Further thoughts on what’s logical vs. what’s life-affirming

I was worried writing the post directly before this one would be opening up a can of worms that requires a lot more time to explore and break it down. Just a pondering agnostic here, so don’t no one get it twisted. The metaphors that strike me as useful and descriptive I go ahead and borrow for my own purposes (or to expand on purposes introduced by others).

Let’s put it this way: The U.S., Great Britain, China, Russia, Israel, among other countries, all comprise the global System. This is the New Rome. Undoubtedly this isn’t a controversial claim. And most people alive today are rendered dependent on them in one way, shape, or form (especially us Americans since most of us barely know how to do anything to provide for our basic needs anymore aside from acquiring and waving around money).

How does the story end? Who knows? Don’t even know if it will end. What worries me isn’t an ending, it’s the trap humans find themselves in in recent times, particularly dating back over the last century. So much has changed so rapidly and on such a scale that the System created has overshadowed common people. Our power, both as individuals and as communities, has been trumped. We’re like birds in a cage with clipped wings. And what power people do possess is funneled by way of overhauled social customs and economic demands toward servicing the System somehow, some way. That is to say that people no longer work toward satisfying their own ends but rather service the ends of something bigger and stronger than ourselves and our communities. People have long been beasts of burden out of necessity, but the difference today is that much of the work undertaken isn’t honestly productive or fully within our own control. The slavemaster of old was Nature — the slavemasters of today are other people and the companies and institutions they are cloaked within. Our means of caring for ourselves is no longer a direct relationship with Nature or free exchange between people, but rather it’s filling positions like cogs within a wheel in order to earn enough money to pay companies to provide what we need and want. We can thank specialization for this radical overhaul in labor — a double-edged sword like most else.

What is “sin”? Besides being a word signifying a concept I’ve long shied away from—having so many quibbles over its interpretation that it would take a week to lay out my objections—I’ve come to understand it as representing that which winds up being life-negating and leads toward psychological chaos. So, in my view, it isn’t what a lot of people like to assume it is, or at least not for the reasons they claim. Very often parrot claims of what’s sin and what isn’t without considering the matter critically for themselves. And I do believe there are shades of grey there, most definitely — it’s rarely all or nothing when it comes to moral matters. Sin represents what does harm to us as individual persons and/or an honestly life-affirming way of life. What I mean by that isn’t simple to explain and I can see where different opinions on this matter can make sense despite conflicting, making it all the more clear that we’re not dealing with solid objective truths here. Different societies and communities operate in different ways, so naturally people can and will determine these things in ways that won’t prove compatible if all were suddenly jammed into one society (as we’re figuring out in our melting pot called the U.S.A.).

Does examining what’s logical always prove life-affirming? This I’ve been wondering a lot about in recent times, and I’m settling on the conclusion of “no.” Because an argument proves logical doesn’t imply it’s life-affirming or sane, as plenty of thought exercises bandied about out there suggest. Logic is another one of those amoral aspects of human thought. What is life-affirming very often is (or perhaps always is) logical (at least on one level or another), but all that is logically sound isn’t necessarily life-affirming nor is it guaranteed to be compatible with healthy human living.

For example, because the System does provide for many humans’ needs and has allowed for unprecedented population growth to the point where many (if not most) of us now depend on it in order to survive, it may be argued that maintaining this System is logical. However, if this way of life produced under this System is creating so much psychological distress to humans to where suicide rates and destructive impulses are on the rise and the vast majority experience feelings of depression and anxiety on a regular basis, not to mention the corruption inherent in such a System, can we reasonably consider it just and moral for humans to remain subjected to and dominated by it? And this is where people tend to say that it doesn’t matter either way since this is what we have and this is where we stand today, so get used to it.

If we’re unhappy enough that plenty of us complain daily, then that’s a sign that something has to give. And because the System itself won’t give, I expect more people will be the ones who wind up giving, in the form of suicide or mentally breaking down or growing extremely apathetic. And that leads to the psychological chaos I’m talking about. When power is obstructed from working toward honestly productive ends, it does not simply fade away — instead, it winds up diverted toward self-destructive and/or destructive ends. In short, power always seeks an outlet, and humans are creatures of power. This is a condition of our very nature at the core.

So, what do we do about it? I don’t know. But I suppose seeing it for what it is and examining what isn’t working is a step in the right direction of imagining what truly might work or at least allows us to consider our individual options in response.

