At the news your correspondent nodded wisely as some of us went on about how vital it was to know when Mercury might be heading toward retrograde so that one and all might concentrate and tread very warily. Clearly had the county followed this rule, they never would have cut through a telephone cable. Finally, here at home, wise men were sent for, the Kitten had to visit the vet, she's a little on the temperamental side and I'm told had a conniption fit in the vet's office which meant she had to be sedated, and today a genius arrived in the morning hours who was able to follow the principles of his calling which are not to be polite to his customer but to listen to his customer. He slowed the internet down and lo the New Medieval Period of Saints has been briefly delayed. Oddly today Pluto enters retrograde, so let's all say our prayers.
Tuesday April 23rd 2019
Still no landline, mixed blessing, means no telephone and it means no internet. And for some reason or other I feel it necessary to again put my own nail in the coffin of the expression Medieval Period. The word Medieval is an abridgement of the Latin for Middle Ages, and Medieval has come to have an association with barbaric behaviors, funny costumes, witchcraft and it's a long list. My own use of the term Medieval applies entirely to the institution of Sainthood as it was when Saints weren't subject to the central authority of a Devil's Advocate dictated to be a long list of rules. Instead they were chosen by the likes of you and I sitting around, hanging out with well minded friends and saying of a departed one that he or she should be a saint, followed by a reasonable discussion about what counts as a miracle and whether the party in question had managed one with sufficient evidence to produce the determination within the group to do stuff like renaming a well or a fold in the land or a rock outcrop. Then if the name sticks through the generations you got your genuine, unadulterated Saint.
The Middle Ages began following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and came to end around the time of Luther which was The Protestant Reformation of the 1500's. Like all reformations this was a disruptive time for people characterized by the uncertainty as the secular world began to dominate Europe and resulted in new certainties, or what we now call Nation States, a central authority with control over distinct territory, and it was this Secular Administrative State that introduced the Modern Period to history. And worth noting the current political fad, or at least it was when I was last in a position to read the news, is to undo the Administrative State just as quickly as possible, because apparently it's the source of all evil and nothing good ever came of it. We Modernists can all wallow as much as we want, but I do feel a certain gratitude to the Telephone Company for being unable to repair the telephone line that leads to my dwelling. Yes indeed, while others might be clinging to the past I consider it a privilege to be on the cusp of what the more sensible very distant future ancient historians might well refer to as the Second or New Medieval Period of Saints.
Monday April 22nd 2019
Inalienable is defined as: cannot be transferred to others. In the language the word belongs to the quality of dueness, what's owed, indebtedness. But the question to explore within the word is why, rather than OK that's settled for ever and ever, let's not mention it again. Nor have I ever been quite certain what Thomas Jefferson meant by inalienable when he wrote "Nothing then is unchangeable but the inherent and inalienable rights of man." Yet to reach this conclusion he must have made a wonderfully bold assumption because you and I don't actually have any rights, what we have is a society in which certain behaviors and actions are less acceptable than other behaviors and actions. Some behaviors rewarded, some behaviors punished. And you can go on to explore the shades of grey, and see a constant movement in the back and forth, the inherent right of kings, the right to this, the right to that. Go ahead, quarrel if you want, but in the discussion between Idea and Material the rights of man are Idea. My own view is that you can list the rights all you want, but rights are neither inherent nor inalienable and over time they are subject to change. Idealists tend toward an end point where all is settled to the point of entropy, which in physics means to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity, and like it or not because life as consciousness is by necessity irrational, an assumption of mine, that point of entropy is not so much inconceivable as it is greeted by a "nah" which is kind of like a sneering "no" in the more visceral regions. Always a depressing reaction and very typical, it inclines the great and the good, as they cling to the Constitution, toward saying things like "clinging to their bible" and "the deplorables" or something like "The Libtard have no idea and are just stupid." An overall level of discourse that suggests one of two things neither of them particularly attractive or encouraging, and yet serves to remind us all how short a distance it is from the Tree to the Cave.
Thomas Aquinas was a most interesting man in the development of thought for us Westerners. We're looking at the 13th Century. His mother didn't like the idea of him becoming a Dominican, one of the poorer more begging of the religious orders, so she confined him to the family castle for a couple of years in the hopes that he'd pull himself together. But he was stubborn for the great ideas and finally off he went to become ordained as a Dominican priest and get his doctorate in Philosophy, which in those days was mostly Plato and Aristotle. At the time the Church of Rome was struggling with a very divisive quarrel. On the one hand were the Averroists who were all about Revelation as the sole source of Church doctrine. Truth they argued was revealed by god and certainly not by man, and while stuff like philosophy, adding up and earthly learning had it's lowly place, it shouldn't play much of a role in the church. The problem with that for the church was it meant any wild eyed nutcase could come out of some rural nowhere and declare a new and possibly crazy revelation and the chaos, the fracturing that this could produce in the faithful would result in endless conflict. Thomas became an advisor to a Pope who was anxious to put an end to the Averroist dispute. He argued that revelation, faith, believing something, was a sense like any other sense. But it's through the intellect that we people make all the senses intelligible, and this meant the church would be pretty dumb to ignore the capacity God had given us to make intelligible any revelation he might see fit to grant his many, many children. Oh sure, he went on, some things can only be known by revelation, these he argued were the higher truths, but most things can indeed by known by experience of the day to day here on earth. The Averroists had to agree. Thomas basically saved the church as a useful institution with a functioning bureaucracy and he went on to formalize his doctrine, which included the useful assertion that all animals have souls, but only human souls were immortal, so no chance of someone's Parrot receiving anything like a comprehensible revelation. Fifty years after his death, despite never having performed a traditional miracle, the Pope made him a saint.
