Saturday, December 20, 2014

Neural Twitches...






...the same being transient excitations in search of durable understanding...



All convergent journeys begin as parallel paths: a chord derived from the study of Renaissance perspective.

Ambition is the insatiable desire to be in two places at the same time.

Atheism is a way station on the road to faith.

Logically, perpetuity is the borderline between duration and eternity. Duration cognizes a segmented time, perpetuity time's persistence, eternity it's abolition. The world lives in duration and aspires to perpetuity, which, from a certain perspective, is a fair definition of purgatory, or at least a psychologically valid experience of purgatory.

Economically speaking, the soul lives in the rounding errors of what the world considers profit.

Coinage: "Psycholotics" (The exploration of the unconscious of a given polity undertaken through the observation of the manifestations of its constitutional dynamic.)
   
It is my belief that the journey through ultimate confusion ultimately leads to ultimate clarity.

Doubt is not the negation of faith so much as its surest evidence.

"I am fascinated by the notion of parallel universes, individual parallel realities, syncretistic mentation, convergence and the dynamics thereof, and einsteinian thought experimentation, all experienced as fundamental psycho-religious phenomena that, it seems to me, offer the best hope of properly focusing the problems of free will and the mechanics of proper education, allowing for the resolution of bad choices, and responding to the conditional question, What if death is not the end?" (page 347) Burnbridge, Alexander Particle and Wave: A Navigational Guide to the Practical Transit of Light. Minneapolis: Templar House, 1946. Print.

First principles of the discussion:
There exists a reality which we can only meaningfully call God.
"You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body." C.S. Lewis

I think it true, as the old writers of faith understood it, that God is the author of history. I think also that they may have missed the mark in thus understanding His authorship as the work of an historian when perhaps it is better conceived  as the work of a writer of fiction, an elaborate interweaving of character and plot.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Random Thoughts VIII (With Notes and Elaborations)

(Elaboration 1.01)
Psychologically speaking, being elected to govern in America is very much like being commissioned to teach a common language at the University of Babel. E Pluribus Unum. We've got the "Pluribus" part down pat (no one can say that Americans don't understand diversity). It's the "Unum" we seem to be having trouble with.
And for us the only possible bedrock principle of that unum? That we acknowledge as our common creed a faith at once the most profoundly religious and least dogmatic, least denominational of all of history's endless fumblings toward the divine, a faith as blind as our yearning for justice, as directional as our understanding of hope. Freed by our insistence on the absolute necessity of an authentic self, a singular soul wrested from the clamor of the social mass, we deploy the right to a will thus won to navigate toward a distant and anonymous light, the endpoint of evolution.
By itself reason is insufficient for that navigation. Proceeding as it must from fact to fact, building thereupon to create still newer facts, reason unrestrained and untempered can yield only its own endless self justification. It can have no object but its own infinite elaboration. Ultimately tautological it produces only classification and hierarchy. Thus, while giving every impression of movement, it is essentially static. It is movement we seek and insist upon, a genuine change of state, a birthing into the world as new creatures, remade of our freedom's victories. And reason of itself neither guides us nor propels us there.
Slowed by resistance, stung by doubt, gutted by indifference, I am become cautious of heresy --- rational, religious, or scientific --- and therefore often plead either ignorance or humility. But truth external to me intervenes: it is an error to mistake ignorance for humility or humility for ignorance...and a greater error still to mistake either for fear. And so I too am thrown into tautology. To save my self my thought must spin, as does a dervish.
An individual journey, then, not of itself grounded in hierarchy, in acceptance of the consensual order, but in the aggregate of all such journeys --- which aggregate is properly understood to be simply the whole of history, its substance and elaboration through time --- revelatory of an innate hierarchy, an innate order, neither discoverable nor describable by reason alone.
Science --- reason --- has brought us to this point but can carry us no farther.

