Thursday, April 18, 2013

Power & Farce

Our next post was originally written in November 2008, shortly after Obama's electoral victory. Therefore, I will try to remove gags that haven't withstood the test of timelessness, while preserving any eerily prescient blognostications that burnish Petey's aura of infallibility. Even so, the post is kind of meh:

Letter XI, The Force, is a timely symbol for the events of the day, as the farces of the left ascend on the political wheel of fortune.

However, we can draw consolation from the fact that -- being that leftism is a closed intellectual and spiritual system -- it is already on the way down as we speak, outward appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

In short, its end is in its beginning, as the poet said. The higher it ascends in its intoxicated (over)reach for power, the further it will fall. The concrete fact of Obama shall soon enough kill the vacuous idea of Obama. Nature hates a vacuum, while the left requires one, into which they can project their dreams and fantasies. But you need a bigger void than Obama to contain an alternate universe.

The following passage by Tomberg is perfectly apt today: "Plato has never had success as a revolutionary and never will do so. But Plato himself will always live throughout the centuries of human history... and will be in each century the companion of the young and old who love pure thought, seeking only the light which it comprises." In other words, you can never have a mass revolution of individuals oriented to truth, since it requires converting one assoul at a time.

But the left is by definition a mass movement aimed at mass men, which automatically condemns it to mediocrity and banality. It is led by a herd of self-styled elites who cluelesslely imagine themselves superior, but nothing could be more mundane -- and self-contradictory -- than the idea of "mass excellence."

In contrast to Plato, Karl Marx has enjoyed over a century "of astonishing success and has revolutionized the world. He has swept away millions -- those who went to the barricades and trenches in civil wars, and those who went to the prisons, either as jailers or as prisoners."

Really, can you name another philosopher who has enjoyed such a literally smashing and grabbing success in such a short span of time?

The point is, "Plato illumines, whilst Marx sweeps away." Obviously, it is impossible to imagine a person with the slightest spiritual maturity getting caught up in the Obama hysteria, but equally impossible to imagine such a person being caught up in any kind of political hysteria. It is one of the reasons we can never match the diabolical energy of the left. Since the leftist is condemned to the horizontal world, he channels his spiritual energy into politics. As we wrote a couple of years ago [November 2006],

"Regardless of what happens Tuesday, it shouldn’t greatly affect the spiritual equilibrium of the Superior Man, whose invisible combat will continue as usual. Indeed, this is what distinguishes us from the agitated multitude of horizontal men who locate their salvation in politics. Whatever the outcome, our lives will continue to center around our own perfection and salvation, not for narcissistic reasons, but for the simple reason that it is not possible to save others unless we have first saved ourselves. Needless to say, horizontal Republicans will not save us from horizontal Democrats.

"The project of the left is to make us all useful to the collective, when the only possible justification for the collective can lie in its usefulness to the individual -- again, not in a horizontal, egotistical sense, but in a vertical sense. Assuming that life has a transcendent purpose -- and you cannot be human and not make this assumption -- then the purpose of society should be to help human beings achieve this purpose -- i.e., to be useful to the Creator."

"Horizontal man, in denying the vertical, necessarily replaces it with a counterfeit version that substitutes the collective for the One and human will for the Divine authority. Taken to its logical extreme, this manifests as the demagogue, the cult of personality, or the dictator-god who expresses the vitalistic will of the people. But all forms of leftism lie and never stop lying on this continuum, because leftism revolves around a false absolute and a counterfeit vertical."

As Eliot said, the leftist dreams of a system in which it will be unnecessary for anyone to be good. But man is the being who can -- and must -- choose between good and evil.

Likewise, "the moment we talk about 'social conscience,' and forget about conscience, we are in moral danger" (Eliot). Eliminate the idea of moral struggle, and "you must expect human beings to become more and more vaporous."

Since man is placed at the crossroads where he is free to choose between good and evil, this again eliminates man. You might say that for the leftist dreamer, man is strictly unnecessary. In fact, he just gets in the way of the Dream.

For horizontality goes hand in hand with exteriority and outwardness, which is the initial direction of the fall: first out, then down, and gravity takes care of the rest. Horizontal man is down and out, whereas our salvolution lies up and in.

The leftist lives in a semi-conscious narrative only a degree or two above blind instinct. Only man -- inexplicably and miraculously on any scientistic grounds -- can exit the closed system of his own neuro-ideology and enter higher worlds, worlds of truth, beauty, and virtue.

To be in contact with these higher worlds is to be Man. To neglect or deny these anterior worlds is to destroy man, precisely. It is to starve and suffocate man’s spirit by laying waste to his proper environment, the only environment in which he can actually grow into full manhood.

