Kirk Israel's commonplace and blog. Quotes and links daily since 2001.
May 19, 2022
For reasons that we do not entirely understand, all the chief civilizations developed along parallel lines, even when there was no commercial contact (as between China and the European area). There was a new prosperity that led to the rise of a merchant class. Power was shifting from king and priest, temple and palace, to the marketplace. The new wealth led to intellectual and cultural florescence and also to the development of the individual conscience. Inequality and exploitation became more apparent as the pace of change accelerated in the cities and people began to realize that their own behavior could affect the fate of future generations. Each region developed a distinctive ideology to address these problems and concerns: Taoism and Confucianism in China, Hinduism and Buddhism in India and philosophical rationalism in Europe. The Middle East did not produce a uniform solution, but in Iran and Israel, Zoroaster and the Hebrew prophets respectively evolved different versions of monotheism. Strange as it may seem, the idea of "God," like the other great religious insights of the period, developed in a market economy in a spirit of aggressive capitalism.
Who then knows whence it has arisen,
Whence this emanation hath arisen,
Whether God disposed it, or whether he did not,--
Only he who is its overseer in highest heaven knows.
Or perhaps he does not know!
Religion starts with the perception that something is wrong [...] Effectiveness rather than philosophical or historical demonstration has always been the hallmark of a successful religion
Indeed, God is dependent upon man when he wants to act in the world--an idea that would become very important in the Jewish conception of the divine.That idea is so lovely - and so foreign to the simplistic version of the "Judeo-Christian" God I was taught, where it would be blasphemy to think of Omnipotent God as dependent on anyone or anything.
You know what? I take it back. Hearing some of the God-ish justifications given for passing anti-Abortion, Fertilization=Human bullshit passing Oklahoma? "We believe that God has a special plan for every single life and every single child" -Stitt -- clearly thinking like you are a conduit and manifestation of God's Will is fraught, and can be used for good or for evil. it's not all just cute and pleasant little mitzvahs, it's bodily-autonomy-violating bullshit, and we do not live in a theocracy.
The Greek God could be discovered by human reason, whereas the God of the Bible only made himself known by means of revelation. A chasm separated Yahweh from the world, but Greeks believed that the gift of reason made human beings kin to God; they could, therefore, reach him by their own efforts. Yet whenever monotheists fell in love with Greek philosophy, they inevitably wanted to try to adapt its God to their own. This will be one of the major themes of our story.
In about 178 the pagan philosopher Celsus accused the Christians of adopting a narrow, provincial view of God. He found it appalling that the Christians should claim a special revelation of their own: God was available to all human beings, yet the Christians huddled together in a sordid little group, asserting: "God has even deserted the whole world and the motions of the heavens and disregarded the vast earth to give attention to us alone."
A distinction between esoteric and exoteric truth will be extremely important in the history of God. It was not to be confined to Greek Christians, but Jews and Muslims would also develop an esoteric tradition. The idea of a "secret" doctrine was not to shut people out. Basil was not talking about an early form of Freemasonry. He was simply calling attention to the fact that not all religious truth was capable of being expressed and defined clearly and logically. Some religious insights had an inner resonance that could only be apprehended by each individual in his own time during what Plato had called *theoria*, contemplation.
Within the soul there are three properties, therefore: memory, understanding and will, corresponding to knowledge, self-knowledge and love. Like the three divine persons, these mental activities are essentially one because they do not constitute three separate minds, but each fills the whole mind and pervades the other twoThe book has long passages outlining the vision of the Trinity, which honestly to me feels like on of the more arbitrary and ad hoc aspects of modern Christianity.
In the same way, the scientific vision of our own day has made much classic theism impossible for many people. To cling to the old theology is not only a failure of nerve but could involve a damaging loss of integrity. [...] Yet the ultimate failure of [the Faylasufs'] rational deity has something important to tell us about the nature of religious truth. Armstrong, Karen. A History of God (p. 256). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
One of the problems of ethical monotheism is that it isolates evil. Because we cannot accept the idea that there is evil in our God, there is a danger that we will not be able to endure it within ourselves.
