Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Worst Things in Life are Very Costly

Ever notice how the best things in life are unplanned and serendipitous? Of course you have. I gave up *trying* many years ago, and have been floating on the slack plane ever since....

Since when? I don't know. Was I just born this way, or reborn this way? That's one reason I hesitate to offer advice to people, since it may be analogous to advising them to be 5'11'', or have blue eyes. Taking credit for certain things might be just another form of imaginary control.

But I do distinctly remember -- this was when I was teenage moron -- that Death was a real gamechanger. It wasn't a result of any morbid preoccupation, just the spontaneous understanding that Death places everything in perspective and renders 99% of our activities, ideas, hopes, plans, and dreams rather trivial -- just distractions at best. If you really know you're going to die, it changes everything, every day.

I remember reading Ernest Becker's Denial of Death with great enthusiasm. In it he confronts the paradox that man is simultaneously fashioned in conformity with the Absolute, and yet, must die.

In other words, unlike any other animal -- or god, for that matter! -- our very lives are made of transcendence, even while knowing that in the end we return to dust. What's up with that? Was it really all just a dream? How can an animal awaken to this marvelous world of truth and beauty, only for it to be trumped by an Absolute Negation? How can the negation be more real than the thing it negates?

Why am I on this line of thought? I have no idea. Now that I'm on it, though, might as well follow where it leads.

I guess it all started when Vanderleun linked to a resonant passage by Sippican Cottage:

"In a hundred years the most important man you ever met is anonymous. In a thousand everyone is. We cobbled together a life around the table where we break the bread, and for a few thousand times we were as one. I saw your face in our children's faces. You said you saw mine. The universe passed the plate, and we put in our offering. We are poor, but it's enough."

Which provoked in me the thought: In the absence of death, humans would have no perspective on anything.

If terrestrial life were eternal, it would render everything meaningless, in the sense that value is usually a function of scarcity. Which means that the existentialists -- including Becker -- have it precisely backward and upside down in suggesting that the meaning of death is the death of meaning. Which, when you think about it, makes no sense, for how could meaninglessness mean anything?

Of course, it took at least another decade for me to figure this out: that death is indeed the key, but not in the way existentialists imagine.

Since Death is the existential key to the siddhi, it should come as no surprise that it has a central place in Christianity. For only in Christianity does God submit to Death, which is the only thing that can transform it from the existential negative of Becker and other existentialists into an ontological positive that shapes and transforms our lives in a beneficial way.

To be "born again" is to die to the old existence -- to give Death its due, and surrender to its grim reality. We die before we die in order to be reborn on another plane where death does not rule the night.

It is interesting that in one of the Upanishads, Death is the teacher. This is certainly a step in the light direction, but learning from Death is a very different thing from God taking on and becoming Death.

In the Katha Upanishad there is a kind of parallel to the Abraham/Isaac story, in which a father prepares to give his son to Death. Nachiketa journeys to the house of Death, where a courteous Mr. D. proceeds to instruct him on the ways of the cosmos.

Nachiketa says to him that "When a man dies, there is no doubt: Some say, he is; others say, he is not. Taught by thee, I would know the truth."

Death replies that "even the gods were once puzzled by this mystery," which is "subtle" and "difficult to understand." Similar to Jesus' forty days in the desert, Death offers the boy various inducements to abandon his quest, but Nachiketa holds fast. "Tell me, O King, the supreme secret regarding which men doubt. No other boon will I ask."

Please note that this is not strictly analogous to Christianity, which is a religion of descent, i.e., Incarnation.

Rather, yoga is a naturalistic religion that teaches the way of ascent from our side of the vertical. I won't rehearse all the details here, but the key to the innerprize lies in essentially dying to the world and realizing the indwelling nonlocal spirit behind or above the local ego, i.e., the unbroken circle of ʘ behind the partial and fragmentary (•). Does it work? Of course it works. But at a steep price.

One of these prices is the separation of spirit and body, in direct contrast to Christianity, in which the soul is the form of the body.

From another perspective, we might also say that God is the form of the cosmos, without limiting him by such a conception (i.e., he is not only that form, for he is the container that cannot be contained).

All of this is related to our discussion of economics. I hope. After all, in the ultimate sense, it is through the "economy" that we try to postpone death while we spend 70 or 80 years putting our affairs in order.

Through the unplanned activity of the free market, we are provided with various goods -- food, shelter, medicine -- that no individual could have planned. Free markets are very much analogous to life, which must involve both anabolism (building up) and catabolism (tearing down).

For example, a recession is nothing more than an economy tearing down a bunch of inefficient businesses and redistributing a lot of poorly allocated resources.

