What is a Meaningful Life?

MEANING PIC
Revolution 36 by Darwin Leon

A MEANINGFUL LIFE BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

What do we mean when we say someone leads a meaningful life?

We mean his life is important, worthwhile, directed to a significant end, at least as far as he is concerned. Although others may disagree with his evaluation, its formal meaning is derived from the society which has communicated to him its values from the time of his birth.

A meaningful life, then, has a very high social value, the absence of which may cause a man to despair. Perhaps he has arrived at the conclusion that the world including society is deaf to him; that there is no god, or that god is the devil or could really care less about him; that mankind is really a herd of animals heading for the slaughter house; that all the ruminations about meanings are vain and indigestible.

The despairing man says life is meaningless, yet he may yearn for the Good Old Days, perhaps medieval days under the motto “universalia sunt realia” (universals are real), the Universal of universals being the Supreme Being. The extreme version of the motto, “universalia sunt ante rem” (universals exist before the thing) may be too far gone for him, but “universalia sunt in re” (universals are in the thing), will do nicely. Needless to say, “universalia sunt post rem” (universals are after things; i.e., are just their names), will not do at all, for that falls outside of the real Middle Ages, aggravating the very meaninglessness he abhors.

Ah, yes, the Good Old Days of Universals! And what was universal to the Gothic soul? What was meaningful? The meaning of medieval life was given in facts of belief rather than by scientific manipulation of the environment. The purpose of the medieval soul was its universal edification. We find a universal People, King, Church, Economy, Style (Gothic), Code (Chivalry), Science (Theology), Ethic (Evangelical), Law (Roman), Language (Latin). Yet in contrast–and the Middle Ages had its stark contrasts–the individual was certainly significant, as is obvious from the various confessions and works of art still available today.

In our own time, now that God is dead, Nature is dead, and Existence is almost dead, the despairing man may long for the Gothic time when man really believed in visions both true and false: in God and Devil, saints and witches, and, most of all, in himself, good and evil. Indeed, since God was real and the world was His work, shadowy and mysterious though He and His work might thankfully be, a man believed in everything; which is to say that he, like God, loved the world so much he sacrificed himself for it. So great was a man’s love for life good and evil, that he believed Love was the origin of everything; and he strove, like the Gothic Spire, to rise into Heaven to meet his Maker.

What joy, what optimism have those who truly believe and therefore lead meaningful lives!

Furthermore, the medieval soul did not care for trashy, mass-produced goods, but took pride in the crafts. Since standards of living were relatively fixed according to one’s secured station in life, there was no need for amassing surplus income. Mammon was the Devil, and many were the knights, scholars, clerics, beggars and troubadours who considered work to be a diabolical curse.

Well, now, perhaps scholars will beg to disagree with that assessment of the medieval genius, yet they will probably agree that the despairing man must believe there was or can be such a thing as a meaningful life; otherwise, he would have no complaint about its present meaninglessness. In other words, his meaninglessness has meaning.

What, then, is the difference between the man who commits suicide, perhaps killing others as well, because he says life has no meaning, and the man who would die for and kill others for meaning?

There may not be as much difference as we suppose, especially when we consider only the decaying bodies. However, suicide by one’s own hand instead of by others in battle does seem more absurd. Life must have meaning, it seems, or else there will be hell to pay. We assume that meanings are communicated by ideas, and that all thinking is FOR the thinkers. Medieval thinkers thought that knowing just to know was a pagan activity; modern thinkers think all thinking has a useful motive, although the thinkers might be unaware of it. It stands to reason, if a meaningless life is not worthwhile, then meanings are worth dying for. As I have said, there is even a meaning to meaninglessness, just as the idea of nothingness has meaning in relation to somethingness. So the suicide kills himself for meaning.

But alas, many ideas once valued at the risk of life and limb are now considered worthless or merely of historical interest, and we suspect many of our own precious meanings will appear ridiculous to our successors. So why should anyone want to risk his life for what may be an illusion or even a mass delusion? Are we that desperate to lead meaningful lives? for some illusion? for some delusion?

Indeed! Some philosophers say the world is an illusion; not that we should try to jump through walls; not that the world is not really a creation; but that our perceptions and conceptions of that creation are and shall always be distorted, and are often completely false. Why, then, would any sane man despair over his conceptions of mere phenomena, or why would he wind up killing himself and or others over them? A normal man has some cause for despair if he has no food and shelter and company, and cannot satisfy his needs for them. And he has reason to be angered by ideas conceived to deprive him of necessary property or of sufficient life and liberty to enjoy the necessaries and have some spare time to reflect. But for a man to chase after nebulous phantoms such as “success”, pursuant to some ideology of what a meaningful life is, and then to despair when the ghost is not apprehended, is even more absurd than the suicide who leaves his problems behind unvanquished.

Now, then, I realize we cannot go back and live in the Middle Ages, nor can we force ourselves or others to believe in something that no longer holds water for us or for them. How pathetic it is to see “faiths” argued, for there is no need to defend true faith by argument; the arguments are confessions of weakness and fear. Still, notwithstanding the death of the god, nature, and existence we were once so certain of, the Universal still presides whether we know it or not, and whether or not creation moves up or down to or from the Universal, or both.

As far as I am concerned, the most meaningful life is in the painful climb, in the attempted ascent through the hierarchy of universals to the Universal of universals. (1) It is only in climbing that I can tolerate the particulars below; otherwise, I might as well, in utter despair, start shooting at random from the hip; for what difference would anything make in the slime, or in the shark-eat-shark ocean, black-inked by cuttlefish? On the upper hand, if I may climb out of my own futility on the slippery slope where I can do no harm except back slide into other climbers, then I am confident I shall obtain a secure position to do some little good for everyone else on the Mountain above and below.

For I too am inspired by the Gothic Spire aspiring to the Infinite. Let anyone say, then, since I may never arrive at my destination, that I lead a meaningless life, and I shall reply, “That is exactly what I mean, and it is good enough for me.”

-XYX-

(1) Truth is a most exalted universal, yet it is found only in agreement, in the central love for one’s kind. Samuel Taylor Coleridge remarked on that truth in his political essays: “The world is a vast labyrinth, in which almost everyone is running a different way, and almost everyone manifesting hatred to those who do not run the same way. A few indeed stand motionless, and not seeking to lead themselves or others out of the maze laugh at the failures of their brethren. Yet with little reason: for more grossly than the most bewildered wanderer does he err, who never aims to go right. It is more honorable to the head, as well to the heart, to be misled by our eagerness in the pursuit of truth, than to be safe from blundering by contempt of it. The happiness of mankind is the end of virtue, and knowledge is the knowledge of the means; which he will never seriously attempt to discover who has not habitually interested himself in the welfare of others. The searcher after truth must love and be beloved; the general benevolence is a necessary motive to constancy of pursuit; and this general benevolence is begotten and rendered permanent by social and domestic affects.” Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, The Best of Coleridge, Thomas Nelson & Sons: New York 1934

What Every True Conservative Wants the Most

MAMA PIC

Graphic by Darwin Leon

I WANT MY MAMA BY AARDY AARDVARK

A true conservative always wants his mama and should just say so.

