Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Gods --> Kings --> Men --> Chaos

In the book I am currently reading by Charles Upton, he analyzes one of the central problems of the postmodern world, which is the plethora of information that no person could possibly ever master. I'm not sure we realize how new and how alien this is compared to past generations of humans. After all, it wasn't too long ago that a gifted polymath such as Thomas Jefferson could more or less have a passing familiarity with everything important to know, but today it's probably a rare person who even masters his own specialty. As the cliché goes, we will know more and more about less and less until we eventually know everything about nothing. In fact, the secular left is already there "ahead" of us.

This excess of information easily leads to subjectivism, cynicism, gullibility, fanaticism, and paranoia. In the absence of a "central clearing house" to process all of the information -- some kind of fixed, all-encompassing map or scheme that isn't just another piece of information -- then there is no way to ground any of it in a more meaningful whole. Religion used to serve this purpose, but now contemporary religion itself has fragmented into so many shards -- although it needn't be that way. With a little verticalisthenics and mental gymgnostics we can still have One Cosmos Under God. It just takes some upplied nondoing.

Upton defines paranoia as "the attempt of the human mind to reach cognitive closure in a situation that does not allow for it, either because there is too little information to warrant that closure, or -- as with the paranoid schizophrenic -- too much information to make sense of, except through delusion."

A perfect example of postmodern paranoia is the weather hysteria of the greenhouse gasbags, which serves the same purpose that witch hunting did in an earlier age. In a frightening and uncertain world, we can at least be certain about what the weather will be like in a hundred years, long after we're all safely in the grave. Note how they take something so inherently filled with uncertainty, but nevertheless convert it into a fixed and unalterable belief, when the only appropriate stance toward manmade weather change at this juncture (at least for the lay person) is one of skeptical agnosticism (which is not necessarily true of the "experts," whose job it is to argue their point of view with other experts who have differing points of view; but just don't pretend the issue is settled).

If you are not in need of this kind of organizing fantasy in your life, it's very difficult to understand the mindset of the people who do need it. It is a kind of reverse image of genuine religion, which deals with perennial truth, not a need for cognitive closure. This is not to say that anxiety-ridden people don't misuse religion for that purpose, since they do so all the time. But in my view, just as science is a journey from the unknown to the known, religion is a journey from the known to the unknown. Properly understood, it is the precise opposite of what these critics believe it to be. I don't practice religion because I want easy answers, but because I am drawn to the inexhaustible mystery of being. Ho!

Upton notes that our "postmodern information culture is perfectly designed to create paranoia," since "we are forced by it to process too much information; and this 'too much' is, in another sense, too little, since as the quantity of facts (or conjectures, or fantasies) increases, our certainty as to the truth of any fact decreases."

In reality, the mechanism underlying the paranoid process is a necessary function for the human being, because without it we wouldn't be able to make any kind of decision or judgment at all. We could never assess the available facts and arrive at any cognitive closure. We would be the opposite of the paranoid, which is the obsessive, going round and round in circles, unable to make a decision and stick to it -- to fish or cut bait. The mechanism that underlies paranoia is what allows us "to create a stable outlook, a consistent and unified worldview."

Now, as I mentioned above, the infinite number of facts in our world can also breed cynicism, since the facts can be manipulated and configured in any way a malevolent person wishes. Whereas paranoia is the unconscious closure of an ambiguous field of facts, cynicism is the conscious manipulation of the facts for some ulterior purpose. Take, for example, the prewar intelligence that made the invasion of Iraq necessary. No one knew for certain whether or not Iraq had WMD, because that's not the way intelligence works. Rather, there are only millions of facts -- or bits of information -- with which intelligence services inductively arrive at different scenarios. No one just drops a pile of raw information on the President's desk and says "you're the decider. You decide."

The left maintains that the president was cynical in manipulating this information, when it couldn't be more obvious that they are the ones who are cynically making that charge. But even worse, the blatantly cynical ones, like John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, or Al Gore -- who know full well they are lying -- make the charge in order to satisfy a base that is not cynical, but outright paranoid -- which is another form of demagoguery, which is to say, pretending one is as crazy as the masses so that the masses can imagine they're not crazy. It is to give them a false cognitive closure and to provide in President Bush an object for their otherwise unbound hatred.


"Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein.... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction.... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real..." --John Kerry

"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." --Bill Clinton

"Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power." --Al Gore

"... [I]ntelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members.... if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons." --Hillary Clinton


I do not present these quotes for the tiresome purpose of rehashing the argument for going to war, only to show how the cynical and power hungry manipulate the paranoid and gullible in the postmodern world -- and then cynically turn reality on its head, calling President Bush the cynical one, since his "real motive" for going into Iraq was to make money for Halliburton. Can you imagine a more simplistic, magical worldview? And yet, millions on the left believe it. John Lennon once sang the vapid lyric, "God is a concept by which we measure our pain." I suppose that's true for an Islamist, but it's also true of the secular leftist who turns George Bush into the Antichrist -- who literally believes that he is worse than Hitler.

