Friday, August 31, 2012

The Satanic Fecundity of Envy

Yes, it's a hoot to watch MSNBC's coverage of the RNC, but it does raise some important questions, because these methodical fact-chuckers are obviously not trying to be ridiculous.

Specifically, the shocking gulf between the MSM and Realville demonstrates that our political divide has gone way past the point of who is right and who is wrong, or whose explanations and policies are more likely to succeed.

Rather, one of us is flat crazy, and I don't mean this in any trivial, polemical, or merely insultaining way. No, there is only one reality, and someone's not in it. That being the case, one side is castigating the other for failing to inhabit their "false reality," or what Voegelin calls a "phantasmagoria of deformed existence."

Theoretically this shouldn't be all that difficult to sort out, but we all know that reason is generally not only the slave of the passions, but that passion is what lends rationalization the kind of triumphant sanctimony we see in, for example, doctrinaire atheists, global warming fanatics, and New York Times columnists -- or the mediarabble-wackademia complex.

But genuine reason is calm and centered, like truth itself. It has only to stare down a bad idea to make it wither or turn tail. Unless the idea is a sociopath, in which case it will simply stare back like a hungry reptile.

Interestingly, MSNBC and the Obama campaign share the same slogan: forward. For the godless, "forward" is a god-word, a term that unconsciously partakes of the religious energies it consciously denies and denigrates.

Indeed, the word can have no meaning whatsoever in a flat and horizontal universe drained of hierarchy and transcendence, any more than "improvement" can result from natural selection. So why can't all human beings, rational and transrational alike, agree on this truism?

For if there exists an objective measure of improvement, it obviously lies outside natural selection. And natural selection cannot produce beings (or just say Being) that negate itself, for the same reason that God cannot create a rock so heavy that he couldn't lift it. Religious people understand this. Why can't the irreligious?

For the leftist, "forward" and "progress" can only mean what I want, and nothing else; or in other words, desire and the will to bring it about, which in turn reduce to power, full stop. Why dress up the will to power with such benign-sounding god-words?

To ask the question is to understand the convoluted mind of the leftist.

In reality, to go "forward" is to go intellectually deeper and spiritually higher. These are the true contours of the human adventure.

For every leftist god-word there is an equal and opposite demon-word. Again, these words are not deployed to convey meaning as you or I understand it. Rather, their purpose is to convey sub-linguistic meanings rooted in primitive physical reactions such as disgust.

The left specializes in conjuring grotesque caricatures of evil, which they proceed to attack in a kind of frenzy -- e.g., Bain Capital -- in order to "justify the good they proclaim" (Don Colacho). But if the ideas were actually good -- or if Obama's record were actually praiseworthy -- this exercise in demonization would be unnecessary.

Dis-gust is related to "gustatory" and the like, and means literally to spit something out because it is so vile. Really, it is man's most primitive defense mechanism, because we all need to be able to taste what might harm or kill us in order to expel it from the body.

Just so, survival mandates that we also be viscerally disgusted by genuinely disgusting ideas, ideas like child abuse, incest, rape, torture, the Rosie O'Donnell Show, etc. But it is a permanent project of the left to make us disgusted by ideas that are not remotely disgusting, and to not be disgusted by things that are.

For example, until a few historical moments ago, virtually all Americans would have been a little disgusted by the idea of "homosexual marriage," or late-term abortion, or public employee cartels extracting dues from their members in order to elect Democrats who will steal from the public trough in order to give them more cash and other valuable prizes in order to elect more Democrats.

The properly brainwashed leftist will no doubt respond: some people were also disgusted by blacks, or Jews, or Asians! To which we will say: our point precisely. You don't know the difference between right and wrong.

In America, we have the freedom to try to rise to the level of our abilities and ambitions. You'd think this would be a good thing, but it cuts both ways, at least. This is because it bakes hierarchy into the cake, and necessarily results in some people being at the top, others at the bottom. Way it is. The only way to avoid this outcome is via some form of injustice and tyranny that forces lions to dine on lettuce because that's what rabbits eat.