You cannot replace the holy grail of Spirit with the lowly gruel of flatland materialism and expect it to feed the multitudes. Human beings do not draw their spiritual nourishment from outside but from above -- which in turn “spiritualizes” and sacralizes the horizontal.

Vertical man is not susceptible to the leftist's state of perpetual hysteria. As Eliot wrote, "we fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation that anything will triumph."

Nevertheless, vertical man naturally frets about the deteriorating conditions of the collective interior of the human world -- AKA the ambient culture -- and its seemingly unimpeded slide into barbarism, spiritual exhaustion, scientistic magic, neo-paganism, self-worship, the cult of the body, abstract materialism, and a vapid and rudderless subjectivism.

It is a truism that vertical man paradoxically lives close to the ground, as he has internalized the cautionary tales of Eden, of Icarus, of Babel, and of various episodes of the Honeymooners. In contrast, horizontal man seizes what does not properly belong to him, not just recapitulating the fall but enshrining it in his ideology. It's no longer a bug but a feature.

But when you cast your vote for horizontal man, you are unwittingly chipping away at the foundation of the very tower in which horizontal man is privileged to sit despite his metaphysical ignorance. For in reality, we only have the luxury of superfluous and slumbering horizontal men because of the vertical men -- real men -- who came before and built our civilization brick by brick (except for the cornerstone, which was not made by human hands).

Thus we can see our own possible future by casting our gaze at Europe, which is too high and top-heavy for its own long-forgotten foundations, and is well into the process of toppling into dust. For when horizontal man falls, he doesn’t actually fall far, only back down to the ground where vertical man awaits him.

So render unto the horizontal the things that belong to the horizontal, but do not store your treasures there, where myths corrupt and chickens roost. As always, be as wise as the horizontal serpents who stand on their bellies, but innocent as vertical doves who kneel on wings.

A secularist culture can only exist, so to speak, in the dark. It is a prison in which the human spirit confines itself when it is shut out of the wider world of reality. But as soon as the light comes, all the elaborate mechanism that has been constructed for living in the dark becomes useless. The recovery of spiritual vision gives man back his spiritual freedom. --Russell Kirk


Gagdad Bob said...

I've been feeling a little like Lileks lately:

"everything's okay, aside from the low-level throb of despair. I just can't gin up any enthusiasm for anything and nothing I'm doing interests me at all, and everything in the exterior world seems to consist of chaos or irrelevancy, requiring a position of pained amazement, but aside from that it's fine."

He's also going through some involuntary remodeling. Maybe some demons were released from the walls?

mushroom said...

It's got something to do with things being out of place. I was voted least likely to develop OCD four years straight, but if my environment gets disrupted, I get shattered. You can set me down in a pile rubble with a laptop and a connection and I can get stuff done -- unless you start moving the rubble around.

ted said...

It's funny you mention this. There are times when I when I have a sense of aloofness and dread about myself (but I'm not really depressed) - and I literally have to search deep inside myself to make sure I'm not dead inside. But then there's always something that kicks in where's there's a spark of passion about life. Once I give that some more attention, everything is ok again. Maybe this discomfort is all part of our becoming.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, sometimes it can be thought of in terms of the psychic equivalent of the metabolic cycle, i.e., catabolism and anabolism, breakdown and build up.

Christina M said...

This blog is the one calm place in the midst of a howling storm.

Rick said...

I was in a "bad" mood day before yesterday. Had the usual frustrations of square pegs not fitting into square holes but the mood was disproportionate or not of the appropriate type. Mood didn't match the hole. Couldn't nail it down. I attribute it to a psychospiritual shock wave coming from Boston. Left drained-out. Or butter spread over too much bread.

River Cocytus said...

Slow motion implosion, I think.

I talked to a friend who is a religion journalist and he said that he was also depressed, for him it was the nakedness of the bias; not merely reporting Boston and saying that they hope it isn't an Islamic terrorist which would inspire another crusade, but actually just nakedly saying they hope its a White Right Winger.

I said it seemed irrational instead of biased, but he corrected and said it was rational; they have an internal war they are trying to win and its rational to hope that evil acts will be able to be reasonably pinned on the opposition. But that from our perspective it does seem irrational.

This is probably a Chaos Theory moment - the system is now reaching a critical mass of chaos (which overall may not be a whole lot of chaos) and some new order may appear. Or, it might not... I am not unhappy or despairing at these chaotic occurrences, as at this point I feel that they are simply reality breaking into our collective daydream.

What depresses me is the thought that these shocks of chaos might fail to wake anyone up, will fail to make any real shift.

As conservatives (though I am more a reactionary, which could still be called a kind of conservative I guess) we do not agitate or create revolutions, because we are Realists in the sense that we believe the world itself will provide the corrections; our job is to improve ourselves and our local community life.