It is very difficult for a professor of politics to be honest with himself let alone his students. That is especially true for a conservative such as myself. In fact, whether one thinks he is a liberal or a conservative, it is politically incorrect to tell the truth about the motives for one stance or the other. Instead, to keep up the distinction between the two political positions, he must lie through his teeth on a daily basis.

Nevertheless, regardless of the political exigencies that require constant deception, I think it is a good idea to try to keep in touch with our true nature on a regular basis. I shall set aside a half-hour on each Monday, the day devoted to the Moon, to telling the truth about my political orientation regardless of its sexual implications.

I am a conservative. What I really want is my Mama. I want to go back to her womb. I am afraid to say so because of the prejudice against incest. But my incestuous urge is towards the cosmic Mama that all mothers represent in their original virginity.

My Mama is pure and unstained by the sorry progress of this filthy world. My birth mother did her best to provide me with a good upbringing according to her favorite maxim, “Cleanliness is Godliness,” but she was unable to rid the world of the filth of progress.

I want my cosmic Mama. There is no dirt in her. She is black. Her womb is absolute space, devoid of dirty details, of mere light and dirt and eyes to see it. Mama owns absolute space, the infinite void: her essence is absolutely a priori.

I must say that progress is disgusting. As far as I am concerned, progress is just another concept proving liberals have managed to delude themselves. The vulgar perceptions of creation and the ridiculous concepts that follow are delusory, manifestations of mass hysteria, organized narcissism, and common ignorance of reality.

Progress is cowardice, an excuse for running away from Mama, a perverse denial of the instinctive will to regress to the womb of Mama. Liberals who say they love change are self-deluded; their change is relative; change is nothing without something to change against, without a background. The background is Mama, and the struggle against her is futile because the struggle amounts to and results in nothing.

Instead of running away from Mama, we should run to her. She will take perfect care of us. Our so-called liberty is merely a figment of an imagination we do not really own. Only in lying disobedience to Mama are we free individuals. We are going to learn our lesson soon enough: liberty is a delusion in the long run. Therefore, why waste our time running around like fools when we can run to Mama? That is what I really want to do, but I have been afraid to admit it because of the conservative code of silence, the big lie. But from this day forward I shall speak out every Moon Day in different places around the illusory world. I shall speak the truth as a conservative:

I want my Mama.

Aardy Aaardvark, Phd. Professor of Politics Vaard University

Hola Cabron – On Goats and Cuckoos

CABVRON PIC

HOLA CABRON by David Arthur Walters

On the relevance of goats and cuckoos

Mexican friends of mine often call me “goat” in Spanish. I thought it was an affectionate term. Just last Sunday I overheard a Hispanic man answering his cell phone on South Miami Beach. He boomed, in friendly Spanish, “Hola, cabron!” (Hello, goat!)

However, my new friend Carlos, a Dominican-American from Manhattan, was angered because I strolled up and greeted him thus when his ex-wife was visiting him last week. After he calmed down. I explained that I thought ‘goat’ was a pet name. His wife was grinning from ear to ear.

“No, it is an insult to call a man a goat,” he vehemently said, and noted that some Dominicans would punch me out for using that dirty word. After his wife left, Carlos said cabron means a guy’s wife is running around on him and he doesn’t do anything about it. I profusely apologized and made myself scarce.

The more I thought about the affectionate way my Mexican friends called me a goat, and Carlos’s angry reaction to the word, the more curious I became – I am single, by the way – so I asked a Columbian friend of mine about the meaning of the word:

“Don’t say that. It’s a very dirty word.”

“Does it refer to a man whose wife is running around on him?” I asked.

“No,” she answered, “it is a dirty word. In English it means (expletives deleted). You use that, it will be big trouble for you.”

“But,” I insisted, “my Dominican friend told me it has something to do with goat behavior, the way goats run around on their wives.”

“No. It has nothing to do with that,” she insisted. “What is the English word for that?”

“The English word is ‘cuckold’. Now that I think of it, I’ve heard something about goats in English, about a husband being horned because his wife is cheating, meaning she made a goat out of him.”

“Cuckold?”

“The word is about a kind of cuckoo bird that runs around on her mate, but he does nothing. So they say a man has been cuckolded or that his wife made a cuckoo out of him. ”

“Cuco. I understand.”

“If you call an American a cuckold he might be insulted, but it is not a fighting word like (expletives deleted).”

That made her laugh.

“We don’t use cabron that way. Here, I have a book in Spanish for you to read,” she said, handing me a paperback book by Julio Cortazar. Even if you don’t understand everything, keep reading and you will learn many things. I have a dictionary for you somewhere.”

Someday I will take a Spanish class, I thought as I trudged home. Just going around and asking people one word at a time is fun, but is not the best way to learn a language. Nevertheless, I went over to Kafka’s Kafe, an Internet cafe on Washington Avenue, later that evening and asked a friend from Argentina:

“Does cabron mean a man whose wife runs around on him and he does nothing?”

“No, that is a bad word – what do you say? curse word?”

“I think cabron originally meant a goat or a husband whose wife cheats, and later on it became a cuss word,” I expounded.

“Yes, cuss word, that is it. The word you want is cornudo. It means the horns have been put on somebody. ”

“Mira, mira, look at this!” I exclaimed – I had just ran a search on the word at Google. “This site about Puerto Rico says the first definition is, ‘A man who lets his girl cheat on him is a cabrón’. And it can be used to show affection for friends.”

“Hmmm. That is in Puerto Rico. It is bad word in Miami. We don’t use it.”

“I hear friends calling each other that.”

“They must be Puerto Ricans.”

“Mexicans.”

“They use a lot of bad words. But their Spanish is good.”

I had heard just the reverse about Argentinians, from Cubans. I had to consult a dictionary at the main library the next day. Not that a dictionary is a reliable teacher, but at least it represents some sort of standard that people without certified professional teachers can refer to when in doubt. I looked up cabrón in Real Academia Espanola’s Diccionario de la Lengue Espanola (1984):

  1. Macho de la cabra. 2. fig. y vulg. El que consiente el adulterio de su mujer. 3. El casado con mujer adulteria. 4. El que agaunta corbardamente los agravios o impertinencias de que es objecto. 5. El que hace cabronadas o malas pasadas a otro.

That is a very dignified way, I thought, of defining a “vulgar” figure of speech. Number 4 is my favorite: Latins can be so macho! Okay, if one believes a goat has dirty habits, I supposed, then calling someone a goat might make the word a dirty word. But still it is hardly an obscene word, at least not in the sense of the various English expletives offered to me as synonyms. Perhaps I need a Spanish slang dictionary. In any case, I don’t think I will use “Hola, cabron!” as my answering message.

Note: The author begs the reader’s pardon for his impertinencias if he has omitted pertinent diacritical marks. There is too much to remember with Spanish! For instance, cinco años means “five years”, whereas cinco anos means “five asses”. Besides, the browsers often make muck of letters with diacritical marks.

