I say I don’t worship. I distrust worship. The bowing, the looking up only to bow again. The surrender. The handing over of self to robed determiners of who’s clean and who’s not. The closing of the circle in the name of the Right Way.
Maybe I do worship. Maybe I worship reason. And today I wonder what happens to reason if it is worshipped. Does it collapse because worshipping closes the mind? Can I keep reason alive if I am worshipping it? If I am bowing, too?
And if I am closing my mind, what am I closing it to?
Context, I think. Maybe it’s context that is holy.
Something is reasonable only in context. There is no such thing, with apologies to Kant, as pure reason. There is no such thing as pure anything. Everything exists in reference to every other thing; and it is the job of the human mind to tease out the relevant facts, line them up, assess their reliability and organise them into coherence. We reason our way forward only with what is before us and inside us and around us. Every reasoned conclusion depends like the fibre in a tightrope dancer’s wire on the lived life and human composition that get us to the other side. Reason breathes with more than its own lungs.
So if I worship reason and whip it like canon into view without allowing the non-facts: the experiencing, the feeling, sensing, hinting, learning, nodding, from-nowhere seeing, the preceding, the unbraiding that also comprise it, I have destroyed its biosphere and lifted it as my own self-swished chalice.
Reason is resplendent. In context. Meticulously-observed. With caution. With eagerness to see error. Reason is no craven image.
I am loving Isiah Berlin’s The Hedgehog and the Fox (pp. 74,75, 77). He speaks of the ‘permanent relationship of things’. He says that ‘we are immersed…in a medium that, because we take it for granted, we do not and cannot observe from the outside.’ ‘We cannot even be wholly aware of it because it enters too intimately into all of our experience. It is too closely interwoven with all that we are and do to be lifted out of the flow’ of our lives and ‘be observed with detachment.’
‘We cannot examine the totality without some (impossible) vantage point outside it, because there is no outside it.’
This promotion of context, of course, is fraught, leading as it can inexorably to flash-paper assertions that all conclusions are valid, all points of view true.
But that is for another Today; today I’ll savour, not worship, context.
’Wisdom is the ability to allow for
the unalterable medium in which we act.’
Joy is Privilege. According to Adam.
But his view is common enough: people are suffering, dying, lying, shovelling yearning madly into a hole of not-loved, having no idea in the world how to touch and linger, how to delight, wailing from loss down the ages and now. People hurt. True.
Itaque, pain is Nature. It is It. Inherent. Inherited. Inevitable.
Pain is the only Real.
Joy? Only Privilege. Aberration. Distraction.
Return to Others’Pain fast. That Only, that Be-all, that Home.
And Adam does. He suffers. Properly. Dependably. His brow rarely softens; his lips rarely lengthen. He sits, he attends, he lectures, he reaches, he loves, he achieves, he marries, he publishes, he advocates, he hovers, he listens – suffering. Duty’s man. Nature’s man. Pain the default because the only Real.
Others’Pain? Honour it. Be it. Take it home.
I say rejoice. I say let joy resound through our days and nights and throughout our unfathomable-but-there-nevertheless universe. Let us sing with lilt and laughter and light. Let us heal Others’Pain with OurJoy! OurJoy made us. OurJoy came with us into this world. OurJoy builds brain and beauty and perpetuation of sapiens – OurJoy given and received, reliable and authoritative and embedded and remembered and drawn on and resurrected and unmatched and rewarded and there at conception and birth and before and at death and afterwards if there be one.
Nature uses joy to make life. Nature uses pain to warn.
Joy must be. Pain comes then goes. Joy is and stays.
Honour it. Take it home.
Pain? Heed it. Flee it.
I picked up Silent Spring just now. ‘1962’ it says. Mother was passionate about this book. When I was 16, intelligent people, especially Rachel Carson whom Mother revered, could already see that we were tipping the earth into imbalance. It’s worse now. It’s now called ‘ecocide’. I wanted to read just two pages before starting work today. I said I would read this book one day. So I began.
