me wave at you on Saturday? I passed by Whittier on my way home from Newport Beach. I was going to stop and say hi but then remembered we have not actually met yet!

Sal said...

Yes, please, more Schuon. I loved that quote.
have a small private bet with self about what you might say.

Alan Kellogg said...

How do I know non-human animals have a soul? Because I've been a non-human animal. A small furry critter as a matter of fact. I can also tell you what it's like to be swallowed alive. It's dark.

(Some kind of oviraptor with a pair of sharp teeth in the middle of the palate.)

Am I a vegetarian because of this? Hell no. I know damn well that chicken's soul will survive the death of the chicken. I get some food, and the chicken (I hope) gets a promotion (maybe rat or lawyer (Do you know why sharks don't eat chicken? Because chickens are too nasty even for sharks.)).

The bodies we inhabit are the way they are thanks to evolution, and we can't change it. The best we can do is to be the best humans we can be. Saying we have to be something we're not does us no good.

But, we need to be honest about what being human means. Including many things we are uncomfortable with. Aggression, sexuality, emotion. We become obese because we evolved in an environment where abundance was a rare and transient thing. In a time of plenty you stuffed yourself, because tomorrow you would be back in a world of starvation and want.

No better than a turtle or a horse? In terms of the soul, not really. Where the bodies we inhabit are concerned, not really either. The real difference between us and a turtle is, we're more capable, and capable of more, than the turtle. Capable of doing more, of understanding more. And when you have greater understanding, the greater your responsibility. As humans we are able to understand to a degree no other animal can, which means we bear responsibilities no other animal does. No one can change that fact.

It comes down to this; our difference with the other animals is not a matter of kind, but of degree. We are naught but a mutated larval sea squirt with a talent for pattern recognition.

So have that chicken dinner, and raise a toast to the steer who died to provide your pot roast. And remember that the best you can hope for your body is that in some far distant time it'll be on display in some post-human museum.