19.7.13

"Murphy wants the world to know that the Tsarnaev in the photos he took that night—defeated and barely alive, with the red dots of sniper rifles lighting up his forehead—is the real face of terrorism, not the handsome, confident young man shown on the magazine cover."
(from the Boston Magazine)

i.e. the real face of terrorism is framed by the state security apparatus. the embodied agent does not exist outside of this frame. any memories or images of this "person" are akin to waking dreams, figments, or hallucinations. for the reality of this "person" was EVIL. unfortunately, this state makes the Rolling Stone "glamorization" of Tsarnaev all the more sensible, trading as it does in the commodity of celebrity, and its incumbent figments and dreams. "glamour" meant, earlier in our tongue, a deceptive spell, like all magic trading in the space between true/false, reality/fantasy, and redeemed Christianity/unredeemed Paganism. 

does Rolling Stone then play Pagan to the police photographer's good Christian? or, rather, is one image as true as the other, pixelated reifications idolized through coordinated ritual appellation into fetish objects for military or commercial mobilization?

both visions make reference to what they claim as a transcendent. the police photographer to society, secure on its foundations of unchecked authority, and Rolling Stone to the person, the self, complex and interwoven, ultimately impenetrable and romantically so. 

both, unfortunately, are embedded and embodied in immanent narrative frames, never, perhaps, reaching finality, but gesturing there always with an objectively determinate scientific precision. violence to reach the zero-point of violence, self-actualization to reach the fully actual self. 

what does it take to detach these images from such corrupted "politics" in order to reattach them to the void that the absence of person from a community, the interruption of their aforemade narrative presence in the collective mind and memory. who is Tsarnaev but a metonymy for his empty place, for the empty places of those effected by the event he stands in for? "It harbours within it an excess, a rapture, a potential of associations that overflows all the determinations of its 'reception' and 'production.'"

27.7.12

Culture Wars

While on practicality alone, Glenn Greenwald's insight is an effective rebuttal to the controversy surrounding Chick-Fil-A and outraged liberals everywhere, the whole debacle stirred a few passions in me with less practical but no less political consequences.

My experience of the controversy, like many here reading this, was mediated primarily through social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and community email lists. And lo, I was witness to outrage. What began with calls for boycotts and permit denials turned quickly to various forms of payback: calls for homosexuals to organize flash mob make-out sessions at Chick-Fil-A and a plan to release pink chickens into a location or two.

Now, perhaps my knee-jerk contrarianism would have a different kick were I living in the Bible Belt, but as I surround myself with Big City Liberals, my fraught position is to reconcile a smug, self-righteous progressivism with friends that I know and respect. I thought payback and punishment were tools of those childish right-wingers? I thought the government should stay out of religious debates? I thought that one is entitled to an opinion, whether or not that opinion clashes with your own?

 That's not to say that all of these issues aren't complex, with considerations that reach across the whole history of our political and social praxis, hence evading any easy answers. But isn't this what liberals insist upon? That there are shades of grey, and exceptions to the rule, and variations in context? One could hardly think that when confronted with the swift personal, political, and moral denouncement, words backed up by actions, against a business whose crime it is to support dogma incompatible with their own.

 But this, I must suppose, is the character of the culture wars. The personal is political and all that mumbo jumbo. Thus historically contingent practices take on dogmatic import, metastasized and crudely simplified by mass media into great big banners that our politicians can wave to claim representative authority, even as they rob our children of future and past alike. As just causes clash, trust the mercenary professionals to make an unjust killing.

 So lead on noble culture warriors; for if you don't shout so loudly, others might suspect it's all just a charade.

19.8.11

"Witchcraft, and all manner of Spectre-work, and Demonology, we have now named Madness and Disease of the Nerves. Seldom reflecting that still the new question comes up on us: What is Madness, what are Nerves? Ever, as before, does Madness remain a mysterious-terrific, altogether infernal boiling-up of the Nether Chaotic Deep, through this fair-painted Vision of Creation, which swims thereon, which we name the Real. Was Luther's Picture of the Devil less a Reality, whether it were formed within the bodily eye, or without it? In every the wisest Soul lies a whole world of internal Madness, an authentic Demon Empire; out of which, indeed, his world of Wisdom has been creatively built together, and now rests there, as on its dark foundations does a habitable flowery Earth-rind."

