Monday, August 24, 2009

Part II (How much farther? Not much farther.)

Two points quick. One: it has to be a collective individual movement towards the freedom of self sacrifice (of the positive kind [as all things have dualities {and all duality can be balanced through the meditative centering of the self (okay that was a bit far [screw it though, let's go far {you'll go far kid, you're a real winner. I can tell these things. I've got an eye, they tell me. (by all of which I was meaning that the balance of, really the tri-ality [or the infinite variation-ality], of human existence means the subjective self-soul has a constant balancing of the the bio-psycho-social web to effect, for which the gaze of consciousness expanded to and through all the systems and sub-systems of the mind/brain might be of use)}])}]).

Two: What was two?

Okay, two. The value of culture.

I had this thought while I was reading Barbarians at the Gate, a book about what was at the time the largest leveraged buy-out ever (to the tune of 25 billion 1989 dollars [I know, right. Child's play]). It occurs to me that one of the real effects of the sixties counter-culture was the breaking down of even the veneer of Victorian values. Ross Johnson, CEO of RJR/ Nabisco used to live by the line from the Bob Dylan song, "He who isn't busy being born is busy dying." And he was a part of this whole new breed of business men who came of age at that time, and weren't bogged down with these old, staid conceptions of morality and responsibility to the community or employees. There didn't even have to be this thin pretense toward some form of old world values (Moravian in the case of RJR Reynolds). That's not to say that there was some nostalgic time in the just distant past that was all beautiful magical or anything. It's just to say that our modern culture is rootless, rudderless, and morally adrift. Maybe.

Still, Johnson and the Wall Street crew end up making the old school tobacco people look like saints. And really, let's think about that for a minute. The Streeters made the old line tobacco executives look like caring, concerned, moral, upright citizens.

And that's sad. It makes me sad to think about these things sometimes. And I do wonder if that wasn't the ultimate result of Marxism. One last enlightenment era push into secularity. I just don't see how you can think of organizing a society based on altruistic principles without the spiritual experience and rituals as a means towards the maintenance and furtherance of altruism. I mean, I get the whole opium of the masses, corrupted religious institutions thing, but did we really need to through the baby out with the bathwater.

And we saw how far those altruistic principles (to each according to his need, from each according to his ability [or words to that effect]) went in the Russian socialist experiment. Really Russia was never socialist in the utopian sense of the word that pre-dated Marx. Lenin's whole dictatorship of the proletariat was always just another type of fascism.

But I'm getting away from myself. What I'm trying to say is that culture is a great determinant of the default settings of the citizenry.

Matthew Baldwin had a really good post over at infinite summer this week about default settings. And he quoted David Foster Wallace's Kenyon Commencement speech at length. The jist of the quote was that raging egoism is kind of a human default. And it's true. Social Psychology has studied all kinds of variations on self bias. We overestimate how attractive we are to the opposite sex, how often we, for example, do the laundry vs. our significant other, how well we're going to do on an exam, and the list goes on and on and on and on and, well, you get the idea.

What this all adds up to is that freedom from this base self-centered reality isn't the path of least resistance. It takes work. It takes a lot of work to get outside of yr own ego, and it's not necessarily a spiritual path (but that's certainly one avenue availed). So, freedom may be free, but it ain't easy. But a culture that promotes the hard work of this type of freedom from subjectivist, narrow minded egoism makes that work both seem easier and less like work.

Alright, I'm calling it on this particular parry. Time for a run.

Okay though, this one quote from Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. Cause as soon as I read it, I thought of myself being all preachy in my last post. So, a redemption of sorts.

And then people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up one of the truths and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them.

It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.

So, you can't be right and righteous all together. Once you get righteous, you lose your rightness. Or so it seems to me sometimes.

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