Miami, July 2005

My Black Ford

BLACK FORD PICK

MY BLACK FORD BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

When I was seventeen years old, I bought an old black Ford and drove it over to the Highway Patrol station to take the driver’s test. I had one heck of time just getting there because I did not know how to shift gears and work the clutch and brake at the same time, so when I had to stop at the top of a hill, after trying four times to go over the hill I had rolled back down the hill–good thing nobody was behind me.

I made it about a half-hour late and took the test. The first thing I did was back right into the wall of the station, but no damage was done. Fortunately the officer was very tolerant. After the test he wrote out a temporary license, handed it to me and said, “Drive carefully, son, and may God help you.” What a nice guy, I thought. Authority is not so bad after all.

Well, I was thrilled. So I drove down to Main Street, to Mel’s Bar & Grill. The horizontal parking downtown was tough going, but I got into a space on the third try. I went into Mel’s and guzzled beer with three Mexicans–I was already six foot tall, and nobody bothered to ID me. We got smashed, and while we did there was a big fight between the rubes and the Indians; one rube got sliced from his neck to his belly button; it was really cool. Anyway, I wanted to show off my car to my drinking buddies, so off we went with a pint of tequila one of them had.

Caramba! What a ride that must have been – I was so drunk I can’t remember much of it. We almost made it to the shopping center on the outskirts of town, where I ran into the median strip and lost control of the car. It careened across two lanes, knocked down the 15 MPH sign and the sign for the donut shop as well. I luckily missed six or seven other cars. My three amigos in the back seat shouted “Vamos!” I backed off the donut-shop sign, did a U-turn and got the hell out of there–believe me, I had never head the phrase “hit and run” yet.

I dropped off the Mexicans back at Mel’s, and, amazingly, made it to my house, where I parked the car, staggered inside, and called my best friend Jim. I told him what had happened, asking him how much it might cost to fix the smashed in front and side of my car. He told me about “hit and run” and said I would be in big trouble, so stand by, he said, and he would come over and check things out.

That he did, and when he saw the damage, he said, “Man, the cops will see this and add two and two, match up the paint, and you’ll go to jail for sure.”

What to do? “Get rid of the car.” So I drove the car over to the river with him following behind. When we arrived I aimed the car at the river, got out, Jim put a rock on the accelerator, and over the edge of the embankment it went, rolled a couple of times, and sank into the river. It was really cool to watch. But the back end was sticking out of the river! What could we do? We left.

The next day the cops came to my house while I was sleeping, banged on my door and asked me where my car was. “It’s outside,” I said, rubbing my eyes, hung over pretty bad. “Show us.” Outside we go.”Oh, where is it?” I said, “I parked it there. Somebody has stolen it!” The cop said, “We know what you did. You dumped it in the river.” I confessed right there, too naive to know he had made that up.

Next stop: the police station. No sweat, my dad bailed me. He was pissed but he saw how sorry I was so he did not lecture me much. Then to the courtroom, where I told the judge I did not know it was against the law to leave the scene of an accident or dump cars in the river. That was the first time I heard, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Damn! But I got off light. So did the community, fortunately: I realized people could have been killed. Nobody had been hurt, and I had to wash police cars for six months. And I had to work to raise the money to pay the fees it cost to retrieve my car from the river, tow it into town, and store it, but it was a worthless junk!

That’s about the time I started dreaming about becoming a serious writer.

# #

Fear and Love and Doom – Reflections on Columbine Massacre

Fear and Love Image

Painting by Darwin Leon

FEAR AND LOVE AND DOOM

Reflections on the Columbine Massacre

By David Arthur Walters

The bloodshed from the murders and mayhem at Columbine High School was still fresh in our minds when the three foremost proposals to curb violence were once again raised: gun control, media controlled preaching religion in schools.

A foreigner, a Japanese psychologist, made one of the most instructive comments. He said that Japanese children have all of the violent programs that American children have, including the interactive ones. However, he went on, it is extremely difficult to buy weapons in Japan. Most importantly, he concluded, Japanese children learn that they must love in order to succeed.

We can imagine why the Japanese people have a strong aversion to the possession and use of instruments made for the express purpose of killing. Although a device for another purpose, such as an automobile or a toothbrush, can be used to kill, the image of a weapon beckons us to its proper purpose. Because of man’s glaring unpredictability, just the sight of a man with a gun causes some men to imagine killing him in preemptive self-defense. In Japan, even the blades of old war swords are ruined before being sold as souvenirs. Fragments of unthinkable horror still reside in the psychological mementos of Japan’s last war, making of disarmament a virtue not easily extinguished, especially in the light of two generations of peaceful development.

We might suppose, for the sake of argument, that if Japanese children learn they must love in order to succeed, then failure to love is feared because it has dire social consequences. In contrast, Americans tend to believe that love should be voluntary, and that fear of failure stifles innovation. We prefer more of a devil-can-do-and-take-all attitude, rather than rigid social conformity. However that may be, and whatever our superficial differences, we now look out for success in each other and are quick to appropriate each other’s models and to exploit them under our own names. Fortunately for the development of the human race, people do not have identical experiences everywhere at the same time; hence we learn from diversity and profit accordingly. Therefore, there is much to be gleaned from the remarks of a foreigner regarding our domestic difficulties.

Of course the relation of fear and love is certainly familiar to the so-called Western mind. Yet there exist different cultural balances of fear and love with corresponding expressions and measurable consequences. When the progression from fear to love is being strangled somewhere along the line, the person finds the obstruction in a real or imagined object and tends to respond violently. Or, without fear to discipline desire along a loving course, love is rendered worthless altogether and the random response can be generally devastating. Therefore, the domestic balance of fear and love is more important than a financial balance. Certainly the global balance of fear and love is more vital to the favorable determination of man’s future estate than the current sum of international trade balances.

Besides regional and world trade organizations, we should have assemblies for the assessment of the current balances of fear and love. Our assemblies could educate us on how to achieve the optimum balances given the various circumstances. A grand assembly could render its opinion on whether the deliberate inculcation of fear has been outmoded as an educational technique. Just as political think tanks ascertain whether or not a people are ready for free democracy, our grand assembly could advise us on whether or not we are ready for unmitigated love. Americans must be almost ready for it, now that parents are paying several hundred dollars for a course based on the premise that children should be rewarded for good conduct and that bad behavior should be ignored until somebody is getting hurt.

As a matter of fact, prophets have been speaking of an impending age of love for many centuries. One popular prophecy is that such an age will follow an enormous disaster or series of disasters, natural or manmade. Some good folk will be saved. They are ushers of Love who heed the early warning signals, flee to the designated shelter, abandoning everything that they may live. Life is their love. The rest cling to their possessions for fear of losing everything, so they perish. They love dead things. Our prophet here is an extremist, but he is still a prophet of both fear and love for the doomed and the saved. It is, rather, a question of what to fear and what to love: the Subject of subjects, or the objects, which are nothing as things in themselves. Although he seems hell-bent on doom, he proclaims that fear of death and love of life will spare the faithfully obedient. He advocates the fear of eternal damnation and the love for eternal life beyond the relative life span of individuals.