Referential Note:
"Do I believe in mortality? I've looked in the mirror every morning for more than sixty years and every morning the evidence is there, successive, stark and indisputable. So of course I believe in mortality. It's death I don't believe in." (Page 92) Prattlesham, Herbert Displaced Souls:Convalescent Conversations On Theories of Finality Atlanta: Prescott Press, 1979. Print

(Elaboration 2.0)
How then do I understand the Christ? As the sum of all the innate, unrealizable aspirations of our common consciousness, the coda to all our immemorial dreams, the teleological tautology. Asked to explain this understanding, to detail its meaning, I cannot. Understanding is primal and individual, explanation secondary and communal. Thus I can point to the words as experience only, I can say only that the words themselves are the meaning, that the meaning palpitates there, that the meaning luminesces there.

Proposed, A Corrective Thought for the American Consciousness:
Capitalism is not a religion, economics is not a theology, competition is not the proper fundament of moral law, and neither greed nor penury is a virtue.

At its deepest, music is the consort of the art of silence, the negative space defining mute thought, the figure-ground reversal of contemplation.

What we understand as action --- the effect on reality of pure will absent individually ascribable material intervention --- becomes possible (specifically, most properly, perhaps only) at the intersection of wisdom and intent.

The structural disadvantage under which all secular government labors is that it must by its nature function as though there is fundamental truth to the notion that you only live once, whereas in actuality the most one can properly say logically is that you only live one life at a time...and for certain deeply matured souls even that last misses the mark.

Preamble to An Overdue Confession:
As with so many of my contemporaries (and so many of our offspring) I am a creature of the 'sixties, shaped by upheavals in a pacific common consciousness birthed in renunciation of its antecedent history, the horrors of our fathers' wars. Forming a community of thought contraposed to the culture of our nativity (a community based perhaps as much on youthful hormones as on youthful ideals) we proclaimed our identity as the generation of "sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll." In my own case, energy and time being constrained, the deeper exploration and fuller allegiance  was limited to but two of the three. As rock and roll was the easier to abandon --- and for me the infinitely less interesting --- the choice was not a difficult one.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Random Thoughts VII







Referential Notes:
"Of itself, knowledge is worthless; hunger for understanding...and thence to wisdom." (page 37)
"Be mindful, therefore, of all the doleful battalions, formed on trust and love, fearful that their anguish be in vain, angry that it could ever be so, deployed for profit, consumed by time, vanished and unrewarded. They are a chorus, as in Sophocles or Euripedes, intoning a dirge of solemn memories, a litany of lamentations. Theirs are the delphic voices, foreseeing and forewarning, theirs the Dies Irae." (page 42) Tisth, A.R. Ancestral Admonitions: Symbolism, Serenity and the Psychopathy of History. Portland: Singularity Press, 1964. Print.

Marriage is largely a therapeutic exercise. You judge yours to be successful when at long last you arrive at a point where you are, all things considered, more or less whole, more or less content, yet unable for the life of you to figure out just who cured whom and of what.

(Elaboration 1.0)
Psychologically speaking, being elected to govern in America is much like being commissioned to teach a common language at the University of Babel. E Pluribus Unum. We've got the "Pluribus" part down pat (no one can say that Americans don't understand diversity). It's the "Unum" we seem to be having trouble with...
...and for us, for those of our mind, the only possible bedrock principle of that unum? That we acknowledge as our common creed a faith at once the most profoundly religious and least dogmatic, least denominational of all of history's endless fumblings toward the divine, a faith as blind as our yearning for justice, as directional as our understanding of hope. Freed by our insistence on the absolute necessity of an authentic self, a singular soul wrested from the clamor of the social mass, we deploy the right to a will thus won to navigate toward a distant and anonymous light, the endpoint of evolution.
We are the children of a too rational age. Blinded by the Enlightenment, seduced by its goddess, awestruck by the liberties it birthed and comforted by the material wonders it has produced, we find ourselves nonetheless savaged by reason and confined by its science. Reason by itself is insufficient for the navigation we have determined to undertake, inadequate for our polar star. Proceeding as it must from fact to fact, building thereupon to create still newer facts, reason unrestrained and untempered can yield only its own endless self justification. It can have no object but its own infinite elaboration. Ultimately tautological it produces only classification and hierarchy. Thus, while giving every impression of movement, it is essentially static. It is movement we seek and insist upon, a genuine change of state, a birthing into the world as new creatures, remade of our freedom's victories. And reason of itself neither guides us nor propels us there.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

