Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Terminal

Terminal - as in airport terminal - as in waiting for an airplane. A late airplane. The flight to literary imagination? Terminals are exactly where the most ridiculous metaphors are born; the ones we laugh at and strike down and never make public. But then a blog must breathe, it is not a magazine, not something to be chiseled, perfected, edited in every minute detail. It is the thing writers hate showing to the world: a work in progress. Or, if a writer must show it to the world - it is only as an afterthought to the final perfected form. Yet I am not so much a writer of literature as a philosopher with some sense of literary style; ergo - I can excuse myself. I can write aphorisms.


I am reading Lem's Terminus (thus the astute reader will immediately spy the inspiration for this particular blog title). I find it not at all unlikely that a cat, deprived of feline and human company, will find itself in one herd with a robot. Cats may walk alone and all that (Kipling and Cat-Mackiewicz), but anyone who has ever had a cat knows that cats prefer not to sleep alone. Beyond that rather marginal remark, I have nothing to say. Lem is the kind of author that does not allow readers to develop "impressions." It is very dangerous to develop an "impression" of a Lem story. Lem's science fiction trains the mind in accuracy of thought. One really does need to understand what is going on before forming any "impressions."






As to Romeo and Juliet, this is proving quite the slog, though possibilities exist. Mercutio and the dream sequence have gotten me thinking about Freud again. Freud is so horribly predictable a writer - perhaps because popular culture has adopted so much of Freudian thought as its' own. It is almost as bad as reading Nietzsche: the modern (or "post-modern") mind is inclined to jump to conclusions, to see too much that is contemporary and miss too much of what was Nietzsche's perspective. And then it is so easy to justify this laziness by quoting Nietzsche himself; by swearing that one is not being lazy, but rather that one is following the Master and being an enemy to his friends just as you were told to be a friend to your enemies.

Rand continues to preoccupy some part of my thought as well due to conversation. Specifically, the question of Rand's rather muted treatment of religion in the Fountainhead as opposed to her more strident accusations against it towards the end of her life. Of course, she is an atheist through and though. But I wonder whether her atheism was not more muted in her youth because the America of the 1930s and 1940s really did keep true religious questions in the private realm. Of course in the public realm it served as an important ceremonial tool. Even Roark swears on the Bible and to God during his court hearing and not for one moment is this taken to be some affront towards Objectivist Epistemology. Roark does not ruin his case by proclaiming "I swear to no God!" Neither does Rand - yet. 

So what was it that got her going? I was thinking that perhaps it was the onset of those periodic storms that rampage through America from time to time: Revivals. Revival movements are like revolutions, albeit somewhat less deadly. Consider prohibition. Revivals push religion into the public sphere in a way that is rather unhealthy - for religion above all. This entire idiotic public debate now running its course; who is a man, who is a woman, who can say what about what religion, who can pray where, who can go to the bathroom where: all of it an idiotic substitute for the true aim of political discourse: war, economy and statecraft. Where did it come from? From the Christian revivalism of the 1970s and 1980s. Paradoxically. For once religion enters the public domain in that particular manner: not as a convention (which it must be in public life), but as an attempt at honest discourse - that is when the well is poisoned. 

For the real meat of religion is personal, and therefore private. The struggle of the conscience, the real life events which leave their imprint on our mind and heart. Revelation itself - it is always revealed to the individual. Even Moses, when he came down with the Ten Commandments - he told the Jews that these commandments were for each of them individually. Make a public debate on the subject of private conscience, and soon you will pollute the public debate with all of the other private subjects: sexuality, toilets - the list (as we have seen) is endless. Yet to say that religion is private nowadays is likewise misunderstood. Some believe that "private" is code for "not true", "subjective" or "relative." Others believe that it means pushing religion to the margins of public life. No. No. No. There is a public function for religion - an important one. But that function will always be conventional. The truth of religion is a private affair. This is a particularly Christian truth.


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