Friday, July 01, 2011

Real Socialism is the Only Remedy for Socialist Fantasies

Via American Digest, John C. Wright provides a pithy description of the implicit principles that animate the left.

You will need to read the whole thing, but in summary, "The central tenet of the cultic and hysterical [entity] called Leftism is what I call ‘the unreality principle.’ This is the principle, baldly stated, that reality is bad and unreality is good, therefore unreality is real." (I would just add that this applies with special force to vertical, or principial, reality.)

The immediate corollary is that "anything one would like to believe about Leftism is real, and that the facts are not real. Hence, the Leftist believes his cult is not a cult." It is the cult to which no one may belong and few ever leave, especially in its upper wretchelons.

Who hasn't confronted this in virtually any conversation with a leftist? It almost comes down to a tautology: leftism is good because it is good, and conservatism is bad because it is bad. For the the exegetes of the left, everything else is commentary.

The third tenet is that "there is no war, there is only rebellion" (especially against reality, hence its never-ending nature). Taken together, we have something analogous to "the Gnostic belief that the world is an illusion created by an evil demiurge in order to trap the souls of us, we enlightened who are actually gods in disguise."

This is certainly how I regarded the world back when I was a default leftist. And when I say "default," that is indeed a critical point, because it was never anything I "chose" in any meaningful sense, if by "choice" we mean being given a sober and disinterested presentation of the alternative metaphysics that underlie illiberal European-style leftism and traditional American conservative liberalism.

Rather, it cannot be overemphasized that, given the quality of information available to the average -- or even highly motivated -- citizen back when the left had a total monopoly on the dissemination of news and propagation of scholarship, one would have had to be a real oddball to hold alternate views.

I frankly didn't know any conservatives. Like the Jew is for the Arab Muslim, the conservative for me was just a mythologically malevolent beast who was not only patently wrong but also intrinsically bad (e.g., "greedy," "misogynistic," "homophobic," etc.), and, worst of all, a judgmental case, a buzzkilling scold, the death of the party.

When I say "oddball," I mean this in both its positive and negative connotations, in the ironic sense captured by Don Colacho: "Conformism and non-conformism are symmetrical expressions of a lack of originality."

For example, people who do not "fit in" will often adopt a philosophy that accounts for their failure to do so, and then put it "in your face," daring you to reject them. Then the person can say to himself, "they don't like me not because I'm a jerk or a weirdo, but because I'm a whatever."

Nowadays one sees the same pattern in blacks, homosexuals, and feminists with little else to recommend their nasty personalities. Think of how Al Sharpton can explain away how the normal person cringes in his presence with recourse to "racism." "They're not cringing because I'm a lying sleazebag, but because I'm black!"

In another sense, to be an "oddball" is simply to be oneself. In an epigram Petey whispered to me long ago, If you're not eccentric, you're wrong. Petey is, of course, subject to bombast and over-generalization, but his point is that since each human being is as unique as a snowflake, we will all be a little flakey in our own particular way.

Importantly, for the believer, our uniqueness is not accidental, but absolutely essential -- which is none other than the true meaning of "liberalism," for real freedom is genuine individuality lived.

In other words, we cannot "become who we are" except in the context of ordered liberty. (And bear in mind the truism that liberty in the absence of order is another word for nihilism, or Sartre's existential "nothing," or the Jews' "cosmic bupkis.")

Recall Ratzinger's answer to the question of how many ways there are to God: "As many as there are people." It can be no other way. It is reminiscent of Sri Aurobindo's comment that each of us is a "unique problem of God," with no one-size-fits-Allah solution. Indeed, to suggest that there is one solution (in all its details and particulars) to the problem of humanness is the very definition of tyranny.

But there are obvious forms of "hard tyranny," e.g., the Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba, Iran, and more subtle forms of "soft tyranny" in the post-Christian and neo-pagan west. If the essence of tyranny is the denial of freedom and therefore self-discovery and development, then the pneumacognitive prison of the west is built by pricks of political correctness.

Unlike brick-and-mortar prisons, one can live one's entire life without awareness of being imprisoned, so long as one doesn't breach the invisible walls. Touch one of the walls, however, and the snipers begin firing from the parapets.

For example, in this prison it is permissible to smear a non-leftist president with the most vile and over-the-top epithets -- nazi, mass murderer, racist, war criminal -- but if you happen to notice that the current occupant is, you know, kind of a dick, you'll be spending time in the gulag for re-education.

I personally do not condone such language, but what do you expect from a dick like Halperin? Besides, it is much worse to falsely accuse someone of racism than to accurately describe someone as a dick.

