Essays on various subjects

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Genius of me

Want to make millions of dollars? Here you go. Simply create a new suit of cards. Besides Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs add Triangles and invent a whole series of games from that.

Or simply add a new order to each suit such as Emperor above Kings. Above Emperor you could add Demi-Urge or something. And God above them all.

Think about it. A fortune can be made from all that may follow from such a creation or addition to the card universe. I wonder if you can patent such a thing?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

God can build you a better brain

A couple of scientists are claiming that the evolution of the human brain has not stopped, but is ongoing. Two brain gene mutations were found in certain groups of people. "We think each gene conveys some sort of fitness advantage in brain biology. It could be an improved cognitive function or a personality trait. We're not sure. But we know whatever consequence they render is highly favored by selection."

Of course, science fiction writers have often speculated about future human evolution, but the problem is that how do you extrapolate a new kind of mind? It’s like a color spectrum, you can’t add a new color you have never seen to it.

But there is some extrapolation one can do regarding consciousness. We all know we began life without any consciousness and gradually acquired it and improved on it. The speculation that many deny is that after a certain point any consciousness can be increased or gained beyond what a mature adult possesses.

To put it simply, most people believe you can get so smart and no smarter. This is a self-deception, though. It equates consciousness with IQ in effect. Another more convincing truth is that you can’t put a limit on wisdom, which is a whole other perception of reality and being.

If we assume for a moment that wisdom (insight, understanding) and its increase is also a function of the brain’s cognitive intelligence, we might think that evolutionary improvement of the human brain may lead to a general increase in human wisdom.

Given that, it is not unreasonable to wonder if humanity may not achieve a social condition and individual understanding that more readily overcomes our more animal instincts and indulgences.

That is, that Man becomes more rational/spiritual more easily in his individual development.

Every man must feel insulted if he is told that his consciousness is not as great or fine as another’s. Yet, it is something we know must be true if we have any humility. Clearly a child has a superior consciousness than an infant; an adolescent superior to a small child, an adult to a teenager, and sometimes an old man is wiser than a young man.

We symbolize a gulf between a man of passion and appetite against that of a man who is selfless with the appellation of a “saint”. We think saints are better than normal men. They have a faith or understanding which surpasses ordinary people, and a commitment to virtue which is deemed heroic.

Maybe better brains can make us better people. And more than that, more like God in that we have more reason than emotion to rule us.

For the religious, the brain is merely the matrix which holds Mind. Make the matrix better, than Mind will also improve. Evolution has done that. We have more consciousness than dogs. There is no reason to believe that a future human won’t be capable of more consciousness than us as we ordinarily are today.

God is able to transcend time and space. If he improves us through time and genetic development, there is no reason to not also believe that his capabilities may increase within us. Matter and energy may become more elastic dimensions to us just as they are for God.

People who are devoted to acquiring great sums of money, many hours of physical pleasure, and perceive the world as merely matter, money, and politics will have no trouble dismissing the notion above as silly and “hey, man, like cosmic, wow.”

The miraculous is real for most people, though, for god reason. It is often experienced. The idea that humans might come to learn how to do the miraculous as a function of evolution and the brain seems impossible, but there is no particular reason why it can’t be.

Most religions, if not all, operate from a paradigm that accepts human “being” as static, complete, finished, and as high as it can go. Dogma insists that humans are complete as we are.

Christianity, for example, must insist that since Jesus incarnated as a man, he would not have done so in a lesser creature than the future would bring. There is no actual argument for that anywhere in scripture or experience, but the assumption rests on the belief that nature (God) is done with Man.

Again, there is no compelling reason to believe that.

Theologically, we may well say that Jesus appeared as Man at the very point when Man both culturally and brain-wise was able to understand what he had to say and do for us; and to point the way and perhaps accelerate our evolution in some regard.

That argument can easily be attacked. It’s just a “what if” thought, but it opens the door to an entirely different understanding of God, Jesus, and Man.

The challenges that reason force upon religion are absolute and insistent. We cannot dismiss the knowledge of life we get from good science. Any reasonable man devoted to truth and natural history has to come to the conclusion after serious examination that Adam and Eve were not where human life began. Nor did they bring death into the world. It was here on Earth long before any mammal arrived.

Our stories about creation, about everything in any scripture is subject to rigorous scrutiny. Not the kind that idiotic atheists or those who believe in scientism impose who haven’t the sense to recognize simple logic that no premise about consciousness and life can hold without God as the starting place and person.

We are compelled by reason, which we have from God -- it is his reason we use, to reconsider everything we have traditionally thought about Jesus (or Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, etc.).

Religion, though, is resistant to change. It has great staying power. Tradition lasts because it works, and nothing works for humanity better than Christianity. Yet is has changed over time, and is now becoming a much more simplified evangelism of American conception.

I believe that this evangelism will increase in simplifying its message even further over time while maintaining a missionary zeal which will drive all of Christianity.

Yes, the Catholic and Orthodox churches among others will maintain themselves through their rich and impressive traditions, but intellectually, they are dead. All they will have are the same old tired apologetics to hold them together. They have no real answer to so many dilemmas, paradoxes, and conflicts in their theology; anymore than Islam has an answer as to how Mohammed could be a real prophet of God when he was a murderous, adulterous, sexually incontinent pedophile.

American evangelism reduces things to Paul’s simplest message, and shines dynamically. Open theology will triumph because it rings truer than the old concepts about omniscience. It is perfectly logical to assert that God can’t know all about the future anymore than we can because he can’t know what doesn’t yet exist or is. That God can’t know the next sentence I’ll write anymore than I necessarily do.

A church which says that what we know is all that’s needed to know about divine reality will not be home for the curious and rational, the dynamic and driven.

If Mind is something that can expand more easily as a brain improves through evolution, then mankind is on a heck of a ride to the future of eternity and mortality.


, a TV show n Discovery-Science channel illustrated a whole new way of looking at the brain. Daniel is a savant who does not suffer the extreme effects of autism although he clearly has many of the symptoms of that condition.

The man who was the model for the Dustin Hoffman character in the movie Rainman also was illustrated and demonstrates a most prodigious memory and mental agility that seems inhuman.

In fact, Daniel and Rainman help to prove my point about the brain as matrix of Mind, and that the brain id capable of prodigiously incredible feats of calculation, synaesthesia, and global perception.

Let me quote myself from an essay on the nature of being:

Dreams. I have had dreams of an encyclopedic nature which contain far too much original, creative work that would be impossible for any mind as we presently understand creativity and time to account for. For example, imagine having a dream which may only take a few minutes (in the waking world time) in which you compose a dozen complete, coherent, and breathtakingly beautiful symphonies.

