Archive for the ‘Selfhood’ Category

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An Apology for Alyosha

September 24, 2009

Ethics is not mathematics. A balanced equation of right and wrong does not justice make. The most dangerous individuals had the best intentions supported by earthly logic and balanced equations. It is not right to murder one innocent child to save the entire universe.

You must only commit good acts to prevent bad acts. Doing a bad act to prevent a worse outcome is still vile, contemptible, and a sign of our base nature – the nature which craves justification for our inner most demons. The devil is a logician too, after all. So despite your desire to help or save another, you mustn’t commit an evil act to do so.

The question is – can we live like that?

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On Genesis

September 10, 2009

“We always know who we should love \ but we’re never certain how.” John K. Samson.

From the dark silence of several weeks… a spark. A spark to start a fire. A spark from the void to ignite a word, and from that word spoken comes words written. The word is genesis and the words follow beneath. The subject is a particular genesis, the beginning of a book that represents the beginnings of humanity. Nothing in my life has intrigued me more than this particular account and it is often during the genesis of new and wonderful things in my life that it returns.

The book of Genesis speaks to the beginnings of humanity. That is to say, it gives an account for the root of human nature by creating a theoretical beginning. It is not a historical or scientific account but rather an observation of the things that were happening around the author at the time. Perhaps divinely inspired, perhaps not, it stands regardless as one of the greatest summations of human experience in the western cannon. Not because it accurately describes a moment in time, but rather because it describes every moment in time.

The stories, whether divinely inspired or not, serve as guides to human nature that tells how man lived, how we currently live, how we will most likely live in the future, and how we should live despite all of this. It is a summation, a prediction, and an ethic. Not only is it this, but it is all of those things for an individual life, for a community’s life, and for humanity in general. It accounts for personal ethic, political life, and ethical existence for people and does so while confronting man’s natural desire to wrestle with meaning at its metaphysical core. 

One story, the topic of this entry, is the story of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel are brothers who live their lives in unfettered contact with God. This becomes important later. It must be noted that God is a character in Genesis and as a symbol means a great deal. Cain and Abel give worship to God through sacrifice. It is assumed by the reader that this is not a faith based worship but rather a necessity. They seem too close to God to really require faith to believe. He is more a fact. As if all the barriers between physical and metaphysical reality have been stripped.

Cain kills Abel. But why? After both brothers give sacrifice Abel’s is favored over Cain’s. Cain, assumingly out of envy, kills Abel. But why? For what end? I posit this – to achieve God’s love. Cain’s crime, one that is the ultimate in damnation, heinous in nature, and base in motive was caused by his desire to be loved by God, and his love for God. Having failed to achieve God’s love through worship, Cain removes the one that God favors, eliminating the completion if you will.

Thus Genesis not only confronts such base human behaviors as murder but does so while intertwining vicious behavior with the one true God. God, the greatest of all things, the good to which no other good should be sought, even without the veils between physical and metaphysical existence, gives man such great desire that man, given his freedom, will commit the ultimate atrocities to achieve His love.  

Thus we, whose mode of existence is weighed down by the barrier between physical and metaphysical beings, are even more likely to have our love misguided or to love improperly. Yet faith tells us to love God with all our hearts. Was Cain any different? We always know who we should love, we are never certain how. This to me, is most true with God himself.

The truth is we are all more like Cain than Abel. We will always love improperly, will always have misguided attempts at love, and will often confuse where and who God is. The punishment for this human flaw? Homelessness.

Following Cain’s atrocity he is punished by God. He is not killed, nor harmed, but rather exiled to forever wander and never rest. Cain is not only spared by God, but protected with a mark. Any of those who commit the atrocity of murdering Cain will be punished 7 fold. Cain must live, must carry the weight of his body, and wonder forever. This is humanity in the embodied state. Disconnected and wandering without true rest. For true rest comes in God. “Our hearst are restless until they rest in you.”

This is more bleak than hell, or at least equivalent. Unlike Cain, we are told of mercy and a possible return home but are left to wander until then. The possibility of mercy and home is a topic for another discourse on Genesis. For now, let us drain the final lessons for the story of Cain about how to deal with ourselves in the state of wandering.

Cain having been banished builds a city. A curious fact for a homeless man. Once again showing that earthly buildings do not provide man a ‘home’. The city is called Enoch, after his son. So Cain also has a family whose lineage continues. Cain’s family begets all those that play the lyres and pipes, and the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. A pretty prestigious class that gives birth to things so intimately woven with human culture that one cannot divorce humanity from them. They are the very finger prints of man.