Now, what does this all have to do with John Paul? First, let's begin with an aphorism or two from Don Colacho: "Liberty is the right to be different; equality is a ban on being different."

To paraphrase another one, the only permanent cure for socialism is actually living under it. Until then, the fantasy can be indulged and dressed in the garb of intelligence. But once the concrete reality of socialism intrudes, the abstract dream collapses upon itself. Either that, or you run out of other people's money.

Obama's example is only the most recent, but this is a persistent collective dream from which man must awaken generation by generation -- similar to how each individual man must evolve and go through the civilizing process one assoul at a time.

In other words, each person who comes into the world must master himself -- his pride, greed, gluttony, et al -- while acquiring and perfecting the virtues, e.g., wisdom, courage, temperance. No one else can do it for you, much less the state.

For the paradorks of the left, one might say that there are no virtues, and that the statist defines and enforces them. Thus, to paraphrase Eliot, they dream of political systems so perfect, that no one needs to be good. Like, say, Al Gore, one can live an opulent lifestyle that emits more pollutants than a small country, but be lionized as a secular saint so long as one mouths the proper words.

In this bizarro world, Hugh Hefner and Keith Olbermann are "feminists," Jesse Jackson and Johnnie Cochran "civil rights leaders," Deepak Chopra or the Marxist Dalai Lama "spiritual leaders," etc.

Back to the point about nothing being quite so effective in curing socialism as actually living under it. This was the source of one of the enduring themes animating John Paul's life and papacy, for he had known nothing but freedom prior to the National Socialist occupation that occurred in his twentieth year, followed by the Soviet occupation that commenced six years later. As an old joke has it, Poland was the only country to lose World War II twice.

Especially during the Nazi occupation, Christians were driven underground, where the truth had to be preserved and passed along in secrecy, under the constant threat of death if caught.

This modern catacomb-Christianity wasn't just a kind of oasis of freedom in a spiritual desert, but was the only defense against the systematic de-spiritualization of man.

In the west we all take our Judeo-Christian spiritual matrix for granted (especially unbelievers), but in Poland there was a vivid awareness of how the Gospel "had a more compelling answer to the perennial questions of human life than the purveyors of the official state ideology. Christian humanism, in other words, was quietly but unmistakably counterpoised to Marxism."

To the everlasting bewilderment and frustration of leftists everywhere, fidelity to Christianity -- not to mention Judaism -- is something they simply cannot explain or eliminate. Indeed, the mere survival of Judaism has to be counted as miraculous evidence of its providential source, in the teeth of thousands of years of efforts to exterminate it from the planet.

In this regard it is the very opposite of socialism, in which living under it is its own worst enemy. In contrast, Jews -- and Christian martyrs -- were so attracted to the truth that they were willing to die rather than relinquish it. The only thing that can get a socialist similarly worked up is to threaten his pension or vacation time.

For the leftist, there are several fronts in the cosmic battle: God, the individual, and the family, the latter two being reflections of the first. Thus, communists "understood that men and women secure in the love of their families were a danger. Housing, work schedules, and school hours were all organized by the state to separate parents from their children as frequently as possible."

There was certainly nothing sacred about the family or about sexuality. Rather, as for the left in general and our troll William in particular, no intrinsic morality attaches to sexuality -- much less male-female sexuality -- which sets the termites loose at the very foundation of civilization. Gravity and tenure take care of the rest.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I AM, therefore WE ARE

Before being ordained as a priest, the future John Paul toyed with the idea of entering a monastery and taking up the contemplative life, in part because of his interest in the great mystic, St. John of the Cross.

Given my druthers, I'd certainly prefer the life of interiority and slack... spending the evenings in the silence of my room, in an atmosphere as restful as an undiscovered tomb. But then, I am an ordinary man... Yes, a pensive man am I -- of philosophical joys -- who likes to meditate, contemplate, far from humanity's mad inhuman noise... You know, a quiet living man...

But his Archbishop wisely turned our fair laddie away from that path, and toward the priesthood. Yesterday we spoke of "thinking in God," but to become a priest is more like "living in God," especially as it pertains to human relationships. (Cue trolls obsessed with homoeroticism.)

Indeed, Weigel says that Wojtyla's ideal was the alter christus -- "another Christ" -- and all this implies and entails. Taken seriously, it entails about as challenging an endeavor as one can undertake in this world, for it requires a "complete self-emptying in service to [one's] people," a "dying to self," or "self-gift" via "self-immolation." The word "radical" is casually tossed around -- as if it is radical, say, to prefer limited government -- but this is radical.

But then, whatever one's vocation, so long as it is "seriously lived," there will be this element of kenosis, of ego death in service to a higher ideal. This "human sacrifice" is a kind of seal of authenticity, for truly, there is no such thing as a free launch.

