Saturday, February 12, 2022

When an Irresistible Truck Meets an Immovable Tower

I don't even remember how we ended up on the subject of Babel, but let's knock it down and wrap it up.

Noting the abrupt transition from the one to the other, Kass asks whether "the election of Abram and his openness to the call, have something to do with the story of Babel?" Specifically, "Is there a logical and moral connection, not necessarily an empirical one?" 

At the conclusion of Babel, the story of Abram begins with his genealogy, which is traced back to a fellow named Shem. The rest of the chapter describes various begettings and begottens, along with some impressive lifespans. 

For example, the text deadpans that Shem lived 500 years. Afterwards, I notice that the lifespans are shorter and shorter.

Now, not only is Shem one of the main characters in Joyce's Finnegans Wake, he is Joyce himself (Shem the Penman). 

I wondered why, but soon realized this was a rabbit hole from which we might never return. I managed to climb out, but it did end up delaying this post for 24 hours.

Shem is short for Shemus [she-muse] as Jem [Jim / James] is joky for Jacob [grandson of Shem, who plays a practical joke on Isaac to get his blessing?]. A few roughnecks [stiffneck Jews] are still getatable who pretend that aboriginally he was of respectable stemming [the genealogy of Genesis 11:10-32]... Trop Blogg [tower of Babel?] was among his most distant connections.... Ever read of that greatgrand landfather of our visionbuilders, Baaboo [Babel?]...

With regard Abraham's respectable stemming, Kass writes that 

The name of the head of the line, Shem, means "name," the same as the word used in the Babel story, "to make us a name." 

This culminates in God giving Abram his new name of Abraham, who "completes the rejection of Babel and heads off to found God's new way."

Kass ends the chapter with a coda on modern city life -- the new tower of Babel -- and it is again interesting to note that our vast urban centers are the greatest concentrations of secular progressivism. Which is why they want to end the electoral college, because it's our last line of defense -- a thin red line -- against their totalitarian dreams and wishes.

Kass asks a series of rhetorical questions;

"Can our new Babel succeed?" 

Yes, but its success is a failure.

"And can it escape -- has it escaped? -- the failings of success of its ancient prototype?" 

No, because myth is what happens every time. Every Democrat run city is deteriorating before our eyes.  

"What, for example, will it revere?" 

I don't know, scientism, celebrity, credentialism, mental illness, sexual aberration, state power. 

"Will its makers and its beneficiaries be hospitable to procreation and child rearing?" 

Well, in San Francisco there are more drug addicts than children, and in New York there are more black abortions than black babies. 

"Can it find genuine principles of justice?" 

No, only social justice.

"Will it be self-critical?" 

Kass owes me a new keyboard because I just spit out my coffee.

"Can it really overcome our estrangement, alienation, and despair?"

Make that two keyboards.

Way back when we started this series of posts on Babel, we consulted Prager's book on Genesis. He says  the story serves as a warning against our hubris and "against the often-immoral nature of cities." 

I suppose I haven't been in the city (meaning Los Angeles) since the pandemic started, and before that I tried my best to avoid it. I never understood how a normal person would choose to live in L.A., until I realized that the city is indeed a giant community of abnormals -- obviously not 100%, since many people have no choice but to live there. But it has to be a majority. 

Likewise, I haven't been to New York in almost 20 years. I can't even imagine the mentality of a place that would choose Bill de Blasio -- speaking of towers of babbling idiocy -- not just once, but twice. Again, thank God for the electoral college.

It is not surprising that so many of Israel's great prophets were shepherds, the most rural of folk. Moses, too, was a shepherd (Prager).

Shepherds. To which we might add carpenters, fishermen, truckers, etc. 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Divergence Among the Sages is a Blessing

On the other hand, unanimity among the tenured is more than a curse, it's a downright NUISANCE. For there is no right to be wrong unless there is an obligation to be right. Thus, a progressive relativist is truly obligated to be wrong, which can't be right. 

