Monday, December 31, 2007
On the flight over I sat next to a Muslim guy who lives on a tiny island near Bali. He's a student at SUNY-Albany and was going home for the holidays. He mentioned that the bomb blast on Bali five years ago had had the side effect (collateral damage) of wiping out their business for several years, but now they're back.
My friend Paul met me at O'Hara airport and we had breakfast at Tiffany's, a diner in an area called Rosement. Then we went to the Chicago zoo. It was so cold there! Gorillas and tiny grey monkeys from Bolivia were in the primate house. One of the monkeys had a head only the size of a ping-pong ball. It said that this particular monkey was monogamous.
We then went to the Art Institute of Chicago. 45 minutes to look at this place was like touring Europe in 12 days.
Then we went to visit a famous painter named William Conger who lives about 30 minutes north of the city and has a studio in a former munitions factory. We sat and talked with him for about two hours. He talked about all the places he had worked as a painting professor. His favorite had been Northwestern University, where they took only 5 students per annum. There's an article about Conger's brilliant work in December 2007 Art in America.
I got up in the morning at Swissotel, and ordered a bowl of room service cereal for the absurd price of 10 dollars. However, when the butler or bellboy or whatever he was showed up, he asked for 16 dollars. I paid it, plus the tip. When he left, I checked the small print and there were taxes, and handling fees on the cereal. 18 dollars for a bowl of cereal! It was very good.
My talk was well-attended for the last session at the four-day MLA conference. There were several famous Romanian scholars in the audience, and one of them said she would buy my Codrescu book! Another is going to review it! And I made friends with several of the panelists and the moderator. I enjoyed the talks because too often at MLA I can't find the subject of the talk. In this panel Paul Celan, Jewishness, and anti-Jewishness, and several other themes kept appearing in the talks as if by some kind of secret sympathy. I listened to all the papers without effort.
Coming home was very strange since it had begun to blizzard in Albany. I drove at 20 mph behind a truck on a 65 mph stretch of highway, while Bob Dylan sang, "Everybody Must Get Stoned." Going up over Franklin Mountain I got stuck, and then a plow came by and dug me out, and I got to the top of the mountain, and then drove hom 20 miles at 10 pmh through forest that leaned over the road with huge snowy boughs until I was able to see the lights of Delhi.
I have forty new books from the university press book convention in big bags.
The one I'm most looking forward to: Law & Revolution, The Impact of the Protestant Reformations on the Western Legal Tradition, by Harold J. Berman (Harvard UP).
I might list the books separately tomorrow.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Every person is the illustration of a theory.
Every person is a theologian. If you see an angry 500 lb. teenager with a swastika attached to his forehead rumbling through the parking lot in black leather what you are seeing is an inadequate theory, or a theory in process. But there's still hope for teenagers. They must try odd and forbidden things in order to see who they are. If you see a 50 year old who is 500 lbs. and wearing a Swastika, you have a failed life before your eyes, and also a person to avoid.
Every country is an illustration of a political theory. If your people are dying of hunger while the leader goes around in flare pants in the year 2007, there is something the matter with your political theory.
Marxism produces useless countries. They create hostile militant countries that make bad neighbors.
Buddhism on the other hand produced wonderful individuals, predicated on an almost total absence of military theory. Anger itself appears to be banned in Buddhism. Instead, you have this marvelous theory of acceptance. Result: the Marxist neighbors took their country and continue to kill Tibetan monks.
The liberal democracies of the west have the best political theory, which in turn arises from Protestantism. There is a strong individual work ethic, the notion of a career in service to others, a theory of just war, the notion that authority is always suspicious, and therefore a countervalent theory of checks and balances, freedom of inquiry for each citizen with the right to an education. The liberal democracies function so well because of their underlying theory. Luther is the leaven in the lumpenproletariat, and is the best political as well as religious theorist, and the proof is in the Lutheran countries of northern Europe.
Many Catholic countries followed suit with their attempt to reabsorb Protestantism by launching branches where education and freedom of inquiry were emphasized. That is the answer to the question: what is a Jesuit?
The one place where Luther failed is in his attention to art theory. Luther speculated that art is an area of adiaphora (irrelevant to salvation), and while he was not an iconoclast like Karlstadt (who theorized that all images should be trashed) Luther argued for a simpler church, and refused to pay for art, which pauperized the religious artists living in Lutheran areas.
