Friday, January 06, 2017

Who Gets To Be Jesus?

"A solicitude for victims and those who might remotely be seen as scapegoats is one of the most distinctive features of societies that have fallen under Christian influence" (Bailie). However, Bailie adds the important caveat that "Moral improvement operates on the individual level, where each moral agent faces particular dilemmas."

Consider how the left is struggling with how to deal with the recent brutalization of a Trump supporter by four African Americans in Chicago. They are not accustomed to interpreting victimhood on an individual basis, but rather, a collective one.

Indeed, the left is essentially a coalition of self-designated victim groups, which, in a perversion of Christianity, confers an air of sinlessness upon the victim group. Therefore it is unnecessary to actually cultivate the ability to think morally, for morality is known a priori: blacks, women, Muslims, homosexuals, and illegal immigrants are intrinsically innocent.

Even if they film themselves torturing a white person. The Washington Post conceded the attack looked bad, but couldn't help equating the torturers with the Trump supporters who will no doubt exploit the incident to misappropriate holy victim status: the "gist of the article is this: Kidnapping and torture is bad, but it's also bad that Trump supporters are using the attack to reaffirm their false notions about violence in Chicago, media bias and persecution of white people."

Here are some similar sentiments: "Calm down my white friends… your white privilege is showing." "You’re acting like white folks haven’t been doing this to [People of Color] throughout history, but now a Caucasian man gets attacked and it’s suddenly wahala (sic)." "[W]hite people cannot suffer racism, it’s an actual impossibility if you understand WTF racism is.” “I’m sick of these white men crying 'racist' when crimes are committed against whites. “[B]lack people die at the hands of white terrorists everyday." Etc.

Countless additional examples could be found. What's really at stake here is Who Gets To Be Jesus? These leftists can't help imagining that we think the way they do: that if this white person in Chicago is a victim, then all white people are victims. Which only an idiot would think.

A morally normal person doesn't think this way. Rather, we judge each case on the merits. This is precisely what the moral perverts of Black Lives Matter cannot do, in that their founding myth is the victimhood of the psychopathic thug Michael Brown. Or at least he is the exemplar and symbol of the deeper and more pervasive myth of victimhood.

The "quintessential function of primitive sacrifice" is the "attempt to evade death by foisting it onto another" (Bailie). What is so intriguing about the left is that they manage to indulge in the sacrifice while imagining that the sacrificers are the victims. Not to invoke Godwin's law, but this is precisely how the Nazis justified their genocide: to the end, they insisted they were victims of the Jews.

In Hitler's last known statement he spoke of his great "love and loyalty to my people in all my thoughts, acts, and life," and of how he was only thwarted by International Jewry, "the real criminal of this murderous struggle." He even killed himself in order to avoid being a human sacrifice by the Jews: "I do not wish to fall into the hands of an enemy who requires a new spectacle organized by the Jews for the amusement of their hysterical masses."

He makes another appeal to the sacrificial motif: "From the sacrifice of our soldiers and from my own unity with them unto death, will in any case spring up in the history of Germany, the seed of a radiant renaissance of the National Socialist movement and thus of the realization of a true community of nations. Many of the most courageous men and women have decided to unite their lives with mine until the very last." Martyrs, Vine, and Resurrection.

I've mentioned before that one can learn a great deal about mental illness by seeing it in its more extreme versions. Similarly, Hitler lays bare the sacrificial mechanism in a completely transparent way -- as did, for example, the Aztec. Their psychic economy was similar to the Third Reich, except it lasted for a couple hundred years instead of just twelve. Carroll places the number of human sacrifices at 50,000 a year, possibly more. What were they thinking?

Interestingly, Carroll writes that "While the lords and common people of the Aztec empire were rigorously conditioned to think and act collectively rather than individually" (emphasis mine) their Christian "counterparts in Spain were exactly the opposite..." For them, God himself had "been a Victim of the dark powers which ruled Tlacaellel's Mexico."

In all of history this was perhaps the most sudden and shocking confluence of the two streams of history, the sacrificial and the post-sacrificial. But that divide nevertheless persists in the human heart.

Again, so long as the creatures of the left can sustain their victim status, then their a priori innocence shields them from moral condemnation. They can rob, murder, riot, and burn down their cities, but if you hold them accountable, then you are blaming the victim. This provokes a "Christian outrage," minus the Christianity.

Once there was a world within the world, self-contained, complete within itself. On its every side were impassable barriers made by the gods... --Warren Carroll

The leftist screams that freedom is dying when his victims refuse to finance their own murders. --Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Remystify what You Have and Demystify what You Want

Not only do we want, but we want to want. Yes, that's a bit of a cliché, but let's see if we can scratch beneath the sophist.