Regarding the mental mechanism underlying paranoia, Bion -- who always aimed at formulating the most abstract essence of a thing -- called it PS<-->D. There's no need to get into what the PS and D stand for, only to point out that their interplay is somewhat analogous to metabolism, in that the properly functioning mind is constantly going back and forth between tearing down, so to speak, and rebuilding. For example, in therapy you are generally confronted with one of two kinds of patient; either they will have an excess of PS, which is to say that they are in a state of fragmentation and persecution; or, alternatively, they are in a kind of dead zone of pathological certitude -- they are stuck and cannot evolve out of an impasse. The only way for the latter to evolve is for their mind to "dissolve" into PS (which they don't want to do, since that is where all the persecutory fragments are, i.e., mind parasites) and rebuild, so to speak, on a more firm foundation.

But in a purely secular world, the mind has no final destination, so that there can be no ultimate point to the PS<-->D process. It can become arbitrary, which leads to a kind of pseudo-maturity, which is what characterological cynicism always entails. And deconstruction is the essence of cynicism, since it can take any text and show how it actually means something else, essentially whatever one wants it to mean. So if you are a postmodern secular leftist who doesn't believe in objective truth, what possible grounds do you have for objecting to President Bush's use of intelligence? He's just doing what you and everyone else are condemned to do in a world without intrinsic meaning or truth.

Upton writes that this is the greatest danger of postmodernism: "that in its understandable attempt to avoid totalitarian ideologies, it is storing up in the collective unconscious, through its own 'totalitarian relativism', a deep desire for the lost Unity which was once provided by religion, metaphysics, and the intellectual intuition of God. When our exhaustion with chaos and relativism reaches a breaking-point -- which will also be the point when our ability to recognize the true, objective, metphysical Unity is most deeply eroded -- then our unconscious desire for that Unity will explosively emerge. And the one who can best fulfill this desire, on a global level -- no matter how unrealistic his promises are, since our collective sense of reality will then be at its lowest ebb -- will step into the role of Antichrist" (emphasis mine).

There are some key concepts in that passage: totalitarian relativism, the desire for the lost Unity, the exhaustion with chaos, and finally, the satanic thunderclap that signifies that man's fall is complete and that the time is ripe for the false god to come to the rescue.

James Joyce built the structure of Finnegans Wake around the cycle of the Age of Gods --> the Age of Kings --> the Age of Men --> and the Age of Chaos. The age of chaos will only be resolved with a new Age of God(s), which renews the cycle. The question is, what kinds of God?

Looked at cosmically, we are now on the cusp between the Age of Men and the Age of Chaos. The Age of Men more or less ended at some point in our lifetimes; those of us who are even half-awake can sense it, which I believe was the whole point of this beautiful but disturbing essay by Van der Leun, Will the Sleepers Awake? The vast difference between a king and a man is the unbridgeable gap between a Ronald Reagan and a Jimmy Carter -- who is not techncially a Man -- as was, say, JFK -- but a preview of the coming post-human in the Age of Chaos -- the Bill Clintons, John Edwards, and Barack Obamas.

Postmodern is post-God and therefore post-human. We can only hope that the chaos it engenders will be pre-God, in a massive PS<-->D that humanity has been aching for since it first fell from the trees. Either we metabolize our demons or they will metabolize us. In these dysluxic times, it's a god-eat-god world.

Phall if you but will, rise you must: and none so soon either shall the pharce for the nunce come to a setdown secular phoenish....

Hohohoho Mister Finn, you're going to be mister Finnagain! Comeday morm, and, O, you're vine! Sendday's Eve and, ah you're vinegar! Hahahaha, Mister Funn, you're going to be fined again!
--James Joyce


NoMo said...

"...we will know more and more about less and less until we eventually know everything about nothing. In fact, the secular left is already there "ahead" of us."

Maybe the best definition of "progressive" I've heard.

back to reading...

Smoov said...

As with so many of Bob's magnum essays I am rendered somewhat speechless. But damn, reading that thing caused some heady feelings in me.

Last night in the hotel I switched on HBO since I'm curious about "John From Cincinnati". There was an ad for Bill Maher's standup special. I was immediately struck with the feeling that this man is evil. Not just stupid, but actually evil.