According to what any neuroscientist will tell you, it is not possible for any human brain to perform such creative work in a matter of moments awake or asleep. But such dreams do I have now and then. Never the same in terms of the creative acts. One time it was a series of fully formed Shakespearean-like plays in which I was the author. Another time it was a catalogue like biggest yellow pages book in which every page I turned or leafed through offered detailed (rococo in abundance) graphics and text all of which made perfect sense. Another time, I came to a wall with a large bookshelf of novels, each with it’s own design, cover, and story. I could pick up any book, open it and read a coherent story in a particular genre, style, masculine or female quality, and each author’s voice unique as was every story.

The last such dream I had was as an actor in a Shakespeare play rehearsing it from a book that held a great number of his other plays, all of which were entirely original with invented words as he might have done, with plots and characters all to his manner, and with stories from comedy to tragedy. There was no place in opening the book at random in which I did not encounter a fully formed work of art. And it was as Blake expressed when he talked about the unity of art even in a fragment. In reading one page of dialogue, I could see the story as it had had to happen before, and where it was tending towards as it went. I couldn’t know the endings until I came to them, but they were perfect as expected in fitting the action.

These are not my usual dreams which are quite the same as most other people’s. Unfortunately, when I ask others if they have such dreams, thus far I have only received negatives. It is as if these type of dreams access a huge mainframe computer of memory and invention, whereas only a small PC is usually at work.

This comports with the experience of these savants (idiot or mostly rational) who experience functions in their brains, abilities to cross various components of consciousness in such a way as to visualize life, text, or numbers in a way as to be incredible.

Clearly the human brain is capable of things which are vastly superior in organization of knowledge, in recall of memory, in seeing calculations in a whole new way simple with the equipment we have, but jiggered differently. Imagine then if the brain can improve itself in a way that makes such synaesthesia or computation of numbers, music, drawing, and memory of text as completely normal and ordinary for everyone.

We are looking at capabilities that are amazing, but even then don’t scratch the surface of what we might be capable of in the interface of Mind and Body.

It seems to me that the current lack of interest in such phenomena (no major TV network stories and follow up in academia) results from an inability of many pseudo-intellectuals and cognoscenti from actually wanting to examine the nature of intelligence, perception, and the brain. It is simply too humbling for your self-satisfied climber.

Friday, July 15, 2005

God is not as clever as Dante.

The recent Islamofascist terror bombings in London give rise to the occasional speculation of what the perpetrators will suffer in Hell (much to their surprise).

Self-congratulating “compassionate” Christians tend to say things like, “there is a Hell but no one’s in it”, or “Hell is separation from God.” Some may add eternal, but they don’t really believe God is that mean.

More standard Christians take the Gospel at its words about the outer darkness and the eternal wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Some like Dante imagine scenes of torment. An email sent to The Corner at National Review Online said:

“In the corner this morning you comment that the Iraq child-killers could be eternally punished with the image of the mangled bodies forever before them. One problem: they'd enjoy that.

Of course, if you take C.S. Lewis's view of things (as I do), the eternal punishment of any wicked feeling is probably just to be left free to keep eternally feeling it. The demonic pleasure the killer would take in the eternal contemplation of his handiwork would be its own punishment - nothing makes a man more miserable than the indulgence of that kind of pleasure.”

I don’t follow the reasoning of the second paragraph, though. If the killer takes eternal demonic pleasure, how is that man made more miserable by enjoying what he likes?

Obviously, any discussion of Heaven and Hell is entirely speculative (but try to let that stop us!). Anything we think or say about the afterlife, though, must be predicated on what we think God is like.

Those who have actually met God may have a somewhat better means of understanding him or seeing him as he really is rather than simply trying to imagine him. But the direct manifestation of God to someone is no guarantee the individual cannot misinterpret the experience, nor will not delude himself about it, or come to false conclusions.

Skeptics of spiritual experience are so for two reasons: jealousy and fear. People are jealous that some nincompoop has had something miraculous occur to them while they have not; and secondly, the fear that the person making such claims of grace is crazy since most people who make such claims are indeed crazy, deluded, megalomaniacal.

I am going to base my opinions on Heaven and Hell upon my theory of consciousness rather than upon any “vision”.

To put things simply here is the basic template I advance.
1) God created the universe and life.
2) Life was created to process and develop over time and included mortality for all living things, competition in and among species as well as co-operation or symbiosis.
3) Life is created with indelible instincts, and consciousness in creatures develops into a self-awareness in humans capable of relationship with God and continual development of consciousness through learning and discovery.
4) Everything God does creatively is progressive and processional. Things developing over time to sudden shifts in either insight (regarding consciousness) or in systems of matter and life.
5) Regarding God’s nature, experience teaches us that he is all Love without anger, wrath, or vengeance seeking. He is impassive to suffering while at the same time, intimately concerned and helpful to us. Nor is there any kind of evil which God cannot understand nor forgive. He allows all things in us.

Spiritual consciousness is something a little different from ordinary self-awareness. As animals we are aware of our thoughts and being, but consciousness is a process of shifting perspectives on the nature of ourselves and Reality.

There are no shortcuts to God, in essence. A man cannot become holy overnight, if we take righteousness to mean one with God. A child who dies cannot become an instantly perfect “angel”. Every person must tread a path of consciousness which cannot be set aside. That would apply to the smallest embryo and the most reprobate sinner.

So if we believe that even the most unconscious of humans, infants and unborn, must grow up to adulthood and maturity in wisdom even in an afterlife, then we accept that there must be a means for this to occur.

It is not unreasonable to also believe that people who die in various conditions of wisdom or lack of must have a means to progress over time in the afterlife.

Catholics invented Purgatory for this regarding believers while maintaining Hell for sinners.

I would suggest that Purgatory would apply to everyone in whatever degree of wisdom they knew.

It is understandable that we want the Hitlers, Stalins, evil doers and terrorists of the world to suffer unbearable torments, and would feel cheated if they did not; but to God any and everything is forgivable and it will have to be so for us, too, if we are to be wise as God is.

Even so, rest assured that evil doers will suffer unbearable torments or shall stand eternally in place, heavy and hard as stones, for the consciousness of their crimes and sins must be understood by them or they shall never advance out of their condition. Thomas Aquinas wrote that a disordered mind is it’s own punishment.

Whether people are able to remain stuck in the place of their own unyielding will forever, who knows? God forces no one to acknowledge him and turn to Love as their salvation. Nor does he reveal himself to any unready or unwilling to change. Once revealed, God is irresistible, Game Over, so to speak, for selfish pride.

But I have often seen that people will not bend the knee, but harden their hearts throughout a long life and gain absolutely no personal wisdom.

My father is almost eighty years old and is no wiser a man than he was as a petulant 6 year old boy. He has no curiosity about himself, and never wonders why his children are estranged from him since he believes that all the fault is in his offspring. Like most people, he will admit he is not perfect, but that’s a pro forma statement meant to mollify, not to acknowledge faults or bad acts.

My father is in continual emotional torment, bitterness, anger, and despair. He has often threatened suicide, and now that he is in poor health, promises to kill himself before he allows himself to be helpless in some nursing home. (But I doubt even then he would shoot himself. When push comes to shove, his fear of death, it’s nothingness will likely prevent him from pulling the trigger.) In this world, he is able to inflict suffering upon others. I would hope in the next world, he is unable to do so unless it is to people similar to himself.

