Saturday, July 04, 2009

We Hold These Truths and Virtues to be Soph-Evident

I was going to repost something from 2006 about Independence Day, but there was nothing there. The closest thing was this one from July 3. It has nothing to do with Independence Day. Then again, I suppose it does, because the day would be absolutely meaningless in the absence of absolute truth, objective morality, and decent music.

Allow me to explain. As I have discussed in the past, the possibility of truth is rooted in freedom. Likewise, the possibility of freedom is rooted in truth. That is, if truth isn't freely discovered, it isn't truth (i.e., you can't compel truth, as the left tries to do). And if freedom doesn't lead to truth, then one isn't really free (i.e., to live a lie is only the illusion of freedom).

There are people who do not believe in free will. For them, truth is impossible. Others do not believe in objective truth. For them, freedom is impossible. And there are others who do not believe in the soul, or an essential self. However, that sophistry can be easily disproved, for if man had no essence, he couldn't know it. To speak a truth is to know -- to be -- an essence.

The same principle applies to beauty and morality. If these were not objective categories, we couldn't even know about them. So when our liberal founders said, "we hold these truths to be self-evident," they said at least two things that are offensive to the modern left, that there is objective truth and that it is self-evident to the intellect (which transcends the reason, or empirical ego).

But for the Founders to add that all men are created equal and that they were made this way by their Creator -- I'm surprised that the ACLU hasn't found a way to overturn the Declaration of Independence on the grounds that it's unconstitutional.

There is horizontal freedom and vertical freedom. The former is "freedom from," the latter "freedom to." The former doesn't necessarily lead to the latter, while the latter always implies the former. That is, if one is truly spiritually free, one is free. But the horizontal freedom of the left -- which is only horizontal -- might as well be tyranny. Note as well that it necessarily excludes beauty and morality, except accidentally, not essentially.

In the post of three years ago, I was musing about music. Let's see if we can't tie it in with the above:

When it comes right down to it, the vast majority of music is just ephemera with no lasting value. There are a lot of things I can enjoy, but then not feel compelled to listen to a second time.

It occurred to me that we’re so focussed on the now and the new, that we may not realize that the musical “now” is not a week, or a year, or even a decade. For example, in my case, the musical "now” extends back to the mid 1920’s or so, when Louis Armstrong emerged as the greatest star in jazz -- which, bear in mind, was the popular music of its day. It wasn’t like today, where jazz is considered a scary or esoteric art form for initiates and idle beatniks who gobble down reefer pills all day.

But Armstrong revolutionized singing in a way that is still felt today. You can trace all pop vocalists in a more or less continuous line that eventually leads back to him. Naturally, in the 1920’s, you couldn’t have known this. The records he recorded then were considered ephemera, just cheap trinkets tossed into the marketplace in hope of some quick sales. It never occurred to anyone at the time -- least of all Armstrong -- that they were producing timeless art that would influence music forever, not just in America, but all over the world.

Another thing the average person wouldn’t have noticed in the 1920’s is how singular Armstrong was. Just like today, thousands of records were made by various pop and jazz acts, but how many of them are of any interest to us today? Very few. In hindsight, we can see that only a handful of musicians were even in the same league as Armstrong.

It’s obviously the same way with classical music. There you can survey even larger expanses of time and see that only a few geniuses stand way above the rest -- Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms, etc. -- all of the usual suspects.

But now the now is more distracting and dizzying than ever, obviously not just with regard to music, but with everything -- religion, philosophy, psychology, you name it. There is so much information, so many choices. On the one hand, this has undeniably positive aspects, but on the other hand, it can leave us drowning in the trivial and transient, when the purpose of life is to see through the accidental to the essential -- to know the truth, and for the truth to set us free.

I am fascinated by things that you might think are subjective, but which are actually 100% objective -- perhaps even more objective than what we call “objective reality,” since that reality is always changing, plus it is colored by our vantage point and by the limitations of our neurology. Does the subatomic world consist of particles? Or waves? Who knows? It depends on how you look.

But there are certain musicians and musical performances that can catch your ear in such a way that you know in your bones that they cannot be surpassed. I'm thinking of, say, Frank Sinatra or Ray Charles between '53 and '61, or Aretha between '66 and '73, or so many others. Sometimes it's just a single song by a particular artist that achieves a kind of perfection that they can never again duplicate.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident.” Today, because of the influence of science, we suppose that the only self-evident truths are found in math or science. But the opposite is true. Science is constantly evolving, changing, progressing, outgrowing old truths. Before Einstein -- the Louis Armstrong of modern physics -- published his revolutionary papers in the early 1900’s, physics was considered essentially complete. College students were discouraged from entering the field, because, with the exception of a couple of “unresolved clouds on the horizon,” physicists had wrapped up their work. But Einstein ignored the received wisdom of his day and forged ahead with his unorthodox ideas.

