Proverb

8 04 2011




Who Thinks Abstractly?

7 04 2011

Think? Abstractly? — Sauve qui peut! Let those who can save themselves! Even now I can hear a traitor, bought by the enemy, exclaim these words, denouncing this essay because it will plainly deal with metaphysics. For metaphysics is a word, no less than abstract, and almost thinking as well, from which everybody more or less runs away as from a man who has caught the plague.

But the intention here really is not so wicked, as if the meaning of thinking and of abstract were to be explained here. There is nothing the beautiful world finds as intolerable as explanations. I, too, find it terrible when somebody begins to explain, for when worst comes to worst I understand everything myself. Here the explanation of thinking and abstract would in any case be entirely superfluous; for it is only because the beautiful world knows what it means to be abstract that it runs away. Just as one does not desire what one does not know, one also cannot hate it. Nor is it my intent to try craftily to reconcile the beautiful world with thinking or with the abstract as if, under the semblance of small talk, thinking and the abstract were to be put over till in the end they had found their way into society incognito, without having aroused any disgust; even as if they were to be adopted imperceptibly by society, or, as the Swabians say, hereingezäunselt, before the author of this complication suddenly exposed this strange guest, namely the abstract, whom the whole party had long treated and recognized under a different title as if he were a good old acquaintance. Such scenes of recognition which are meant to instruct the world against its will have the inexcusable fault that they simultaneously humiliate, and the wirepuller tries with his artifice to gain a little fame; but this humiliation and this vanity destroy the effect, for they push away again an instruction gained at such a price.
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Hegel on Catholicism

6 04 2011

Catholicism does not claim the essential direction of the Secular; religion remains an indifferent matter on the one side, while the other side of life is dissociated from it, and occupies a sphere exclusively its own. Cultivated Frenchmen therefore feel an antipathy to Protestantism because it seems to them something pedantic, dull, minutely captious in its morality; since it requires that Spirit and Thought should be directly engaged in religion: in attending mass and other ceremonies, on the contrary, no exertion of thought is required, but an imposing sensuous spectacle is presented to the eye, which does not make such a demand on one’s attention as entirely to exclude a little chit chat, while yet the duties of the occasion are not neglected.

-Hegel, The Philosophy of History

One should keep in mind in the above quote that Hegel was actually very much a Francophile. Maybe he did not appreciate the religion much, but he liked the French, and even quipped to his wife that they should go live in Paris. Also, from the description, it is not hard to imagine Hegel actually gracing the doorstep of a church in France or witnessing a procession through the streets of statues or the Blessed Sacrament. I don’t think he is particularly bigoted, even if many of his dismissals of entire continents in this work show that he is, in his core, a bigot.

But of course, now we live in a different world. I have often called Vatican II, “the clericalization of the laity”. Many hardened traditionalists call it the “Protestantization of Catholicism”. Perhaps it is both, but not for the reasons commonly thought. If anything, the clergy were supposed to be the ones who “spiritualized” the popular rites and ceremonies of the people. Most clergy were probably just functionaries, and failed to do so. (This is why Jansenism was so popular amongst many sophisticated quarters in urban France: it attempted to “interiorize” religion, and not just make it the obligatory ideology of the State.) With the modern resourcement, the Liturgical Movement, Vatican II, etc. these rites could no longer be cultural and political obligations: they had to “mean something”, be assimilated by the Spirit,, etc. even if what they meant had to be made up on the fly.

