The General Lie

THE GENERAL LIE

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

The dystopia 1984 was premature: the title should have been 2084. The year 1984 has past but the spirit of 1984 is still at work in capitalism despite the failure of the national socialist and communist campaigns. But not to worry. The number of dissident intellectuals who worry about the evils of The System diminishes because their minds are being submerged, nay, are being assimilated and absorbed by the homogeneous, gelatinous gray matter, the Borgian Blob beneath the gargantuan mechanical carapace.

Who needs a liberal education or a self-education? The human race has already been systematically liberated by science and technology. We near the end of human history whose objective is freedom. WE are almost free enough to totally obey now: The System is freedom in obedience. The once adamantly independent intellectual has joined the amorphous population of irresponsible credentialed narcissists staring into the corporate pool of Echo’s tears. Credentials, indeed. The sausage-factory graduate is handed a pigskin at the commencement exercise: “Here is your brain.” With this football he or she can proceed to beg in hyphenated broken English at corporate back doors:

“Extremely well organized, detail-oriented, highly self-motivated, ambitious, career-minded team-player with a can-do attitude and excellent communication skills seeks key place on winning team. Highly energetic self-starter. Eager to hit the ground running to meet deadlines long before they arrive for cutting-edge, rapidly expanding, fast-paced company. Works best under pressure. Dynamic, multi-tasking, customer-driven, high-expectations environment preferred. Loves constant change and long hours without overtime pay. Willing to make sacrifices: integrity, conscience, family, and three chickens a week.”

What communication skills? and to what end? Never mind, just push the right sequences of buttons and everyone will get it and obey it and produce it and consume it. The hackneyed phrases of form letters no matter how inapplicable to particulars will more than suffice when ‘integration’ and not ‘integrity’ is the key word. We are racially, politically and economically integrated now. We do not worry so much about our liberty for we find virtual liberty in our freedom to choose from an amazing variety of optional dressings on goods and services mass produced by virtue of scientific management. Fascists and communists and capitalists alike loved America’s scientific management scheme. Yet the intellectual roots of modern business administration are not in America but in Europe, in the Jesuit’s educational ‘conspiracy’ hatched in monasteries and cultivated in universities and military schools.

Today’s neo-liberal masters of business administration are jesuitical monotheists devoted to the disciplined rational pursuit and compound accumulation of an overarching abstract value: money. Money is god because it gives any person no matter how honorable or dishonorable power over things and persons. It is not so much the thing as the power that is wanted. Money is worth dying for and profit is salvation. Profit is frantically sought no matter how many heart attacks one survives: we look at the fast-paced businessman and say, “He is a walking heart attack,” but he does not know his condition; if he does, he just keeps on going anyway, like that battery in the commercial. Money comes not in peace but with a sword to destroy not only the family but traditional morality with its plural values. Morality becomes a pretense as exchange value replaces it. Profitable individualism is perfected in the universal hypocrisy of This Lying World of Ours. In any event, the army of workers must be organized and managed undemocratically in order to reduce costs and increase sales so that the kept class may be kept up with unearned income – the executive officers who aspire to join the kept class are entitled to obscene salaries and perquisites whether they lose or win the battles.

No doubt with the advance of technology many benefits trickle down to obedient employees as a consequence. As a matter of fact, there exists an open dirty secret: if the furnace were allowed to go full blast and the products were broadly distributed, poverty would be eliminated forthwith. But we must not allow that to happen, because people are basically lazy and prefer to lay around all day, smoke pot, drink booze, shoot up drugs, gamble, and fornicate. In fact, they would stop working without the fear of poverty to motivate them. Civilization would soon be destroyed. Therefore a system must be maintained, a system based on the scarcity principle – if there is no real scarcity, a false scarcity must be created.

The System is painful at times, but as long as the masses are systematically preoccupied with bread and circus, with standard trash, junk, and garbage, the elite are secure in their luxurious compounds furnished with custom-made things. We are an option-rich people, therefore we are free to choose between things. The choice is between buy and buy, or consume and consume; and to have that liberating choice one must sell and sell, or produce and produce, or be born rich or otherwise come into some unearned money. The surgeon general of the United States defined mental health as leading a productive life, and recommended mind-bending prescription drugs for those who cannot stand it. As long as one goes along, one is free in his or her obedience. There is always freedom of thought and conscience, and in the creative imagination, even in prison where great libertarian tracts have been written. If one can find enough leisure in voluntary poverty or wealth, religion or art-for-art’s sake might set one virtually free.

Do we like The System? Not really. If people were allowed to pitch tents or to build lean-tos, huts and cabins wherever they liked, without paying rent or mortgage payments, the residential real estate bubble would burst – there would be no affordable housing shortage. But that cannot be. That is why the military junta of Myanmar, for example, wants everyone to live in regular Western houses instead of bamboo houses that can be built in a day if they happen to burn down because a woman is not careful smoking her cheroot – she was once the freest woman in the world, the envy of British women who visited Burma.

However, something is wrong with the dark view of our race, especially with the allegation that humankind is a kind of sloth – that is a lie. We are not all lazy prostitutes: we do not work for the money alone or the thing that it can buy. We are not natural born bums and wicked welfare recipients. We know wealthy and poor people who love to work. We love action. We are natural born creators and builders. We cannot stop building when we should stop and be as lazy as a sloth sometimes appears to be. Moreover, men and women have built up fabulous fortunes not merely for love of money or power but because they love to be building something for people and they just cannot stop themselves; and those projects have enormously benefited our kind. So there.