Art was thereby "freed," or rather, "downsized," but this left artists without a role in the creation of a visualization of "ultimate concerns."
As I'm reading the Steve Martin book (quite fun) I'm reading an account of amusement for amusement's sake. His theory is driven by a completely amoral sense that one could tell jokes without punchlines, and that if he pretended it was funny, the audience would laugh. They did. I remember finding him hilarious in the 70s. I had a college professor who said at the time that Martin was the "latest flash in the pan." But I knew that Martin would have a long career in show business, as he was clearly one of the smartest theorists of comedy. As I read his book Born Standing Up (Scribner, 2007) I am fascinated by the theoretical explications of his work which often come out of joke manuals, and how-to-amuse books from the 1950s, but equally out of Wittgenstein. Martin read theory, but his ultimate concern was not only the advancement of humor, but he wanted to see humor as an art. How different is this from Andy Warhol?
Warhol's work and the work of the 20th century avant-garde is perhaps trivial because it is not connected to what theologian Paul Tillich calls "ultimate concerns," but for a great many on the left, humor is an end in itself. This is a fun idea. The notion of fun is not necessarily trivial.
Stalin could have used a better idea of fun. Christmas to a great extent with all its toys and games is an advancement of the notion of fun.
Fun is also an illustration of an area of Protestant political theory that has been largely neglected. Certain churches (Methodists) banned card playing and laughter and dancing. Even the smile was considered devilish. This is wrong, because fun incarnates freedom of inquiry, censorship of oppressive authority (the superego), and is a register of a high quality of life. One thing we could say about North Korea today: not many people there are having any fun.
What the left worked on since the 1960s (fun was a big part of the 60s rebellion) is important to enlarging the sense of life that had been narrowed in the 50s. The humorous nuttiness of George Carlin, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor and others is not sufficient in and of itself as a mode of life, but it provides a needed aesthetic accessory to the quality of American life. We would have been a lot poorer without it.
The strict keeping of the ten commandments is necessary to the quality of life, but what about fun?
As I see it, the right and the left are both working on important aspects of American life, and enlarging upon them and expanding these notions.
I am happy that we have two parties. They are both making contributions. With only one party, life in America would be a disaster.
Jefferson was the founder (with Andrew Jackson) of the Democratic party.
Lincoln was not the founder, but he illustrates the beginnings, of the Republican party.
Jefferson's party used to be more fun. Something has happened to them where they are no longer a party. They are a drag.
Lincoln's party was never very interested in fun. They began as a demand for justice, but Lincoln was not without a sense of humor, and that sense of humor still continues today. W. can apparently wiggle his ears simultaneously.
Justice however is a good background for fun. Without it, as North Korea will show us, the conditions for fun (freedom of inquiry, joy, a decent distribution of good food) are not there.
Justice and fun. They depend on one another. What are the correct percentages?
We must continue to theorize that both of these qualities are necessary to America. To do otherwise is a failure of theory.
I predict that one important criterion of the elections to come will be humor. Bush trumped Kerry in the humor department. Kerry had a totally inadequate sense of humor. Bush's sense of humor was and remains simple, but it is adequate. Of the Democrats, it has seemed to me in the past that Edwards had the best sense of humor (his eyes sparkle), but he has sidelined it in favor of an oozing compassion which seems more in touch with the sophomoric quality of the left at this stage. On the right, Giuliani has the best sense of humor. I predict here and now that on the basis of this sense of humor, Giuliani wins the whole thing next November, unless Hillary suddenly reveals hilariousness.
Humor reveals a sensibility that is capable of mental flexibility and prudence. Its absence often reveals an angry zealot who has lost all perspective. True humor also requires a certain seriousness, and an understanding of tact and beauty and goodness. It is not Holy in and of itself, but that's for another world. In this world, humor, epsecially self-deprecating humor, is as good as it gets.
What we want from a party is fun. May the more fun party win next November.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Christmas is an odd symbolic affair where the tree and its glitter and all the presents underneath reveal the commercial side of it.
On the other side there is the star atop the tree that reminds us of the star over the manger, that the three wise men sought to visit.
In the story of the manger there is a tradition that the animals could speak, and that they could say how marvelous it was to have the virgin's child, the son of God, before them.