A sage once said, “God gives each person a choice. You can choose to have love or power, but you can’t have both.”

Everyone chooses power (if you recognize original sin). Pride is power in that it gives the proud a sense of power in himself, a feeling of will and a boundless desire to control others.

We choose love when we realize how useless, tasteless, and joyless our pride is. But most people never chose to commit themselves wholly to love. Are we then to believe that God disposes of all of these beloved creatures to Hell since he surely understood that most people would hardly even make the start of the journey of going his way into Life?

Anyone who has ever experienced the incredible glory of Abba, the Father, expressing his absolute love and delight in his creature, it is impossible to imagine that God’s allowance and impassivity towards our free will would result in his consigning the vast majority of his beloved creatures to eternal damnation.

But it is possible that God allows each creature to take as long as forever to seek him and the way out of suffering. For all we know, some people may never choose to seek their salvation in faith.

Birds of a feather do flock together, though, and so I imagine Purgatory/Heaven must be a very large place divided among people segregating themselves according to similarity of consciousness. A kingdom of distinct classes of people until everyone graduates to the same class.

So Hell is indeed the outer darkness, constant wailing and gnashing of teeth, while at the same time eternally offering an escape hatch into Heaven.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Crux of Criticism

This missive is in response to a book review at First Things here.

Mr. Barr,

Regarding Polkinghorne’s open theology regarding omniscience, you write:

“The first was demolished by St. Augustine, who pointed out that God’s knowledge of future acts no more renders them unfree than our own knowledge of past acts renders them unfree.”

This leaves St. Augustine’s absurdity unscrutinized. You simply find a different way to restate the clear paradox between a free will and an omniscient God. If everything is determined, then no act is free. Regardless how free the actor believes himself to be, he cannot help but come to know he is all pawn or plaything and the effect is debilitating and makes self-awareness self-defeating and meaningless. You should know this yourself by a simple thought experiment. Try to imagine your every act and thought as being part of a script (since you know it must be so) and you will tear your reason to pieces, and crash upon a feedback loop into futility and despair. St. Augustine’s response only sounds like a refutation. It actually does no such thing.

From your review, it sounds as though your theological positions may be entirely dogmatic, which is not what I would task you about other than to notice that your knowledge of God under such conditions may be less than what you’d want to bring to bear. Your physics is problematic, too.

To whit: “But Einstein showed that spatio-temporal relationships are more subtle: there is no absolute meaning to the question of what is happening (or coming into being) “now” throughout the whole universe. And if it is a mistake to project the timeline of our mental states onto the entire universe, it is even less justified to project it onto God, who infinitely transcends the universe.“

There is no actual statement about reality in the paragraph above. It amounts to having no meaning at all. God infinitely transcends the universe? Would you like to actually prove such a condition is true rather than proclaim it? Plus, the notion that there is no “now” in the universe is absurd on the face of it. And exactly what is a timeline of mental states?

What you have done is adopted various paradoxes in the current bad model of particle physics and projected them onto theology. That physics is uncritical and credulous. You have failed to scrutinize it as you have failed to scrutinize the nature and being of God.

This is not entirely your fault in that you are probably operating with highly limited knowledge and experience of God. What I mean is that if dogma is your baseline to which all truth must conform to, or it cannot be true, then you have seriously handicapped any possible recognition of truth when it appears. You will not know it. You cannot engage it on its own ground.

“Polkinghorne’s method in addressing these questions is empirical and inductive. . . from experience to understanding.”

“But he tends to conceive of revelation as “an experiential encounter,” in which “critical episodes” led the people of Israel, later the first Christians, and finally ourselves to “revelatory insights.” The Bible is thus a “record of experience,” in the interpretation of which “creative freedom” is allowed --”

What you do not seem to acknowledge is that there is no other way to know anything of God except from experience to understanding. Revelation itself is not insight. Revelation is experience and it does not make for understanding the experience itself. God does not explain himself as he reveals himself.

I have had the joy filled (and once trepidation full) experience of meeting God directly four times in my life. Once in each person of the Trinity, and once in the Trinity as a whole. Although I have experienced these “meetings” (for that is what they are), I could only say from them that there were things about God I knew were true beyond doubt - God is a person, he is love, he is father, holy spirit, and Jesus, he has personal care for each of us, he reveals, and he heals.

Although I could say I ‘knew” all that and all at once, I could not begin to say I understood what it all means, how I should respond to it, how God operates and how can I explain his nature.

I also had a boon from God, the Father, at the time of our encounter. He made it possible for me to see the creation of the universe and then the development of life on earth up to the present. In a global, oceanic moment of seeing, I was able to experience all the evil that humans did to each other as they moved through time. Every war, murder, rape, mutilation, horror, scream, agony from violence and brutality of each previously living person I experienced as a present observer from age to age.

It was as though I was in the rape room or on the killing fields for every single instance. I experienced each directly - billions of terrible actions, not all at once but sequentially by the millions.

I experienced it as God himself experienced it and experienced God’s own perspective and feeling which was radiant and satisfying Love. No judgment, anger, wrath, or disturbance in God. It was pure passivity and yet, it was an incredibly active Love, also.

I believe that my experience was limited to human horror and violence because the primary problem I had with living at that time was the utter uselessness of life, its total suffering and cruelty, the impossibility of good and hope, and I had to see that even with all the sum total human evil -- it was Good and God was aware, present, and full of loving kindness for the evil doer as well as victim. You cannot understand it unless you experience it, anymore than I can tell you about a new color in the spectrum. You have to take my word about it as to what God can show and be in such conditions.

Only later did I also note that there were no angels or demons at work in the universe that God revealed. We were it. Us and God. That was all the sentience and action there is.

(I will also note for your sake, that in the creation of the universe, there is no Big Bang. This is important, and you ought to give it special attention. One of the principles in which God operates, and his will is done is that He is processional. Long, gradual processes leading up to sudden events in all things that occur. The universe began in a much simpler way than physicists imagine. Simply a great breath of primary matter into the void, if I can recall it very well [which I cannot]. Everything slowly formed from there. For a better understanding of the process you will need to study plasma physics and the effect of plasma vortexes in the formation of galaxies and stars.)

Now, I expect at this point you believe I am a complete crackpot. I hope not, but it wouldn’t surprise me. The incapacity of even religious people to accept what they haven’t experienced is a pretty basic fact. Since I am not a proselytizer for a special status in the church (and I can’t tell you how tempting the desire to seek such recognition was at first) my only proofs of Revelation are 1) the experiences themselves as consistent with those of others, and 2) the extraordinarily careful and delayed examination of their meaning with attention to skepticism, logic, rationality, wisdom, and a basic assumption that there is nothing God knows that I can’t know, but it must all be tested, again and again.