Am I just suffering from the conservative equivalent of Bush Derangement Syndrome? I don't think so. I never really thought of Clinton--either one--as evil (Jimmy Carter, maybe). I'm typically not prone--at least I don't think I am--to being over-dramatic. There's just something about Bill Maher and people like him... They are so profoundly dishonest--invested in Lies which are cosmic in scale--that their very being comes to be invested in a cosmic Deficit or anti-Light which is chilling, all the more so because of the banality of his "ideas".

In the HBO ad they whipped through a list of people who were incapable of "getting it" (viz., Maher's vision of the world). The usual Republicans, conservatives, etc. were all there. Embedded in the list was "the Global Warming needs more study crowd". How can one be BOTH anti-science AND anti-human/God simultaneously? Here's your answer. Here is a man who is corrupt along both primoridal axes.

Bill Maher is a middling demon.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, the difference between the Age of Kings and the Age of Men can most certainly be measured by the infinite gulf between Bill Maher and Johnny Carson.

juliec said...

"How can one be BOTH anti-science AND anti-human/God simultaneously? Here's your answer. Here is a man who is corrupt along both primordial axes."

I think you hit the bullseye there, Smoov. It's not just you - I generally don't get caught up in the "libs are eeevil" mindset either (I think most of them are decent but exceptionally misguided people, with some exceptions), but something about that man just sets my creepometer on high alert.

As to the bit Nomo quote above, lately I find myself more interested in great works of the past than many "great" works of today. I love to read, but mostly I read fiction. This weekend it was "The Count of Monte Christo," which I found surprisingly accessible (I expected, stylistically, a slog similar to reading "Les Mis," which I read one summer in the unabridged form; for me that was more about sheer stubbornness than enjoyment, I think). Last night I started on Jane Eyre. I didn't - probably couldn't - appreciate these when I was younger; lately, it is the modern fiction I find distasteful, filled with the horizontal but often lacking the verticality that makes a story resonate.

Zophiel said...

" . . .deconstruction is the essence of cynicism . . ."

Ah, yes indeed. And the quote nomo sifted out. All so very much on target. And, also a very good explanation of what is wrong with todays education--> too much deconstruction in literature, theology, etc. . .

(back to reading)

Magnus Itland said...

The listing of ages reminded me of the Buddha's last words (according to the less flavory tradition at least): "All things that are made of parts, will come apart. Strive diligently!"

At the end of the feudal era, families were untied from the land and the village, to which they had been bound by law and by need. Over the following centuries, the family was pared down. In the last half of the 20th century, the fission of the nuclear family expelled fathers from the lives of their children, and even mothers would only see their offspring briefly between daycare and bed. But the real change was still to come. It has begun.

Multiple personalities, once considered a mental illness, is more and more becoming a human right. Even among those who don't present themselves as a collegium in the flesh, many still have various personae ("alts") online. This is taken for granted in online games, but also happens in chat rooms and blogs (of which each physical person can have many with different alts or "aspects" owning each). Sometimes the alts don't acknowledge each other at all, or they may claim to be friends, spouses or family members. Each may have different friends, different interests, different mannerisms, even different sexual preferences.

I am not talking about the psychiatric condition here, or of demonic possession as our ancestors knew it. Rather a deliberate choice of multiplicity because a single human life is too narrow to express and explore all the content of one's being.

Robin Starfish said...

Hieronybosch Wood
this version of the
world will not be here long it
is already gone

- t bone burnett -
"Palestine Texas"
from the album
The True False Identity

dweller on the threshold said...

"I don't practice religion because I want easy answers, but because I am drawn to the inexhaustible mystery of being. Ho!"

The clearest amd simplest definition of why faith is so important; not as a crutch, but as a spur.

The Count of Monte Cristo was one of my favorite books as a teenager, but I never did make it through Les Miserables. You have my respect! What you said about being more interested in the great works of the past made me think of CS Lewis. I don't remember in what work he said it, but he recommended reading books written in other times because they wouldn't have the same blind spots that we do.

vw: iktum How Bill Maher makes me feel ...

Susannah said...

I was into about the fifth or sixth graph, I think, when I started thinking about the antichrist. I was wondering what sort of dynamism it would take to capture the attention of the sorts of people Bob was describing and unify the world. Then, lo and behold, in graph #16...

"When our exhaustion with chaos and relativism reaches a breaking-point -- which will also be the point when our ability to recognize the true, objective, metphysical Unity is most deeply eroded -- then our unconscious desire for that Unity will explosively emerge. And the one who can best fulfill this desire, on a global level -- no matter how unrealistic his promises are, since our collective sense of reality will then be at its lowest ebb -- will step into the role of Antichrist" (emphasis mine)."