Music shares in Godliness because its power can insight man to do both evil and good things. Music itself evokes love and as a product of love comes hate. It is the very lineage of Cain playing in our cars, or homes, while we run, while we read, from our computers, IPods, and stereos. In reminds us of the Cain inside all of us.

Beauty is a terrifying thing as much as it is an uplifting thing. The most beautiful and good things guide us but our weakness misguides us. Our love, coming from such flawed things, move with the power of all mighty God, but with the direction of the wind. We are pushed and pulled to the paths of least resistance. Yet even without resistance we would still be Cain. So engrained is freedom in our lives that even in the presence of God himself we can still falter. Faith is not loving God, no that is easy if you try. Faith is not thinking He loves you back, He does. Faith is thinking that His mercy will outweigh his justice, and that despite your flaws he will bring you home.

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Corollary To Axiom IIa

August 23, 2009

All things experienced are internalized before cognized. Hence our knowledge of all outside things is passed through a filter of perception before we even internalize it as ‘knowledge’.

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Axiom II

August 23, 2009

Whatever that is out there to find that makes you happy, content, fulfilled, or curious comes from inside you. If you find anything that does so outside of you, it is because it reflects something that was inside you from the beginning.

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L’Chaim

July 14, 2009

It is incomprehensible to me the absurdity of life. How sudden despair with depth and edges like teeth still uplifts and fulfills and how such transcendent moments come in the shower occasionally. Yet, sometimes after toweling off and rubbing the condensation off the mirror it leaves with both its wonder and its weight.

I find it crazy that people commit suicide. Note here: not they. I don’t find them crazy. I find ‘it’ crazy. The action set apart as a platonic form if you will. Suicide quo suicide. Half of me doesn’t care. I mean whatever, right? Either there is eternal existence beyond the body or not. And either way, they are going to be ok. I feel. They might regret the decision on the other side, but they’ll be ok. I have to believe that because I have too many faults to be afforded more mercy than them. And if there is nothing… well then what did they lose? Pain, loneliness, despair.

I like the way a book smells. New and old. And often when I read them on the love seat in my kitchen, or by the window, or outside I find myself thinking of women. Each page like clothing, each letter like strands of hair that alone would look peculiar but together form a beautiful style. Every turned page is a removal of a layer of clothing, until ultimately we are both naked – at first exciting but then disappointing after a while. The undressing, it would seem, is more important than the being undressed. There is something about knowing the whole story that disturbs me. All I want to do is go back to ignorance so I can experience the unveiling again. That’s a metaphor… Sometimes.

I find it intolerable to not read… something, anything. But not nothing. I find it crazy that people could find it boring. I guess that’s what makes me intolerant. Oh well, so sue me. I wonder how such people view women, and love, and family. How do they view history, humanity, and art. Do they view them at all? I guess they must. But everybody reads, right? Such people don’t really exists. I mean, I read too much, it’s not good. I am not talking about that much. But everybody reads…. sometimes.

I love it when people are honest. And when they touch you a lot. Hugs and handshakes. Kisses and kicks in the ass. I thinks that’s why I like alcohol and people who drink it. I don’t like it when people run for fun. I understand why they do. I just don’t like it. I mean, honestly, what are you running from? Or toward? And are you getting there? I don’t like it when people don’t do things out of fear, though I’m shockingly cowardly in that same way. Perhaps that’s why I like it in others. Perhaps that is why I drink alcohol. For honesty, and touching moments, and foolish bravery that makes you experience things you never would.

It unnerves me when people don’t drink. Even more so when they feel it makes them righteous. Even more so when they do so because of God. I don’t think he could possibly care less, really. On the other hand I understand them. What are they really losing but abstaining? Hangovers, bad livers, hurt feelings (the bruises of honesty), people who touch too much because their motives are other than humanity. The smell of vomit. The feeling of cold porcelain on your face. Not missing much. So it could be worse. It still unnerves me, and that is confusing to me.