I'm thinking in particular of collecting. Do you collect anything? For me it is music. I've been collecting since I was about 11 or so, but if I had kept everything I've collected since then, it would probably fill my house. This hasn't happened because I mainly patronize used record stores, and trade things I no longer want for the things I do. It's a never-ending process.

It seems that you can't Want what you already have, or at least in the same way. We need a different word for the relationship: wanting a CD I don't have is phenomenologically very different from wanting one I already have. Something is demystified the moment I have it. Or perhaps "wanting" the object imbues it with mystery. But once you have it, poof. Mystery solved -- if "solved" is the right word, which it isn't. Rather, the mystery is just displaced to a new object.

No doubt "womanizing" partakes of the same process. Some men go through supermodels the way I go through CDs.

Back when I was in graduate school and pondering dissertation topics, one idea that came to mind was The Remystification of the Mind. I see that my auto-spell quickly corrected me and insisted upon Demystification. I can see why: probably nothing demystifies as quickly as a computer, particularly one connected to the internet. With it, one needn't even take the time to cultivate a robust Want. Think about what's going on when you find yourself -- and you know you do -- mindlessly clicking from site to site, looking for... what, exactly?

"Much that passes for desire today is so ephemeral and evanescent that it must be acted upon posthaste before it dissipates or is replaced by yet another mimetic enticement. Such feeble desires are quickly recycled, each giving rise, phoenix-like, to yet another effervescent faux-desire" (Bailie).

Quick! Fulfill me before the sensation passes! What's the old line? Instant gratification is too slow, or something.

Our liberal unintelligentsia speak of "micro-aggression," which comes down to a perversely cultivated ability to discover victimhood in any context. But there really is something like "micro-desire," isn't there? At the far end of wanting to want, "the halfhearted impulses that pass for desire are likely to grow more fickle, more impatient, and more in need of external stimulants and pharmacological enhancements."

Soon enough, now! isn't fast enough, and micro-desire shades off into quantum desire. This has the effect of dismembering the human now, which is all we ever have in this life.

I'm not sure if we're succeeding in getting beneath the surface. So far, just a lot of pneumababble.

Another more subtle aspect of collecting is the creation of what I would call a "micro-world." It is as if the collection stands in for some completed dream-ideal. If you can just acquire that last missing piece, the world will be complete! Which of course it never is.

By the way, I don't want to imply that I still fall for such obvious tricks of the devil. Rather, I am very much aware of the phenomenology of it all, and see it as a way to indulge my futile desires in a low-cost way. It is not as if I am throwing my money away on Porsches or fine Italian shoes or supermodels or whatever.

It seems that Jesus tries to tackle this whole desiring business head on. We know that the Buddha did too, in his own way. Come to think of it, religion is in many ways a means for properly structuring and directing desire, isn't it?

Bailie notes that in Jesus' case, he famously claims that "Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Such a bold statement can only be made by someone who has long meditated on the nature of desire. What he's implying is that we don't actually want what we think we want, with the result that we can never get enough of what we don't really need. That is the endless cycle of desire, and he is offering a way out of it.

So many the Aphorist's truth grenades go to this.

But before getting to them, a thoughtlet just occurred to me vis-a-vis politics. What is the left but the ideology of wanting? Everything about it comes down to compelling the state to convert desires into rights and wishes into entitlements. Your wanting becomes the state's taking.

The act of despoiling an individual of his goods is called robbery, when another individual does the despoiling. And social justice, when an entire collective entity robs him.

A proper conservatism is a much tougher sell, because it revolves around who we are as a people rather than what we want. Just make America great again, and we'll take care of the rest. Indeed, America's greatness consisted in just that: a system through which we could actualize our latent potential and rise or fall based upon our own merits.

Having said that, beware: for The gods do not punish the pursuit of happiness but the ambition to forge it with our own hands. The only licit desire is for something gratuitous, for something that does not depend on us at all.

Oh really?

That's right: Desire thinks that it desires what it desires, but it only desires God.

Indeed, One single being can be enough for you. But Man can never be enough for you.

Nevertheless, Man does not feel free as long as his passions do not enslave him -- so long as he isn't lost in the evanescent satisfaction of fleeting micro-desires.

That is a perversion of our God-given freedom. What is its real purpose?

Freedom is not indispensable because man knows what he wants and who he is, but in order for him to know who he is and what he wants.

Perhaps we could summarize by saying that we should start by remystifying what we have and demystifying what we think we want.

Everything that makes man feel that mystery envelops him makes him more intelligent (all aphorism by Nicolás Gómez Dávila).

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

I Don't Know What I Want, But I Want it Now

Very little time this morning...

