Saturday, June 09, 2007

Ought World, Political Religions, and the Bridge to Nowhere

Maybe I'll just stop posting on weekends. There's a lot less traffic on weekends anyway. One of the reasons I hesitated to do so in the past was that I didn't want to break the spell. It had begun to feel as if the daily posting were a somewhat artificial state, and that if it snapped, that would be the end of it. Sort of like a hitting streak in baseball, or a no-hitter. When it is evident by the fourth inning or so that a pitcher is working on a no-hitter, his teammates won't go near him. Nobody will talk to him, touch him, or even make eye contact. Or if they do, they certainly won't mention the no-hitter. Nobody wants to break The Spell.

It reminds me of how bands back in the 1960s had to produce three or four albums every year, plus a new single every couple of months, plus maybe a Christmas album. Now it's not unusual for an artist to go five years without an album, but they're not nearly as good. Although it doesn't seem conducive to "art," there's something about the daily grind that causes one to rise to the occasion, to reach down for something you otherwise wouldn't have known existed (assuming there's something there to begin with). Under these "adverse" conditions, someone like Paul McCartney produced more great music in a given year -- say, 1965 or 1966 -- than he did in the 37 from 1970 to today. The same goes for the Rolling Stones, who cranked out one masterpiece after another from 1964-1972, then essentially zilch, artistically speaking.

Off hand, I can only think of a couple of folks from that era who escaped the artistic decline that resulted from independence of the pressure to produce so much new material, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. Dylan very consciously and publicly extricated himself from the "star maker machinery" in 1966, while Morrison did so in about 1974. Each went into a semi-retirement that lasted several years before they returned with a very different attitude about their music and their audience. They reconciled themselves to producing music for the marketplace, but entirely on their own terms.

Anyway, ever since I took a day off from posting last week, I feel as if the spell has been broken. I suppose it's like sinnin'. The first time is hard, but after that, it's easy. This morning I just wanted to stay in bed. I didn't want to face The Puppy. As I said, it's not her fault. It's just that I'd gotten so accustomed to that absolutely silent space in the morning, and now it's gone. Only now do I realize how important it had become to me.

It probably sounds petulant or something (no pun intended there), but it's not. I either have to wait until she matures a bit and sleeps longer -- which won't be too much longer -- or work out some kind of a new routine.


I came across a great quote that summarizes how the leftist body snatchers have, like a cancer, insinuated themselves into virtually every aspect of society. It's very much like guerilla warfare, where you can't just drop a bomb on the enemy without causing a lot of collateral damage. It's the same with the left. You can't just bulldoze our major universities, media outlets, and other institutions. If you metaphorically blow up the Princeton Middle East Studies Department, you might hurt Bernard Lewis.

Here's the quote. It's from a book entitled The Third Reich: A New History, which analyzes fascism as a modern political religion. It has to do with the gradual moral transformation that fascists attempted to bring about, which he compares to rebuilding a railway bridge:

"Engineers could not simply demolish an existing structure, because of the impact on rail traffic. Instead, they slowly renewed each bolt, girder and rail, work which hardly caused passengers to glance up from their newspapers. However, one day, they would realize that the old bridge had gone and a gleaming new structure stood in its stead."

In America, this construction project has advanced so far, that the Orwellian engineers responsible for bringing it about accuse those of us who notice the new bridge of being "radicals" or extremists. For example, if you simply want to preserve the Judeo-Christian heritage of the country -- the old bridge, which worked so well for so long -- you're an extremist. If you don't want unelected judges to impose their bizarre definition of marriage, you're an extremist. If you believe that government should not be able to discriminate on the basis of race, you're an extremist. If you think there's nothing in the constitution that grants the right to kill the unborn, you're an extremist. Etc.

It is not that the irreligious have replaced the religious. Hardly. Rather, we are dealing with a new secular religion, or religious fervor in the absence of its appropriate object. Which is why you will have noticed that the left is in a perpetual state of emotional fervor. It's not so much that they suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome. That we all know. Rather, they suffer from a religious neurosis that requires an easily recognizable "devil" for its iconography. If it weren't Bush, it would be someone else. For most of the international left, it is Israel.

