4.30.2010

Babies

It's all--it's all not true. Everything I've ever typed here. Ignore it. I'm going to leave it posted as a reminder of where not to look.

I just had a baby!


"Never Had Nobody Like You"
M. Ward

Well since time I had a mind I been lazy
And times before that I was cruel
And times before that I was lean I was mad
Honey I ain’t never had nobody like you

And the times before that well, I was crazy
I saw the dark side of the moon
And the stars in the sky they never caught my eye
‘Cause I ain’t never had nobody like you

I ain’t never had nobody like you

Now it’s just like ABC
Life’s just like 123
Yeah yeeaaah
Yeah yeeaaah
Oh oh

I watched my old habits die and it's painful
Sometimes its painful in the light of the truth
But you can be faster than light
I’d like to thank you tonight
Honey I ain’t never had nobody like you

I ain’t never had nobody like you

And it’s just like ABC
Life’s just like 123
Yeah yeeeah
Yeah yeeeah
Oh oh

I trusted liars and thieves in my madness
Honey I was wasting away in the room
But now that I been through that hell I got a story to tell

Honey I ain’t never had nobody like you
I ain’t never had nobody like you
I ain’t never had nobody like you

4.23.2010

the Walden Pond Society

Thanks, Blog of Henry David Thoreau:

...Thoreau's Journal: 16-Apr-1857:

Almost a month ago, at the post-office, Abel Brooks, who is pretty deaf, sidling up to me, observed in a loud voice, which all could hear, “Let me see, your society is pretty large, ain’t it?” “Oh, yes, large enough,” said I, not knowing what he meant. “There’s Stewart belongs to it, and Collier, he’s one of them, and Emerson, and my boarder” (Pulsifer), “and Channing, I believe, I think he goes there.” “You mean the walkers; don’t you?” “Ye-es, I call you the Society. All go to the woods; don’t you?” “Do you miss any of your wood?” I asked. “No, I hain’t worried any yet. I believe you’re a pretty clever set, as good as the average,” etc., etc.

Telling Sanborn of this, he said that, when he first came to town and boarded at Holbrook’s, he asked H. how many religious societies there were in town. H. said that there were three,—the Unitarian, the Orthodox, and the Walden Pond Society.

4.21.2010

Discuss

From Catherine Garrett's article, "Weal and Woe: Suffering, Sociology, and the Emotions of Julian of Norwich":
"...for most people, literature has more power than theory: that is, narrative reaches more people than metanarrative, even though behind every story is an earlier, greater story which gives it form (Game & Metcalfe, 1996). The power of narrative... comes from its ability to generate emotions to which theory can only refer."
Pastoral Psychology, 49.3, 2001. pp. 187-203.

4.20.2010

Currently Reading

All people who shall be saved, while we are in this world, have in us a marvellous mixture of both weal and woe. --Julian of Norwich

So man's insanity is heaven's sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God. --Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
I'm about to read an article from Pastoral Psychology (Vol. 49, No. 3, 2001) that caught my attention because its title, "Weal and Woe: Suffering, Sociology, and the Emotions of Julian of Norwich" was familiar to me. The pair of words, "weal & woe," is burned into my memory from the Moby-Dick passage above, a passage from which I took the title of my dissertation (That Celestial Thought: Ethics and Aesthetics in the American Romance). It seems a singular enough pairing of words -- especially within a very specific psychological context -- to make me wonder if there's evidence, or if this is evidence, that Melville was familiar with Julian of Norwich. [Update: probably not. It seems "weal and woe" is a bit of a long-worn usage.]

I'm also reading an article in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 17.2 (2007) titled "The Rasch Scaling of Mystical Experiences: Construct Validity and Correlates of the Mystical Experience Scale (MES)." I'm reading this one in an effort to follow-up on yesterday's comments -- where Wrangler and I were discussing whether it's even possible to imagine "peer review" with regard to things like mysticism. I'll report back. Read along if you like. [Find the article yourselves?]

4.19.2010

Re: Gold

How is gold made? What is its source?

Yes, folks--I've (re)arrived at the central question of... alchemy!?

