Friday, March 13, 2015

Any Idiot Can Pulverize a Statue, but It Takes a Real Genius to Create Ugly Art

How do we attain knowledge of something, anyway? How is it even possible? It is possible because "the soul recognize[s] in material objects a harmony identical with its own structure..." (Eco, in Taylor). But as we've been saying, it also works the other way around -- or in the other direction, rather.

That is, the objects of the world both illuminate, and are illuminated by, the soul. That's a very weird way to run a cosmos, but I wouldn't want to have it any other way, because I am convinced that this is an echo of the Trinity. You are free to call it something other than trinitarian if you like, but you must face the fact that knowledge is an endless perichoretic samba.

Perichoresis is pretty much my new favorite word -- lots of provocative stuff in the wiki article. Through a spontaneous series of clicks, I was just now led to an observation by theologian David Schindler:

"If you would understand yourself, open your mind to the Creator whose first gift to you is your existence. Then testify to what you see." That would be the ultimate instance -- or the very ground -- of recognizing the swirling harmony between being, existence, and knowledge.

Beauty can never be separated from this process. Taylor cites the example of a medieval village, which does not conform "to an imposed grid planned by a city engineer," but rather, to the "spontaneous impulse of builders in relation to the different sizes of the shops and houses.... along the rising and falling rural roads that yielded to the contours of the countryside..."

That brings back memories of Christopher Alexander. A memoir of the future to go along with Alexander's vertical recollection.

Such vertical re-cognition is "the genesis of aesthetic pleasure" (Eco). Moreover, it is "the connection between sense and intellect that precedes scientific knowledge." It is where we start our journey into world and self.

Both science and poetry begin in aesthetic arrest. Which can be taken in two ways, because some aesthetic sensibilities are more developmentally arrested than others, e.g., atheistic materialism, an ugly metaphysic to complement an unattractive soul. Beautiful souls -- expansive, open, fluid, grateful, bewondered -- spontaneously enquire elsewhy for their idiom.

But no matter how complicated you try to make things, It's always in the first place you look!

This is why, as Eco says, art may "simultaneously instruct and delight" -- except that I would say "must," since this is the sufficient reason of art. Unless you are one of those people who think the purpose of art is to produce things that are ugly and make us more stupid, e.g., a college dean or TV executive.

When I say that it's always in the first place we look, I think I mean this: that the cosmos is "a whole and living reality, significant and mysterious" (Taylor).

Note that this is the basis, the fundamental mindset, of the scientific attitude, for if the world weren't both significant and mysterious, why bother? And if the soul weren't equally significant and mysterious, why bother²?

If you really want to get to the bottamuvital, just say Creation: what is it, and how is it possible?

Again, who wants to create ugly? Doesn't ugly happen by itself? No, it takes a great deal of effort -- it's not as easy as pulverizing statues, for Modern man destroys more when he constructs than when he destroys (Don Colacho's aphorisms). It's much harder to be a performance artist than an Islamist barbarian. That's the work of an instant, whereas Madonna is the work of a lifetime.

It's orthoparadoxicality², in that so much beauty just happens by itself. Man has always recognized this: the moment there was a man, there was a soul noticing the beauty of the sky, the mountains, the sea, that cute girl over there. And The laws of biology alone do not have fingers delicate enough to fashion the beauty of a face (Don Colacho). But the wife can try to capture it with her delicate new camera:

Here's another one I like. The laws of biology alone do not have fingers delicate enough to fashion another Johnny Bench, but at least he can try:

More recent:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

You Must Be Dreaming!

Yes, it takes all kinds to make a world. But what if the world only permits one kind -- as on college campuses, or in the NFM (non-Fox media), or in the billion-strong Islamic Terristan? Then if you merely want to be yourself, you're SOL.

"The world is like a giant shopping mall," said Bob, unable to think of a less banal description. Some stores interest us, while others are almost invisible.

First, notice how this differs from all other animals, who have only particular interests that are hardwired into their brainframe. The proverbial one-eyed cat sniffs around the seafood store, while the bird dog just wants to take my baby away.

By the way -- and I'm sure I'm not the first one to think of this -- it occurred to me that one way to think about how Jesus could be fully God and fully man, is to compare it to how we are all animal and all man. Some tenured primates under the influence of 100 proof Darwinism think that just because we are all animal, this somehow fully explains our humanness. At the other end, some religious people think that just because we are human creatures, we can't really be animals.