But what happens when society cannot be woken up, even by catastrophe?

mushroom said...

For one thing it is reassuring to know that I'm not the only person who feels strange.

I guess that something will wake us up. The only question is where we will be when the last alarm goes off.

julie said...

What depresses me is the thought that these shocks of chaos might fail to wake anyone up, will fail to make any real shift.

Yes, just so. Bob may not be feeling the post, but it resonates strongly nonetheless. There is a lot of malaise going around. It's like being trapped on a boat crewed by millions of clueless paddlers who don't or won't see that they're moving us all straight for a waterfall.

And what will come next?

Human history has mostly been filled with dark ages, but never before did it have so much light. I can no more imagine the America to come than the Jews of 1920 could have foreseen what would happen in the minds of their German neighbors in the near future.

julie said...

Bob, re. releasing demons from the walls in remodeling, it stands to reason. Haven't you lived in that house your whole life? No matter how wonderful the changes (and they do sound wonderful), there's probably going to be some part of you that feels horrible about it. Or memories that are disturbed.

swiftone said...

The comments put me in a mind again of the old essay (Albert Nock) "Isaiah's Job." Google and reskim if you like. These feel like the times of mass man's complacency, where we need a little Isaiah. Today's lectionary reading in Isaiah was in ch. 44, an extended passage on the folly of taking the block of wood, and using half to cook your food, and the remainder to burnish and polish and worship as an idol. Living in the unremitting material, and seeking power in politicians and politics is a fool's errand. But mass man and mass woman are drawn as moths. "give it to us good and hard, GB," despair not. Home repair like days of endless fog is meant to try the soul of man and prophet alike. Hold focus.

Many, I suspect, just rub along doing best as they can, as do I. Tomberg, you and several others help keep the light on.

River Cocytus said...

We search for a city not made by hands.

julie said...

Speaking of malaise, Tylenol for anxiety?

Jack said...

Well, at least I'm not alone in this "low-level despair" which I've been noticing in myself as of late. There was an instant recognition of RC's phrase "slow-motion implosion", though I am unable to articulate exactly what I think I recognize.

It's like in those dreams where you are certain you are making perfect sense but everyone around you is unable to understand what you are saying. Of course, I live in one of the most leftist small cities in the U.S. so that could be the problem! It's not a dream it's my daily waking life!

Maybe it just seems like there isn't a common language any more. And things are going to have to get far worse and they may not get better. I hope I am wrong.


mushroom said...

I used to work with a Jewish kid who liked to joke about having existential angst.

I'm guessing there is a strong placebo effect with the Tylenol. I've heard McCormick bourbon is pretty effective as well.

Magister said...

It's been a long and dreary winter, so there's that.

Inside, the internet news is a window on the destruction of the World. What I've noticed about my own sense of dread is that it's directly a function of how much time I pay attention to the global news cycle. When I'm outside, and working, fixing things, teaching my kids, reading scripture, cultivating my garden, helping my friends, then my mind is simply full of those things, and I feel better.

The global is depressing because our proximity to it makes us think we have responsibility for it -- so we feel powerless. The local, starting with home, is invigorating.

Christina M said...

On Monday morning, I had written this, as part of a longer rant on the untrustworthiness of the MSM and ginning up hysteria:

“I've been giving this a lot of thought since the year after 9/11, when I woke up one day and realized that none of the things I had spent the last year agonizing about had come to pass. In the last few months and especially during Lent, this realization has come to a head.

I'm flat-out rejecting it, as of today. This is my manifesto: I woke up today. My family is alive and well. The sun is shining. Everything is green and blooming. There is fresh, clean water running out of the faucets in my house. I have an indoor toilet and food in the fridge and pantry. Thank you God, for this wonderful, beautiful life you have given me.

I'm refusing to ride on anyone's Anxiety Train any longer.”

And then I shut off the computer and refused to have anything more to do with news or politics for this coming year. I’ve put a note in my tickler file that says, “During this past year 2013, I was either forced to eat a prepper; or a prepper was forced to eat a year’s worth of fear.” 15 April 2014 (I don't like preppers.)

I didn’t even know about the bombings in Boston until my husband came home that night. It was then that I realized something important for me. I had not spent the day agonizing over something over which I had no control.

I took some Tylenol last night and this morning. It feels this last week like someone has been beating me about the shoulders and neck, continuously. I was hoping it would help with the anxiety too. I might not be reading or following the news right now, but I'm feeling it, big time.

This is the year of the water snake, and all that a serpent means, I suppose. It's interesting to note that 2001 was the year of the metal serpent.