“Four Horsemen” film

Today’s documentary offering, “Four Horsemen”:

I do have several quibbles with the content of this film, but I listened to it and offer it up as food for thought for others. Plenty of parts I appreciated, but we each have to approach this kind of information critically. Often I find myself in agreement with the portrayal of problems but take issue with the proposed solutions (same held true with the last “Zeitgeist” film).

Rick Roderick on the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche

Having gotten halfway through the collection The Portable Nietzsche, I look forward to picking it back up in weeks or months to come. Just haven’t felt up to reading as much over the past year.

In the interim, I’ve stumbled across this lecture series (circa 1991) from professor Rick Roderick of Duke University on the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche:

On Nietzsche as Myth & Myth-maker:

On Truth & Lie:

On Nietzsche as Master of Suspicion & Immoralist:

On the Death of God:

On Nietzsche and the Eternal Recurrence:

On Nietzsche and the Will to Power:

On Nietzsche as Artist:

On Nietzsche’s Progeny:

The reading of “Body Pleasure and the Origin of Violence” by James W. Prescott (my thoughts follow)

YT user ChristophDollis recommended I watch the following video titled “Abusers, Orgasms, Pain and Pleasure…” uploaded by Stefan Molyneux:

Pausing at the 34 min. mark, let me first say thanks for suggesting this clip of the reading of a piece titled “Body Pleasure and the Origin of Violence” by James W. Prescott (from “The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” — Nov. 1975). Interesting hearing what people have been putting out into the universe and how much of the public has overlooked it. The rest of my comments below aren’t directed at anyone in particular and are simply thoughts stimulated by the video.

One reason I believe the public tends to glance right past material such as that (besides not finding it entertaining) is because we’re all affected by exactly that which Dr. Prescott is discussing. While 1975 was before my time, not much has changed in the way of improvement in our social relations since then most certainly, yet our heads remain firmly planted in the sand. Not many of us are out here actively seeking information and answers, partly because many people lack time and/or energy, but also because we are a socially and sexually fucked up lot. lol That’s not putting it delicately, but I doubt many would disagree if they really stopped and thought about it.

We’re a society of sado-masochists basically, and plenty of folks are attached to being that way. They see it as normal or even healthy. It affects so many of us that it indeed appears to be the norm. Pressing pleasure and pain boundaries is all the rage these days, whether that be on the softer or harder ends of the spectrum. And arguably on the less extreme end it’s difficult to argue that such behavior is terribly detrimental when it can be quite enjoyable play for both involved. Furthermore, I do believe sex has become a balm of sorts to pacify us as we struggle through modern times. Sex can have drug-like qualities of its own, particularly in how it allows a mental escape. I’ve been particularly skeptical of these claims circling about “sexual addiction,” but I do get how sex has for many an obsessive allurement. It’s where pleasure-seeking meets sexual dysfunction brought about in a wide assortment of ways. People do need touch and I’d agree many lacked enough of it and go on seeking it however which way. This easily can lead into the topic of prostitution and pornography, which then necessarily runs into economic bullshittery, but I’d prefer to keep it relatively brief right now.

Pornography must be mentioned, because it reflects just how sado-masochistic we’ve become. Americans may argue that many of us don’t truly engage in the cruelties exhibited on common pornos, but it’s enough that we use them for masturbatory material. How many of us don’t? It gets into our psyches through viewing, and we don’t resist it and demand more affectionate sexual displays because why? Because we are lazy and will take whatever is put before us? Because we grow conditioned to viewing this sort of material since many of us were exposed by our teen years? Because some have grown to genuinely like it? Men and women genuinely are turned on watching a woman be gagged by cock, making choking sounds, looking pathetic, while the man has hold of her hair and is calling her a “stupid whore”? That is truly exciting, is it? And all this anal sex, is that really what everyone wants? Many have told me no, but I also know that plenty are curious.

The trouble is that people tend to imitate pornography, this is my observation. Everyone has their own experience to pull from, but this is my view of it. Especially younger males. Older males over the age of 45 approach sex differently, though it’s difficult to put into words. Less formulaic approach to sex, perhaps. The younger man is oftentimes re-acting a routine, one that apparently is supposed to include oral sex performed on him and involves a lot of banging, not much kissing, not much caressing. That’s a weird thing to me and it turned me off on much of my own age group in my 20s. I’ve watched my share of porn and still do occasionally, so I do know where they’re getting this stuff from. It’s not just the way of men — it’s the training of young men and women to be bad lovers. That is my take.