Well, then, will there be preaching in schools? Will there be no separation of state and church?

The separation of state and church is made moot by the prophecy of doom. The proud walls and towers of both state and church will tumble down to be united in rubble, paving the way for the humble school of the society of love.

It may seem to the cynical that our prophet is just another angry man who hates the obstructions to his self-love, and who calls upon an imagined supreme being to fulfill vicariously a destructive wish for revenge. Who dares to identify the obstructions for everyone else and thus define the universal will of the ineffable? Is not that the height of blasphemy, the epitome of pride, and the idolatrous projection of indignant selfishness? Perhaps we have in our prophet just another misfit by his perverse choice, or an outcast by social consensus, or someone who is making up his own divine laws because he is lacking order in his own life. Maybe, to protect ourselves, we should have him committed to the appropriate institution; the learned doctors surely have a number for his kind of disease. Why should we heed his orders as our commands? Because, although he may be a misfit and an outcast, he did not create his orders: he found them in reality. There is a reason for and a method to his madness, which is confirmed by the social order. Or, rather, the social disorder.

Indeed, the madness of the angry prophet is a prominent symptom of the social disorder and disease reflected by the media. It is an infectious disease transmitted and aggravated by mass communication based on the fetish for dead objects and the pernicious perseveration of vicious imagery taken out of context. As social animals we have a tendency to imitate, and the media is our main guide. Ironically, the very executives and experts who deny the harmful consequences of violent communications rely on positive affirmations and attitudes, on mottoes and slogans, visions, mission statements, success stories and other prayers. Of course, the petitions are for net profit, thus the vicious cycle is perpetuated.

One sort of prosperity, such as net profit or savings, pursued as the purpose of life, is the worst kind of poverty. “Stocks” were once sticks on which accounts were kept. Now too many of us have become economic ants carrying our stocks on our backs up the wall of financial worry, a wall where our big gun, our collective defense, Humpty Dumpty, uselessly awaits us. This period of sustained economic growth that appears so satisfying is a horrible hell to others who need viable alternatives to check the waves of random violence that are bound to encircle the insane global pursuit of dead objects and the mutual contempt of competitors. Observe the obsession with violent images thrown with wanton disregard into the pool of life. The rebounding waves of virtual, redundant violence are amassing at that critical point where image is converted into accelerating action, threatening to destroy us in an orgy of mass murder-suicide.

What other signs do we have of the coming cataclysm besides raving prophets, lying leaders, high school shootings, obscure wars, and mounting prison populations? When shall we be sure that the end time is near, that the final period is upon us? There are many signs everywhere, creeping up on us through the cracks in all walks of life. So slowly do they slither about us that we are hardly aware that life is being slowly squeezed out of us, just as we squeeze a tube of toothpaste until it is exhausted. We are caught unawares because many of us have been persuaded that history is merely the evolution of technology. The fact that our democracy is now an economic dictatorship feeding on the carcass of the spiritual body is seldom mentioned by professionals; what counts is that the colossal maggot feeds efficiently. Technology preachers presume to tell us what we will want next; efficiency is the idol, so everyone must have a personal digital assistant to distract him from his slavery with an illusion of freedom, and have a life otherwise bemused and bewitched by gimmicks and gadgets. The efficient exploitation of public opinion reigns supreme; there is no such leader as a leader of public opinion; there are only imitators and exploiters of it. Techno-capitalists produce the circumstances of our lives, which we are to live out, as the walking dead, under a coercive technological totalitarianism sponsored by the big business state.

Furthermore, money outweighs votes. Consciences are sold cheaply at market prices. When the government, which is supposed to have a monopoly on violent means, does not use its power to disarm individuals for the public good or protect them from nuclear attack, it seems that private firearms will indeed be needed to protect us, not so much from the usual suspects, but from governments that behave like vast systems of organized crime.

Yes, many are the signs of the impending doom. Some seem rather trivial. When the distances between periods diminishes; when sentences get shorter and shorter; when word processing programs dictate sentence length and otherwise shrink consciousness into mechanical definitions of good grammar; when attention spans are so short that only sound bites will do; when conversations sound like machine guns spitting out uniform bullets; when delightful romantic discourse can no longer be carried on; and when everyone talks technology: these are just a few of the incidental signs along the fast road to doom.

What we observe in the prophecies of doom and in the popular movies about natural disasters and random violence is not only a death wish; it is a dying plea for the restoration of a proper balance between fear and love. Between fear and love there must be the faith that there is a greater good, a higher good than state or society, regardless of its denomination. The progress from fear through faith to love may be contemplated, in the form of a convenient over-simplification, in terms of ages.

The age of fear is the rule of law under the state. The age of faith is the beneficence of grace within the church. The age of love is the intercourse of free society. The progression is from slavery to voluntary obedience to freedom; under the objective forms of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy; as personalized by the relations of father, mother, and children; the relatives are essentially one family. All are one and one is all. The differences perceived are perspectival.

If we do not broaden our perspectives and restore the proper relation of fear, faith, and love, if restitution is not forthcoming soon, the prophet will keep ranting that the violent images before us are self-fulfilling prophecies, that our death wish will come true sooner than we think, and that we will surely receive what we ask for. Doom

Introduction To The Word God

Aardvark

Am I just another aardvark or am I a god?

I tend to cringe a bit when I open a book by an unknown author and see the word ‘God’ on every page. The word ‘God’ has been misused to justify every damned thing, to avoid personal responsibility for every sort of misdeed.

An arrogant individual behaves like almighty god and refuses to confess that he is the god actually doing the speaking. Furthermore, to speak of the subject named ‘God’ as if God were an object-out-there is the worst sort of materialistic profanity. Indeed, to speak of the Subject-of-subjects as an object is grammatical idolatry. Moreover, it is technically blasphemy, for the name ‘God’ is being used to slander God by calling God an object.

Once I perceived that the usual employment of the usual deity-word of pagan origin was perverse from both the scientific-objective and religious-subjective perspectives, I simply ignored literature in which it often appeared. However, I have lately developed a keen interest in religious subjects and their core Subject-of-subjects, the Supreme Generalization, not because I have or want Faith in general or some organized faith in particular, but because I want to know more about my real self, the subject I am, before my body turns to dust.

Indeed, I have become more concerned with death, the foil for life, and with the purpose of life itself in contrast to death, especially the human life that is mine at present. Hence the topic ‘God’ and everything ‘God’ stands for arose in relation to my concern, and led me to the realization that whether or not God “exists,” human beings with their fear of death and their hope for life certainly do exist, and that ‘God’ is the proper topic for study if I am to get to know them and therefore myself in our mutual concern. ‘God’ may be nothing more than the projection of the human Ego or Existential “I”, but what is that?