I must admit a dependence upon the Holy Spirit for guidance regarding all matters of truth. Understanding is sequential. You cannot skip in the process from one subject to the next expecting a response as you please. For instance, the understanding of God’s omniscience as limited to what is knowable and that the future is not knowable to God is not something that occurs with idle thought. It is something that is shown and fits Occam’s Razor through a process of uncovering or chipping away. We take God’s omniscience containing futurity through the notions imbedded in the Bible, and later “proven” by argument from an assumed premise.

But if you are unwilling to have a great deal chipped away from the ediface of faith as you currently understand it, you simply will not intuitively grasp the beauty of a new structure. You can talk about it, but not really see it.

Also, human experience seems to confirm the traditional belief because people directly experience God working in their lives, apparently planning events for them, making wonders and marvels occur at just the right moment. The idea that he knew us in the womb is very rich and satisfying, but it can’t possibly be true when you begin to understand how God creates consciousness itself in his creatures. We are, so to speak, created out of nothing and are nothing at our beginning except the beginning of human life. We have no past at conception except our DNA. We have no future because we have no personal character. God did not know Mark, because Mark does not exist at conception, and only barely began to exist at birth. We are tabula rasas except for that which is determined and inherent in our being/consciousness to develop.

Because God plays no favorites, has no favorites, no one has a particular destiny to be a prophet, priest, saint, tinker, tailor, or soldier. Not even Jesus. He never knew what he was supposed to be. He never had any special mission, but did what he thought he should. His murder was never necessary any more than the murder of anyone is necessary to save humanity from itself. (But this is not to remove the breadth and depth and power of his sacrifice. That God incarnate as a mere human should die as he did, well, we know it is the stuff of speechless awe.)

The entire way you talk about Jesus’ temporal pole and eternal pole, is hopeless. You can never get to anywhere with it. It is self-destroying paradox when you present the question as you do.

If you start instead from the fact that Jesus can’t have been any different at all from you, do you find any problem with a temporal pole and eternal one in yourself? Of course not. And the idea that Jesus on earth emptied his role in heaven or the trinity or this was explained by some council borders on the risible.

The Jesus that others met on earth, is not the Jesus one meets today. Jesus’ experience of God and the Holy Spirit are no different than mine except that I cannot know what boon the Father might have given Jesus as vision. It is possible that his vision was of his separate incarnation and yet oneness with himself in the Trinity.

But the problem with that is that it would have made Jesus different from a human in his self-conception; and that is not possible with a God who plays strictly by his rules and does not play any favorites.

What are his rules? They are very simple, of course. We know with certainty that God does not interfere in the free will of his creatures, human in particular for our purposes of discussion. He never forces himself on anyone. (That helps creates the theodicy problem later, but it is easily resolved, also, as we shall see.) How do we know? Wisdom and experience which must at some point for us come to be acknowledged as clear as simple addition or a perfect syllogism.

We know as I said before that God works through gradual processes. To borrow a bit from Chaos theory, there is a slight instability in every process that eventually results in a highly charged event, crisis, or catastrophe (or eustrophe). Endless curiosity serves here as well.

The human sex instinct, for instance, has an imbalance or force which leads to all manner of disasters (or goods) for people and societies.

We know that everything God does is out of love. Revelation is enough for this. But logic may also inform us that the Universe (and its Creator) must be benign and not malevolent or indifferent. The universe cannot create a capacity for altruism, compassion, and love if it lacks those qualities in itself. You cannot get love from a non-love universe. You cannot create a sense of Good or Beauty from a neutral being or laboratory. These things should be self-evident (and are) except that many actively resist them through perverse distortions of logic and reason.

We know that death is not annihilation. Again, this is dependent on revelation, but there is also our experience of archetypes within us which cannot exist except as templates of an Other Reality, a stamp of Heaven, so to speak, which restlessly seeks satisfaction or fulfillment (and finds it).

We know that there is nothing we cannot understand about God. There is no eternal mystery in the sense of things we can never know or comprehend. We know this because the simple denial of an ability to comprehend is an entirely God-like knowledge. We would have to be God to know we can’t know everything. Obviously, that is a contradiction in terms.

It is important to recognize the nature of the word -- understanding. We don’t realize God so much as we stand under him to look and see, watching what he does. As we get larger, we see more of Him, but we are always standing under him, for there is no end of him as far as we can see.

As important and crucial as the Bible is, we must never forget as Raymond Brown said, “God doesn’t write books. People write books.”

Unfortunately in religion we are constantly hearing how thus and such is “inspired” as if that answered anything when no one can define what inspiration means, how it operates, what kind of mechanism it is. Definitions are usually drawn by people who have no idea of what writing really is like in all its manner and forms, and all the different psychological states it can reflect or is drawn from. There is simply no such thing as automatic writing from God in the Bible. All writing comes from experience and emotion. The emotion can be quite limited such as informational or directive, or grandiose in poetry and scripture. One can write emotionlessly only in the same sense that a person can be entirely emotionless. But a sense of ease, calm, proportion, and unemotional intellection is not, of course, a neutral state of being. It is a positive state of health, and well-being is an emotional condition though it seems muted and unconscious to us. It can also be called happiness.

Of course, argument from revelation is useless. It trumps nothing. I can no more say, I talked to God and he told me you’re wrong, than you can deny I have no actual experience of God.

Therefore, how do we determine what is true in theology. The fallback position for religion is usually tradition and scripture (and councils for Christians). That seems safest, and it is when the sad fact is that the vast majority of religious people have little or no real experience of God, and thus no basis with which to criticize doctrines except to endorse really crazy things and schemes, and self-appointed prophets.

But the arguments from Authority are useless for establishing almost any facts about truth, especially for non-religious people.

Thus we get a Polkinghorne and others who try to bridge the gap between corporate belief and personal experience and critical examination. The conflict between so-called private revelation vs. public revelation is a hoax, though. There is no kind of revelation of God which is truly public. All experience of God is personal, although it is possible for it to occur to more than one person at a time. The Holy Spirit can “inspire” a Council, if you will, but that council will require a majority of people who are prepared to understand Truth and receive it both submissively and half-consciously.

But the understanding of others, the self, or councils can never be understood as to be anything but provisional except for an absolute truth. For instance, it is absolutely true that we inhabit a moral universe. It is true that God is One, and that God is Three. That Jesus is God. That God is Love - Truth, Beauty, Goodness. That humans are immortal. God is eternal.

These are truths which cannot suffer from being provisional understandings or temporary scaffolds to help us climb higher to a better view. I believe that Buddha is said to have explained that doctrine is a raft we use to get across a great river, but once upon the other side, we do not pick it up and carry it with us.

Now a Jew can argue that God cannot be Three. That it is absurd and impossible he will insist. He is right in some respects, but wrong in others. He has to know what God is in himself in order to deny he can be anything else. How does he come by his argument? Usually from his scripture, and additionally from his reason and logic.

We can dismiss his argument from authority with some respect for its basis. It came from some man or men’s understanding of God from a distant time and is subject to error or incompleteness.