-Diogenes Teufelsdröckh

16.6.11

Re: Ozymandias

Like ants they scurry, hurry
From task to thorax breaking task
For the greater grander project yet
The deified monument defined

Mote by time defying mote
Broken from ancient boulders
Classic sculpture, castle stones
And the crack gravel of modernity

See, king of kings, see
Your wind-swept sands still seething
With white-golden glimmering fires
Foot flesh searing that we dance

Hear, ear-lending citizens
Together fear and set ourselves
Upon the unfriendly formica
As we make ourselves master this yard

Our queen, who grants to us liberty,
Shines a light upon the world
Invites us all to the sumptuous banquet
Of freedom, prosperity, and justice

Brigands boast not here
Else the righteous sword dispatch your ear
Whilst we in fertile gardens play
Sole recipients of sunly ray

Be not nautical aerial aetherial
Venture not vertical
To heights and depths unmanned
To space outside our plan

For we’ll know, we always do
Your infamy, your treachery
Against the mother, against your birth
Against the father, your nation’s earth

Forgive me and forget me
You aim to touch the sky
Above us high, stay one
Stay one with us of dirt

One day your wax will burn away
One day you’ll plummet straight
Shooting cross the aether flame
Your doom marks us all, omen

The blame will not be shared then
But ‘scaped by us, you goat
Bray boastful still you will
As we ‘dorn a pike your head

We are not totem brothers
Matched in sin and patricidal shame
Nay, yours is the hubris
Yours is the great cosmic wrong

Can you blame the scorned?
Who toil and drudge
That your roads are clean
And your autos pristine

Thanklessness ever exceeding
The dreams they dreamt as children
Now but rudely mocked
In pale-screened imitations

Is this not a tale told in common
The king with his people
As greedy, better men despoil
The roguish baron’s play

But now the ancient pact is broken
And Rome’s sword buried deep within her guts

What a rich and luscious heritage
So nutrient filled
So quenching to the thirst
Autohemabibology, the new science of self-consumption

Still they doubt us, those family men
From the caves to the plains
Under the banners of the fathers
And so new cities made

When the binding twine was still soft
Stretched sinews and pig guts
Fat burning words divining
By the rites we came to know

Gods, heroes, men design
Names for stories told by fire
That promethean gift and curse
By which the world will rise and burn

To survive we must dig
Dig deeper, ‘neath the blood and the guts
‘Neath the bones and the catacombs
‘Neath the fossils of fearsome myths

Dig deeper and hide
Dig deeper where the devils reside
And take up refuge there
At least we’ve earned our share

Though they no trumpets blare
No pearly gates, no virtues rare
But the vulgar common mass
Rapt caged in tarnished brass

As this will be to us to keep
As this will be, so as I speak
Pretense no truer ever else
And this will end authentic selves

So let us build our castles, mote by mote
The days at least by this be kept
And when the dusk long shadows turn
Let our brutal tales, under rug be swept

12.6.11

Love (in the Positive)

Pivoting from the previous post, as soon as I dismiss the romantic notion, I'm bound to restore it. For however much I try to rid myself the sentimental baggage, I seek Love. The Love those romantics connote as completion, a fulfillment of the desire that cries out from the ever clichéd depths of my soul.

But alongside this desire, still at the core of my being, sits a doubt, hard and unmoving. My doubt says that this Love is fairy-tale claptrap, impossible to me and falsely indulged by others. Like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or the search for the philosopher's stone—only myth and legend pretense there truth here. And I, meanwhile, in relationship after relationship, push the Sisyphean stone hillside up only to watch it fall down again, again, and again.

Yet, if there's one dynamic I've essayed to invest in myself (and share with the world), it's the splendor of myth and legend. The more beautifully outrageous a story, I've trained my ears to hear its greater hold on truth. The more boring and banal an event, the more it's like to be deaf to a memory blessed with finite capacity. Thus, for this Don Quixote, the very impossibility of Love becomes its plausibility and, in fact, necessity.

But this necessity suggests overdetermination. Who is the hero who doesn't get his girl? The scope for play and freedom which is at the very heart of making Love is constricted, bound without a safe word.