The leftist believes that this Death can be avoided by propping up and resuscitating the latter with a flow of stolen revenue. It works, in the same way that giving cocaine to a dying man will perk him up for awhile.

Likewise, our public education system has long been in its death throes, but liberals will never pull the plug and allow it to go out with some dignity.

Truly, our whole system of government is on the brink, like a severely obese patient. Some say the patient needs to lose weight. Others insist that if we just shovel some more food in, he'll be okay. Who is right? Who is denying death?

Does foreign aid work to resurrect dying economies? Does the War on Poverty heal dying subcultures? Or do these nations and cultures simply become addicted to the treatment? Yes, there is a "Keynesian multiplier," except that it multiplies pathology, dependency, and dysfunction and puts off the d'oh! of wreckoning.

For I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker (Eliot). But why was he holding my candy bar? We'll never know.

This is why there is an ironyclad law at work here: no matter how much the government spends, it must always spend more because of the negative multiplier of liberal programs. This explains, for example, why my son gets such a better education at a funding-starved private Catholic school than he would in a public system that spends much more money.

So liberalism is always a lose-lose proposition, in which they want to have their crock and make us eat it too.


Anonymous said...

I knew you'd get to those "leftists" eventually! My God, you couldn't write an article about how to paint a house without it devolving into whines about "leftists".

Anonymous said...

I knew you'd get to your comment eventually! My God, you couldn't live a day without it devolving into whines about "Bob."

julie said...

the meaning of death is the death of meaning. Which, when you think about it, makes no sense, for how could meaninglessness mean anything?


Jewel said...

Being anonymous is to be conflicted. Oh, and the word verificator has coined us a new one: fisis. All we need is a definition.

julie said...

We die before we die in order to be reborn on another plane where death does not rule the night.

One of the wonders of the place and time in which we live is the fact that probably most of us Westerners have had some sort of brush with death, at least once, which at any other time and place in history would have been a direct hit. And yet how many people fail to learn Truth from that experience? The fact tha life is so ephemeral is part of what makes possible the beauty of living, knowing, and loving. Even grief has a terrible beauty, because we mourn the loss herebelow of that which we love. But if we knew we'd never lose it, we'd never properly appreciate what we love - and so would in fact fail to love.

The leftist believes that this Death can be avoided by propping up and resuscitating the latter with a flow of stolen revenue.

Reminds me of this, from an article linked in Vanderleun's sidebar recently:

"...even when I was raw vegan, I realized that a lot of vegans and raw vegans were incredibly scared of death. In fact, I made a thread once about dying young vs. living to old age, and somebody actually told me that they were disturbed by the thought of death, that they didn’t want to accept the fact that they would die one day, and that they would appreciate it if I deleted the thread please."

Gagdad Bob said...

Possible correction: I just read one of the amazon reviews of Denial of Death, and he suggests that Becker was more of a vague believer than an existentialist. I don't remember that part, but I will be happy to defer. I recall it as being a bracing read but ultimately a little bleak... One of his guiding lights, Kierkegaard, was a little like that, wasn't he?

julie said...

Re. Kierkegaard, yes, I think so. (Though I never read him. DH was a philosophy major, so I picked up the gist of a few philosophers by osmosis. I could be completely wrong...)

Gagdad Bob said...

Not a Jehovial Witticist, in other words.

Anonymous said...

Jewel: "fisis" pronounced a certain way sums up this article nicely.

westsoundmodern said...

Painting A House.

Conservative method:
Buy some paint and paint the house.

Progressive method:
Hire a couple of illegal immigrants to paint the house in trade for beer and sandwiches, thus freeing up time to march in May Day parade supporting the right of chronically out of work union painters to demand unaffordable wages and bloated unemployment benefits.

For the fairness.

julie said...

Interesting - if the Wiki is at all reliable, Kierkegaard almost sounds Raccoonish, except for the generally depressive tone.

For instance,

"never have I read in the Holy Scriptures this command: You shall love the crowd; even less: You shall, ethico-religiously, recognize in the crowd the court of last resort in relation to 'the truth.'"

Beavis said...

He said feces.

Butthead said...

Settle down, Beavis!

Gagdad Bob said...

Can't imagine why the California state government is in a shambles. Many of our lifeguards are forced to get by on less than $200K.

Gagdad Bob said...

You never really know how much a lifeguard is worth until a moron who doesn't know how to swim decides to go into the ocean.

But aren't the lifeguards totally messing with natural selection?

Van said...

"Which provoked in me the thought: In the absence of death, humans would have no perspective on anything.
...All of this is related to our discussion of economics."

Damn straight. In the absence of death, nothing would, or could, be of value... value for what? If you were indestructible, you would also be ineducable... you would be a something that was as close to a nothing (from our point of vew) as could be (interesting that the leftist manages to acheive the affect of their goal, without the substance of it. Typical).

