Monday, August 26, 2013

Bob's Weekend Acid Trip

In a letter, Voegelin speaks of how "metaphysical concepts are symbols which only make sense as the terminal points of the existential movement of participation in the divine."

For man -- who, as explained in the previous post, is "condemned to transcendence" -- this extraordinary condition is our ordinary condition, a kind of inexhaustible, or perpetually renewable, supernatural re-source. As such, deviations from the pattern -- especially when systematic and not just occasional or accidental -- are intrinsically pneumopathological.

You'll have to excuse me if this comes out more awkwordly than usual, because I'm trying to type with one or perhaps 1.25 hands, due to a little "gardening accident." Short story shorter, I was atop a ladder, trimming some branches that overhang the pool. Need I say more?

In this case, yes, because I believe there are mitigating circumstances. As a largish branch became unmoored and descended toward the pool, I instinctively -- I would say skillfully -- wife would say foolishly -- grabbed the branch with my customary lightning reflexes.

This set in motion a chain of events that, as they say, "all happened so fast" -- way too fast for my life to flash before me (but not too fast for my death to so flash). First of all, the branch was heftier than visual inspection had foreseen, pulling me in the direction of the pool.

Which would have been fine -- fun and games for all, as dad falls into the pool! -- except that on this particular day, the pool happened to be full of acid. Yes, part of the resurfacing process involves putting sufficient acid in the pool to eat away the new surface and expose the colorful aggregate of minerals beneath.

Faced with the choice of a brick nap or an acid bath, I chose the former. Again, it a. h. s. f. The last thing I remember is my foot missing the rung, followed by, "wo, Dad, are you okay? I'll get mom!"

Meanwhile, the ladder was nowhere to be seen. Oh, there it is, at the bottom of the pool! Don't worry, though. We fished it out before it disintegrated.

The main injury is to the left hand and wrist. Near as I can tell, I must have hyperextended the whole area -- wrist, fingers, and thumb -- backwards as I touched down and landed on it. The hand is now swollen to at least twice its original size, but remarkably, I don't think anything's broken. But typing with it is like trying to use Joe Biden's brain to think. Pretty much a blunt instrument.

So, with that out of the way, back to our subject. Using my little arboreal adventure as a cautionary metaphor, man is always on the ladder -- or vertical eschaltor -- between his source and destiny, the beginning and the beyond. And we can fall in two directions, even though we inevitably land in the same place.

The myths of Adam and Prometheus and Kramden (variants of which are sprinkled throughout Finnegans Wake) warn us of what happens if we become so full of ourselves that we fall too high. This was the usual way until about 300 years ago, whence began the collective resistance to theology and metaphysics -- which was initially confined to a handful of infertile eggheads before spreading to the rabble of tenured apes laboring in Blake's dark satanic diploma mills.

Remember, man's proper place is on the ladder between transcendence and immanence, pruning the Upanishadic tree, with its nonlocal roots aloft and local branches herebelow. All the while being mindful of that fulsome acid pit just south of us.

For Voegelin it is more or less a constant struggle to "overcome the devastating effects of this deformation of philosophy." It is devastating collectively, of course, but it first must devastate -- or literally lay waste to -- the individual soul.

With great understatement, he makes reference to "the numerous unfortunates of the 19th and 20th centuries, who were denied" access to "the grace of God" -- grace revolving around the vertical energy flow that can only occur on the ladder, between the beginning and the beyond. If one steps -- or falls -- from the ladder, one is subject to a pervertical counterflow that energizes all forms of modern political Gonosticism.

Not to shift gears too violently, but did you know there is something called an "O machine"? I learned this from Gilder's Knowledge and Power, which I would consider a must-read. He doesn't say much about it, but it sure sounds familiar. It was invented -- or posited -- by the all around genius Alan Turing:

"Turing imagined a deterministic computing machine that made non-deterministic leaps when necessary by consulting 'a kind of oracle, as it were. We shall not go any further into the nature of the oracle apart from saying that it cannot be a machine.'" In other words, let's keep it unsaturated, and not reduce it to one of our logical categories.

