Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Lord’s Day Snap Short

February 20, 2017

(Roland Barthes was a French thinker whose interest covered a wide variety of sins, from professional wrestling to photography. His partiality to photography is best remembered for his insight on the photograph itself. His unique understanding of the image was of something that had occurred, that was actual at one time, and would never be present again (save for the photographic image). The description bordered on mourning. Photographs described by Barthes as exemplifying this significance easily could be described as incongruous, with the image always inadvertently revealing something not immediately apparent without considered study. In this spirit All The Noose That Is Knot presents vignettes entitled Snap Shorts)


Sunday is for shooting. At one time the Sunday country morning was that of bird songs, insect droning, and spontaneous amphibian choral competitions. Before noon the world was a John Cage composition, interspersed with cattle lowing, crows calling, or passing Sunday-go-to-meeting church goers. If the Lord’s Day happened to be fair, the afternoon of the fauna turned mechanized with off road roaring, buzzing and humming – pick ups, ATV’s and motorbikes. But the juke box was never turned on before noon. Today the blue laws are gone, replaced by staccato gunfire, from surrounding compass points, dawn to dusk, with no breaks for lunch or supper. The change began about nine years ago. Words were spoken, and recorded; an embarrassment about “those people”, their guns and religion. In response, like a school student with a new band instrument only too eager to fulfill a request, Sunday became the perfect day to perform, and practice. Now the week’s rehearsal starts after 4 on Thursday from a few isolated virtuosos. Friday and Saturday brings tentative ensemble play. By Sunday, it is practically orchestral with all calibers deployed – single shots and semi-automatic rounds capped by fully automatic flourishes with a few high explosive cannon rounds thrown in to create an 1812 crescendo. True believers make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

The Way Of IKEA

January 10, 2017

Fulfillment center? Well, not exactly, but IKEA does address a lot of the household function concerns of urban dwellers. It does this with a nebulous generic form, a genealogy without pedigree muddled by global marketing and brand identity. IKEA could be identified as design living on a Walmart budget. Inquiries as to the nature of this design are met with hand waving and vague references to European styling or “that Scandinavian look”. Ostensibly one is to believe that IKEA is the successful progeny of a line threading back to the Bauhaus – you know, form and function, yadda, yadda. Contemporaneous with the Bauhaus, architects like Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier designed multi unit urban dwelling spaces, some possibly still in use as such. Word in the back corridors of Art History is that many of the later day residents of these designed living spaces retro fitted them with antique-y or traditional doors, cabinets, furnishings and old kitsch simulacra. Next generation functional household designers of the 1950’s spawned (amongst a plethora of other styles) the European or “Scandinavian” look that IKEA products hearken. Along with this echo of the 50’s, IKEA’s products integrate a nostalgic “hominess” that later residents of Le Corbusier’s and van der Rohe’s designed units preferred. That is to say, there is some L L Bean “cottage,” traditional, and “country” informality mixed in to the pastiche called IKEA design. But it is a ready made household function solution for the style dilemma of city dwellers with no heritage and even less uniformity of fashion/style. You can’t beat the price. Following in the footsteps of ancient Sears Roebuck, J C Penney, or original L L Bean, prices listed on the virtual catalogue are not, do not reflect the actual cost of an item (sort of the obverse of the suggested retail selling price that is actually always sold at a discount). IKEA does, however, have a growing number of brick and mortar, or rather steel span and sheet metal skin, retail outlets/warehouses where the price listed is the cash and carry cost. The marketing of these “stores” (so called as they are also restaurants) is rather unique and informs the attraction the brand has on young urban hipsters. The way of IKEA is only one way, literally. There is a one way path through the stores. Unlike a stroll down memory lane, this is a not-virtual stroll through each and every catalogue item offered, a real time (and space) celebration of stuff. Though an integral part of design within the last 50 years, modular furniture is conspicuously absent along this walk. This crack in the way informs much of the relationship between those who come to walk the way (and consume the offerings of the way) and the brand’s marketing. It also speaks volumes about the current culture of global capitalism. IKEA offers multiple offerings for whatever “desire” those walking the way may have. One doesn’t have to settle, but is able to find a “designer” response to whatever one needs. The gap generated by the lack of modular furniture reveals that as long as it is found along the way, it is a safe and more than acceptable expression of the urban dweller’s discriminatory taste. Modular (the LEGO like linking of small units to form larger or varied compositions, you know the stuff that ultimately results in software compatibility and systems being able to communicate with each other, etc.) invites considerations that may well lead off the IKEA path, something heretical to IKEA marketing. Does all this sound a bit religious? In “The Culture of the New Capitalism” (2006) Richard Sennett defines a contemporary up and coming individual as someone who “would get rich by thinking short term, developing his or her potential, and regretting nothing.” (so why speak of the Bauhaus?) The IKEA way fits right into this as any alternative, off the path consideration implicates some sort of long term thinking (or, gasp, identity), actualizing difference (through a wider and varied array of choice and selection), and referencing the history of objects, design and art (you remember, that Marxist material dialectic thing about ideas only being around because some material thing makes it so. But then, no regrets likewise means no memory). The poets may sing, the philosophers argue, and the teachers inspire that there is unlimited capability in each individual, that opportunities are created and actualized by individuals within any given moment, that all have the capacity to generate a world of multiple dimensions, colors, forms and shapes, yadda, yadda. And yet, for some reason, it is a preferred choice to make selections from a pre-established path, to make variations from selections deemed acceptable there, and to fill out the household with the safe “aura” of decisions made along the way. Is it any wonder that within a secular world defined by global capitalism a religious predisposition still maintains such an enormous presence?