The Jew’s argument from reason is more difficult unless we can show that it is possible for a number of things to co-exist as one and as separate in identity. Not so easy. One template for debate is in the trinity of the family. Another is in the trinity of the self - heart, mind, soul. Each person feels these things to have separate identity or portion in himself, but it is impossible to say where the heart leaves off and where the mind begins or soul informs. To the secular, this trinity has no effect at all since they deny soul, and is unpersuasive.

The clincher has to be revelation. I heard of a rabbi once saying, “Jesus is the answer to a question I’ve never asked.” And clearly, it is a question he will never most likely ask. But without a sincere openness to a further revelation from God, the Jew disqualifies himself from serious considerations on theology. It is like the scientist who refuses to perform an experiment which might disprove his theory. For the rabbi, it is spiritually and intellectually dishonest, as it is for the Buddhist, Muslim, or Hindu, atheist, or Christian who insists his dogmas never need revisiting or further proof and only argues from traditional authority.

After I had a serious heart attack and while my life was in jeopardy, I marveled at my inner peace in confrontation with death, my certainty of heaven or continuity, but the indifference of God (whom had been so close to me for a number of years) to my agonizing pain, and his complete absence from my appeals was a shock. I had relied on him to be there at a critical moment (since he’d often done so before). I had to reconsider theodicy.

After a number of years I came to open theology and it fit perfectly, but it still didn’t answer the question -- why death? My provisional answer was this is how God creates souls. That’s tautological, though, and didn’t satisfy when one can imagine that if God is God, he could have created us without death since we are certainly going to end up (are) immortal and deathless (so we assume). It’s a false assumption, though.

I gradually realized that death (not a Fall) is necessary for human life. God creates by process. That involves creating the infrastructure for life first (a vast universe capable of an almost infinite number of accidents to occur), and then the making of life out of non-life. The rules are in place, the order is not determined except that A must occur before B in order for C etc.. Leave some room for tangents, margins, and parallels, but life works itself out into higher states of organization naturally.

There seems to be Design insofar as some creatures are restricted and limited while others are pathways for further progress in sentience, but now, apes shall never become men. (That’s speculative, though.)

You cannot get from single cells to man without death, competition, a compelling sexual instinct (among others), and the desire of living things to protect and care for offspring and others. Social qualities and love, that is.

You cannot get to man without speech, either. Consciousness cannot develop without speech and the power of abstract thought. Infants deprived of learning to speak do not become significantly human. They remained trapped as a kind of primate below man.

Man did not bring death into the universe with a Fall from Grace. God put death into his universe that Life might become man.

We need simply look at time frames on Earth. From protosphere to planet and single cells. From single cell to proto-primate. From proto-primate to Man. From Man to Cro-magnon. From Cro-magnon to agriculture and first cities and culture. From culture to Revelation (Moses). From Moses to Jesus. From Church to Science. From Science to the Modern, from the Modern to the present.

There appears to be a logarithm in action in terms of progression. Gradualness than change, but an acceleration in the time between the gradual period and the change.

I do not believe that human nature is progressive any more than Art is progressive. The same rules and aesthetics always apply. But the development of life, Man, and religion (knowledge, theology, science) does appear progressive, and seems impossible to argue otherwise given the pattern described above.

The Roman Catholic Church accepts that understanding of God through theology is progressive. It just is unable to jettison as yet various anachronisms or artifacts of dubious piety such as Mary’s virginity, immaculate conception, and ascension. But there is not a sensible Catholic in the world who can insist that Mary had to be a virgin for some particularly pious reason. It is an absurdity that strains God’s willingness to limit his actions. It offends Occam’s razor.

God always begets human life in a natural manner. Why should he suddenly change that when it works perfectly well for all men and as it would for Jesus? There is no necessity for a virgin birth; and to claim that such a gratuitous action is befitting the occasion is presumptuous. Men and women create people. There is no need for God to alter that for any reason.

Is Jesus diminished if we know he was created in the same manner as we are? The answer for us today must be a resounding, no!

Yes, the answer for a long time seemed to have to be a resounding yes! But the kind of pieties, reasoning, culture involved fairly well determined that such a Yes was the default position in such divine matters. To think otherwise was impossible for anyone with pious feelings.

Religious people do create aggregations of pious sentiments canonized into doctrines because they are credulous and fail to reckon about the piling of absurdity upon absurdity. The Absolute Absurdity of God entering into life as a man is not a license for generating as many tangential absurdities as possible from that Revelation. But that is what the Church and religions do.

If rational and intelligent people don’t know this as a matter of fact, the way things actually are with people and life, then I don’t know what to say to them other than that they are simply avoiding thinking through the implications of their doctrines seriously.

One aspect of religious thought that is rarely taken into account is that people have the God they presently require. I mentioned it in passing in the rabbi’s statement above. If people don’t want to know more about God, it’s because they are happy with what they have of him already.

For example, Mr. Barr’s frivolous dismissal of a tenet of open theology regarding God’s omniscience with a lightweight assertion of St. Augustine’s as some sort of automatic counter works well for Mr. Barr’s complacency since he has no pressing need for a better conception or knowledge of God’s nature and methods.

But for others, the theodicy dilemma and paradox of free will is not so easily laid to rest. Mr. Barr has no need of a different God, so that settles it; anything different from his doctrine need not be engaged seriously. To engage seriously does not mean to think a little bit more, exert more energy in argument or defense, but to rip open your chest from the agony of your life, abjectly exposing yourself to God with the hope he will fill it with more of himself, and that which will close the cavity for the time being.

The search for deeper, more consistent truth is not a spectator sport and definitely not the playground for dilettantes who like engaging in useless God talk, speculation, or constant apologetics. If you want to know more of truth, you must be prepared to suffer for it, and feast on despair. You must yearn for knowing while practicing the utmost care and patience, also. But that yearning has to be a visceral, unending cri de coeur. You must love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. The work isn’t for sissies or the fearful.

God did not come to me, reveal himself in all his persons and whole being along with an attendant serious of blessings, graces, healing, inspirations, insights, and guidance because I merely asked. He did so because he knew I could be trusted with Him; an earned trust borne from decades of suffering, searching, misery, experience of life, and despair that did not damage others too much. The worst kind of sinner, most determined seeker, asker, and knocker on his door. (Much easier once I took him as master.)

But the Abba experience, revelation of the Father was not an end but a beginning of a series of harder questions. Faith is not exactly a progressive thing, but consciousness under the influence of Faith is something which develops.

Let me put it this way: Experience (wisdom) plus insight (epiphany, revelation, favors, research) equals intelligence. Intelligence has nothing to do with being smart, quick, or clever. It has to do with being true.

The old example of God like an onion in which we peel away layers is not really apt since it supposes a center that one finally arrives at. It isn’t the case. Conscious can grow to the point in which there is no unconscious or sub-conscious to a person. People become fully conscious of themselves. It is impossible not to since it goes hand in hand with God granting insight. To work at knowing God is simultaneously a work of knowing yourself and becoming a No-Self (of sorts) or non-egotist.