However, the overdetermination often works the other way when held alongside personal experience of Love lost and found—the first Love, the experience and expectation that haunts us for the remainder of the Loves we find. It also provides the template for the heartbreak that we know now to be inevitable, a heartbreak whose resonance echoes through every facet of our being as we are ever always stitching the scattered pieces of life back into some vaguely coherent whole.

The failure of the first Love is the original sin of Love. It is the primordial falling out that both is and is not your fault. It is, as what relationship isn't? And it isn't to the reality that you can only take so much responsibility for the past, for it's difficult to truly sin in ignorance (as Plato suggests and Kierkegaard contests).

Original sin likewise, what responsibility can we reasonably take for the actions of our archetypal ancestors? On the other hand, who hasn't found that moment of self-awareness that Desire and Care are more often than not in conflict. So ended the innocence of childhood. For this lesson was only learned when fulfilling your Desire caused pain to someone you Cared for.

Two keys stand out in this analogy: Humility and Redemption.

For what is self-awareness in the [repetitious] failure of first Love but the humble knowledge that your Care for your Lover is always at risk to fall to your Desire for yourself. This humble doubt lodges itself in the heart, whether as a seed or as a nightmare, but there now it stares, confronts, and questions you.

As a nightmare, I need not elaborate on the psychologies of repression.

As a seed, it promises the path of redemption: the time when Care triumphs over Desire, if not decisively, at least certainly through all the daily battles that define life.

To George Herbert, and the humility with which we must approach Love after all our little infamies:

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
              Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
              From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
              If I lack'd any thing.

A guest, I answer'd, worth to be here:
              Love said, you shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
              I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
              Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marr'd them: let my shame
              Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
              My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
              So I did sit and eat.

19.4.11

Love (in the Negative)

Love in the contemporary idiom evokes semantic constellations few words can match; not just for its breadth, whether in users or in connotation, but so for the depth of meaning its adherents grant. Aye, the first sense that comes to mind is that deep reservoir of feeling, the romantic sense:

All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.

And we, children of the romantics, cannot help but be swayed by these lofty sentiments. Unless, of course, we turn against the sentiment with the sharp sword of irony, but let us be naive.

Perhaps its unfair to Coleridge, for whom thoughts, passions, and delights equally minister, to derive from him Love as an emotion, Love as a feeling, if the highest thereof. For this is what we say, no? He loves me, he loves me not: a question whether all impulses of soul and sense have thrilled the guileless knight. Love is the language of the immediate, Eros who sways one's soul without the burden of hesitation. No space to will or think.

Love here is the chaste sister of Lust and Power, though I fear she has consumed them both.

At one time (so we tell ourselves), Love was not of the body but of the soul. But then the soul died, and man became psychosomatic. And in that golden age, even unrequited love was mediated through the rituals of courtship. But we're free men and women now--liberté, égalité, fraternité--and so deprived the protection of propriety, all relations have become the domain of master and slave.

Love is Lust and Love is Power, and what is all existence but the will thereto?

When Love is all, Love is nothing. So easily does it become a meaningless signifier. And we speak of all our hyperbolized likes as loves. And we pretense to say "I love you" as an ephemeral sign of social commitment.

This is not to play the cynic, to deny a true Love as the words may go. Rather, 't is a negative attempt to restore love to its proper virtues by first turning it away from the vices to which it has fallen.

The goal is, namely, to rediscover a Love that's rooted in charity with its handmaids of faith and hope: confident, joyful, and emancipating. I turn to the specious romantic, William Blake:

Love to faults is always blind
Always is to joy inclind
Lawless wingd & unconfind
And breaks all chains from every mind

Love (in the positive) deserves, I think, it's own explicative post. Forthcoming, surely.

14.4.11

Troubled Spirits

When the heart wanders fitfully
What love is there to find
With credence giv'n to every start
Heart's patience turns to mind

To know the path of least resist
To know the greater will
Contemplating hazard's course
What truer dreams could kill

In silence whispers tragedy
In solace refuge lust
A tempted fate to try the date
An end to surely bust

And wither console comfort us
As thither shame us might
Where virtue is its own reward
Beside what guiding light

When troubled spirits turn, my love
What jaded tresses want
In consort to a sullen need
Beheld to treach'rous cant

As turns, as spurns a wounded heart
And spreads the vile ill
Remove me from this fate, my love
Submit mine to your will

29.3.11

Icons

Art creates eternities out of moments. It marks the progression of form through time. Styles drift and divert, and etch the passage of the iconic.