Open Letter To David Brooks

January 3, 2016

After reading The Road To Character by David Brooks (2015) this essay response would not be contained. Mr. Brooks associates character with morality, and (for Mr. Brooks) morality implicates repression. In 2013 The Philosophy Of Dreams by Christophe Turcke was published. Mr. Turcke is catalyzed by Freud’s connection of dreams with repression (as manifestation, enactment, return, etc.) Turcke takes this as a vestigial remnant of the primitive psyche, akin to the human skeleton’s “tail bone” (coccyx). For human primitives trauma was frequent, baffling and totally beyond control. Turcke hypothesizes sacrifice as the primitive response to occurrences of trauma and the ensuing PTSD. Sacrifice in turn creates its own localized and limited kind of trauma, analogous to the bloodletting Brooks describes as being perpetrated on the young Samuel Johnson which was intended to cure while inflicting what was considered to be “minor” damage. For Turcke, repression became part of the evolution of the human psyche in terms of coping with trauma, and the trauma of sacrifice that evolved. After arguing for this, and referencing the discomfort produced not only by trauma and sacrifice but also repression, Turcke links the development/evolution of western culture with repression. For Turcke, Modernity’s entry through Romanticism’s portal of reflexivity spawned the desire and belief that humans could be free of repression. Turcke considers this belief (and the capacities that ensued) to have facilitated the innovations (technical, organizational, economic and ideological) that produced the culture of Big Me which Brooks alludes to. Big Me negates repression through automation (“hi tech”) that provides memory, does the hard work of number crunching, research, enables instantaneous communication (both linguistic and data as well as physical relocation), etc. This may or may not be a Copernican Revolution, though it took the Roman Catholic Church 400 years to admit that Galileo was not immoral. Morality may not be rock solid, fundamental, immutable as the offspring of Plato and Abraham may have us believe. On page 208 Brooks writes a brief segment entitled Humble Ambition in order to “recapitulate the Augustinian process”. It is curious to note that substituting the word “dark matter” for “God” doesn’t significantly alter the meaning of this segment, and is just as consistent. Here’s the end summation utilizing the substitution: “The genius of this conception is that as people become more dependent on dark matter, their capacity for ambition and action increases. Dependency doesn’t breed passivity; it breeds energy and accomplishment.” The God of Abraham and Plato may have been unfathomable majesty, ultimate virtue. The God of the Renaissance/Reformation may have become a patriarch, a father figure. Of the 19th -20th century, a Daddy Warbucks personality morphed with the Law. Morality, what it is to be moral, may likewise evolve along with the human psyche and the knowledge of God. Pre Samuel Johnson, in Bakhtin’s World of Rabelais, homelessness was not an issue. The Industrial Revolution of Johnson’s time methodically drove people from their “homes”. In the world in which most of Brooks’ “characters” formed their morality, the production of food was a challenge, an uncertainty. Today, distribution and waste underlie hunger, not production. Juxtaposing The Philosophy Of Dreams with The Road To Character leads one to justifiably question whether sacrifice and its accompanying repression are integral to morality, being moral. If morality evolves, then perhaps active goodwill and mindfulness (the antithesis of repression), located within the “outside”, external elements of the bifurcation Brooks employs (such as social organizations and institutions), are more important and on the rise. If morality doesn’t evolve, then we can only anticipate a return of the repressed.