But a fully conscious person (and I don’t pretend to be one) is not comprehensive of all that God can reveal about himself. It is an infinite stairway because there is no end to God’s further depth and imagination.

It is important to grant God imagination because every time you discover a new perspective, you are amazed at the awesome simplicity of God. One can’t imagine a greater simplicity, and yet, the next insight reveals it.

There are possibilities of actions as a human (and I have touched on in some of my fictions) which are so simple, stunning, and obvious that to begin to speak of these “heavenly things” is to invite much scorn and scoffing, but let me relate a fairly simple matter.

Dreams. I have had dreams of an encyclopedic nature which contain far too much original, creative work that would be impossible for any mind as we presently understand creativity and time to account for. For example, imagine having a dream which may only take a few minutes (in the waking world time) in which you compose a dozen complete, coherent, and breathtakingly beautiful symphonies.

According to what any neuroscientist will tell you, it is not possible for any human brain to perform such creative work in a matter of moments awake or asleep. But such dreams do I have now and then. Never the same in terms of the creative acts. One time it was a series of fully formed Shakespearean-like plays in which I was the author. Another time it was a catalogue like biggest yellow pages book in which every page I turned or leafed through offered detailed (rococo in abundance) graphics and text all of which made perfect sense. Another time, I came to a wall with a large bookshelf of novels, each with it’s own design, cover, and story. I could pick up any book, open it and read a coherent story in a particular genre, style, masculine or female quality, and each author’s voice unique as was every story.

The last such dream I had was as an actor in a Shakespeare play rehearsing it from a book that held a great number of his other plays, all of which were entirely original with invented words as he might have done, with plots and characters all to his manner, and with stories from comedy to tragedy. There was no place in opening the book at random in which I did not encounter a fully formed work of art. And it was as Blake expressed when he talked about the unity of art even in a fragment. In reading one page of dialogue, I could see the story as it had had to happen before, and where it was tending towards as it went. I couldn’t know the endings until I came to them, but they were perfect as expected in fitting the action.

These are not my usual dreams which are quite the same as most other people’s. Unfortunately, when I ask others if they have such dreams, thus far I have only received negatives. It is as if these type of dreams access a huge mainframe computer of memory and invention, whereas only a small PC is usually at work.

This phenomena proves nothing, of course, but it is interesting and calls for explanation.

There is another matter which is for me, definitive. I am a musician and composer of music although I no longer play or compose music. In the course of my life, I wrote every kind of music and listened to every kind. As a musician on fretboard instruments primarily, but also on some others such as keyboards and breath instruments I have acquaintance. As a guitarist, I achieved at different times (when seriously practicing) the level of virtuoso.

Yet, for all my effort and dedication to music, there is a great deal I never properly absorbed because I had a late start in my latter teen years. I never learned to read music well or to compose mentally without an instrument. I never trained to a high degree of proficiency in relative pitch (and I didn’t have perfect pitch to start with). My use of scales and an ability to change keys easily or transpose intervals in parallel to a melody, those and other skills eluded me. Nor was I ever able to improvise on the guitar with confidence and facility.

Nevertheless, I did all of those things at various times to various degrees, and if you will bear with my fantasia for a moment, I have one more thing to add. Of hundreds and hundreds of pieces of music I composed, I can no longer play them because I don’t remember them, and even from recordings, they are almost impossible for me to reconstruct.

Yet, I haven’t the slightest doubt that one of the things I will be able to do in the near future in my afterlife will be to pick up all these instruments and play them perfectly and remember everything that is useful to remember because the knowing will be both intuitive and encyclopedic. It is something our minds can do, and we have clear evidence of this in ordinary life with the examples of idiot savants. Call it angelic knowledge, if you like.

Well, I have gone on at too much length and not demonstrated my notions on consciousness to the extent they deserve, but I want to spare you any more in case you’ve gotten this far.

Oh yes, I am assuming that you base your understanding in particle physics with the general recognized model used and taught at present. The model as you know has clear contradictions in it, but since a great deal of it works, it finds acceptance. One project for you would be to question everything you think you know about gravity. Throw it all away and start over and you might find interesting things about it. Another thing is to become familiar with plasma physics, Hannes Alfven’s work and his disciples. The third thing that would create original thinking and work is to assume that everything about the universe, all its laws and actions, are simple enough to explain to an eight year old, and do not illustrate any paradox (such as Uncertainty). Remember, too, that what cannot be imagined cannot be true.

For example, the notion that gravity curves space cannot be imagined or actually modeled in a three dimensional way. I’ll wait for you to try and draw the effect in your mind’s eye or on paper. Can’t be done can it? You cannot curve something which is not there, if Space is just vacuum. But if it has substance like water or air in a finer way, it cannot be curved as the model supposes.

I realize this will certify me as a crackpot in your mind, but one thing to note -- God is intelligible, and his universe is even more so, and it is vastly simpler than you imagine from the macro to micro. And it is not at all as most present day physicists render it. But it would take a revelation of God for you to begin to really see that, I fear.

The model you know has had practical use, but it has no practical value in illustrating the universe as it really is and how it works. A single anomaly, just one thing that doesn‘t fit, destroys it entirely. The patchwork thing which you’ve been taught is risible, indeed, if it wasn’t so sad, and reflective of 20th century mind games and culture.

Do not apply your physics to God. Apply God to your physics and you will have much more success in doing original work. Everything depends on God. Trust almost nothing of what other men have given you. Turn it all inside out, upside down, and backwards. Otherwise you will never add anything to the discussion. That is how good creative work is done. I hope you know that. If you don’t, well, you’ve been informed.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Mind, Creativity, Miracle

I had a dream last night in which I was going to play the romantic lead in a Shakespeare comedy. The actress and I read the play and worked on our lines from a small playbook which also contained a few other plays of the Bard. The typeface was difficult to read in our play at times, while in other places it reproduced more antique styles which were more crude.

At some point in my study of lines, I got misplaced in the book and was reading another play in which a character named Hotentot delivered a long soliloquy against Christian religion and hypocrisy.

The book also had numerous watercolor pictures illustrating the comedy, each in rich purples, reds, and white figures against night moods.

The detail in the book was amazing with directions in parentheses, invented words such as “nfear, nfear, sooth” odd spellings, and annotations. It would be like taking a number of Shakespeare editions from different periods and cramming them all together into one.

After I awoke, I tried to remember which Shakespeare comedy I had been a part of. I kept thinking it was like Twelfth Night, but that it wasn’t close as to plot. The more I thought, the more I realized that it wasn’t one of Shakespeare’s plays at all. It had been completely invented in my dream.

Now, I have had dreams before which were flooded with aspects of encyclopedic amounts of detail (imagine picking up a book as thick as the Yellow Pages and thumbing through it and finding thousands of various articles and ads in it, all original, each with different fonts, graphics, art style, and purpose), but this latest one carries me further in speculation about such things.