Carson’s quotations of E B White and Schweitzer made me want to cry. Then her own eloquence made it too hard to keep reading. I kept thinking about Mother and being glad I had said what I did about her in the introduction of ‘Time To Think’ . I now wish desperately that she and I had had the conversations about the earth we could have now.
She would also love reading Billions and Billions, and we would talk long about the particular things that allowed our abused earth to emerge in the first place, and we would try to wrap our minds around the idea that it did not exist 4.5 billion years ago and that there are several billion galaxies. We would have fun with billions. It all would be a mystery, not a problem. We would sit for a few moments together in wonder and gaze out the big window across from the sofa.
We would join forces somehow. We would harness our wonder. We would resolve to unsilence the Spring.
I miss her this morning.
Dignity, I pine for you. Please come back.
Stride right through the muck and its apologists, its mealy-headed dismissers and addicted adorers, and announce your return. Gently but decisively crowd out vulgarity, revilement, nuancelessness, wilful ignorance, moral vacuity, hyperbole, mendacity, frozen ego masquerading as macho certainty, self deception requiring others’ self- betrayal. Dignity, return. Please.
Restore our national souls to our national ideals. Remember those – the ones that require care of word and choice of thought? Dearest thought, where have you gone?
But, you say, this leader, whether by strategy or instinct, does ignorant and savage things for three reasons: 1) to keep public attention on him; 2) to look good to his base; 3) to distract and dizzy the public so that we don't scrutinise him, so that he controls us. Let's say, in other words, that he doesn't want to convince us of his views, racist or otherwise, or legislate them, but wants only to keep us fractured and glued to him. Him. Let’s say that is his only focus. Himself. All of the time.
Is that analysis supposed to help?
Brian Klass says no. He reveals that a leader’s orchestrating focus on himself is the behaviour of a despot. The craving of attention is a despot's lust. All despotic moves lead to attention. Despots are terrified of losing control, admiration and attention. These three. And the greatest of these is attention.
A leader like that is an apprentice despot, says Klass. And what turns an apprentice into an actual despot? The system. Not the bleating ego. No despot in history has emerged from a mature, two-centuries-old democracy. They have emerged from non-democratic systems or very young democratic ones. Whew. So far our mature democracy has withstood this own-face-gazer. But he has said he hates checks and balances, the very sinew of democracy. So should our fine democratic system falter, he would shake it all the way loose, and rule. He would. That is how he has always run things. That is how he struts.
So, hold tight, dear ones. Breathe out. Stay supple. Keep thinking. Open your eyes. See his desperation. See it. And use every democratic tool to thwart it. But don't pretend this is a man with purpose or intention to help the jobless, the alienated, the outsiders. This is an outsider trying to be inside, flailing like a lassoed rattler to sense with his darting and venomous tongue some admiration in the air wherever he can, and to strike anything in his way. This is a need iced in childhood. A need for generative, real attention then. Unmeetable now. And howling.
No, knowing he is looking for himself, licking himself, ticking only for himself does not help. But it informs. And that is our power. So we will be vigilant, anticipate his next love-me move, and not be thrown. We will night-watch through the corridors of our checks and balances to be sure there are only oiled and pristine parts there.
You have to wait. She knows you are here. But she won’t perform for you. Nature.
Earlier, in spring, the Blackbird sang. A Thrush’s song, I just discovered. I wanted that. I had made it up that he was a Thrush because ‘the echoing timber’ of my Maryland woods each time allowed me to hear Thrush in his song, and because it ‘doth so rinse and ring the ear it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing’. Thank you, Hopkins. For capturing one ecstasy with another. But Mr actual thrush does not know I exult when he sings. His lightnings, mine.
But summer, now he blesses without song. Children grown. Who is he now? He still hops from the under- laurel. He still pecks blades, and tops the trellis. That’s a song. So say I.
Oh, humans. We anthropomorphise. I’ll stop it. The Blackbird sings for his own reasons. I love his music and his hopping and topping. But I make him into me in order to revel. I doubt he makes me into him.
I’ll try it.
Tomorrow I will love him. Just him. Not myself all along.