Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Juxtaposition of the Day: Relativism, Theologians, Skeptics

Via ArtsJournal and Scotsman.com:

"The de-sacralisation of our world, so enthusiastically cultivated by the new ruling elites, stands at a polar opposite from the potential for transcendence claimed by classical music. In that sense, the battles for serious music are part of a wider culture war apparent at various levels of modern Scotland.

"What is it about serious music that offends the triumphalistic trendies basking in the apparent victories of a demystified popular culture? Is it its very ability to rise from the mundane and stretch towards a sense of the extra-ordinary that gets right up their noses? Is it the suggestion that there may be such a thing as a secret inner life which cannot be reduced to a rigorously enforced commonality? That there may be no such thing as a closed universe?

"Serious music presents a counter-cultural challenge to secularism's dead-handed confirmation of things as they are. Classical music faces down this ideological capitulation to the materialistic doctrines which now rule our lives. The boundless vision of composers through the ages points to the realisation of ourselves as something greater than we are.

"This is why lovers of music refer to it as the most spiritual of the arts. It is not just seasoned theologians who use this terminology, but countless ordinary people, believers and sceptics, who will talk of the transformation of lives by music, of moods and perspectives being altered, of attitudes shifting and renewed meaning taking root in lives touched by a complex and discursive form."

From Art in America and Googling Thomas McEvilley at FindArticles.com:

"This seems to be one of the major points that Mr. Resnikoff cannot accept. No one ever knows anything for sure.

"That is the basic point that skeptical philosophers from Sextus to Nagarjuna to Nietzsche have made for millennia. Yet Mr. Resnikoff claims that there is such a thing as absolute knowledge. "The formulas of math," he says, "... will last forever." But in fact that is not historically the case. The formulas of math have changed, like other kinds of knowledge, from generation to generation or century to century--from Pythagoras to Descartes to Godel to Russell and Whitehead and beyond. There are ambiguities Resnikoff fails to acknowledge. Obviously, in some sense the Pythagorean theorem, the basis of one of Venet's works, has remained unchangingly true. Yet in non-Euclidean forms of geometry, the situation looks very different. Einstein's universal constant also has proved less than universal. The formulas of applied mathematics, the subject matter Venet is actually using, do not have the irrefutability of logical theorems, which are pure tautologies not involving statements about the outside world.

"The claim that one's particular speciality has attained an eternal verity seems laughable. It has been disproved in every new age of insight into reality--where the parameters have continually changed. Mr. Resnikoff seems to speak as a pure Platonist, who believes that the practitioners of his particular discipline have reached an ultimate point of knowledge that can never be altered or transcended. This is what theologians have said forever and ever.

"Indeed, "humanity's certified success in the quest for immortality," as Mr. Resnikoff calls mathematics, is what Gilgamesh thought he had achieved in the third millennium B.C., what Moses thought he had accomplished in the 13th century (or so) B.C., what Plato thought he had grabbed hold of in the fourth, what Aquinas thought he had in the 13th century A.D., what the Iranian mullahs claim today. It has never turned out to be true."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A complex twist of fate

As some of you know, I recently committed the social no-no of starting to date the ex of a friend of mine (those of you who haven't heard can email and ask WHO). I've been doing a lot of reflecting throughout the process, as well as a certain amount of panicking, weeping, and grinning like an idiot.

Choosing not to play nice, to go ahead and hurt someone for my own benefit, is strange for me. I have no idea how to find a middle way for guilt, something between psychic hara kiri and a Nietzschean pbbbt. I guess I settled on a day or so of suffering and then taking ownership of the choice I made, feeling happy.

I also prayed for humility, and for my feelings to be true. That is to say, as always, let my heart be in the right place.

A couple people I've told have had this, "Whoa," reaction, and I've come to believe that what I really did was make a personal choice that disregarded social rules, social relations, that flatly informal sphere of gossip, hanging out. This makes people nervous, understandably, especially those to whom I'm primarily tied via the social. My best friends just hope I'm happy.


The view from my new office is a stunner, especially after dark when the streetlights running down the parallels of 16th and 17th come on and, like heat shimmers, the horizon twinkles.

Can't resist a quick internet roundup.

This at equanimity yesterday:

Writing, teaching, having a conversation, feeling comes through. So often you can just see the writer hunching forward, forehead strained, lips pursed. Another birth dream? or another dog angry at having to do its business in public.

And totally best sonnet ever from Jim.

I don't know why this is also an archaeology blog, but this is amazing.

jades, jaguar-fang necklaces and Pacific Coast shells