Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rabble Without a Clue

About the spiritually sightless ophthalmologist of yesterpost, he is a symbol of many who suffer the same malady, that is, the inability to "see God."

But maybe that wording is part of the problem: see God. We've discussed in the past how someone who otherwise thinks quite abstractly -- say, a scientist -- suddenly goes all concrete when discussing or hearing about religion. Such a person might say something like, okay, show me. Come down here and perform a miracle, and then I'll believe.

A nuclear physicist, say, is fully aware of the fact that the models he employs and the language he uses to describe the subatomic realm cannot be considered "literal." Atoms aren't like little solar systems, creation didn't literally begin with a bang, and gravity isn't an "attraction." Nor, for that matter, can genes be "selfish."

In each case, language provides "points of reference" from one realm to another. The only realm we really know in a concrete way is the concrete realm to which language originally applies, and from which it draws its analogies. We can only understand another realm by way of analogy, which always introduces ambiguities and paradoxes if pushed too far.

Most famously, the analogies of "wave" and "particle" as applied to the quantum world are only so useful before skirting the boundary of paradox. One could say the same of genes and organism, each being "real" in its own way unless pushed too far.

So religious language -- like any language that transcends the concrete -- provides a frame of reference to a world beyond itself. It is perhaps most easy to be confused about this vis-a-vis the Hebrew Bible, which frequently deploys -- how to put it? -- "narrative-as-wisdom," or "myth-as-metaphysics," or "law-as-principle." The easiest thing in the world to do is to reduce the abstract to the concrete, and then ridicule the latter.

Doing so is about as intelligent as, say, a 19th century physician taking offense at someone who tells him he should wash his hands because there are millions of little creatures crawling all over him: who are you calling dirty? Such a person is confusing realms and turning an abstract scientific truth into a concrete insult from the world of "manners."

According to the Catechism -- which is in its own right a fascinating document, since it embodies 2,000 years of collective meditation on the abstractions implicit in concrete revelation -- the atheist is not to be thought of as some sort of "adversary," that is, unless he chooses to become the aggressor for unrelated reasons, e.g., the God-hating and Man-controlling left.

Rather, it says here that many of our contemporaries simply fail to perceive the "intimate and vital bond of man to God." Those who "do not perceive" may be completely blameless, or at least virtually so, given our debased cultural ambiance.

You can't blame a child raised by wolves for behaving like one, for that's all he has ever known. Likewise so many liberals who live in their friction-free ideological bubbles and second realities, never encountering opposition unless it is by way of ridiculous straw men, projected demons, or alternatively vicious or risible caricatures.

Aaaaaand, we're back. Had to drive the boy to school.

On the way back, it occurred to me that our modern, space age au-go-go society is characterized by a strange combination of cynicism and irony with naiveté and childish innocence -- say, Jon Stewart, or MSNBC, or anyone who sees through everything except their own silly liberalism.

The problem with the cynic or ironist is that he does indeed see through most everything, but not to anything. This is because cynicism and irony are perversions of a proper and unique function of the human mind -- that is, seeing through appearances -- except with no reality on the other side.

For example, in order to read, we "see through" the words on the page, toward the invisible truth they are trying to convey. It is as if the cynic reverses the process, and says, "I see through your little game. Those are just arbitrary marks on a page. There's no reality behind them, just something you invented."

And before you dismiss such a person as an irrelevant crank, this is precisely what postmodernism in general and deconstruction in particular do: render a text meaningless by systematically refusing to look at what it is referring to. One can do this with scripture just as easily as one can do it with the Constitution. In Obama's case he does it with both, i.e., "black theology" and the "living Constitution," neither of which has anything to do with the laws of the Cosmos or of the Land, respectively (except when for the sake of Higher Expediency).

Referring again to the Catechism, it says that the term "atheism" applies to "many different phenomena," which makes sense, since the Absolute is by definition One, so deviations from it are going to be quite diverse. How to pick, when there are so many ways to be wrong! Well, I suppose that's what college is for: to grow up and settle down with one particular error.

The Catechism mentions a "practical materialism" which confines man behind immanent bars of mundane space and time. Likewise, "atheistic humanism," instead of properly seeing through and beyond man, toward his transcendental source, "falsely considers man to be 'an end to himself.'"

Here is another fine example of the left's naiveté and/or self-deception, because to make man his own end renders him either a beast or a god. Practically speaking, it results in a bipolar world with auto-idolatrous gods at the top and infrahuman beasts at the bottom. Talk about your "one percent"! Imagine the naiveté of someone who wonders why "income equality" is so much worse under Obama, or why so much obscene wealth encircles Washington DC!

Yet "another form contemporary atheism takes is for the liberation of man through economic and social liberation." It maintains "that religion, of its very nature, thwarts such emancipation by raising man's hope in a future life, thus both deceiving him and discouraging him" from participating in the glorious revolution -- you know, Obama's hope for dopes and change for chumps.

This cynical and manipulative stance is always on offer by the left, but it's really just the same perennial temptation to turn stones into bread. With every election cycle, every speech, every program, the left promises that this time the stones will finally turn into bread, but they never do, for the left is as unhappy as ever. They even (even?) invent reasons to feel miserable, such as the "war on women," or hatred of homosexuals, or insufficient spending on education, or a "broken" healthcare system which they proceed to break in every possible way. In order to peddle their hopium, they must first hook you on hopelessness.

Memo to the left: there is always a reason to feel miserable. The trick is how to feel joyous, given the existential constraints we are all operating under, e.g., death, loss, toil, frustrated ambitions, and the impossibility of ever actualizing our full potential. There is no political solution to any of these. Nor any scientific or economic solutions -- at least nothing that can be managed by the statist one percent.