Alway a moment too late, as we recollect the fading passion--that movement unnamed 'til then. But now 't is made whole, holy, concrete. A trophy stands to honor past.

There the momentary flay. Strip away the surface. Strip away the preserves grown stale. Draw forth an icon new but unused, one unable to stand alone, over us. Those legacies are not unto us but them. We are the bearers of a new dawn, a new break. Not schism but salvation. Not death but life.

See how they worship the glittering, golden present. A gift, no doubt, yet one beset by countless perils. Pandora's lesson goes unlearned, which comes not too surprising. This prize begs for presentiment, although it earns only will. There, there, do not despair. All has been been before, as vanities of vanities take root to tragic form.

27.8.10

Notes on Contemporary Language

Sticking with our running theme of Giambattista Vico, let's delve into what insights he might offer to the use of language today. The primary insight to draw upon here is the historical dimension of language. This historical dimension does not just mark different words being used at different times, but rather the whole plane of human reference changes with the epoch.

In crude anthropological terms, language gradually transitions from a "magic" phase to a "scientific" phase, with something of a "religious" phase in between (Vico calls them the ages of Gods, Heroes, and Men, but Frazer's notation is at least commonly understood if not accepted). In the first, words exist in a powerful dynamic with the creative force of the universe. There are universal, eternal meanings that words evoke, even as they're being used in limited, ephemeral ways. Every speech act is equally a hymn of praise or a curse. This language references divinity directly, and so should be understood in the context of creation and end-times mythology.

In the second, the "religious" or Heroic phase, language still carries meaning beyond its immediate use, but this meaning is restricted to human history, mythical or otherwise. A great way to approach this is through the modern concept of ideology and our blindness to it when participant. A Jew understands his actions in how they stand up to Moses, a Christian in how they stand up to Christ, a Buddhist in how they stand up to the Buddha. "Historical" personages and their stories provide the referential context for any communication in which we engage. This is as true for political histories as it its for religious (in America see "Greatest Generation," "Founding Fathers," "Camelot," etc.).

Finally, then, the third, the "scientific" phase or the Age of Man. Language becomes increasingly vulgar and specific. Words carry their meaning only with respect to their immediate contexts and circumstances. They acquire a highly technical flavor. People worry about the clear communication of information, denotation is the stock in trade, connotative noise must be excised at all costs. Words relate to one another, but only through elaborate, structured systems of logic that are parseable by a computer.

Irony is the necessary result when this age comes into contact with the previous two. Once language is stripped down to a purely utilitarian existence, the (re-)presentation of past truths will definitively be a case of "say one thing, mean another." For the intimacy with nature and community presupposed by the ages of gods and heroes that underwrites the entire project of their language is lost. Like a frog to be dissected, the living words die in the hands of logic and linguistics. Their relations can be traced and mapped, but these maps don't furnish the reader with a new way to comprehend his own life as the myths and poems of the past might. Rather, they help the reader dissolve the myths and poems of the past, and so protect him from their lessons.

19.8.10

Hopes and Fears in the Social 2.0

Dread or fear, the thought that tomorrow might not turn out right. It's consumptive and vicious. It preys upon us and grows in strength with each bite it takes. The death wish, sure. Fear, anxiety is the experience of our own death reflected back in time.

Past ages sublimed their fears into monsters, to be defeated by the mythological forces of good. In the present we transfer it to questions of authenticity, to be mollified by wielding signs (purchased or achieved) of our authenticity, signs in need of constant subscription and renewal.

Before, our response to this fear was communal and shared. Myths gained their power through repetition, through ritual liturgies of public participation. Even the holy hermit fulfilled a social role as the community outsider, praying for those within and alleviating their fears thereby. Great things could be accomplished by a people united. Great buildings built, great wars fought. For common relief of fear, a common cause in deed.

