Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Edginess and Leading Edges in the Adventure of Consciousness

Edgy people are a self-congratulatory bunch, but it has never been so easy to be “edgy.” Bad art, bad literature, bad music, bad comedy, bad TV, bad political websites--it’s all edgy, and that's about all it is. The trick, of course, is knowing what the edge is leading into. Since reality is more or less spherical, it has many edges. However, only one of them is the leading edge. Being at that edge is the only edginess that actually matters.

By definition, the leading edge has always been with us. We can recognize it in hindsight. However, very few people who are alive at any given time have any idea where that edge is. For example, only a tiny handful of people knew in 33AD that the edge of the cosmos was located on top of an obscure hill named Golgotha. That’s probably not the best example, because a Christian would argue that that was also the center and axis of the cosmos. However, even a secular historian would have to agree that it was the leading edge of mundane history as well, of mankind pushing itself beyond itself to a new understanding of the relationship between man and God and man and man. Likewise, the American Revolution was--and is--at the leading edge of history.

The drama of human liberty is meaningless unless it is oriented toward a nonlocal telos. This, as I have said many times, is one of the fundamental divides in the culture war between “left” and “right.” I hesitate to use these words anymore, because not a single one of my critics has ever understood what I mean by them. In failing to understand what I am talking about, I believe they confirm my thesis, because they are literally “in the dark” metaphysically. If you disagree with me, just assume that you fall under the heading of “left” in the larger sense that I am using the term. Your purely horizontal view may, of course, be the correct one. But it won’t be because you’ve understood me.

Leftists are aware of this fact--they know that there is something to this religion business---so they have lately been ramping up the effort to ape the lingo of religion and speak about “values” and the like. But their religious talk is about as convincing as Christian rock music--almost an exact mirror image. The pathetic genre of Christian rock is completely parasitic on the forms and idioms of real rock music. There is no originality whatsoever--it is completely hollow and derivative.

Which is unfortunate, because real rock music that is any good is ultimately derived from real spirituality. It is derived from certain collective forms of music that no one invented, but which spontaneously sprung from the earth, just as the authentic revelations spontaneously sprung from the heavens. Folk, country, blues, gospel--in their original form, these were all spontaneous vertical expressions of the human soul, with no commercial motivations whatsoever.

This is what makes a Johnny Cash or Howlin’ Wolf so much more compelling than any contemporary country or blues singer. They sprouted straight out of the earth. It is also what made the early Elvis or Beatles or Stones so great. They were still very close to those pure musical revelations of the earth, whereas later musicians simply ape the styles forged by purely commercial and derivative artists. It’s like a series of xerox copies that become increasingly faint with each copy. Don't get me wrong--it is still possible to make great music, but only to the extent that one is in harmony with the earthly or celestial spheres (for example Arvo Part in the latter case). If your art doesn't aim at, or derive from, something beyond this world, you are sure to hit your target.

(Obligatory memo to the clueless--please don’t accuse me of being a nostalgic old fogey who is out of touch with contemporary trends. I had no contact with most of the music I enjoy until I was an adult. As a child I can assure you I didn’t listen to Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Big Joe Turner, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Buck Owens, Mavis Staples, or Bobby Blue Bland. Only a musical primitive doesn’t know that Duke Ellington or Thelonious Monk--not to mention Bach or Beethoven or Shakespeare or Joyce--are still from the future, not the past. We are still trying to “catch up” with the musical edges they explored. Time is obviously not necessarily progressive, even though progress takes place in time. Regress takes place in time as well, which progressives prove every day.)

Being that the left is as spiritually hollow as Christian rock is musically empty, they have invented a purely horizontal theology. I found a fine example of this on huffingandpissed by a Christian pastor, Jim Rigby, entitled, Christians Who Want Democracy Must Stop Bowing to a Dictator Christ. This is essentially warmed over Marxism--the purest of horizontal revelations--recast in the language of Christianity. I will grant that it is very edgy theology. So edgy, in fact, that it drives right over the edge of the cliff:

“Many Christians seek a white male king. He may be called ‘Pope’, he may be called ‘the decider President,’ he may be called ‘televangelist,’ but the title only masks what he is, a benevolent (or not so benevolent) dictator.”