On the other hand, the restlessness has gotten out of hand, and we are right to criticize it, to give ourselves a break, to take more and longer breaks from the compulsive make-work that consumes so much time in the ‘advanced’ economies of the world. Making work just to work is presently working the ruin of the physical, mental and spiritual resources of the the world, and does so in the false name of inevitable progress to a nebulous, indefinite utopia or X, but we know better, for we residents of This Lying World of Ours are hypocrites.

The utopia of our modern forefathers is here; we know it is rapidly becoming a dystopia. Yet we praise it. We put up a pretense that it is a good thing, for instance, to welcome change; to be welcome mats for somebody else’s perpetual innovation; to change for the sake of change; to upgrade everything just to keep our jobs; to spin our wheels producing superfluities just to have private crappers; – to do all this falsely, on command from the top down, in the name of individual liberty. It is the liberty of an army ant. We are just going through the motions. We have no idea where the the military-industrial complex will strike on its next pre-emptive, self-defensive campaign to save the world for its own good whether the world likes it or not. We know the generals are lying through their whitened teeth; one lies to the whole world because he has high office; the other to the American people because he wants high office. The generals know they lie, but here we go again, we prefer the lies. The general’s colleagues warn us: they say he an untrustworthy, ambitious, self-infatuated liar, but otherwise he a good general. The “otherwise” is good enough for us. Hypocrisy has become the norm, hence ‘hypocrite’ has ceased to be the epithet the Alexandrine Jews and Christians made of it.

We are uneasy. Our wealthy friends feel the malaise or malease precedent to the outbreak of mortal disease; they continue to gain weight. The much less well off know what they are afraid of and are accordingly terrified and stunted in their growth. The dogs are behaving in a peculiar fashion; Californians are beginning to freak out; a quake impends. The world is working hard on the verge of another major heart attack. We must take a break and reflect on the meaning of hypocrisy. We must drop the false pretenses and admit that we are at an either/or crisis in human history. Either life and truth; or death and lies. No, everything is not black and white – there are gray areas. But in this case we have Truth and Lie separated by a void. The lying and spinning must stop. We must pause, rest, reflect, withdraw from the deceptive course. We are lying to ourselves and to each other. The lies we tell to protect ourselves, to give ourselves separate and important identities as individuals and as groups, have been repeated so often that they are almost believed; we know better because of the spark of light in the emptiness, yet we continue apace. Thus has lying and pretense made devils and hypocrites of us all in This Lying World of Ours. It will not be easy, but that much can be changed, and at the grass-roots level.

Z

Hegel’s Hypocrisy per Eric Voegelin

Eric Voegelin

HEGEL’S HYPOCRISY

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

Hypocrisy connoisseurs will certainly enjoy Eric Voegelin’s work, On Hegel. Voegelin charges Hegel with hypocrisy, in the sense that hypocrisy is the sin of pride in contradistinction to the humble role played by virtuous Christians, including himself, the arrogant author of a book condemning another man for his arrogance. According to Voegelin, Hegel fabricated a philosophical system that was bound to be false because it was founded on his own weakness, which, of course, Hegel was well aware of because he wrote it to overcome his own sickness. In other words, Hegel tried to pull himself up by his bootstraps. He acted like god while knowing he was not god.

“Thou hypocrite!” was once a favorite expression of Christians who derived its pejorative connotation from Alexandrine Jews who used it as a synonym for hanef – a godless person. Reverend James Marsh wrote a famous discourse on the subject, published in Boston by Crocker and Brewster in 1843 as part of Marsh’s literary Remains. Marsh quoted Luke XIII: ‘For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore, whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness, shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets, shall be proclaimed on the housetops.’ Reverend Marsh wrote, “These words of our Savior were uttered in connexion with a warning, addressed to his disciples, against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. In their immediate application, they were intended as a dissuasion from that conscious purpose of concealing selfish and corrupt principles under the show of respect for the law of God, by which the Pharisees were distinguished.” Thus does Reverend Marsh’s love for Jesus Christ – to whom he believes we must flee to since we cannot hide from him – based on hatred of another religious group.

In fact the Christian cult evolved from the liberal Pharisees sect whose rabbis taught, besides survival of the soul, not only the strict observation of religious law which the Christians were wont to reject in part, but also the gradual, humane reformation of that law. There would be no Christians without the Pharisees. Early Christians then turned on the Pharisees and called them hypocrites for pretending to be good, and even for actually doing good works while presumably having bad or selfish intentions; that is, for having bad faith: not believing in Jesus Christ as the one and only savior of humankind. Hence the great scapegoating injustice perpetrated against the Pharisees, rendering their name synonymous with ‘hypocrite’ as if they were all godless persons. On the other hand, Christians presumed that they were the only ones in possession of the real god, incarnated in a single man; but this was a supreme arrogance that Jews simply cannot stand for and still be Jews.