In his first doctoral thesis, Wojtyla expounded on the idea that ultimate reality is relationship, which, when you think about it, is an astonishing and revolutionary hypothesis. Even if one is not prepared to follow it all the way up, back, and down, it is nevertheless the ultimate basis of our humanness, which is irreducibly intersubjective through and through. On the human level, there is clearly no I without a We.

In other words, even if one holds a different metaphysic, one must acknowledge a relational metapsychology. However, it will be impossible for such a person to unify those two meta-s without eliminating the human being, who is only the most unexpected and important "fact" in all of the cosmos.

To turn it around, if one's metaphysic cannot fully account for the existence of metaphysicians, then it is a rather paltry thing, unfit for human consummation.

Nor will it touch on man's experiential and phenomenological encounter with the divine reality -- of O:

"In his dissertation, Wojtyla emphasized the personal nature of the human encounter with God, in which believers transcend the boundaries of their creaturely existence in such a way that they become more truly and completely themselves." Although this is confirmed by any number of saints and mystics, it is important to recognize that -- as was said above about the Christian vocation -- this reality "is not for mystics only."

Rather, it is analogous to the way technology evolves in a free market economy. At first it is only available at the "top," to the wealthy people who can afford it (I believe cell phones in the 1980s were a few thousand dollars). But eventually the technology trickles down to everyone.

Just so, the mystics do not just make their own "breakthrough" (which is simultaneously God's break-in). Rather, -- at least in Christianity -- such a person is always a living bridge between God and world, or person and community. Love cannot be love if it isn't in relationship.

There are, of course, non-dual mystics, but in our opinion, this impersonal ball of con-fusion is either a wrong turn on the last offramp or a lower stage of ascent, for love and truth are higher than any radical monad. Like Otis Williams, this turning away from relationship is the last Temptation, meaning that I can't get next to You.

Rather, "the highest wisdom we can achieve is to know that we cannot 'objectivize' our knowledge of God, for we do not come to know God as we know an object." Alert readers will recoil that I discussed this in section 4.1 of the bOOk -- which my publisher informs me is now available in kindle -- Unknowing and How to Communicate It.

In short, a certain finesse is involved in talking pure nonsense, for the simple reason that, in the end, it is impossible to disclose the subject through any other medium than personal experience. Language can only go so far, like trying to describe red to a blind man, or economics to a liberal.

Unless one has endured some kind of childhood trauma, identity is not lost in relationship, but discovered. This is a kind of paradox, because it means that, in a very real sense, our "self" is partly located in the other, who holds it in escrow until we receive it.

It reminds me of the rabbinical adage that we are all walking around with the missing parts of others. To us the part may be trivial, but there is someone else out there for whom it is a vital piece of their self. That is the "clicking" sound you just heard.

This applies quintessentially to the male-female complementarity, in that the two "complete" one another in a way that could never occur between members of the same sex, since the differences between the latter two are not essential but merely accidental.

The only way out of this cosmic fact is to insist that there is no essential difference between men and women, which is precisely what the left does, but only when it is absolutely convenient. In other arenas they will hold fast to female privilege.

Continuing with Weigel's account of Wojtyla's dissertation, "We come to know God as we come to know another person, through mutual self-giving. As two persons in love come to live 'within' each other without losing their own identities, God comes to live within us, and we come to dwell, in a sense, 'within God.'"

In my case, I can say that I had never really met anyone who truly understood me until being introduced to God. Now, the more deeply GodWord I plunge, the more things I find out about myself, but also about the world and all its unhappitants. This is obviously a real experience, or an experience of the Real, since I can see the results with my own third eye -- as can the people closest to me.

Obviously, since ultimate reality is not an "it," there exist intrinsic "limits to rationality as an approach to the mystery of God." It is not difficult to prove through reason that God exists, but unaided reason cannot reveal much about the nature of God, or of specific attributes.

If one could "grasp" God intellectually, it would mean that the personal I "contains" him, thus making one superior to God. Again, experiences of mystical communion reveal that God is not just being, but "being-with."

From this, Wojtyla argues for the centrality of freedom, for, just like any other relationship, one cannot be "forced" to be friends or fall in love with someone.

Rather, "an authentic relationship of mutual self-giving can only be entered freely." (Which, by the way, is a big reason why there is no love lost between me and my greedy state government. Thanks Democrats! As of today, One Cosmos is a completely charitable innerprize instead of only 99% charitable. Oh, and thanks to all the readers who clicked through here and purchased things on amazon. It was a nice thing while it lasted.)