For the downwardly mobile left, the bottom edge is the leading edge. Jesus must have "street cred." He must keep it real and he must have attitude: “The real Jesus was born illegitimately.... The real Jesus was an anarchist.” Thus, a complete inversion: Christ was not the son of God, the logos, the third person of the trinity, but a bastard and a leftist social revolutionary--perhaps almost as lofty as Che or Chomsky or Arafat.

Yes, “If you want to know why Americans are so frightened and why we are attacking anything that would challenge our dominance over others, read the Bible.” Ah, if only Pastor Rigby had written, “If you want to know why Muslims are so frightened and why they are attacking anything that would challenge their dominance over others, read the Koran.” In fact, I would love to hear him say that in a Muslim country. Then perhaps he would understand that it is specifically Christian tolerance that allows such a twisted soul to blaspheme in the name of what he blasphemes.

For those with eyes to see, America--despite its flaws--is so obviously at the leading edge of history that it is difficult to conceive of where history would be without her. Not so for Rigby’s inverse Christian theology: “So called ‘Christian America’ is still a nation built on the work of slaves. We do not see them because they toil invisibly in other countries. Today’s church doles out bits of charity from booty stolen from God’s powerless people the world over.”

Yes, the World Sees U.S. in Iraq a Bigger Danger than Iran. Well of course it does. “The world” and its mullahs are at one edge, while America and her allies are at the other. Only one side is at the leading edge. Only one of us, as Van der Leun has noted before, has the groove. And they hate us for that. I can't say that I blame them. It's painful not to have it and to have no idea where to get it, whether you're a musically bereft Christian rocker, a left wing Christian off your rocker, or a demwitted cutandrun-from-Iraqer.



Speaking of the mullahterror & dusty old leftist complex: no fun allowed!

"The point of this post is not that Bush intentionally taunted (sic) a blind man, but that his insistence on clowning with the press is undignified and highly inappropriate...

"Bush's clownish banter with reporters--which is on constant display during press conferences--stands in such stark contrast to his administration's destructive policies and to the gravity of the bloodbath in Iraq that it is deeply unsettling to watch. This may be impolitic, but wouldn't refraining from frat-style horseplay be appropriate for this man? Or at the least, can't reporters suppress their raucous laughter every time he blurts out another jibe... the way they did when Colbert put them in their place?"

Right. NO COMEDY ALLOWED, unless it's the angry, unfunny kind that puts someone in their place. You know, like Arab anti-Semitic humor.


Anonymous said...

Hi Bob,

When it comes to Christian rock music, what derived from what?

Go back in time further, and you see "rock" music going mainstream in the 1950's when white kids started playing "race music": that upbeat music that blacks were playing. Many white parents of the 50's didn't like their children listening to this "race music".

And, where did the blacks learn this upbeat music? Often in church. They learned this style of music growing up in black churches in the South where they joined the choirs and learned instruments and played it.

So, one could say that Christian rock is a derivative of "rock", but "rock" is derivative too, and the gospel music of the black churches was a very strong influence.

That's what Larry Norman says, who is credited as being the founder of Christian rock music. Have you ever heard of Larry Norman, or heard his style of Christian rock?


Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, Elvis was only Elvis because he was a member of an integrated Pentacostal church in which music was central. Haven't heard of Larry Norman. But remember, I'm speaking in large generalizations. By definition, one can always find exceptions to the generalization.

Hoarhey said...

>>"For those with eyes to see, America--despite its flaws--is so obviously at the leading edge of history that it is difficult to conceive of where history would be without her."<<

I was just thinking of that last night and the differences between the conservatives in this country and their boldness, vision and commitment in tough times or the liberals with their cut and run, mediocre philosophies and how history will look back and judge just who was at the cutting edge.
Take the last two presidents for example.
Our current one who has the vision to take bold direct action and who, in time, will be known as a great liberator in the Middle East.
Or the latest "saviour" President of the left who because of his mediocre, easily forgotten initiatives will go down in history as the misogynist who through his own hubris, ended up being impeached and disbarred.
Once all the emotion and confusion of the present political battles clears up in the fullness of time, those two things are what will be remembered.

will said...