So, Bob, what's your point? My point is this: religious truth is of the same order as artistic truth, only more so. It too might appear to be subjective, but it is not. In fact, it is the most objective truth available to human beings. There are people who can recognize it, others who, for whatever reason, cannot or will not.

At the time Jesus lived, only a few people recognized what was going on. But they did so in an instant -- John the Baptist, for example. Not to trivialize it, but he clearly experienced something that was as obvious and objective as hearing a perfect musical performance which you just know is true, even though you could never explain why.

More generally, there has probably never been another time in human history when it has been easier to overrun the truth and continue searching for it long after you've found it, as if it never happened. Our founders discovered the keys to liberty, decency, and prosperity. Meanwhile, Obama is busy changing all the locks.

I'm freeeeeeeeeeee!


QP said...

Another thing the average person may not have noticed:

Arizona High Schools Get an "F" in Civics

Survey reveals only 3.5 percent of Arizona public high school students could pass citizenship test

Although all three groups of Arizona high school students surveyed--public, charter and private high school students--scored alarmingly low on the test, charter and private school students scored slightly better. The passing rate for charter schools was about two times higher than in traditional public schools and private school students passed at a rate almost four-times higher than traditional public school.


Be sure to read Van's 4th of July post - a speech by Calvin Coonidge, 30th President of the United States.

Mrs. G said...

God bless our troops!

It's awe inspiring what they do to keep us safe and protect our freedom.

Please consider adopting a soldier:

Happy Independence Day to all!
Mrs. G

SippicanCottage said...

Pictures are fantastic. The pure, unalloyed joy of being a little boy.

I'll throw another name in with Louis Armstrong for you to gnaw on. Muddy Waters.

Same sort of gravity to the guy, in a more gutbucket genre.

I performed with Pinetop Perkins a long time ago. He liked Johnny Walker Black and cowboy hats. I asked him about playing with Muddy Waters.

There was an undercurrent of familiarity to his answer; people often forget that people who know notable people personally have opinions of them based on the sort of mundane affairs you might have with Madge in the next cubicle.

Anyway, he said that Muddy was like a radiator. You could just sit next to him and feel something. I've never forgotten that remark, no matter how off-hand it was when offered.

There are people in this world that are radiators. Sometimes it gets captured for us.

debass said...

After reading this post, it made me want to go listen to Joan Osborne with the Funk Bros. That truth is self evident.

Gagdad Bob said...


Funny you should speak of Muddy. Even more generally, it is an awesome Cosmic Mystery that reality should align itself in such a way that Muddy, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Bo Diddley and Etta James should all end up at 2120 South Michigan Avenue at the same time. Similar to how Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich and Jerry Lee all ended up at Sun.

At this very moment I'm listening to the complete Chess Masters of Little Walter, which is just amazing. In reading the liner notes, I hadn't realized that he was Chess's biggest star from '52 to '56, only to be eclipsed by Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry with the emergence of rock. And of course, he started out with Muddy.

It is another cosmic mystery how these "primitive" musicians can channel something so pure and luminous. I never tire of it....

Gagdad Bob said...


Have you heard the deluxe edition of Standing in the Shadows of Motown, that has the musical tracks stripped of vocals on disc 2? James Jamerson was a monster.

Trooper said...

Mrs. G's link

kaffepaus said...

Happy Independence Day to you all, and God bless America!


Gagdad Bob said...

re "radiators"--

Someone said there are "transmitters" and "antennas." Thank God the Chess brothers had good antennae.

Of course, there are also those who are adept at jamming the radio waves, not to mention people who transmit darkness....

Beaky said...

Obama walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder.

Bartender asks 'Where did you get that thing?'

'In Kenya. They're all over the place' says the parrot

The Slackosopher said...

As long as we are on the topic of "Radiating" Blues musicians...I want to give proper credit to the unsung hero of the Mississippi Delta...Mr. Skip James.

It may be heresy to some, but I personally rank him above Robert Johnson.

Just my two cents. :)

Van said...

"As I have discussed in the past, the possibility of truth is rooted in freedom. Likewise, the possibility of freedom is rooted in truth. That is, if truth isn't freely discovered, it isn't truth (i.e., you can't compel truth, as the left tries to do). And if freedom doesn't lead to truth, then one isn't really free (i.e., to live a lie is only the illusion of freedom)."

