Thursday, October 20, 2016

Principles of the Unprincipled

We're on the subject of principles, in particular, those cosmic principles that cannot not be true -- for example, that truth exists and man may know it. If it doesn't exist, then you may stop talking -- and thinking -- now. And forever. There would be no point. Except mere animal satisfaction and survival. Which also would have no point.

Speaking of which, why is it that man is subject to distinct joys and pleasures of which the animal can know nothing? Why are there pleasures of the mind and joys of the spirit?


An intelligent idea produces sensual pleasure.

Very good. I--

I'm not done!

Go on then.

It is impossible to convince the fool that there are pleasures superior to those we share with the rest of the animals.

Like aesthetic pleasure?

Exactly. For To be stupid is to believe it is possible to take a photograph of the place about which a poet sang. And When things appear to us to be only what they appear to be, soon they become even less.

Each of those aphorisms reveals a principle. In fact, what makes the Aphorisms so resonant is that they usually do that -- it is the secret to their power (that and the poetic means of expression). Come to think of it, I can think of few things more powerful than a Cosmic Principle beautifully expressed.

Think of the alternatives: there can be truth expressed in a banal or shabby way, just as there can be falsehood expressed in a beautiful way.

Then again, I'm not so sure about the latter, for awareness of real beauty tends to converge upon truth. We'll leave music and painting to the side, but can a person who loves truth be fooled by a beautiful falsehood masquerading as truth?

You will recall how the media swooned (and still swoons) over Obama's rhetoric, but to me it always betrayed its inner ugliness, its hidden agenda. You can't put lipstick on a pig.

Or, you can. But it's still going to be ugly -- perhaps even more ugly in a way, in the sense that its essence is being distorted. There is such a thing as "ugly cute," as in the case of certain dog breeds. The AKC doesn't downgrade a pug because it doesn't look like a lab.

This morning in a link at Happy Acres I was reminded of what ugly falsehood in puffed-up rhetoric smells like. It is by the professional negro Tavis Smiley, who claims to be frightened that Donald Trump will literally bring back slavery.

Before addressing the aesthetic barbarism, the man is quite obviously hallucinating, in that he is seeing something that does not -- and will never -- exist. Scott Adams discussed this yesterday:

"In nearly every scenario you can imagine, the person experiencing an unlikely addition to their reality is the one hallucinating. If all observers see the same addition to their reality, it might be real. But if even one participant can’t see the phenomenon – no matter how many can – it is almost certainly not real."

To suggest that America under Trump will enslave blacks is, to put it mildly, "an unlikely addition to reality." (Of course, Adams goes too far in suggesting that if a single person doesn't see a phenomenon, it isn't real, for "negative hallucinations" are actually more common than the positive variety, plus it ignores the qualifications necessary for vertical perception; but these are subjects of a different post.)

Here is an example of elaborate falsehood, or a kind of ornate vacuity; note also the pomposity, an important feature of this type of crude persuasion:

"I’m not sure [Trump] and I share an understanding of what makes a nation truly great. For me, it starts with how you treat the children, the poor, the aged and infirmed, how you embrace equality as you labor for equity. Equality means that everyone gets the same in America, whether they need it or not. Equity says we commit to ensuring that all fellow citizens have the basic resources that will give them commensurate opportunities to contribute meaningfully to our society."

Is there a principle in there somewhere? Everyone gets the same in America, whether they need it or not. Okay. My question for Mr. Smiley clown: Are you getting the same as everyone else? Or is Time paying you more than it pays, say, its janitors?

"While I’m not an angry black man, I do have a righteous indignation that burns inside me about the myriad of injustices that result in a daily contestation of people’s humanity."

Translation: you're an angry black man yelling at your hallucinations.

And frightened by them, in that these hallucinations are indeed "hair-raising, bone-chilling, spine-breaking, [and] nerve-wracking."

This illustrates one of the elementary principles of developmental psychology, called "projective identification." It is more primitive than mere projection, such that the person projects unconscious material (e.g., thoughts, desires, emotions, impulses) into the environment, and feels them returning in a (usually) persecutory manner.

A common example would consist of projecting anger into someone else, and then re-experiencing it as fear. In reality, the person is just fearful of his own projected anger. I want to say that this is a particularly transparent case, but the process is ubiquitous on the left. It is the only way to make sense of "trigger warnings," "safe spaces," "dangerous speech," and the like. These people are literally afraid of their own shadows. But then, Jung is wasted on these youths.

I don't want to leave on such an aesthetically depressing note. Let's conclude with some aphorisms that beautifully illuminate the type of intellectual and rhetorical pathology exemplified above:

'Social justice' is the term used to claim anything to which we do not have a right. And 'Social' is the adjective that serves as a pretext for all swindles.

As for how to avoid vacuous bloviating,

The fewer adjectives we waste, the more difficult it is to lie. And Prolixity is not an excess of words but a dearth of ideas (Aphorisms of Don Colacho).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Lord Save Us From the Bullshit!

While idly perusing Instapundit this morning, I was reminded of the great Law of Brandolini: that The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.