Today, our brilliant selves have cast off religion in order to be truer to our real wants, needs, and desires. So says Freud, Maslow, et al. Authenticity, assuming some unquestioned capability for self-reflection, is achieved through an alchemical formula (unique for everyone!) of purchased objectives and socially valuable anecdotes. Now we cook, travel, and sport, all as hobbies, all as identity markers for our authentic selves. The actions aren't done for themselves but for ourselves. Fear is conquered by building a monument to focus our attentions, and thus distract them from the fate of even Ozymandias.

Futility of the project aside, we see a historical dynamic in the face of our fears from social to individual back to social. The move back to social is no longer achieved as an accumulation of individuals, but as the decomposition of individuals. This helps explain why Social 2.0 cannot be named as a communal project with substantially shared intentions, but is rather a corporate project with only formally shared intentions. We don't want the same end, we just want the same ends.

While our fears now dissolve in the solution that is passed off as culture, so too do our hopes. Each now gets smaller viewed relative to the common mass of humanity, rather than larger in its conjunction therewith. There's a chance, albeit distant, that jumbling our deconstructed selves about together might settle the mixture into some dynamic equilibrium—cohesive, structured, and sound; and there's evidence that this new way of being in the world provides a veritable primordial soup from which raw, violent creativity is raising itself in beautiful disarray.

What troubles me is the future. This whole system stands on a rather sublime technological crest. Disaster (of the kind all too often known to strike our race) looms with ever more catastrophic implications. Our small fears combine and metastasize, so that one wrong gust of the wind and all falls down, with us none the more able to cope. I fear lest reality indulges itself.

17.8.10

The Apocalypse According to Vico

Imagine the apocalypse. A time when civilization has fallen, collapsed as the parlance goes. Those links that bind us to our fellow men and women lie broken, with little no hope left for repair. The city walls have been breached, the inner sanctum penetrated, and the statues of our idols smolder with the remainders of the world.

It is not a happy thought, this—our cities barren and our farms fallow, all semblance of order, moral or political, lost to unreadable histories. Who stands a chance in this? Survival now is the only imperative, for who could propose a universal maxim or salvific end in a conflagrated universe.

Vico divided human history into three stages of a repeating cycle: the ages of gods, heroes, and men. From gods to men we see a progressively more elaborate and refined system of signification, law, and culture develop. That's not to accuse him of a naive progressivism or a positive teleology of evolution. For this progress is not wholly good. Even as our language and its referents are elaborated, the original signified thing is further obscured. Religiously this point of reference is hinted at in the imago dei, the analogical moment by which the interchangeability between verum, factum, et verbum is transferred from divine to human agency. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The three ages represent the historical dynamic by which language moves from signifying universals to signifying particulars. At our earliest we name gods who are so broadly figured as power, sex, wisdom, marriage, food, wine, life, death, technology, and nature. Yet god worship eventually devolves into hero worship, and human qualities trump universals—courage, strength, wits, temperance, fortitude, honor, continence, and intelligence. Finally, language turns in on itself during the age of men. Here irony takes prominence, so that the virtues to be praised become vices to be mocked. Satire is devised to show the limits and shadows of truth, beauty, and goodness. The highest form of praise is criticism.

What interests me is the return to the beginning. What marks the transition from the age of man back to the age of the gods? What does a non-primordial barbarism look like?

In its subversions, both gross and subtle, the language of irony gradually undermines the whole project of civilization. Language loses its surety of reference, fatally impairing communication; the collapse of universals threatens the possibility of community; and the indifference to virtue disables both civility and self-transcendence. Thus, I think, begins the age of barbarism, where values are so absolutely relative to be incommunicable, and laws have designations as arbitrary as they are self-evidently violent. Is this the apocalypse we foresaw?

Or is, perhaps, the age of barbarism more subtle, less obvious in its connotations? Are we living in the age of barbarism today? That we still have some faculties of communication, that states still have borders and courts still rule on laws, suggests not, but equally, really? The contemporary American government is rather bald about the intentions of its legislation as "balancing competing interests"—that is, paying off powers that be (people included) instead of providing for a healthy civil society. (And to point this out is cynical, as, I'd say, is to say that this is just the way politics works).

