Wednesday, August 20, 2003

le parcours des blogs

For a more Christian meditation on change, visit Chief Wiggles here. Chief's latest journal entry about the Baghdad bombing is worth reading, too.

The Vulture, not satisfied with pecking out Bush's eyes, is now digging around in search of brain matter. The Vulture also recommends Joe Conason's new book and quotes a passage from it.

Personally, I'm not so sure that Conason is any different from Andrew Sullivan in tone (esp. when shrill) and tactics (lotsa sound-bite hardball). Satan's Anus, also following the book, directs us to this blog by Julian Sanchez fisking Conason. The InstaSatan himself can be found rumbling here.

Now that blog-city seems to have recovered from demonic possession, Kevin at IA grabs his heavy war hammer and smashes away at Korean sheepitude here, as he debunks astrology. Tossing aside the hammer and picking up Chinese broadswords, Kevin hacks away at the stinky "apology to North Korea" business of the past couple days. Choice phrase: "whimpering pussy." Maybe President Noh should be known as "Comrade Queef" from now on.

The Marmot begs to differ with Kevin re: "superstition," and quotes Shakespeare's famous line: "...There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." [Hamlet, Act I, Scene V]

[Trivia: "dreamt" is the only English word ending in "-mt." Can you name two English words that contain the letters A, E, I, O, and U, in order? No cheating with Google or other aids.]

My own take is probably closer to Kevin's. The Marmot writes: "It frightens me to know that we are consigning a lot of precious wisdom to the dustbin of history in the name of rationalism." I'm sorry to abandon a fellow Hoya, but my feeling is that it's in the light of rationalism that we discover many of these truths aren't particularly precious or wise, and are worth keeping only as historical relics, serving as markers of our progress (or lack thereof). I take a dim view of Christian faith healers and snake handlers, and don't attribute divine powers to these people. I don't see feng shui as actually channeling/directing ki in any meaningful way, and after eating dog, I can say I didn't come away significantly changed by the experience. I attribute value to stuff that actually works, like the principles of philosophical Taoism that realize themselves on the mat in a hapkidojang or taekwondojang.

This doesn't keep me from being superstitious, however. My own superstition is that we all seek roughly the same level of stress, no matter our lot in life. Completely unprovable (for now), but there you go.

But I loved Robert's story about the man killed by his ass. Right up my scatological alley.

Bill Whittle FINALLY put out his newest long essay-- this one on RESPONSIBILITY. As with his "Trinity" essay, I ended up agreeing with Whittle on the grand scheme, but differing with him in the particulars. Whittle obviously hasn't studied deconstruction (which he mistakenly calls "deconstructionism," despite the repeated assertion by deconstructionists that it's not an "ism" at all); I don't like the philosophy much, either, but it's best attacked by someone conversant with the lingo.

[NB: In 1996, physics professor Alan Sokal managed a hilarious hoax, in which he penned a bullshit "postmodernist" paper and managed to get it published in an important literary journal called Social Text; the paper was titled "Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity." Sokal, soon after, published a gleeful "confession": he'd wanted to see whether the intellectual standards of a postmodernist flagship publication could sniff out the obvious bullshit in his paper... the fact that they didn't was damning, and PoMo thinkers have been on the defensive ever since. Sokal's got the history of the debate here. Go through Salon archives and read Gary Kamiya's "Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Total Bullshit," which covers the Sokal hoax, or "Social Text Affair," as it's now called. For a painfully exact parody of deconstruction in action, read The Onion's fucking hilarious "Grad Student Deconstructs Takeout Menu."]

I won't devote any long posts to attacking deconstruction on this blog... after tons of private emails with my best friends, I feel like the subject's been beaten to death. Suffice it to say that Jacques Derrida's deconstruction amounts (in its "good" aspects) to little more than a bad rehash of Buddhist metaphysics. A critique of "the metaphysics of presence" (another way of talking about essentialism) was not only anticipated by Buddhism; it was addressed by certain Greek philosophers as well (in other words, Derrida's critique of the philosophical underpinnings of the West isn't as sweeping as some might think). Deconstruction, to my mind, serves no real function either as critique or as something, well, constructive. Derrida himself isn't a bad guy (at least, he didn't make quite the same over-the-top postmodernist claims as Baudrillard after 9/11); he's actually got a good sense of humor-- about himself and his "philosophy." If deconstruction is to be praised for anything, it's for the sense of play it brings to one's approach to text. Beyond that, however, I don't see what real use it has (my buddy Dr. doCarmo might want to post an objection!).

Back to Whittle. I tend to think Whittle may be over-romanticizing the past, especially in his implication that American journalism used to be objective. I'm sorry, but that's wrong. There's always been slant, and while Whittle's right to call the American press on the carpet for acting irresponsibly, it's still up to the rest of us to read with discernment-- to read around, and not just settle into a partisan groove that gives only one side, one spin. In any case, Whittle's essays, however much you agree or disagree with them, are always thought-provoking, and I'll keep reading them. I'm probably not as critical of Whittle as, say, The Vulture might be; perhaps Brian should take a whack at him. I'll be sure to read.

In perfect consonance with Whittle's essay, however, Merde in France mocks a recent French murder case in which the murderer's defenders say he wasn't responsible for his actions.

The Naked Villain, having read my latest Buddhism essay (just below), speculates: "Perhaps the Buddhists are also Freudians. At least in so much as they are not attached to the idea of a permanent immutable God or scripture." I don't doubt there are elements in Buddhist psychology (and Buddhism in general) that dovetail with Freudian theory, but whether these similarities represent anything deep is... well, beyond my competence to say. But I'll ponder & research. Meantime, I suggest Mark Epstein's Thoughts Without A Thinker, which offers some insight into Buddhist psychology.

Mike also offers the following interesting link, related to his Buddhist-Freudian observation.

UPDATE: I found this article re: the issue of religion and therapy on Beliefnet.

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