A man may think he is a god unto himself, but the sane man knows he is not god of the world or universe; every man who knows himself knows that he is limited and is not omnipotent. He who acts like a god while knowing he is not god is a hypocrite. Of course pessimistic Christians live not for this necessarily evil world but for the good world beyond, hence any attempt to bring the good order of heaven to Earth is hypocrisy. Wherefore Voegelin believes that Hegel is the typical system-building philosopher who would set himself up as a savior of the corrupt world, yet who is a hypocrite because he knows his salvation plan is built on his own sickness in the sick world, the rotten ground of the original sin of pride. Such spiritual rebellion is the product of an existentially deficient man; it aggravates the troubles of this world, making itself yet another source of the disease plaguing
humankind.

Voegelin argues that, while prophets are not bound by history, philosophers are so bound. Philosophers wrongly assumed a religious role and declared that philosophy had emerged from religion to finally reveal the pristine primordial deity, ridding the world of the old evil god. In effect, such a philosopher implies that “History is an immanence of god leading up to Me, the One who will inaugurate the New Life.” He discards mysterious symbols, replacing them with “scientific” explanations of the good old mysteries; those intellectual fabrications are disguises for hypocrisy and are mistaken for knowledge by gullible and credulous people who would struggle for personal freedom from tyranny. Witness, for instance, the 1789 French Revolution, an historical example of such salvation-activism and its horrible result in anarchic freedom instead of the totalitarian outcome outlined in Rousseau’s little book that the rioting revolutionaries waved above their heads as their guide although many were illiterate and did not know a word of it.

No, says Voegelin, man is no god, he is merely a sorcerer – he can only see the directions of history, and, with the help of language, evoke its shapes, ghosts, fictions. Hegel tried to use his imagination to eclipse God’s Creation – unable to redeem himself, he created a holy book of philosophy and recommended the diabolical system therein to the world as its salvation. Therefore Hegel’s conceptual spiritualism should be replaced by unquestioning humility, voluntary suffering, repentance – by a pessimistic religious system of virtual suicide – that the individual person might be saved by his unconditional surrender to his own god and in effect to the status quo on this Earth, in order live the life of Riley in the hereafter.

The hypocrisy of all this is unavoidable, for, if hypocrisy is arrogance concealed to deceive, everyone is a hypocrite. Hence it takes a hypocrite to know one and to say – like perverse Christians who love to cast stones first yet cannot see the beam in their own eyes – “Thou Hypocrite!” Not that they all do; not that we should agree with the proposition that Christianity on the whole is the epitome of bigotry, of hate-based group love, of the most awful sin of pride, of the very apotheosis of hypocrisy.

Christianity has no monopoly on hypocrisy. Nor do the Pharisees, or the Alexandrine Jews who gave the Greek term for ‘actor’ its pejorative connotation. Judaism and Christianity are inseparable – Christianity does not have its own religion for it is unwilling to reject its Old Testament tradition with its barbaric patriarchal god, and admit that a genuine god of Love would have to be a complete Stranger to this world. Judeo-Christianity has often been debited or credited with the creation of the Western world, curse or blessing that it might be. But we might want to consider that religion did not make the man, it discovered him in his hypocrisy or underlying crisis between the real and ideal, between Earth and heaven. We find profound truths about men and women in Judaism and Christianity. We note well its revolutionary nature in the Jewish revolts against political empire; but the fiercely independent Jews would have had a virtual tribal theocracy under their messianic king; whereas we note the tendency to individualism and the multiplication of sects among Christians – this author’s favorite Christian, by the way, lives in a cave in the watershed, and calls Christian churches in the area “dens of iniquity” and “pits of vipers.”

In fact, for many Christians of all kinds, god is synonymous with freedom. Now the individual in its will to exist forever without impedance is an anarch. It would brook no resistance to its will, it would be omnipotent, it would be free from everything – absolutely free, as if it were the one and only god almighty, the supreme arbiter who has no reason to think before acting. God is the social projection of such individual freedom, a positive abstraction without any content at all, for any content would limit such a god. Above all, ‘god’ stands for the abstract unity of a group, just as the imaginary ‘I’ stands for the abstract unity of the individual divided from and confronted by the multiplicity of the world about him.

So much for omnipotent, absolutely free gods. The rest of us are free FROM something or the other. For instance, a certain strain of Christians, taking their cue from revolutionary Jews, would be free from the state. They might admit that a police force and a few public works are necessary given the original evil of humankind whose salvation by universal love will not be accomplished until the return of the god’s solitary son – the Greeks called the solitary son, who appeared as the brilliant and pure (Phoebus) Sun of Zeus, ‘Apollo’, for far-flung ‘unity.’ Throughout history Christians like everyone else have had a love/hate or ambivalent relationship with absolute states. The absolute god is an indefinite abstraction or Power whose forms cannot be maintained without the political distribution of that power; hence Christianity owes its present existence not only to its god but to absolute tyrants whose ‘might makes right methods’ were often similar to those employed by the unpredictable Terrorist Almighty of the Sky who did not let even innocent infants stand in his brutal path; the Hebrew thunder-god El, for instance, and the volcanic YHWH down south. On the other hand, with the advance of civilization, for which Christianity and Judaism does get ample credit, tyranny was curbed by the legal distribution of its own power.