But like Jesus, we have two natures in one person. A big difference, I suppose, is that these two natures can become fractured or perverted in man, so they don't function harmoniously. Indeed, one of the purposes of Christianity is to divinize our lower nature and bring it into harmony with the human. You might say that the animal must be crucified in order to be resurrected into something higher. As a matter of fact, I believe MoTT says something similar.

Bollas writes of our childhood "investiture of the world" with what Wordsworth calls the first Poetic spirit of our human life. Don't you remama that timeless time of infanity? I do, but not in any way that can be articulated with words. Rather, it is a felt reality, something prior to the words we use to describe it.

Indeed, "It is exceptionally difficult to capture the sense of place each of us feels within our world," the "dense textures of self experience that [bring] some known, but only marginally thinkable, recollection into being" (ibid.).

This is again the realm of Middle Earth that flourishes between the ponderable world and our own poetic sensibility. But that is where we always live: "We walk about in the metaphysical concrescence of our private idioms." Moving through this world "evokes states sponsored by the specific objects we encounter," such that "in a very particular sense, we live our life in our own private dreaming" (ibid.).

That might sound a little new-agey, but again, the work of creating a world takes place in the imaginative and resonant space of the In Between. This is one thing that leftists do not understand. In fact, their position is frankly incoherent, as they pretend to eliminate Middle Earth, reducing it at one end to a naive scientism, and dissolving it at the other into a deconstructionist tyranny of relativism.

For Bollas, "the human subject becomes the dream work of his own life," meaning that, just as in a dream, "we constantly endow objects with psychic meaning" and "walk amidst our own significance." But it's one thing to do this consciously and with insight, another thing entirely to imagine that everyone should or even can live in our particular worldspace. Strokes & folks. What is the American dream but the cosmic right to be different? And what is the leftist -- or Islamist -- nightmare but the obligation to be the same?

Here again, this is the repressive project of the left -- to shove everyone into their cramped little worldcage. But the human imagination always dwarfs any such confinement. It cannot be contained because it is the container.

The logocentric world is not made of objects or processes; rather it is made of language. The cosmos always speaks to man, for it is God's first revelation. But this is only the coondergarden. God successively reveals himself as man becomes increasingly capable of receiving and assimilating the message. The Arc of Salvation really begins with Creation; or, creation and salvation are not-two.

Danielou writes of how even our furriest of furbears found theirsoph "in a world which from its very beginning is a world of grace and sin" -- of vertical energies and alienation from them.

Danielou goes on to say that "an aptitude for religion is a human datum," which simply means that we have an innate idiom for it. We don't have to look for it. Rather, it will always find us, even if only with the objects of the world -- from the terrestrial landscape to the celestial skyscape. To paraphrase Danielou, these are like loans against future revelation. We can pay them back as God successivley reveals himself in the fullness of time.

Thus, there is "a word that God speaks to the whole earth though the visible world." Perhaps Joyce can shed some obscurity on the subject: if you are abcedminded to this claybook, what curios of signs in this allaphbed! Can you rede its world?

Well? Can you? Paul can, because "the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." Thus, "the whole cosmos takes on a symbolic dimension" (Danielou).

But again, that's not the end of the story, only the beginning. Subsequent revelations will occur in history and in man.

Or not, depending on the case. For, "what if I don't know which objects serve me? If I don't know, then my day" -- and my life -- "is likely to be a fraught or empty occasion" (Bollas). There are some people -- okay, many -- who "seem to have no sense of the day being a potential space."

Which the Raccoon calls "cosmopathology," in which case the mind is compelled to select idiomatic "objects that are congruent with unconscious illness," AKA mind parasites. In a free country, if you're looking for objects to reflect your soul sickness, you will have no difficulty finding them. For a drowsy man's dream is a wakeman's blightmare.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Blest Things in Life are Invisible

So, I caught Nurse Ratched's press conference yesterday, and was struck by how much she really does remind me of Nurse Ratched. It's spooky. Between her and Obama, it's difficult to say who's the more irritating.

And yet, there are obviously people -- millions of them -- who not only don't find her irritating, but want her to be their Big Nurse.

Speaking of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, this reminds me of when McMurphy discovers that most of the other patients are there voluntarily. In other words, they choose to live under the tyrannical compassion of Nurse Hillary.