Christina M said...

The outside is in chaos and hysteria, but my own local life is very good.

Rick said...

True that.

The command to love your neighbor is truly a local and real one. A friend-ship with plenty of paddlers for today. Begin there. The periphery is akin to a projection as far as what one can do about it.

PsychoSpritual Shockwave Number 2: the one still on the loose was born the day before my son.

ted said...

If anyone is curious about what a police state would be like, I am living it now. Boston is in lockdown, and shutdown! Evil has influence, and soon it will have its consequences.

mushroom said...

Ted, you certainly have our sympathy. But I'm also a little sympathetic toward law enforcement in this case. They will certainly be blamed if anyone gets hurt. There is already one officer down, and we don't want them to shoot up a carload of nuns by mistake.

By the way, I've seen law enforcement officers qualify. Anything that isn't standing directly behind some of those boys is in danger of being ventilated.

ted said...

I agree Mushroom. I just find it interesting that such a spectacle could be created by one person. Otherwise, I am fine sitting home and catching up on my music collection.

River Cocytus said...

The Chechen President has said, "Look for this evil in America" - on the face it's just nationalist rivalry, but he's right: Chechnya may be a hotbed for terrorism, but these boys radicalized while in America.

My guess is, look first at the parents - their dad is a nut - but then secondly at a society so fragmented that these kids look for substance elsewhere.

More encouragement to ignore the national, cultivate the local.

JWM said...

Oh holy cow.
I'm not the only one, and this is not the first time I've found myself all out of joint only to hear the same sort of angst/malaise/*WTF?* going on here as well.
I was working on the graphics for the bike club last night, and I needed to find a copy of my signature logo that I used to use on my artwork. This caused me to start digging through a huge box full of notes, sketches, and layout drawings for the Celtic pieces that I did back in the early-mid nineties. I was floored. That stuff was as complicated as college algebra. I could understand barely half of it. I looked at work I had done, and I could not figure out how I did it. I looked at the way I could write, and manipulate really complicated, and intricate patterns- weaves, braids, knots, and interlacings- some patterns requiring twelve lines (12!) It was visual counterpoint. And I might as well have been trying to read music. Where did that energy come from? And where did it go? No idea, but it left me feeling like I've lost an awful lot.
And even though I've pulled the plug on all media, the Orwellian cloud of lies has found its way to my Facebook account, and seved to piss me off, big. So I've flamed a few libtards, and unfriended a hippie or two. But even that's not much fun.
I'm gonna' go wash the dishes.


JP said...

"There is a lot of malaise going around. It's like being trapped on a boat crewed by millions of clueless paddlers who don't or won't see that they're moving us all straight for a waterfall.

And what will come next?"

You mean once we get past the post-Unraveling part of this standard-issue Crisis era?

Some kind of anabolism, good or bad, depending on which ideas are used.

JWM said...

The core self is incapable of evil

and in no mood for it.


Gagdad Bob said...

The core of Open Trench is incapable of wisdom. As is the surface. And everything in between.

River Cocytus said...

The core of the self is empty; it looks for something to fill it. Put another way, St. Theophan the Recluse said,

"Most men are like shavings of wood, curled about their inner emptiness."

The inclination of the will, toward good or evil, this determines what sort of thing will fill the core, and thus what sort of thing the core will be.

It may be that we were created good, but we were also created empty. If this was not so, we would be complete in ourselves and have no need of an other.

I think I recall that a friend of mine put it this way, that the proper Spirit of Man is the Spirit of God.

Nature abhors a vacuum...

julie said...

Heh. Via Insty,

“This week is so bad that an Elvis-impersonating conspiracy theorist sent poison to Obama and THAT’S LIKE THE TENTH BIGGEST STORY.”

Joan of Argghh! said...

our job is to improve ourselves and our local community life.

River, again, has hit on the very head of the nail. In the freedom that my fasting from politics bought me, I noticed a glaring omission in the lives of younger Christians around me. I am filled with a renewed sense of mission. The political is over, and the world shall turn as it will. The eternal abides. The unschooled youth in our churches have put themselves at the center of their worship, their feelings as the arbiter of Truth. The culture has polluted even the best minds of the best young people. There is a field with hope of eternal harvest.

I may have to start a new blog...

ge said...

watched more tv last few days than in a long time....most depressing item seen was doubtless the footage of ellen degeneres' audience of ecstatic drooling cretin obamaniac gals dancing out of their seats as ellen grooved thru the aisles also dancing to the hiphop tune: hopeless homo-ho's in heaven, if i may be so alliterate

Jack said...

Slow Motion Implosion?

Jack said...

In particular watch the video at the bottom of the article.

DeAnn said...

I appreciate the post.