With that in mind, we are not surprised by Voegelin’s attack on Hegel. Indeed, many good Christians hated Hegel with a passion, and called him a madman because his philosophy spelled absolute political tyranny, to be provided on Earth according to the systematic providence of the World Spirit. Hegel was initially a ‘liberal’ or an advocate of democratic liberty; his sympathies were with the French Revolution until its excesses caused him to violently back-pedal to the absolute state, which he conceived as the concrete embodiment of the god of the universal ethic, the nebulous Good (of course there is no etymological relationship between ‘god’ and ‘good’). For Hegel, individuals were so much dust to be ground up by the universal world mill operated by the world spirit. And whatever is here and now, is here because it ought to be as it is. Of course a few heroes or representative men are of greater moment as they help the wheel roll from China to its future in parts West; as certain Chinese Buddhists know, the Pure Land is in the West, the future into which the Sun descends – it appears that China may rule the world after California falls into the ocean.

It takes a hypocrite to know a hypocrite. As his critic Voegelin knew, Hegel himself wrote about hypocrisy from a similar perspective, that hypocrisy is the pretense of godliness, which is in itself an arrogance. Hence it would suit this occasion to provide a brief description of Hegel’s definition on hypocrisy for the hypocrisy connoisseur to savor.

In hypocrisy there is a difference between the good appearance presented by the subject and the subjective reality of his evil or selfish intent. Insofar as the subject is wholly self-interested or selfish, and conceives that he alone is a law unto himself, as if he were god almighty or the universe, he represents evil; for the particular subject in itself without any object other than itself is an empty or false universal. “On its formal side, evil is most peculiarly the individual’s own, since it is precisely his subjectivity establishing itself purely and simply for itself….” On the other hand, the moral man has the universal social good in mind and intends to conduct himself accordingly.

A hypocrite has a bad conscience when he is aware that his will conflicts with the “true”, or social, universal; yet, despite hits bad conscience, he sets himself up as pious and righteous in order to deceive others; or, he may use one good act performed as justification in his own eyes for his bad deeds; he may also justify some evil deed by finding a single good reason for it – say the recommendation of a single minister.

Hegel addresses the “empty formalism” of preaching duty alone. “Because every action explicitly calls for a particular content and a specific end, while duty as an abstraction entails nothing of the kind, the question arises: what is my duty? As an answer, nothing is available except to… strive after… one’s own welfare, and welfare in universal terms, the welfare of others…. Specific duties, however, are not contained in the definition of duty itself…. Duty itself in… self-consciousness… is inwardly related to itself alone… is abstract universality… it has identify without content, or the abstractly positive, the indeterminate…. In every end of a self-consciousness subject, there is [this empty or abstract] positive aspect necessarily present because [this general] end is what is purposed in an actual concrete action. This aspect he knows how to elicit and emphasize, and he may proceed to regard it as a duty or a fine intention. By so interpreting it, he is able to pass his action off as good in the eyes of both himself and others, despite the fact that, owing to his reflective character and his knowledge of the universal aspect of the will, he is aware of the contrast between this aspect and the essentially negative content of his action. To impose this way on others is hypocrisy; while to impose on oneself is a stage beyond hypocrisy, a stage at which subjectivity claims to be absolute.” (The Philosophy of Right)

The hypocrite’s deeds give the lie to his fine words. Even if they do not, we can accuse him of having bad intentions. Hegel, in Phenomenology of Mind, describes the psychological strategy of the hypocrite who knows his moral duty is socially determined yet takes his own individuality as the whole to which he alone has a duty. “(The particular self’s) pure self, as it is empty knowledge, is without content and without definiteness.” Yet it becomes “conscious of the opposition between what it is for itself and what it is for others, of the opposition of universality or duty and its state of being reflected into self away from the universal…. Over against this internal determination there thus stands… the universal consciousness; for this latter is is rather universality, duty, that is the essential fact, while individuality, which exists for itself and is opposed to the universal… is held to be Evil by the consciousness which thus stands by the fact of duty, because of the lack of correspondence of its internal subjective life with the universal; and since at the same time the first [empty individual or evil] consciousness declares its act to be congruency with itself, to be duty and conscientiousness, it is held by that universal consciousness to be Hypocrisy.

I think we get the picture. We see evil and good in their extremities at opposite ends of the continuum. Individual and society, particular will and universal will. With the horrors of the French Revolution in mind, Hegel favored the right-wing authoritarian end. It is no wonder that men and women pretend to be good as publicly defined. Are we all hypocrites? It seems that both Hegel and Voegelin, the critic who called Hegel a hypocrite, might agree that humans, as anti-social individuals, are originally evil. Is the man who admits he is evil and acts accordingly a hypocrite? Or is the sociopath a hypocrite?

Hegel presents the concrete state as the solution for dissolution of evil – the state is somehow provided by the World Spirit – we fear that it is a dystopian Totalitaria, a virtual prison. Voegelin would apparently have an indefinite, abstract god preside, but this personal god is the projection of the individual anarch in its original evil which both philosophers rightfully fear. In any event, may god forbid theocratic tyranny under fictitious gods. Further, we have good reason to fear the man-made calamities of the personification and deification of nations and states even more than the irregular natural wrath of the Terrorist Almighty.

We hope for a happy medium or golden mean rather than an “either good or evil” for our conversation or dialectic, that our conversant life may never end. Yet progressives may not be rid of the either/or, even if they say progress is from a lesser good to a greater good instead of from evil to good. Divided as individuals from unity by self-consciousness, we are given an underlying crisis or hypokrisis that requires decisions. We suspect that hypocrisy is the human predicament. But we do not want to water the pejorative term down and render it meaningless in its application to certain individuals who are much bigger hypocrites than others. Hypocrisy connoisseurs will appreciate the sophisticated philosophical hypocrites only in comparison to the vulgar ones in their collection.