Until relatively recently, Americans understood and tolerated this. And in order to tolerate it, they must tolerate their own envy, not indulge in it.

Or, if the person is excessively envious, he must at least try to put it to good use, and not just use it to tear down someone else in order to appease a frustrated sense of entitlement. The person who is truly motivated by envy won't actually be happy once he achieves his persecutory dream, but at least this is preferable to attacking and parasitizing someone else's.

Tolerance of envy is a marker of emotional maturity. For the same reason, indulgence in envy is a prime characteristic of immaturity. And envy flourishes when there is an absence of gratitude. Thus, the cultivation of gratitude is critical to both personal happiness and a functional society.

But this will not do for the left. While we should all be disgusted by envy and the envious, this would put the kibosh on the schemes of the left, which must tap into the human well of envy in order to gain any traction at all.

Instead of "You shall not covet," the left insists that there is something wrong with you if you do not covet the wealth of "billionaires and millionaires." We need to have fewer of them, so that we will have less envy. It never occurs to them that envy is a personal failing that cannot be satisfied by feeding it, and that every violation of a cosmic duty gives birth to a new right.

Which ends in the irreversible victimocracy we can hail from just this side of the historical knife-edge, and which requires just one more little push to be terminal. In November we will know if we have fully plunged into that dark new world.

(By the way, there are far fewer millionaires and billionaires today than there were when Obama took office. So why isn't the left overjoyed? Because when envy succeeds, there are two losers instead of one, and it's a win-win for the Evil One. Note that the disease tends to spread exponentially, so loser + envy = loserpower². In short, the left knows everything about wealth except how to create it. See socialist regimes for details.)

America's wealth is not an inventory of goods; it is an organic entity, a fragile pulsing fabric of ideas, expectations, loyalties, moral commitments, visions. To vivisect it for redistribution is to kill it.... [G]overnment managers of complex systems of wealth soon find that they are administering an industrial corpse, a socialized Solyndra.... The belief that wealth consists not chiefly in ideas, attitudes, moral codes, and mental disciplines but definable static things that can be seized and redistributed -- that is the materialist superstition . --George Gilder, Unleash the Mind

Thursday, August 30, 2012

MSNBC: Not Monstrous Jokers, Just Ahead of the Curve

For Voegelin there is one permanent order, or structure, of human existence, which is the "tension between truth and deformation of reality," or between what we call O and Ø. O cannot be possessed but it can be realized within the flowing presence we call history. Ø, however, can be possessed, which is the problem, precisely, because soon enough one is possessed by it.

Man lives in the tension between "perfection and imperfection, time and timelessness... order and disorder, truth and untruth, sense and senselessness of existence... between the virtues of openness toward the ground of being such as faith, love, and hope, and the vices of infolding closure such as hubris and revolt; between the moods of joy and despair; and between... alienation from the world and alienation from God."

As mentioned in yesterday's post, we are woven of "determination and indetermination," hence we are free. And our freedom lies within the vertical space of this O <--> Ø continuum.

To deny this structure -- to pretend to live outside it -- is to "lose consciousness and intellect," to "deform our humanity and reduce ourselves to a state of quiet despair or activist conformity to the 'age,' of drug addiction or television watching, of hedonistic stupor or murderous possession of truth..." (ibid).

In short, "dream life usurps the place of wake life." Darkness displaces light, but like a bat, the little darkling learns to rely on other senses to get him through his self-imposed night.

Which reminds me of an image: when we look at a star, we are seeing the past, depending upon how distant the star. In a certain sense, astronomy is cosmic history.

Now, imagine the time it takes for the darkness to arrive after a star has gone dead. It could be years, centuries, or millennia. What about human darkness -- or the time it takes for the darkness to dawn after the human light has been extinguished?

This is precisely what Nietzsche, the last intellectually honest atheist, was driving at. To say "God is dead" is to say that the light has gone out of the cosmos. But how long will it take for the darkness to arrive?