--Now, look... I'm voluntary here, see? I'm not committed. I don't have to stay here. I mean, I can go home anytime I want.

--You can go home anytime you want?

--That's it.

--You're bullshitting me! He's bullshitting me, right?

--No, Randall, he's telling you the truth. As a matter of fact, there are very few men here who are committed...

--Jesus, I mean, you guys do nothing but complain about how you can't stand it in this place, and then you haven't got the guts to walk out? What do you think you are, for Christ's sake? Crazy or something? Well, you're not. You're not! You're no crazier than the average asshole walking around on the streets.

--Those are very challenging observations you made, Randall. I'm sure some of the men would like to comment.

The subsequent scene is very much like yesterday's press conference except that instead of cigarets, Cheswick wants his emails (for they belong to us):

First of all, You sit down, Mr. Cheswick, and wait your turn. Go ahead, sit down! I want to first respond to this planted question about whether this phony scandal is really because Vagina.

--I would like to know about your emails. May we have your emails, please, Mrs. Clinton?

Eventually Cheswick decompensates in frustration, and all hell breaks loose: "Look, I don't want Jeb Bush's emails. And I don't want Bill Clinton's, or Colin Powell's, or John Kerry's, or Brian Williams'... Do you understand that? I want your emails, Mrs. Clinton!

Here's what I don't quite understand. Everyone who sees One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest presumably identifies with McMurphy. Can you imagine seeing the movie and rooting for Nurse Ratched to break his spirit?

Yet, in real life, the same people are liable to be rigid and tyrannical little Nurse Ratcheds. They're in charge of the asylum, but are crazier than the inmates. Does anyone out there think that Bill and Hillary are models of mental health? Or that they don't have a rather odd arrangement to go under the heading of "marriage"?

Speaking of films, I would bet there is a 100% correlation between people who support Hillary and people who identify with the snipees instead of The Sniper. Look at Michael Moore: his uncle was supposedly killed by a Nazi sniper, so snipers are immoral cowards!

Which is like saying my uncle was killed in a knife fight, so surgeons are sadistic butchers!

(Just to be clear, obviously not all Hillary supporters despise The Sniper, but all who despise him support Big Nurse Clinton -- or someone worse, e.g., Big Chief Warren.)

In any event, the above actually goes to what we've been discussing about idiom, because people support politicians who speak their interior language. George Washington resonates with my idiom. Likewise Abraham Lincoln or Ronald Reagan. Conversely, Obama speaks a foreign idiom, as does Hillary. There is no interior resonance whatsoever. They are irritating and unappealing in every way. They grate.

I suppose that's a good word for an environment in which you cannot discover your idiom: it grates. It goes against the psychic grain. It's intrinsically frustrating. If you're anything like me, it makes you wanna throttle somebody.

But we have to use our words. Which isn't exactly a fair fight, because they get to back up their unctuous words with the violence of the state. We can't tell the IRS: "I've gone through my records and provided you with the amount I owe. No, you cannot see my records because they belong to me."

Which we should be allowed to say, by the way. Among other things, a flat tax would restore our fourth amendment protection against involuntary colonoscopies.

Let me change the focus before she makes a maniac out of me.

Bollas writes of how "We each live amidst thousands of [idiomatic] objects that enlighten our world -- things that are not hallucinations," but whose "meaning resides in [an] 'intermediate space' or 'third area': the place where subject meets thing, to confer significance in the very moment that being is transformed by the object."

Therefore, the world -- a particular world, i.e., yours or mine -- exists in this intermediate space "between the subject's state of mind and the thing's character."

This goes very much to what we were saying a few weeks back about Interpersonal Neurobiology: that there is always the irreducible trinity of mind, brain, and relationships. The latter can never be "seen," but nor are they only in the brain or mind.

Rather, they are always in-between. In fact, I would say that they constitute in-betweenness as such. Because human beings are intrinsically relational, we live in this resonant intermediate space.

Interestingly, this whole way of thinking occupies a kind of third area between a completely uncritical realism and Kant's transcendental idealism. The former holds that we experience the world as it is, while the latter maintains that experience is essentially constrained by our innate categories of knowing.

However this Third Way combines both: that we do have access to the real world, but that we personalize the world via our own idiom. Think of two people watching the same baseball game, one who has a passion for the sport, the other knowing nothing about it. Obviously they will perceive very different things. And most of what the enthusiast perceives will be invisible, existing only in that third space.