Sunday April 21st 2019
Survival of the Fittest, but there's more than one side to Darwin. To begin it might be a good idea to go back to Anaximander. He reckoned all things on earth emerged from fire, earth and water. And he reckoned there was a kind of justice between these substances, not one of them could ever dominate and if by chance one of them did then the world would be either just water, just earth or just fire. In the interaction between these substances, the fire of the sun would dry the earth and we got plants. Same with creatures that lived in water, where the fire of the sun had never so dominated as to produce plants. Animals of the land, including people came from fishes. The justice part of the relationship between fire, earth and water you can think of as being a blind justice, a gentle justice, an evil justice, a whimsical justice, any kind of justice you want but without it there would be no tapestry, everything would be either fire, earth or water.
And difficult to think of fire without fire having something to consume, which put a preeminence upon fire in the minds of some. But difficult to think of fire as a creator of anything without earth and water. In remembering Anaximander people have considered him more scientific in the way he thought about how the world, its plants and its creatures came into being, how they developed, and how they were still subject to that process of development. It was the justice part that figured large in idea, what did it want, where was it going, what side was it on, does it love us? Much easier for justice if it and the world was created not by the universe of earth, fire and water but by something else, something with definite opinions and solid plans. Yet a time came in some ancient societies when even the Pantheon of Gods were subject to justice. Idealists explore the issue through ideas, more practical minds need a little concrete evidence. Darwin was planning to be a clergyman, but following his voyage around the world as the ship's naturalist, he become a scientist.
Saturday April 20th 2019
There's a lot out there that's completely unknown. For all I know the internet might never return, gone for ever and the option for me is to either wail and gnash for the rest of my days, or calculate in a scientific and empirical manner the possibilities of it ever returning and from these calculations plot a way forward, or I could invoke the assistance of The Mysteries. And what with one thing and another I'm in a Mysteries invoking mood at the moment. I remember my friend Okanya, whenever we lost something incredibly valuable like a nail, which we seem to do with a frequency, he'd spit on the palm of his hand and with the two long fingers of his other hand he'd slap the spit, sending it flying. The direction the bulk of the spit took pointed toward the lost object and we'd carefully follow that line, sometimes for what felt like hours. Success rate wasn't high, but comfort wise the whole process was very rewarding, and at least we'd done something constructive. In that part of the world a whirlwind was a not infrequent sight and central to our understanding was to point at the whirlwind so that it would not come our way. Failure to do so pretty much guaranteed one or other of many dire possibilities. And it's also true that we both had great faith in these mysterious rites, which when they failed to work simply meant that we'd been a little too casual in observing our part of the rite. The internet however is a much trickier area than lost nails and whirlwinds, it has flashing lights, telephone wires, un-conversable boxes, a stoic and obnoxiously polite support staff who are clearly well versed in a jargon rich positivity around the unknown which is something mere mortals in their right mind are very averse to, and if you add an emotional, almost addictive, paranoid dependence to the internet experience you're beginning to think about maybe the kind of entirely self centered rite that requires sacrificing virgins. Though what virgins ever did to deserve sacrificing, I've never really understood, you'd just sort of assume that the more sullied members of any community would by ceremoniously dispatched as a gesture of good faith, but maybe it has something to do with sending our best and our brightest to do the negotiating, the more sullied and guilt ridden would probably give the Internet a wrong impression of us internet addicts.
The question, where to start? Of The Mysteries, which in my view haven't changed much in the past at least four thousand years, there are three main traditions, and without beating about the bush they basically call for behaviors that go from the poetic gathering to the licentious gathering. I'd argue that those who followed Orpheus were more prone to poetry, the Eleusinian tradition was harvest celebration civilized followed by a bit of an aren't we wonderful knees-up and the Dionysian tradition which was drunken revelry and high order un-virtuous behaviors that so shocked Roman Senators they finally required them to be outlawed, which is quite a thought. And of course to legitimately qualify as an adherent to any one of these traditions you couldn't just turn up, a person had to go through an induction rigmarole involving secret oaths, supplication, ceremonies, a contribution of some sort and probably quite a long list. Me, I'm really far too old for Dionysian behaviors, at my age the music of Orpheus is likely a more productive source of inspiration for an Internet Resurrection Rite. Orpheus was a brilliant musician if you like the Lyre, not for everyone, and I'll probably have to substitute a little shimmying while maybe thinking about Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Tina Turner. The point being that with Orpheus, when the devil took his wife he decided to go down unto Hades and use his musical abilities to retrieve her. The Devil was mightily impressed and agreed that Orpheus' wife could return to the world so long as Orpheus didn't look at her before he had escorted her out of Hades. Simple request, but Orpheus was tempted to renege and true to the bargain the Devil did not allow Orpheus' wife to leave Hades. Orpheus was devastated and he wandered the wilderness playing his music until a group of Thracian women killed him and threw his severed head into a river. And I too have on occasion felt like following the natural instincts of Thracian women around the lyre, the harpsichord, the tambourine and Bluegrass music. Details of an Orphic Internet Resurrection Rite will include shimmying to Sam Cooke's Chain Gang as might be sung by Bob Dylan and Tina Turner, and as I ascend and descend the stairs I will not look at the Flashing Internet Not Working Check Light, and should I turn to look at this flashing light I have to go outside and walk once around the field on the off chance there's a band of Thracian Women who might oblige me by cutting off my miserable head and throwing it into the Green River.