Now, this intersubjective "tension" between man and God is "the key to the drama of human life." Thus, whosoever "takes away God from human beings is taking away what is deepest and most truly human in us." Can I get an amen? Certainly from the eastern Europeans who celebrate Ronald Reagan's birthday.

Please, my dear leftist, do not puzzle over why we dread your philosophy -- not you, mind you, except in certain cases -- because it is a frontal assault on both reality and man, and renders knowledge of the former via the latter an impossibility.

In any event, you have just been tagged, and you are it. But don't worry. There's still time to find Mr. Light.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Solution to Institutional Stupidity: No Child Left Below

If one is to live a life in the mystery of God -- or O -- one must relinquish a lot of conscious plans, in part because the decision to surrender to the high life doesn't necessarily yield immediate "sense" or purpose. Frankly, it will usually be seen as a little "crazy," at least by contented inhabitants of the Matrix.

What I mean is that the element of time must be considered, and as we all know, time takes time, and eternity even more. Things don't happen instantaneously, as if by magic. An acorn doesn't just "decide" to be a tree, and then skip the process of actually becoming one.

Rather, there is a maturational or formative process that operates from the inside out via formal and final causation. Thus, on a personal level it is very much analogous to the belief in liberty and spontaneous order as opposed to the conviction that it is preferable for one's life to be ordered by distant, top-down decision makers. Left to your own devices, you'll only mess things up.

Obviously there is a great deal of truth in the latter, as many, if not most, people will misuse, abuse, or otherwise waste the freedom their smarter-than-average furbears fought so bravely to secure. But liberty is no picnic, especially for people with spines of jelly and no stones.

This becomes especially problematic once the habits of freedom are lost, stolen, or betrayed. People inevitably behave less responsibly when there is no penalty for doing so, which is then used as evidence by the left to prove that citizens cannot cope with liberty, and require an intrusive state to care for them. It's a great little scam they have going.

An obvious example is our contemporary "urban culture." These people are so obviously messed up and dysfunctional, how could you be so heartless as to deny them the help they need from mommy government? And when we say "urban culture," we are not only referring to inner city Americans. Rather, the identical phenomenon has occurred in England and other western welfare states, as compellingly described in Dalrymple's Life at the Bottom. From the review at the top:

"[T]his volume puts forth a vision of the modern world and of intellectualized modernism as hell," describing an underclass that is "'not poor... by the standards of human history' but trapped in 'a special wretchedness' from which it cannot emerge."

Ironically, the clueless liberal reviewer at Publisher's Weakling doesn't like it, in part because Dalyrymple "offers few concrete or theoretical solutions." In other words, s/h/it will concede that Dr. Dalrymple's diagnosis of the failings of liberalism is both astute and provocative, but hey, how come he doesn't offer any liberal prescriptions? Doy!

Either the problem is in man, or the problem is in "institutions" and other collectivities. The left locates the problem in abstractions such as "institutional racism," but the much deeper problem facing the underclass is the institutional stupidity its members have imbibed from the left. To put it another way, members of the underclass who refuse to absorb left wing institutional stupidity will not remain there long.

This can be demonstrated empirically with statistics showing that there is no such thing as "the poor" in any reified sense. Rather, it is only an abstraction created by the left, and which specifically eliminates the temporal element in order to create the illusion of stasis.

But the plain fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Americans are not still in the "underclass" five or ten years later, which means that there is really no such thing, and therefore no basis for their class warfare.

In other words the left wants the people who fill the lower quintile or decile at any given moment to abandon the well-understood behaviors and values that will lift them out of the underclass, and instead do battle with those "selfish" people who have already successfully risen out of it.

And if this abstraction doesn't succeed, there is never a shortage of individual exceptions, of heartbreaking stories provided by the media to "prove" that The System Doesn't Work, and that we need a huge welfare state to help their Cavalcade of Victims.

But nearly five decades since the War on Poverty commenced with the shit heard 'round the world, there is, curiously, the same percentage of people in the bottom quintile. How can this be? Can't we just empty out that quintile and put everyone in the top 75%? Can't we give all Americans a free college education, so that half the population will no longer be fated to a life of below average intelligence? Let's do it! While we're at it, let's make every man tall and handsome, and every woman a California Girl!

When I say that our educational system consists of liberal seminaries, I am not only being quite literal, but plagiarizing Dennis Prager. I think the only way one can recognize what is otherwise a banality is to hold a different set of values. Then one sees quite vividly that children are being forced by law to undergo statist indoctrination (unless one can afford a private school).

Prager mentioned another recent example, with an Orwellian story from Maryland about how children can no longer graduate high school without being "environmentally literate." You can be sure that this will not revolve around sober and skeptical questioning of Algore-style hysteria and pseudo-science, just as the California requirement that children be "culturally literate" doesn't involve learning just how crappy most cultures are. Indeed, it is against the law to depict any culture in an unflattering light, which means that the left has succeeded in making it against the law to think.