Sources:

Voegelin, Eric, HISTORY OF POLITICAL IDEAS, V.12 ON HEGEL, Columbia, Mo: University of Missouri 1997

Hegel, G.W.G., THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF MIND, transl. J.B. Baillie, London: George Allen 1949

Hegel, G.W.G, HEGEL’S PHILOSOPHY OF RIGHT, transl. T.M. Knox, Oxford: Clarendon: 1942

Robinson, Jonathan, DUTY AND HYPOCRISY IN HEGEL’S PHENOMENOLOGY OF MIND, An essay in the real and idea, Toronto: University of Toronto

The Gray Area Where Zarathustra’s Twins Meet

THE GRAY AREA WHERE ZARATHUSTRA’S TWINS MEET

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

 

We were glad for our freedom when we first heard the tidings about the difference between good and evil and about our power to choose between them.

“Hear ye all who come to inquire about the truth. We praise the wise one and we thank him for providing us a with a good mind in accord with the divine law firmly written in the heavens. Now listen to this truth and meditate upon it, that each man must decide for himself what he believes and choose accordingly. In the beginning two spirits, the best and the worst in thought, words, and deeds, proclaimed themselves. From these two, those of good knowledge chose aright, and those of evil knowledge did not. The two spirits created life and death and being and nothingness when they first came together. Certainly those who cloth themselves in the divine light of truth shall have the best life, and those who do not shall have the worst.”

Of course we knew which one we would choose – certainly not the evil one. At the very least we would avoid the appearance of impropriety and observe the first rule of rhetoric, that a speaker should never speak against himself. As Pufendorf one said, “Nay, there is no man who does not speak better than he either thinks or does.” Furthermore, Quintilian stated in his Institutes of Oratory, “Nor is there anyone so wicked that he would like to appear wicked.” But someone warned us about hypocrisy lest we deceive others or ourselves into believing we are better than we really are and lead people astray. We were adjured to tell the truth, for truth is the highest good of all; to wit: X. Then everything would fall into its right place and we would live happily ever after in harmony and peace. So far so good. But alas, although we abjured evil and avoided hypocrisy we somehow got our goods mixed up and found ourselves in a gloomy place, wandering about like dazed junkies in the gray field of asphodels. Where did we go wrong? Where are the blessed isles? Everything seemed so clear when we began, but somehow our progress was impeded and now we stand as confused as a hedged-in billy goat who cannot retreat or advance. Wherefore this confounded gray area?

It all seemed so simple at first. We saw the light at the end of the tunnel and we wanted it badly, but after we set out doubt was raised and certain questions were posed, such as “That which I ask thee tell me soon, lord, Which things are best? What, according to divine law, may enhance my district? … How can those to whom thy revelation is declared lose perfect devotion? … Who is holy or wicked among those of whom I inquire?”

Apparently the wise lord empowered us to answer these questions ourselves in order to save the world and perhaps the cosmos, so we gathered to discuss the issues and we were soon engaged in heated arguments. Perhaps we fell in with the wrong crowd, the liars and hypocrites. We would say demons, but nowadays daemons are all bad, and we do not like to demonize our colleagues. Nor do we have to. We understand that supernatural demons are to blame for our angry sessions.

“The assembled demons could not rightly choose between the two spirits, for as they were debating the Liar approached them and the demons rushed into wrath, polluting the spiritual life of mortal men.”

If the heretical truth were told about the two spirits, we might hold ourselves personally responsible for our plight and say that the two are fraternal twins fathered by mankind, and, that wherever one may be found, the other is bound to be. May heaven forbid it, for a lot of good that would do us with so many shady characters to contend with.

Forsooth we have found ourselves where heaven and hell meet, in the gray area. We feel that something is wrong as our indecisive friends (or are they foes?) pull down the shade on truth and justify their moral turpitude with turbid talk about the principles of chiaroscuro. To make matters murkier, the moment any one of us objects, he is called a hypocrite (we would say ‘she’, but we keep her pure, hoping she will save us from this depressing intercourse). Ironically, even those who insist that there is no such thing as either/or and who claim that anyone with an intolerance for ambiguity is a neurotic and a potential fanatic – they too feel there is something gravely wrong with our gray matter. If it were not for the asphodels, the absinthe, the music, the poetry, the prime numbers, and the injunction against beans, the tension would be unbearable.

Author’s Note:

I have paraphrased excerpts from Zarathustra’s Gathas.

Get Your Death Song Ready Now

 

Tecumseh

GET YOUR DEATH SONG READY SAID THE SHAWNEES

by

David Arthur Walters

History is a mistake as far as many people are concerned. I think Albert Camus said something to the effect that losses are best known through the longing for what did not occur. That is true for many people who wish they had done more with their lives. They long for what they wanted to occur but did not occur; therefore, for them, history is a record of mistakes. Needless to say, those who were educated to believe in free will feel responsible for those mistakes, thus when they long for what did not occur, they suffer from bad conscience or guilt.

I have heard that many older people get bitter. I am not bitter, yet, I think I might drink the bitter tea lest I become bitter. As I age, I feel increasingly disappointed with every memory of the past. I wonder, is my disappointment due to an idealization of my self that I held in the past and failed to realize it in fact? Do I suffer from past illusions about myself now that their realization has become clearly impossible because my time is running out?