Bob has a way of taking my formless thoughts and giving them form.

The weird thing is, I have experienced paranoia in the last year. It is a very strange feeling. And it had to do with having too little information to reach closure...new surroundings, total strangers on every side, big change from former surroundings (from quiet and rural to urban and upscale), etc. I knew what it was, rejected it rationally, but still felt it. It was a feeling of being monitored and regulated. Can't describe it. It faded as I became more familiar with my surroundings and meditated on the fact that we were divinely led to them. It was a completely new experience for me.

dilys said...

Juliec has a grip on an essential sanity strategy IMO -- the great literature of the recent past. We just watched (having read the novels) the long series based on Trollope called The Pallisers, and even with BBC input (the older BBC), it was an education of mind and heart in patience, generosity, and folly. Safer, of course, to stick to originals. But the point is that these things embed a world view that helps our resiliency.

Ayann Hirsi Ali reports that the light began to dawn in her captivity when she read some Western romance novels.

Bob F. said...

Maybe what you are doing is creating a new kind of monastery, Abbot Bob.

Bob F.

ximeze said...

Please, bear with me here. This will likely be long. Need help codifying these ideas (or is it just One?)

I'd almost forgotten what it's like to bombarded by so much Real Meat, in the 'thinky-spritual' department.

Gosh, I've missed the OC.

Also had kinda forgotten how exposure to all that Meat gets the mental gastric juices flowing.

Not at all sure how to present this so it makes sense, but today's post & comments so far, got me going back to 'Follow the Depth'

Musing on what makes the likes of Bill Maher, Hillary, etal, so profoundly disturbing to my Raccoonvision & found some crumbs along the trail:

They are so profoundly dishonest--invested in Lies which are cosmic in scale--that their very being comes to be invested in a cosmic Deficit or anti-Light which is chilling

something about that man just sets my creepometer on high alert.

a deliberate choice of multiplicity because a single human life is too narrow to express and explore all the content of one's being.

Van der Leun:
for the damp and thin things made of cardboard we have become in ever increasing numbers...

the culture we have created has expunged our myths, given us nothing larger than ourselves in place of them...

even though we might yearn for things larger than ourselves, there seems to be nothing but ourselves before us wherever we turn.

It is a culture of fun-house mirrors...

Lacking real stature, done with gods and heroes, we seek to purchase forgiveness for our smallness.

GB said:
Schuon's humanism is so useless to most people, whose own uselessness precedes them in advance of any encounter with the Real.

My working conclusion is that Maher-etal are so disturbing because they’re spokesmouths & purveyors of ‘totalitarian relativism & chaos’. Like Typhoid-Mary, they go around infecting others. They are the forces of the Lie, at work.


because I am drawn to the inexhaustible mystery of being. Ho!

A profound truth is one that qualitatively ties together and organizes a greater quantity of phenomena on both the inner and outer planes. Thus, the more shallow the level, the more truths multiply

FOLLOW THE DEPTH. And avoid the deeply shallow false lucidity of the terrible simplifiers.

stu said...

Self Mastery 101, Lesson 7:

The ability to live contently with paradox and cease the unending search for cognitive closure in situations that do not allow for it.

Exhibit 7.1:

I guess this is how I can be a religious, traditional Jew in belief and practice, and simultaneously accept Christian truths in theory. (although I wouldn't recommend combining practices)

Van said...

I really don't like saying 'Me too', but it's sure alot faster, and times tight again. Particularly Smoov's.
JulieC too - Along the Monte Cristo lines, have you read The Scalet Pimpernel? Also a goodie, and of course Three Musketeers &... ahh! Times gone again....

Van said...

Short break courtesy of needing to run a service pack(thank you microsoft)

Ximeze & Smoov & all... part of it might be do to the progressives brand of leftist thought patterns being anti depth(for those easily offended by using 'leftie', it's alot faster than referencing the franco-german train of thought that exited from the enlightenment - course I just lost the time saved explaining that... crud).

A while back I used the image of conceptual discs being scatered across a floor, as opposed to stacking them heirarchacally. The leftist will use the flattest possible layer of concepts as possible, and spread them out across the (ever diminishing) space of their mental tables, arranging them by non-essential attributes, but ones easily seen at a glance, like size, shape & color, etc. They tie their idea of intellectual self importance to the expanse of mental table area taken up with their arrangements of discs - they take pride in the multiple arrangements of them, and delight in pointing out to the neanderthal conservatives how the group over here, obviously has nothing to do with the group over there.