But yet we eat animals for Christmas. Ham, turkey, chicken. Yum. Slather on the mustard.
One would think that Christmas is a time that the lion would lie down with the lamb and that there would be peace on earth. But there is also competition via capitalism over Christmas dollars.
I used to get fairly exercised over these things. More and more I just accept them. Two kingdoms Lutheranism helped me to settle down. This world is riddled with paradoxes.
Two kingdoms Lutheranism helps us to reconcile. Humor, has a similar function, in that it asks us to see the ideal, and the real, often in quick staggered steps, revealing a paradoxical double-take, that leaves us doubled up.
For Christmas I got Mere Anarchy by Woody Allen, and Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin. I'm already half-way through the Steve Martin book. It is a memoir of his years as a stand-up comic. It is beautifully written, funny, but also somber and elegiac at times. He talks about his family life. It was mostly good. His mother loved him, and sewed beautiful outfits for him. His father was a remote presence who was almost never kind and once beat him. I was so grateful to have my really nice dad as I read about Steve Martin's:
"That evening, his mood was ominous as we indulged in a rare family treat, eating our Birds Eye frozen TV dinners in front of the television. My father muttered something to me, and I responded with a mumbled, "What." He shouted, "You heard me," thundered up from his chair, pulled his belt out of its loops, and inflicted a beating that never seemed to end. I curled my arms around my body as he stood over me like a titan and delivered the blows. The next day I was covered in welts and wore long pants and sleeves to hide them at school" (28).
Christmas is a time in which people seem to be largely at peace, but it grieves me that in some families this isn't the case. Who would have thought that brilliant Steve Martin (who's as good at writing as he is at stand-up), would have had to endure such things as a child?
It seems that many people are angry. You have anger to the left, anger to the right, anger in the middle. And every night on TV we see that someone else has exploded in terrible rage. I would like to see more kind humor, more peace. Perhaps yoga programs, and people taking care of themselves through cutting back on smoking and drinking and taking a walk. I wanted to remind myself to care a lot less about politics, and instead think about how long and slow anything good takes. Terrible things happen in an instant, but good things take longer, and require loving patience. I intend to grow flowers this summer. I've already planted a tree, and every day I watch it out the window. It seems to be alive! I think it will make it through the winter. I am waiting to see its first leaves.
I like Reinhold Niebuhr's serenity prayer, which he wrote in the midst of our nuclear stalemate with the Soviet Union, when he worried every day about a nuclear holocaust. "Let me learn to do the things I can about the things I can do something about, and learn to let go of the things I can't do anything about, and please God help me to know the difference."
I don't have the phrasing right, and I say it differently every time I say it. We can all plant a tree or a flower, and find serenity in it. One day the lion will lie down with the lamb. I don't think we have anything to do with rushing the New Jerusalem into existence, but I believe that it will happen. Until then we're in a weird world where competition, love, and humor, are all mixed together. Seemingly, if you just relax, and accept the world, it almost seems as if it already IS the New Jerusalem. There is beauty and love everywhere! It's almost embarrassing to think that those darned Buddhists are right! That if people would just calm down, the world is already perfect.
Have a peaceful holiday.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Growing up Lutheran, and then hanging out with anarchists and artists in Seattle, perhaps I always saw the principle enemy as MARXISM.
Marxists killed Christians and artists and anarchists. And they replaced kings with dictators, making what was bad, worse.
I would prefer an anarchist Christian society in which Kierkegaard was the rule.
But this is obviously unworkable, since Kierkegaard didn't seem to care about the conditions of this world whatsoever, nor did he appear to have a conception of government. He was what Lenin would have called a "useful idiot," in that he made it possible for us not to care about the legal or the ethical realm and to care only for the afterlife. Lenin was in turn what Stalin would have called a "useful idiot." As soon as you allow for a "dictatorship of the proletariat" you have wiped out the checks and balances that prevent a Stalin from rising, and once Stalin is in power, it's all blood and whistles and you're in for a terrible ride into the bowels of hell.
Having tried to clear a space to the left of Marxism with anarchism or postmodernism, I finally realized that what blocks Marxism is not to the left but it's the checks and balances of the center. Lutheran and Protestant centrism a la Locke, and Madison, makes more sense, and is a more workable way to block the Marxists. What we need is not to destroy the government or even to reduce it to one party. We need at least two parties, and we need them at each other's throats (not literally).