This speculative "machine" is "closer to the way real intelligence works," and is a necessary consequence of Gödel's theorems, which of course prove that no logical system can account for the principles and axioms upon which it is based. For Gödel, this did not mean that truth is inaccessible. Rather, the miracle, as it were, is that we can access transcendent truth despite the closed nature of our immanent logico-mathematical systems.

I would suggest that the mind itself is an "O machine," meaning that it is able to construct horizontal systems without becoming enclosed in them, because of our constant engagement with O.

The moral of the story? Don't blame the ladder for your failure to climb on board, for your own fall, or for its failure to reach all the way to heaven. It's just a ladder, not an obstacle and not the oracle.

So that's it for today. Hand is starting to ache a bit.


Open Trench said...

Great post. My favorite paragraph:

"I would suggest that the mind itself is an "O machine," meaning that it is able to construct horizontal systems without becoming enclosed in them, because of our constant engagement with O."

That being said, the main business of man is to be in constant contact with matter, for better or for worse. That's why food, water, shelter, sex and security remain top pre-occupations.

To be in contact with 0 while contemplating cannabalism in a life raft would be a feat worthy of an epic poem.

ge said...

Nuts!! pretty maddening injury-development; chalk up another opportunity to rejoice in Life's day-by-day recuperative powers and to suss forced revelations of new-approaches-to-old-trusty-things [that make us appreciate quotidiana all the more] for a while...

Rick said...

Prognosis: Homeowner

I was on a ladder yesterday. Not kidding. Taking down two trees. Was getting tired so safety really wants to sit in the back of the brain. Something like 5 times I almost grabbed the pointy end of the chainsaw. With my left hand.

So, there is a left hand, tree, ladder, chainsaw something virus going around yesterday. We need to do a roll-call. All raccoon digits present and a'counted fur? Sign-in with your good hand.

Gagdad Bob said...

Although the accident involved lopping shears, the fascist Mrs. G. has laid down the law: no chainsaw for you!

julie said...

lol. Good for her!

I'm impressed that you had the presence of mind to at least avoid the acid bath. I hope your hand heals up without any trouble.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Bob is the Jackie Chan of the metaphysics blogging world.
Note that Bob doesn't use a stunt blogger and, as itturns out, works without a net.
Over a swimming pool of ACID!

I'm gonna hafta read this again in slo-mo!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I don't get why wives are so anti-chainsaw.

Rick said...

I really can't encourage Bob getting a chainsaw, after, you know.. However, my wife does get that look in her eye after I'm covered in chainsaw dust and all "man against the elements". Musky-musk, I don't know.

So IAW Leslie's Law, I can only recommend the Fisher Price model.


Tony said...

Ouch. Best wishes for speedy recovery, Bob.

If you need to agitate for a chainsaw, you can get a small "Poulan," which sounds like something you saute' with baby carrots and fancy mushrooms. They sell an electric model, which makes it even less scary.

This is how I enlisted the nod of Mrs. Magister.

Found this bit this morning in von Balthasar: There have also been ages, however, in which man feels himself to be so humiliated through the disfigurement and denial of form, ages in which man feels himself to have been so disfigured along with the forms, that he daily experiences the temptation to despair of the dignity of existence and to break off all association wiht a world which disowns and destroys its own nature as image.

Kind of like how Billy Ray Cyrus must feel after watching his daughter's latest Rihanna imitation at the Video Music Awards.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...


Oh, I ain't advocating for Bob to get a chainsaw. Not know.

Have I had accidents? Sure, but never anything involving a chainsaw or a pool of ACID.
Ergo, man law clearly states that I oughtta be exempt.

Sadly, man law once again is superceded by safety zealots.
Loggers don't appear to have this problem.

John Lien said...

Using my little arboreal adventure as a cautionary metaphor, man is always on the ladder...

Mighty kind of you to take a fall of mythic proportions so as to help us all climb.