Friday April 19th 2019
Positive, Positivist, Positivism when used to describe thinkers refers to a 'faith' in the idea of rules, laws or whatever you want to call them, imposed by what's referred to as Human Authority rather than by Nature or by Reason Alone. And 'faith' is a word that should be distinguished from 'blind belief.' The whole point about faith is you're not absolutely certain, instead you have a degree of high confidence. Easy enough to have high confidence in Pythagoras' hypotenuse. But to have blind belief in anything subjects you to the possibility that under certain circumstances, such as the event horizon of a black hole, Pythagoras' theorem might not hold true and your event horizon traveling machine could come to a sticky end if you happened to have built your machine around the theorem. So best to test the theorem before flying into the black hole or you risk the same fate as those who reckoned they could fly by gluing feathers to their arms. All of which is good practice in scientific exploration but when it comes to human society the testing of the theory isn't really possible and always worth remembering our world is littered with very badly failed experiments.
Pol Pot was a fan of Sartre, whose work I'd guess he would have read in the original French. He'd studied in Paris sometime in the late 1940's early 1950's and went home to become a teacher. Some minds might reject Sartre's work as a result of this association with Pol Pot. What Sartre said in his existentialist writings was something like this: We people are beings who create our own world. We do so by rebelling against authority over us and by taking personal responsibility for our own actions. Why we did this has to do with the idea that to be authentic, true to our nature, to our existence, we individual people had to have absolute freedom of choice, explore all the possibilities. And I think it's accurate to say that no way did Pol Pot apply any of what Sartre might have had to say to anyone other than himself and you have to wonder where Pol Pot put Sartre's idea of personal responsibility. One of the things about judging Sartre as a man and his understandings, is his rejection of the Nobel Prize for Literature. He reckoned the pat on the head would compromise his integrity. To often in the interpretation of the Idea, it seems to only belong to the enlightened, the rest of us it would appear need to be educated or reeducated. Indeed education was and still is a big thing for the Positivists.
Thursday April 18th 2019
In the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's Logical Positivism was a newish way of saying to hell with the Ancient Greeks from the Foot of Italy, German Idealism, phenomenology and metaphysics, it's not getting us anywhere, what we have to do is think sensibly about what we know about the world and how we can make that knowing more accurate and as a result more useful, constructive and so on. The likes of Bertrand Russell not only saw this as a necessity but they reckoned it was entirely possible through logical and scientific verification and they put great effort into tearing down the arguments of the Idealists, who in general had reached the point where thinking about stuff was almost completely outside living the day to day life, their interest was the grand scheme, the great theory, a magnificent edifice from off the top of a cloud, and yet it was edifice that accepted brutality, war and horrible cruelty between us people because that was the way things were, and the good news for everyone it was all going somewhere that was on the one hand kind of inevitable and on the other hand kind of good in the sense the whole thing was taking care of itself, not much we tenured professors or our devoted pupils can do about it, not really our section.
More recently, the faith Logical Positivists placed in science and logic was modified a little by the understanding that there were areas in logic that couldn't do away with all the subjective stuff that obsessed Idealists, and they decided to call themselves Logical Empiricists. The difference is, Logical Empiricists accepted the element of subjectivity, but they reckoned the scientific methods of math, science, logic and so on while subject to distractions of idealism, nonetheless had a higher degree of accuracy than just saying it's all in the mind. And here the beast in the distant forest for the positivists is a man called Parmenides, he was a Foot of Italy Greek, a former student of Pythagoras. Pythagoras has, amongst many other things, the title "First True Mathematician." The sum of the squares of the lengths of the sides of a right angle are equal to the square of the hypotenuse. It's an amazing idea, quite mind blowing, and here on earth at least if you can do the math it's always true, and you can understand why it was kind of like magic to those who first experienced the calculation, and try as some might of done they couldn't show Pythagoras was mistaken about the hypotenuse. It was Parmenides who reckoned that all we could know existed in the mind, what lay outside the mind didn't exist, if you're mind forgot something, it didn't exist. Far too uncomfortable an idea, easy to dismiss Parmenides, but in my view it's an error to do so.