Here's how it happened in Germany, and -- at risk of evoking Godwin's Law -- it sounds very much like the evolution of our own fascist left over the past couple of decades:

"Reality was violently adjusted to suit a theoretical ought-world." "A dreadful mass sentimentality, compounded of anger, fear, resentment and self-pity, replaced the customary politics of decency, pragmatism, property and reason.... Belief, faith, feeling and obedience to instinct routed debate, scepticism and compromise. People voluntarily surrendered to group or herd emotions, some of a notoriously nasty kind. Among committed believers, a mythic world of eternal spring, heroes, demons, fire and sword -- in a word, a fantasy world of the nursery -- displaced reality." Or invaded it, with crude images of Jews, capitalists, and others "populating the imagination."

"This was children's politics for grown-ups, bored and frustrated with the prosaic tenor of post-war liberal democracy, and hence receptive to heroic gestures and politics as a form of theatrical stunt, even at the expense of their personal freedom." The "thinkers" of this movement "treated ideas seriously, rather than something secondary to 'facts'," and "on closer scrutiny explained rather little." He quotes Bertrand Russell, who observed that to understand this new leftist mentality, "it is not sufficient to know the facts; it is also necessary to enter with sympathy or imagination into a new spirit."

The new political religions are a "by-product of the absence of religion," in which "ideologies akin to Christian heresies of redemption in the here and now" fuse "with post-Enlightenment doctrines of social transformation" and create a "church-state" or a state "counter-church with its own intolerant dogma, preachers, sacred rites and lofty idioms that [offer] total explanations of the past, present and future, while demanding unwavering dedication from its adherents."

When I hear Al Gore, I am reminded of another quote from this book: "The people dream, and a soothsayer tells them what they are dreaming."


Gagdad Bob said...

Notice how these fascists eat their own if they don't toe the line. And then the one who get's eaten excuses the cannibals because Rush Limbaugh made the cannibals so angry!

Van said...

"Rather, we are dealing with a new secular religion, or religious fervor in the absence of its appropriate object."

Sound and fury signifying sound and fury.

"The people dream, and a soothsayer tells them what they are dreaming."

That sums it up pretty well. Once you buy a mode of thought that isn't thinking... you put on the show of going through the motions of thought, but the end product needs to be supplied, since there is no heirarchy to build to it. Enter the soothesayer. Happy happy joy joy.


"This morning I just wanted to stay in bed. I didn't want to face The Puppy...It's just that I'd gotten so accustomed to that absolutely silent space in the morning, and now it's gone. Only now do I realize how important it had become to me."

Gone? or changing and not yet changed? I had my morning body & mind stretch out routine for nearly 20 years, then broke it about a year ago. I've just recently begun to get a somewhat changed one going (thanks in part to a couple posts from here - thank you).

Eventually, we've all got to deal with our inner puppy sometime!

Face the Puppy!
That's got tagline written all over it... is in dire need of having a movie written around it. 'The Big Puppowski' maybe...


Gotta love wv this morning: agregad

colossus of toads said...

First you're talking about a puppy and then BAM

"I came across a great quote that summarizes how the leftist body snatchers have, like a cancer, insinuated themselves into virtually every aspect of society."

From out of the 'blue' so to speak.

No, there is no hope that you'll quit blogging anytime soon. You have an obsession here, my man.

Van said...

'colossus of toads'... by their nic's shall you know them...

juliec said...

Wow, Bob. It seems to me that whenever you begin with "I'm going to stop blogging weekends," the rest is a great post guaranteed to start a flurry of conversation.

I'd never heard the bridge metaphor before, but it describes the situation to a positively chilling degree. Chilling, because it seems to me that bridge is at least halfway, if not more so, transformed. And the transformation is from classical forms which support and uplift the passengers, to abstract deconstructed trestles that, if allowed to be completed, will direct us straight into the abyss.