As far as Nietzsche was concerned, he was the first person in whom the darkness had fully registered -- or who could tolerate its implications -- in all its naked gløøm and døøm. He was the Prophet of Darkness, the Antichrist, if we understand Christ as the primordial Light of the world.

There are prophets of Light, obviously -- those human fleshlights who not only bring us the good nous, but who embody it. Nietzsche was the first self-confessed Darkworker and Nightbringer, as it were.

In Experiments Against Reality, Roger Kimball notes that "Of all nineteenth-century thinkers, perhaps only Karl Marx surpasses Nietzsche in his influence on the twentieth century," to such an extent that "much of what makes the modern world modern also makes it Nietzschean."

Like how? Oh, how about his "glorification of power and his contention that 'there are altogether no moral facts.'" These are certainly "grim signatures of the age. So, too, is his enthusiasm for violence, cruelty, and the irrational" (Kimball).

Nevertheless, Nietzsche is to be admired, first for his literary panache and his vivid description of the darkness, but mostly for his profoundly honest acceptance of the implications of the death of God. We would take atheists more seriously if they took their own doctrine as seriously as did Nietzsche, all the way into nihilism, amorality, and madness.

Speaking of which, I am always amused by modern sophisticates who posit religion as nothing but a kind of individual and collective defense against madness (which it sometimes is, e.g., Islamists). Given the pervasiveness of religion, this would have to mean that man is pervasively mad. Could be.

But if this is true, the only way to confirm it would be to "reverse imagineer" the containing structure of religiosity, and experience the intrinsic pre-religious madness that afflicts man. In other words, in order to be more than an idle pneumababbler, the irreligious person would need to descend to the level of madness that brought religion into being.

Here again, this is why I give credit to Nietzsche, because this is what he did. It's very easy to talk bravely of godlessness in a culture founded upon and permeated with Christian values and assumptions. It would be another thing altogether to celebrate atheism in a completely atheistic environment -- say, a prison for the criminally insane. In that case, you'd be desperate for the monsters around you to grasp some dim notion of obligation to transcendent demands, like "it's not good to strangle a guy for his cigarets."

But if God is dead, then this is what the world is reduced to: a prison for the criminally insane. It is a prison because there is no vertical exit, not even via death; and it is insane because there is absolutely no measure of sanity, not to mention decency, beauty, truth, or anything else. Rather, what there is, is power and will.

If God is dead and atheism is the case, then Nietzsche is quite correct that man is necessarily "beyond good and evil." But Nietzsche would have had nothing but contempt for the current crop of weak-willed neo-atheists who casually adopt such an explosive idea.

As Nietzsche said, I am no man, I am dynamite. Again, quite true. A true blue atheist can't just stand in the luxury liner built by Christians, while condemning it and the passengers. Rather, he needs to dive headlong into the deep, and say Yes to the cold truth of absolute negation!

Think of the Joker in the Dark Knight. Now there is a true Nietzschean with the courage of his absence of convictions: "You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve." And "the only sensible way to live in this world is without rules."

The Darkness will have fully incarnated when it reaches the Last Man, by which time the cannibalism will be well underway: "The event itself is far too great, too distant, too remote from the multitude's capacity for comprehension even for the tidings of it to be thought of having arrived yet" (Nietzsche, in Kimball).

When it does arrive, then out goes the childish nightlight of Christian morality, and we are finally free of God and his perverse concern for the meek, the weak, the vulnerable, the children, of all things! Hellelujah!

But "who or what will take the place of God? What prodigies will fill the vacuum left by a faltering morality?"(Kimball).

Let us count the waves of barbarism, of idolatry, of credentialed stupidity and tenured apes!

Here is what tears a person such as Nietsche apart from the inside out. As Erich Heller wrote (quoted in Kimball), Nietzsche "had the passion for truth" but "no belief in it"; and "this is the stuff from which demons are made" (emphasis mine).