Whereas the conservatives, might use little of their tabletop area, but arrange their conceptual discs in heirarchacl stacks, aligning them on related principles & essentials - also many redundent or faulty discs are discarded in favor of deeper discs sounder structure. These arrangements may eventually build up into great tall pyramids stretching up to the point of needing to stand on their chair to reach the tops, but it takes a long while, since most new additions can be found to be already contained in existing stacks, and for similar reasons, they aren't too quick to discard a conceptual disc based on a simple surface level conflict. And of course, any of the discs visible from the surface which may seem disimilar from the one next to it, if you look underneath, they will share one or more of the same discs as their immediate foundations, and more so, the deeper you go.

That idea of conceptual depth is antithetical to the lefties idea of sprawl, and in their cases, the more they gather and arrange, the less possible it is to take them all in at a glance. The conservatives claim that they can see to all conceptual areas without even turning their head is to them so blatantly ludicrous, and so disorderly on the face of it 'imagine big blues and square reds resting on wide whites! How hegemonic!'.

They literaly disintegrate and flatten all we value - deliberately, purposefully, cluelessly. The picture of two-year olds gleefuly knocking down eachothers blocks comes to mind for some reason....

Smoov said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Smoov said...

Try again:

Arts & Letters Daily

If that worked this time, this is a pretty nifty site. Anyone here see it before?

ximeze said...

Spot-on again

Smoov said...

The Atheist's Bible


juliec said...

"The picture of two-year olds gleefuly knocking down eachothers blocks comes to mind for some reason...."

Not only is there a simple perverse delight in knocking down structures (like kicking in a sandcastle someone spent hours creating, or watching an old casino implode), there is the element of envy. Because their discs don't seem to stack, it is unthinkable, unacceptable, nay impossible that someone else's discs do stack (and even if it's possible, it's just not fair!).

Great visualization, Van.

re books, "The Count" was my first Dumas; now I'll have to read the rest :)

wv: pxhott - oh lord, no, she's not coming to phoenix, is she?

cosanostradamus said...

If not too late, let it be so - Speaking Truth to Art.

walt said...

The post and Comments reminds me of the ad with the tag line, "Too much good stuff!"

Ran across an article in the NY Times today, by Nicholas Wade. He is the author of the book Before the Dawn, which Bob wrote several posts around a couple months ago. It is full of information about evolution and genetics - but for the life of me, I could derive no "point" to the article. I read it twice, and could not tell why it was written.

Well, it likely wasn't written for such as I; I get that. But it seemed a perfect example of "we will know more and more about less and less until we eventually know everything about nothing."

is the article. I link it only as "an example," an illustration.

Bob said that without..."some kind of fixed, all-encompassing map or scheme that isn't just another piece of information -- then there is no way to ground any of it in a more meaningful whole. Religion used to serve this purpose...."

And does, for many Raccoons -- or just as useful, the "Map" Bob described in the last chapter of OCUG.

People without a vision shall perish. Ximeze is correct in remembering, "Follow the depth."

walt said...

Cosa -
Thanks for the link. Reminds me of the article(s) Bob linked recently by Roger Kimball in The New Criterion.

From Cosa's article, and complementary to today's OC:

"There is a dire need to revisit basic principles, to fortify the foundations, to revitalize common sense. People used to understand much more about life and how it functions. We've become too myopic. The individual, highly specialized, often knows a great deal about a narrow subject. When it comes to general knowledge, however, and a sober view of life, he knows less than ever before."

walt said...

And, lest I forget my "me too-isms," yes Van, that was quite the imagery!

Van said...

From Smoov's link "Second, it reminds us that before D[ennet], D[awkins] and H[arris] - the current Three Musketeers of Non-Belief - there were Aristotle, Hume, Voltaire, Tom Paine, George Eliot, George Santayana, Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Einstein, Simone de Beauvoir, Katharine Hepburn and a slew of others."

Not sure about the others, or really care what their opinions were, but Aristotle, Voltaire & Paine would be very surprised to find that they were athiests. I believe Voltaire would have disembowled - at least in print(which the entire western world would have read) - whoever suggested such a thing.

They just really can't imagine the concept of depth - if it glitters like their faux gold, they'll claim it as real.

Smoov said...


Ditto Einstein, whose evocation of God in his later years was quietly beautiful.

Of course the article is full of lies. It's like my observations above on Bill Maher: these people ARE lies.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Re: all of the above, Me too.

They seek him here
They seek him there
Those Lefties seek him everywhere!
Why won't he listen?
Can't he shut his gob?
That damned elusive Gagdad Bob!

Sal said...

Also on art and shallowness:
see: "The Chinese Lobster".

I remember that one, Van. Very profound.

ximeze said...

Way to go! with the Scarlet P.