I resent everything about Marxists and especially their moral feeling. I like their moral feeling, but in allowing their moral feeling to ride roughshod over procedural checks and balances, and to assert their own hagiography through a screeching self-righteousness, they too often forget that everything that one wants in life is tainted with sin. There are no saints except Jesus. I resent the Manichean splits Marxists create via race, gender, and class because these implicitly and often explicitly assume that one side is saintly, while the other side is demonic and ought to be erased. I resent it because it is so clearly wrong to judge people on this basis, and also so wrong to allow oneself to imagine that one is a good person, and the other bad. Marxists argue, "but this wrong has been done for so long by others. Now, it's our turn." Marxists in essence argue that two wrongs make a right, and that their wrong is right in the light of history.
Two wrongs are two wrongs, and the second wrong is perhaps worse, because Marxists should have learned from the first wrong that it is wrong to judge someone on the basis of race, gender, or class.
If no one should be judged according to their race, gender, or class, then NO ONE should be judged (either positively or negatively) according to race, gender, or class.
People should be judged on their own merits. But according to what criteria? I argue more or less that it should be according to how well they keep the ten commandments, and how well they honor the spirit of neighborliness. But they should also obey the laws of the land, including the Bill of Rights (especially the one regarding freedom of expression, and to practice one's religion).
Marxists legitimate the slaughter of Cain by Abel. They say that two wrongs make a right.
That's just one reason why I will never be a Marxist, and why they are an abomination, and why, when I smell even the faintest trace of Marxism in someone, I smell sulphur.
I smell sulphur almost everywhere in the fringe groups, and it bothers me immensely. At the same time, I do not want a total eclipse of the right to judge on a moral basis. But race, gender, and class are superficial characteristics that have nothing to do with an individual person's character through time and cannot reliably be used to judge anyone.
Paris Hilton is a woman, but she is not as good a person as Albert Schweitzer. Therefore, gender in and of itself is not a sufficient criterion for moral judgment. Papa Doc Duvalier is a minority, but his character is less good than that of Bill Clinton's. Therefore, race is not a sufficient criterion for moral judgment. It is character that is the only basis on which we can judge. Why do Marxists think their character is automatically better than that of others, and that this gives them the right to destroy all procedural safeguards and instantiate a "dictatorship"?
I love artists and Christians. Why do the Marxists want to destroy those two groups? They want to do it because they rightfully assume that they will not back the Marxist revolution. They will insist on their own rights and freedoms. And therefore Marxists have too often in the past sought to destroy these two groups (along with humorists, and other independent thinkers). Piety and adoration for the dictatorship are all that is permitted under Marxism.
I would place one Alexandre Solzhenitsyn above all the Marxists that ever lived, even though he lacked a sense of humor.
I would place P.G. Wodehouse above all the Marxists that ever lived, and also above Alexandre Solzhenitsyn.
Perhaps it's just a question of sensibility. In many cases I like individual Marxists. But I also feel threatened by them. History shows that whenever they get total power Christianity and the arts are destroyed. Humor is perhaps the first to go as it implies impiety, and a willingness to instantiate free inquiry.
One of the ways in which I judge people: how willing are they to laugh at themselves? Some presidents are better at this than others. Putin is terrible. He can't do it, and it is against the law to make fun of Putin in Russia. He has shut down television stations and put people out of work who have dared to ridicule him. Bush is much better. Kerry was very poor at poking fun at himself.
Hillary is struggling with this. Giuliani is pretty good at it. When I see it, I am much more willing to trust a politician.
I'm turned off by piety in speech-making. I don't like it when Edwards makes pious speeches or makes sad faces of compassionate concern. He was better four years ago when he was a bit of a joker. Serious people are simplifiers.
Humor implies that there are at least two perspectives, and that a person is willing to not merely assume that they are perfect. It assumes a certain kind of checks and balances against the belief that one is saintly and that all one's ideas are sanctioned by God Almighty. Humor is therefore a very important thing. It's a necessary but not sufficient quality to a leader. I would rather have Alfred E. Newman in office than someone who never laughed.
Which of the candidates (in any party) cracks the best jokes?