This is a critical point, for all men come factory-equipped with a passion for truth -- which is, of course, one of the markers, or logoi, of our createdness. But it is hard to think of anything more dangerous and destructive than a passion for truth in the absence of truth, or of religious impulses in the absence of religion.

Think just of the bloody 20th century, and all of the wholesale murder and destruction caused by truthless men with a profound passion for truth. But don't let these enormities distract you from the deep structure of the problem, or cause it to go unnoticed when it is happening in slow-motion.

(What slow-motion darkness looks like: A Party of Trolls)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Who is I AM and What Does He Want From Me?

The penultimate chapter of From Big Bang to Big Mystery is entitled The human person's limitless orientation to horizons of beauty, meaning, truth and goodness. That pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

No? Let me try.

I am first reminded of Schuon's compact formulation, that "The worth of man lies in his consciousness of the Absolute." We might say that the child, or first fruit, of the Absolute, is the Infinite, analogous to the sun and its radiation. Indeed, God radiates light, which is another way of saying that his goodness is infinite.

But we cannot think of this in horizontal terms, because the two co-arise, like Father and Son, or Mother and Child: "to say Absolute is to say Infinite, the one being inconceivable without the other" (ibid).

So there is a kind of linear implication in this verbal description, even though it is an atemporal reality, very much like the orthoparadoxical "timeless activity" within the Trinity.

Absolute entails Infinite but implies relative; for the same reason, Man, who is relative and dependent, implies God, who is neither.

Man, who is contingent, knows the necessary, but if there were only the necessary, then error could not exist, and we'd really be screwed. Thanks to the possibility of error, we are free to know the truth. O felix culpa, and all that.

"Like the Universe," writes Schuon, man "is a fabric of determination and indetermination; the latter stemming from the Infinite, and the former from the Absolute."

Note that there are numberless "rigid errors" which are none other than relativism irrationally (or merely rationally) partaking of, and masquerading as, absoluteness, e.g., Darwinism, Marxism, multiculturalism, and leftism more generally.

So when Purcell speaks of man's limitless horizons, he is speaking of our participation in the Infinite, which, of course, no other animal can do. In all animals, however, there is a relationship between what they are and what they may know.

In the case of man, our mind is not conformed merely to the physical environment, but to realities that far surpass it. To put it another way, a man who is only adapted to the natural world is not a man but an animal, precisely.

"Man is made for what he is able to conceive; the very ideas of absoluteness and transcendence prove both his spiritual nature and the supra-terrestrial character of his destiny" (Schuon).

But only if you are open to proof, i.e., if your infinitude has room for some absoluteness, your contingency for a little necessity. You know what they say: spare the Absolute, spoil the Infinite!

Reminds us of an aphorism: "Only God and the central point of my consciousness are not accidental to me" (Don Colacho).

Or just say O and ʘ. You might say that the Adventure of Consciousness -- of human life -- is the journey from (•) to ʘ. For the non-believer this adventure is just an inconvenience at best, plus it never happened anyway.

Back to what Purcell was saying about our infinite horizons. Note that the infinite "is not determined by any limiting factor and therefore does not end at any boundary; it is in the first place Potentiality or Possibility as such, and ipso facto the Possibility of things..." (Schuon).

Thus, this is where man himself manifests his deiformity, his creative plenitude, to which there can be "no end," although, orthoparadoxically, there must always be a standard. Art, for example, without a standard, is like math with no answers.

And contrary to the toxic relativism that pervades our culture, man cannot furnish this standard, or it is no standard at all:

"To say that man is the measure of all things is meaningless unless one starts from the idea that God is the measure of man, or that the absolute is the measure of the relative....

"Once man makes of himself a measure, while refusing to be measured in turn, or once he makes definitions while refusing to be defined by what transcends him and gives him all his meaning, all human reference points disappear; cut off from the Divine, the human collapses" (Schuon).

So man has a "limitless orientation to horizons of beauty, meaning, truth and goodness," so long as we bear in mind that this limitlessness is not without limits.