Recently re-watched SP & Pygmalion, both the Leslie Howard versions made in the '30s. It may be 70 years since they were made, but they shine like new pennys

Van said...

Odd's Fish, Joan! That was rather good!

Ximeze said "Recently re-watched SP & Pygmalion, both the Leslie Howard versions made in the '30s. It may be 70 years since they were made, but they shine like new pennys"

I've seen his SP several times, but have missed out on Pygmalion... I'll have to Netflix that one!

juliec said...

Sal, thanks for the link; that was a good read. having been to art school, I can imagine only too well the artist in question (though to be fair, none of my fellow students were that bad).

tsebring said...

As you have elucidated in many of your posts, the music of the past can make just as rich a retreat from the chaos and postmodernism of today as the literature. It seems today that the most popular bands are ones fronted by guys or gals that can't sing a note..which to me speaks of a postmodern obsession with being "edgy" and "relevant", rather than actually having talent. It's one of the reasons I prefer the old progressive rock and fusion jazz of the 70's ("progressive" not having the same meaning as the political term here), or some of the modern classical composers like Prokofiev, Mahler, Vaughn Williams, etc, to the mindless thumping of rap and hip hop that are the exception rather than the rule today. Rap, hip hop, techno, trans, and all those postmodern styles mostly leave me feeling lifeless inside; perhaps that's because they have no real life behind them. How far behind can the chaos be when today's chart toppers are chosen on American Idol instead of working their way up and proving themselves like they used to?
Oddly, for literature, I often turn to the science fiction of the past; Bradbury, Anthony, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, etc. The dystopian worlds they sometimes portray are at times frighteningly similar to what we see unfolding today. I'm particularly reminded of Asimov's Foundation and Robot books, and the Psychohistory theorems of Hari Seldon, which postulate a kind of descent into chaos as a part of the history of all planetary civlilzations. I shudder when I read this, wondering if Asimov was really onto something (I realize that he, Clarke and others were staunch atheists, but they still had an uncanny sense of where things were going and where they could go). The old "paranoid" sci fi movie classics of the 70's (Omega Man, Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, Logan's Run, Westworld,Rollerball) don't seem as paranoid as they used to, upon more recent viewing.
As to the concept of ages of man, I'm reminded of the ages that Tolkien spells out in his vast history of Middle Earth. But, unlike Joyce's ages, for Tolkien the Age of Men is the last age, and it's a triumphant age, where mankind finally gets it together to defeat evil and ascends the throne of rightful dominance. Unfortunately I don't see this country going anywhere near that kind of future.
Van, great picture of the abject sloppiness of the leftist mind; psychologists have often said that you can tell a lot about someone by the way they keep their house (all the unstable people I've known had total pigstys). I guess the same can be said of the mind, the soul and the heart.

"You're a mean one, Mr Maher
You're a nasty, wasty skunk
Your soul is full of spiders
your head is full of gunk
Mr MaaaaaAAAR!!"

Dr Seuus's take on Bill Maher

ximeze said...

You've NEVER seen LH's Pygmalion????
Oh boy, are you in for a treat.

Caution: ISS Alert to go with it.

Own a copy, so watch it regularly. Last time was eating cherries,



you know........

A like-minded friend & I were positing who alive today could do justice to a remake, a-la LH. We came up with Hugh Laurie for Proff Higgins, Kate Blanchett for Eliza & (not too sure he's right) Michael Kitchen (of Foyle's War) for Pickering. Perhaps Ridley Scott as director? Can't be an American: too PC & PoMo to give it flair.

Another ISS # is 'The Ghost & Mrs Muir' with Rex Harrison & Gene Tierney - if you haven't seen it, a real treat too.

River Cocytus said...

Modern music is in many ways quite simply a failure to rout the first temptation of Satan - to make stones into bread.

The correct response of course is, "Man does not live by 'bread' alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

There are rare gems, and Jazz is, for some reason to my ears (if we're talking real Jazz, fusion Jazz and not freeform drugged out madness) beautiful, I can just pick a random tune I don't know and it's golden. Maybe my ears are now trained having played quite a bit of it, and listened quite a lot.

But most stuff is like trying to squeeze rain out of sand - eventually the sand really is dry, and when is the tide coming in? The ocean is cold, it chilled my body, but not my soul.

Much of it has become too market-minded, it is wise to turn a profit, but foolish to turn everything to profit. Information business is many ways turning stones into bread; something as free as information being sold like gold? When it goes wrong, it goes really wrong. Obviously, there are clear uses for it; some expertise really is invaluable. But much more of it is painted stones.