Alas, my past desire to be something other than I was at the time might have been realized if only I had pursued my dream long enough. I thought I had plenty of the time to waste then. Now, I believe I would have been a huge success in every endeavor I picked up if only I had not wasted so much time; if only I had kept the ideal or end in mind; if only I had put my nose to the grindstone and had persevered; if only I had forced myself to love people and to be kind to them all the time; if only I had been the ideal man I could have been.

Indeed, in retrospect, it certainly seems that I could have realized the dreams I had back then; therefore my ideals were not mere illusions; therefore I must suffer now until I am a bitter, lonely old man, not necessarily lonely for other people, but lonely for the success I should have been, that I might, like Bob Hope, die a happy death at age 100, with all the good I did coming back to me at the crucial moment. But I didn’t care for Bob Hope – Jack Benny was my favorite. Never mind!

Am I fooling myself retroactively with a present illusion? Do I suffer from a misinterpretation of the past possibilities? If I calculate the probabilities, will I discover that my chances were very slim; that there were overwhelming odds against me; that I was just unlucky; that my failure to realize the impossible dream is really not my fault; that I should give my self a break now for not getting a lucky break; that I should forgive myself for not seizing the opportunities I did have because I was conditioned to avoid them; that I am lucky to just be alive?

An illusion is something objective that almost everyone can see, like the optical illusion of water on the hot pavement due to the refraction of light by the atmosphere. A delusion is something else again, for it is individual and has no basis in what we call reality. A discerning man or woman can see through our illusions, but at least our illusions while had are real illusions, are realities we are all agree on.

Now almost everyone has always agreed that I am an extraordinarily talented man, and that all individuals, especially Americans, can achieve almost anything; therefore, if only I had persevered, if only I had doggedly pursued happiness as generally defined, I would be extraordinarily successful. If only! Everybody agrees! Is the agreement an illusion? No problem, for at least maya is real maya. On the other hand, it could be one of those rare mass delusions. Then I would have no cause to let every memory kick me in the head, I would have no right to take the blame for mistaken history.

Could I really have been otherwise than I was? Could I now be something other than I am? Well, let’s see, I hope so. Alas, here I go again.

These sort of ruminations always bring to my mind Tecumseh’s advice to young braves: get your death song together now and don’t be moaning on your deathbed about what could have been! There does seem to be something pathological about our “modern” predicament of trying to be somebody other that who we are, not even knowing who we are to begin with, then regretting the past. Here we go again.

Meaningful Meaninglessness

MEANINGFUL MEANINGLESSNESS

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

Absurdism is easily criticized because it is really not a philosophy. Perhaps Sisyphus the sophist trickster outwitted Albert Camus the sophisticated author. It appears that for the sake of argument the good author argues unwittingly against his absurd argument, finding therein faith in faithlessness, and meaning in meaninglessness. Thus, while denying that the Absurd can be transcended, he obscurely transcended it while revolting futilely against it. Authors may devote their entire lives to refuting the Absurd, or to dress it up instead in pleasing garb. But is not that precisely the point? To build a kite and fly it?

Sisyphus – Play in Progress

APXH


SISYPHUS:

My name is Sisyphus.
If it were not for me,
Mortals would have nothing
To talk about at all.
I am responsible
For the apparent rise
Of the Sun –
They give me no credit
For its fall!

I am not deaf to the gossip
About me,
And my shameless stone.
An author said of late
That I lead
An entirely futile life,
A life of one absurd revolution
After another,
Instead of doing
What any man
In his right mind
Would surely do,
If only he knew
What was rolling
Down the mountain –
Free himself,
Forthwith and forever,
From Fate!

Not that he would
If he could.

WE:

To what do we
Owe your appearance?

SISYPHUS:

People barely know themselves –
I periodically enlighten them.

WE:

Why?

SISYPHUS:

Why?
Because people
Must be stoned –
They have rocks for heads.
And I am duty bound
By obedience to myself,
As president of myself,
To trick the inmates
Of this perverse,
Rolling round house,
Into shattering their stones,
To free themselves
From the concatenations
Of their foolhardiness.

Wherefore I am named Sisyphus,
Or Se-sophos,
Meaning, Very Wise,

WE:

Tell us Sisyphus,
Where did you get
Your shining stone?

SISYPHUS:

Dragonessa Medusa,
Supreme female wisdom,
Made my marvelous mirror.

WE:

We see the light,
But are not enlightened.
Pray tell, then,
What have you done
For us lately?

SISYPHUS:

I so loved the world
That I created the gods.

WE:

Blasphemy!
Vanity!
Impiety!
Perjury!
Absurdity!

Will Sisyphus,
Who surpasses
All mortals
In intelligence,
Who is shrewdest
In contrivances,
Like a god,
Never learn
From the gods,
That he is merely
A mortal man?

Blasphemy!
He uses god’s power to destroy god.
Vanity!
He names god to flatter himself.
Impiety!
He exalts ungodly over godly.
Perjury!
He lies against his own law.
Absurdity!
What could be more absurd?

CRITIAS:

Will you stand by silently, Sisyphus,
Confronted here as you are
By these capital charges?

SISYPHUS:

I have already said quite enough
To sufficiently incriminate myself.

