Friday, October 23, 2009

Weather, we live.

I don't now recall the sequence, whether before my adventure or after, a girl hiking with friends got separated, and within a half hour or so was found dead from heat and exhaustion. A lack of water; a lack of shelter; a young woman dead in minutes. Those who claim to "love" nature fill me with disgust.

I spend a lot of time in "nature." I'm not dead yet partly from more than ordinary luck and partly due to my fear of nature. Nature is the ultimate... shall we use a metaphor? -- psychopath. It is a mindless and cold killer. It has no intention, and it kills. There's nothing to love. Face fast-approaching death by dehydration and see how much love you have for nature. There's nothing to feel anything about. Not love, not hate. It is an endless emptiness of force without purpose or point. Yet, there are those times in those places where there is more than brute-stupid nature: there is the Mystery. Part of that Mystery is music as made by ordinary men. Here's one now. Below we'll have a chance to listen to the same music in a different way and sense again a furthering of the Mystery.

Cool Water as done by Hank Williams

Rick | MySpace Videos

I like people as a rule, and some I truly love. Because I love some people I am willing to kill others and stop their Earthly existence altogether. Some things I can control. Some I cannot. Sometimes I try and succeed, only to find I wish I hadn't. Such is the nature of living.

Here is some copy from Covenant Zone, posted by and some written by Truepeers.

The question is who controls? Nature doesn't control anything, it just is as a force. People act within it in life. They die. To be at the mercy of a force that doesn't matter is, for some, too much to bear, and they, feeling a need to be the Reason of the universe, take on the role left by the vacuum of nature. Dying alone in the sand under the sun is pointless, and so too is living for no reason at all. We can sort out some of the elements of nature and use them for our gain, but we can't do everything. We can't do everything but we have to do something. Woody Allen points out that nobody beats the house; but we should all give it a go till we lose the last hand and cash in our chips for good.

What game should we play? Some, as we see below, play the game of little gods. It works till they find themselves without water, a pretty common commodity till there ain't none. And then one realises just how dependent we are on nature itself, for simple things like water to drink to live. One might control the machinery of death and bathe the world in blood for the good of all in times of glory and plenty; but if the tap runs dry, then one would give the world for a drop of water. It makes one acutely aware of ones triviality. That's not the whole story.

[F]or a Kingdom of This World to be complete, it is first necessary that God should not exist. The Universe must be closed. The Party’s word must be final. It is imperative that the Last Prophet should have come. The book is ended and the ultimate words are written, not as an earnest of more to come, but as a grant of absolute power to those who rule on the earth.

[D]ostoevsky might have said ... that for everything to be permitted to the State, then God must not exist. If God does not exist, then the State is free to organize against man. The ideological imperative of global warmingism is this: even nature must be brought into the political system. There is no “out there” there. Not God, not Nature. Not anything you might want to call the Creator. Everything is subject to the political process. Man must control the climate. If the climate goes bad, it is because our politics is bad.

Truepeers writes:
[W]e need to allow ourselves to explore the anthropology of the human concept of "God", not to diminish the basis for real faith by attempting to reduce what cannot be reduced to systematic knowledge, but to create a greater faith in the human ability and necessity ever to expand the degrees of freedom in our shared systems and forms of sacrality.

I ain't so fancy. I know that a man can kill every living thing on the planet and smash the planet itself to dust by pushing a button; and I know too that the same man can crawl till he drops in the dust just because he hasn't got any water left in his bottle. A girl dies; a man survives. In the end there is the Mystery.


truepeers said...

What's the point of being fancy? We need to be sure of what will kill our love before we give ourselves license to kill it. It is too easy to look at the coldness of nature as some kind of license, whatever side of "global warming" religion we are on. It is far too easy for man to forget the big mystery and worship nature gods, to love violence, precisely because they are hard, cold, truths. Giving David Suzuki the justice of his own gods is not my god's justice.

But of course there are false and real fancies, false and real aristocrats. The complexity that matters is that which is built on solid foundations, all the way up, foundations that are, at base, not fancies but most fundamental truths/mysteries.

Dag said...

I'm concerned about the authority of the moral, and thus, I'm not a Christian. It's too big a commitment to to give in to popular opinion or some personal revelation at the bottom of a bottle, or wherever it might come from. If Christianity is valid as an epistemology, then it is universally so, and I don't see it as such. There must be something else. Dear Leader is not my choice alternative. I prefer to discuss things with men who know more than I and then keep an open mind-- because they don't know much either, just more than I know. So there is no "authority" in any final sense. There is only the best one can do.

