Monday, August 20, 2018

What I'm Talking About: A Skeleton Key to the Cosmos

In the interest of time -- of catching up with myself -- and in the effort to focus my wandering attention, I'm going to attempt to reduce the end of civilization to aphorisms, epigrams, haikus, and fine insultainment.

As to catching up with myself, I read Slouching to Gomorrah a month ago, but haven't come close to elucidating its many provocative points.

It's important for me to discuss these as they arise, because if I don't, they tend -- like dreams -- to drift back to where they came from. Problem is, I was way behind before I even picked up this book, and there have been subsequent books that need to be enbloggened before they too melt back into bobscurity.

Remember, Bork's main point is that our civilizational crisis not only has much deeper roots than we realize, but may be an inevitable entailment of certain choices made long ago. I might add that although published in the mid-1990s, everything he prophecied has come to pass -- with interest -- even though the main criticism of him at the time was that he was a hysterical reactionary cassandra.

Incidentally, what is a prophet? I read somewhere that a prophet doesn't actually see the future, rather, just peers deeply into the present so as to read the Signs of the Times. It seems to me that those signs were so legible to him, that they informed him of both future and past (to say nothing of the present).

Deep time. Which is to say, time has a depth dimension in the present. Indeed, what we call a "deep" person is someone who has access to this depth, AKA the vertical. Likewise, the purpose of an education is to provide us with at least some access to this depth, although the average person will have little interest in or aptitude for it.

Moreover, given the cultural inversion we are living through, education tends to be inversely related to this depth. To put it conversely, anyone can be shallow, but it takes years of higher education to seal one into a nul-de-slack of acquired error.

Recall the previous post, which mentioned Finnegans Wake. Now, that is what we call deep time, or at least a serious attempt at accessing and communicating it:

Its mechanics resemble those of a dream, a dream which has freed the author from the necessities of common logic and has enabled him to compress all periods of history, all phases of individual and racial development, into a circular design, of which every part is beginning, middle, and end (Campbell & Robinson).

Now, that's what I'm talking about. I'm not saying it's possible. Rather, that it's the only thing that really interests me in this world. Compared to it, everything else is pretty much tedious. For if you dig deep enough beneath the surface, then everything becomes interesting in its light:

On this revolving stage, mythological heroes and events of remotest antiquity occupy the same spatial and temporal planes as modern personages and contemporary happenings. All time occurs simultaneously...

Emphasis mine because THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!

Multiple meanings are present in every line; interlocking allusions to key words and phrases are woven like fugal themes into the pattern of the work.

What I am saying -- and what I'm sure Joyce intended -- is that this is the only way to go about truly understanding the world -- to unpack the nonlocal layers beneath the snooze of the day.

I'll give you a banal example. I'm giving my son a "Christian education," not just to make him Christian, but to help him understand and interpret the world. Now, when he sees a film, for example, -- anything from Star Wars to Gran Torino to the Dark Knight to the Big Lebowski -- he is able to discern the Christian motifs.

In this sense, Christianity is not something to look at but through; it is a lens that allows us to perceive realities that will otherwise go undetected, even into the very structure of the cosmos. Deep time. You could say that that is the point of Christianity, which is none other than infinitude plunged into history.

Please bear in mind that I'm not recommending Finnegans Wake to anyone, rather, just using it as an example of What I'm Talking About. But just like reality or history itself, "it appears to be a dense and baffling jungle, trackless and overgrown with wanton perversities of form and language." Gosh. If only someone could come up with a key or something.

And now this post is finally getting somewhere, because that is what we really need -- in both education and just life in general -- a key. Or better yet, a skeleton key, which is "a type of master key" that "can open numerous locks." "The term derives from the fact that the key has been reduced to its essential parts."

A key that has been reduced to its essentials so as to open many locks. Er, what is an aphorism?

If words have no meaning, reality has no content.

If reality were socially constructed, man could never know it.

Liberalism was a fine idea until liberals got ahold of it.

If you're really serious about eliminating inequality, you'll abolish freedom and standards.

Without state-mandated discrimination, excellence would run roughshod over mediocrity.

If no culture is superior to another, then you can shut up about diversity.

Diversity is our strength so long as reality isn't at issue.