Yes, "edgy" always seems to be a taunt, a pose, and a calculation.

The real edge is not so barbed, and it always comes out of some place you'd never expect, not if you're wired into "where the action is", ie., NY, LA, etc.

In '61, who would have expected a world-changing popular music to come out of *Liverpool*, England?

In the 70's, 80's, all the music critics seemed to think NY composer Elliot Carter and his ridiculously convoluted music was *it*. But the real "new age" stuff was to come out of eastern Europe, not exactly in the media spotlight. A Part and H Gorecki, etc., not only returned music to tonality, but their music was organically spiritual, grown out of the barrenness of the soviet system, out of real suffering and deprivation, not out of a media demand to be "edgy".

Gagdad Bob said...

Oh yes, the real edge is the center, whether it's Charlie Parker in Kansas City, Bob Zimmerman in Hibbing, Minnesota, or Buck Owens in Bakersfield, California....

Culture is not a product of "culture," much less the cultured sophisticates....

Kahntheroad said...

This past Sunday I happened upon a little church in rural Colorado and sat in on their Sunday school class. The topic was how Christians should respond to the claims of The DaVinci Code.

It was an hour long class before the morning service, and the instructor never got around to actually discussing the film. Why? Because he started out with a quote from St. Peter and used it to facilitate a discussion on how to engage in civil discourse and convey your beliefs in a respectful and effective way.

The entire time there was not a single outburst, derogatory statement, hint of anger...

Despite the fact that they were talking about such a profound, disrespectful and dishonest assault on the core of their beliefs that is actually influencing millions of people.

In contrast, I tried (unsuccessfully) to imagine a meeting - about anything - conducted with such maturity and dignity; and I didn't even both trying to picture an Imam leading a similar class on cartoons.

will said...

Remember Clinton in the rose garden the morning of the day after Waco where some 30 children died? He was laughing up a storm about something or other. Not just cracking wise, I mean bent over in hysterics. Talk about "inappropriate", sheesh. Of course the MSM didn't call him on it. Humor was OK in those days.

Hoarhey said...

Or the Ron Brown funeral, where he immediately shifted from hysterics to tears as soon as he spotted a camera rolling.

Connecticut Yankee said...

Apropos of humor-- one aspect of Martin Luther's sermons and Biblical commentaries that I've grown to appreciate more deeply over the years is not only his own sense of humor, but also his perception thar Jesus had a playful streak and probably spent some quality time joking and kidding around with the Twelve as well as teaching them.
As for JSB (the patron saint of music in my book), it never surprised me that the composer of the B Minor Mass also wrote the Coffee Cantata (BWV 211). Wonderful fun! (For Cosmonauts who have never heard of the Kaffe-Kantate, here's a link to a reader-friendly brief summary:

jwm said...

I followed the link over to Huftingtonland, and read the Rigby article, and the follow up comments. Very depressing. About half of the people were of the "no God, no vertical, no afterlife" school of two dimensional no perspective, and the other half were the "America bad Bush evil" school of applied ignorance.
Consider for a moment Bush's reaction to 9/11. In the wake of one of the most vicious crimes in human history Bush committed our armed forces and our economic might to an attempt to improve the lives of millions of moslems trapped in two of the most repressive regimes on the planet. Talk about turning the other cheek, loving your enemies, doing good to those who would harm you, etc. And these vacuum heads see GWB as the evil one. I have come to the conclusion that the left is as much the enemy of civilization as is islam. Islam is the storm approaching your home. The left are the termites chewing away at the foundation.


jwm said...

An excellent link:
(Will, if you get time, let me know what you think of this.)


Anonymous said...

I think that American minimalists had more to do with returning concert music to tonality than people like Part.

Michael Andreyakovich said...

Bob and Yankee:

I share with Kurt Vonnegut the opinion that a certain few controversial thing that Jesus said in the NT - like "The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me" - are actually jokes that don't translate very well out of the original Aramaic. (K.V. retranslates the above example as a cutting-edge example of early Jewish humor - "Relax, Judas. There'll still be plenty of poor people around after I'm gone.")