I think the average Catholic, the real average Catholic, has the last laugh in all of this. Our rites still don’t take much “exertion of thought”, people still chat in church, and so on. (Makes you less nostalgic about the “good ol’ days”.) And there are still at least some “cultivated people” (I’ll go out on a limb and put myself in their number) who still find Protestantism hopelessly pedantic and captious. While we may miss the “spectacles for the eyes” and bemoan the frivolity and lack of gravitas in current Catholic ritual, we still might choose a parish based on church architecture and decoration, music, and so on. Plus ça change





Las alturas de Macchu Picchu

5 04 2011

Sube a nacer conmigo, hermano.
Dame la mano desde la profunda
zona de tu dolor diseminado.
No volverás del fondo de las rocas.
No volverás del tiempo subterráneo.
No volverá tu voz endurecida.
No volverán tus ojos taladrados.
Mírame desde el fondo de la tierra,
labrador, tejedor, pastor callado:
domador de guanacos tutelares:
albañil del andamio desafiado:
aguador de las lágrimas andinas:
joyero de los dedos machacados:
agricultor temblando en la semilla:
alfarero en tu greda derramado:
traed a la copa de esta nueva vida
vuestros viejos dolores enterrados.
Mostradme vuestra sangre y vuestro surco,
decidme: aquí fui castigado,

porque la joya no brilló o la tierra
no entregó a tiempo la piedra o el grano:
señaladme la piedra en que caísteis
y la madera en que os crucificaron,
encendedme los viejos pedernales,
las viejas lámparas, los látigos pegados
a través de los siglos en las llagas
y las hachas de brillo ensangrentado.
Yo vengo a hablar por vuestra boca muerta.
A través de la tierra juntad todos
los silenciosos labios derramados
y desde el fondo habladme toda esta larga noche
como si yo estuviera con vosotros anclado,
contadme todo, cadena a cadena,
eslabón a eslabón, y paso a paso,
afilad los cuchillos que guardasteis,
ponedlos en mi pecho y en mi mano,
como un río de rayos amarillos,
como un río de tigres enterrados,
y dejadme llorar, horas, días, años,
edades ciegas, siglos estelares.

Dadme el silencio, el agua, la esperanza.

Dadme la lucha, el hierro, los volcanes.

Apegadme los cuerpos como imanes.

Acudid a mis venas y a mi boca,

Hablad por mis palabras y mi sangre.

-Pablo Neruda





Random notes on God

4 04 2011

What do we mean when we say, “God”? I think we may all mean different things:

1. The God of doctrine: This is the God who will not fail, not defect into error, the abstract God floating in the ether above history, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Except when they do.

2. The “folk Catholic” God: Sort of a cross between Santa Claus and a Mafia don. Old women burn candles and bug this god constantly to get their children a job, off drugs, to shut their neighbors up who are gossiping, etc.

3. The God of the mystics: The god of bullshit or good feelings. Pretty easy to make this one up and still sound the same as every other aspiring mystic of any given religious confession.

4. Deus sive natura: Perhaps the god of the agnostic, “spiritual not religious” person. Also a god of bullshit.

5. The personal God: Can be purchased for $19.99 plus shipping & handling. Options include fundamentalist, righteous misanthrope, suburban conservative, suburban liberal, peace activist, beige, compact, sedan, candy-paint, and “personal God Zero (TM)”.

6. The God of tradition: A cross between a Mafia don and your mother throwing a frying pan at your head. You believe in him because your father did, and his father did, and his father did. End of story.

7. The real Jesus: Unknown. Many have mentioned him, but no one can confirm that he actually exists. Some say that he was last seen at an anti-war demonstration in 1991 wearing sunglasses, flip flops, and a smiley face tee shirt. Others say that he was hanging out at a GOP fundraiser with Ralph Reid sipping a Diet Coke. None of these sightings have been verified by third party sources.

8. The God of virtue: Ceiling cat is watching you masturbate.

9. The “real God”: The one you found after concluding that all that your parents taught you were lies, lies, lies, and this society is intellectually and culturally BANKRUPT!!!!! Also known as the personal God.

10. God as History: “But in the World, secular business cannot be thus repudiated; it demands accomplishment, and ultimately the discovery is made, that Spirit finds the goal of its struggle and its harmonization, in that very sphere which it made the object of its resistance – it finds that the secular pursuits are a spiritual occupation”. Hegel, The Philosophy of History.

Most of the time, I am referring to 2, 6, 10, and sometimes 1.