Sunday, December 16, 2012

Private Idaho, Meet Digital Switzerland

Popcorn by The Colonel #21

# “The notion that sanctity can ‘penetrate the full extent of mundane life’ is, according to [the philosopher Charles] Taylor, essentially a Protestant notion involving a rejection
of the medieval Catholic idea of the sacred, which requires the mediation of a church and a system of sacraments. The attention to ordinary life tends over the long run to de-sacramentalization; it also tends away from the compressed drama of classical theater and toward the novelistic interest in the details of daily life, ... increasingly for their own sake.” --Thomas S. Hibbs 

# So the trajectory is: (1) certain things are holy, (2) many things are holy, (3) everything is holy, (4) nothing is holy? The last step is the most troubling, from going always reverently unshod (because one cannot walk but on holy ground) to wearing one’s jackboots everywhere. 

# The Colonel’s old laptop suffered from “jumping cursor,” by which the insertion point in a document jumped around spontaneously. When TC's new laptop did the same thing, he resorted to the Web for help. Apparently the problem is an oversensitive touch pad, and (supposedly) there’s a downloadable fix. TC was so comforted by this knowledge that he didn’t bother to download the fix. Suffering explained and shared is endurable.

# Randy Newman was recently inducted into the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Flame,” according to the wayward tongue of Village Person Ed McKeon. Freudian slip? Celebrity is hell? 

# “A God who cannot pass back and forth at will between existence and nonexistence, or dwell at once in both or in neither, is not omnipotent, but a slave of Aristotle.” The reference is to Aristotle’s Law of Noncontradiction: “Contradictory propositions cannot be true simultaneously.” Nevertheless, Aristotle also held that if God is the cause of all being, he must himself be above being. This was a commonplace of the neo-Platonic tradition (e.g., Pseudo-Dyonisius), and permits believers to say, “Of course God doesn’t exist -- he’s above all that.” 

# Speaking of odd religious configurations, Lincoln (“now a major motion picture”) believed in a just God, but not in human afterlife. This stance resembles certain strains of Judaism (no afterlife, no resurrection). Other strains of Judaism allow for human afterlife. In neither case is it an urgent question, because Jewish morality does not rest on rewards and punishments in an afterlife. 

# The principal differences between Judaism and Christianity are not different answers to the questions “Why be good?” and “What does it mean to be good?” but rather different attitudes toward Jesus of Nazareth. To a religious Jew, claims that any human is divine (God incarnate) are inconsistent with the apartness, the holiness, the otherness of God. In addition, no human can excuse nonobservance by Jews of any part of divinely revealed law, such as seventh-day sabbath observance. 

# Random wondering: if The Colonel were demoted, would this space be “Popcorn by The Corporal”? 

# Any person, believer or not, who thinks there is no afterlife faces the question, “Why be good?” (Everyone faces this question, sometimes posed as "How shall I live?") Some possible answers for “no-afterlifers” are:

(1) Be good because God rewards good behavior and punishes evil behavior in this life (doesn't work for nonbeliever no-afterlifers); 

(2) Be good because you hope others will reciprocate, and life will be decent for many instead of unending war of all against all; 

 (3) Be good because to do evil is to surrender to meaninglessness and nihilism, and that's treason against one's own humanity; 

(4) Be good ‘cause Mama don’t allow no bad behavior in here. 

#“Dueling sayings” refers to the fact that many sayings have diametrical opposites. “Haste makes waste” but “he who hesitates is lost.” Another such yoked pair is “everything in moderation” and “nothing by halves.” 

# A Lincoln story: after waiting months for the right military moment, the President set January 1, 1863 as the date on which he would sign the Emancipation Proclamation. All that day the White House was full of celebrating abolitionists, vigorously pumping Lincoln's hand till his whole arm was shaky. When the hour came for the signing, Lincoln's signature was shaky. He turned to the crowd and said, “I expect that this document will be much studied in years to come. My shaky signature may cause some to think I had doubts about signing. Let all of you know that I have been shaking hands all day, and my arm is shaky. I have no doubts.”

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