In Memoriam



    It is with deep sadness and profound  appreciation that I note the passing of Alexander "Rebbe" Burnbridge, S.J., Ph.D. (1922-2014). The first of three children born to Samuel Burnbridge, an artisanal cheese maker and itinerant crop duster, and Rebecca Harlston Winslett, the estranged daughter of a Boston cooper, he showed early promise as an ahistorical thinker and antinomian poet, publishing his first important monograph, On the Incongruence of Discourse, at age eleven and his first collection of poems, Tiresias's Navel, a year later. At age fifteen he was the youngest scholarship student to attend the august University of the Americas, completing a grueling dual major in epistemological confluence and moral hygiene before continuing his studies in Rome. Following a brief psychiatric interlude, he returned to America and went on to take advanced degrees in metaphysical aeronautics, structural dialectics, animal husbandry, and botany. In the course of a lengthy post doctoral sabbatical he labored to produce the four works of his epic magnum opus (re)Evolutionary Biotics:
        
      The Angry Angels: The Theology of Irrelevance and the Destiny of Ants
      Particle and Wave: A Navigational Guide to the Practical Transit of Light
      The Inconsequential Wilderness: An Interior Cosmology 
      Sea Serpents, Sand Dunes and The Immemorial Now: A Book of (sub)Verse
   
     On his subsequent return to public participation, he went on to found the first of several successful companies, Say What? a litero-technic collective dedicated to the immaterial engineering of flights of fancy. Late in his career he served as a forensics investigator in the Courts of Canon Law. He left us, poorer for his passing, earlier this year, peacefully, after a long battle with existential loss.
     He was the greatest and most noble of all my teachers and mentors, and I honor him with this: "It was strange. I never understood a word he said but I always seemed to know exactly what he meant."







Sunday, August 31, 2014

Random Thoughts VI




There are those among my friends who hold, some with a sense of envy, some with utter disdain, that I have lived my life unfettered by scientific logic, a condition that both camps deem irrational, definitive of madness. I think it an unwarranted charge. True, I do not understand the infinitesimal calculus. I am equally ignorant of quantum mechanics. Such ignorance is another of the many blessings granted me. But the unconscious has a logic of its own and grounds its elaborate reasoning thereupon. I am Who (I) Am. This is the definition of self  that places the ego properly in relation to the infinite, defines the scope of one's freedom, and permits the cognition of one's own soul. Contest my premises if you will but know that my syllogisms are sound.
And of that self, that soul (a pilgrim soul in a world of tourists) and its reasonings, what to say, what task ascribe to it, what question pose it? This perhaps at first: how best to dispute the primacy of the fact as sole constituent of the real world, of Reality?

It is an error to mistake ignorance for humility or humility for ignorance...and a greater error still to mistake either for fear.

How then do I understand the Christ? As the sum of all the innate, unrealizable aspirations of our common consciousness, the coda to all our immemorial dreams.

Memory is an impediment to love (and therefore love consumes all memory).

I had thought of myself most often as the central character in the fiction of my life, but there are times, more so as I age, when I am beset by the unhappy intuition that perhaps I am no more than a bit player in that particular drama, not Hamlet but Polonius.

Does it mean anything to speak of the scope of one's freedom, or is it the case that, genuinely understood, freedom is without scope, is absolute?

Politics is the communal expression of the mechanics of human will, be it free or bound, the aggregate of all the individual affirmations and denials in a given collective.

The Judgment is a come-as-you-are affair. You go clothed in all your virtues, all your sins (which is probably why your grandmother made such a point of insisting on the importance of always wearing clean underwear).

Friday, June 27, 2014

Random Thoughts V


All theories of social consciousness to the contrary, the split between the world and the individual is final and irrevocable, as exclamatory as birth.

Courage, at least of a spiritual sort, being perhaps more essential in this the "post-modern" age than heretofore, it becomes necessary to reverse the common dictum: the brave man dies a thousand deaths, the coward only one.

