Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Death, Man, and Anti-Man

Does all humanism nurse a hidden (or not so hidden) anti-humanism? If not, it is only because it fails to draw out its own anti-human implications. Rather, it stops at an arbitrary point, imagining that Man will be able to stand on his own. In reality,

nothing is more fundamentally inhuman than the “purely human,” the illusion of constructing a perfect man starting from the individual and terrestrial; whereas the human in the ideal sense draws its reason for existence and its entire content from that which transcends the individual and the earthly.

Humanism is the reign of horizontality, either naïve or perfidious; and since it is also -- and by that very fact -- the negation of the Absolute, it is a door open to a multitude of sham absolutes, which in addition are often negative, subversive, and destructive (Schuon).

Take Google, for example. They always change their logo in celebration of various holidays, but I read somewhere that for the 18th straight year they failed to recognize Easter, an obviously intended in-your-apophasis slight to Christians. Which is fine. It's a free society. Thanks to Judeo-Christian values. Besides, their corporate creed is Don't Be Evil. What could go wrong with such a self-evident imperative? Who needs the Ten Commandments when you can reduce them to one?

Memo to our ill-educated internet overlords:

The initial contradiction of humanism is that, if one man can prescribe for himself an ideal that pleases him, so too can someone else, for the same reason, prescribe for himself another ideal....

The moral ideal of humanism is inefficacious because it is subject to the tastes of the moment, or to fashion, if one wishes; for positive qualities are fully human only in connection with the will to surpass oneself, hence only in relation to what transcends us. Just as man’s reason for being does not lie within man as such, so too, man’s qualities do not represent an end in themselves.... A quality is fully legitimate only on condition that in the last analysis it be linked to necessary Being, not to mere contingency, that is, to what is merely possible.

Recall that we are in the midst of a lengthy meditation on Aping Mankind, by a humanist who very much wants to distinguish himself from all those other anti-human humanists who inevitably preach animalism in disguise, because they lack any principle upon which to make such a distinction.

This is ineluctably true. Yesterday I saw a clip in which Bill Maher is going on about how conservatives Hate the Planet. Whatever. But do tell, why does this matter? Take your time. This is not a 15 minute segment pandering to low information leftists. We'll give you all the time you need to square this absurcularity.

By the way, in the same segment he derided the emotionally driven thinking of Americans. Good! Please explain why we should care about The Planet, or about future generations, or even "logic," with no emotional appeals whatsoever.

Stupidity is annoying enough, but when it shrouds itself in such pompous moral superiority... Why, it's enough to make a man hate religion.

Note also that Maher's style of humanism is always anti-humanistic at the core. More generally, the left loves mankind in the abstract. It's individual human beings they can't stand. Maher cannot disguise his contempt for half the citizenry.

Conversely, any religiously informed Christian must be quite skeptical of mankind. That's what you call a firm foundation of wisdom, without which you are bound to, oh, fly too close to the sun, or build a tower that collapses in on itself, or create one more sacrificial system to appease your strange and bloodthirsty gods. Same old same old terrestrial circle that man can only exit via a vertical leap.

This review is going rather slowly. I see we're still stuck on page 3. Oh well. We've got all the time in the world. At least until we don't. The Black Mirror of Death is always peering over our shoulder, if not giving us a snidelong glance from the sidebar.

But without Death we'd have no reason to think about Life at all. Death is quite literally the father of Sophia. I'm up to page 11 in that book, but there are already a number of arresting gags, such as Death destroys a man; the idea of death saves him (by E.M. Forster). Or, try this on for size:

"The shadow reveals the light" -- says it all. The unspeakable Nothing italicizes at least some of the Everything that is life. While death destroys us in fact, the thought of our own non-existence may save us from triviality, from entrapment in secondary things.... To be oblivious to death is to be only half-awake.

Half? That's charitable. But I want to focus on the sentence prior to that, in particular, "may" and "save," but also "triviality" and "secondary." For if there are secondary things, there must be a primary one, no? And if there exists trivia, then surely there is Importance -- who knows, perhaps even the One Thing Needful. Mustn't trivia, in order to exist at all, be parasitic on the non-trivial?