Now, this is quintessentially true of religion. While we can all see, for example, a Catholic service, the real action is taking place in the intermediate space. More generally, the invisible action between God and man is relational and intersubjective. Revelation is revealed in this nonlocal third world, or not at all. You can ask for visible signs and wonders, but you still have to perceive their invisible significance.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Chaos and Control, Destiny and Fate: You Can't Plan for the Surprise of Your Life

It's amazing how subtle some of these dead old white men could be. Augustine, for example, writes that "'To use' is to put something at the disposal of the will, whereas 'to enjoy' is to use a thing with satisfaction, which is no longer a matter of hope but actual reality."

So, we willfully "use" a thing in the hope that it will actually satisfy us. Obviously, satisfaction is not something we can will -- even for people who have the means to will just about anything they want. Indeed, everybody tells me so: can't buy me love.

This, I think, goes to why happiness is wrapped up in surprise as opposed to planning. To plan for happiness is to attempt to appropriate satisfaction into the will, but that's just a hope, not an actuality.

And many people would rather hope for happiness than actually live it. Or, more to the point, they are presently unhappy, but live in the hope that, with the right plan, it will occur in the future. Which it never does. Unless it is in some surprising and unplanned way.

Real enjoyment seems to be a matter of love as opposed to will; love is a kind of self-offering or self-opening, while will is more of a crystalized intent. I'm not expressing that very clearly, but think of the difference between, say, the perpetually self-offering God of Christianity vs. the permanent willfulness of Allah. One is always giving, while the other is always doing. The former is a lover, the latter a q'ntrol fariq.

Which reminds me. It seems that Boko Haram has pledged its allegiance to ISIS:

I pledge allegiance to the mahdi of the Islamic State of Iraq; and to the caliphate for which it stands, one world, under sharia, with tyranny and sadism for all.

What is our fundamental problem with the Islamic state, and with Islam more generally? That they are indeed control freaks. Not only are no surprises permitted, but technically they are impossible, being that everything issues directly from the will of Allah.

This is at antipodes to Christian liberalism, which is rooted in liberty. The Christian God creates; the Muslim god compels. Is it possible to compel creativity? Not really. One can compel the circumstances for bringing it about -- i.e., self-discipline -- but it is an oxymoron to force a surprise. Sergeant Pepper was a surprise. All the groups thereafter who tried to squeeze out their own Sergeant Pepper just produced kitsch or krap.

Why did Christendom vault ahead of the rest of the world, while Islam in particular is mired in backwardness? Backwardness is actually hard, while progress is easy. How is that?

Well, think, for example, of how hard it was for the Soviet Union to control its citizens. Impossible, really. And yet, I remember reading of how Kruschev asked Nixon how the US produced enough bread to feed its people without someone at the top commanding it. In the US it is easy to feed -- and overfeed -- our people. How? By doing nothing. It happens by itself, so long as the state doesn't interfere. State interference causes bubbles, shortages, and distortions, as in housing, medicine, and college.

All of this goes directly to what we have been saying about idiom and the destiny drive, for the soul requires freedom in order to discover and actualize itself. It needs a range of potential objects, ideas, and relationships to select from, because everyone is different. We are even big enough to tolerate the presence of people to whom the Koran speaks. Which is just another way of saying that Christianity is expansive enough to contain Islam, whereas the converse is impossible. There is a reason why there can be no churches in Saudi Arabia (and no God in public schools).

"The soul recognize[s] in material objects a harmony identical with that of its own structure, and this recognition [is] the genesis of aesthetic pleasure" (Eco, in Taylor). Exactly. Bollas calls it the "erotics of being," so we're back to loving-as-knowing:

"Certain objects, like psychic 'keys,' open doors to unconsciously intense -- and rich -- experience in which we articulate the self that we are.... This selection constitutes the jouissance of the true self, a bliss released through the finding of specific objects that free idiom to its articulation.... such releasings are the erotics of being..."

Well, this morning got away from me. To be continued....

Monday, March 09, 2015

Monsters and Crosses

Aristotle once cracked that "one does not know the content of a desire unless one knows what ultimately satisfies it" (in Taylor).

This comes very close to what we mean by idiom, for just as satisfaction of a desire teaches us what we had implicitly wanted, the "destiny drive" teaches us who we are by selecting (or by being mysteriously attracted to) objects, experiences, and relationships which "materialize elements latent to [the] personality" (Bollas).