I almost put up a post dissecting where we are, and how we got here, came to my senses, and chucked it in favor of this from Calvin Coolidge "The Inspiration of the Declaration of Independence" instead.

The number of gems in it are too many to settle on pulling one or two quotes, but this one rings with the above,

"...They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.

No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. ..."

If Petey were ever elected President, this is the kind of speech he'd give. There's only two sentences of intro by me in it, the rest is all "Silent Cal", check it out, it's well worth it, especially today.

Happy Independence Day!

(Hope FL's backflip ended up well!)

Gagdad Bob said...

As long as he stays away from the new speakers, I don't care where he lands.

robinstarfish said...

Happy Fourth, Bob, Mrs G, and FL...and thanks for the daily raising of the Freek Flag of Self Evident Truth.

I am imagining the long-term traction should I attempt a somersault such as that. Long live youth.

Anonymous said...

weeeeee I'm freeeeeeee! = priceless pics:)

I remember well those days -- mine as well as my kids':)

I'm very much into Armstrong and all the greats' dancin' an' groovin' the nights away. However, for quite a few years now, what nurishes me most is something more mellow. . . I recall a (whole) family moment sitting around a radio when my (already in high school) son decided to call this university funky music playing radio station with a request for Enya song. When asked if he wanted to dedicate the song to someone he said "my mom"...Both the young radio-women "ooohed" and played Sail Away. Loveit!

Truth be told I don't play CD's but if want to hear something particular I check out the youtube which isn't very often. Today I decided to click on Enya's -- first time heard -- The River Song (?) and I like it a lot:)
Full of drums, dynamism and drama with superimposed over the body of water questions, such as, "where is begining" / "where is the end" (ending on a) "why are we calling out to the endlessness" note.

This is one artist who doesn't show her body parts in order to whip the fans into frenzy.

Recalling (just) now from few night ago (soul seeing) a different kind of instrument. It had four sides with strings on each side . . . Masterfuly, the Man played the most beautiful melody . . . and me swearing "this is my favorite kind of music".
Go figure . . . Music of the Spheres, something I will never tire of.


Anonymous said...

"The River Sings" = PS note on my above riff with the correct song title.


Anonymous said...

O'megawed! Did I say I like music of spheres? I finally know my MOSTEST favorite song ever!

"Libera -- I am The Day" (on youtube) performed by London's Boy Angel's choir.
Here goeth this snippit

"I am the alpha and omega.
The night and day, the first and last. Illuminosa, immortalis.
Santa glorisa."

Goose bumps!
I saw them on PBS before this and last Christmas and few minutes ago on youtube, and swear on me'children heads this one is my current fav!
Must be fem thing:)


Anonymous said...

Since this is America's Independence Day I will share a little verse I wrote on the 17th Jul. 03'. It's a riff on the Lady Liberty Herself, (statue) whose 2nd name is The Flame Keeper's Gaze. It's about poor folks arrving in the New Land. A Land of Hope and freedom. . . It's a three way 'talk'. Lady Liberty, Father's & Mother's promise and the Child's "look!...."

But first a note that I truly feel like a "Citizen of the World". How do I know this for certain? I was asked once. . .
Late 80's in bed with husband talking about this and that before he asked, "do you feel Polish or Canadian?".
Without moment's hesitation I said "I feel like a citizen of the world". . . His hands touched mine and said "oh, that's perfect".


Flame Keeper's Gaze (title)

Cargo of hope, pregnant with vision
So full of wonder

"We will work hard for you sons
and daugthers . . .
This journey, so long and weary".

At last Her stately presence

Her Torch is touching the sky!"

"Welkome Home Pillgrims."


Mrs. G said...

Thanks Trooper! I still haven't figured out the embedded link. (But I can program my tv from my iPhone, for what that's worth ;)

Another reason I love Tristan's religious preschool.
Each child was given a small American flag and they all paraded around the school for almost an hour. I doubt anything like that happened in any So. Cal. public school.

Thank God for pockets of sanity,
Mrs. G

hoarhey said...

Freedom, baby.
We are not as pathetic as our government imagines us.

Susannah said...

Mrs. G., you and me both on the linky thing. I finally stuck the code in a Word file on this computer (but don't have it on my other one). And your boy is adorable! And thank you for promoting Soldiers Angels. Van, I'm going to share your blog post with my FB friends. Thanks!

Van said...

QP & Susannah, thanks and please do forward it, it so needs to be heard today. Especially for, and even by, those troops Mrs. G linked to - God bless them - a refreshing draught of truth, understanding and moral support can go a loOong way.