My kid has only finished kindergarten, but he has already imbibed a number of precious values that will stand him in good stead for the rest of his life. This is because in his religious school there is not only an emphasis on intellectual formation but of moral formation, or the articulation and development of the conscience (which in many ways is the marker of genuine psychospiritual maturity). Throughout the year he learned that life consists of choices and that he is free to choose between them. This is on the one hand liberating, but also a burden, in that it means that we are responsible.

To propagate the opposite lesson -- that we have no meaningful freedom and that we are oppressed and victimized by "the system" -- is a form of child abuse, because it not only stunts but warps moral development, since it legitimizes violent action to right the injustice.

Frankly, violence is indeed justified against a tyrannical regime, but the left's misuse of this valid principle results in frivolous Europeans rioting because they might not be able to retire in state-funded affluence at the age of 50. Once one is "entitled," then removing the entitlement is felt as a form of persecution and oppression, as when the civil right to a lavish pension at taxpayers' expense is threatened. No appeasement of greed, no peace!

We got off on this tangent as a result of mentioning the temporal element in the divine life. It occurred to me while flipping through the John Paul bio we've been discussing. It describes the years during which he underwent his "priestly formation," as one does not, and cannot, simply "decide" to become a priest. For one thing, the decision is not ours to make. Rather, it is a calling to a vocation which can only gradually be heard and revealed.

For John Paul it was "an evolutionary process of gradual clarification or 'interior illumination.'" As the process unfolded, there was a simultaneous "progressive detachment from my earlier plans."

You might say that as the interior priest "grew," the exterior ego shrank. He began to recognize that "the people who had touched his life most profoundly... were not fragmentary incidents in a life, but signposts along a path pointing in the direction of the priesthood." And if one draws out the implications of this ontology, then they were also pointing to his papacy and even to this very post, among literally countless other "goods" that resulted (yes, I realize it may not be good for you, but that's just the way God rolls).

But there is also effort or willed cooperation with the call (↑). Elsewhere it describes how he later encountered a certain philosopher, and how "after two months of hacking my way through this vegetation I came to a clearing, to the discovery of the deep reasons for what until then I had only lived and felt.... What intuition and sensibility had until then taught me about the world found solid confirmation."

This describes the Raccoon's familiar transition to post-egoic knowing, or what we might call the conviction of the mind by the intellect. After that, one is capable of "thinking in God" as opposed to just feeling, sensing, or being attracted.

In a way, one might say that John Paul was pulled into the vortex of O, and that innumerable others have been pulled along with him, as if in his wake. In fact, I think this is a good analogy of how the nonlocal saints are able to exert such a profound influence upon our lives. One doesn't just enter "a book," but in a sense enters them.

This, of course, would be the inner meaning of Jesus' statements about "preparing the way," or of living "in" him. A friend once told me that he drove cross country by staying close behind large trucks pulling him in their wake, thus saving lots on gas.

Reminds us of an old post, Breaker Breaker, Anyone With a Copy, Come On. It's from January 2006, and its subtext is that I had already reached the outer limits of my self, and was running short on ideas. Fortunately, I gave up trying to come up with any, which is what has made the subsequent 1,691 posts possible. I very much feel as if both I and this corpulent corpus were given shape through deriving below some big ol' mothertrucker in the sky. Of course, your smileage may vary.

An apt aphorism or two of Don Colacho come to mind: of how in genuine spiritual development "the materials are not fused in a new alloy; they are integrated into a new element," and how "The quality of an intelligence depends less on what it understands than on what makes it smile."

Guess I must be semi-crazy:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Don't Blink When God's Flash Bulb Goes Off

Unity involves the synthesis of contraries and the ordering of degrees of being. That being the case, it is precisely the opposite of the left's horizontalized approach to reality -- or rather, to denying it -- since they abhor hierarchy and obliterate differences, most notoriously, the differences between Man and Woman. This inevitably results in such misbegotten inventions as "homosexual marriage."

And I use the word "horizontalized" advisedly, because it would be a misunderstanding to call the leftist merely "horizontal," as if bad values and no values are synonymous.

Very few people are actually horizontal, generally only the brain-damaged, the severely retarded, the sociopathic, and Charles Johnson. Everyone else lives in vertical space, no matter how much they would like to deny it.