The law is self-evidently true, but why? Why is it so difficult -- if not impossible -- to correct people? I no longer even try, at least with most volks. I had never thought about it before, but it must be because I intuitively understand the Law -- that to set them right will require a major commitment of time and energy.

Now that I think about it, when I was a liberal, I was pretty much oblivious to the Law. Indeed, I assumed that people were quite susceptible to correction with the usual simplistic leftist memes. But in reality, calling someone racist, sexist, or homophobic is rarely convincing. It is emotionally satisfying to the liberal, but merely off-putting to most everyone else.

In a way I envy my son, because he will not have to spend half his life refuting the bullshit he spent the other half assimilating. When I look back at the bullshit I once believed, it's appalling. Why did my parents not protect me from the bullshit? No doubt because that was when the culture and educational establishment were just beginning to take on their present outlines of being the primary transmitters of bullshit. Who knew then that our entire reality was being systematically turned upside-down and inside-out by the left?

A few prescient people, but they were on the fringes. But there is no doubt that a number of 20/∞ visionaries began noticing it by the 1950s, which is precisely when the modern conservative movement got off the ground. The movement is indeed reactionary, in the sense that it is a reaction to all the bullshit.

I just read a book -- not recommended -- on this very subject, called First Principles: Self-Governance in an Open Society. The reason it is not recommended is because the primary sources discussed by the author are so much better than the author's own analysis, which is on the banal side. However, he cites all the right people: Hayek, Weaver, von Mises, Kirk, Buckley, Paul Johnson, Hazlitt, Milton Friedman, Gilder, etc., each of whom, in his own way, attempted to cut through the bullshit.

But why does it take so much energy? I was thinking of this yesterday morning on the way to work while listening to Rush. He was discussing the wikileaks material that is so devastating to Clinton, and was, as usual, full of passion (in a positive way; there was no hysteria, anger, or resentment, as with the left).

I thought of the energy it requires to rouse this level of passion day after day, year after year. But as alluded to above, I no longer wish to do that. I want to have a calm and tranquil life. I don't like the tension. I am pleased that lightning rods such as Coulter, Milo, or David Horowitz exist, but I certainly wouldn't want to be them.

The other day in a comment, Rick asked a question about my transition from left to right, but my response was lost in the digital ether. I remembered that back in the 1990s, when writing about politics from a liberal perspective, I came to a number of conclusions that not only contradicted the party line, but pretty much blew up the whole thing -- although I didn't realize it at the time.

Specifically, I remember writing something about the noxiousness of political correctness, about the intellectual incoherence of relativism, about the bizarre conclusions of feminist extremists, and about the left's magical use of language to alter reality. In each case I naively assumed that I was just saying ideologically neutral things with which any reasonable person would agree. I mean, who could support the linguistic tyranny of political correctness, or believe that men and women are identical, or think there is no objective morality?

Right away I was in violation of Brandolini's law, as I had no idea how much energy it takes to refute these things. Indeed, you could literally spend your entire life doing so, to little wholesale effect. For example, I'm thinking of the hundreds of hours it took for Dennis Prager to get through to me. Just to refute the simple bullshit! But I'm not sure that anything short of this would have succeeded in penetrating my thick skull.

Back to the book alluded to above; in fact, back to the thread we were on prior to that, which was "principles of history."

Actually, I am more interested in Principles as such. I often think of putting together a list of simple, straight-forward principles which not only cut through the bullshit, but permanently inoculate the mind against taking it on board to begin with. Any intellectually honest person would be compelled to assent to these principles, on pain of logical incoherence, absurdity, or self-refutation. Merely to utter one would be to slay a spiritually and intellectually destructive dragon -- like holding the Cross before a vampire, or the Enquirer in front of Hillary.

Where and what are these Principles?

As I have mentioned before, the first one is surely that Truth exists and man may know it. What is the alternative? That truth doesn't exist? Or that man cannot know it? Either one is the end of all rational thought, for it is to condemn man to an absolute and irremediable cosmic stupidity.

Now if Religion is true, it seems to me that its very purpose would be to incarnate these Principles without which our minds cannot be saved -- especially from themselves. Or in other words, religion is here to save us from the bullshit, precisely. Or, let us say that a religion is true insofar as it conveys to us the Principles and cuts through the bullshit.

I want to say that Thomas Aquinas did this, but again, think of the energy he expended to get the job done! How many millions of words did he write? You could literally spend your entire life studying him, but is there an easier way, a Raccoon way, a Tao te Slack?

It seems to me that the Ten Commandments would be a fine way to start. The first three, in one form or another, are absolutely essential to mental hygiene, that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; that Thou shalt have no other gods before me; and that Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

For me, this is all really a way of saying that Truth exists and man may know it: that Truth is what saves us from slavery and sets us free; that we are not It; and that attempts to fashion our own truth separate from the one Truth are doomed to failure.