Now, just as there is no one Good but God, nor is there anyone True (or Beautiful). Does this condemn man to subjectivism, relativism, falsehood -- not to mention evil and ugliness? 

NO, it just means that truth is a direction, or vector, or tension, so to speak. The moment we imagine we can possess it is the moment we exile ourselves from the garden of WHATEVER and literally sophicate in it.

In short, truth is always an encounter with the (O)THER. To imagine we could ever contain this ALTER EGO (minus the ego) is to imagine we are God: this is megalomania and diabolical narcissism, i.e., an episteaming pile of closure.

Which, it seems, is precisely what the tower builders were attempting to do. Thus, while the consequent scattering may seem like a punishment, it's actually -- like everything else that comes from above -- a gift:

Only in discovering the distance between ourselves and the Eternal... can human beings orient themselves toward that which is genuinely highest.

And guess wut? 

The dispersion of the nations is the political analogue to the creation of woman: instituting otherness and opposition, it is the necessary condition for national self-awareness and the possibility of a politics that will hear and hearken to the voice of what is eternal, true, and good (Kass).

This all sounds rather Voegelinish to me. Here are some definitions to help you orient yourselves in our new post-Babel space (taken from the excellent Eric Voegelin: Philosopher of History, by Eugene Webb (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/029599438X?ie=UTF8&tag=onecos-20&camp=1789&linkCode=xm2&creativeASIN=029599438X):

THE BEYOND: That which is ultimate and is itself indefinable because it surpasses all categories of understanding. The proportionate goal of the fundamental tension of existence.

TENSION: A condition of tending toward a goal... the "tension of existence"... [is] the fundamental experience of longing for transcendental fulfillment, the Beyond. 

Conversely, CLOSED EXISTENCE is 

the mode of existence in which there are internal impediments to a free flow of truth into consciousness and to the pull of the transcendental. Contrasts with "open existence."

Which is 

the mode of existence in which consciousness is consistently and unreservedly oriented toward truth and toward the transcendental pole of the tension of existence. 

Yes, there is still One Cosmos, but it is of the utmost importance to understand that it encompasses both the immanent and transcendent worlds and the tension between them:

COSMOS: the whole of ordered reality, including animate and inanimate nature. (Not to be confused with the modern conception of "cosmos" as the astrophysical universe.) Encompasses all of reality, including the full range of the tension of existence toward the transcendental. Noetic and pneumatic differentiations of consciousness separate this cosmos into the immanent "world" and the transcendent "divine ground."

The D. of C.? This

especially refers to the development of a sense of the distinction between transcendent and immanent, between truth as such and particular truths...

By the way, what is the QUESTION? It is "Voegelin's term"

for the tension of existence in its aspect as a questioning unrest seeking not simply particular truth, but still more the transcendental pole of truth as such. 

There are various pathological deformations of healthy consciousness, and now that I'm thinking about it, the story of Babel certainly conveys one of them, or maybe even all of them. File under GNOSTICISM:

A type of thinking that claims absolute cognitive mastery of reality. 

This pathology can take idealistic (transcendental) or immanentizing forms, such as neo-Marxist progressivism.

But you? You are a RACCOON, which means that you live a vertically OPEN EXISTENCE

in which consciousness is consistently and unreservedly oriented toward truth and toward the transcendental pole of the tension of existence.

AKA the metaxy, which is

the experience of human existence as "between" lower and upper poles: man and the divine, imperfection and perfection, ignorance and knowledge, and so on. Equivalent to the symbol of "participation of being."

Which, as it so happens, is the only participation trophy worth having. No joke, because Being shades off into love, truth, beauty, and all those other transcendentals that can be endlessly known in an ever-deepening spiral, but never possessed.

The end. Until we meet again in the metaxy

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Rip van Winkle in Reverse

Continuing our meditation on the tower of Babel, Kass writes that just as "awareness of the multiplicity of human ways" is a "precondition for the active search for the better or best way," so too is "opposition"

the key to the discovery of the distinction between error and truth, appearance and reality, convention and nature -- between that which appears to be and that which truly is.