But it seems to me just an instance of this world speeding towards chaos; increasingly frantic and disassociated businesses... I heard on the news today (not voluntarily mind you) about hedge funds and the multi-billionaires that have resulted. Of course, these fellows were millionaires to begin with with a nose for business and a skill of risk management. But now they're trying to get the upper-middle class into this game - the hedge funders are trying to turn everything to profit you see, anything they have that is not profiting them, they must use it for money. And so there will be books and seminars and websites trying to pry the 'unwitting' into hedge funds.

Whether these people are unwitting is not salient at all, some are perfectly aware that they're playing a Very Dangerous Game with their money and are accomplices to what could for many be nothing short of Russian Roulette, a grand Lottery.

It would be like a gardener selling not only the fruit, but the leaves, stems, stones, roots, all parts of the plant, no matter how nonsensical.

He would find a use for them, yes - turn those stones into bread.

But eventually all you're left with? Stones. And no-one to buy them, either. Hope you like selling gravel...

(I'm reminded of the concept of 'value-adding' things. It is a valid idea up to a certain point. For instance, unchecked by higher reason it might devolve into charging x hundreds of dollars more just because of a name change. The attitude coupled with it would be of disdain for the customer and a belief of being independent of him.)

But I digress in this already long comment. We must add something of value to the world, and without (as the American Thinker guy is thinking) the Telos, all is meaningless.

I mused today about health insurance, and how what is health worth if one does not do some good under the sun? I would rather change the lives of those most needing it and live short than live until 120 consuming and gazing into a mirror.

It seems like these days we have almost too much security; in the days of Gods and Kings men were more disposable; not to say that it is a good thing, but rather, the culture of insurance breeds men of safety, just as men who seek safety create insurance. The only escape is up, seems like.

But will men go up? Or will they shout at the rocks until they believe they are bread? Even as the manna collects at their feet and proceeds to rot?

It crossed my mind that the last 'kings' were the Founding Fathers, men who may have been of average intellect, or strength, or courage, but yet were capable of much more. Some of it is the culture of safety.

The culture of safety of course immediately gave birth, in human fashion, to the anti-saftiests, not people who dislike busybodies mind you, but the other 'side' of the busybody. For as the coward is also a bully, the busybody is also a slacker. These are the anarchists, of course, who worship license over all things, and believe themselves to be the solution for the 'repressive' rules of society. You know, these fellows sprang right out of the loins of the Boheme...

And they of course worship the many, the plurality, the diversity, as though it is the infinite, as though countability can be made into uncountability. Or, stones into bread.

Did I say that enough times? I doubt it.

River Cocytus said...

PS- just to rehash- Stones into bread!

Your regularly scheduled commenting follows.

River Cocytus said...

By the way, I looked at the top 100 Sci Fi short stories, and the names have a kind of beauty to them. Read here and see if you agree. I wonder why that is?

River Cocytus said...

Also, um. All 19's.

Hey nineteen, take me along when you slide on down....

Van said...

"'The Ghost & Mrs Muir' with Rex Harrison & Gene Tierney" - oh yeah, definitly got that one.

Afraid I'm prejudiced on the Pickering role, saw my uncle do it on stage a couple times - (he was also a great King Pellinore in Camelot)... but I'll keep 2nd place open for review.


Van said...

River Cocytus said... "PS- just to rehash- Stones into bread!"

Hmm... picture seeing The Stones singing anything by Bread....

Van said...

Agree on Sci-fi as well, the last refuge of the fiction writer who doesn't want to wallow in 'realism' and self pity.

The Authors mentioned above, Orson Scott Card, Robert Jordan... and going back to the 70's or 80's, I remember Patricia K. McKillip took some great twists on myths and told them with a lyrical style

triffid said...

Bob, I find you in violation of spirit law 1.1 --the prohibition against promulgating pessimism.

There is no "age of chaos" coming--things are actually improving. Women are achieving parity with men in earnings, which will gradually straighten out family dysfunctions, which will ultimately palliate out most of our problems altogether.

Crime, divorce, unemployment--all going down.

Earnings and productivity going up--in spite of (or because of?) the green revolution.

Yes. It's all coming together. This is the best time to live that ever was.

Nobody is boggled by the information age, Bob. Sorry. That just isn't the case.

Anybody boggled among you readers out there? Too much info?

I doubt it.

juliec said...

Triffid, while you are right on some counts (yes, in many ways things are better now than ever before on this planet, at least for those of us fortunate enough to live in the developed world, and you are right that that's something to be happy about), this seems an odd notion to me:

"Women are achieving parity with men in earnings, which will gradually straighten out family dysfunctions, which will ultimately palliate out most of our problems altogether."