And when was the last time we "bought" a politician's slogan? Modern slogans are, of course, a product of the corporate world, the face of capitalism, a capitalism so global in its ambitions to render any theories of state sovereignty as antiquated leftovers of a bygone age which persist more from habit that active necessity.

And finally, communication, a laugh. As if 140 character word bites could accurately convey the human experience. Our communication has become little more than a public tabulation of our likes and dislikes to be collected for the betterment of advertisers, or, in the best case scenario, we make posts to paint pictures of our authentic selves and fit them into ideal social communities. Both these authentic selves and their ideal social communities, even if not arbitrary and commercial, are now so disparate, abstract, and multiplied that they doubly indicate the total dissociation of society and the dissonant distension of our souls.

There are other ways of reading the tea leaves. After all, Vico's pretension of verum-factum-verbum only caught on in the late 20th century as a mockery of its former self, divorced from the imago dei that grounded its radical potentials. Rather, the dualisms of Kant and Descartes became primary, allowing us the fantasy that even as the human soul dies a withering, crippling death, material prosperity might advance to bounds beyond the human imagination. But supposing that what we do is intimately tied to who we are and the language we use to name both, then this insight into our current semiotic status is grim and disturbing. It stands to hope that the cycle will repeat and usher in a salvific age of gods, but such a hope must remain tempered by the knowledge that this course requires us to pass through the bottom of our own human depravity—a depravity that the 20th century, with its many holocausts, was not grotesque enough to represent. So, meanwhile, we must futilely tether ourselves to the present moment, proclaiming without irony, "Le Roi est Mort. Vive le Roi!"

25.11.08

The Financial Crisis, or A Chance for Communal Purgation

Most public intellectuals, editorial journalists, and professional bloggers seem to subscribe to the notion that massive government intervention was and is needed to rescue/bail-out/life-line the banking industry. Some, of course, do so "reluctantly;" they bemoan the necessity for this operation; they decry the failures of the regulatory agencies, the greed of the chief executives, and the short-sightedness of the system as a whole. Yet, left and right, they acquiesce to taxpayer supported medicine, because, no doubt, the alternative is certain doom.

Granted there are a few right-wing and left-wing populists protesting government intervention. The right-wingers, subscribing to a Reaganomic caricature, complain that the ideals of the free market would be trampled upon, that survival of the fittest should rule the capital sphere, and (the most convincing of their arguments) that the bailout would only encourage these companies to do it all over again--for all the downsides of risk have been shifted away to a faceless mass of taxpaying citizens. The left-wingers, while sharing the latter concern, complain that such relief should be directed at the poorest among us, to the individuals most disproportionately affected by any potential bank failure. Although the compassion of the left-wingers and the honest consistency of the right-wingers are to be admired, the middle term between them--the banks sloughing off responsibility onto their customers, i.e. parasitism or slavery depending on the metaphor--this term is the term that reveals the folly of government intervention.

I've never considered myself much of a Marxist, but it seems that a Marxist analysis, if anything, is called for in these times. For what are the banks' relations to the modern consumers if not predatory in the most bloodthirsty of terms. Banks enslave the modern consumer through the necessity of extortionate loans, phlebotomic fees, and the subscription of institutions which perforce even more loans and fees. Some may say that there's choice for the individual to inscribe themselves within this tragically repetitious cycle, that they could choose not to get loans and not to open bank accounts and not to buy pants but to make them with the wool spun of the neighborhood sheep, but this is a preposterous re-proposition of the fallacy of the radically autonomous subject (or maybe I'm ahead/behind the times, and the fallacy is not now revealed as such, no?).

Before the present moment (in which the choice to rehabilitate these criminals must be made), the first world individual was doomed to a career, to a profession, to wage or salary based labor whereby the ever accruing debts might ever, at that event beyond the horizon, be paid off. Sure, there was much material good to come of this. For example, television images are remarkably clear now. But the image of the person, of the soul, in relation to the neighbor, to nature, to the whole of creation and to God, this image was blurred and subsumed under an obsessively appetitive struggle to ascend to the top of this social pyramid whose ontological linchpin was the banks.