Imagine walking into a room with a large bookshelf. Each book is unique in title, author, cover and so forth. You have never seen any of them before. You start picking out books and reading to learn the story. Everywhere you read in it you find a coherent story of characters, description, and plot which interest you. The books are also in different genres, prose styles and quality, and you leaf through a dozen or so realizing that all of them are original and full if you pick any one up to look at.

Generally, my dreams are simple exercises in wandering around, meeting people who seem vaguely familiar or who I care about in open landscapes or houses that are usually larger than they seem. There is some anxiety now and then since I don’t quite seem to know why I’m there or what I’m supposed to do, and then I wake up and think little of what I dreamt.

But these other vivid, encyclopedic dreams of rococo detail raise lots of other questions since no one’s conscious mind is capable of producing the kind of creative universe of such exquisite detail encountered in what I’ve described.

The most difficult mental work I have engaged in is in composing polyphonic music of 4 or more lines all at the same time. That is, while I am writing one unique melody line, I am also hearing all the others in my head and writing them simultaneously or as soon as possible. Each music line unique, each interwoven with the others, and creating unique harmonies in the process.

Somewhat harder than that, though, is to stop in the middle of a work, and then come back to it cold, and then resume the process where you left it without a hitch.

Writing a play can be equally complex as you tie everything together on four levels, compose each scene to be a mini play in itself, for each scene must have its own compelling start, middle, and finish, but carry the action of the plot into the next and so forth, while constructing characters and dialog which resonate symbolically, ordinarily, heroically, psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Some scientists do something similar in constructing models or mental images of various natural processes in chemistry, biology, physics, and so forth.

But nothing that anyone does consciously comes close to the oceanic creativity of what I described in my “big” dreams.

So it begs the question - how is this possible? Either our unconscious minds are capable of much more than we thought possible, or some sort of organizing principle which is miraculous must be broached.

What we have at work I will call an Undermind.

Imagine you are someone who knows little of music and never played an instrument, but one day while half awake, you find yourself at a piano and play Bach flawlessly. What would you ascribe such an event to? This is basically what our minds do at certain times in a dream state.

Dreams are clearly a natural experience. On the other hand, all natural experience has at its base, a supernatural origin, in that there must be an underlying metaphysics to all of Creation. Denial of metaphysics is a deep perversion of reason, and clearly a matter of psychological distress, a form of insanity which usually leaves the person functional, but disturbed and alienated, emotionally crippled.

But simply because there is a supernatural order above and below general human experience or daily reality, it doesn’t mean that the mechanisms of our minds cannot be understood in physical terms.

But what kind of mental mechanism can effortlessly create original content in hundreds of books in a mere matter of minutes (or seconds), which no one person (other than Isaac Asimov) could begin to create in a lifetime of hard work?

Time, in this circumstance, must be altered. Not just in the dream state of the dreamer, but in the organizing, creative state. The brain itself operates at electrical speeds which are impossibly slow in terms of normal creative activity. Therefore, something about the Undermind has to work in a manner which is outside of temporal conditions.

For those that insist that nothing can operate outside of the temporal, I’d love to hear an explanation of how the Undermind achieves its creativity in time given the physical limits of our brains.

To throw God in here for a moment, I have to ask, why would God wish to compose any number of “books” in my dream which are culturally exact to me, and tell stories that are usual for books, if God is the organizer here? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to cast God as the Dream Master in every instance micro managing our unconscious or Undermind.

Yet, how tempting it is to imagine that the kind of information and instantaneous creativity readily available to us were our reality to develop further than we normally consider possible?

It is a kind of making which points to unlimited resources, energy, and time in a landscape or universe in which the maker is truly God-like.

Creativity is already understood as a God-like endeavor, but severely limited by circumstances. Even at our the highest pitch of our conscious creative power, that doesn’t come close to what can occur instantaneously in a dream. Clearly, the powers and condition of our Undermind are significant, and impossible to dismiss if we are truly seeking to understand Mind itself and consciousness. For it is a phenomenon which demands explanation.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Why was Rome?

The study of Rome is essential to the American experiment. Why? Because the parallels are simply too great to ignore.

The development of Rome into an empire and what it allowed for and resulted in, was until the establishment of America, the most unique event in world history. Yes, there were other empires East and West before and after Rome's, but none equal the breadth, depth, and scope of civilization as Rome was able to create. As rich as China's accomplishments have been in art and technology, Rome's were greater since Rome didn't just invent, but assimilated and incorporated everything it touched whereas China tended toward isolation and xenophobia. It also suffered many interruptions and interregnums.

How did Rome become such a catholic civilization, though?

There was nothing in Rome's earliest history to predict its later emergence as the world power. (Sorry, to those who wish to assert that China or Persia were equals in power at the time. Rome destroyed Persia as soon as it could turn its attention to it on a large enough scale, and no Chinese army could ever have hoped to defeat the might of the Legions and good, Roman generalship.)

Rome was a Latin village among a group of a dozen or so in the Tiber area. They were easily conquored by the Etruscans, and ruled by their kings for a century or more until thrown out. Roman society and government was aristocratic in basis, but distinctions in lifestyles were not that great between classes. Romans ate surprisingly simple fare like porridge and some fruit for breakfast, and dressed similarly for daily tasks. Their institutions of government and culture weren't exceptionally different from that of their neighbors.

Historians have claimed that Rome became an empire by default, in that their determined defense of their city and interests led them to conquor others for the sake of survival. But this is inaccurate. The astonishing part of ancient history is that small groups in a relatively unpopulated world fought constantly with one another. Rome simply became better at it than others.

All cultures are not equal, and the circumstances which made Rome great were unique. But what were they? I'm not sure I know or can say, but I can tell some of the story.

We think of Rome (as well as Greece) as the first Western cultures, but in the early days of Italian city states, everyone was at war with everyone else. The situation was more byzantine than the most oriental of satrapies since alliances constantly shifted, treaties quickly made and betrayed. Rome was lucky simply to keep its head above water as all the cities grabbed at each other trying to pull themselves up while pushing others down.

In that mix, Rome was merely a local contender for domination with much ebbing and flowing until they were invaded and sacked by the Celts (who did it twice).

Why did the Celts invade Italy? Why did the Latins fight each other so much? What made people so warlike and aggressive then?

To say they had a different world view would be to drastically understate it. Put simply, say it was covetousness. People then had no qualms or scruples about coveting what their neighbors had, and taking it by force in order to glorify themselves, and increase their wealth. Like many Arabs or Muslims today, people had little or no empathy for anyone outside their tribe. Their lives were relatively short, life was generally hard, and fortune was always capricious. They also drank much wine which releases inhibitions and increases emotionality.

And they adored GOLD. It is difficult to convey the overwhelming lust that those peoples had for gold. No one could convince them that gold didn't buy happiness. (We still love it. Over 90% of all the gold ever mined is still in circulation or deposited in vaults.)