Continuing with yesterday's theme, or themes rather: why the Incarnation, and what do you want? If Bailie is correct, the questions are linked, in that we want the Incarnation and all it implies.

"We spend much or all of our lives wanting, punctuated only momentarily by fleeting moments of satisfaction, rarely pondering the implications of this gigantic fact of our existence or realizing that it is what defines our species" (Bailie).

Actually, I do ponder the implications of this gigantic fact, and have done so for most of my conscious life. Not that I ever fully resolved the question, but I did notice -- certainly by adolescence -- that fulfillment of a desire didn't fill one very full, or at least for very long. Rather, it was like trying to fill a hole on the beach with water.

At the same time, I also noticed that fleeting satisfactions are all we are given in this life; and that satisfaction is satisfaction is satisfaction. You could be hugely ambitious in the hope that the fulfilled ambition would lead to some permanent satisfaction, but it doesn't work that way. I never imagined that, say, if I became a doctor or lawyer or Indian chief or whatever, that it would resolve anything fundamental.

At any rate, that was my rationale for being utterly devoid of ambition. And for awhile it was my rationale for a headlong hedonism that lasted from, oh, about 17 and a-half to 25. After that I distinctly remember the Light coming on and becoming increasingly more luminous, or at least illuminating more area.

Oh, and one more important thing I noticed was that there was no necessary relationship between desire and fulfillment. Maybe because I was given to moodiness, but I couldn't help noticing that I was often in an elevated and expansive mood for no reason at all; and that I could feel down when everything was going well. This gave me the idea that it was all up to me -- that fulfillment was some sort of interior process or state, independent of exterior circumstances.

All of these factors naturally pushed me toward eastern religions, Buddhism in particular. When the Buddha said that desire is the source of human suffering, that sounded good to me. The trouble was, my desire had merely been displaced to a deeper level: a desire to feel good all the time!

It was a classic catch 22: "desire is the source of suffering, and I desire an absence of suffering." D'oh!

Anyway, "Other creatures don't want as humans do." They want, but they don't let things get out of hand and begin desiring. Simple body-bound appetites have an appropriate object.

But again, Desire is infinite. Indeed, if you can't get someone to go along with the Absolute, you can certainly acquaint them with its first fruit, the Infinite. In truth you cannot be human and be unaware of either, but the Absolute often takes an implicit form while the Infinite is obviously very experience-near: we don't ask for much, only everything.

A human being who doesn't want is hardly worth the name. One of the most painful aspects of clinical depression is anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure.

Without even being consciously aware of it, "pleasure" in one form or another is our guidance system through life. It works automatically, making all sorts of micro decisions and steering us this way or that. Remove it and man is paralyzed. A deeply depressed person can do this or that, but neither one matters. Life becomes drained of all meaning.

So, desire is obviously important. It is analogous to our ability to experience pain. No one likes it, but imagine how quickly life would be over if we couldn't sense it. Pain has its place, as does desire.

But desire is not physical; it is quite literally meta-physical, in that nothing merely physical can satisfy it. We all have our animal pleasures. But "Desires, more than pleasures, define and sum up your personal identity." You know the crack: Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Back in my hedonic days, the Raspberries were one of my favorite groups. They were never very popular, because they specialized in three minute power pop gems when the times called for bloated, meandering, and self-indulgent twenty minute jams with inscrutable lyrics. They had a reunion about ten years ago. Here they are, expressing an unseemly sentiment for grown men, but one that once made sense to me: I don't know what I want, but I want it NOW!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

What Do You Want?

This is the subject of the next chapter of God's Gamble, the book with which we have been gamboling for the last month.

The Incarnation is ultimately for the purpose of salvation. But from what, exactly? What if one is unaware of any need for salvation? Well, Christ said he came not for the righteous but for the sinner, not for the healthy but for the sick. So, you are probably either a saint or just too sick to notice how sick you've become.

Which happens. The latter, I mean (there are not too many spontaneous saints, but plenty of clueless sinners).

It is analogous to how the most mentally ill people are the last to know they are mentally ill. These people are especially irritating, because they force everyone around them to adapt to their illness. There is an element of bullying to it, even if unconscious (which it usually is, again, because they aren't aware of their pathology).

I should amend what I said about people who are mentally ill being the last to know. This is generally not true of what are called "axis I" disorders, e.g., a typical anxiety or depressive condition. These are (usually) time-limited illnesses that afflict an individual -- as when one catches a cold or flu.

Axis II disorders are of a very different nature. Instead of a person with an illness, the person is the illness. These are the personality disorders, e.g., paranoid, schizoid, narcissistic, borderline, etc. Whereas neurosis is more of a surface phenomenon, the personality disorder affects the very structure of the person, all the way to the foundation -- which is why it is difficult for the person to "see" it, for it is that with which they see.