It reminds me of a bright fellow to whom Mizz E linked yesterday, who writes of free will and the overeducated knaves who pretend to deny what cannot be denied without affirming it:

"Unless a person’s faculties are truncated or injured by some tragedy, each and every one of us recognizes in himself an intelligent and free agent. Many people argue, in their personal flight from truth, that this recognition is an illusion, but nobody -- I repeat, nobody -- lives as if it is an illusion. We go right on analyzing our world, formulating goals and purposes, and directing ourselves to pursue them. What’s more, we perceive that we do this, and we reflect abstractly on our ability to do it, on what is required to do it well, and on how the process is working out. We human persons are supremely self-aware, and sometimes embarrassedly so.

"This is simply another way of saying that intellect and will are at the core of what we are. It is one of the fundamental things that we cannot not know."

Swish! What this ultimately means is that any form of doctrinaire leftism immediately and by its very nature sets itself over and against the deep structural patterns of reality, since its vulgar and horizontalized world view simply cannot account for any of the quintessential properties of our humanness -- properties which man attempts to recognize and sanctify through rituals that simultaneously turn us inward and open us to the transcendent. These are what we might call "flash bulb" moments of divine ingression. So don't blink!

These are decisive -- as in scission between the "old" and "new" man -- moments when the divine reality manifests in the clothing of time -- or the clothing becomes transparent to the unseen -- and that we need to acknowledge on pain of closing ourselves to the vertical reality that precedes and gives our lives structure, direction, and meaning (which are aspects of the same reality as manifested in space, time, and depth, respectively).

Man must "turn around to recognize how blind he is if he trusts only what he sees with his eyes" (Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity).

Or, in the words of Don Colacho, "To be stupid is to believe that it is possible to take a photograph of the place about which a poet sang." And to be extra-stupid is to believe it is possible for members of the same sex to take out a marriage license and imagine they will know the thing itself instead of a mere facsimile, a "pretend" version.

The bar mitzvah would represent an archetypal example. Boyhood is oriented -- or at least it should be -- to the ideal of responsible manhood, i.e., the post-biological categories -- or divine deputations -- of Husband and Father (either literally or figuratively).

But in a purely secular world, time has no qualities or properties that condition our existence. Rather, it is simply a "straight line" leading from nothing to nowhere.

Sure, we can make up conventions such as birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, confirmations, and awards shows, but they are only human contrivances to make it seem like time isn't just a graveyard train hurtling us toward the tomb and that celebrities aren't just a bunch of selfish narcissists.

Religious forms are not intended to "invent" but to disclose and acknowledge reality. And in some sense, most of these forms revolve around birth and death -- or death and rebirth. Obviously a funeral has this explicit purpose in mind. Likewise circumcision, baptism, and communion.

But so too is marriage a funeral rite. It is the death of the mere "man" or "woman" and their rebirth as husband and wife, which only a fool would regard as somehow "equivalent" (equal yes, but hardly equivalent -- thank God!).

Now, one-to-a-customer man-woman marriage is obviously a Judeo-Christian ideal. However, unfortunately, so too is the destruction of this sacred institution. I say this because the unchurched mob that mindlessly clamors for the redefinition of its plain meaning are usually motivated by such fine Judeo-Christian liberal principles as tolerance, compassion, and fairness. It is "not fair" that two people of the same sex cannot get married. End of discussion.

This only goes to show that any virtue isolated from the others and removed from its properly organic hierarchy will eventually turn upon itself. As Don Colacho observes, and history confirms, "The devil can achieve nothing great without the careless collaboration of the virtues." And "The fool calls conclusions he does not understand 'prejudices.'"

With this sleight of unseen hands, the leftist places his sanctimoniass on the side of angels and has no obligation to engage with the bigots who beg to differ with him.

Ratzinger, in Salt of the Earth, notes that "law without a foundation in morality becomes injustice." Misguided leftists pretend they want to preserve a "wall of separation" between religion and government, but what they really mean is that they want to impose their materialistic value system on the rest of us, and that our traditional Judeo-Christian value system somehow violates a Constitution that the left otherwise doesn't take seriously anyway: you know, "the Constitution has no fixed meaning, and you're violating it!"

What are the values that animate the left's desire to impose "homosexual marriage?" Obviously the values cannot have a transcendent or objective source. Therefore they are immanent only, invented by man and rooted in his shifting sensibilities.

For the leftist, this ultimately means that in order to distinguish wrong from right -- or this action from that -- he consults his feelings. It feels good -- even superior! -- to permit people of the same sex to marry, and what kind of assoul wants to make people feel bad?

Again, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, time is not linear, but nor is it circular, as it is for pagans and other Nietzsche brothers living in Bongo Congo. And it certainly isn't determined, as "revealed" by the dreary gods of Islam and scientism. Rather, it is a spiral-bound bewilderness adventure.