Any idiot can survive poverty. The question for our time is whether he can survive affluence.

And any idiot can survive and even thrive in certain types of ignorance. But there is a serious question as to whether civilization can survive so many of its members attending college.

Junk food is designed to hijack certain innate preferences with hyper-palatable stimuli. Likewise, modern education hijacks the natural inclinations of the soul with intensely pleasurable substitutes that lead to spiritual and intellectual malnourishment.

Probably our spiritual decline would have arrived a century earlier had we not been disciplined by economic depression and global conflict.

Affluence is a terrible master. Its obnoxious spawn are entitlement, ingratitude, impatience, and boredom.

Convenience and instant gratification render the existence of time an intolerable imposition.

The ranks of the Resistance are filled with people who can resist anything but an impulse.

Female liberation is mostly a consequence of male technology. You're welcome.


Leslie Godwin said...

"A key that has been reduced to its essentials so as to open many locks."

That is exactly what I try to do with Tristan's homeschooling! I love this analogy.

It seems to some Tiger Moms I know that our 2 hours of school a day isn't going to get the job done. But if you eliminate the indoctrination your child would get in public school that there are almost 100 genders, you don't have to spend that extra hour each morning for everyone to discern their pronoun for the day. Then, you stay focused on what is essential, and it's time for recess already.

I really encourage parents who don't already homeschool to consider it. It's not as hard as it sounds, you don't have to be on the level of a professional teacher for each subject, but you do get to decide what is in -- and out -- of the curriculum. And if your child can get through an education without hating learning and having been pointed toward the True the Good and the Beautiful, you've succeeded.

They will continue to learn their whole lives unless they hate learning. And if they love learning, opening locks will be a source of joy for them.

julie said...

Leslie, well said. I think we’re going to try to get started next week, depending on how well we are settled by then. My kids won’t know much about the current fads in education, but they do get to start with the Sword of Damocles.

You could say that that is the point of Christianity, which is none other than infinitude plunged into history.

Not only that, but it offers a way out and up from the merely absurcular repetition.

Gagdad Bob said...

A cure for the same old same old.

Leslie Godwin said...

Julie, I was going to mention that I am so glad you will be homeschooling this year! But I didn't want to make you feel obligated to comment. I can't wait to hear how you all are doing.

Funny, the name of our homeschool is "Sword of Damocles" ;)

julie said...

Ha - that's a great name. Ours is going the be "The Lyceum." The school mascot is the esquilax ;)

Leslie said...

This makes me so happy. It is ALL good. And the fruit that comes from it is delicious.

Van Harvey said...

"And any idiot can survive and even thrive in certain types of ignorance. But there is a serious question as to whether civilization can survive so many of its members attending college."

Ain't that the truth.

Van Harvey said...

Leslie said "Funny, the name of our homeschool is "Sword of Damocles" ;)"

That is soOo awesome, in so many ways!

Rick said...

Are we still talking about time travel?*

Anybody notice I was gone?*

I like the part about what a prophet is -- Cooncur.

*Self-contained jokes about time travel from a fellow, you know, ttttraveler.

Why build a time machine when you can live it? (TM)


julie said...

Rick! Of course we notice :) I have spotted you hanging out around amygdala guy's place, but couldn't figure out how to comment there as a reply, which is probably just as well.

Rick said...

Hey Julie! -- you spotted me at that place? I think I commented once. Lol.
The problem with that site is he's sounding less and less paranoid.
He can be pretty funny sometimes. Anyway, it's good for the amagawhatchamucallit.

Van Harvey said...

Rick! Glad the DeLorean's still working!

Rick said...

Hiya Van!

I do miss it here.
I don’t have much excuse for my absence ... other than current events have been amazing just to observe.
Like watching a movie, except better (and worse).
God loves drama, no doubt.
And, as the GadBob once said: Life is intense.

Cousin Dupree said...

when you don't know that something
is fundamentally wrong with yourself
and you think it can be cured by the state
then you shall be a leftist my son

Gagdad Bob said...

Rick! I was starting to worry you went hiking with Walter.

Gagdad Bob said...

Or Walt, rather. Who hasn't been heard from in a decade, and is suspected of having relocated to Bismarck.

Rick said...

It’s great to be back.
I often wonder about Walt. That guy sure can poof!