I am delighted that, in this country at least, women and men are as close to being equal under the law as a human society can conceivably be, however I find it odd that you think the earnings of men and women will straighten out family dysfunction. In fact, I think it is fair to say that in families where both parents work full-time, the stresses of life are often worse, not better, than when one spouse works while the other manages the home or works part-time. I know a fairly large number of professional couples; in my experience, they are not happier having "income parity," but since they believe that this is what modern life is supposed to be like, they don't know to change it. (See also the earlier linked Van der Leun article; this mentality is also another example of knowing more and more about less and less.)

River Cocytus said...

Yes, they were the best of times, the bread, the circuses, the finest palaces - and then, where did those barbarians come from?

This is worth a read if only for its sobering effect. The best of times usually precedes the worst.

Van said...

Oops - Patricia A. McKillip

Van said...

Ah... the trouble with triffids. "...are achieving parity with men in earnings, which will gradually straighten out family dysfunctions..."

(do I detect our semi-trollish 'marriage is a power struggle' trol-lite there?)

Any assumption that earnings, or privledge or handouts or anyother outside concoction is going to solve a families dysfunctions, or the psychological/philosophical errors at their root, is just... silly.

I think I'm the resident touter of 'it isn't as bad as you think, it's never been better, and could be great' but there's a big but there, followed by an even bigger IF. We have the ability for it to be the simplest of things for everyone to become educated (Not degree'd, but Educated, which is an entirely different thing), but it involves people choosing to become more sound, it involves people being inspired to become more solid in character than they are, it involves people doing what is right and good and true - because it is so. And that involves a culture centered around the Good, the Beautiful and the True, and a sound philosophical understanding of the world such as is provided in classical liberalism, and a recognition that it is more important and satisfying to exalt the spirit than the celebrity - and that world is still somewhat far removed from the present.

It can easily be chosen - but that choice is in many ways the most difficult thing of all. In fact, the first and oldest choice of them all - to stand or fall - and one is far mroe easy to do than the other.

Van said...


I didn't get a chance to more than glance at the site you ref'd, but looks interesting. The series of paintings he uses, 'The Voyage of Life' and 'The Course of Empire' by Thomas Cole, are some of my favorites. I'm not a big fan of Spengler, but as a basis for a 'tale' is interesting, and the idea of a Program churning it out, is one I've thought would make a great sci-fi story. You can just picture the end of the world, and the scene disolving, pulling back to show it running on a students desktop who is making notes "... results of this Genesis program indicate a common historical cycle has a 83% probability to execute the self-destrut cycle when..." and Rod Serling standing in the corner behind them "...And so the fortunes of kings and commoner are written... in code... in the Twilight Zone'"


gumshoe said...

G-Bob -

can't recall if it was a fragment of an OC thread,
but did you once also discuss
(in an echo of today's thread)
the idea that one psych model held that paranoia,narcissism and depression were base-line elements or "natural" states to be "transcended",
and that mental-health
was the maintenance-level of keeping these psych components
in balance or in check.

it may have been Dr Sanity
who had discussed it.

any comments?

is potentially a very fruitful discussion.

it almost suffered,imo,from the inclusion of the donkey party
celeb arguements and quotes.

they are merely a symptom,not a cause,imo.
their politics are the result of a crippled metaphysics.

i dare say the current republican crop is suffering from the same phenomena.

ok,back to reading everyone's comments.

River Cocytus said...

Oh, I don't recommend it for accuracy, he gives a warning for 'recovering scientific positivists' (people who would believe because it is 'scientific' it can therefore predict the future.) But it is chilling, sobering and sparks the imagination in ways few other things have for me.

It is like a field ready to bear the fruit of some excellent science fiction - if someone were to raise the pen.

ximeze said...

Ah... the trouble with triffids.


Vis a vis your 'disks spread out on a table' vs 'multiple ordered stacks', perhaps a shorthand 'name' for each would be useful at this point. You know, each 'name' containing the whole concept, so it's easier to play around with them.

Long time friend (thinky-computer-hack-type) & I have come up shorthand versions of concepts to facilitate discussions & analysis. We amuse ourselves by trying to predict how people we know will act based on what we know about their histories, abilities, personalities, known driving motivations, etc. We keep a running tally of hits/misses, fine tuning as we go.

Example: multi-bagger vs one-bagger. Think grocery checkout.
An mb will look at your groceries & work with multiple bags, sorting & filling as they go. A ob works with one bag at a time, filling it & then moving on to the next. Multi-processors vs liner-processors.

So, watcha think? Ideas?

juliec said...

Van, re triffids, that's what a meant to say (no, really!), but sadly at almost midnight last night I just didn't quite manage it, so "me, too" instead :)