As Ratzinger notes in Spirit of the Liturgy, this is "the great movement of the cosmos."

Thus, "Our existence is a kind of fractal of the whole," in that "the small circles of the lives of individuals are inscribed within the one great circle of history as it moves from exitus to reditus. The small circles carry within themselves the great rhythm of the whole, give it concrete forms that are ever new, and so provide it with the force of movement."

This is why, in the book, we symbolize it as ʘ (the dot in the middle is a fractal of the whOle) nestled in the spiraling trinitarian energies of (↓↑). ("So to say," it should otherwise go without saying at all.)

Ratzinger continues: "The two -- the great circle and the small circles -- are interconnected" in such a way that "worship is bound up with all three dimensions of the cross-shaped movement: the personal, the social, and the universal."

But critically, what distinguishes the Judeo-Christian understanding from, say, Plotinus, is that the initial "exitus" is not some kind of mistake or necessary prolongation of the One, but rather, a positive and free act of creation. It is a gift, not a curse.

And man's troubled predicament in this annoying "vortex of finitude" is not intrinsic to our nature, but a fall from it. It doesn't have to be this way, since nothing can negate our freedom. It is wounded, yes, but not killed.

Not yet, anyway.

Monday, June 27, 2011

John Paul II.3: God is a Playwright

Everything is trivial if the universe is not committed to a metaphysical adventure. --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

I don't want to deplane from the flight of John Paul just yet. I hate to read a book of this magnitude -- especially about a person of this depth -- and just move on to the next adventure.

Since he has already been beatified -- and there is every reason to believe he will eventually be recognized as a saint -- this is a life from which we can presumably learn something. To say that it was an "unusual" life is an understatement, especially in comparison to the contemporary ideal -- if there is one.

In the end, it comes down to a rather simple dichotomy: either he thought and acted in conformity to a Truth that transcends us, or he was essentially a lunatic who wasted his obvious talents in thrall to a host of primitive delusions and childish superstitions.

There's not much room to maneuver here. For the vertically challenged leftist, the latter is not a "cynical" belief. Rather, it follows directly from their first principles. What they never understand, of course, is that their first principles render anyone's life a pointless exercise in denial shrouded in hot air, but leftism will never be accused of intellectual depth or consistency.

One wonders: what is the attraction of a John Paul, an attraction that is so spontaneous and widespread? How could a life devoted to unreality resonate on such a deep and familiar level? Just last night I watched a wonderful documentary on Dave Brubeck (produced by Clint Eastwood), in which Brubeck discusses what happened to him after writing a piece of sacred music.

Brubeck suddenly and inexplicably -- one might say dramatically -- found himself being drawn into Catholicism for reasons he did not consciously understand. To the surprise of his family, he underwent formal conversion (although, as he says, he didn't actually convert "from" anything). He is now ninety years old, and conspicuously filled with a kind of "light" that radiates from his being. You'd have to watch it and draw your own conclusions.

Anyway, being that he was a product of modern Europe, the young Wojtyla found himself knee-deep in the same cultural soup as everyone else, between the rockheads of the secular left and the softhearts of a retro-romanticism that rushed in to fill the spiritual void. Both represented "revolutions," the one implying "a complete break with the past" -- including Christianity -- the other a revolutionary recovery of some sort of pre-cultural, edenic state of fusion with nature.

One can indeed see this same duality at work in the contemporary left: We Are the Future We Have Been Waiting For, which is to say, the resurrection of a mythical proglodyte past that never was and can never be.

What can only be, of course, is Truth, regardless of whether we recognize it. Again, Truth is synonymous with "reality," and reality is not diminished by one's failure to appreciate it.

One might also say that truth is among the first fruits of Being, so that our own being can only be (relatively) real if it is aligned with Being as such. Otherwise it is no exaggeration to say that we are not human beings, but rather, uniquely "human non-beings," for we are the only animal that can fail to be what it is -- that can deviate from its own being, truth and reality.

But the fact that we can so deviate obviously implies a reality from which to deviate, which undercuts the alert leftist at the knees and kicks him in the balderdash.

Now, if the secular leftist is correct, then history is obviously just a weird interlude in the eternal march of physics, but of no cosmic significance or meaning. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying tenure.

But for John Paul -- and for us -- history is of the deepest significance. This is for a number of reasons, but in John Paul's case it was because the Ultimate Real took the time and trouble to incarnate right here in the middle of it; indeed, it is what created history's "center," so to speak -- a point of metacosmic orientation. Thanks to the Incarnation, we all know "where we are" in time, which is to say, 2,011 revolutions around our central star, give or take.

