Sunday, September 03, 2006

Higher Bobnoxiousness

Reader Grant writes, “Jeez Bob, in the course of this blogorama on music you have referred to Bruce Springsteen as a ‘moonbat’ and Ann Coulter* as spiritually and aesthetically ‘autistic.’ Even if elements of what you say are true, still it smacks of hyperbole and cuteness. I am willing to concede the existence of your much-bruited obnoxiousness at this point.

“The question which arises: can obnoxiousness and godliness coexist in an enlightened person, or is this combination diagnostic of a divided and egoistic persona? Have there been obnoxious seers and saints in history, or have they all been, like Jesus, invariably free from the tendency to noxious commentary?

“I request that the issue of obnoxiousness in spirituallity be taken out for a test drive in one of your blog entries, Dr. Godwin, if you don't mind.”

First of all, it’s somewhat difficult to nail down the precise meaning of this term. Webster's’ Dictionary defines obnoxious as “liable to a hurtful influence,” or “odiously or disgustingly objectionable,” while the Oxford simply says “extremely unpleasant.” However, in common parlance, the word usually just refers to a garden-variety jerk, like Howard Dean, Keith Olbermann, Randi Rhodes or Bill Maher. Sometimes it refers to people who don’t know how not to be a jerk--Jimmy Carter, Helen Thomas, Maureen Dowd, Ted Kennedy.

However, there is also a form of obnoxiousness that is both temporary and beneficial. It is something that comes into play in both psychotherapy and in spirituality, for both enterprises involve breaking through defenses and introducing unpleasant, sometimes even catastrophic, truths.

In this regard, all effective psychotherapists and true spiritual teachers had better be obnoxious at one time or another. A therapist who does not occasionally confront the patient with unpleasant truths is likely to be little more than a “hand holder” or “professional friend.” And a guru or spiritual teacher who does not point the finger directly at you and say, in effect, “You are one f***** up individual,” is not likely the genuine article.

In this latter sense of the term, I don’t have time to count the many obnoxious sayings of Jesus: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” He says that most people are incapable of walking his narrow path, refers to listeners as a “brood of vipers,” goes ballistic on the money changers, curses a fig tree, calls people hypocrites, characterizes the religious authorities as “fools and blind,” and frankly says that most people are headed straight for hell.

Likewise, in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna repeatedly rebukes Arjuna for his cowardice, ignorance, and narrow-mindedness: “If you refuse to fight this righteous war.... you will be a sinner, and disgraced. People will speak ill of you throughout the ages. You will be like the mooonbats, like Bruce Springsteen.” “In every age I come back to deliver the holy” and “destroy the sinner.” “The ignorant, the faithless, the doubter goes to his destruction.” “The entire world is deluded by moods and mental states.... The evil-doers turn not toward me. They are sunk low among mortals. Their judgment is lost in the maze of Maya, until the heart is human no longer, changed within to the heart of a devil, like Jimmy Carter."

The Upanishads also make it clear that most people are idiots: “Rare is he who, looking for immortality, shuts his eyes to what is without and beholds the Self. Fools follow the desires of the flesh and fall into the snare of all-encompassing death.” “Worlds there are without suns, covered up with darkness. To these after death go the ignorant, slayers of the Self.”

Shankara is particularly rough on the metaphysically ignorant, referring to them as “suicides” who “clutch at the unreal and destroy themselves. What greater fool can there be than the man who has obtained this rare human birth... and yet fails, through delusion, to realize his own highest good?” “Know that the deluded man who walks the dreadful path of sense-craving moves nearer to his ruin with every step.”

I am also reminded of an obnoxious comment made by Sri Aurobindo about why most people are unsuited for his narrow spiritual path: "I do not readily accept disciples, as this path of Yoga is a difficult one and can be followed only if there is a special call." In another letter he balked at the notion of trying to create some kind of mass movement, because "For serious work it is a poison.... a movement in the case of a work like mine means the founding of a school or a sect or some other damned nonsense. It means that hundreds or thousands of useless people join in and corrupt the work or reduce it to a pompous farce from which the Truth that was coming down recedes into secrecy and silence."

And Schuon probably made more obnoxious statements than even Jesus or Petey: “Contemporary man, in spite of his being marked by certain experiences due to the senescence of humanity, is spiritually soft and ineffective and intellectually ready to commit every possible betrayal, which will seem to him as summits of intelligence.... In a general way, the man of the ‘last days’ is a blunted creature, and the best proof of this is that the only ‘dynamism’ of which he is still capable is that which tends downwards, and which is no more than a passivity taking advantage of cosmic gravity; it is the agitation of a man who lets himself be carried away by a torrent and who imagines that he is creating this torrent himself by his agitation.”

So, am I obnoxious? I certainly hope so, at least to that brood of vipers out there who have somehow accidentally stumbled upon my blog.


*Not quite accurate. I simply said, in response to someone's comment that Coulter was a "Deadhead," that I wasn't surprised, because she strikes me as somewhat spiritually and aesthetically "autistic." I meant this more in the technical sense of a mode of intelligence which is lacking or underdeveloped. Perhaps Grant reads Coulter for spiritual sustenance or aesthetic insights, but she strikes me as almost entirely worldly and political, at least based upon her written and spoken word. One could say the same thing about most political infotainers, both left and right. I readily acknowledge being autistic in certain areas in which they excel.