If we are literally without limits, then we end with, say, the art of Robert Mapplethorpe, the ethics of Peter Singer, and the politics of Obama. Or: ugliness, brutality, and the various forms of tyranny, from the soft and seductive to the hard and merciless (or the infantilizing and animalizing, the smothering mother and the brutal father, respectively).

But man, if he is to be one, must know the True, will the Good, and love the Beautiful. Thus, anything that denies or interferes with this vocation is the essence of subhumanism, de-personalization, and re-barbarization.

There is a horizontal Big Bang and a vertical Big Mystery, both of which are happening now. And the biggest mystery of all is the human person, who is the two-way door into the Infinite.

Each person is the fresh re-conception of being, and each child is a new opportunity to both confer (by proxy) and receive what infinitely surpasses us. We must all open this divine presence, but it is worthless unless we regift it.

Always a catch!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Will Someone Please Thrash Chris Matthews (in a manner of speaking)?

So: conservatives are at an inherent disadvantage, because we can at least endure ourselves, and therefore don't have an issue around trying to dominate others instead.

To put it another way, since we appreciate the accomplishment of self-mastery and self-control -- of transcendence, in a word -- we have no illusions that the state could do this for us, or for anyone else.

Of course, transcendence is difficult if you reject it up front. But simply ignoring transcendence doesn't eliminate it. Rather, such a person "transcends" others by way of domination. Dominance is transcendence by proxy, which is why it has been said that fascism involves quintessentially the violent rejection of transcendence.

Thus, "to transcend oneself," writes Schuon, "is the great imperative of the human condition; and there is another that anticipates it and at the same time prolongs it: to dominate oneself. The noble man is one who dominates himself; the holy man is one who transcends himself. Nobility and holiness are the imperatives of the human state."

And true charity begins at home, with ridding "the soul of illusions and passions" and therefore freeing the world "of a maleficent being" (ibid). The gift of your own self-transcendence is one that keeps giving, because it helps rid the world of pettiness, narrow-mindedness, and self-serving dishonesty.

Until the state mangages to get its own chaotic affairs in order, it has about as much credibility as -- speaking of passions, illusions, bigotry, and an intellectually slovenly absence of nobility, dignity, and self mastery -- the bellowing and spittle-flecked Chris Matthews, who thinks everyone else is a racist because when he hears the word "welfare" he thinks "lazy negro."

In fact, in granting the mere markers of self-mastery, the state robs the individual of the attributes required to master himself. We saw this in the economic meltdown of 2008, which was rooted in the idea that "home ownership is good." The state then went about creating this happy outcome while ignoring the personal attributes that make home-ownership possible -- little things like economic literacy, financial stability, responsibility, a job, etc.

The state does the same with education, hence the coming "higher education bubble." In short, you do not make an idiot any more intelligent by granting him a college diploma. And you certainly won't make people healthier by "giving" them free healthcare.

As we know, the state never gives anything without taking something away. Ultimately it must take away intelligence, which we define as disinterested openness to reality. Intelligence is the luminous space in the flux of presence known as history. It's all we have, at least from our end.

For starters, the state is deeply interested -- specifically, in perpetuating and expanding itself -- so it cannot be open to truth, or to a truth that contradicts this imperative. This explains why there is no place less intellectually free than a liberal university campus, since this is where one learns to be a statist and to love one's masters.

Speaking of toxic psychospiritual atmospheres, Purcell quotes the Hungarian writer Sandor Marai, who describes how things felt in his country circa 1948:

"I began to suspect that what surrounded me was something worse than the brute force present... not just organized terror but an enemy more dangerous than anything else, an enemy against which there is no defense: stupidity... I was living among individuals who learned by rote and parroted breathlessly that the One idea is eternal... But no one dared speak about this, [of] that raging and idiotic egoism which wanted to force a society, a people, to live in a way contrary to human nature..."

Again, think of the bellowing idiot, Chris Matthews. How is one supposed to respond to such stupidity without looking stupid in the process? To paraphrase Roger Kimball, you don't argue with sickness. You resist it.