Honestly, inquire into its nature. By what chemical process did/does gold arise? Where does it come from? Is gold eternal? It can't be; nothing is eternal--is it? Then why can't we make it? Is it really "gold all the way down?" From Francis Bacon's Sylva Sylvarum (1627):
Gold hath these Natures: Greatnesse of Weight; Closeness of Parts; Fixation; Pliantnesse, orsoftnesse; Immunitie from Rust; Colour or Tincture of Yellow. Therefore the Sure Way, (though most about,) to make Gold, is to know the Causes of the Severall Natures before rehearsed, and theAxiomes concerning the same. For if a man can make a Metall, that hath all these Properties, Let men dispute, whether it be Gold, or no?

What I Learned in Church Yesterday

This weekend at church, I learned something I should've known already. The preacher-man did a sermon-speech on "Enthusiasm," recounting the period in Unitarian Church history when the Unitarians opposed the popular Protestant enthusiast movements. During the period when Jonathan Edwards had people sweating and crying by the time a sermon was over, conservative Unitarians in places like Boston--people like Charles Chauncey--were cautioning against such fervor. In the debate between the "New Lights" and the "Old Lights," Unitarians clung to the old.

What I learned was the etymology of the term (it makes so much sense!):
Enthusiasm
c.1600, from M.Fr. enthousiasme, from Gk. enthousiasmos, from enthousiazein "be inspired," from entheos "inspired, possessed by a god," from en- "in" + theos "god" (see Thea). Acquired a derogatory sense of "excessive religious emotion" (1650s) under the Puritans; generalized sense of "fervor, zeal" (the main modern sense) is first recorded 1716.
Happy to say, contemporary Unitarianism is much friendlier to the idea of Enthusiasm. I consider myself an enthusiast by temperament: possessed by a god. I mean, I understand--theoretically--the complaint against the enthusiasts. Charles Chauncey's cautionary work, gathered together under the title, Enthusiasm Described, and Cautioned Against, would be right at home in contemporary academia, which looks skeptically at notions of divine and supernatural light. So much the safer for academia.

But... I wonder if I could publish here and get academic credit--

4.15.2010

A Proposed Metaphor, which need not Necessarily be Taken as an Argument

With an SSRI:


Without an SSRI (or, with a mystical experience):


So, these are two potential experiences. In the first, the subject feels themselves in a downward acceleration, and then visits a psychiatrist, gets some pills, and levels off in a little sustainable valley.

In the second, the subject feels themselves in a downward acceleration, but stays present in that experience--even refusing institutional help if it's offered. The result is an intense downward speed followed by an eventual re-up-swing, and culminating in a wild leap back into the cycle.

And trust me, that wild leap feels at least as wild (indeed, as scary) as it looks here.

Good, yes.

"It will happen for a time, that the pupil will feel a real debt to the teacher,--will find his intellectual power has grown by the study of his writings. This will continue until he has exhausted his master's mind. But in all unbalanced minds, the classification is idolized, passes for the end, and not for a speedily exhaustible means, so that the walls of the system blend to their eye in the remote horizon with the walls of the universe."

--Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"
And, to put it in a way that allows me to escape Emerson's classification, I should translate a bit: Stop using the words you learned in graduate school. But keep in mind, this system is unchanging. Buddha's Diamond Sutra anticipated Emerson by more than two millenia:
My teaching of the Good Law is to be likened unto a raft. [Does a man who has safely crossed a flood upon a raft continue his journey carrying that raft upon his head?] The Buddha-teaching must be relinquished.
So, just... relinquish! The teaching itself is eternal. The language is passing.

4.14.2010

Link

Stanley Fish, summarizing Habermas, is right:
The Liberal state, resting on a base of procedural rationality, delivers no... goals or reasons and thus suffers, Habermas says, from a “motivational weakness”; it cannot inspire its citizens to virtuous (as opposed to self-interested) acts because it has lost “its grip on the images, preserved by religion, of the moral whole” and is unable to formulate “collectively binding ideals.”
[Warning: a "skim" of the article linked above might not be fair.]

4.13.2010

Discipline & Freedom



He fumbles at your Soul
As Players at the Keys
Before they drop full Music on --
He stuns you by degrees --
Prepares your brittle Nature
For the Ethereal Blow
By fainter Hammers -- further heard --
Then nearer -- Then so slow
Your Breath has time to straighten --
Your Brain -- to bubble Cool --
Deals -- One -- imperial -- Thunderbolt --
That scalps your naked Soul --

When Winds take Forests in the Paws --
The Universe -- is still --

--E.D.