Now the system reveals itself as inherently unstable. Greed is not glue enough to maintain a healthy society. By letting the banks fail now, we open up the opportunity to escape the nihilism of this order. As the previous Western authorities have collapsed--the late antique Roman Empire, the medieval Church, the modern Nation--so too will the contemporary Corporation. What is at stake in choosing the time and place of its demise is ensuring that we're not dragged down with it. The Romans embraced Christianity too late to save themselves, the Christians (though not the Church) embraced the modern Nation quick enough, and the modern citizens took to capitalism with only the loss of Russia to mark.

Although the successive authority has perhaps not yet revealed itself as such, that's no reason to cast our collective lot with an unsustainably avaricious authority. Whatever dark ages lie ahead, they'll be shortened the sooner we stop propping up the source of our own disease and place ourselves in a position whereby we'll be forced to tap our social-creative potential towards the construction of a new synthetic authority. At this moment the banks are weak. At this moment we can let them die of the cancers they themselves have spawned. At this moment we can choose to fast-forward to that ever distant horizon of freedom from commercial servitude, and reclaim a place for humans in a cosmos not unduly limited by points and lines of credit and interest.

Or we can fall once more to the addictive cycle, and scrape away the tumor so that the cancer might again return at some date beyond today. Doing so we admit the banks contention, that what's really at risk are our pensions, not realizing that the bait is no longer anything more than a dried husk of itself. We find there chaff with no wheat; delivering more a thrashing than a threshing for those cowardly enough to to fall for the ploy.

24.2.08

Psychiatry, Law, and Demons

The depopulation of the willful universe, dare I say the genocide of the spirits, has cut a deep wound in the tomes of history. The spirits, once cooperative in this fallen world, whether for good or ill, have been reduced to mere metaphors or even psychoses. And all because, it seems, they threatened our power, our authority. Not only has humanity sought power through the insatiable accumulation of knowledge to control and order the natural world, but it has sought power by reducing the sphere of agents competitive in that natural world. The planets no longer have their own force, but are comprised a force "f" determined elsewise beyond will. We've taken our law of science, created for by and through humans, in our finitude, and imbued it with universal authority.

Those beings who cannot be recognized by the court of science are condemned to the abyss, the margins of human consciousness. And so, when they make their presence felt, they do so with the vengeance of the most truly offended sort; as what is more offensive than to have one's very existence scorned? They command human minds to the most indulgent excesses, the most neurotic neuroses. Our frontline soldiers, the psychiatrists (who seem more to tryst with the soul than to iasthai) prescribe weapons tested on mice. They claim these weapons "scientific," somehow more in accordance with the laws of nature than a therapeutic approach. And their plan of action: [drug] [inhibits/increases/reduces] the [production/reuptake/removal] of [neurotransmitter] in the [pre/post] synaptic site. What exactly this means, well that's brain chemistry my dear, so I suggest you keep that stupid smile on your face and run along with the rest of the crowd. We've got just the medicine for those negative nancies among you.

By allowing the scientist this pretension, of causative agency in respect to the soul's health, we're allowed the singularity of rational, human agency. There mustn't be others forces at work, merely the disinterested processes of scientific law. Only human rationality can bend this law to a particular will, and only human rationality can effectively operate agency. Human rationality apprehends the law and is thereby able to adjust its actions in accordance with it. The world itself is left deaf and dumb.

Of course, this understanding of the world stands against any traditional understanding of law. For in order for law to operate there need be, not just orders of conformation, but bodies which must therein conform. As conformation is a process, these bodies require an impetus to conform. We might tautologically suggest that attraction lies in the emptiness of the orders and the fullness of the bodies, such that the bodies desire determination by order and the orders desire fulfillment by body. We are still left the necessity for agency, for how might a body desire determination without consent to that desire, rational or not? That human bodies exhibit such will is confirmed by mental revelation, but that other bodies exhibit such will is a logical necessity of the system we circumscribed above. Whether we assign this will to a unity beyond or to the bodies themselves is a matter of perspective. For in order to reconcile ourselves with the plurality of willing bodies evident in the world, we need recourse to transcendent divinity as such; but, at the existential level, we must admit that such a plurality of will does effect itself in effecting the fulfillment of what we've taken to calling the laws of nature.