Who am I? Who or what lives and dies and why? Such a selfish need to know invariably leads to a search for obscured causes or origins. Is not the self or subject the origin or cause of my effective existence? I want to know who I am, the subjective “I” that is me and every other “I” like it. In our mutual identity we are the human Subject-of-subjects, the True Man, if Truth be agreement. We are, to the extent our wills are one will, the Collective Cause of our “I”s. But I cannot know “I” alone, for “I” am knowing-subject and not object-known. However, I can know the effects, or the objects of causes. And if objects can be understood as the universal Object, I can know the Object-of-objects, sometimes called “World.” Needless to say, this Object is acted on or tainted by the Subject by virtue of some active Relating. Not that “I”, as I ordinarily think of myself (as a unique individual), am the sole omnipotent creator of the World, yet in the respect that I am a cause influencing the World along with my perceptions and conceptions appertaining thereto, I act by some means of Relating.

Therefore there is a third Moment involved. I would also know the active relating between subjects and objects, and the Relating between the general Subject (Cause) and Object (Effect), or more mundanely, between Man and World. That Relating is said to be spiritual, energetic, forceful and so on, an activity called “spirit”, “energy”, “force” and so on. Thus we have a third term. Where we have a Cause and an Effect we also have a intermediating Force. In temporal terms, we have the Past (Cause), the Future (Effect) and the intermediating Present (Force). Or, here is another word play: Heaven is the Cause, Earth is the Effect, and Life is the Force.

Besides the three Moments, there is a final concern to be termed, the unity of the three, the Triune. Some heretics think that the Triune is a fourth Moment, signifying the Power behind the other three! Other heretics dispense with the three terms altogether and say they know the ONE and only ONE. Since all these speculations defy the known laws of logic, and rely instead on the faith that inspired the disputes that resulted in the discovery of logical precepts, there are many heresies (“to choose”) to choose from.

Such are the metaphysical calisthenics resulting from my concern with my own life and death. The exercises have had many good and bad effects for me just as they have had for the world at large. At the very least they distract my mind from the final answer to the ultimate question. As I said, I am seeking myself in my causes. Sometimes I think I have an inordinate concern with the past, but then I observe archeologists and psychoanalysts digging up the past, and I notice astrophysicists speculating on the origin of the universe: I do not think I am out of order. Some good might come out of self-spelunking!

That good might extend our lives a bit or make them more enjoyable, but as we advance in age during our investigations, the end of our bright future becomes increasingly obvious, as if it were not obvious all along as we inspected the bones being dug up. Ah, but if the secret of the Cause of that awful Effect could be found as we approach the birth of death, then we will be able to recreate the elixir of immortality and slake the thirst of that godly portion of us dying to live forever. But alas, as we approach the ultimate truth of life, the Ultimatum, it is too late.

Little did I suspect when I began my struggle to know myself that I was digging my own grave. Little did I suspect that my historical researches were literal grave diggings. The deeper I dug into the archives to rob the dead of some life for myself, the more I encountered intimations of the Unknown beyond the tombs. The intimations occurred to me by means of the ghostly traces of men and women who lived centuries if not millennia ago, people who were seeking to know themselves then just as I am now.

Many of the ghosts I encountered were speaking of gods with different names, then of one ‘God’. I wanted to know what they meant. I believed I might from that meaning ascertain who they really were and if they still are. Strange as it may seem, I received a message saying “No one is dead, we are all here.”

So I am proceeding with my excavations, seeking life in the dead, as if there were a death instinct in life. It is not the leisure pastime most people are wont to engage in. I must say “terror” is often a better word for my preoccupation than “leisure.” Yet my work does have its ecstasies, its exalted periods. It has its cataleptic, its catatonic periods, and its virtual rigor mortis.

Although my preoccupation may seem morbid to some, am I any more morbid than an aardvark digging his burrow to live and to perhaps die in? Who knows what an aardvark is thinking during the burrowing process, or what termites taste like to him? If I am morbid, I am nevertheless immensely entertained by the process, and that process is Life, is it not?

I bring my crude personal introduction to the word ‘God’ to a rapid conclusion here so that I may get back to an excavated site where I found the ghost of one of the most influential heretics that ever lived. He is a profound pessimist who constantly speaks of the God of Love. When I return, I might relate what I learned from him, just in case anyone is listening.

# #

David Arthur Walters

Honolulu 1999

The Wonderful Honor System for Parolees

PAROLE OFFICE IMAGE
Kansas City Parole office where parole officer fired gun
and threatened to commit suicide 2012

THE HONOR SYSTEM FOR PAROLEES BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

I have lately encountered many parolees chatting in the back of the city bus that goes up and down Kansas City’s Main Street. I was listening in on a lively discussion just yesterday, and heard a convict say that he did not like the “honor system” very much, that serving ones time out in prison was better than living in the half-way house.

Another con said that was nonsense, because if a man serves his whole time and has no place to go when he gets out, he is dumped on the street in the cold with nothing but a few bucks, and when that is gone, he has no choice but to steal, maybe mug some old man or woman walking out of the convenience store, or hold up the store itself. But if he is in the honor system, he has a place to stay, and some help with finding work.

“That’s right,” remarked another fellow, “and don’t run away, because that will get you a couple more years on your sentence.”

Although I have never served time, I could not help but join in the discussion. I said I was running into many parolees downtown, and wondered why there were so many.

A parolee declared that the prison business and the honor system business are very profitable businesses. He said lots of legitimate companies feed off crime. The state has twenty-some prisons, he figured, and in this state you can get thrown into prison for almost anything.

Lots of people are sent up for some minor first offense, he declared, and said he drew a four-year sentence after his estranged wife called him and told him to come get his property out of the house. After he did just that, he claimed he was arrested for violating the restraining order prohibiting him from coming within so many feet of her. Apparently a neighbor had called the police. She testified for him at the trial. It was his first offense, but he mouthed off to the judge, so he was sent up. What upset him the most was the loss of his $50,000 job as a computer programmer; the company will not take him back. At least that was his story.

“Well, what are some of the rules for parole?” I asked him.

“First of all, you can’t leave the state.”

“Even worse,” chimed in another man, “you can’t drink or do no drugs.”

“What? Not even a beer?” I asked.

“There’s a way to work it, a way to have a drink once in awhile, but better not do drugs,” a heavily tattooed man chimed in. “The tests vary to pick up different kinds of drugs. If you have been smoking or otherwise using nicotine, you have to take cessation classes.”

“You’re kidding!” I said.

“No, that’s the God’s truth, but smoking cigarettes can be worked into the schedule.”

“Is there any help getting jobs?”

“Yeah.”

“Housing?”

“There are half-way houses at first, then housing assistance if you qualify.”

“Good grief!” I exclaimed. “I think I qualify for parole. I don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do any drugs except caffeine, can’t seem to get out of the state, and I could use some shelter and work. Where do I apply?”

“You have to commit a crime first, get busted, serve some time, and then you get the benefits.”

“Aw Shucks!”