The Great Pretender

March 11, 2015

The last thing political rivalry admits to is identity; that there is no difference. Differentiating grounds, no, founds political discourse in the US, grants it legitimacy. Currently, it is to the extent of deep polarization (civil war is being insinuated/rumored to be OK). The relationship/necessity of politics to govern, and whether these are good or bad, are precluded by the interests of this blog. Ditto the relationship/necessity of governance to society (who speaks of society without governance?). Making pretensions to difference seems to permeate the popular news coverage of late, especially that of politics and government. In an ancient tome entitled “The Imaginary Institution of Society” (original French 1975) Cornelius Castoriadis identifies “legein” and “teukhein”, with their intimate entwining, as integral to the institution of society. Crassly and coarsely put “legein” is determining or designating (language) while “teukhein” is making or doing. Immediately their interconnection jumps out in that designating is a making or doing through differentiating/identity (What Castoriadis describes as ensemblist-indentity logic or thinking; i.e. designating this grouping of a set as same, ditto it will differentiate the designated grouping from the rest of the set, thereby in turn determining an “other” than the same). Language determines. Yet since it is all we’ve got, it also can be used to conceal or deny (itself a kind of making or doing). One example of this elision or denial of instituting (while actually actively doing just that) can be found in the ostensible differentiation of the two major parties in US national governance, the culture wars, the future of America as we know it (and maybe civilization itself!), etc. The US President Barack Obama is chastised for being unwilling to determine or designate religious based violence/terrorism by describing it as, well, religious, and the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, authorizes state agencies to not utilize or reference the designation or determination of “climate change” (Science being considered as “secular.” And you always thought religion and science were different, didn’t you?). Religious grounds for making or doing are separated/differentiated from secular ones through the designation/determination of language. During the years of bloodshed in Northern Ireland, the IRA was never referenced as Roman Catholic terrorism. Such differentiation, the originally all too human institution of both (that which creates identity), is conveniently hidden, denied, elided or mystified. By actively attempting to “make” or “do” a differentiation of governing as human instituting and science being about something “not so” (humanly instituted) Governor Scott maintains the hidden, denied, elided or mystified aspect (of science, that it is humanly instituted). In “Pandora’s Hope” (1995) Bruno Latour repeatedly recounts and specifies the political intrigue and machinations of Louis Pasteur’s designation/determination of bacteria. That is, the science was a human institution. Like the US President, the Florida Governor wants to keep something hidden and unsaid while promoting a making or doing through identity with what can be said or revealed. The President elides the very human institution of religion through his determination/designation of terrorism (No Roman Catholic terrorists for him! Through his making or doing he affirms the mystifying aspect of religion’s political influence). The Governor elides admitting the very human institution of science through his designation/determination of state agency protocol (wherebye in actuality his making or doing affirms what Latour pointed out as the politics involved with the institution of science). This elision by both political rivals indicates identity, not difference.

SpongeBob And The Angels

October 23, 2013

The reports out of AP and others is that Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati has evicted a monument of SpongeBob SquarePants after originally admitting it, claiming it to be inappropriate. The legal argument (of course) pivots on a cemetery being like a condominium, though anyone who has visited one will attest that no one is living there – the cemetery, that is. Now the grieving are really aggrieved. Monuments are forever. No peace to be found in Spring Grove until this enduring dilemma is resolved.