This sickness -- or pneumapathology -- again involves the eclipse of reality, a scotoma, "a willed avoidance of self-awareness, a deliberate choice not to know" (ibid).

A few days ago a reader asked about the distinction between a scotoma and a mind-parasite. What is interesting is that both involve reactions to a truth that must be known on some level in order to be denied. The narcissist, for example, must unconsciously know that he feels small and inadequate in order to construct the outer facade of superiority and grandiosity. But enough about Obama.

One always sees this process in various totalitarianisms of the left. As someone once said, you can always tell when a country is a tyranny when it has "Democratic" or "People" in its name: the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea"; the "Islamic Republic of Iran"; the "Republic of Cuba"; the "Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela"; the "Syrian Arab Republic."

The tyrants who rule these regimes know as well as anyone else that a republic is a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them. The truth is in the lie, and vice versa.

Now to deny truth is to deny freedom, for truth can only be freely discovered, and freedom is truth lived. The Marxist dialectic -- in fact, any dialectic that denies transcendence -- also denies free will.

Think about the extent to which government is a system of incentives and punishments to coerce citizens to do this or that. The leftist mindset that regards government as the ultimate puppet master is rooted in this infrahuman psychology.

And yet, someone must be free -- not to mention, privy to Truth -- in order to pull the correct strings. As Purcell explains, "For my denial of freedom to be convincing, there must be at least one exception: I at least must be freely denying freedom, or why should anyone take me seriously?"

The bottom line of this post is provided by the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus, who was speaking of Nazi Germany, but who captured something universal:

Everywhere the one who administers the beating is precisely the one who deserves it.

So who will administer a thrashing to the richly deserving Chris Matthews? Metaphorically speaking, of course. And who shall be thrashed next?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fumigating the Liberal Pestocracy with Truth

I've got this growing pile of books on my desk -- my blogging in-box, as it were -- that I'd like to whittle down, beginning with From Big Bang to Big Mystery, which is what started us down this road last April. Usually I'm able to keep the book-to-blogging ratio at roughly 1:1, but the former has raced ahead of the latter over the past six months, so there are at least a dozen important works on which I'd like to pontificate.

Maybe it's because the books are important that I've fallen behind. Unimportant books are just obstacles in the path, and one normally has to plod through a lot of those in order to find the occasional gem. Too many gems. That's what it is. That and not enough time.

Once I review a book, I can let it go. But if I don't review it, it's like I never read it. Or at least I don't consciously remember much about it. There is no intrinsic virtue in mere reading, since most of what people read is as disposable as television. But the Raccoon reads with a purpose and a goal. Call it wide-angle lectio divina.

Let's begin with an observation by a renowned scientist, who candidly -- and appropriately -- muses about his "horrid doubt" as to "whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?"

So wondered Charles Darwin. If only contemporary Darwinians could be so refreshingly Darwinian! But they have left their master behind -- or ahead, rather -- in favor of a kind of belligerent certitude to which no self-styled monkey could ever be entitled. If only they could grasp this critical -- self-critical, to be exact -- aspect of Darwinism, so many barrels of monkey mischief could be avoided!

To look at it from a philosophical angle, the Darwinian monkey reduces the whole question of epistemology to a biological problem: biology is not just destiny, but epistemology, because what we claim to "know" is a claim made by the genes, and genes don't actually claim anything. Thus, it's just an absurcular route back to nihilism, i.e., a nul-de-slack.

Purcell: "if human knowledge is simply one among the many expressions of zoological evolution, it can hardly claim to be knowledge in any meaningful sense at all."

Rather, just as each species has its unique physical form, it would also have its own distinct form of knowledge. Just as there is bee knowledge, lion knowledge, and snake knowledge, there is human knowledge. While there may be more of it, the underlying structure cannot be any different, otherwise there is an ontological rupture in existence, which absolutely cannot be explained with recourse to Darwinism -- or to profane science more generally.

