Friday, August 24, 2018

Connecting the Biggest Dots: Can I Get a Withness?

Connecting the dots. You could say that that is what this blog is all about. In fact, it's what life is all about, and not just the lives we lead, but life as such. An invisible thread runs through everything -- a riverrun circulating from Eve & Adam to every atom.

Life itself is a continuous process that connects outside to inside and not-me to me. Once the outside is in -- say, in the form of "facts" -- then we need to connect them. Likewise food. Since I have diabetes, my body can't on its own connect the dots between carb and cell. If I don't take insulin, then the carb-dots just pile up until I croak.

It seems that something similar can happen with facts or knowledge or data. Yes, we always need to connect the dots between them, but also, we need keys to assimilate these into our substance, otherwise they just build up like too many carbs. As Eliot rhetorically asks,

Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

I'm just winging it here. No plan. Or better, just riffing on the motif of "connecting dots." Or, trying to go meta and connect the dots of dot connecting to something beyond their mere connectedness.

I'm also not explaining it very well. You could say that any "narrative" is an attempt to connect the dots. In the case of art, the narrative presumably comes first, in that the artist will choose and structure the details and characters in order to support and disclose it.

Conversely, in science the narrative is supposed to always be subordinate to the facts. The facts will supposedly "tell us" their narrative, even though they never actually do. Facts do not speak, much less for themselves. If they could, then human beings would be utterly superfluous.

Any fact you care to name must, in order to be one, be situated in a prior narrative, AKA metaphysic. A metaphysic is your ultimate narrative, and thus, your ultimate connection of dots.

And now it really gets strange, because most people operate without any conscious metaphysic, and most of the others deny that metaphysics is even possible. Trouble is, you have to connect a (literally) infinite number of dots to conclude that the dots not only aren't connected, but can never be connected. Rather, they're just a bunch of random dots. Said the random dot.

For example, atheism. A-theism is really a-connectedness, and in a big way. Put conversely, think of all the dots that theism connects: all of them. Including the biggest dots we can imagine, e.g., time and eternity, absolute and relative, God and man, man and man (via an interior love as opposed to mere exterior juxtaposition), and much more.

Knowledge itself, for example, in classical Christian metaphysics, is our own apprehension of the intelligibility implanted into things by God. It is how and why knowledge is possible: any act of knowledge testifies to the connectedness between intelligence and intelligibility -- from God through objects and into us. To know something is to connect the dots. Always.

And now I'm thinking about the Trinity. As we know, this word is not mentioned in scripture. Nevertheless, it is surely there, only in the form of dots that were discerned and connected by the apostles and early fathers. The Father had to be connected to the Son, and they in turn had to be connected to the Holy Spirit, in such a way that they are coequal persons in one substance. There is no way to connect these big ol' dots but with the principle of the Trinity.

Come to think of it, much of early Christianity consisted of dot-connecting, didn't it? The first thing the early Christians did was to consult the Hebrew scriptures, thereby discovering hundreds of connections -- i.e., prophecies, typologies, and synchronicities. And what is a synchronicity but God punning around? And what is a pun or witticism but a connection of dots, say, between "Peter," "rock," and "Church?"

What is the connection between "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," and "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God."

Consider what's going on there: two ultimate examples of dot-connecting. However, they can't be contradictory. Rather, we have to somehow connect to dots between them! It must go something like this:

"In the beginning is God-and-Word, distinct but inseparable. This Word is with God and is God; thus, God's Isness is always a Withness. In the beginning the God-with-Word creates the heavens and the earth. And it is always the beginning."

Man is such an inveterate storyteller that he might as well be called... Homo storian or something. It's what we do, which is to say, try to connect the dots. They say -- they being the tenured -- that it is strictly impossible for us to connect the dots, and that it is an exercise in premodern naiveté to think otherwise. But I do think otherwise, and I don't think it's because I'm naive.

If you want to simplify your life, you can just stipulate that God is the ultimate connecter of dots and be done with it. Trouble is, if you reject God, it hardly means you have abandoned dot-connecting. To the contrary!

And this is where the left comes in, because what is the left but a frenzied gang of tyrannical dot-connectors? Let's begin with Marx. He starts with the principle that connecting the dots is impossible, because God doesn't exist. Getting you to believe in God is just a way for the ruling class to control you with a fake narrative!

But then Marx goes on to connect all the cosmic and historical dots, only in such a way that it justifies tyrannical control by a ruling class. Gosh, almost like he naively projects his own bad motives into the religious or something!

It's enough to make a fellow suspect that religion is our primary bulwark against the tyrannical dot-connectors of the left.

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.

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