To relate this discussion back to its starting point, we're drawn to the aphorism that molecules and communities of molecules, including but not limited to neurotransmitters, are bodies and therefore require some agency to fulfill the orders assigned them by law. And so we attest, in accordance with the Christian tradition of thought and reason, to the possibility of real demonic influence on our psyches. That we fight these demons with what may as well be other demons (which we understand all the lesser) is an insult to both science and reason. That psychiatry cares no longer for the soul, as it does for the well adjusted consumer, the ultimate product, gives us pause. For who is left to be saved once the soul has been suborned to the system? And what love is to be found in a world where there is no will to love, no one to be loved.

22.2.08

Modes of Thought

The modes of thought that give me worried pause in this, the modern world, are frightfully numerous--the museumification of history, the abstraction of social communities, the commercialization of self-identity, the crass materialization of meaning, the ignorance of obedience. I know not the linchpin to turn against these sins. Were I to rank them, I'd do so in ascending order of significance; but one is still left at the causal/correlative dilemma. For how can one be anything but ignorance the true source of authority, the human need for obedience, once meaning has become a by-product of empirically manufactured reality? And how can meaning be anything but so once our most intimate self-reflections double back upon the brands which mark us? Need I mention that no alternative to self-identity against others exists once social communities have been abstracted into webforums, social statistics, and marking research? History can have no purpose in such a world but for nostalgia; for the life of tradition finds no place in a world without touch and feeling.

16.2.08

Probability

A fundamental flaw of the modern worldview is the inability to contemplate the improbable; that is, catastrophe and miracle. Two reasons are at the heart of this paradigm. 1) We've built an elaborate technological superstructure to confine improbability to the extreme margins of our consciousness, and 2) we've turned away from eschatological consciousness. Those who encourage eschatologies or decry the secularization of improbability are pushed to the fringe, accused of heresy and logical impropriety.

It is not as if by contemplate we mean that earlier times could better apprehend improbability, could index it, quantify it, and ultimately steer clear of it. They most assuredly could not. That is the point. They did not have the penetration of discourse necessary to surgically remove improbability from the immediate reality of the present. They could not confidentially say (or feel) that the odds of being struck by lightning were 1-in-83,930, and so feel comfortable meandering about outdoors when Zeus was throwing a fit. The best they could muster were raggedy old maps with sea serpents painted on the margins--there there be dragons indeed.

The space for the improbable was larger and more imposing on our daily consciousness. We were thus more likely, in order to allay the negative improbable, to turn to the positive improbable, and thereby counteract those very real worries and concerns.

In today's world the positive improbable (or at least our consciousness thereof) has been vanquished by science, while the negative improbable carries on. The negative improbable--while reduced in frequency thanks to advances in disciplines such as modern medicine, storm tracking, and open communications--has increased in amplitude--with global epidemics, earth shattering over-heating, and nuclear war (not to mention the always looming prospect of one's own death).

So we resort to the two fallbacks the modern world still leaves to us, fear and therapy. We use fear to eliminate the consciousness of the negative improbable by grandstanding in the threat to destroy it. Though this destruction is an illusion with no future, we cling to it because we lack true consciousness of the positive improbable alone capable of conquering the forces of darkness. Therapy, on the other hand, enjoins us to resign ourselves to our fate, to be found in the empty abyss of the negative improbable. If too difficult, we can merely resign ourselves to a world of addiction to fill the void and dull the imminent anxiety--drugs, consumerism, psychotherapy, dieting, meditation practices. All these things take our minds off the necessity of the always approaching negative improbable and perhaps, as in meditation and psychotherapy, resign ourselves to that end.

Not one of the above approaches is ultimately productive, though we all fall into them from time to time. The only salvation lies in that positive improbable our forebears still had access to. The answer lies in hope, in faith, in patient expectation of that one thing, if thingness could ever be assigned it, capable of overcoming the negative improbable both in our consciousness and in reality. The positive improbable, the paraousia--inconcievable in the modern discourse of technicality and fact--alone stands capable of answering the power of death. Only the antithesis, the logical opposite of the collapsing reality which faces us, unbound by the determination of the system, but nonetheless completing it and destroying it, fulfilling it, ending it, and bringing it to a close; only here does salvation lie.