 

David Arthur Walters

Kansas City 2004

Doctor Sagwell

DOCTOR SAGWELL IMAGE

Sigmund Freud

DOCTOR SAGWELL BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

Paul Bowman, the greatest author the world will ever or never know, nearly fainted when the ‘Lady in Black’ came into Wilson’s Bar & Grill on West 79th Street and told him his old friend Robert Sagwell, an analyst whose mentor had been Anna Freud, had died of a brain tumor a few days before, and that he had already been cremated.

This was the second death the Lady in Black had announced to Paul this month, the first one being that of Robert’s friend, ‘Dave the Accountant.’ Paul then called ‘Robert the Analyst’ and told him of Dave’s demise as well as the time and place of the memorial. Robert thanked him for the information.

“So how have you been?” Paul asked. Robert had undergone bypass surgery a few months before. After considering the dietary approach to his condition, he had opted for the surgery, a decision made easier after a cooperative clerk at Blue Cross altered his plan records to cover the costs. He went into the hospital a few days later. Robert was a “mind over matter” man, and was proud he had insisted on going home two days after his chest had been ripped open.

“I’m not feeling so well at the moment,” Robert replied, coughing.

“A cold?”

“Yes.”

“Me too.”

“Paul, we should get together soon.”

“I’ll give you a call.”

But now this, from the lady in black: “I’m sorry your friend Robert is dead.”

“Oh, no!”

“You didn’t know?”

“No,” Paul felt faint.

“I saw him at Dave’s memorial. He didn’t look good. He had a patch over his right eye. He had a brain tumor. He was buried on Saturday. My friend at the mortuary said only his family was at the funeral. He was cremated.”

That made sense, thought Paul, struggling to get a grip on himself, for Robert, although from a Jewish family, was fond of fundamental Buddhism and had often expressed his belief in the annihilation of the soul.

At first saddened by the tragic news, Paul then became angry he had not been told. But Robert’s silence as to his impending death made sense too, for he liked to be perceived as a strong authority, not the sort of man who would ring up his friends to tell them he was dying.

Robert was well-off, did not get along with his family, and had known very well that Paul was hurting financially. Robert recently asked him “a hypothetical question.” How could a large sum of money be transferred to a friend if he died? One might put it into a joint account with that friend, he suggested. The very next day they quarreled over a trivial matter, the pronunciation of the word ‘oxymoron.’ Paul was insistent, and his pronunciation was correct. Robert, a Yale graduate proud of his literacy, was deeply offended by the diminishment of his authority. That was the last Paul had seen him. How greedy of me to think this way!

“What a moron I was,” Paul chastised himself. “I should have let been nice, and just let him think ox’ymoron is correct!” He added, only to feel guilty for having the thought, “And then I would have had that money.”

Paul knew he would miss his old friend. He loved to visit Robert at his lofty and spacious rent-controlled apartment on Riverside Drive overlooking the park and the Hudson River. Robert was paying six-hundred a month for the grand old flat, much to the chagrin of the condominium convertors who valued it at nearly a million, if only they could put it on the market. He had refused to buy the unit. He believed a collapse of the real estate market was imminent, soon to be followed by the fall of the civilization he felt was rapidly declining with his advancing age. Besides, at sixty-something, he had no heirs he wanted to speak of, least of all in a will: he had been born into a wealthy family and was well-taken of, but he was unloved or loved coldly, hence his familial relations where chilly at best.

Despite his frigid familial relations, Dr. Robert Sagwell was a sociable bachelor who did not neglect his own life or the lives of the many friends whom he loved. He was a wealthy man who appreciated wealth well enough to pinch pennies. He went to considerable current expense to remodel his Riverside Drive apartment and to generously entertain his guests therein. Those expenditures were offset by the savings he realized after he vacated his rented office next to the school playground a few blocks away on West End to take up practicing his profession at home.

The shouts of children playing at the West End office had disturbed his sessions with patients, but the deciding factor was the fecal matter burglars had left behind in the toilet while he was in the Bahamas for a two-week vacation one hot summer. He was shocked by the anal development when he entered his office upon his return and was confronted by the odorous ordure, as he called it. Manhattan’s stifling, humid weather, unfavorably compared that year to the Amazon jungle’s climate, had done its work. Crime scene investigators ascertained from the colors of the unflushed evidence that at least two burglars had violated his rented domain. He said he would never forget the unbearable stench polluting his desecrated office as he packed his things for his exodus. His forfeited rent deposit took care of the subsequent fumigation of the demised premises, which is now a chiropractor’s office.

After Dr. Sagwell evacuated his West End quarters, one room of his expansive flat on Riverside Drive served as his professional office. Upon one wall there he mounted a self-portrait he had painted while dabbling in art therapeutics. A young woman was depicted sitting in a chair, behind which the good doctor towered, gazing down on her, with his hands on her shoulders. He said she was an old flame of his, yet she appeared by virtue of her features to be closely related to him, perhaps his double. The “experimental painting” would become an embarrassment after several patients said the woman in the painting looked like him, so he eventually removed it from the wall.

The good doctor had otherwise equipped the office with a firm but comfortable couch for the analysand to recline or sit on during forty-five minute sessions. He was fond of sitting on it himself during leisurely hours, rubbing shoulders and legs with a friend, casting off his official authoritarian role to chat freely and munch snacks as an equal to all.

Nearby the couch was a small desk and typewriter, an unabridged dictionary looking quite formidable on its own slender pedestal, and a peculiar chair upon which he perched during his psychoanalytic sessions. This “Ortho Analysis Chair” had no back. The analyst must wrap his legs around two of the three legs of the chair, which, of course, comes with postural instructions to the effect that, if the instructions are followed to a ‘T’, then mind and body will be in the harmony best suited for psycho-analysis and -therapy.

Now the reader might not be surprised to hear that Doctor Sagwell was into the Alexander Technique, yet the same reader might deem the doctor’s occasional interest in crystal therapy rather odd. Indeed, his Freudianism was unorthodox, extending beyond the Jungian heresy, transcending the frontiers of the unconscious in order to know to the Unknown. His practice was nevertheless in accord with the demand of his patients, all bourgeois neurotics. He referred the few seriously mentally ill people who came his way to competent specialists.

Although his fortune was already assured by the inheritance of a goodly fortune, with even more to come after the impending death of his mother, he did not mind if his clients added to it. Still, he charitably provided accelerated therapy pro bono to humble members of the homosexual community whom he occasionally met behind the boarded windows of the Black Saddle Club on Amsterdam Avenue. He said he believed homosexuality to be perverse but not immoral. He had developed a therapeutic technique designed to help anxious gay men “adjust.” Paul became suspicious of his friend’s true orientation one evening after the doctor’s hand had “accidentally” alighted on his thigh during a conversation.

Paul Bowman had known Doctor Sagwell for many years, commencing some time before the doctor was a doctor, when he was just “Bob,” in the Sixties. Bob smoked pot back then, became confused, went into analysis, and was so impressed by it that he decided to become an analyst himself. Paul looked up to Robert as an authority on mental matters, and allowed him to practice hypnotism on him.