There is another principle we've often discussed, which happens to be the founding principle of the United States: that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, including the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thus, our founding document takes Principle One and Commandments one through three for granted. For example, recall that Jefferson's original idea for the design of the seal of the United States was Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt; or Hamilton's crack that the sacred rights -- and I would add principles -- of mankind are written in human nature "by the hand of Divinity itself, and can never be erased by mortal power"; or Jefferson's gag that "the God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time."

It only makes sense, because truth and freedom must be complementary. That is to say, an unfree being could never discover truth, and if truth doesn't exist, then we are hardly free -- rather, just condemned to meaningless horizontal drift through the cosmic bullshit.

To become cultivated is to understand that a particular class of questions is meaningless.


The leftist emulates the devout who continue venerating the relic after the miracle has been proved to be a hoax. --Aphorisms of Don Colacho.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Light Pollution

I've read of certain songwriters who always have their ears open for snippets of conversation they can incorporate into lyrics, or which can sometimes inspire a whole song. Smokey Robinson did that a lot -- he overheard someone say "I second that emotion," and the song wrote itself. Similarly, John Lennon turned a couple of Ringo-isms into songs, "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "A Hard Day's Night."

So, I was at the seminar last Friday when the presenter made an offhand reference to "light pollution." He was talking about how many more stars are visible in the desert, away from all the light pollution of the city. It immediately occurred to me that there is a post hidden in that term -- either that or a hit song.

Our ancient furbears wouldn't have comprehended the idea. For them there was light and darkness, the former an unambiguously good thing, the latter a dangerous -- and even dark! -- quality. You couldn't have too much light. But you could certainly have too much darkness. Remember, before the invention of electric light in the 19th century, darkness was total. Nowadays we rarely encounter anything like it, even, say, while camping. That's only pretend darkness.

It is important to bear this in mind whenever we encounter the symbolism of dark and light in premodern literature -- for example, "the Light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it," or "I am the light of the world." Those were very bold and vivid statements in a world that couldn't just flip a switch to illuminate their space.

From the earliest times, it seems that light and thought have been equated. To prove that claim, I'm looking in the index of my Familiar Quotations, but the references are too numerous. Too much light! Here's a line by Paul from 1 Timothy: "Ye are all the children of light, and the children of day: we are not of the night, nor of the darkness." Here's one from Ecclesiastes: "Wisdom exceeds folly, as far as light exceeds darkness." And from 1 John: "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."

Interesting. The 18th century poet Thomas Gray writes of the possibility of too much light, or at least more than we can handle: He saw; but blasted with excess of light, / Closed his eyes in endless night. And Matthew Arnold makes reference to Light half-believers of our casual creeds, / Who never deeply felt, nor clearly willed...

Here's a crack by Goethe: Someday perhaps the inner light will shine forth from us, and then we shall need no other light. Ah. Here's a good one from Theodor Roethke: Who rise from flesh to spirit know the fall: / The word outleaps the world, and light is all.

Here is a cosmic -- if somewhat pantheistic sounding -- sentiment expressed by Jean Toomer : Beyond plants are animals, / Beyond animals is man, / Beyond man is the universe, / The Big Light, / Let the Big Light in!

Ooh. This was still the common sentiment when I began attending college: "A university should be a place of light, of liberty, and of learning" (Disraeli). It has since become a place of darkness, thought control, and indoctrination.

There are obviously many more, but let's move on.

I'm thinking of the Upanishads, which often symbolize God as the sun and Light as wisdom or liberation. The Isha Upanishad says Worlds there are without suns, covered up with darkness. To these after death go the ignorant.

Well, not anymore. Now you can just go to college. Progress!

To darkness are they doomed who worship only the body, and to a greater darkness they who worship only the spirit. What is the solution to this conundrum? Incarnation. You know, the Light becomes darkness that the darkness may become Light.

It seems that there was once a recognition that all light was of the Light. For this reason, you wouldn't confuse a candle with the sun, nor would you utilize a flashlight to try to locate it. Which is why you don't go searching after God with just the light of (lower case r) reason. Rather, reason itself is a reflection of the Light you seek.

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad lays out the Whole Point of it all: Lead me from the unreal to the real, / Lead me from darkness to light / Lead me from death to immortality.

Now, light pollution. What could that be? Think of standing in the middle of the Las Vegas strip. Plenty of light there. But try seeing the stars. There won't be any. Except the living dead ones on stage.

I would say that for human light to be functional, it must be a prolongation of the divine light. Or at least it cannot presume to exist independently without taking on a kind of darkness. In other words, knowledge must be illuminated by wisdom. Scientism, or positivism, or pragmatism, for example, are knowledge without light. And for certain souls, they can become so bright that they obscure the very Light from which they emanate.

But the liberal media are the quintessential case of light pollution. Being in and of that world is analogous to standing on the Vegas strip and seeing nothing beyond it. Academia is only slightly better. Or worse. I can't make up my mind. Consider:

"32 Percent of Millennials Believe George W. Bush Killed More People Than Stalin." Whose fault is this? Is it the fault of the light pollution of the media? Or the propagation of darkness by academia?

I reject this false alternative. It's both.