I like children. I want some. My own. I have nothing against adoption. I just have no desire to do so. My love for children comes only after my love for women. Such a kind and gentle sex. Like children with minds of adults, and adult inclinations. Like interesting, social, and educated children. Not to mention, they are great on the eyes. As such, you can imagine I love families. I want one. My own. Yet being a father scares me. A lot. I had a good example though, so I should be fine. My wife would help too. I have friends that would be glad to help out. Yet still. I am afraid. What if I raise a Hitler, you know? Do I really control that? Such worries are ridiculous. But they come in those moments in the shower too. How desires and fears are twin brothers. Note here: not sisters.

I have no tolerance for people who think goods come without bads. Or that bads don’t have a silver lining. My theory: take a day, a real day, to be whatever emotion you are feeling – then get over it. Everybody needs to take a day for themselves. Then they need to understand that life is complex and not every day can be a day off, yet occasionally you can have one, and they are good.

Of course I say all this. Yet I still adore many a person and humanity as a whole. I can never look into an eye and not feel something. All these things that perturb me, before and after the fact, are nothing when I am with somebody. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. I don’t know if I am being dishonest or a social construct. It just doesn’t happen. That is the blessing of my life. All people have to be upset, have to feel pain, they have to be disappointed. It is good for them. But if you can enjoy the time when you are with others, forget your problems, read a book, have a drink, and just be. Well, if you can do that, you can be happy. People will either make you happy or sad, and 9 times out of 10 this depends on your perception. I got lucky. I naturally love people and because of it I love life. That is really all I had to say, so why I wrote the rest, and why you read it, is all a mystery to me.

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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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Walking Shadow

June 2, 2009

“A representation, however, changes neither the environment for the condition of the organism itself. An image making creature, therefore, is on that indulges in the making of useless objects or has ends in addition to the biological ones.” – Hans Jonas The Phenomenon of Life pb 158.

The image itself does not change the organism, but does the process? Does the ability to ‘create’ a ‘useless’ object imply an unbiological desire of man to do so? Can an ability be discovered prior to any desire to do so? What are the biological ramifications of this? Furthermore, does the viewing of the image have any affect? Here of course comes the idea of aesthetic beauty but also visceral repulsion. Doesn’t this constitute a use, even biologically? (Like a butterfly changing colors to frighten). What if other things had this desire and ability – Hans Jonas says that makes them one of us – is that so? Can we tell something about a creator by their creation? If so, then doesn’t that constitute a change in that creator in terms of its ontological revelation of self.

“I am very sorry, good Horatio, that to Laertes I forgot myself, for by the image of my cause I see the portraiture of his.” – William Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act 5 Scene 2.

How much can one reveal about himself? Only so much as one knows about oneself. At least on purpose, I suppose. At what point do we become what he represent to others? At what point do we become the representations that we see from others? It is one biological question to say that we create these images to begin with (as Hans Jonas points out) but completely another to say that we fight and kill other humans over these images. Such fruitless killing has no evolutional advantage at the best and is completely contrary to evolution at its worst. What tie do images have to us? That they can go from being what connects us to what control us? Are we telephone operators connecting images together – or puppeteers – or puppets.

“I, the godhead’s image, who thought myself \ close to the mirror of eternal truth, \ and stripped of my mortality, \ saw Heaven’s light and clarity reflect on me. \ I, more than Cherub, with unbounded power \ presumed to course through Nature’s arteries \ to create and live the life of a divinity — \ now I must do penance without measure;\ one thunder-word has swept me off to nothingness.” – Goethe’s Faust Part I lines 614-622

It is not a new idea to say that we have a nature inside us that seems most particular. It is however a new idea to assume that such a power might not be good – at all. Certain doubts have always been raised, but we have come to a point where it is acceptable to completely mistrust man’s possible divinity. Unfortunately, by removing possible divinity (whether it was ever there or not) you remove the possible divine responsibility. The images that once connected us, or even enraged us, are now sedating us. We are the anti-Faust who have unshackled ourselves from the divine cravings so as to avoid the devil’s temptations. Rather than delve into our own image-making and discover ourselves (“Is parchment then the sacred fount \ from which a draft will quench our thirst forever? You must draw in from your inward soul \ or else you’ll not be satisfied.”) we use those same images to keep our eyes peering outside on digital parchments, in electronic hymns, and in bestial behavior, often violent and sexual.

“…what is man that You have been mindful of him, \ mortal man that You have taken note of him \ that You have made him little less than divine, \ and adorned him with glory and majesty.” Psalms 8 5-6.

what is man that he is not mindful of himself, moral man that he cannot take note of himself, that he has made himself little less than divine, and adorned himself with glory and majesty.