In a 6-16-13 post entitled Punctum, All Of The Noose That Is Knot considered Eric S. Jenkins’ insights on a Barthesian Punctum within animation. Setting aside Barthes’ obvious corollary of mortality applicable to Spring Grove, what Jenkins had to say on a different matter creates some genuinely eternal concerns. “The punctum of animation, although likewise a punctum of “Time,” is about life rather than death… Jones [famed Warner Brothers animator Chuck Jones] might depict the character moving and expressing, but Bugs lives beyond the drawings. This child expresses animation’s punctum, sensing as alive that which exists only as image.” (Critical Inquiry Vol. 39 No. 3 pg. 585) This last line likewise could be used to describe an angel, of which there are probably a considerable number adorning monuments throughout most cemeteries. The Walkers, whose daughter Kimberly the monument is meant to commemorate, now may have recourse on aesthetic and cultural grounds. “Animation, animated subjects do not exist, have never been, share our world and experience only through the image, nothing more.” (this blog’s 6-16-13 post, Punctum). As much could be said for angels, though many, like the child recounted by Chuck Jones, actually see and believe in their actuality. This brings up an even gnarlier quagmire than the often related joke about Catholics in heaven (will anyone of another faith be there?). If our cemeteries are “populated” by what comprises our democracy (though strictly prohibited from being able to cast a vote by our boards of election), who determines the aesthetic, cultural appropriateness of commemorations to be found there?

Spring Grove's Eternal SpongeBob

Spring Grove’s Eternal SpongeBob

Not Depressed Enough Yet

March 29, 2013

Sonny Klimczyk is a musician, singer, songwriter in Zanesville Ohio, and a good one. Some folks find his songs a bit on the down side which makes him laugh. He feels that’s when he composes some of his best music. Recently, when he was performing, I asked if he had created any new ones. “No. I guess I haven’t been depressed enough yet.”
This week package bees arrived and folks were picking them up. The lady at the order confirmation table was shivering so bad she could barely write legibly. For those in the know, the bees needed to be hived under winter time conditions since it was cold and windy with occasional snow squalls. Writing to a friend about the experience I found myself saying “It all starts again, only without the sense of end. That also seems to make all the difference in the world.” The news that continues to come in regarding bees has not at all been very hopeful.
Vandana Shiva describes three economies – the business economy of “the market” and capital, nature’s economy of ecology, and the people’s economy of sustenance. The economy of ecology is described as nature’s economy – the cycle of water to clouds to rain, or of water filtering through the earth in order to be clean and sweet to drink, the composting process of dead and waste becoming nutrient for what lives, sheds waste and eventually dies, etc. This economy has no end but is continuous on account of its connectivity. This time of year people with a spiritual orientation, self-described as “religious”, celebrate the paradox of end and beginning. Philosophers would call this “making a cut”; to elaborate a break in order to give meaning to what is otherwise continuous, indescribable, without apparent start or stop. I guess the difference comes in when you take “the cut” literally, actually claiming and believing that what is in perpetual process without dependence on human agency begins or, just as well, has an end. To not be able to identify such a beginning or end is depressing for many of these folks. They would consider such an outlook of not being able to point at a beginning or end to be an expression of negativity or despair, neither of which is embraced by those with a religious partiality. The ecological economy has no end. It will continue whether there is a specifically human witness or not. The business economy is driven by and comprised of an end. It is not without human agency. To depreciate the business economy in order to appreciate the ecological economy would be depressing to a lot of folks. Right now, the scientific evidence seems to be mounting up overwhelmingly that the economy of business is drastically altering the economy of nature. I guess we’re just not “depressed enough yet” to compose a new outlook. To do that would require making a “cut”, admitting an end in order for there to be a new beginning; something that many are not exactly ready to celebrate this time of year.