Moreover, "Contesting a 'human truth' invites the quest for a truth beyond human making."

So at least we can all agree on the natural right to free speech. Whether left or right, there are certain principles that are settled for all time, and which all Americans will defend to the death! 

Rip van Winkle, said the voice in Bob's head.

I didn't pay much any attention in school, so I didn't remember know that the story was a satire on the vast and unintended politico-cultural changes that took place in America between the founding and the early 19th century. In short, if you had fallen asleep in 1788 and awakened in 1818, you would scarcely have recognized the place. 

Now, what if someone had fallen asleep in 1992 or so and awakened in 2022? 

I remember the first time I heard conspiratorial rumblings about the left's supposed plan to restrict and dismantle free speech, although I no longer remember the year. Must have been during the Obama administration, although it's possible it was in the latter days of Bush the Even Worse than His Father.

In any event, my first thought was literal incredulity: c'mon, man! Such fevered, paranoid characterizations of Democrats just play into their hands and make us look nuts. Say what you want about the left, but remember that the ACLU's defense of free speech is absolute, to the point of defending Nazis.

One of my wronger takes. That and defending Bush the Even Worse. And not being among the first wave to climb on board the Trump Train.  

In our new version of Rip van Winkle, the political movement would be in the opposite direction -- away from freedom and toward tyranny. In the original, "The very village was altered," and "idleness, except among the aged, was no longer tolerated." "Even the language was strange -- 'rights of citizens,'" elections, liberty, etc. 

beneath the surface Rip, like most Americans, knew that 'everything's changed.' In a few short decades American's had experienced a remarkable transformation in their society and culture, and, like Rip and his creator, many wondered what had happened and who they really were (Gordon Wood).

Likewise, in a few short decades we too have witnessed a transformation -- transmogrification is more like it -- in our society and culture. 

Someone who had fallen asleep a mere two decades ago wouldn't know what to make of cancel culture, homosexual marriage, tranny generals, mask mandates, open borders, the assault on election integrity, the utter corruption of journalism, state approved late night comedy, the diabolical union of Big Tech and Big Government... How did we end up on the wrong side of history?  

No one twenty years ago would have known what to make of the following email from Alex Berenson that just popped up in my in-box -- he sounds hysterical and paranoid, like some kind of leftist loon!

EXTREMELY URGENT: The Biden Administration says I'm a terrorist threat. 
That headline sounds like a joke. It’s not.
The White House has begun an extraordinary assault on free speech in America. It is no longer content merely to force social media companies to suppress dissenting views. It appears to be setting the stage to use federal police powers.

How else to read the “National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin” the Department of Homeland Security issued on Tuesday? Its first sentence:

SUMMARY OF THE TERRORISM THREAT TO THE UNITED STATES: The United States remains in a heightened threat environment fueled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories..

The government now says “misleading narratives” are the most dangerous contributor to terrorism against the United States.

These threat actors seek to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest, which could potentially inspire acts of violence. 

A federal agency says that to “undermine public trust in government institutions” is now considered terrorism. Speech doesn’t even have to encourage rebellion or violence generally, much less against anyone specific. It just has to “potentially inspire” violence.

Potentially.

Later, the bulletin explains exactly what speech the government now considers a terrorist danger:

Widespread online proliferation of false or misleading narratives regarding unsubstantiated widespread election fraud and COVID-19.

There’s that word misleading again. Who’s defining “misleading”? Misleading to whom? Misleading how?

I have no doubt whatsoever that I fit as a terrorist threat under these guidelines.

So does Joe Rogan. And Tucker Carlson. After all, we’ve “undermine[d] public trust in government institutions” about Covid and the mRNA shots (I try not to call them vaccines anymore).

This bulletin marks an extraordinary escalation of the war on speech and the First Amendment.

Now, imagine falling asleep today and waking up in twenty or thirty years. If current trends continue, you'll either wake up behind bars or dead. 

My apologies. We'll have to get back to Babel in the next post. 