4.12.2010

Ontology as First Philosophy

Today's article in the New York Times actually isn't very surprising: psychedelics like hallucinogenic mushrooms can improve your life, especially if you're depressed. The interesting part is just how clearly one of the doctors running the latest rounds of tests frames the issue:
...an improved outlook on life after an experience in which the boundaries between the self and others disappear.
Tat Tvam Asi. The doctor quoted above continued, saying,
The subjects’ reports mirrored so closely the accounts of religious mystical experiences... that it seems likely the human brain is wired to undergo these “unitive” experiences, perhaps because of some evolutionary advantage.
I know I beat this drum incessantly, but I so would like to not be the only one I know who has had this experience. Whether by drugs or yoga or prayer or the dialectic -- there are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy (or "theory").

Anyway, read the article. Then read my post tomorrow (or soon) where I give you a list of ten books that are derived from this "unitive" experience--books that I think most academics haven't read--in case you're interested in chasing this supposed dangling carrot, this alleged snake's-own-tail.

Even if you hate the idea of seeking a Truth that you don't believe exists, I hope you can understand why some people seem unwilling to budge on this issue of "what comes first, the ontology or the ethics?"

Isn't it funny?--I do (I really do!) understand that it's of no use to try to "lure" someone into a curiosity which I believe to be the only prerequisite to eventually experiencing the unitive state. I personally, by experience, understand (!!!) Wittgenstein's, "For an answer which cannot be expressed the question too cannot be expressed." And still I try to express the question--or even more tactfully, to get my few readers to express the question. Absurd.

If a blogger writes in a forest with no one around to hear...

4.07.2010

The Tragic Fall of Alan Greenspan

The current demonization of Alan Greenspan makes for such a pathetic scene. Talking heads are saying things like this: Greenspan caused the "con"/housing bubble by irresponsibly lowering interest rates. He was bad at being Fed, and now we're all paying for it.

The problem with this narrative is that it forgets one troubling reality: Greenspan was pressured to lower interest rates artificially by the Clinton administration. Why? Well, for some very good reasons. Everything was going gangbusters in America in the early 1990s, but black people were still way behind in homeownership numbers (and in earnings numbers). Black people couldn't get a loan. So Clinton wanted more black people to be able to afford homes. So what did he do? He made Greenspan loosen interest rates so there would be more money so that more people (namely "risky" people--low income people) could get loans.

The only problem with all of this, of course, is that nobly extending loans to riskier groups of people in the interest of "human rights" doesn't make those loans less risky. The result, which started showing up by the late 1990s, was that the people who were given loans they couldn't afford started (surprise!) defaulting on their loans. Another textbook case of the way that social engineering, while high in sentiment, often backfires and leads to "solutions" that are worse than the original problem. This has nothing to do with race. It's simple math: if someone makes only $45,000/yr., don't give them a loan to buy a $350,000 house--they won't be able to afford it.

I say the scene with Greenspan is "pathetic" because we all know the story. Greenspan used to hang out with Ayn Rand. He's a heartless capitalist. He must've heard that narrative his whole adult life. And then one day in the early 1990s, he tired of hearing everyone call him a sunovabitch... and he lowered interest rates in a way that made policy go haywire. He must've known it would happen, but he did it anyway, tired of being called a racist, heartless, ass. Tired of hearing how defenders of market economics don't care about people. Who can really blame him?--everyone wants to be accepted. The pathos rises to Sophoclean levels now, where we find a tired-looking Greenspan a decade later, unable to explain to a forgetful public that he had nothing but humanist motivations. He did what was considered the humane thing. He wanted to be thought of as kind.

Blessed Be The Rule-Makers

Allowing proper nouns in Scrabble? This seems like a terrible choice to me, rule-makers.

4.06.2010

What is Religion?

Just Funny

"Oh, you know, Rob, I've watched most of 'em, again, with a great appreciation for the players, for the sport--all of 'em, any of 'em that have, um, been in front of me all these years. I have a vast variety of favorite players..."


Whence Silence?