Economics is about life - which says a lot about those who call it the 'dismal science' - it is about acting in such a way as to attain the most value and least waste while living your life.

Also explains why leftists are so intent on cargo cult economics (Keynes, etc)... they still want the affect without having to trouble with the substance.

julie said...

Gosh, Bob, I don't think you're really seeing the big picture. After all, it takes lots of dough to make sure the lifeguards look like the cast of Baywatch. Why, the yearly cost of fake tanner alone must account for a significant portion of their expenses. It's all about bringing in the tourism dollars - that money totally pays for itself!

Van said...

"To be "born again" is to die to the old existence -- to give Death its due, and surrender to its grim reality. We die before we die in order to be reborn on another plane where death does not rule the night."

Nothing to add, just wanted to ring the bell again.

SippicanCottage said...

Oh hai guize-

Deborah said...

It is a puzzle to me, that our greatest evolutionary believers are frantically trying to stop evolution, because now the environment must be saved.

Sal said...

Not entirely OT re: yesterday
Robert Avrech at Seraphic Secret explains why democracies/free societies don't do propaganda well, in honor of Israel's 63rd B-day.

Wv: gasenal. We could all use one, about now.

mushroom said...

This is really a gong-sounder. The left could literally run on a platform of outlawing death in all its forms.

And probably win.

Yes, Kierkegaard is one of us, I think. I believe we can chalk the depression up to living in Denmark without a Starbucks (or Seattle).

flunky said...

Interesting how perspectives differ. My father raised me to “live to die”, as in, life is short compared to the Christian eternity.

Then I woke up to the fact that he was spending all of his (and my) inheritance on poorly chosen material frivolity. Suddenly planning for the material future became important, and all of Jesus talk about giving to the poor confused me.

mushroom said...

The bull market in commodities is making it tough for the lifeguards.

Silicone is way up.

julie said...

OT, that's quite the Freudian slip:

"Internationally, we've gone through a Teutonic shift in the Middle East that could have enormous ramifications for years to come."--President Obama, May 10, quoted by USA Today

Given much of the rhetoric coming from parts of the Middle East, I can't imagine that's a good thing...

flunky said...

Freudian because the Norwegians bombed Quadaffi?

I don't get it.

flunky said...

You've gotta be pretty unpopular if the Norweigans bomb you. But I digress...

A lifeguard union demanding unrealistic compensation is obvious extortion. Plus some corruption I suppose. Less obvious extortion would be the corporate trust, or monopoly. Even less obvious would be the sports team owner who threatens to move unless his venue gets built for him. Or where an entire nation is persuaded to get into a risky, expensive war against “enemies”, when few actually, ultimately benefit.

Lesson learned: the best extortion is done on the obfuscating sly.

What this has to do with Germanizing North Africa I dunno.

Brazentide said...


Good Knight!

They would be all over Bush for a slip-up like that.

J said...

No, Legion of Anonymous, I was thinking that your comment might fit more snugly with that pronunciation. As to the article you insult but never get round to fisking, the almighty word verificator says 'stelly' and that means stellar, as far as I'm concerned.

Deep Purple Cannabis Rush said...

The doctrine of rebirth makes for the best psycological condition. One need not fear that time is running out, but at the same time one must not gratuitously waste time either.

One can enter into a good "flow" of yoga, allowing time to make mistakes and meanderings along the path without getting all het up about it.

We don't know for sure that rebirth is the case but it is a likely scenario so one might just as well fall in with it for the health benefits.

Relax, breathe deep--you'll get another shot at it, whatever it is you missed on this go-round.

Gagdad Bob said...

That's the problem. I can't imagine having to play the parent lottery again.

Rick said...

Also from that raw vegan article,
"I honestly think humans were never meant to come this far to understand this, because really, what’s the prize? Lifelong depression? Fuck that. We were born into this world, and it is what it is. Just forget about the facts of nihilism and get on with your life, now free from arbitrary things such as values, ethics, laws, goods and bads and rights and wrongs. Go ahead, be smart and do what you want. Or take the next logical step and kill yourself to spare us all the emo bullshit."


flunky said...

I became a partial vegan to lower my cholesterol. Worked great. Soy, fish and other beans keep up my high protein requirements once filled by helpless chicken embryos and hapless cows.

I also know that there is no rebirth. Rather, death is a sort of completion.

Let me explain. We’re all born with a higher dimensional 'rest of self' no matter what we believe, and we’re consciously joined with such once material existence ends. How we join is the question. (I extrapolated this from Special Relativity, viewed perpendicularly.)

In conclusion, nihilist former vegans with sociopathic beliefs are going straight to hell... in a higher dimensional sense, of course.