Luria identified anger with idolatry, since an angry person is possessed by a "strange god."
Mendelssohn saw life without God as meaningless, but this was not a passionate faith: he was quite content with the knowledge of God attainable by reason. God's goodness is the hinge on which his theology hangs. If human beings had to rely on revelation alone, Mendelssohn argued, this would be inconsistent with God's goodness because so many people had apparently been excluded from the divine plan.
To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself to us as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms--this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the ranks of devoutly religious men.
Don't know if I posted "everything in this picture is now in your pocket", how one smartphone does all this stuff like someone raided a Radio Shack, but I love it.
If you hear a human ask, "What could go wrong?" Do NOT involve yourself. If you hear one ask for their beer to be held, leave immediately. If you encounter a man named "Murphy" that no humans seem to see, RUN.
...the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq. I mean of the Ukraine. Heh. (...iraq too - anyway.) 75. Uhh...What's really cool is Trump is even older, and Biden older than that.
Just finished re-reading Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" for my science and spirituality reading group
I found myself moved and a little weepy, though I can't pinpoint on a reason why, any singular epiphany gained or tragedy observed. Optimistically it's just some kind of emotional growing pain.
One summary I'm making for myself: **the meaning of everything is something drawn out, not uncovered or handed over. It is a creative process; it is cooking and not merely foraging.**
(I guess this ties in well with the philosophic theme I've been exploring lately: *everything of value is emergent*; all value is merely potential until it has arisen out of connection and interaction. And similarly value and meaning can never be bestowed from on high; it is a bottom-up process and not top-down.)
But meaning so developed isn't just "made up", which is one accusation my inner-skeptic will use to challenge it. Whatever our meaning grows into, it must have its roots in whatever concretely IS.
Faith then is a matter of accepting the truth of meaning that has grown for oneself, even if it lacks definitive validation. It's putting aside the nagging worries of "oh you just made that up" and accusations like "well you could have said anything".
I need to grapple with this some more. See how it plays with other themes I've been embracing; the idea that there's a (forever uncertain!) objective ultimate Truth, even if its presence is only implied from the sense of directionality, (better/worse) that we have which is necessary for us to reason our way about any two competing smaller truths.
(And also to reconsider: my disdain for concepts embodied in phrases like "Well that's My Truth". Does that idea, which never seemed resistant to accusations of "just making it up" -- especially since it seems to cover objective empirical reality as well as subjective senses of how things should be -- become more palatable for me if I frame it as "well, that's the Meaning I've grown about it"? Is it just semantics or what are the crucial differences?)
Sometimes the other men invented amusing dreams about the future, such as forecasting that during a future dinner engagement they might forget themselves when the soup was served and beg the hostess to ladle it "from the bottom."This anecdote stuck with me from the first reading - the idea being at the concentration camps, any thing of substance in the watery soup (such as peas or potato) were at the bottom, and so the server had some control over what was given to the other person.
To draw an analogy: a man's suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the "size" of human suffering is absolutely relative.
Does this not bring to mind the story of Death in Teheran? A rich and mighty Persian once walked in his garden with one of his servants. The servant cried that he had just encountered tered Death, who had threatened him. He begged his master to give him his fastest horse so that he could make haste and flee to Teheran, which he could reach that same evening. The master consented and the servant galloped off on the horse. On returning to his house the master himself met Death, and questioned him, "Why did you terrify and threaten my servant?" vant?" "I did not threaten him; I only showed surprise in still finding him here when I planned to meet him tonight in Teheran," said Death.(He notes that some concentration camp inmates adopted a practice of deliberate passivity. I recognize that urge in myself, though I'm not sure the "I don't want to be responsible for things going worse" is a healthy way to be:
The camp inmate was frightened of making decisions and of taking any sort of initiative whatsoever. This was the result of a strong feeling that fate was one's master, and that one must not try to influence it in any way, but instead let it take its own course. In addition, there was a great apathy, which contributed in no small part to the feelings of the prisoner. At times, lightning decisions had to be made, decisions which spelled life or death. The prisoner would have preferred to let fate make the choice for him. This escape from commitment was most apparent when a prisoner had to make the decision for or against an escape attempt. In those minutes in which he had to make up his mind-and it was always a question of minutes-he suffered the tortures of Hell. Should he make the attempt to flee? Should he take the risk?