Speaking of leftists eating their own, have you seen this story?

cosanostradamus said...

All hail Bob and Van! And Dylan and Morrison, as well.

Bob, I'm sure it's kind of rude to note that I like how your new puppy and fairly new fatherhood can interrupt the o-cosmic flow, but it always brings a smile because it's common ground, a touchstone for every parent. There is a reason we have pets around us, dogs especially, to create a little chaos in our otherwise carefully ordered world. And kids, well...utter chaos can be fun, too.

The Spell had to be broken. By a puppy.

dloye said...

Yup, keep the pup and keep blogging weekends. Traffic may be down, but it's my favorite slack time. Maybe we can keep making enough noise somewhere to have folks look up and notice the bridge before it's completed. Thinking is entirely underrated, IMHO. Just go along, get along, and be a useful idiot if it's the path of least resistance.

WV: bhvubb (does he vote too?)

Time to go enjoy some succulent crawfish. Eat your hearts out!

Alan said...

Bob: I feel for you. Though we didn't have a dog, we did have a second kid very close in age to the first. Settling in with the first was fine but the second threw in a new dynamic that fundamentally took away all remaining spare time for a couple years (sounds like a puppy is a shorter time)

Re: secular religion:

Did anyone listen to or read the transcript from the Chris Hitchens/Mark Roberts debate on Hugh Hewitt this week.

I still think that we, as "religious believers" lose the debate every time because we don't properly set the debate question: the debate is not about religion vs secularism, etc. It is religion vs. religion. Forget about the atheists but for those in the middle who can't scale the peaks of metaphysics and philosophy, it is critical that we get the debate on proper footing so our arguments make sense to them.

We then can point out the fallacies and inconsitencies of the secular religions in their own language.

Frankly, Bob (as well as many of the more accomplished here who I learn from every day) could go into Chris Hitchens "house" using only the "wood and nails" he chose to use in building it and show how it is so poorly constructed that it must fall. However, a Chris Hitchens can't even think about coming into our house because he can't even recognize our "wood and nails" let alone see how the thing is constructed.

I just get frustrated when there is an amazing opportunity to call out secularists and athiests and we let them define the debate in a way that (a) has no bearing on the truth of the situation and (b) makes building a bridge of common vocabulary impossible. We let the magic glamor of words (like an evil version of Jedi talk) lull us to sleep.

Am I totally off track in my thinking with this?

Gagdad Bob said...


No, you're absolutely right. I was thinking of dedicating a post to the subject, but the basic idea is that logic trumps exoteric religion every time, just as esoterism trumps logic every time. Being that Christianity is an esoterism masquerading as an exoterism, it must be presented in the proper mystical context in order for it to make total sense. Reduced to the plane of mere logic, it can easily be made to look foolish: "folly to the Greeks," precisely.

dougman said...

If the inspiration hits ya don't hold it in.
You can always fallback to some gem that maybe wasn't totally fleshed out.
Iknow there is alot in the archives that i need to read, not to mention your book that is next on my list to pick up.
I know, i know, showing up to class without the proper work books is a no-no but damn-it i'm poor.
So sue me :)

Gagdad Bob said...


Yes, one option is to stop, take a breath, gather myself, take stock of what I've written so far, and see if any of it is worthy of being polished and worked into a book... Of course, one thing I'd need to do is find the connecting strand, since people aren't generally interested in buying a collection of disconnected essays. Not that there would be any real point in publishing another book anyway, since more people visit the the blog than purchased the first book! Like newspapers, I suppose books have become hopelessly old-fashioned things.

walt said...

Alan -

Mark Roberts is writing a multi-part response to Hitchens, in which he discusses the debate, and dissects Hitchens' book,

Gagdad Bob said...

This is funny -- it shows how the liberal media hate President Bush even more than they hate religion in general and Catholicism in particular:

Bush in Holy Gaffe

Vatican City - US President George W Bush drew gasps at the Vatican on Saturday by referring to Pope Benedict XVI as "sir" instead of the expected "His Holiness", pool reporters said.