Friday, December 21, 2007
The Protestant countries of Northern Europe are a test tube for the Protestant Reformation, and also a showcase. Santa Claus was said to have been born in Finland. This concern for the children strikes me as fundamentally Protestant. But is it? Rather than the gifts of Santa, I want to think instead not about the names of the eight reindeer, and their ordering, but rather -- about the gift that Luther gave to the world when he opened the Protestant Reformation with 95 theses.
Everywhere that Lutheranism has been there has been prosperity, egalitarianism, a low level of corruption, and a very high level of education.
Luther is the Santa to millions of northern Europeans, and his is a gift that keeps on giving.
Compare Marxist countries: Marx had the full beard of Santa, but everywhere Marxism has spread you have instead corruption, moral depravity at the highest levels (compare a communist leader like Kim Il Sung to the Finnish president Tarja Halonen). The only real egalitarianism in communist countries is that the freedom of inquiry is denied to all.
Compare Catholic countries: opulent churches surrounded by oceans of the very poor, seas of cardboard boxes in Rio are the only wealth for those lucky enough to have rags to wear, while the Vatican remains one of the wealthiest corporations in the world. It is moral depravity alone that keeps the Vatican from giving its money to the poor. The Catholic churches even in America have been noted for their corruption. Child molesters seem to see the American Catholic church as their natural habitat and as safe houses. The Italian Mafia is unthinkable in Protestant countries. There is no organized crime in Sweden, Finland, Iceland, or Norway. People are ashamed to steal so much as a pencil in Finland. To watch the show called The Sopranos, you see a completely different element afoot: a shameless Tony Soprano kills people, even friends, even family members, beating poor people and taking their money, then goes out to dinner and orders too much food and fattens himself on it. At home, he has a maid. Why can't Tony Soprano do his own dishes or make his own bed?
It is shameless to have a maid.
I recognize that there are good Catholics and that there are movements within Catholicism that go against the trend toward opulence. The Franciscans, for instance, are such a group.
But there is nevertheless something crazy about Catholicism. Catholic John Kerry had 27 mansions. He called himself a Democrat, but he had 27 mansions. In his Boston mansion he has a kitchen that is on two floors. My head spins as if I'm the little girl in the Exorcist. Why do you need two floors for your kitchen? What on earth is he cooking in that kitchen that requires two floors? A bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, a simple sandwich for lunch, and a bowl of soup with bread for dinner. Why do you need two floors for that?
I couldn't stand Kerry's opulence. For the first time in my life I preferred the Republican candidate. Whatever else you can say about W., he is a Protestant. W. dresses simply, eats simply, and speaks simply. Kerry's style drove me insane. His bizarre circuitous sentences, his dressing up, his pretentions to being some kind of urban elite. He reminded me of ancient Rome. Catholics don't ordain women, and they have a bizarre hierarchy where the Pope pretends to speak as if he is God Himself. How can such a system produce anything but world misery? The churches are not meant to create a Power Block for a small faction that preys upon the larger population.
The Protestant notions of self-reliance, absolute freedom of inquiry, and sharing of power don't seem to exist outside of the Protestant sphere.
Islamic countries deny women equal rights. This in itself is an abomination. When I think of the little girls of Afghanistan who are now free to read, I feel that whatever else W. has done, and for whatever reason he has done it, life is better in Afghanistan for women and girls than it was under the Taliban. In Lutheran countries such as Finland the right to vote was given to women as early as 1906.
Men can be decent human beings, and the Father can be loving and giving. Santa Claus reminds us of this. So does Martin Luther.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
I suppose that temperamentally I remain with the anarchists: the notion of liberty for the arts, and that behind any mask of certainty there is doubt. And that doubt remains a kind of irony that many among the left are still able to pick up (Luther Blissett several days ago was able to see through this).
As I tried out a right-wing personae over the last few years I have tried as well to remain open to the left (most of my readers are leftists, and only a couple have been to the right).
And it's true that down deep this blog is a humorist's blog: provocation remains perhaps it's central principle. But it isn't that I haven't tried to find a center of some kind. I have! But to do it I had to travel pretty far into the right to find anyone who even claims to know something via transcendent principles.