I do have high regard for, say, Mark Steyn's highly developed aesthetic judgment. If he were to somehow emerge as a Deadhead, then, out of respect for his authority, I might have to reconsider my stance. Likewise, I find Dennis Prager to possess unusual spiritual depth in a field not known for it.

On the other hand, Springsteen is an unalloyed moonbat--an arrogant, pernicious fool and useful idiot for the hostile forces intent on destroying even the possibility of truth and decency. He is much worse than an infotainer. He is a spokeshole for the other side.


On today, Jesus, Jihadists and a Just War, by Doug Giles:

"There’s a prevalent perception among Christians that when it comes to conflict (like the War on Terror), Christ’s teachings go limper than an ED laden Pillsbury Dough Boy after six hours in a Sioux sweat lodge.

"Yeah, Jesus is seen in certain sectors of emasculated evangelicalism and in some spiritually castrated Catholic circles as an altruistic bearded lady who traipsed around Israel spitting out courteous clichés and nifty narratives like an over-medicated Garrison Keillor....

"When you take the accounts of Christ’s life straight... you come away with an entirely different picture.... You do not see Him as a passive peacemaker in the face of evil.

"So, what about all those “love your enemy,” “do good to those who harm you,” “turn the other cheek,” “howdy, bad neighbor” verses? Well, as far as I can tell, these passages apply to personal insults and injury... like the ones I get week after week from those who hate what I write....

"However, when it comes to terrorists sticking planes into buildings and blowing up trains, buses and Pizza Huts around the planet, I think the balance of the scripture and the common sense God’s given us show the multifaceted Jesus morph from being a gentle lamb into a rough lion....

"So. What do I suggest a Christian/Christian church should do? Try this... Drop the repellently corny “let’s love ‘em” slop. You sound, and are, ridiculous."


Anonymous said...

Pretty good stuff Bob, for hardly trying.
I think what you described is what irks me about the myopia of people. They look at the spiritual masters as some sort of passivist la-la landers who just strode around offending no one when the exact opposite is true. Truth offends most people until they discover the truth about themselves and then cleave to Truth as their only loyalty.

Anonymous said...

I would remind you that obnoxiousness in the defense of the Spirit) is no vice. And let me remind you also that milquetoastness in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

(paraphrasing H2o, '64)

Gagdad Bob said...

In fact, I seem to recall something about Jesus getting into some kind of trouble for offending the wrong people.

Anonymous said...

The synchronicity is creeping me out, but in a good way:
Today's homily - Phariseeism in our own lives and how the acknowlegement that even our good works are tainted by some stain of pride, uncharity, etc. is the beginning of true humility and the co-operation with grace. Fairly obnoxious, if you cared to take it that way. But true.

John Hinds said...

Will, did you mean AU H2o?

Anonymous said...

Exactly, John P, thanks.


black hole said...

Bob, thank you addressing the question of obnoxiousness in the pursuit of spiritual goals. You have an enviable ability to marshall large numbers of quotes in support of your position. After reading your entry, I am about 90% convinced that, as Will puts it," obnoxiousness in the defense of the Spirit is no vice." Jesus was in fact obnoxious to certain parties, as you have shown. I did not have my facts straight.
However, there remains the sticking point of unity. In most credible spiritual systems, and as implied by the title of your own book and blog, everything that exists is of one piece, making Springsteen, moonbat that he is, contiguous with you, me, and everyone else. There is an appearance of division among people into separate beings but it seems clear that there is no actual division at all on a deeper level.
The implication I am making is that everyone is the Self, and therefore it is logical to treat everyone as least as well as one would treat oneself. Following this line of thought, would you call yourself a moonbat or a spokeshole if you found yourself wrong about something? Suppose you were mistaken about certain things, and you wanted to firmly correct your own behavior or beliefs--wouldn't you handle your self-correction with love, consideration and respect, even while being firm and severe?
People are harsh on themselves sometimes--they may have inner dialogues that are terribly cruel. As rocker Graham Parker put it, "nobody hurts you harder than yourself." This self-inflicted pain is counterproductive. Therapists inculcate self-regard whenever possible, along with an ability to critique oneself honestly but without rancour or shame.
To finish my argument, I just have a lingering 10% suspicion that obnoxiousness, while effective for fostering changes, is unhealthy for the human corpus at large, the group Self, and the purposes that obnoxiousness serves could be accomplished in healthier ways. Could not Springsteen be seen as a mistaken friend rather than an alien entity to be belittled and discounted? Does Self love preclude severity and the ability to critique others?

Anonymous said...

Bob you said:"So. What do I suggest a Christian/Christian church should do? Try this... Drop the repellently corny “let’s love ‘em” slop. You sound, and are, ridiculous."

Amen and Amen: Paul told the Corinthians "If any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant."

Bob sometimes I wonder how you can be so patient with some of the "moonbats" you encounter.

Obnoxiousness in defense of truth is not a vice; therefore it must be virtue.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Brother Bob!

There is no "we" in self.
Why would Jesus bring the Sword if it were otherwise?
The Truth divides,
it isn't familial, diverse or multicultural.
It's God's (Truth)way or the highway.
It's Absolute.
Personally, I remember the strongest of corrections, but that's just who?
I Am.

Bro. Bartleby said...

A bit off topic, but here goes, if you were asked by a scientist (and atheist) friend to recommend one book to him, which book would that be?