To meditate deeply on America, on what it means for one's soul to be American, requires a peculiar sort of stubborn patience, the sort that keeps one sitting silent and cross-legged in the stream of common consciousness, buffeted by ceaseless flotsam, the endless floating evidence of some far off catastrophe, some distant miracle, until perhaps at last light congeals to thought, thought yields to revelation.
This fragment bobs past: America is a purgatorial nation. It exists to purge history of its gravest faults. This is its glory, its honor, and its most grievous danger, the seed of its apotheosis and perhaps of its demise. Profoundly understood and profoundly undertaken, such a destiny might well merit for its people in their singularity an accelerated advance upward from the mud and in their congregation as a nation the laurel of a more humble exceptionalism.
Profoundly understood, profoundly undertaken...though perhaps the latter is predicate of the former...which would give new meaning to the notion of revolutionary struggle, America's natal genetic. How then best to undertake it? And what depth of understanding to glean from the undertaking?

There is no thought, however worthy, no cause, however noble, no prayer, however pious, no love, however timeless, no pain, however grievous, that does not merit at least one good laugh (..musings of the riant deity).

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: God's commandment to a benign narcissism.

On popular culture: Great art endures. All the rest merely persists.

Would that I could,
I would write a concluding verse,
A solemn psalm for Man:
A dirge of failed distractions,
A canticle of hope,
A just recessional...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Parable


The Accident

The accident occurred at 7:45 AM in heavy fog on the remote and sinuous stretch of interstate that runs between Capon and Norristown. The truck, eastbound with a load of strawberries, swerved out of its lane to avoid a stalled car, jack-knifed across the road and came to rest on its side, Three dozen other vehicles following behind were involved in the subsequent chain reaction. The relative inaccessibility of the spot, in a valley deeply shadowed by towering hills on either side (you are familiar with the area?), and the sheer complexity of the accident itself severely hampered rescue and removal operations so that, by eleven, when the sun had burned away the last traces of obscuring fog, upwards of fifteen hundred vehicles, their engines off, their whistling tires silenced, immobile, stretched back toward Capon in a solid mass, as if frozen in a dream.
At first the stranded motorists were angry and restive. They could not be blamed for this. After all, appointments were being missed, delivery schedules disrupted, business meetings unkept, vacations delayed and all without a word of explanation to those waiting beyond the wreck, for, owing to the high surrounding hills, there was no cell service, no easy means of communication, no way of rescheduling the meetings or saving the business deals or extending the hotel reservations or reassuring the worried relatives. So there were shouts and curses and the broken roar of horns washing over the great line of cars like some gigantic wave smashing itself to pieces on a line of breakers, furious and frustrated at the impenetrable solidity of the obstacle in its path. The cars closest to the huge tangle of wreckage did not behave in this fashion, of course, as the drivers of these could see how serious was the matter, were aware that there were most probably dead and injured and that the mess itself, the massive interlocked metallic tangle, would take some considerable time to clear even after the human effects of the tragedy had been dealt with. These drivers, then, left their cars and did what little they could to give first aid until, an hour or so after the crash, the first medical units arrived by helicopter. The honking and the shouting and the cursing, then, came from farther back along the line, from those cars whose drivers, lacking insight, a clear vantage point, could know nothing except that they seemed irrevocably delayed.
In time this too stopped. Someone up front retained enough presence of mind to start a message on its way back down the line: a terrible accident, some serious injuries, road blocked, a long delay. Each driver left his car and walked back to inform the motorist behind him and so on, relay fashion, all the way down, so that within two hours everyone had at least this rough sketch of the event that had immobilized them. This seemed to quiet their anger and had the additional benefit of starting a flurry of conversations so that the motorists, accepting their impotence to dissolve this frustrating blockage, turned their attention instead to ways of occupying their time.
Some slept, reclining in the seats of their autos or searching out some shaded piece of grass along the roadway. Others, more active by temperament, organized impromptu football games or played a kind of lazy catch with bright plastic saucers. Lovers, some young, some not so young, walked hand in hand in the warm spring air, many of them barefoot, shirts off, pants rolled up to take the benefit of the sun. Older women gathered in small groups to gossip, commiserating with the poor wretches whose bodies lay trapped in the unseen wreckage ahead or exchanging stories about their intended destinations and their spoiled plans or worrying about their grandchildren, who must certainly by now be somewhat alarmed. Card games sprang up. Here and there someone lugged out a guitar or a portable radio and there were little knots of music up and down the line. People read books or magazines or newspapers and chatted and argued (for by mid-day the sun overhead had become quite hot). Some, who had been on their way to one of the picnic spots upstate when the accident stopped them, brought out their hampers and their coolers of beer and soft drinks and had their lunches beside the road or up on one of the small hillocks. Many simply idled about, irritable and disaffected. One old man died of a stroke and another, younger, of a knife wound, perhaps after a trivial argument or something of the sort. In this way the time passed.
By seven that evening the wreck had been cleared away, the road opened and people returned to their vehicles. The long line began to move, like some slumbering animal waking from a hibernation, and within an hour all conditions were normal again. Any impartial observer who had taken note of the day's events and who strolled now among the detritus of papers and scraps of food and discarded bottles and forgotten blankets or shirts or shoes might have been moved to conclude that this multitude of souls, these pilgrims stranded by an inexplicable caprice, had constructed in some dumb, instinctive fashion, a grotesque parody of what might be called a culture, a civilization.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Random Thoughts IV