The lesson of porn is one too often of aggression and intimate distance. Because a penis is inserted into a vagina, we call that intimacy. That is not intimacy. That is mere function. Calling the purely physical act itself intimacy is so completely detached from considerations of realness, genuine attraction, mutual respect and feelings of exhilaration. This mindset is robbing sex of the sanctity it rightfully deserves.

Whether money is exchanged or two lovers find one another in a bar or sex is filmed and distributed for others to view, it is not my concern. None of that automatically desacralizes sex in my eyes. What does is the negative, resentful and/or apathetic attitude that so often accompanies sexuality, at least as practiced in the U.S today. The lack of respect for the act is apparent to me, and it sickens me, even as I’ve been caught up in just such a lifestyle myself. Extricated myself from it, by and large, but I am still affected by it, and my body responds to it, even as my mind knows better. That is the result of conditioning, of youthful exposure, of porn increasingly influencing the mainstream media (which I term as “porn culture”), of widespread acceptance (especially within my age group), and undoubtedly upbringing factors in. We live in a social climate of value anomie where everything is up for experimentation, especially if money or attention can be attained off of it.

Sexual displays garner attention. People respond to that, as is natural, especially for those who feel deprived of enough attention. Sexuality, therefore, isn’t so much addictive as it is magnetic. We’re drawn to it like moths to a flame. Social and intimate dysfunction opens people up to drawing toward sexual dysfunctionality. This I do believe.

Yet people defend it. Tooth and nail. They tend to argue from a libertarian legal perspective (which, to an extent, I share), stating whatever adults are involved in voluntarily should be allowable. While I’m not an advocate for censorship or bringing in new laws to attempt to control our behaviors, I have come to take issue with the hard-line attitude in support of virtually all pornography and violent displays, because it leaves off the table the moral, social, and psychological dimensions to this ordeal. It’s as if legality is all people want to see in any of this; all other concerns are reduced and dismissed as mere personal preferences.

Having now finished watching the entire video clip, I basically agree with what that man said. However, I worry about his strategies being employed someday in a “Brave New World” kind of way, which would create a host of problems all unto itself. Call me a Luddite of sorts, which is probably accurate to an extent, but I have trouble with comprehending how modern life as Westerners experience it is healthy for humans in terms of its push toward “experts”micromanaging everything and economics ultimately determining our collective fate. Much more could be said in response to this clip, which I am glad to have listened to, but it’s approaching dinner time.

Ethics After Certainty

I have just finished rereading the paper titled “Alone Again: Ethics After Certainty” written by philosopher Zygmunt Bauman.

Very, very good piece. On pages 40-41, he goes into the option to either engage or disengage, and while I understand the point he was making, I will argue that disengagement on a higher level can become the best option once voicing critical concerns and exhausting legal channels have proven insufficient for rectifying our problems. And this form of disengagement I’m referring to is for communities, provinces, willfully-determined groups of citizens, clans and tribes that choose to no longer partake in being subjected to the corruption of this government, thereby making the determination to go sovereign. It is a right citizens do possess, and most certainly not a trivial one at that. I won’t pretend to know how communities might secede in this fashion, though I would suspect having several do so simultaneously will prove too difficult for the government to effectively thwart.

That is indeed an extreme measure. I’d personally rather we thoroughly seek redress through our political channels, demanding that our representatives cater to the people over their major financial contributors, backed by our willingness to impeach and replace them if they refuse to comply. But who do we replace with? It is my opinion that average people would do a better job than these so-called “Washington insiders” and “professionals,” but then that all depends on the integrity we expect and the values we choose to embrace and uphold.

In a society with a toxic culture, we’ve all been fed lies and fantasies, dangerous ones at that. How does one come to see and think outside of the common indoctrinated lens? It’s a struggle and it requires time alone, away from television, with quality books full of ideas, remaining open yet critical, allowing deep introspection while examining the world outside of our own selves.

Thoughts will be expanded on as time rolls on. Time to finish dinner. Partner is sick with a cold, so I whipped up spaghetti bake with sides of whole green beans and Texas toast.  Happy

Love = Respect, Care, Responsibility, Knowledge

Following is one of my favorite excerpts transcribed from Erich Fromm’s book The Art of Loving (1956).  Beginning on page 24:

It is hardly necessary to stress the fact that the ability to love as an act of giving depends on the character development of the person.  It presupposes the attainment of a predominantly productive orientation; in this orientation the person has overcome dependency, narcissistic omnipotence, the wish to exploit others, or to hoard, and has acquired faith in his own human powers, courage to rely on his powers in the attainment of his goals. To the degree that these qualities are lacking, he is afraid of giving himself—hence of loving.