It's just that on all the major issues: abortion, gay marriage, the war in Iraq, etc., there doesn't seem to be ANY middle way. You are either for it or you are against it. How can you be for abortion and also against it, for instance? These seem to be issues that divide and define us. Any time you set up a clear borderline where something is law (or claim that it should be law) you must be absolutely certain of it. One thing I have liked about my trip into the further reaches of Lutheranism (after having dropped out of it for thirty years) is finding a very clear set of principles beginning with the Ten Commandments.
Those principles were said to have come from God Himself. So if you adopt those, you seemingly have to take them and not fuss with them, and leave them as they are. If you claim that God is a useful social fiction, on the other hand, then you cannot be adamant about anything at all. You have to simply accept the fact that everything is malleable, and that everything is ultimately man-made. If you go that second route, you are in a state of chaos where relativism is the rule.
To some extent I prefer that second route. It allows each of us to simply argue in a totally relativistic vein that we are right because this is what we want. But then how do you say that ANYTHING at all is morally ok or not in an absolute sense? Perhaps you can't. But I would like to begin with a few moral axioms. I would like to argue that child abuse is always morally wrong. Now if a majority of people were into that, then what recourse would I have? It does seem that there is a new kind of license afoot. The age of legal consent in Holland, for instance, is much lower than in America. Is it really 11? Someone once told me that it was, but I checked, and it seems to be 15. Still too young, in my view.
So where do you go for a morally transcendent universal?
If you go to the Bible, you seemingly have to take ALL OF IT aboard. If you don't, then you have to throw it ALL out.
If you do that, then it seems you are just making everything up.
When I began the blog some four years ago I wanted to try on absolutism. I wanted to see: where does this go? What kinds of second-order implications are there?
And using various personae, I tried to push certain viewpoints, counting on reader's reactions to push at the fallacious aspects of the far right Christian viewpoint (which in many ways I have come to deeply respect, even if I don't think I would last more than a few minutes really trying to live within a far-right Christian community -- I am too devoted to the principle of endless openness in terms of intellectual investigation).
I continue to want to see the conservative aspects of a poet like Marianne Moore and to try to understand how she was able to hold to a center. Having spent some decades working within the left (mostly talking and theorizing with anarchist friends in Seattle in the 1980s-1990s), I have now shifted (finding the anarchist viewpoint too prevalent to being toppled by Marxist thought). What can stand against the Marxists?
The surrealists were crushed by them.
The anarchists were literally decimated by the communists in Barcelona, Cronstadt, and in almost every venue where the two came to blows. Organization, and institutions, seem to me to be necessary finally, in order to hold a civilization together. Anarchist armies never held their own against communist armies.
Within Christianity, there are many denominations. To the far right there are various kinds of Calvinism. To the far left, there are a few denominations such as Unitarian Universalist (they seem to accept all religions and have as their sign perhaps a dozen major religions as being in an equivalent circle -- which seems dizzying!). I can't stand the ex cathedra aspects of the Pope on the other hand, although a great number of Lutherans have left Lutheranism for Catholicism or Eastern Orthodox for PRECISELY the reason that it IS authoritarian and thus hammers home an ABSOLUTE, or SET OF ABSOLUTES.
Within Lutheranism, too, there are factions. There is the Missouri Synod which is very much a bastion of conservativism. Then there is the ELCA which is more or less to the left on most issues. So it isn't as if you can escape the Culture Wars by going into a church. The very churches are riven with them.
Organically, I side with the left. But it seems to me that the left has lost its principles aside from race, gender, and class: which aren't principles. They are demographic data.
So after some seven years of leaving anarchism and trying to find something besides mutual aid: I have found that I like institutions. I have found that I think the Ten Commandments are pretty good principles.
I have discovered new discourse communities within Lutheranism. I have found that I like to pray: which would have been unthinkable 15 years ago. However, I am also scared of it, and don't always know what it is.
At any rate: that's my progress report. From the new material I've discovered, the Ten Commandments are the most CENTRAL to my thinking at this point.
In brief: here is the 5th commandment: THOU SHALT NOT KILL. Luther comments that NOT ONLY does this mean that I myself should not kill anyone, BUT that it is my responsibility to save all the people I know from losing their lives. As a moral guide, I find this compelling. There was a time years ago when I would have let the devil take the hindmost and not stood up.
In terms of adultery, not only should I not commit, but I also try to argue anyone I know who is about to have an affair out of such an idea.
So I haven't discovered much: but I have discovered a set of principles that it seems to me go fairly far in terms of being able to live a decent existence.