CRITIAS:

And I, Critias,
Am duty bound
To rid the community
Of deception,
Whether the community
Likes lucidity or not.

SISYPHUS:

Then you have
Multitudes to condemn.
So many heads must roll.
Streets must run red
With blood gushing forth
From necks gaping
On every corner.
Few are left standing
In the end,
When people thirst
For higher power.

WE:

Be gone, Critias!
We need no bloody tyrant
To slake our thirst
For aristocratic blood.
We are equal under our law,
By, for, and of the people.

CRITIAS:

What greater tyranny can there be
Than democracy over noble virtue?
A noble character is more credible
Than any law commonly considered,
For no mere talker may overcome it.
Many severed heads of big talkers
Are duly attached to our rostrum.

WE:

Aristocratic heads,
For the most part,
Hang from your rostrum!
We each are cattle
Humbled by our numbers.
Noble virtue shall not overcome
The dignity of our laws,
Or the grace of our god,
Nor shall big talkers!

Now this sophisticate, Sisyphus.
Claims to have so loved the world
That he created even the One God,
Thus he vainly puts his cause
Before the First Cause.
Would you plead his case?

CRITIAS:

If Sisyphus speaks truly,
That he created the gods,
He created tyrants over fools –
I prefer several to one –
And you should thank him
For exposing the truth
About your divine idiocy.

Gods,
States,
Laws,
All tyrants,
Yet you call me tyrant!

I fear not democracy,
For if gods, states, and laws
Are human creations,
They are no match
For the learned man.

WE:

A tyrant and a sophist!
What more could we ask for
In a big talker
Who claims nobility
Instead of divinity?

If only he were a demagogue,
We might call ourselves free!

CRITIAS:

Your political order is your true religion,
And your demagogue its talking idol.

SISYPHUS:

I created the gods
Then the one and only god –
And that was a restoration.

CRITIAS:

Thus you speak
To further incriminate yourself,
The self-created god,
To whom I put this question,
If you dare to answer:
Why were the gods created?

SISYPHUS:

There was a time when the life of all men
Was unordered, bestial, the slave of force:
There was no reward for the virtuous;
There was no punishment for the wicked.
So men devised laws of retribution,
That Justice might be their great dictator,
Having arrogance as its servile slave,
And if anyone sinned, he was punished.

Since the laws now forbade them to commit
Their usual crimes out in the open,
They began to commit them secretly.
A very wise and clever man appeared,
And for love of man he invented fear
Of the gods, that mortals might have on hand
Useful means of frightening the wicked
If in secret they did or thought of some
Evil deed. And therefore he introduced
The Divine, saying that there is a god
Flourishing with immortal life, hearing,
And seeing with his mind, and thinking of
Everything and caring about these things,
And having divine nature, who will hear
Everything said among mortals, and will
Be able to see well all that is done.
If one secretly plans something evil,
He will never escape the gods in this,
For they have surpassing intelligence.

Together with these words he introduced
The most pleasant of teachings heard by men,
Covering up the truth with false theory,
He said the gods dwelt in remote places,
Out of reach of the understanding of
Mere earthly mortals, where he could therefore
Use gods to frighten men out of their wits,
And convince them hard life has its rewards
And its punishments in a hereafter,
As dictated from those upper regions,
Where they saw lightning and heard dread thunder,
Beheld the star-faced body of heaven,
The beautiful embroidery of Time –
The skilled craftsman who brought forth the bright mass
Of Sun, and wet shower upon the Earth.

With many fears did he surround mankind,
Through which he established the deity
In a fitting place with his argument,
And thus he quenched lawlessness among men.
For the first time mortals were persuaded,
To believe in a high race of deities.

CRITIAS:

May I presume that this man
Is none other than you, Sisyphus,
Who have laid claim to creating the gods?

SISYPHUS:

You may so presume.

CRITIAS:

I cannot say that I blame you,
At least not for the tyranny,
But I question your devices,
For gods created by men are deceptions
Which can be destroyed by wise men.

SISYPHUS:

But I am the wisest of all men,
Surpassing all mortals in intelligence,
Shrewdest in contrivances,
Like a god, as it were.

CRITIAS:

It is best that a real tyrant rule directly,
By virtue of truth,
Than for people to be deceived
By false representation.

WE:

Death to Critias! Death to Critias! Death to Critias!

As for you Sisyphus,
Your sophistry rolls over our heads,
Day by day,
Just to sink into night,
Again and again.
Why raise our hopes so highly?
To cruelly let us down?
What have we done
To deserve this stoning
Unto death?
Have you no shame?

Death to Sisyphus! Death to Sisyphus! Death to Sisyphus!

SISYPHUS:

Your death sentence is most condign,
For without the light of Day,
You would have no Apollo
Attending your far-flung future.

WE:

But what of Night?
And all that Darkness implies?

SISYPHUS:

A living thing that needs the light
Must rest at night,
Lest its yearning
give it cause for burning.

WE:

But we are afraid of the dark.

SISYPHUS:

Wherefore I gave you gods
To mask Chaos with Cosmos,
That you might understand
One another and be secure
In your numbers, as One.
Have you forgotten so soon?

WE:

Threefold Goddess
Rose from Chaos,
Dressed in Earth,
Sea, and Night.