God has nothing to do with it. God is, from my experience of living, a paste-on to give heft to arguments from those who probably do indeed know more than I but who still don't have "authority." Appeals to emotion don't impress me well, either. But in this case, I am definitely put ff by the appeals one finds among genuine Nazis, those who refer to a pagan universe ruled by Nature-as-God: the scenario that Nature is a living force in itself that is above Man, that Man is a small and lower part of, and that Nature is a cold killer Man can only struggle valiantly against in heroic futility till death. One finds in this a parallel deity, the Earthly Ruler, the Dear Leader, who in a Great Chain of Being, is as the God of Nature, reflecting the objectivity of Nature, i.e. laws of nature and the nature of things. Intuitively, one finds more legitimate authority in that than in the high transcendence of Christianity. But it's the same only different.

Until a man sets aside all other authority and accepts himself as responsible for himself, then he fails to address the purpose of life, says me. Man is the measure of all things-- Man.

I appreciate the idea of deferring ones-- I say duty-- to be autonomous to a higher and 'tested by time' authority of institutions for the sake of avoiding corrupt hubris and the possibility if not likelihood of catastrophe in the greater polis due to man's natural over-reach. But I only appreciate it. In the final event of a chain of events that is a life, one acts in ones best good faith, and the consequences tell. That's life. Man is god in his own life. The cut and paste of religion or ideology or such is bad faith. Nature worship is more of the same. One simply stands in a cold creation and lives accordingly. The rest is comfort.

truepeers said...

Christianity is the product of popular opinion or the bottle? GEEZ! Serious Christianity has never been popular, even among nominal Christians, and certainly not among boozers.

It's not popular because the New Testament provides no model of politics to follow, no ritual code for society, no model of a national covenant. It offers us only a story of humanity's need for a victim and presents us with only one basic imperative: to love (even our enemy, which is not to say we should not have enemies, we must have them, but we can love them because "they do not know what they do"...) So what's not universally-applicable in this minimal discipline? Well, I suppose there is much in the Christian narrative that asks us to relate to a particular time and place and to put faith in a particular event - the reseurrection - and in doing so asks our loyalty to a particular history/scene and not to some abstract universal. But that one can distil a universally-applicable anthropology from the scene of Christianity, as does Rene Girard (whatever his limits, and his anthropology and politics has some, it is nonetheless universally applicable as far as it goes) I don't know why one would doubt. I'm not a Christian because I cannot profess faith in the resurrection/Messiah in quite the manner that Christians expect in good faith. But that's not to say I don't think Christianity is true. I think it is a source of inexhaustible truth and will be forever adaptable to new historical contexts, unlike those "religions" that insist on remembering a particular ritual-ethical order laid down by the founder. I even think the resurrection is universally true in so much as it testifies to the truth that humans become obsessed with their (need for) victims and this if functionally equivalent to deifying them.

The problem is, the Christian universal is rather minimal and as such doesn't give us easy answers for living in the here and now with all the tragic binds we have to negotiate. BUt as I suggest this is also its strength, why it can survive across time. Christianity can help us negotiate our trials, it can give us the basis for a discipline, but it cannot provide easy answers or ways out. That's why I say I don't see Christianity as popular; but as the basis for a discipline - in tandem with other disciplines, for I don't think it is complete - it clearly has been the fount of endless intellectual productivity which should appeal to those who prefer to discuss things with men. I just don't see how Christianity can be reasonably understood as dogma however much a church might indulge in the latter.

truepeers said...

Anyway, how can God be a paste-on to give heft to arguments, Mr. Dawkins? Of course men can and do so use "god". But that only begs the question of why they can get away with this dishonesty. Why does Colonel Klinck keep falling for Hogan's deceptions? (If you think it's just because he's a dumb kraut you're not really thinking.) Why does an appeal to God work, even for the insincere salesman, or for the soldier in a foxhole? If it were all a lie wouldn't everyone know it by now? Are you, Dawkins, really so special that you can see what all the religious fools can't? It would seem to me that there is something about our humanity that is fundamentally in need of appeals to some kind of shared guarantor/guarantee of what we collectively find important, and that we cannot well imagine the human without such. And in dismissing the concept of God, without seriously relating this concept to the measure of man, i think you close off a whole arena of intellectual possibilities that would come from exploring the human need for shared signs and the consequent need for a shared basis for trust, norms, habits, freedom, etc.