Aristotle wrote of how, "through repeated encounters with the world," experience transforms the particulars of the senses into the universals "that come to rest in the soul." Philosophy itself "lies in a broad circle about the loose space of wonder," such that this primordial wonderlust is the beginning and end of our journey. Thus, philosophy "is what it is before it can be termed knowledge" per se.

By the same token, we could say that we are who we are even before we are anyone in particular. As Bollas writes, the discovery and articulation of our idiom -- the destiny drive -- is "dependent on the environment's sensitive presentation of objects for such use."

By "environment" he means the human environment -- in particular, the parents whose job it is to figure out who this mysterious little person is and what he wants. You can't give the child "just anything" -- or in other words, treat him anonymously -- unless you want to attenuate his destiny drive and make it more complicated for him to become who he is.

Or, parents can try to implant a false destiny, which is something I see a lot of these days. Living as I do on the white trash side of the border to some mega-affluent areas (e.g., Malibu), every child has been pre-selected to attend an elite university, so grades and homework and achievement are absurdly important even in elementary school -- as if the most important point of childhood isn't to freaking have one.

I can't recall it being this way when I was a kit. Nowadays there is such an absurd mystique associated with college, which one would think couldn't have survived the experience of having actually attended one of these graveyards of curiosity. In other words, one can imagine how my father, who had an 8th grade education (back when it meant something), might have been overawed by the prospect of Higher Education.

But most boomers attended college and then some. Do they really believe it "educated" them? Or that they obtained something there that cannot be obtained elsewhere for much less money? Please. Don't confuse the Destiny Drive with the Conspiracy. That's elementary.

This is interesting: Aristotle says that while knowledge of a thing "requires possession of it," "we are not in possession of a thing until we love it."

So, you might say that love is the thing -- or the Thing prior to the thing -- for he means the "delight and desire given to this initial act of knowing," all the way up to the last toppermost of the papamost act of knowing, i.e., the beatific vision, or contemplation of God.

Why indeed is there such a thing as "the pleasures of the mind?" Why this soul-delight?

Normally we think of the hedonist as someone who simply indulges the pleasures and passions of the body. I would suggest that so long as pleasure is confined to that cramped dimension, it is prima facie evidence of a failed destiny drive; or in other words, the drive has misfired, or is maybe compensating for what has been lost "above" by pursuing what is below.

It occurs to me that this is the opposite of how Freud characterizes it. For him, pursuit of the higher is simply a sublimation of lower drives. It is a defense mechanism, a pale substitute for what we really want, which is basically food, sex, and status among the primates.

Now, there was a time that I couldn't help believing that, or at least entertaining it. After all, I was in graduate school, learning psychology from the proper authorities. To paraphrase the famous bumpkin-sticker: Freud said it, I believe it, and that settles it. I don't want to oversimplify it, but nevertheless, not a single one of my professors spoke of the soul, or of God, or of the spiritual life.

I went through maybe six months in the "Freudian mode," so to speak. Looking back on it, I can't really say whether it was the cause or consequence of a depression, but depressing it was. How could it not be? Everything I have ever done or will do is just a self-deceiving transformation of primitive instincts?

I didn't intend for this post to get all personal, but perhaps it is instructive, for that depression speaks to a Destiny Drive Fail. Here I am, in the place I am supposed to be -- or where the Conspiracy wants me to be -- and I am not happy.

But you know the old line: more tears are shed over answered prayers. Which is another way of saying thank God for pain, which is ultimately another way of saying thank God for the Cross! I've been thinking about that last one for the past week or two... How to put it...

It started with an episode of the Journey Home on EWTN. The guest was talking about how when everything was going well for him in life, it tended to swell his narcissism and grandiosity, and thus alienate him from the Cross. Conversely, his "afflictions," so to speak, brought him back down to earth and closer to God.

I think something similar happens to me. Now, let's extrapolate this to an extreme case. Let's take someone who actually does succeed in becoming a Prince of this world. Would he not be a narcissistic monster? Is one of the salutary purposes of the Cross to prevent Monsters? Otherwise, why flash it before vampires and such? And why does the anti-Christian world produce so many monsters?

That was a short paragraph, but it strikes me as loaded with meaning, with things to chew on.

So chew on. It always takes me about six months to get used to Daylight Savings Time, so I slept late and now have to get ready for work...

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