Black-winged Night,
Mother of Mystery,
Courted by Wind,
Laid a Silver Egg
In the Womb of Darkness,
Hence Love was hatched.
To move the Cosmos.

Now Darkness lives
Under Earth,
And Night resides
In the West.

When Day retires,
Night appears
In her chariot,
Drawn by steeds
Good and Evil,
With Starry Court in train.

She leads the Twins,
Death and Sleep –
Night saved Sleep from Death,
And Mighty Zeus,
In awe of Night,
Dared not intervene.

Ambivalent Night,
Frightening friend,
Hides guilt and innocence,
Conceals stolen valuables,
Covers lover’s charms,
Fosters fear and hope,
Turns sticks into snakes,
Logs into monsters,
Monsters into gods.

Mother’s introspection,
Provokes vigilance,
And prepares us for
The surprises of
The Enlightening Dawn.

SISYPHUS:

Hence my cue,
The Crowing Cock.
What of the Fateful Sisters
Dwelling well in the cave
Nearby the Moon?

WE:

Clotho who spins,
Lachesis who draws,
Atropos who cuts,
By the light
Of the Silvery Moon,
Tell us please,
Whose face among us all
Is the most beautiful?

processing….

Alice Packer’s Shadow

 

 

Sharon Stone (1983) would be perfect for the double roles

 

ALICE PACKER’S SHADOW 

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS 

Location: 

S&M Art Studios, Ltd.

Cast: 

Alice Packer: Art Director
Walter Davidson: Senior Vice President
Harry Heckler: Computer Graphics Designer
Sheri Sands: Head Photographer
Susan Sockwith: Fashion Director
Angela Songerson: Human Resources Director

[It was time for lunch. Walter Davidson is about to adjourn the regular Monday staff meeting. Alice Packer had seemed distracted throughout the meeting. She suddenly proceeds to laugh hysterically]

ANGELA SONGERSON: Good heavens! Alice, get a grip. What’s so funny? What are you laughing about?

ALICE PACKER: I’m laughing because I saw my shadow this morning at Raven’s Nest. [She bursts into tears. Angela, stupefied, blinking characteristically, leans over and hugs Alice.

ANGELA SONGERSON: Holy Moses, Alice, I’m sorry. What are you talking about? [ She continues to bat her eyelashes.

ALICE PACKER: My shadow is dying to be me and she’s been shadowing me for weeks now. So I go into Raven’s Nest Cafe this morning for coffee and a bagel, and there she is, standing in line right in front of me, chit chatting with people, pretending to be me…”

ANGELA SONGERSON: Pretending to be you?” 

ALICE PACKER [angrily brushing away her tears]: Yes, trying to look like a professional art director without even giving me credit. Professional liar, that’s what that hussy really is. 

HARRY HECKLER [snickering]: Now, now, sweetheart, you’re just imagining… 

ANGELA SONGERSON: Lay off, Harry, and if you say sweetheart one more time I’ll file a harassment complaint. Go on, Alice.

WALTER DAVIDSON: This staff meeting is adjourned. [to Alice, jokingly.] When you said you saw your shadow, I thought you meant you needed a shave. I saw my beard this morning…[Nobody pays attention to him – everyone is gathered around Alice Packer]

ALICE PACKER: I was livid. I tapped her on the back and asked her for her name. “Moana,” she said. I looked the lying hussy up and down, and said, “I don’t know how long you’ve been lurking around the art business, Moana, but you should get a real life. The only person you’re fooling is yourself. You don’t even know what an art director is. Quit being such a wannabe.” Well, she doesn’t say a word, reaches into her fake leather briefcase, takes out and hands me a copy of her portfolio, picks up her coffee and struts out as if her tail doesn’t stink just because men stare at it. So I look at the trash she gave me – it’s a cheap knock-off of my own portfolio, she copied all my ideas!

ANGELA SONGERSON: Even your bio’s are alike?

ALICE PACKER:  Absolutely. And my logo too!

ANGELA SONGERSON [blinking furiously]: I feel for you, Angela, that’s really scary. There’s gotta be something you can do? That is outrageous. Oh, let me give you another hug… [Alice backs away.]

SUSAN SOCKWITH [nodding her head sagely]: I know her. She used to shadow me when I was shopping on Fifth Avenue. I’d see her reflected in the window, wearing the same dress as me. Moana is the worst nightmare a woman can have. She will copy your every gesture for years. Just keep in mind that everything this person says is a lie. Would you believe she started taking Qi Gong classes when I did? – there she was, trying to mirror my every move.  

SHERI SANDS: I’ve seen her too. She is a pretty but pathetic young woman.  

WALTER DAVIDSON:  I think I know your shadow too. Some forger was using my name and style at several studios. I filed suit and got an injunction.  

SHERI SANDS: Well done! That’ll teach them!

HARRY HECKLER: C’mon, Walter, we know what was up with that. You signed your name to blank sheets, gave them to your students and forgot about it, for crying out loud!

ANGELA SONGERSON:[grasping Alice’s hand.] She’s not worth thinking about any more, Alice. Frankly, she’s a human leech. The best thing one can do with her is ignore her and smack her down when she comes around. There’s nothing she can do, really. She’s just your shadow and can never be an true art director like you. Come now, let’s have a long lunch together – Walter won’t mind – it’s on me. [all file out of the meeting room except Walter, who stays behind to write up the Minutes.]

 

-Curtain-