Men: prisoners of the coulds and woulds and shoulds and cans and mights and mays, of the isms and the osophies and the ologies.

The manifestations of charismata have always been troublesome for the church. Paul, whose own experience of God was certainly not ordinary, counseled nonetheless against speaking in tongues and similar displays of excess. The madness of Pentecost was the church's birthday celebration; immediately thereafter the disciples were exhorted to sobriety, and the institutionalization began which has proceeded apace ever since. By the middle ages, the man who burned too brightly in public with a spiritual flame was likely also to burn publicly with a temporal one. The meaning here is clear: like any other living entity (so runs the law of this world) God is better understood neatly classified, neatly contained. But the spirit listeth where it will, and instances of the divine madness are perhaps not so rare even in our own day as is commonly supposed, Many cases, I am sure, escape the scrutiny of the theologians as well as that of their secular counterparts, the psychiatrists.

These things begin innocently enough. Life is full of pitfalls, camouflaged snares strewn throughout the various paths and byways of existence for no particular purpose except perhaps to fulfill some secret design in the unfathomable uncertainty which men style God. The exchange of glances between strangers on a streetcar or a bus, a chance encounter with an old friend, a rose, an apple, a passage in a book: any of these will serve to initiate a chain of events that moves a man out of his accustomed routine, out of the habits with which he disguises his unconsciousness, and into a circumstance inexplicable and devastating that brings him to the moment of recognition at which life begins to work its elusive miracle, for good or ill. What must be stressed above all else is the ordinary character of such events. Rarely does any event, ultimately dramatic, ultimately overwhelming, begin in a dramatic way. There is perhaps a psychological law operative here, some secret protective process of the soul designed to prevent fear from always and inevitably accomplishing its life-destroying work.

Increasingly, our communications become soliloquies: in the annals of intergalactic history that will one day note our passing we will perhaps be referred to as 'the race that talked to itself.' This colloquial identification will aid future students in remembering us for the few hours that intervene between the cram session and the examination. Doubtless we will be the subject of a great many research papers and learned dissertations.  Some poor creature,  attracted perhaps by the quaintness of our mores, will make us his life's study. If his work is of sufficient quality our immortality will be assured; otherwise, we will become the footnote that we seem intent on convincing ourselves we have always been. A study in inconsequence.

Every intuition of energy is an intuition of the human soul, a broken glance backward over the shoulder of time toward the first shock of creation, when god slowed the energic dance that was his thought and began his experiment with matter. (I am able to muster considerable enthusiasm for the theoretical physicist.)

False gods are no rare phenomenon. Indeed, throughout the long history of our uneasy sojourn on this fragile atom they have far outnumbered any gods who could lay even the most remote claim to being  true, to true Being. Witness  the  divinities  of  dim antiquity, a veritable menagerie of godforms --- caprine, bovine, anguine, canine, leonine, ursine, taurine, feline, lupine, ibidine. Nor did the anthropomorphizing Greeks much improve upon their predecessors, bestowing upon posterity a pantheon chiefly characterized by the common humanity of its collective vices, a rogue's gallery of gods the central divinity of which is today remembered chiefly as a prime example of the ravages attendant upon overactive glands. It is a longstanding perversity of our nature to enshrine the worst, to apotheosize the mediocre and the criminal, and if the intellectual development of the race has somewhat diminished our taste for gods of any order, enervating them without distinction, reducing them indiscriminately to the level of the myth and the fairy tale, it has not succeeded thereby in obviating our appetite for the banal and the beastlike. Rare today the cenobite consuming locusts and sanctity in the wilderness, the god-stunned anchorite living a life of intense spiritual selfishness in some monastery deleted by severe discipline from the temporal and the compound: modes of existence rendered obsolete by the wider  monasticism of  vulgar thought imposed by this common age, the service of the new, aseptic gods.