They could clearly hear the US leader say "Yes, sir" when the pope asked him if he was going to meet with officials of the lay Catholic Sant'Egidio community at the US embassy later during his visit.

On his way to see the 80-year-old pontiff, the US leader apparently recognised someone he knew, and could be heard greeting the person with a casual "How ya doin'?"

The pool reporters also noted Bush's relaxed posture, crossing his legs "Texan style" while facing the pope across his desk in the private study of the apostolic palace.


What breathtaking cognitive dissonance -- normally they would celebrate any disrespect toward the Pope.

will said...

No spell has been broken, i say.

Spells just take time to shapeshift and refurbish now and then.

Sometimes the refurbishing appears to be involuntary, eg., Dylan's motorcycle accident, or William Blake's 12 year dry spell (one that he gamely went along with without complaint)

Sometimes the refurbishing is nobly voluntary with semi-involunatary consequences - you did sacrifice your silent time so that a dog might thrive.

In any event, this is your Hour of Sardine Canapes. The spell is not dead, only sleeping and when it awakes it will have a new trick bag.

dougman said...

Of course, one thing I'd need to do is find the connecting strand,...

How about making this a class project?
There maybe many strands that are visible to certain people that are not readily seen by others.
Maybe free you up to take the next step. Kinda like shedding your skin.

walt said...

Bob -

After all is said and done, when it comes to puppy energy (or kitten energy), resistance is futile!

And as Cosa, and Susannah, Van, and others mentioned, how normal to have to deal with such things! Everyone can relate, I'm sure. No one who values what you do here expects a "home run" every time you step up to the plate.

My father used to say that "the pursuit of excellence" was the highest ideal, since "pure" excellence was not something we could achieve. That could be argued, but you
get the point.

For two decades, I was involved in a seasonal enterprise, and each winter I would "stop, take a breath, gather myself" and ground my days in practice; each spring and summer the sheer busy-ness would crush my practice like a bug. For a long time this discouraged me, but then I noticed: that as the seasons changed again, so did I, and I would spontaneously return to inward activities.

Of course, we come here because your ideas are valuable to us. I doubt that some "gaps and fluctuations," while you wait for the Big Themes to find the opportunity to come 'round again on the guitar,
will put us off. Sometimes, it's okay to just hang out together, and chat.

Sal said...

"ought-world" has just entered personal dictionary.
Thanks, Bob!

Joan of Argghh! said...

"ought-world" goes right next to, "you shouldn't should on yourself."


wv: dztali - sounds like MSM poll data!

Joan of Argghh! said...

Not so much pointing out the religious aspect, I think Jonah Goldberg does yoeman's work in the culture war by writing this apt and brief description of the difference between status and accomplishment.

Making more money helps the conservative provide more for his family. Getting promoted in some bureaucracy demonstrates that you're doing good at your do-goodery.

Late Convert said...


I would look forward to purchasing a collection of essays from the OC archives. Of course, creating such a book would only add to your workload. Sure, they are hopelessly old-fashioned, but being old-fashioned isn't necessarily the same thing as being passé.

It’s hard to curl up with a good monitor.

Aquila said...


Re the "Holy Gaffe" story: After the Iraq War began, I got thrown off an arts/alt-kulture email list for making a similar observation. JPII had made a statement opposing the war, and the moderator (an original Berkely hippie/art-geek) was praising him. I responded by asking why he was invoking the Pope's moral authority on this issue, when he otherwise considered the Pontiff a Nazi, and constantly bashed Christians. Guess he didn't feel like debating, much less examining his own prejudices...

Speaking of old hippies, here's an interesting piece on Laurel Canyon being the REAL musical center of the Summer of Love.

maineman said...


I've been coming here with increasing frequency since last fall and just want to thank you sincerely for what you've managed to do so well, so frequently, and for so long. The level you've maintained has really been quite astounding.