"Was Du erlebst, kann keine Macht der Welt Dir rauben." (What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you.)
And in another paper she expressed the hope that logotherapy "may help counteract certain unhealthy healthy trends in the present-day culture of the United States, where the incurable sufferer is given very little opportunity to be proud of his suffering and to consider it ennobling rather than degrading" so that "he is not only unhappy, but also ashamed of being unhappy."'
I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility sponsibility on the West Coast.
But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.
From this one may see that there is no reason to pity old people. Instead, young people should envy them. It is true that the old have no opportunities, no possibilities in the future. ture. But they have more than that. Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities in the past-the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized-and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past.
There's a tweet that goes "every time i drink milk i remember my roommate who used to put powdered milk in his milk so he could drink 'more milk per milk'."
I just watched "Everything Everywhere All at Once". This movie is about the most milk per milk I've ever seen.
I am pretty sure that "Thw Multiverse" is the defining Zeitgeist of our moment, and it troubles me. It's a mood of worn old comic writers having rung out the realm of the normal narrative arc so thoroughly that regular storytelling isn't enough, and we have to all the stories at once.... and of a population having ingested so much "this is the darkest timeline" that we're down to a hope that somehow someone emerging from a whirlwind of parallel possibilities will save us.
I mean, this is Trumpism vibe. The vibe of Fuck a system of studious people looking to build a system for society, it ain't dealing me a post-WW2-prosperity Boomer-wealth hand, I'm gonna vote for this reality show, ex-WWF-huckster, rich from his daddy's wealth (the guy who could actually lose money owning a casino), pussy-grabber who promises to shake shit up and deliver liberal tears wholesale. And then when he loses, and not just in the popular vote (as Republican Presidents always do) but in the electoral college, I'll buy into his vision of a multiverse where really he won, and it's just like these sneaky "agents of Hydra" beancounters or whatever the fuck who somehow switched things up.
I'm definitely worried about election 2024. These two old old men duking it out, and with some facile narratives that show Biden holding the bag for inflation and whatever comes next in this not-post-COVID age - it's going to be tough, and Trump could win, and our nation would have to stand up to another go round of shitty judges shitting on women's rights and telling us bald-faced bribery is "free speech".
My solace with that possible upcoming dark twist will be as it always is, this line from Tom Robbins:
Tennessee Williams once wrote, "We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it." In a certain sense, the playwright was correct. Yes, but oh! What a view from that upstairs window! What Tennessee failed to mention was that if we look out of that window with an itchy curiosity and a passionate eye; with a generous spirit and a capacity for delight; and, yes, the language with which to support and enrich the things we see, then it DOESN'T MATTER that the house is burning down around us. It doesn't matter. Let the motherfucker blaze!
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, says wealthy candidates loaning their campaigns large amounts of cash is an essential part of the democratic process. He describes loans in excess of $250,000 as a key tool "to jumpstart a fledgling campaign or finish strong in a tight race." Massive personal loans can be "a useful tool to signal that the political outsider is confident enough in his campaign to have skin in the game, attracting the attention of donors and voters alike." Not allowing these loans to be paid back in full with money raised after the election, Roberts argues, risks "inhibiting candidates from making such loans in the first place."What? A Republican appointed judge supporting the rich getting richer? Whodathunk.
Roberts writes that "influence and access" are "a central feature of democracy--that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns."
Like spending money is free speech... and we must also protect LENDING money? Like if a candidate spent their own cash, fine, but expecting to be frickin' paid back? Like loaning money to oneself is some sort of fiduciary peptalk, and therefore we must allow it all levels. Huh. .. and "skin in the game" must be allowed to be super thin, apparently.
JP Honk had one of its most prominent gigs ever closing the Harvard MayFair yesterday...
this is a good metaphor.
i really hate challenge for its own sake, but the thing is, life is challenging so it's good to have your challenge muscles built up a bit....