The unexamined life is not worth living. The old adage pops unbidden to  mind. It  seems somehow  tired in this electric age, reared to escape self examination. What tempts me to this enterprise, what prevents it? The times have diffused my thought, shortened my attention span, clipped my capacity for meditation. Tonight I drank wine, ate dinner, had coffee, smoked, did the dishes, helped with the laundry, talked to my wife, talked to my son, watched television. Tomorrow night I will drink wine, eat dinner, have coffee, smoke, do the dishes, talk to my wife, talk to my son, watch television. A lifetime of meals stretches ahead of me, gallons upon great unnumbered gallons of wine beat like ceaseless tides against the shoreline of my future. I will speak myself hoarse, I will break my eyesight on a cathode tube. Earnest in the preservation of this bliss, I will bind my days to the clock, my weeks to the paycheck, my months to the mortgage, my years to strict routines. I will wrap my dreams in oilcloth and store them in the attic beside a pair of boots two decades aged that I could not bear to throw away.

An overwhelming sadness attends this distance from God. I remember fondly the simpler certainties of my youth. God made us to know, love, and serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him in the next. No doubt, cankerous and parasitic, attached to these facts. The lost tridentine sonorities, wreathed in incense, buoyed by chant, seemed to my childish understanding as absolute and as mysterious as the laws of physics. Like the laws of physics, they were the unfathomable ciphers of forces beyond comprehension that served despite their impenetrability to keep the world from flying off unglued in all directions. Our first church was  a small, dark, low-ceilinged building across from the school, an old tavern that had been wrested from profanity by the sheer bullying, bellowing will of a fire-and-brimstone Irish priest. It was not impossible to sit there and think of gravity. Indeed, in certain moments of dim solemnity, gravity seemed a natural subject for meditation. Was not ours a God Who walked on water, ascended into the air, and would return riding on the clouds?

On Elites: Without elites there is no meritocracy. Without meritocracy, democracy fails. We have no royalty. Therefore we must promote elites of conscience. We must conscript them.

These are disconsolate meditations, connected by the frailest tendons, their discomfort assuaged only by the fiction of the first person plural. But if we speak as though our voice comes from a great distance it is not because we seek to frame a dispassionate style (it is dis-passion that we seek to escape) but rather because these broken fragments are the stirrings of a mute spirit struggling to congeal into an "I", beginning the pilgrimage of merit whose reward is a voice cohesive, flammable, and immediate.

What is the experience of grace? This instantaneous and certain apprehension and this only: all my sins forgiven, all my loves sanctified.

Not without reason is silence considered one of the hallmarks of sanctity. It is the saint's particular calamity to have seen God. In the face of that one great Assertion, the saint comes to know that assertion is futile, that nothing on this earth speaks meaningfully save perhaps the passage of the seasons, that to speak, to utter, to declare, to assert, to mouth even a single halting syllable is not only to retard the soul's ascent but perhaps to blaspheme as well. Far from being a matter of humility, a discipline imposed by the holy upon themselves, this silence is the inevitable result of the encounter with the Unspeakable.

Ours is an age which has lost the sense of God, the terrible fascination for the Divine which is neither a habit of intelligence nor a surrender to superstition but rather a natural facility for living at certain levels of our being. Whether our anxiety is the result or the cause of our having lost this sense is difficult to determine, and, in either case, it is probable that it does not matter. Like the saint, we too hesitate to make assertions about God, but our hesitance derives not from an intuition of his terrible immediacy but, on the contrary, from the confusion which results from our insistence on the immediacy of the world. Unable to sever the umbilicus which holds us to the womb of matter, we collapse into Reality. Unable to surrender our wills and be reborn, we collapse into the vacuity from which we so lately arose and will ourselves instead unborn into the world.