In other words, there is nothing in Darwinism that permits us to draw a fundamental distinction between human and any other kind of knowledge. If there is such a distinction, then the theory falls by its own lights.

Conversely, if man is fundamentally distinct from -- even while continuous with -- other animals, then so too are biology and epistemology distinct. Importantly, unlike the Darwinian fundamentalist, we do not take a radical position on the matter.

Rather, we are happy to accept the evidence where we find it and to follow where it leads. Thus, there are some human traits and capabilities that do seem to be adequately explained by natural selection, others which cannot be so explained, to such an extent that you will look like an ass if you try.

I mean, c'mon. What makes it intellectually satisfying to reduce Mozart to monkey noises? I would contend that it is not intellectually -- let alone spiritually -- satisfying, only emotionally satisfying, so in that regard it is indeed more chimpish than human.

Think about a person who is willing to die for truth. Surely it is no coincidence that the foundation of western civilization rests on, and is perpetuated by, such individuals, e.g., Moses, Socrates, Jesus, Paul, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Andrei Sakharov, and so many others. What can Darwinism make of the man who is ready to die for truth instead of just food and reproductive success? Is he an aberration, some kind of genetic defect? A fool? Insane?

Socrates, for example, devoted his life to "openly seeking the truth and encouraging his fellow citizens to do the same" (Purcell). Just as he "stayed at his post when doing military service," so too was he faithful to his charge "when God appointed me, as I supposed and believed, to the duty of leading the philosophic life, examining myself and others." To abandon this wisdom-loving guardhouse would be as cowardly and dishonorable -- albeit understandable -- as if he had let down the city by turning tail and fleeing his military post.

Purcell quotes the Polish thinker Stanislaw Brozowski, who wrote that "Our life, our self, is a sentry post; when we abandon it, the whole of humanity loses it forever." For what or who are we guarding against when we man this post? What is the battle, and who are the combatants? And what is the nature of this "territory" for which the two sides are contending?

I would suggest that it touches on the epistemological discontinuity alluded to above, vis-a-vis Darwinian infrahumanism and true humanism. Looked at from a certain angle, it becomes evident that the very nature of humanness is under assault from various directions. (You will see some of them discussed in the comments of the previous post.)

In the struggle to colonize the human space, there are fronts in virtually every field and discipline: law, politics, medicine, psychology, journalism, art, literature, even religion, for there is surely a kind of sub-religious religiosity as articulated by such illuminaries as Deepak Chopra or Jeremiah Wright or Oprah Winfrey.

Who could even count the number of human beings who have been martyred for truth, for refusing to bow to the lie? Truly, God only knows, and each sacrifice is of infinite value, even if it prevented them from passing their genes along and thereby achieving Darwinian success. Purcell mentions one, Sophie Scholl, who, with her brother, did what she could to tell the truth about the Nazi regime (by distributing leaflets), and was executed for it in 1943.

Who was this anonymous martyr, and what motivated such foolishly un-Darwinian selflessness? Her letters and diaries reveal a young woman who was already on "a profound quest for living in the truth," and for which she paid the ultimate price. Her Nazi interrogator even gave her the opportunity to recant and save her life, but she refused, telling a cellmate that their precious ideas, "in spite of all the obstacles... will prevail. We were permitted to be pioneers, though we must die early for [their] sake."

To live in Truth is to carry a cross, at least in this world. Stupidity seems to have so many advantages, beginning with the raw numbers. Purcell quotes the German writer Robert Musil, who wrote of the "higher stupidity" that afflicts the tenured. This "is the real disease of culture," and "reaches into the highest intellectual sphere." It is "active in every direction, and can dress up in the clothes of truth."

Lies come easy, but Truth must be endured, and the person who cannot endure it cannot endure himself (and vice versa). Thus, Musil writes of that well-known pest, the person who becomes a revolutionary because he "has been unable to endure himself."

Thus, we have to endure them by proxy. Until we put them out of our misery this November.

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