Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tending to Your Own Isness in the Present Tense

There is only one method: to be intelligent. --Voegelin

Just a few more items to cover in Voegelin's massive missives before moving on to Knowledge and Power.

One reader mentioned that he had some difficulty with Voegelin's use of the word "tension," which is so central to his thinking.

Specifically, it refers to the intrinsic tension of undeformed human existence -- of the fundamental experience of tending to, or longing for, transcendence. Human beings live in the space between appearances and reality, or manifestation and principle, or relative and absolute, or (•) and O. Way it is.

Voegelin addresses this in a letter, noting that "The Latin tensio derives from the verb tendere, which means, just as in English, tend, being stretched or tending in a certain direction toward something."

Hey, no offense, but "I am at a bit of a loss to understand why the philosophical meaning of tension, which stresses the directional factor in the existential tension, should cause such difficulty?"

Rather, "this tension of existence manifests itself concretely in the 'quest,' the 'search, the 'questioning and inquiring' of the thinker in the direction of the ground of his existence that is, at the same time, the 'mover' of the inquiry and the 'drawer' of the soul toward its immortality." (You know the crack -- "God becomes man so that man might become God." In an orthoparadoxical manner of speaking, of course.)

Pretty clear, no? I find it interesting that Voegelin regarded this description as not only an unsurpassable truth, but a literally scientific account of man's ontological situation. And I believe he is correct, because it cannot be explicitly refuted without being implicitly affirmed. We always live in tension toward the Great Attractor, O.

Unless we don't. To rip an example from the LoFo headlines, what do you suppose Miley Cyrus is oriented toward? Where is the tension in her life?

Well, for starters, she appears to believe that all such tension represents a kind of oppression, and that in order to exist in freedom we must, to parableat Lileks, cross every line, push every envelope, and transgress every norm. Until there is nothing creepy and no one left to creep out. She exists in tension toward the bottom -- Ø -- and won't stop until she gets there.

Which reminds me of something Alan Watts once said -- something to the effect that the stripper is sexy until she removes the last veil. As Lileks says of Cyrus (strange to see those two names in the same sentence), she has "no mystery, no allure, no skill, [and] no art." Which, on the one hand, is obvious. But the reason she has none of these is because of the abolition of the Tension.

Tension is good, and coincidentally, it is one of the major themes of Gilder's Knowledge and Power. Briefly -- for we'll get into it in much more detail later -- not just the raving Krugmaniacs, but even sane and sober economists labor under the misplaced metaphor of a Newtonian system to describe the economy.

In short, they see it as a spontaneous order that tends to equilibrium. But in reality, it is a system of information that requires the vertical ingression of entreprenurial creativity to avoid equilibrium. Equilibrium, as in biology, means death.

As we shall see, order is actually the opposite of information; order is low entropy, whereas information is high entropy -- for which reason the top-down approaches of the statists never work, because they try to replace high entropy information with low-entropy power to achieve order.

Never mind the trillions of dollars Obama has removed from the productive economy. Much more dreadful and damaging is the untold information he has destroyed or prevented along with it.

Don't worry. You'll get it. The point is, money doesn't have the same value in different people. For example, it has much more value -- because more information -- in the hands of a Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos or a Koch brother than it does in the hands of an Obama, a Reid, or a Pelosi.

Welfare and food stamps are about as low entropy as money can get, for you can't make a man more valuable by paying him more than he's worth, nor can you conjure success by simply subsidizing one of its side effects, i.e., "money." Give money to an Israeli and he'll create a high tech company around his new invention. Give it to a Palestinian and he'll buy more rat poison and ball bearings to blow up the inventor.

Hmm. It occurs to me that low entropy envies high entropy as a way to obliterate the Tension. That pretty much explains the left, doesn't it? There was a time when we admired the successful, i.e., tolerated the tension between us and them. The left is all about filling that space with bitterness, envy, resentment, entitlement, and charges of racism, homophobia, gynophobia, and all the rest. All of these words have become low-entropy ciphers in the mouths of the left. They pretty much mean nothing but "gimme."

Conversely, God -- or O -- would have to represent the most intense degree of entropy. And interestingly, a high entropy message can be indistinguishable from a low entropy message, because it will appear random. This dovetails nicely with Voegelin's acknowledgement that "behind the [low entropy] gods of the Myth," exists "the real [high entropy] God about whom one can say nothing" -- since the entropy of this Word is just too maxed out.