In dismissing "god", or questions of the origin of what is distinctively human, you re-enact, religiously, the dismissal of the religious that is foundational to what can and cannot be explored within the Western philosophical discipline; you remain in the shadow of Plato. And in that shadow can you be sincere in your faith that man is the measure if you dismiss one of our most characteristic and fundamental traits - our immersion in the transcendent world of shared signs, whether we believe in "God" or not.

Let me ask you what Rob asked me over at CZ. Why bother writing? What justifies you publishing your thoughts - which assumes some claim on an audience - if only here, if you really believe in some ultimate autonomy for men? Why put faith in dialogue among men? If the purpose of dialogue is to help grow our autonomy, what guarantees our shared faith in dialogue? Do you not recognize how your own individuality is a historically rare thing that has emerged in history from a particular tradition, a non-universal form of society, to which you might owe some responsibility, even to the point of questioning that this romantic autonomy is itself the origin or continuing basis for things necessarily shared?

Adam K. has been arguing that we give more attention to the concept of "presence" than of "transcendence" because the latter is a sticking point for people like you. Here is the start of a recent essay:

"Transcendence suggests something outside of us sustaining us; presence involves all of us sustaining the same object of attention. This mutual attending is overlapping and continuous—your attention attracts mine, which takes on a different shape and intent, which attracts a third in some new manner, which finally comes back to you as you take a new look at the object in question. What keeps this attention chain going? We want to keep things going—we occupy a scene jointly, and we want to remain on the scene because if we are not on a scene we are nowhere. This absolute need for scenicity accounts for the ecstasy of the mystic and the teenager driven by boredom to do just about anything. We are always complementing a scene, completing it, creating a scene within a scene, entering a meta-scene purporting to include the scene we are on—drawing upon the resources of the scene so as to remedy some felt deficiency. Indeed, any scene requires some feeling of deficiency; otherwise there’d be no need to keep it going. Transcendence has us protect the separateness of the object; presencing is interested in the continuity of the scene—the object, then, would tend to devolve into a series of more or less premeditated pretexts for doing so."

Dag said...

A tiny point: that Christianity is found at the bottom of a bottle refers to alcoholics turning to religion in desperation when they find they cannot control their lives. That is not to say it's a substitute for alcohol or that it's an opiate. That kind of Dawkins-like cliched response belongs in a German prison camp. The wasted alcoholic comes to realize that he has not the strength in himself to save himself, so he turns to the communion of souls rather than to another bottle. That would be, for the literal minded, yer basic metaphor.

I have my favourite Kierkegaard quotation lingering somewhere. When I find it I'll continue here.

truepeers said...

Ok, but what is this "the communion of souls" in relation to the personal communion with Jesus who has already died that he need not? Isn't Christianity a way out when you are a terminal loser in the minds of the righteous and the conformity types, as well as by your own guilty reckoning (which has been inevitably dependent on society's shared landmarks as well as your own experience of some asymmetric relationship to someone(s) you take to be your victim.)? If Christianity is communion with the personhood of God, then aren't we dealing with an opening to the kind of modern individual that you, nonetheless, seem to figuring as the impossibility of being a Christian? Can we really make a case for the possibility of a secular Enlightenment absent a Christian background? WHen we try, we just get back to conformity hippies and Stalinists, or perhaps to incoherent "moderate Muslims", or to disconnected postmodern Vancouverites who can't find the way back to where they need to be going.

As I said the other day, I don't see the Catholic church as a military hierarchy, but rather a priestly one, as I think the latter type is generally, in different ways across time, the model for the former and not vice versa. More to the point, what exactly does the Christian communion model - a personal relationship with God or a communion more akin to that of all primitive religions where all are called equally to share in the one, centralized, sacrificial feast (unless, that is, one is to be among those consumed).

My own experience studying Freemasonry, which has its own Eucharistic ritual - in which one becomes the resurrected Hiram, Solomon's Master Mason - albeit in a secret or private priesthood that clearly abstracts itself from society-at-large and that is explicitly about building up the individual, mostly middle-aged male and his morality, suggests that this is what Christianity might look like when its communion becomes a little more secularized than Roman Catholicism.

truepeers said...

should read: Ok, but what is "the communion of souls" in relation to the personal communion with Jesus who has already died that the drunk need not?

word verification is presently "solse"!!