Beyond the element of giving, the active character of love becomes evident in the fact that it always implies certain basic elements, common to all forms of love.  These are care, responsibility, respect and knowledge.

That love implies care is most evident in a mother’s love for her child.  No assurance of her love would strike us as sincere if we saw her lacking in care for the infant, if she neglected to feed it, to bathe it, to give it physical comfort; and we are impressed by her love if we see her caring for the child.  It is not different even with the love for animals or flowers.  If a woman told us that she loved flowers, and we saw that she forgot to water them, we would not believe in her “love” for flowers.  Love is the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.  Where this active concern is lacking, there is no love. This element of love has been beautifully described in the book of Jonah.  God has told Jonah to go to Nineveh to warn its inhabitants that they will be punished unless they mend their evil ways.  Jonah runs away from his mission because he is afraid that the people of Nineveh will repent and that God will forgive them.  He is a man with a strong sense of order and law, but without love.  However, in his attempt to escape, he finds himself in the belly of a whale, symbolizing the state of isolation and imprisonment which his lack of love and solidarity has brought upon him. God saves him, and Jonah goes to Nineveh.  He preaches to the inhabitants as God has told him, and the very thing he was afraid of happens.  The men of Nineveh repent their sins, mend their ways, and God forgives them and decides not to destroy the city.  Jonah is intensely angry and disappointed; he wanted “justice” to be done, not mercy.  At last he finds some comfort in the shade of a tree which God has made to grow for him to protect him from the sun.  But when God makes the tree wilt, Jonah is depressed and angrily complains to God.  God answers: “Thou hast had pity on the gourd for the which thou hast not labored neither madest grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night.  And should I not spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand people that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”  God’s answer to Jonah is to be understood symbolically.  God explains to Jonah that the essence of love is to “labor” for something and “to make something grow,” that love and labors are inseparable.  One loves that for which one labors, and one labors for that which one loves.

Care and concern imply another aspect of love; that of responsibility.  Today responsibility is often meant to denote duty, something imposed upon one from the outside.  But responsibility, in its true sense, is an entirely voluntary act; it is my response to the needs, expressed or unexpressed, of another human being.  To be “responsible” means to be able and ready to “respond.”  Jonah did not feel responsible to the inhabitants of Nineveh.  He, like Cain, could ask: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The loving person responds.  The life of his brother is not his brother’s business alone, but his own.  He feels responsible for his fellow men, as he feels responsible for himself.  This responsibility, in the case of the mother and her infant, refers mainly to the care for physical needs.  In the love between adults it refers mainly to the psychic needs of the other person.

Responsibility could easily deteriorate into domination and possessiveness, were it not for a third component of love, respect.  Respect is not fear and awe; it denotes, in accordance with the root of the word (respicere = to look at), the ability to see a person as he is, to be aware of his unique individuality.  Respect means the concern that the other person should grow and unfold as he is.  Respect, thus, implies the absence of exploitation.  I want the loved person to grow and unfold for his own sake, and in his own ways, and not for the purpose of serving me.  If I love the other person, I feel one with him or her, but with him as he is, not as I need him to be as an object for my use.  It is clear that respect is possible only if I have achieved independence; if I can stand and walk without needing crutches, without having to dominate and exploit anyone else.  Respect exists only on the basis of freedom: “l’amour est l’enfant de la liberté” as an old French song says; love is the child of freedom, never that of domination.

To respect a person is not possible without knowing him; care and responsibility would be blind if they were not guided by knowledge.  Knowledge would be empty if it were not motivated by concern.  There are many layers of knowledge; the knowledge which is an aspect of love is one which does not stay at the periphery, but penetrates to the core.  It is possible only when I can transcend the concern for myself and see the other person in his own terms.  I may know, for instance, that a person is angry, even if he does not show it overtly; but I may know him more deeply than that; then I know that he is anxious, and worried; that he feels lonely, that he feels guilty.  Then I know that his anger is only the manifestation of something deeper, and I see him as anxious and embarrassed, that is, as the suffering person, rather than as the angry one.