Humpty Dumpty

March 15, 2013

Overnight Ohio’s other senator came out. Either senator could be “Ohio’s other senator” since both intentionally position themselves on opposite ends of our political polarity, asserting the wonderfulness of “our” policies in opposition to the “other’s”. Rob Portman, who voted for the defense of marriage act, is now in favor of extending those rights and privileges to same sex commitments. Rob’s reasons for doing so are spelled out by him. In the past, I would have considered this just a variation of “Little League” parenting. When your kid is in Little League, by gosh it is the greatest thing in the world. Years later, when your kids are grown, etc. “Little League? Oh yeah, my kids were in that.” A remote variant of this could also be what are called “Sunday Christians”, during the week they are unrecognizable from the infidels, but come Sunday, at church, they are the model of propriety. But I’m wrong. I think this touches more on what could only be described as “the order of things’ (not to be confused with Foucault). Recently, I received an email from someone close. Within it the person said “I don’t know if I’ve told you this but…” What came after the “but” was something we had many times discussed in person as well as emails. Old age? Absent mindedness? Onset of dementia? No, I don’t think so. This is a very adept person, a professional within public administration and dealing with others. The “I don’t know if I told you this but” revealed something about the hold that occupation maintains. Like Rob Portman, when it comes to the job, the “dealing with others”, a long time professional begins to fly on auto pilot. Correct and appropriate forms of speech and writing, appropriate decisions made at the correct time and correct way, the defense of marriage act approved, all because that is the way to “deal with others”. Then there are those we are close with, “our” friends and intimates. The professional divide, like the Berlin Wall, separates out these folks from the “dealing with others” ones, for these are “our” people. How many times have we heard someone exiting a high profile, dealing-with-the-public position claim it is so they can “spend more time with their family”? The Wall crashes down when we can’t help but confront the actual, the Real; that “our” people merge with the “other” people and are one and the same. Hierarchical culture produces hierarchical outlooks. When the interconnectedness, the necessity and integrity of all is experienced, it is very difficult to put things back together again and restore the order of things.

1930’s B Horror Movie Starring John Boehner And Barak Obama

December 21, 2012

“Religious faith and superstition are quite different. One of them results from fear and is a sort of false science. The other is a trusting.” (Culture And Value, Ludwig Wittgenstein, ed. G.H. Von Wright,1980, pg. 72)
The black and white King Kong genre movies of the early days of talkies come to mind with all the heathen infidels dancing around in veneration of their stage set idol. Superstition was easy to identify then. It was what the other did. What “civilized” folk didn’t. We knew better. Science had a lot to do with our being civilized. After all, if those folk were in the least scientific, they would recognize that their idol was nothing more than a Hollywood stage prop.
We are all science, all the time now. Our high tech solutions to low tech problems indicate an advanced level of sophistication. Whatever happened to superstition? Is it only found in NFL beer commercials and with dial-a-psychic? Has the bright glow of next generation computers cranking out perfectly modeled projections permanently erased the shadowy side of superstition?
“Superstition” may be not, but fear certainly is, and as pervasive as ever, perhaps even more so than found with less “civilized” manifestations. We certainly do constantly choose to act on that fear, to expend energy and resources “insuring” its imagined horrors do not visit our investments in progress and success, our carefully calculated and modeled projections for tomorrow. True, in a world enlightened by scientific knowledge, volcanoes don’t have appetites.

Ludwig has another small quote on pg. 73: “If someone can believe in God with complete certainty, why not in Other Minds?”

Today’s Menu: God And Mammon

August 26, 2012

Inside baseball on this week’s Moyers and Company that interests few but affects most. Bill’s guests were Robert Royal, editor of The Catholic Thing and founder of the Faith and Reason Institute (a tautology since reason assumes faith for the sake of consistency and cohesiveness though Kant argues we are hard wired that way!), and Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK (and the Nuns on the Bus). Context was provided by a mini documentary of the Nuns on the Bus protest of the “Ryan Budget”. For Americans this should have relevance since the Vice President is of the Roman Catholic persuasion (now, and to come). Who notices? Royal and Campbell both agreed that something is wrong, very wrong, and that the entire problem is complex, and huge. They even dared considering it as a global (and not purely American) phenomenon (Gasp! Who’d a thunk it?). What problem you ask? The growing income disparity and gap between incredible wealth and lack. According to Sister Simone 40% of Americans require some kind of gov’t assistance to continue to function (such as food stamps, children’s programs, disability assistance, etc.). This would be in keeping with the oft repeated statistics that over 40% of Americans have no net worth. She claimed this as “corporate subsidy” (allowing business to avoid any obligation or responsibility for the health and well-being of the workers it relies on to generate a profit- both through productivity as well as consumption). This was a pretty radical statement to make.  Hence, the immorality of the Ryan budget since it would hurt those in need while enabling the wealthiest (without the trappings of a bailout). According to Robert, this IS the problem. US poorest of the poor are better off than the poor in other parts of the globe and continued assistance has to be paid for by someone. The structure currently in place to pay for such is immoral- taking the earnings from where the wealth is and burdening the future generation with debt (there’s that Catholic thing again). To follow all the byzantine convolutions of the two arguments, tune in. But who notices?