Now, in the Nineties, we find Paul nearly homeless after committing the usual economic suicide, visiting Robert in his flat. They sat in the living room for awhile admiring the Sun setting over New Jersey – it was a marvelous spectacle – then they retired into Robert’s home office to sit on the couch, munch snacks and chat freely.

“Paul,” said Robert in a deep voice, “you are a very talented and flexible man. You can play whatever role you set your mind to, and you will be successful if you stick with one role for ten years.”

“I believe I shall become the greatest author the world will ever or never know.”

“Every frustrated author is one or the other. You may be far from the greatest, but if you keep writing for ten years at one stretch you will vastly improve your mental powers, be much happier, and die a millionaire if you want the money.”

“My freedom is in not wanting it.”

“That will help make you great, and in the end you will have it, like it or not.”

“Then I could better serve my readers.”

“There is one thing you must remember.”

“What?”

“Remember that you ran away from home for good reason, and that you owe your father absolutely nothing. Only then will you stop throwing everything away on the verge of success.”

-To Be Continued-

Boredom Can Kill

BOREDOM
Graphic by Darwin Leon

BOREDOM CAN KILL BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

I agree with Kierkegaard: boring kings should abdicate, and boring prime ministers and boring journalists should be executed forthwith. Boredom, quoth Kierkegaard, and not indolence, is the root of all evil.

Please mind you that I am speaking figuratively, not literally. Such a precaution was once unnecessary, but in this day and age when the difference between the actual and the imagined often goes unnoticed, our metaphors might in fact result in the assassination of a few journalists if not a prime minister and president – the war-mongering leaders are often most popular.

Indeed, bored intellectuals often use figures of speech to incite people to riot and revolution. For instance, if your taxes exceed twenty-five percent of your income, you are in ‘shackles’ and are no doubt being “whipped” by tyrants, no matter what you are getting in return for your percentage, so a tax revolution is in order.

By the way, the prisons you see simply exist to deceive you into thinking that you are free so you will not mind your boredom on the job; or off the job, as you hurriedly consume leisure as advertised.

Yes, ma’am, you really are in prison, you know, but you cannot see the walls, therefore revolt.

But humans do not need radical revolutionaries to persuade them to mayhem and murder: they already have leaders who will capitalize on massive boredom. Indeed, many people are bored with formal life and they would fain freak out, cast off the social mold and kill one another in the name of something or the other if not for nothing. That is nothing new, and war is not really unique to our race: apolitical students of animal behavior have noticed wars between such creatures as hyenas, for no apparent or known reason such as territory or mates. If hyenas could talk, they might say they were just bored to death with life.

Of course we humans make an art out of war and write books about it. It used to be a sort of invigorating tonic to bleed tribes and nations that they might rise to manly virtue. Today we hear widespread complaints about the feminization of civilization again; perhaps another world war is imminent.

Now that technology has made total annihilation feasible, we think we want world peace; but if we had it we might get so bored we would not know what to do with it, then all hell might break loose again so that the fittest among us, the young and strong, might be decimated so that the old weaklings in high places may remain there and hand down wealth to their families so they will not have to struggle for survival of the fittest. We cannot blame them for sending other people’s kids to death to alleviate their boredom.

Boredom does have a certain negative motive power which can in extreme cases lead to war, just for the hell of it if not for some relative moral cause. Universal love will not do for long when violence is wanted: hate-others-based group-love will suffice for bloody conflicts with enemies. That is not to say that war is natural, necessary, inevitable, although maybe it is.

Please do not start a war on my say so. I do not want my words to harm anyone. I was recently alarmed to hear that my “(expletive deleted) opinions have already killed people inside.” I recalled that many suicides were attributed to Goethe’s Werther. My investigation revealed that my words were not as lethal as I had imagined, and the complaint had been a figurative phrase, referring to the hurt feelings of the identities of a single person, and not to the death of members of the external association.

Good. I detest bloody warfare. I prefer virtual warfare. I do not mean football games or video-game battles. You see, my thing is the angelic struggle against the beast-in-me – beast and angel are formalities of which I am equally fond, yet I rise above them, as the spirit of their relationship.

Thinking is my thing lately. I say it is my thing but I know it is not mine, not my sole possession: my thinking is borrowed from the encyclopedia of civilization. I am just another reader and writer, an open processing system.

The more I think, the more I know I am really nobody. Oh, how ironically alienating it is to become fully individualized to the point where one realizes he is in principle an Everyman. Being a literate Everyman can be exceedingly boring nowadays. At least I am bored almost to tears and death, to the very verge of screaming bloody murder, by the functional and objective, third-person, hyphenated-style of writing today, a style that is suitable for a scientific or newspaper report, a technical manual or an honest advertisement yet has become so widespread that it has almost made objective nobodies out of everybody.

I must confess that I am awfully bored with being a nobody. Many of my fellow ostriches prefer to bury their heads in the sand of facts and do not want to know how those facts are related. That must be left to the authorities to say, and they had better say it in the third person: a man complained, “He is no authority! He kept saying ‘I’ and ‘my’, meaning his personal opinion, so what can he know?”

I kid you not. Many of us are not even aware that facts are in fact related events, actions. Thus is the independent thinking of the threatened self deactivated, that it be of little or no threat to the power elite who flip the switches to run the current their way.

Cultural anthropologists admit the psychic unity of humankind again, but not as a world spirit or personal soul: all we have in common now is our on-off switches. Even post-modern intellectuals who love to talk about talk as if talk is identical to god instead of god’s words – even they resort to a linguistic objectivism that diminishes the subjective speaker to blank membership in a multi-cultural diversity that is merely the superficial diversity of shoppers in a gigantic shopping mall.

Everything boils down to: Buy this or that. Never Stop Buying.

Ah, here is yet another “let the reader decide” essay on some pressing issue, written by a highly credentialed author. It is a polished piece. It says nothing new, really. It is biased towards the authorities who own company and country. The ideology is so common it is barely noticeable. The piece is yet another inoffensive rehash of the news that is as boring as the pancake of the brazen hussies and the cardboard suits of the callous men who serve as professional pundits on cable television – to call them ‘philistines’ would insult a superior culture. But do not get me started; as you can see, I am beyond bored, and I do not want someone to get the wrong idea and start hanging journalists and pundits.

Before I finish I must say something about plain language. Although magnificent ideas can be wonderfully expressed in plain language, I cannot stand the universal cultivation of the sort of plain language that passes off inanity as a ‘good read’ or ‘good write’ nowadays simply because someone with the attention span of a gnat does not have the gumption or the wherewithal to think for himself, preferring his switches to be flip-flopped according to the usual program.

How I abhor the boring hackneyed phrases. Nobody seems to notice how boring the phrases are except this nobody who would be the Nobody who put out the Cyclops eye and stole his sheep. Of course culture is founded on a few platitudes, but for heaven’s sake, cannot they pronounce them in a different ways? The higher culture has its exciting intrigues, it mysteries, its enticing ornaments and jewels to break the sheer monotony of plain vanilla. I’m tired of mealy-mouthed oatmeal. On each side of the depressing valleys are peak experiences all readers may aspire too. I love the plains too, flyover countries like Kansas where I grew up on corn, smoked hemp and drank 3.2 beer.