Knowledge has one more, and a more fundamental, relation to the problem of love.  The basic need to fuse with another person so as to transcend the prison of one’s separateness is closely related to another specifically human desire, that to know the “secret of man.”  While life in its merely biological aspects is a miracle and a secret, man in his human aspects is an unfathomable secret to himself—and to his fellow man.  We know ourselves, and yet even with all the efforts we may make, we do not know ourselves.  We know our fellow man, and yet we do not know him, because we are not a thing, and our fellow man is not a thing.  The further we reach into the depth of our being, or someone else’s being, the more the goal of knowledge eludes us.  Yet we cannot help desiring to penetrate into the secret of man’s soul, into the innermost nucleus which is “he.”

There is one way, a desperate one, to know the secret: it is that of complete power over another person; the power which makes him do what we want, feel what we want, think what we want; which transforms him into a thing, our thing, our possession.  The ultimate degree of this attempt to know lies in the extremes of sadism, the desire and ability to make a human being suffer; to torture him, to force him to betray man’s secret in his suffering.  In this craving for penetrating man’s secret, his and hence our own, lies an essential motivation for the depth and intensity of cruelty and destructiveness.  In a very succinct way this idea has been expressed by Isaac Babel.  He quotes a fellow officer in the Russian civil war, who has just stamped his former master to death, as saying: “With shooting—I’ll put it this way—with shooting you only get rid of a chap. . . . With shooting you’ll never get at the soul, to where it is in a fellow and how it shows itself.  But I don’t spare myself, and I’ve more than once trampled an enemy for over an hour.  You see, I want to get to know what life really is, what life’s like down our way.”

In children we often see this path to knowledge quite overtly.  The child takes something apart, breaks it up in order to know it; or it takes an animal apart; cruelly tears off the wings of a butterfly in order to know it, to force its secret.  The cruelty itself is motivated by something deeper: the wish to know the secret of things and of life.

The other path to knowing “the secret” is love.  Love is active penetration of the other person, in which my desire to know know is stilled by union.  In the act of fusion I know you, I know myself, I know everybody—and I “know” nothing.  I know in the only way knowledge of that which is alive is possible for man—by experience of union—not by any knowledge our thought can give.  Sadism is motivated by the wish to know the secret, yet I remain as ignorant as I was before.  I have torn the other being apart limb from limb, yet all I have done is to destroy him.  Love is the only way of knowledge, which in the act of union answers my quest.  In the other person, I find myself, I discover myself, I discover us both, I discover man.

The longing to know ourselves and to know our fellow man has been expressed in the Delphic motto “Know thyself.”  It is the mainspring of all psychology.  But inasmuch as the desire is to know all of man, his innermost secret, the desire can never be fulfilled in knowledge of the ordinary kind, in knowledge only by thought.  Even if we knew a thousand times more of ourselves, we would never reach bottom.  We would still remain an enigma to ourselves, as our fellow man would remain an enigma to us.  The only way of full knowledge lies in the act of love: this act transcends thought, it transcends words.  It is the daring plunge into the experience of union.  However, knowledge in thought, that is psychological knowledge, is a necessary condition for full knowledge in the act of love.  I have to know the other person and myself objectively, in order to be able to see his reality, or rather, to overcome the illusions, the irrationally distorted picture I have of him.  Only if I know a human being objectively can I know him in his ultimate essence, in the act of love.

The problem of knowing man is parallel to the religious problem of knowing God.  In conventional Western theology the attempt is made to know God by thought, to make statements about God.  It is assumed that I can know God in my thought.  In mysticism, which is the consequent outcome of monotheism (as I shall try to show later on), the attempt is given up to know God by thought, and it is replaced by the experience of union with God in which there is no more room—and no need—for knowledge about God.

The experience of union, with man, or religiously speaking, with God, is by no means irrational.  On the contrary, it is as Albert Schweitzer has pointed out, the consequence of rationalism, its most daring and radical consequence.  It is based on our knowledge of the fundamental, and not accidental, limitations of our knowledge.  It is the knowledge that we shall never “grasp” the secret of man and of the universe, but that we can know, nevertheless, in the act of love.  Psychology as a science has its limitations, and, as the logical consequence of theology is mysticism, so the ultimate consequence of psychology is love.

Care, responsibility, respect and knowledge are mutually interdependent.  They are a syndrome of attitudes which are to be found in the mature person; that is, in the person who develops his own powers productively, who only wants to have that which he has worked for, who has given up narcissistic dreams of omniscience and omnipotence, who has acquired humility based on the inner strength which only genuine productivity can give.

[Bold emphasis mine.]

Stopping on page 30.

Feels important for me to return to this passage and re-read it from time to time.