More generally, mustn't tenure be parasitic on something surpassing itself? Why would we ever recognize "free speech" if it doesn't presume responsible speech? Indeed, why care about speech at all if it isn't a function of truth (for the converse is impossible and unthinkable anyway)?

Is leftism parasitic on conservatism? You betcha'. Their whole economic program, for example, is all about distribution of wealth rather than its creation. They simply assume the latter, as if it just happens -- or rather, because the One Percent stole it from the restavus.

Which is like complaining that the top ten hitters in baseball hit fifty percent of the home runs, so we need to distribute them to more needy hitters. It's not fair that big Mike Trout already has nine home runs, while skinny little Dee Gordon has only one.

Tallis describes his meditation on death as "a walk across a tightrope that has nothing to hook on to at the other side because there is no other side."

Next to which I wrote in the margin: like that's even possible. I mean, since you are walking on the tightrope, and the tightrope is somehow remaining suspended in midair, perhaps it is hooked on to the other side. You don't have to call it God. Yet. Rather, how about just retaining an open mind? Something is holding you up in this space of transcendence, and it is not your genes, much less matter.

It very much reminds me of a comment by Stanley Jaki about free will. What holds it up? No wonder the materialites just deny it. That's much easier -- like cutting off the branch you're sitting on and remaining in the air. Anyone can do it! Or better, cutting the flower from the stem. The flower will live. For a few days.

But in reality, "What is needed is merely an intimation that freedom or rather free will belies mere material existence. Once that intimation is reflected upon, nothing prevents that one should be seized by a sense of metaphysics." Soon enough you realize that "All arguments against free will are so many proofs of it" (Jaki).

You're free! But how? Well, the "registering of the reality of one's free will" brings us "face to face with the realm of metaphysical reality which hangs in mid-air unless suspended from that Ultimate Reality, best called God" (Jaki). Or, let's just call it O: free will is a vertical lightrope suspended between man and O. Who could disagree, without proving it?

Lightrope. You could say that the intellect is our reaching toward O, while revelation is the Divine Intellect reaching toward us, which is how the whole innerprize remains suspended in midair: "Revelation is none other than the objective and symbolic manifestation of the Light which man carries in himself, in the depths of his being; it reminds him of what he is, and of what he should be since he has forgotten what he is" (Schuon).

A couple more points, and then we're out of time. Tallis properly notes that Death is never "a neat full stop at the end of the final sentence, of the final paragraph, of the final chapter, of a life. It is the profoundest of all interruptions."

Yes. Unless. Unless what? We're coming to that. Earlier in the book he quotes Auden, who suggests that this Unless must pass a strict test, that it must be "something a man of honor, awaiting death from cancer or a firing squad could read without contempt." A high bar indeed!

I don't see any way over the bar unless God himself goes under it and submits to death, but who would ever suggest such a strange idea?


julie said...

Death is quite literally the father of Sophia.

Yes, just so.

the thought of our own non-existence may save us from triviality, from entrapment in secondary things.... To be oblivious to death is to be only half-awake.

Along those lines, I clicked through to the Amazon link for The Black Mirror. Below the listing, under the heading "Sponsored products related to this item," they have listed such deep and non-trivial works as, "What's in the Panties?" and "Dowse your way to Psychic Power."

What a strange world we live in.

Gagdad Bob said...

Even worse, a page for the New York Dolls has sponsored links to dolls. Blasphemy!

julie said...

Ha - that's hilarious. Nothing but Cabbage Patch Kids and baby fairies. Gotta love those algorithms.

Anonymous said...

Quite right, conservatives are concerned with the creation of wealth, whereas the humanist is concerned with the distribution of wealth and doesn't seem to think about where it comes from.
Making the humanist parasitic (just so).

Ironically humanists create "virtual" wealth with their nefarious internet activities and so forth, however they don't really mean to do so.

Real wealth creation comes from growing plants, mining minerals, and tapping energy sources. These are then processed into goods and services for all.

Ironically, both and humanist and conservative will together be buried by surplus wealth within 300 years. Only a few individuals see this coming. It will be a "pleasant surprise" at first, and then the cataclysmic implications and sequelae will set in, setting the stage for the bitter psychological challenges faced by the "Third Wave" civilization of the years 5000-6500 AD.