So "when somebody says that I am a mystic, I am afraid I cannot deny it. My enterprise of what you call 'de-reification' would not be possible, unless I were a mystic."

To sum up then, a Gnostic -- including of course the political Gnostic -- is low information and low entropy, which is what makes them such crashing borgs. Conversely, the mystic lives in dynamic tension toward the first and last Word in high entropy in-formation, O. Anything short of this implicitly violates the second Commandment, for

No symbolization is adequate to the ineffability of the divine Beyond. Hence, when you are a believer on the level of symbol, you become an "infidel" to the ineffable truth of divine reality...--Voegelin


ted said...

I look forward to Gilder's book. In the last few years, I realized I needed to improve my signal-to-noise ratio. Don't read newspapers, don't watch much TV (except a few quality shows via online), only stay in touch with family & friends who aren't physical/emotional/spiritual vampires, focus on one thing at a time (even if those things change frequently), and primarily read books suggested by Bob. And then for the rest of my time, I leave for the unexpected high-entropic information that gets thrown at me - which is pretty much unavoidable if you are attentive and aware to it.

Magister said...

Whee, good post.

The sooner the music industry reaches bottom, the better. Or rather, the more completely it swings toward Complete Crap, the sooner the pendulum can start swinging back. Logically, the last taboo is actual sex acts and snuffing of humans and animals on stage, perhaps with incest thrown in for good measure. I think that ought to peg the meter, there being nothing more to degrade beyond that.

It took Rome a good while to reach Caligula. Given cultural speed today, I'm giving us a few years. Meantime, I keep the kids busy with skills, exercise, etc. They'll outlast assclowns like Miley Cyrus.

julie said...

If you want to see some musical kids who represent precisely the opposite of the Mileys of the world, you can't do any better than Sipp's boys.

Mainstream music - or entertainment in general, these days - is complete crap because that's where the lofo money is. But that doesn't mean there isn't also good stuff out there...

mushroom said...

Equilibrium, as in biology, means death.

Quantative Easing was a success. Unfortunately the patient died.

This post is really banging the gong. I can hear it, but I haven't quite made it out yet.

John Lien said...

Kind of like 10 Watts of electrical power with no information radiates heat. 10 Watts + information can reproduce Canned Heat.

Maybe that's too literal or physical or maybe that's just the physical manifestation of the concept that holds from top to bottom.

Interested to hear more.

ge said...

When Miley Cyrus dry-humped Robin Byrd on the VMAs; then she mock-rimmed a full-grown teddy bear! Next she and Alan Thicke performed an X [the unknown]-rated hump & grind to the shocked & awed delight Of Barack and Michelle Obama and daughters and Bo the Portuguese water dog who hid his eyes

Gagdad Bob said...

So, I have a fractured third metacarpal. Worst part: can't flip anybody off for five weeks.

mushroom said...

I don't know what that means in LA, but in Dallas, you'd have to take the bus to work.

Gagdad Bob said...

My first official broken bone, although I suspect I broke a rib and a toe in the past.

Gagdad Bob said...

Oddly, my middle finger is now the same length as my ring finger. I asked the doc, "does this mean I'm going to turn gay?"

ge said...

Maybe we can get Miley's big foam hand for you to wear!
Serially, may the pain begone & the hassle pay-off in some unsuspected ways...

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

You can always use your other hand to flip people off, Bob.
I've been training for years, just in case so I have become quite proficient.

With a bit of practice folks won't even be able to tell the difference.

Magister said...

Maybe Obama could lend you his:

Used, though.

Van Harvey said...

"Much more dreadful and damaging is the untold information he has destroyed or prevented along with it."

Exactly the case!

A market economy isn't about earning money, that is simply a result of it, it is about transmitting the information of economic choices and consequences in the most efficient possible way.

Meddling in the economy destroys information and ensures that all decisions relating to the it will be that much poorer, because of it. Even worse, the information that is destroyed isn't simply removed from what the economy can convey, its nullity is spliced onto the remaining good information, even significantly recasting the message that information might otherwise have conveyed, misinforming and misleading all who attempt to listen to and act upon it.

When govt meddles in the economy, ostensibly to improve it, bad and increasingly worse consequences cannot help but follow.