Being miserable or envious or bored or selfish or resentful is the easiest and most natural thing in the world, which is why the left is always a "downhill" attractor or basin. Anyone who hasn't nailed themselves to a higher reality ends up with the clueless rabble down there, not realizing their dependence upon higher energies in order to be "happy" in this vale of tears. Absent a living exchange with that world, one can only manage an "animal happiness" which doesn't actually exist anyway. To the extent that an animal is happy, it is only because it doesn't know what all humans -- all grown-up humans -- know.

And it's partly, or even largely, our fault. Yes, I blame religion for making itself look stupid, and therefore easy to dismiss. That's a nasty little secret the Catechism lets out of the bag, that "Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism."

So, be careful what you say and how you tie your shoes in the presence of infidels. Like children, they will see through your pretenses but not beyond them.


julie said...

So, be careful what you say and how you tie your shoes in the presence of infidels. Like children, they will see through your pretenses.

Indeed; I find the best thing to do, generally speaking, is not to pretend.

I'm suddenly reminded of how Prager helped pull me back from atheism, mainly by talking about the importance of happiness.

NoMo said...

He who “falsely considers man to be an end to himself”, can only act as if “the ends justify the means”. Which is why most of what the left does is seriously twisted.

NoMo said...

The truth of “the impossibility of ever actualizing our full potential” made me wonder, what if heaven will include the opportunity of actualizing our full potential? That could take a while. I love the thought.

NoMo said...

I especially love thought of all the unborn humans we have murdered having an eternity to do so.

mushroom said...

Memo to the left: there is always a reason to feel miserable.

It wouldn't hurt to CC the right on that one, as well. Among the conservative and the religious, we often over-react to the deviancy of the left and the godless.

It's not that you don't need to stake out the occasional pedophile on fire ant hill, but a lot of times it is sufficient to not endorse what people do without legislating against it. It's important to respond appropriately. It's part of being truly conservative.

mushroom said...

...what if heaven will include the opportunity of actualizing our full potential? That could take a while.

That's why The Great Divorce gets re-read more than some others. I also think we protestants can be more sympathetic toward things like canonization if we consider that some come much closer to actualizing their full spiritual potential before lift-off.

Gagdad Bob said...

That is the traditional teaching, i.e., purgatory. I don't think it would make sense for things to be simply binary.

Gagdad Bob said...

i.e., thumbs up or thumbs down. Standing ovation or booed off the stage. Capital punishment or complete immunity.

Gagdad Bob said...

Many mansions.

mushroom said...

Amen, "many mansions" is a big clue. More modern translations will say "dwelling places" or something, but it means more like a dwelling place along the way, a way station, or a room at an inn.

Once you enter the Father's house, you begin to move up higher and further in, and there are going to be places where you stop and recover and refresh on your way to the deep part of the high mountains.

This part of the road is just getting us to the "jumping off place".

NoMo said...

Dinesh D'Souza debates Bill Ayers at Dartmouth today live at 7:30 EST. Watch for free at:

NoMo said...

What if, by design, there are animals, humanimals, and children of God? That's not to say the humanimals can't experience joy of life, just that it won't be design.

mushroom said...

You've read it NoMo.

He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. (Matthew 13:37-39)

It's the truth. All truth is dangerous, this one maybe more.

Van Harvey said...

"For example, in order to read, we "see through" the words on the page, toward the invisible truth they are trying to convey. It is as if the cynic reverses the process, and says, "I see through your little game. Those are just arbitrary marks on a page. There's no reality behind them, just something you invented.""

Not only is that perfectly put, but those are the perfect people to put "Obama's hope for dopes and change for chumps." to.

Christina M said...

I stumbled onto this yesterday while doing research on the connections between Saul Alinsky and Catholic Charities, an organization that has sole control over immigrant resettlement here in TN.

"Alinsky died at the age of 63 of a sudden, massive heart attack in 1972, on a street corner in Carmel, California. Two months previously, he had discussed life after death in his interview with Playboy:[4]

ALINSKY: ... if there is an afterlife, and I have anything to say about it, I will unreservedly choose to go to hell.


ALINSKY: Hell would be heaven for me. All my life I've been with the have-nots. Over here, if you're a have-not, you're short of dough. If you're a have-not in hell, you're short of virtue. Once I get into hell, I'll start organizing the have-nots over there.

PLAYBOY: Why them?

ALINSKY: They're my kind of people.

Christina M said...

BTW, this scares the dickens out of me:

"So, be careful what you say and how you tie your shoes in the presence of infidels."

Gagdad Bob said...

NoMo & Mushroom -- There's something to the old caste system, e.g., warriors, priests, and those whose primary virtue is doing as told. If the latter are ever in charge, we're sunk.


Gagdad Bob said...

Actually, that goes to Christina's first comment as well.

Gagdad Bob said...

Reminds me of a line from an old film noir, when the head mobster was angry at one of his henchmen for taking the initiative, telling him, "Remember: I think. You hit."

Gordon said...

"Rabble without a clue" behave like maggots on a carcass--how one member of the Club of Rome once described people who try to feed off previously created wealth, and use natural resources without conscience. The rhetoric of the Democratic Party encourages people to behave like maggots and feed off the system, while the rhetoric of the Republican Party, to the extent it is motivated by Wall Street money seeking highest returns without regard to resources--natural or human--might describe feeding off profit. These parties are the type factions James Madison warned against in the Federalist Papers. They have wrested power from the citizens to direct tax revenue to their respective contributors. Religion and culture has been put in the back seat while power and money drive the car. This is 180 degrees from the system the founders wanted.

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