Freedom is hard. So sayeth my preacherman in a talk on Passover and Easter. And I rejoin, "Amen." The minister says,
They [the Jews of Moses' day] begin to complain. In Egypt, Freedom sounded so compelling. Now, out in the wilderness, they long for safety and security... even if it comes at the high price of slavery.
Does anyone else ever feel like "Mind" might be a synonym for "cup of suffering?" Maybe I've just had too much caffeine this morning, and this is what coming down feels like at 10am. But I'd love to open my head and give myself a rest for an hour by taking this chattering-organ out of my skull. But then, what would be left but slavery?

4.05.2010

Against "Net Neutrality"

Robert W. McChesney, the man quietly succeeding in, well, surreptitiously gliding net neutrality legislation down your throat, is the founder of an organization ironically titled "Free Press." McChesney vaguely leads the fight against "special interests" taking over the internet. I know it doesn't matter that McChesney is the former editor of the explicitly socialist magazine, Monthly Review, but... yes it fucking does, because socialists always discover that, to realize their utopian plans, they need the complicity (forced or voluntary) of the media.

Every bit of McChesney's "thinking" that I read seems obviously to have been hatched in one of those pot-induced sessions where up seems like down, because, if you think hard enough... see, man?

I know this isn't exactly the kind of transcendentalism I recently promised--and I'm not up for a long-ass argument about this stuff. I just want to go on record in early April of '10 siding with those who think that unregulation was what was so awesome about the internet.

Freedom. I value freedom. Even if that means that I live in a society where other people have more money than I do and can broadcast more loudly than I can. To have freedom, I need to be able to make choices; to have choices, I need to be able to choose good, evil, hatred, love, bigotry, Glenn Beck, and Maoist socialism.... all at the same bandwidth. AND, if there's an internet provider that doesn't want to let me access socialist bullshit or corporate propaganda, I think that's fine... but that's a longer story, isn't it?

UPDATE: Good.

4.04.2010

Right around :29 seconds is what we're looking for here...

Watch this clip two or three times to get a sense of how full-on insane our mainstream culture is. At least those nipples are blurred. LORD knows what would happen if they weren't. I mean thank goodness, you know? The blur makes it so that this isn't titillating at all. But if there was no blur, holy cow, I might... notice. But I don't notice this at all.



Somebody call V.S. Ramachandran and tell him we need a quick lecture about how the mind gets off on suggested visual unity more than actual visual unity.

4.03.2010

Ethos, Character, Authority



From R.W. Emerson's essay, "Character" (1844):
Character, --a reserved force which acts directly by presence, and without means. It is conceived of as a certain undemonstrable force, a Familiar or Genius, by whose impulses the man is guided, but whose counsels he cannot impart; which is company for him, so that such men are often solitary, or if they chance to be social, do not need society, but can entertain themselves very well alone. The purest literary talent appears at one time great, at another time small, but character is of a stellar and undiminishable greatness. What others effect by talent or by eloquence, this man accomplishes by some magnetism. "Half his strength he put not forth." His victories are by demonstration of superiority, and not by crossing of bayonets. He conquers, because his arrival alters the face of affairs. `"O Iole! how did you know that Hercules was a god?" "Because," answered Iole, "I was content the moment my eyes fell on him. When I beheld Theseus, I desired that I might see him offer battle, or at least guide his horses in the chariot-race; but Hercules did not wait for a contest; he conquered whether he stood, or walked, or sat, or whatever thing he did."]' Man, ordinarily a pendant to events, only half attached, and that awkwardly, to the world he lives in, in these examples appears to share the life of things, and to be an expression of the same laws which control the tides and the sun, numbers and quantities.
...all of which begs the question: Can character really be taught?

Dear Socialists (that means you, Mxrk),

For decades libertarians have questioned the necessity of "the Fed." For said decades, liberal/progressive types have said libertarians are crazy (and racist, of late). Now Robert Reich, whom Wolf Blitzer recently described as "...not exactly Ron Paul," is questioning the Fed's role in American public/economic life. Check the article here (at Huffington Post).

4.02.2010

But I don't really know.

I'm sort of hoping that today's article about "the next big thing" in literary studies isn't prophetic. I've known about this stuff for about two or three years, and there's something about it that just seems superficial. But I am happy to know that literary studies is "on the radar" in 2010, even if only for the two or three thousand "elites" who still read the New York Times. For the record, the reason I don't love this stuff is that it seems to turn literature into a simple exercise-joint for the brain, something like those little "memory games" that old people are supposed to play to keep themselves from getting Alzheimer's.