When one group of people in society feels unheard for so long, in time they form a crusade, and the object of that crusade is the most human of all demands: feel our pain. It is natural to want the world to understand our suffering as something different, something deeper, something special. The cacophony of our political lives stems in no small part from the ceaselessly multiplying number of groups that ask that their suffering be seen as something transcendent and unique. The trouble, of course, is that we’re all suffering, and in fact to suffer is the least special, most ordinary thing any person can do.
The late Ram Dass once wrote to grieving parents, “something in you dies when you bear the unbearable, and it is only in that dark night of the soul that you are prepared to see as God sees, and to love as God loves.” I do not know what it’s like to love as God loves. But I do know what it’s like to suffer, and then to suffer more, and at last to feel something die inside me. The note of uplift at the end of The Deep Places, uncertain but real, is a record of Douthat’s willingness to let that something die inside of him too, in order to move on. That’s a thing of beauty.
the reality of chronic illness
The kind of balance that the experimenting patient needs to strike in trying to get better — the migrations back and forth between the centre and the fringe, the attempt to entertain critiques and speculations without getting captured a simple anti-all-authority worldview..
…in both cases, the specifically medical as well as the general political-cultural, you see the same pattern where a system that has achieved great successes in the not-so-distant past can’t seem to adapt to the rather different challenges of the present, the same sense of bureaucratic incentives throttling curiosity and defeating attempts at innovation, the same feeling that to make progress you somehow have to leave those systems behind.. and then *the same temptation*.. to become so fully outside the system that you begin to lose touch with reality itself.
Preach Douthat, Preach.
Both decadence and chronic ailments cut against the human tendency to imagine a crisis as something that either leads to some kind of fatal endgame quickly or else resolves itself and goes away.. the drama of human existence is replete with long unhappy interludes that feature neither an immediate Nemesis nor a simple cure.. and those interludes require a distinctive response from their inhabitants, neither complacent nor hysterical, but constructive in ways that are intended to bear fruit across a longer haul.
[dispatch] dilapidation and ambient fragility
Two things from 95 Theses on Innovation.
As material milieu and spiritual environment, and its unexplored consequences on our imagination. Fruitful connection with the kenotic heart of Christian aesthetic and spiritual sensibilities. Connections between the dilapidated and the wasteland (an urban wilderness?) I guess its explored in post-apocalyptic literature quite a bit (McCarthy for me).
“Every technology, then, embodies some distinct set of values, [expresses its own style].. If we look deeper, we see that our real technological style is Dilapidation. our technological values are best embodied by collapsing buildings, rotting bridges, and abandoned, trash-strewn lots. It is the physical and infrastructural outcome of “creative destruction.” Throughout the nation, deindustrialized, Rust Belt cities molder.. if you want to see who we are, go to Detroit… Infrastructure and the poor belong to a massive shadow nation that haunts this country.”
- The Technological Myth = Fear = Sickness
The Age of Innovation is an Age of Anxiety… innovation-speak is a language of fear.. “basically it’s a language of coercion that implies to people that their lives are fragile, that is charged with that kind of unspecified fear that makes people… it’s meant to make people feel that they can’t get their feet on the ground” (Marilynne Robinson).. “In any case, the spirit of the times is one of joyless urgency.
Lee Vinsel then adds, “news outlets constantly run stories on prevalent diseases that share a major cause: stress”. The majority of people I know are chronically ill, especially young people, and it’s the same in their circles too. Anecdotally evidence is not evidence but what is going on? Something is. Chronic illness is in some sense a modern phenomena, but what can be be talking here mass unrecognised (or hidden) environmental pollution (micro-plastics, food toxins, MCS, EMF)? A-type personality character pre-disposition? Or here, perhaps, a part of the picture; a cultural environment submerged in ambient stress.
jung on yoga
The official example of Yoga in the West is the exercitia spiritualia of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Taoism has also a kind of Yoga but it is less well known than the Indian. The Chinese Yoga is very much less founded on dogma, the Yogin is left to find his own way through his difficult experiences.
In alchemy there lies concealed a Western system of yoga meditation, but it was kept a carefully guarded secret from fear of heresy and its painful consequences.
The spirit of Europe is not helped merely by new sensations or titillation of the nerves. What it has taken China thousands of years to build cannot be acquired by theft. If we want to possess it we must earn the right to it by working on ourselves… Of what use to us is the wisdom of the Upanishads, or the insight of Chinese Yoga, if we desert our own foundations as though they were errors outlived and settle with thievish intent on foreign shores like homeless pirates?
so here I am
T.S. Eliot, from East Coker, Four Quartets:
“So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years-
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres-
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholy new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate,
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate – but there is no competition –
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”
The last 5 lines are pretty much my bit on academia. The line prior apply too though, obviously.
The poignant personal truth underlying its insufferable economy of violence; the fractured souls and broke bodies who animate the monster, “though it slay me, yet will I trust it”.
Meanwhile seeds are sown at the margins, the fight to recover unfolds silently in the desert’s night.
There they are, in the middle way.
An us, an our, a community of defeated triers, might yet be the light dawning.
But that, I suspect, is only one person’s business, and not mine.
the university and writers
“Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”
Four Quartets – T.S. Eliot
“the Four Quartets, on the other hand, carpet bombs the idea of consciousness and its relation with Time and Being”
if only Augustine had spoken Greek
absolutely no need for this kind of shade in the comment section
The first correctly used 1984 quote i’ve seen in the wild.
Where else do these manifestations of higher things, mysteries, show up in reality? Mathematics somewhere, like the golden ratio, or at the atomic level, or string theory or the collective unconscious?
A transposition of a higher order, a transposition which has to occur elsewhere.