Archive for the ‘Magnanimity’ Category

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The Great Gig in the Sky

June 9, 2009

“I think its time we compiled a list of places that we shouldn’t go.” – Maximo Park.

So here I sit, listening to Pink Floyd and Jazz music. I mindlessly go from thought to thought, and occasionally write. Yet as each thought rises from my mind it becomes too vague to exist outside me, and it dissipates. To grasp at it, is to destroy it outright, to let it go, is to let it drift away into the abyss of the physical world. I am here again, at the point I always come to, the point of reflecting on the mirror’s surface, the knowledge of knowledge, the knowledge of self.

In the name of unquenchable desire for knowledge many realms of thought have been explored and perhaps invented using this vague ancient defense as validation. Yet, as we focus our telescopes on the sky and trail our microscopes across strange alien fungi, we forget where knowledge comes from, to where it goes, and why we desire it to begin with.

We desire knowledge because we desire things like us – we desire ourselves. This is why we cherish such qualities as freedom and equality – the ability to make one’s self and to make others be like you. The greatest scientific discoveries in the world have always been immediately followed with questions that escape the realm of science. Until recently, this was a shame to even scientists.

Yet, this post is not an attack on science (like most of my others), it is instead an attack on everything – perhaps out of some metaphysical angst that must manifest itself as anger in order to make my feeble flawed soul feel empowered like some ancient Greek warrior. But none the less, I lash out violently at the entirety of my generation, in the process scourging myself.

How oft I failed to stop and understand my own argumentation. How oft have I walked the tight-rope between logic and emotion claiming clemency from either attack on the basis of its counter point. I am, after all, a lingual illusionist. The David Blaine of philosophers. The Criss Angel of poetics. Have I garnered anything but applause from my audience, who seeing the trick are convinced of magic, yet go home knowing that it can’t be true – despite any emotional response.

Just like everyone else when I finally settle back upon myself I cannot put a finger on where I am. (Anyone who tells you differently is one of two things. A liar, or an idiot). Yet, like most people I still claim a ‘selfhood’ to which I am obligated to be ‘genuine’. The tension between these two ideas gives the birth of such beautiful concepts as freedom, free will, and choice. I am concrete that changes. The result is the amazing ability to stroke the passions regardless of logic, and then collapse back into a world of 1+1 justifications. Proof. Poof.

The greatest pleasures arise from this tension and furthermore by this tension is magnified like an echo chamber. This equality of opposites within our souls allows the passions to win just often enough to make us miss it when its gone. Then in its victorious return it is all the more glorious. Furthermore, I am not entirely sure that this is a necessarily bad thing, but rather a misdirected good. Part of me wants to embrace this passionate side and perfect its music – while another part, the equality of reason, demands I embrace something “higher” – an emotion that is not without its own pleasure.

The result of continued friction and tension is, of course, orgasm. The release of the self in favor of one or the other. In the release there is always simultaneous guilt and pleasure, immortality and death, love and hate. The person is either truest or most false in the midst of this orgasm wherein the ‘pure’ form of the two sides is most dominant. But in so doing, in so stepping into purity, we have betrayed the things that got us there – the tension of two opposites. So have we become more pure by dissolving one side in favor of the other – or have we become less human because we have too much clarity. Perhaps we add this to the list of places we shouldn’t go. Perhaps we draw a map and mark it with an x. Perhaps we just sit here and listen to The Great Gig in the Sky.

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The Valiant Never Taste of Death But Once

March 30, 2009

“I do not fear death. I fear that I may somehow inadvertently or purposefully bring it about.” – My paraphrasing of Timothy Holmes.

I wish I could take credit for this extreme lucidity and eloquence when I responded to the same question… I cannot. Though I did answer the question in a similar way: “No I do not fear death. I fear the deaths of others”. I for one have always confronted the idea of death with more curiosity than fear – even the darkest hours of my atheism whereupon I still agreed that the deaths of my loved ones was far more painful than my own death.

This question did arise rather suddenly and externally when myself and Mr. Holmes participated in an interview wherein the subject of death was discussed in relation to spirituality and politics. It is important, beyond the urging of my words, that we understand the entirety of modern politics is based around death and the complete desire to avoid it at all costs. Beginning with Machiavelli, and then Hobbes, and finally with Locke the idea of death becomes the foundation of rights. Natural rights flow from the nature of death.