What was very noticeable was the agreement of the two but the disagreement of the two that… Here’s where the thought gets complicated. Campbell immediately wanted to cut to the chase since, being a nun and all, the religious solution made perfect sense to her. We should have solidarity with our fellows and future generations in addressing the problem at hand, etc. Robert said this cannot be without abandoning the free market (and capitalism) that created this unique and wonderful country. And there’s the rub. Royal puts more faith in capitalism, as grounds for action and policy, than he does in his espoused religious faith (Christianity). He recognized no dichotomy in such a position, assuming it to be perfectly natural, and reasonable (why he founded the Faith and Reason Institute, I guess). After what we learned with Bruno Latour’s Iconoclast, his position is no surprise (the Reformation being as much about capitalism and bourgeois burghers as it was about corrupt religious practices and beliefs). The immediate agreement of the two with regard the nature and characteristic of “the problem” along with their polarity in regard any proposed solution highlighted the “unreasonableness” of his position- the dichotomy of the Christian faith and the Enlightenment foundation of capitalism. In solving a problem, all options must be considered. Insisting on the sanctity of specific bovines can be counterproductive in achieving a solution. If an MD doesn’t know the complete history of a patient (something is withheld by the patient as being “private”), if a mechanic isn’t allowed to assume the gasoline is bad, or a technician that the data provider may be awry, solving the problem becomes more and more difficult, if not impossible. Political economies all have their inconsistency. If that can’t be admitted, the problem only continues. The threat of a growing deficit may be what Royal focuses on, given his faith in the market, but a growing human resource deficit of a nation increasingly reliant on a working poor is what alarms Sister Simone. What was that line about serving God and mammon?

Mammon Televangelist

July 12, 2012

            Put your hands on the television and cry out that your elected representatives embrace the new majority. Commit yourselves anew to vote with Americans for Prosperity and a Publishers Clearing House guarantee for this life and the next can be yours today. Indeed, the grand Poo Pa of the Crystal Cathedral enjoins the four angels trumpet call from on high and announces that he, and only he alone, possesses the vision of wealth, the path of righteousness needed to create jobs so essential to the salvation of this great land. My brothers and sisters we have strayed in our ardor and devotion to riches and plenty. The economy underlies all our trials and woes. Body diseased and wracked with pain? A job is the cure! Education lacking to apply? A loan from above will light thy way; debt’s burden unbearable but the promised harvest of one’s dreams – priceless. The spirit is strong but the wheels are failing for such a taxing journey? EZ monthly payments are available to join the gridlock in the skyway. Purchase choices are an unlimited plan. Many are called but few are chosen. And it is the chosen that deserve the largest tax breaks for without them how could we ever choose, let alone know what to choose? It is our faith based economics that anoints us as a chosen people, unlike any other. The televangelist of mammon will not be silenced. Tirelessly he preaches the gospel of redemption: placing him among the elect will unleash the wealth known only on high to rain down on both the just and the unjust. Unto him it has been revealed. Mammon’s televangelist has been to the mountain on high, to one of his palaces, and understands the ways of gold. His opponent’s eyes have not seen the celestial glory for his gaze is downcast, earthbound, ensnared in the vision of the middle class. The incumbency of office is mightily burdened by the tradition of passing years. Ministering to everyday needs and cares precludes grand gestures of faith and healing, precisely what the wealthiest global economy requires.

            “However, it is precisely in the theatrical (performative) aspect of politics that reality and representation lose their distinct boundaries since politics exposes its own aesthetics. As Azatyan has argued, politics at this point reveals itself not as a reality production machine, but as an apparatus that imagines reality: it constructs its own reality as imagination, thus rendering the very separation between reality and representation obsolete.” (The Real and/as Representation: TV, Video, and Contemporary Art in Armenia by Angela Harutyunyan, pg. 109 Artmargins 1:1)

            Excluding totalitarian dictators, what head of an ostensibly democratic country (if any) has produced any substantial change to that country’s employment and GDP within the global economics of recent late term capitalism?