Watchers of television, readers of newspapers and magazines, employees of companies, citizens of countries should aspire to the peaks from time to time, and they probably would aspire to them if boring editors were executed along with the boring writers they assume the bored public wants to read. By the way, please do not take the suggestion seriously. I do not want anyone to get hurt.

Excuse me, I must take another nap.

-XYX-

David Arthur Walters
Honolulu 1999

The Great Hypocrisy of Office

GREAT HYPO IMAGE

THE GREAT HYPOCRISY OF OFFICE
BY
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

As it is in man, so shall it be in his offices

It is certainly enlightening on Sundays to read Martin Luther’s letters. I treasure this excerpt from his ‘Warning to the Dear German People’:

“Furthermore, if war breaks out – which God forbid – I will not reprove those who defend themselves against the murderous and bloodthirsty papists, nor let anyone rebuke them as being seditious, but I will accept their action and let it pass as self-defense. I will direct them in this matter to the law and to the jurists. For in such an instance, when the murderers and bloodhounds wish to wage war and to murder, it is in truth no insurrection to rise against them and defend oneself. Not that I wish to incite and spur anyone on to such self-defense, or to justify it, for that is not my OFFICE…”

This ‘Letter’ was written in 1530, well after the Peasant insurrection of 1525, which he had condemned in no uncertain terms. But in this case he would let the lawyers wrangle while he, God’s minister, would be a perfect hypocrite and not “rebuke” those who violated the very principle he had otherwise set forth, that no rebellion against authority is justified in any case. In this case, he was implicitly justifying a rebellion by the newly named “Protestants” against Emperor Charles V.  After the 1530 Diet of Augsburg was concluded, the Emperor proclaimed his ‘Recess’ setting forth the errors of the Protestants, giving them six months to accept the Catholic position or else. Luther supposed the “or else”: he assumed the Emperor would use force; therefore Luther condoned in advance the rebellion of his Dear People, although it was not his “OFFICE” to advocate same.

The term ‘condone’ is appropriate here, in the sense of overlooking a wrong. Luther had, in his treatise on Just War, clearly stated that a war of inferiors against their superiors is wrong. That general position on Just War was amply supported by scriptural interpretation and accorded with feudal law. And he applied his general prohibition against insurrection to the particular case of rebellious peasants in his ‘Against the Thieving and Murderous Peasant Hordes’. We recall that nearly 100,000 of the rebels, who had been his fervent supporters because of his anti-clerical stance, were ruthlessly slaughtered by professional soldiers in the Peasant War.

Luther stated, in his letter to Elector John of Saxony dated March 6, 1530, that “According to Scripture, it is in no way proper for anyone who would be a Christian to set himself against his government, whether it acts justly or unjustly. Rather a Christian ought to suffer oppression and injustice by his government.”

Therefore, at least according to the Great Hypocrisy of Office, it appears that, despite Luther’s general prohibition of a war of inferiors against superiors, Protestant rebellion against papist authorities is quite just; but a peasant rebellion against any superior authority at all is not just at all; it is only just against the papal authority.

While Thomas Muntzer, the foremost peasant leader, spoke of Equality and the Brotherhood of Man, of a Kingdom of God on Earth here and now, Luther divorced religion and politics, placing gospel in heaven and law on Earth:

“In civil policy and obedience to law… nothing must be known concerning the conscience, the gospel, grace, remissions of sins, heavenly righteousness, or Christ himself.”

Thus did Luther propound the defeatist ethic which, imitating Augustine, hands over the sword of Christ to the political authorities as long as they defend the few selected by the grace of god to support them. Thereby a convenient division of labor is realized, or rather a division between labor and non-labor, works and faith.

No doubt the dualism of different standards for church and state is conducive to political tyranny over the world at large regardless of faith. The only legitimate business of the protesting faction is irrational faith, not political works. As for the peasants whom Luther advised the authorities to “stab and kill,” they found out the hard way, under their Rainbow banner, that works according to the communal precepts of Jesus are in direct conflict with the political authorities. However, if only the protestant church would mind its spiritual business, leaving the sword in the hands of legitimate real princes, then it should be entitled to state protection.

That is, the state should defend the protestant church as long as it does not support illegitimate ministers, defined as those who insist that attacks on the state in defense of the true gospel would not only be just but warranted by God.

The key word used by Luther in his subtle condonation of a just rebellion against the papists was “OFFICE.” Luther knew very well the distinction between the office of a preacher of the gospel and the office of a warrior and politician. The Great Reformation has rightfully been called The Great Hypocrisy because it casts a brighter light on the underlying crisis (hypocrisy) we all share, the failure to live up to our ideals so that our acts suit our words. Today, we are so inured to glaring hypocrisy that we scarcely notice it, or just ignore it as unavoidable.

For instance, during the presidential campaign, born-again Christian candidate George W. Bush said Jesus was his hero, yet he frankly said, during a discussion of the execution of a born-again condemned murderer, that the death penalty is a political affair and that Christian principles do not apply to the fulfillment of political office. Wherefore he would not give her another thirty days of life, which is all he could have done under the law of his state.

All one has to do is to take off one’s protestant hat and put on the political hat to make every violation of religious principle justifiable. Before President Bush’s nominees were sworn in, several of them had to assure Congress they would leave their religious and political ideology behind in ideological heaven with their abstract god in order to obey the will of the people, their concrete political god.

Hypocrisy, indeed! In view of the aim of Machiavellian politics, to achieve “peace” or “union” by any convenient means whatsoever, including outright deception and total war, every politician is bound take the Hypocritical Oath before taking high office.

But it is unfair to disparage ignoble politics and unholy religion without considering the alternative to hypocrisy. Therefore we should ask ourselves: Do we really want a theocracy ruled by a Falwell, a Robertson, a bin Laden, a Jackson or Sharpton?

Pick any by-god swearer (bigot) or moral majority red-neck or fanatic ideologist you do not like. Behold the age-old dilemma, the predicament of a Luther and a Bush when he assumes the role he had better assume when he take his respective office, even though his role must contradict his principles if he has sufficient intelligence to realize it.

No, Luther would not “reprove” insurrection, but it is not his OFFICE to justify it, a least not expressly: deceitful expressions, allusions, subliminal suggestions and so forth must be resorted to.

Yes, Luther’s letters are certainly an enlightening read on Sundays. And what a predicament Luther found himself in: he wanted to reform the Church and wound up with revolution. Confronted with the problem of OFFICE, he helped provide the world with another excuse to do whatever it wanted to do, protest the old authority, a protest now called Protestantism. But under that faithful form, “God” is nowhere to be found in politics, so we might wonder if the old Catholic slur is true in part, that Protestantism is really a form of feel-good atheism.

-XYX-

David Arthur Walters

Honolulu 2000