Sunday, May 13, 2012

Perplexing II

"Everything can be seen directly except the eye through which we see. Every thought can be scrutinized directly except the thought by which we scrutinize. A special effort, an effort of self-awareness is needed: that almost impossible feat of thought recoiling upon itself-almost impossible but not quite" E.F. Schumacher

I've gathered more evidence that suggests I belong in a Trappist Monastery where I can recite the Jesus Prayer through the coming environmental apocalypse, the skin being singed off my nose by radioactive tomatoes and the blistering rays of collective hate-speech comments on CNN.

This guide for the perplexed, published in 1977, rings true today like any doomsday manual. "The fuel crisis, the environmental crisis, wars, disease, abandoned religion...." sound familiar? And my scrutiny includes Schumacher's words because I wonder if this is not the method of any snake oil salesman, to sell comfort in times of quarrel. The guest ministers at the Rescue Mission in Fairbanks, Alaska would ask the group of buzzed, diabetic, crippled, illiterate men, "Who among you aches for something better, a warm embrace like that of a loving mother? Who is tired? Who is in pain? Who is searching? For you, I have the answer and his name is Jesus." I remember thinking that all of these applied to me and my shattered shoulders sagged in relief and surrender, TAKE ME JESUS! YOU KNOW MY ILLS! But wait, they also applied to everyone, and in fact, it was pretty obvious that it would apply to anyone in a homeless shelter where attendance of the sermon was mandatory to get the bologna sandwich. So, was his answer true or was his leading question customized to lure the broken in spirit to the fold?

Anyway, the concept of Adaequatio is introduced in this guide. Basically, those who do not embrace religion are not a priori equipped with the organs of reflection. Religion is not to blame for the corruption of religious institutions. The inquisition was no more motivated by religion than sex offenders are motivated by football. To agnostics he has this warning: "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." I'm a bit skeptical of this approach because it uses linguistics to keep the gold ring out of reach. "You don't believe in God because you aren't equipped to believe in God." But the case he makes in nevertheless strong.

To Christopher Hitchens I would read the sports column of his favorite football team. "Juventus lost a hard fought match this afternoon 2-1 to Manchester United. The final two minutes were thrilling...."
But to me these words are hollow, I have no affiliation with these teams and can merely put together an animated reenactment of the events. So it was with Hitchens and the Bible. His science was for manipulation and not understanding, reenactment and not faith. He lacked the organ of reflection and so debated Christian scholars on the topic of divinity and religion in terms of the five sense and not the organ of self reflection. I think the first words of the Tao are,

"The Tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name."

Why have a disclaimer as the first text? Because they knew a Hitchens would come along with pompous chuckling and haughty snorts and speculate that a murderous Taoist monk had used the Tao to justify his killings and that when taken piece by piece it is not valid and therefore all religion should be abolished in favor of "Internal referees" who nod bluntly as McDonalds poisons the world and Walmart enslaves more people than the Dutch so counterfeit cosmetics can give us all lead poisoning. But the authors of the Tao said, No, The Way can not be written but this will be an approximation of our spiritual beliefs. Hitchens was "like the man who, although in possession of a radio receiver, refuses to use it because he has made up his mind that nothing can be obtained from it but atmospheric noises...his faith excludes the possibility of higher levels of Reality."

What is the word Religion? It is the Roman word for Reconnection. Re Legio. Legions were military units dedicated to the defense of Rome. The word Religion suggests a unit of spiritual legionaries. Was E.F. Schumacher, a "traditional civilizational Christian humanist" a monster? Go check out the clay pot technologies employed by Practical Action and tell me the bible is the source of all grief.

The two books I'm reading in my dungeon are Schumacher's Guide and Plato's Republic. What is the nature of Justice? What is good? What is man's duty? I skipped to the end to find the answer because I'm impatient and my heart palpitates with the lack of insulin and Hannah Montana jewelry Beryllium poisoning in my gout toes. The Cartesian approach to reality has brought us futuristic implants and gadgets but it can not solve any economic problems. "We shall then see that the economic problem [of 1977] is a convergent problem which has been solved already: We know how to provide enough [questionable]. There is no economic problem and, in a sense, there never has been. But there is a moral problem and moral problems are not convergent, capable of being solved so that future generations can live without effort."

Can we humans change our ways to avert disaster and save the modern world of 1977, a time when cars got 8 mpg and all had 8 cylinders, and you had to manually wind your watch and pay a quarter to make a phone call in a booth? Schumacher ends his book with this statement:

"No matter what the answer, it will mislead. The answer "Yes" would lead to complacency, the answer "No" to despair. It is desirable to leave these perplexities behind us and get down to work."

But first I have to reread the whole book and correct any typos because isn't that important too?
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.