I bought my wife a chainsaw for Mother's day a few years back. She wanted a little, dainty, arborist saw.

Funny, she doesn't seem to object to my acquiring dangerous tools.

mushroom said...

I'm telling you, somewhere a guy with a Persian cat on his lap is wondering if he can sucker James Bond into trimming his hedges. This will be in the next movie.

Oddly enough, my wife keeps suggesting that I need a bigger chainsaw. I say eighteen inches ought to be enough for anybody. Still, I worry more about getting dragged feet first into the chipper -- though it would significantly reduce funeral expenses.

julie said...

True, some jobs do require a chainsaw. And heck, when combined with hand injuries, it doesn't get much manlier than this.

Probably wouldn't go well with typing, though...

ted said...

Bob, Hope the hand heals expeditiously!

Speaking of the O machine, I think I once saw it in a Woody Allen film too.

Open Trench said...

I googled "0 machine." Don't try it.

Or, do...depending on mood.

ge said...

Are you excused from work, GB? Hope you get groovy painkillers and catch some deep sleep & archetypal dreaming. Even as I aks, I see to answer might be painful, good old lefty!

Gagdad Bob said...

I would never waste serious painkillers on pain.

Open Trench said...

Right on, GB. Save them for the party you didn't want to attend but had to. That will soften the edges all right.

There are a million uses for psychoactive substances. Fitting the right one to the occasion is an art form.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Rick, on Saturday, the hub smashed my finger while closing the convertible top on the car, which is an electric canopy, and heavy. My finger was between it and its intended target in the windscreen bar. *whimper* Same finger I cut to the bone two weeks earlier.

Rick said...

See, now, if he'd had a chainsaw, that never would have happened.

mushroom said...

Bruce Campbell is like Sean Connery. He'd be manly in a red diaper and hip boots.

Leslie Godwin said...

Dear Joan, That sounds awful!
Rick, I don't even know where to start, but thank God you are ok!

Re. my being the Chainsaw Nazi, there was another side of the story which Bob didn't mention.

I realize chainsaw ownership is a manly-man lumberjack-in-the-DNA thing and something with which I shouldn't interfere.
That being said, I simply used the occasion to point out that maybe a chainsaw might not be such a good idea.

I have had a close encounter recently with one of those smaller electric saws which I didn't want to bother Bob with, but when I realized that if I had gotten the thing an inch closer to the artery in my leg, I would have been a Darwin-award candidate. Which would have made the toe I almost lost a minor detail. So I think it's no more chainsaws for me, either.

robinstarfish said...

That hurt just to read it... visions of skeletor Bob emerging from the pool. Hope the paw heals up fast.

Meanwhile, I was fixing to chainsaw an old spa into pieces next weekend to haul to the dump, but I think now I'll go with the half stick of dynamite. Safety first.

julie said...

Leslie, yikes! Did you cut yourself? I'm glad you're OK!

When I said "Good for you" earlier, I wasn't thinking about taking away a man card, either. More like keeping certain things away from the accident-prone.

Robin, you could always use it for boomershoot-style target practice...

Tony said...

As the corner grocery store cashier in Louisiana said, "if mamma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." A good sharp handsaw might be just the ticket.

But typing with it is like trying to use Joe Biden's brain to think.

*snort* But seriously, he'd make a fine candidate. I'm all for the Dems running Biden, but I suspect Dem women will split over Hillary. I'm not sure who will get the GOP nod. The GOP is split as well. I'm guessing we'll get a center-left candidate branded as GOP. And the country will split further apart.

Good morning!

Van Harvey said...

;-) My wife picked up an electric chain saw for me. While a paranoid person might see that as a possible twofer-equal opportunity to hack open an artery, or get electrocuted... or both.

But I prefer to see the even worse possibility: She wants me out of my library and doing work out in the yard.


One benefit of the tornado has been that this is shaping up to be the year without yard work.

'course... it's also shaping up to being the year of external Alzheimers... what with no library and all... or house.