Monday, February 07, 2022

The Babble of Tenure & The Last Idiot

Recall that the tower of Babel is the last episode of the universal story of mankind, before the spotlight turns to the call of Abram. It reminds me of the "intertestamental period" between the old and new testaments. Let's shut up and learn something:

The intertestamental period (Protestant) or deuterocanonical period (Catholic & Eastern Orthodox) is the period of time between the events of the protocanonical books and the New Testament. Traditionally, it is considered to cover roughly four hundred years, spanning the ministry of Malachi (c. 420 BC) to the appearance of John the Baptist in the early 1st century AD. It is roughly contiguous with the Second Temple period (516 BC-70 AD) and encompasses the age of Hellenistic Judaism.

It is known by some members of the Protestant community as the "400 Silent Years" because it was a span where no new prophets were raised and God revealed nothing new to the Jewish people (Prof. Wiki).

There's a similar period of silence between Babel and Abram, but who knows how long it was? In any event, I can't be the first to have noticed another parallel: that while the builders of the tower of Babel wanted to "make a name for themselves," it is God himself who wants to make a name for Abram.

This goes to the fact that you can't just make a name for yourself. Well, you can, but that's called narcissism

So apparently, the juxtaposition of these stories goes to the distinction between celebrity and significance, or narcissism and true calling; for as Dennis Prager says, the famous are rarely significant and the significant rarely famous. The famous come and go, but only... x is forever.

Now, what is x? 

X is what I am attempting to do now, and have been attempting for the past 16+ years of blogging. Am I trying to make a name for myself? God forbid! Am I trying to find out what God calls me? Yeah, that's more like it: for that is equivalent to finding our calling, our voc-ation. 

Is this really my calling? I guess so. Unless you have a better idea.

Let's regain our focus: language. Recall what God says of the situation:

Behold, it is one people, and they have one language... now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do.

What is it, exactly, that is problematic about all of mankind speaking a single language? It sure sounds like God is an early adopter of diversity, so much so that he facilitates it by confusing their language ("so they will not understand each other”) and scattering them all over the place. 

Well, this makes perfect sense if we recall the true meaning and purpose of diversity (not the left's totalitarian version), which is always in the service of a higher unity and synthesis, AKA e pluribus unum and all that. 

Imagine if there really were only one language. We'd so take it for granted that we would be like fish who spend their lives in water while knowing nothing about it. Language 

becomes, when taken for granted, a hermetically sealed shadow world cut off from what is real.... 

[S]peech can no longer be used for inquiry, for genuine thought, for seeking after what is. When the units of intelligibility conveyed in speech have no independent being, when words have no power to reveal the things that truly are, then speech becomes only self-referential, and finally unintelligible. Even the name one makes for oneself means nothing (Kass).

Hmm. Speech becomes self-referential. Of whom and what does this remind us... 

Ah yes: those "radical Foucault-like agendas and New Left goals that are antithetical to real historical understanding." Postmodernists

suggest that the search for truth is itself the prime Western illusion. Truth, they believe, is invented, not discovered....

It denies that there is a reality in the past beyond that described by language, and this barrier of language forever prevents historians from telling any truth about the past (G. Wood).

Wouldn't it be great if God could come down again and scatter the builders of this grotesque ivory tower of babble far and wide?

Come to think of it...

As we said at the outset, myth didn't just happen once upon a time, but happens every time. If Big Incoctrination were in the midst of being broken up and scattered, how would we know it until it was over? It wasn't as if the tower-builders of Genesis 11 knew right away what was happening to them: "Hey! What's with all this linguistic confusion and tribal scattering?!" 

Again, there's that silent intermythic period between the Scattering and the Calling, between making a name for ourselves and God calling and naming us.

So now I shall put on my prophet cap and pronounce -- at risk of looking foolish in 100 years -- that college as we have come to know it over the past half century is indeed dead. The bubble has burst. And just as with market bubbles, when the last idiot gets in, it's time for the prudent man to get out.

That's it for today.