Sunday, October 19, 2008
The Reason I Think The Way I Do About Things, Part Two
[BEGIN PART TWO]
Before we get started, let me make one thing perfectly clear.
I am a failure. Both in my personal life and in my chosen vocation. At the moment, this may be only a feeling and not a fact, but at the moment, my feeling feels like fact. Thus, my perception has taken on the responsibility of my reality.
My youth was characterized by a selfish ambition, an overriding perfectionism, and a cushioned insularity from the perceived terrors of any outside human contact. What few intimate relationships I accrued during this period of naive oblivion were simply echo chambers for my own narcissism.
Later in life, by fortune--or by fate, if one is not averse to that archaic term--I obtained a modicum of artistic success. Despite the underground recognition and critical acclaim, however, the end goals of economic and sexual security remain continually out of reach, the proverbial artistic dues reflect a perpetually outstanding balance, and a lasting sense of satisfaction lies always just over the horizon.
There are those, myself included, who might say that I have fallen from a great height--if only I had had the gratitude to recognize the precipice for the good thing that it was at the time I was standing upon it--rather than now, bruised and bleeding on the valley floor.
There are other times I am convinced that I have never left the ground in the first place, and thus have neither risen nor fallen. That, of course, is a more palatable proposition; having neither gained nor lost instead of having lost what was once gained. Yet the truth, characteristically elusive as always, lies somewhere in-between.
Like so many others in our decadent age, I extended my childhood as long as I could, borrowing against the predatory lenders of Time, until I awoke one morning and discovered, to my abject horror, that I was nothing more remarkable than an unfulfilled adult.
Regret is no mere abstraction. Not at all.
Regret has physical dimensions. Regret occupies not only time, but also space.
Regret has mass.
For if it did not, Coleridge might have chosen something much lighter than an albatross to represent it.
Alas, the muddled perceptions of the lost chapters of my past lie beyond the scope of this current study: "The Reason I Think The Way I Do About Things, Part Two".
For here in the present, as was promised at the close of the first installment of this series, we now fix our sights on explaining how the Human Individual, itself a composite of varying re-actions, springs forth from the initial idea; that is, the Primal Action of Divine Creation; and how it is that because of this symbiotic, (albeit archaic, hierarchical, and linear) relationship, the Human Individual is not limited solely to works of re-action, but also, in alignment with its Creator, works of action.
At this early stage, the reader may have questions as to what has just been elucidated. Most likely, he or she is now asking themselves: “Would such a theological presupposition as to God’s creativity and the Human Individual’s capacity to mirror such creativity in its own finite existence inadvertently ascribe a value judgment to works of action as being of a higher quality than works of re-action?”
The best sociological evidence for this valuation can be witnessed by the stigmatization of the term “reactionary”. Implicit in the insult (which is what it amounts to in its conventional usage) is the logical acknowledgment that action supersedes re-action. Yet the mistake too often made by those brandishing this politically-charged epithet is assuming that they are innocent of doing likewise. Those who do not question the unalterable dictates of nature, however, know that re-action is the default setting for the Individual Human.
Let us therefore consider the ethical qualities, if any, of human re-action upon the spectrum of perfection (that which is aligned with God) and imperfection (that which is aligned with baser existence).
Re-actions cannot be called perfect inasmuch as they are not Divinely inspired; that is, having no discernible beginning. Instead of ideas being wholly snatched from the ether, complete in and of themselves, works of re-action rely upon ideas already set in motion. They are therefore, like the totality of all micro- and macrocosmological existence, bound by the strictures of cause/effect relationships.
Meanwhile, re-actions cannot be called wholly imperfect without first an examination as to the frequency with which they are adopted. “Man does not live by bread alone,” sayeth the scripture. True enough. But man does live by bread to some degree. And the degree to which a Human Individual lives by bread is the variable in determining to what extent a Human Individual is closer to perfection or imperfection.
Thus, we witness the unique position of man in relation to God and in relation to his baser existence. Man cannot aspire to greater creative achievements without relying upon (or at least seeking out) a direct channel to Divine inspiration. Contrarily, an overabundance of alignment with Divinity separates man from his baser existence. See also “The Great Chain of Being”.
One would be mistaken here to assume that all of the above is a call to moderation. Not so. Though an argument obviously must be made against tipping the balance in favor of imperfection, one should also be cautioned against deciding that a middle position represents a satisfactory endgame to human existence.
The original drafters of “The Great Chain of Being” regarded man’s position as unique enough for it to remain comfortably static for centuries. It wasn’t until much later that the restless mysticism of such thinkers as Emerson, Tolstoy, and especially Blake would seek not only to assign the Individual with more fluidity, but to argue vehemently for a slight imbalance favoring the Divine. In particular, Blake envisioned value in baser existence only in that provided an epistemological reference point for better understanding God. Borrowing from the lingo of economics, the overall effect was to introduce a cosmological sense of “upward mobility”.
Were it not for this shift in perception, it is likely that the slaves might never have been freed.
To recap: Works of action are the domain of Divinity. Works of re-action are the domain of Humanity. Yet as we have been taught that Christ left one domain to inhabit another by becoming incarnate, we are also taught that the Human Individual has within itself the capacity to likewise transfer domains by becoming ethereal--either permanently through death or temporarily through dreams.
In sum, the Human Individual is an amalgam of action and re-action.
Therefore, the quarrel that the offended representatives of a given community have with “reactionaries” is never about the re-action, per se, but the qualitative nature of the re-action.
This is to say that if a re-action is of a non-conflicting nature in relation to a larger community, the re-action would not even be recognized as such. It is only when a re-action is in conflict with a person, issue, or institution held in esteem by an offended representative of a given community that a re-action is capable of being noticed. If one has reacted by agreeing with or obeying a larger community, in the fickle eyes of those who constitute that community, that Individual has not re-acted. If one has reacted by disagreeing with or disobeying a larger community, that Individual has run risk of being labeled a “reactionary”.
Contrast is illuminating. Perpendicularity against the larger community provides higher visibility. After all, isn’t it those long stretches of parallel lanes on a dark highway that safety signs warn will lull us to sleep--and perchance to a life-threatening accident--if we don’t periodically pull over?
Speaking of which, it’s now time for a rest stop.
In this section, I have demonstrated how it is that the Human Individual is capable of works of action as well as re-action and how by acknowledging this potential, one is rendered closer to the Divine. I have also shown how it is that offended representatives of larger communities speak selectively when referring to “reactionaries”. In Section Three, I will speak against the postmodern craft of ascribing quality to quantity and how it may be said that an over-valuation of numbers leads one further from Truth and further into Error.
[END PART TWO]
Posted by Will Franken at 6:34 PM