I wonder if there is something analogous on the spiritual plane, i.e., spiritual neuroses and spiritual personality disorders? If so, a neurosis will be relatively easy to "cure." Expose the person to the truth and he will be conflicted about it; although he may reflexively reject it, something inside will nevertheless ring a bell, so to speak.

But a spiritual personality disorder will be much more intense than this. Here you might see an overt war on God instead of a conflicted or ambivalent rejection. The Aphorist has quite a few that go to this, for example, The atheist devotes himself less to proving that God does not exist than to forbidding Him to exist. And Militant irreligion gradually transforms the one possessed into a simple imbecile convulsed by hatred. He incarnates his godlessness, you might say.

I'm trying to think back to what motivated me during my atheistic phase. Hmm. A mixture of things: superiority, to be sure. Although "annoyed" by believers, there was a kind of perverse joy involved in skewering them with atheistic arguments to which they had no answer.

Then again, my rationalistic arguments rarely gained any real traction in my interlocutor, so it reverted back to my own annoyance. If you think you can talk people out of their faith with mere rationalistic arguments, you are going to be very frustrated.

Allied with superiority and rationalism (i.e., pseudo-reason) is an utterly fraudulent self-sufficiency. In order to maintain the illusion, one must remain completely oblivious to one's own assumptions. The person who imagines he can think in the absence of metaphysics simply has a primitive and unexamined metaphysic. Such persons are often the toughest nuts to crack, since they are educated to the height of stupidity. Most of our tenured fall into this category: for them, Instruction does not cure foolishness; it equips it (NGD).

Obama, is our most educated -- which is to say, indoctrinated -- president. A man who refuses to bow before what is superior to him is a worthless man: rebellion or obedience. Man establishes there his godlike pride or his creaturely humility (NGD).

He who does not believe in God can at least have the decency of not believing in himself (NGD). I mean, not having faith in God is understandable. But having faith in oneself is preposterous. Unless one is utterly without self-reflection. Do you not know with whom you are dealing?

He avoids announcing to man his divinity, but proposes goals that only a god could reach, or rather proclaims that the essence of man has rights that assume he is divine. To even speak of freedom, or truth, or beauty, or love, without reference to God, is a crass usurpation, no matter how "intelligent." For As long as we do not arrive at religious categories, our explanations are not founded upon rock (ibid.).

Or rather, to drill down to the rock is to discover God. Authentic atheism is a blank page (ibid.). Nothing can be affirmed or denied -- not even nothing. It is to be sealed in absolute stupidity.

The truth does not need the adherence of man in order to be certain (ibid.). Truth is necessary. People are contingent. But -- speaking of the Incarnation -- the truth becomes contingent so that the contingent might become true.

Gosh. We haven't even scratched God's Gamble, which is what this post is supposed to be about. Bailie begins the chapter with a poem that gets "inside" the Fall, which is, among other things, a fall into multiplicity.

Now, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with multiplicity, so long as one never forgets that it is the consequence of a prior unity. But eliminating the unity necessarily renders the multiplicity absurd: Like a child / at a barbaric fairgrounds -- / noise, lights, the violent odors -- / Adam fragments himself. The whirling rides!

The poem speaks of his confused attention to everything, / impassioned by multiplicity, his despair. Thus Fragmented, / he is not present to himself. God / suffers the void that is his absence.

We can foolishly forget God, but it seems God never forgets our farce.

Next he quotes Pope Francis, who affirms that "Once man has lost the fundamental orientation which unifies his existence, he breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires." You might say that desire becomes intrinsically dis-ordered, being that it is no longer ordered to its proper object -- the only object that can possibly satisfy a desire that is literally infinite.

For as mentioned in a previous post, one aspect of the Hominization Event involves the liberation of desire from instinct. If the newly liberated desire is not rooted in unity, then it bursts into a million fragments.

The rest is history -- at least its underside. If desire isn't ordered to the Infinite, then it redounds to absurdity and frustration, "kaleidoscopic refractions of the single desire to which [our] teeming desiderata of longings must be ordered if [we] are to flourish and find fulfillment" (Bailie).

Life "disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants. Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another." It is not a journey, just an aimless wandering with no conceivable end.

And God must incarnate in just this collideorescape world! His rescue mission has many facets, but surely one of them is to reorder desire to its proper object. "Jesus was himself the message he came to deliver" (Bailie).

Bailie makes a provocative observation, that the very first words uttered by Jesus (in the book of John) are What do you want? (1:38; my translation reads What do you seek?, but the meaning is the same, for we seek what we want.)

"It would not be too much to say that Jesus came into the world to help humanity come to grips with that question" (Bailie).

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