Many later invaders of Italy saw a settled and domesticated land which they sought to possess for themselves. The Celts, though, saw it simply as a place for raiding for plunder rather like land pirates. The Latins saw each others' towns and lands as a source of both plunder and free land for their own expansion.

Until the Celts invaded, warfare was Greek in style with phalanxes of armored men with round shields and long spears. It had been an unbeatable formula against all other kinds of fighting, and only heavy infantry of that type could withstand or defeat such in battle.

The Celts, though, rather easily defeated the Romans and others. They broke through their lines with their wild attacks and scattered the small armies by shattering their discipline, creating panic and disorder. The weakness of the phalanx was that if the line was breached by the enemy, or the push against it was strong enough to quail the ranks behind the first few lines, then the battle was immediately lost. The fleeing army was then cut down from behind as they were laden with armor and had little time to cast away shield and bronze to escape the rout.

The Roman response to their defeats by the Celts was to recreate their way of war and battle. They changed their shield, their armor, their weapons, their formations, and learned generalship. After that, the Roman army remained essentially static in their equipment and strategy for centuries to come. And they were unbeatable when well led, and very hard to beat even when poorly led.

It were these innovations more than anything which led to Rome's greatness. That and their committment to survival and dominance. Romans simply abhored defeat. They shaped their government and institutions into a means to insure efficiency and success at war. (They had no trouble acknowledging that war as a human constant was a given.) Although aristocratic in ruling, they saw a value in giving the ordinary people a share of government, and the spoils of war. They professionalized their army, and their reliance on engineering to improve their infrastructure was single minded. No one did what they did on such a scale before - paved roads, seaports, aqueducts, barracks, camps, garrisons, quartermastering, civic projects, and civil law -- it boggles the mind when you reckon the enormous scope of Roman civil and practical engineering.

The Romans were immensely brutal. Genocide was common to them, yet, they brought conquored peoples into their governance who grew loyal and "roman". They were able to establish a rule of law that was universal (despite what we read of the caprices of the emperors, the rapacity of provincial governors, and the decadence of wealthy merchants). Rome was orderly, and maintained order (regardless how violently they did so). And they did this for about eight hundred years in the West.

However close China comes to such achievement, it was never able to maintain the integrity of any one dynasty for very long. But Rome endured.

Some say that history has become accelerated. What occurs in a century now compresses the actions and upheavals of a millennium or so, a number suggest. I don't know how to quantify such concepts. There seems to be some truth in the idea that our societies suffer change more rapidly; after all, the last century saw more technological innovation in any few decades than the whole of life previously. Yet, can we measure our world or culture by addition of techniques?

Take American football as a popular spectacle. It began as a rather mild college sport in the late 1800's, became very popular nationally in the 20's and 30's when professional leagues began so as to capitalize on the frenzy (and were neither particularly violent though certainly rough). Then it was in the 50's with the advent of television that the NFL began to create the excitement that college football once had. The sport also began to become increasingly violent as a collision sport.

Now, in 2004, football increases in audience around the world, has become primarily spectacle and collision (gladiatoral), and may be entering a long peak. This roughly corresponds with the advent of the original gladiator games and their development in Rome. From the time prior to Julius Caesar when the games began to their peak with the later emperors of the 1st century, we have over hundred years.

So the development from a provincial entertainment to a world spectacle is very similar between the Roman games and our own popular ones. We also tend to forget that America is some 400 years past its founding colonies. We aren't as young as some think. We are advised to consider that time, and the ebb and flow of social changes, are not any different now than they were for the ancients.

What made Rome great were two things - desire of wealth, and hunger for security. All people share those wants, but Rome did one thing better than anyone else: their culture rewarded discipline and subordination rather than violence and capriciousness. They, more than anyone, created the West.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Why the artists hate you

Conservatives have a problem with artists, just as most artists have a problem with conservatives. For example, there is a provision in Bush's new Medicare program (the prescription drug boondoggle) which attempts to allow individuals to create their own sort of 401K plan for medical care. Catastrophic health care would be insured for them, but ordinary medical care would be covered by their own tax free savings.

This sounds like a good idea. It gives people control over their medical care, their selection of doctors, treatment, testing, and so forth. Working people can manage this like they do their retirement funds. Everyone wins.

Except artists.

Artists have long, and sadly accepted the general proposition that they cannot pursue their vocation in art and expect to be liquid or create much equity. No, starving artist is not a misnomer or stereotype. People only get to become great at an art by doing it full time. But doing so means that they most likely scrape to get by. The trade off is that they get to do work they absolutely love instead of working on the assembly line or salt mines.

But artists are generally very liberal because they can't afford decent housing, private education for their children, medical expenses, or retirement funds. They tend not to be religious anymore, so they can't ask their community for help, so they turn to government. They generally do not receive the approval of their fathers if their dads are traditionally masculine types, and receiving the approval of dads who are wimpy is no better. In both cases they feel marginalized and inadequate. Anger at the father leads to much atheism, rebelliosness, and animosity to tradition.

Artists don't really care about the poor except that it helps them to make an argument for their own needs. You don't see Barbra Streisand or Steven Speilberg offering to create a huge endowment fund for starving actors out of their vast wealth, do you? No, they want ordinary people to pay for starving actors' and artists' needs. The very few artists who reap mega fortunes don't care a whit about their struggling peers, and won't dent their own fortunes for the sake of their own kind, but are more than ready to raise a working man's taxes a large percentage.

Conservatives, though, think that everyone should carry their own weight. But artists simply can't. It's no good saying the market should decide; that some fall by the wayside because they aren't good enough or self-promoting enough - well, then we will lose incredibly fine works of skill and beauty, for my experience (not with my own work) in observing a great many superb artists is that regardless of the quality of their work, they hardly get by because work of the highest quality is simply not valued by enough.

It is as if you have a market of 1000 people who can appreciate quality and will buy it, but you have 50 artists producing 5000 pieces of good work. It can't all be bought, so what do we tell the artists? They're hiring down at the union hall? We can always use more truck drivers? Why not just shoot them?

The conservative vision of every man under his own fig tree simply doesn't work when it comes to people who are willing to starve and suffer for the sake of developing their craft, and desire for mastery of creative work. Nor is it easy enough to say - tough luck, hard world.

In fact, for most people, life isn't that tough or hard because they are more easily satisfied in their vocation. Most people don't find their lives and work drudgery in America. Surprising to me is that most people like their jobs, whereas I hated working full time at any job that wasn't creative. No matter how decent the people, the working conditions, and useful the work - I hated having to devote my life to making a buck. I would become miserable, depressed, suicidal if I thought that the rest of my life was going to be doing such work all the day, every day.

I would have rather starved. And I did on many occasions, and live in conditions people would marvel at, wondering how I could stand it. As long as I was free to work at what I loved, I could stand a lot.

As long as we have a large, educated, creative, but under-employed class of artists in America, there will be a huge propaganda machine directed with energy and hostility at conservative values, traditional Good, and natural law.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?