It feels to me that I have only yet scratched the surface: but I have to relish this blog because of the way that it allows me to attempt to find and sashay towards stronger principles made out of some aspects of the far right while never relinquishing the principles of absolute investigation of thought that first drew me to the far left when I was only 17 and went off to study with the Beats at Naropa Institute.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Luther argued that the Papal laws "teach about ceremonies involving churches, clothing, foods, persons; along with child's play, fantasies, and foolish activities without number. In all these things, there is absolutely nothing about Christ, faith, and God's commandments... In the end this is nothing other than the devil himself..." (Schmalkald, p. 15).
The painting of Leo X is by Raphael, who had been put in charge of many Papal building projects. The painting is considered a masterpiece but I find it putrid. They do not look like men of God but like three mafiosi, and their rich clothing in contrast to that of the poor men who followed Christ, makes me queasy. Paul Tillich writes in another context, "The demonic is something finite and limited which has been invested with the stature of the infinite" (On the Boundary, p. 40).
It's horrible to imagine that this Pope was the benefactor of the painter Raphael, and that Raphael had to paint what amounted to his master.
It is for such reasons that Luther disallowed the churchly patronage of the fine arts. Since then, however, Christian artists have been pauperized by this lack of patronage. Finding a proper commercial role for Christian artists is still a quandary within Protestantism.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Dorn was in France in 1992 and wrote a letter to Clark. "I got into my Protestant roots. That's real unfashionable actually -- but I was raised a Methodist, and I've been a Methodist ever since. You see, I think Martin Luther was the greatest revolutionary. The Protestant Revolution precipitated all other revolutions, and all the other revolutions were failed revolutions. The American Revolution came out of it, the French Revolution came out of it. The basic proposition of the Protestant Revolution was that authority is inherently corrupt." (P. 65)
Methodists are Wesleyans, but the Wesleyans as well were deeply influenced by Luther. Wesleyans are perhaps a bit more into the heartfelt aspects of piety than Lutherans. Lutherans are distrusting of the heart and think one requires a brain, too.
Still, it fascinates me when Dorn talks about the "unfashionable" aspect of Protestantism. Who set up the fashions of the art world? I suspect that there are a tremendous number of Protestants in the humanities who nevertheless have stuffed their basic coordinates in order to fit into the fashion set. We are probably a preponderance. I doubt if very many of us are true Marxists.
Marxism was a Lutheran heresy. Its repetition in the academy is farcical.
William Carlos Williams also admired Luther, and he remained a powerful hero for him throughout his life (Mariani biography).
I don't know why people throughout the humanities don't go back to their religious roots, whether those be Jewish, Catholic, or Protestant. The strictures and the beliefs in those religions are so much more coherent and beautiful than Marxism, which has its roots in materialism and which has never produced anything but death for artists. It is a failed revolution.
The Protestant Revolution, on the other hand, as Dorn says, is not only the only successful revolution, but it is ongoing, and has produced America -- which remains a light on the hill to the world and to the glory of Christ.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Plato's notion that poetry should be banned since it was in competition with philosophy (with HIS philosophy) is a temptation that I think many IDEALISTS find tempting.
IDEALISTS according to the personality survey known as the Myers-Briggs type indicator: they are intuitives rather than sensory, and they are feelers, as opposed to thinkers.
Myers-Briggs has four dichotomies. One is extrovert-introvert. I assume that almost everyone who reads my blog regularly is an introvert. The 2nd is sensory versus intuitive. Sensory people have their feet on the ground. Intuitives have their heads in the clouds. I assume that everyone who comes here REGULARLY is also an intuitive.
Third is the most interesting bifurcation, because it is also the most puzzling. It is the distinction between thinkers and feelers.
Here's a hypothetical to help you decide. You are the head of a company and you have to fire one of two people. Ted is 57 and has been with your company for 22 years. He works hard, has good rapport, and is successful at his position. He has a sickly wife, and a son just starting college. He's mid-management, and probably won't go any higher.
Allen has been with your company for two years, and is 36. He has no family to support, but he has top management potential. He's quick, and he also has a very good track record. Due to the need to downsize, you have to either get rid of Allen or Ted. Allen makes 20,000 dollars less than Ted because he hasn't been with your company very long.