Speaking of which, it occurred to me yesterday that we all carry within us -- either explicitly or usually implicitly -- a solar system around which we revolve. One cannot be human in the absence of a solar system that provides a central axis and direction.

Each of us -- believer and "nonbeliever" alike -- has a central sun which provides both the intellectual light and emotional heat that guides our way. However, the "un"believer has what we might paradoxically call a "dark star" at their center, with predictable results (either that, or they are their own dark center of cosmic narcissism).

In other words, they are either sucked in beyond the horizon of darkness, or they float away, adrift in a centerless void. Such a person becomes a Periphery in search of a Center they will never find (or a false center in search of peripheral people to mirror and prop him up) unless they consciously turn toward it and establish a relation. This turn can only take place in freedom, the latter of which is another word for "nothing" if it isn't oriented to truth.

John Paul's central sun is, of course, the incarnated Godman, or the ultimate universal manifested in the concrete particular. That this "happened" (or happens, to be precise) proves, among other things, that we inhabit the type of cosmos in which such a marvelous thing can happen. For if it couldn't happen, then neither could we.

In other worlds, we would be entirely closed off to the divine realm from which flow being, love, truth, beauty, and integral oneness -- all the Good Stuff this cosmos has to offer.

Among the young Wojtyla's influences was a poet who remarked that "A man is born on this planet to give testimony to truth" (all quotes are from Witness to Hope unless otherwise noted). Indeed, to even say born "to" implies a purpose to one's life, a direction toward which it is shot.

Again, either our life has a meaning and purpose or it doesn't. You cannot deny them up front only to sneak them in later. Have the courage of your absence of convictions, chickens! But there can be no courage in such poultrygeists either, for courage is nothing if not rooted in wisdom and justice.

From early on, Wojtyla was a man of words -- a man who appreciated the unique power of the Word to enter and change us from within. "He was seized by the power of words, not just to communicate an idea [i.e., light], but to elicit an emotion [i.e., warmth], which was both entirely subjective and entirely objective, or true."

This is a meta-idea worth pondering, for it recognizes that no absolutely "objective" account of reality -- if indeed such a thing were possible -- can be complete. For one thing, it leaves out the Subject who realizes it, and what is he, a potted plant? (Also any such attempt at completion is felled by Gödel's mighty axe.)

But nor can an entirely subjective, or idealist, account be complete. Rather, the only complete metaphysic must account for both subjective and objective reality; or, one might say, an intelligence and intelligibility that are thoroughly entangled. They are distinct but not separable. Indeed to sunder them is a kind of original cognitive sin that necessarily exiles one from the paradise of Truth and Intellect (i.e., knower and known at a higher level).

This sort of reminds us of the last page of our book before the whole durn thing dissolves into perfect nonsense and holy babble:

"In the end, we are no longer a scattered, fragmentary multiplicity in futile pursuit of an ever-receding unity, but a Unity that comprehends and transcends the multiplicity of the cosmos. The universe, human history, and consciousness itself all achieve their fulfillment when any being passes into this Unity."

The question is, did John Paul pass into -- or even by -- this Unity? For again, if he did, then his is a life worth emulating -- not in every detail, of course, since we all have different gifts and are who we are -- but in the broad outlines.

Even as a lad, Wojtyla recognized the cosmic significance of language, and was struck by the "intimacy" afforded by words, "between the one who spoke and the one who listened."

In a way, this goes to man's ontological status as "priest" or pontifex of the cosmos, the living link between time and eternity, Creator and creation, the medicine of Truth above and its side effects herebelow. One of his literary mentors taught that properly communicated -- and received -- words could "open up, through the materials of this world, the realm of transcendent truth" and universal moral values.

And if the world of the stage "could unveil the deeper dimensions of the truth of things, might there be a dramatic structure to every human life? To the whole of reality?"

In the past we have written of how we are drawn to music because it discloses vital information about the nature of reality. If John Paul is correct, the same could be said of man's universal appreciation of, and need for, drama.

Here is how Cardinal Ratzinger describes the plot line and theme of this cosmic Broadway -- actually, narroway -- production:

"Man can be and should be a synthesis, comprising every floor in the whole building of creation," ending -- and beginning -- in the living God, for "it is in this that the whole thrill of the human adventure resides." You know, dramatic tension.

On the one hand, the drama "has a fixed shape -- it is always the same -- and yet it is inexhaustible and is ever new. It always leads us farther on. We are not just chained to a past in which there is nothing more to be discovered; rather, it is a whole country of discoveries, in which each of us can also find himself anew" (ibid.).

In any event, God obviously studied math, but his major is in drama.

Modern history is the dialogue between two men: one who believes in God, another who believes he is a god. --Don Colacho

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