Death’s introduction to the political order makes any answer extreme. Since our idea of life, and it’s rights, are based on death – killing becomes either grim natural reality or perverse execution. In reality it is neither.

“Death is the respite from life. It is possibly joyous and maybe even preferred.” (again another paraphrase – Tim please send me the actual quotes if you can remember them and I will errata this entry). Death as respite is something I could never believe as an atheist (though many have tried to put forward a similar concept). This understanding does come about it is in the esoteric writings of select secular philosophers who then get misquoted and misunderstood by others. It is equally important that we understand that such a concept can never be the popular understanding of the masses in a secular state.

This is not a defense or justification of religion – it is reality. The post-enlightenment birth of secular states coincides with political revolution based on the concept of death. The two need each other. If we are to understand death in a Hobbesean or Lockean way then we must see it as flowing from nature and to be the subject of reason. Thus the state shouldn’t indulge itself in the particular mythologies of churches. Thus we arrive at our modern state.

Modern religious freedom creates an accepting environment by refusing to have any religious beliefs. Thus when confronting issues of death the state must make decisions without metaphysical guide posts. This has a tendency to make the regime either act too brutally or too late. Almost every war since the Enlightenment has been a total war, an ideological war, and a devastating war. The wars have been so gruesome that even the “good guy’s” virtue was often clouded or downright abandoned. America entered the war late to save American lives – then they ended it early by dropping two nuclear weapons. Again to save American lives. Here is not the time to discuss just war theory but it is important to point out this phenomenon historically.

But here is the not the time to talk about such politics either. It is the time to point out the reasoning of a secular state. Reason, as it turns out, is no different than blind faith. It indulges itself, justifies itself, and is often used to do all sorts of bad things. Is fighting over democracy abroad any different than fighting for the glory of God? Our love of democracy is based only on post-enlightenment reason that is ultimately based on a new death theology.

What I am about to say is perhaps the most extreme thing I have ever committed to public dissection. Perhaps death isn’t all that big of a deal. Perhaps life (as we know it) isn’t all that big of a deal. It seems the greatest virtues eventually push individuals to put their own lives out of the picture. Ultimate humility, ultimate courage, and even ultimate justice sometimes demand a lack of regard for one’s own life. We are going to die. So don’t waste time fearing your death but rather fear you have not lived. Fear that you will die alone sitting watching the TV. Fear that you will have never changed another person’s life for the better. Fear that no one will mourn your death.

This idea is also dangerous. For once you realize the meaningless of death you no longer have the whip of the slave driver. The clear direction to the stars is cut short of its gravity and you’re left to drift in an apparent void. The temptation is to dive into meaningless and arbitrary faith – do not do this. This is not a justification for such irresponsibility. The fight is hard and it may flirt with that old slave driver like a mistress. It may find the bitter sting of the whip pleasant and what was once your master is now your ally. This is the most tempting and problematic effect of this new belief – one that for ages lead antiquity to the heights of greatness.

In the end, it is most likely our proximity to death that allows us to transcend and understand the things beyond our body. Only in the comfort of science could we embrace cold unfeeling atheism. Only with the soft despotism of the television could we finally give up the freedom we fought for. Only in the age of medicine and health could we devote our lives to living healthily only to realize too late that we never did anything with our 75 years. This proximity fueled our pre-science ancestors in the Renaissance who watched a great empire fall, a plague strangle Europe, and a 100 year war over a holy land they’d never see. They saw it every day and they clawed with clenched hands at the dark sky to let some light through.

The enlightenment itself started in the mild rumblings of an Earthquake in Lisbon. Such tremors have shaken the world and crumbled entire foundations. We now fear death or worse, we ignore it. But why? For what good does all this fretting and worrying do? Do we not shake the earth so badly that the ghosts of Lisbon pity us? Do those wraiths sit somewhere beyond it all fearing that one day they will be thrown back into a body and reintroduced into the fear of our skin? Perhaps I will ask them when I meet them. Perhaps they don’t even know the movement that started in their name. In which case I won’t tell them, I won’t make them worry about us, I’ll just ask about the weather or how the weather used to be.

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Can Friendship Survive Alaska?

September 10, 2008

You know that part of life where all your friends start leaving… well I’m there and feeling completely uninspired to write anything. Suggestions?

 

This is all Palin’s fault. Damn you sexy republicans.