I assume that almost everyone who comes here would keep the older man. I would, too. I would partially out of sympathy but partially because if you remove him you destroy the morale of your whole company. Ted has rhizomed into the lives of all his co-workers if he's even half-way normal. To remove him would tear holes in the social fabric of your company. Allen, who's only been around for two years, hasn't rhizomed quite as thoroughly, so to remove him will not cause as much social damage. Plus, he can get back on his feet more easily since he's 36, and has no one to care for.
Some people argue that you have to only think of the bottom line and the savings of 20- grand would be significant. And that the sickly wife that Ted's got is going to cost a lot more to cure. So what? It costs more in terms of the social fabric to wipe out Ted.
I am a feeler, probably not unlike most of you who are reading this. If you vote for Ted you are tender-minded. If you vote to keep Allen you are a thinker.
Finally, there is a bifurcation between judgers and perceivers. Perceivers let everything float, and are very spontaneous. The most typical sign of a perceiver is a fantastically cluttered desk. My desk is three feet high with papers and books and the area around my desk is often cluttered as well. I am a perceiver. Judgers come to quick decisions, and their decisions are final. Perceivers keep their minds almost endlessly open.
So, on the MBTI, I am an INFP (introverted intuitive feeling perceptive). This is the type associated with the humanities. According to surveys, only about 1% of the population belongs in this category. Plato probably belonged in this category, too. The temptation to imagine that we can do things better than everyone else is strong.
The idea that we should take over the government and run it well, is strong.
Ha ha ha. The only problem is that we make a mess of things if we succeed.
The problem is that there are other people, too. 99%. And most of them are not idealists. They couldn't write a poem if they had until the sun burned out. Hillary, Barack, and John couldn't write a poem if they had until the end of the universe, and had three aides helping them.
It is tempting for idealists to believe that they can change the world. But you must be careful. In the wings sit opportunists who will say anything, even quote poetry, in order to get into power, and if you help them pave the way to total power, you end up in the gulag with your epic, while Stalin gets into power.
Plato wanted to get rid of the poets, and anyone else who would compete with his ideal vision. Many poets and artists feel the same way.
Opportunists feel this way, too, and yet they have no ideals whatsoever.
Most of the people who have taken over the humanities have no humanity in them. They couldn't write a poem if they had until the sun burned out. This is my litmus test. Pay attention to them: if someone in the humanities argues for the social utility of literature but cannot themselves compose literature, they are opportunists, who are probably thinkers if not actually schemers. BE WARY OF THEM.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Instead, we posited dualisms: Lutheranism and Surrealism, which in turn form yet another dualism, between the spark of anarcho-Sadism, and the principles of the ten commandments.
We are deeply involved in the resurrection of dualisms, and ultimately wish to go beyond even dualisms (and yet we do not wish to smash one side of the dualism, but rather to get reflections to go back and forth between them). Ultimately, we want to unleash millions of factions: Anabaptist surrealism, and Presbyterian Dadaism, etc.
There has been too much emphasis on monism within modernism. We want in postmodernism to multiply the differends, and to splinter the One by introducing the concept of Two.
And so we begin with Two Kingdoms: Law, and Grace.
Once we have that accomplished, we will introduce more and more language games whose common denominator is not politics. Aesthetics is divisible only by aesthetics, for example.
And most importantly, we hope to crack up the Unity through the reintroduction of a sense of humor that will cause even the self-righteous twits of monism to shatter as if they were so many mirrors dropped off their high horses on to the Rock.
However, now that we are three years into the project, we have found ourselves somehow senselessly attracted to various monisms of our own. We are moving closer and closer to Calvinism, and even at some points have been poisoned by the communists to believe that there is some merit in monism after all in that it leads to direct actions that the Two Kingdoms model might not.
Marx argues that action without understanding is a good thing (Feces on Feuerbach).
We think however it is important to build an adequate theoretical understanding of poverty before we set out to resolve it. Perhaps that understanding is a Tower of Babble.
But we believe that the ultimate DUALISM is that of Mom and Dad. We want to assert that both are necessary in a marriage, and that marriage, as Adam and Eve were the first, must consist of a friendship between the two, but that SATAN introduced a discombobulation (the APPLE) which continues to this day to shatter the Dualism of Marriage into the monisms of SINGLE parenthood.
And that is not a laughing matter. Ha ha!