I've also gotten attached to the community here and think we may be able to amuse, engage, and advance each other in your relative absence as long as you keep the blog going on some level. And it's true, as has been said, that there's a lot here that will bear revisiting.

Ricky Raccoon said...

Bob said, “Although it doesn't seem conducive to "art," there's something about the daily grind that causes one to rise to the occasion”.

I understand. The daily practice certainly keeps your skills tuned and your mind at a certain level.

But what will you do if you don’t do this? It seems so natural to you.
It seems obvious that you won’t want to just stop. Maybe something in between completely stopping and doing it every single morning. You’re thinking of stopping the weekend posts. But what if the fire hose turns on on a weekend. Seems you would want to do it when that happens and not hold it in.

If the grind or the pushing becomes work, then the product turns into something else.

Not necessarily that it would turn into something less, but surely something different than the days when the fire hose is on full blast.

I know I don’t get the flow everyday. And then other days the flow is nearly too much. That’s when I’ll write. And trust that it will always come back again.

Ricky Raccoon said...

Speaking of taking time off between posts, I finally completed the next part. I think…

Garden of Divine Symbols, Part 4

I ran across a Rembrandt recently that I’d never seen before and I just know you’ll find it interesting (if you haven’t seen it before) a copy of it is there.

Susannah said...

I don't know, I kind of *like* the asides about FL and the puppy. Makes me feel right at home.

NoMo said...

Ahhh, priorities.

Having raised 3 sons (and, to some degree, a number of their friends), 7 or 8 dogs, I don't know how many cats, a passel of fish, and I can't remember what all else - and now our sons' wives and 3 grandchildren, it's all good. Wait, who's raisin' me? Well, my wife, my family, close friends, GB and the OC clan, and, of course, dear Abba Father. I think we all raise each other.

I could swear I just heard creation's heart beating.

Lisa said...

I heard somewhere that even the big guy needs one day of rest....

ricky-I've never seen that Rembrant before. It is beautiful. I wonder if that's what is going on between each vertebre in our spines?!

Been so busy lately have hardly had time to comment myself, so I am sure we (racoons) can understand how hard it really is to actually write something meaningful and coherent each day. Some of us would be grateful for just one day!

walt said...

Lisa -

Since you're about, just wanted to say "thanks" for recommending The New Rules of Posture. Looks very helpful!

River Cocytus said...

Hmm, just came back from an Orthodox vespers service - Saturday prayer service - and, wow. It is a space and time of peace it is, singing 'God have mercy on us' about 30 times.

Apparently, there is Orthodoxy that is of the American variety. Huh, guess I just never looked for it.

The church has a site.

Cool beans!

Lisa said...

My pleasure, Walt. I have a feeling it will change your life! :)

strangest wv ever: sxdyefu

walt said...


Well, that sort of info is not new to me, but this book, unlike so many about body work, is clearly written and useful. I gather her specific training was in Rolfing, but it overlaps with other disciplines very nicely.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

I like the bridge metaphor much more than the frog one.
(Been tested. Didn't work. Come on, frogs regulate their own temperature by "paying attention"-- like they *won't notice* the temp raising?)

I especially like that it's a very expandable metaphor.

Alan said...

Had to share this little gem from The Curt Jester

What is a progessive's favorite Latin hymn?

Tantrum Ego

The Curt Jester Blog

Here's info on the original Tantum Ergo

GLASR said...

Yes, of course bulldozers cause collateral BUT would ridding the World of that margaret sanger worshipper(name escapes me at the moment)in the process be worth the sacrifice? :~\

Rejoinder that will tax your memory like an early in the day woveri. "Yet, we spend so much time .........." Did you know that an acre of grass is the equivalent of a seventy-ton air conditioner - returning over 2,400 gallons of water to the atmosphere on a warm, sunny day? ;~)

GLASR said...

"To laugh often and much; To win respect of intelligent people and
the affection of children. To leave the world a better place. To know
even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to
have succeeded." —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Pretty much nails it, no? ;~)