Saturday, February 23, 2019

attractive arguments to justify some disgraceful action

Edward Mendelson writes:

"In the two years since the 2016 US election, it seems ever more clear that Thucydides is the greatest historian not only of empire but also of contemporary politics. This excerpt is his account of civil war in Corcyra, 427 BC—and, equally, of politics in America, AD 2018:"
Revenge was more important than self-preservation. And if pacts of mutual security were made, they were entered into by the two parties only in order to meet some temporary difficulty, and remained in force only so long as there was no other weapon available. When the chance came, the one who first seized it boldly, catching his enemy off his guard, enjoyed a revenge that was all the sweeter from having been taken, not openly, but because of a breach of faith. It was safer that way, it was considered, and at the same time a victory won by treachery gave one a title for superior intelligence. And indeed most people are more ready to call villainy cleverness than simple-mindedness honesty. They are proud of the first quality and ashamed of the second. 
Love of power, operating through greed and through personal ambition, was the cause of all these evils. To this must be added the violent fanaticism which came into play once the struggle had broken out. Leaders of parties in the cities had programs which appeared admirable—on one side political equality for the masses, on the other the safe and sound government of the aristocracy—but in professing to serve the public interest they were seeking to win the prizes for themselves. In their struggles for ascendancy nothing was barred; terrible indeed were the actions to which they committed themselves, and in taking revenge they went farther still. Here they were deterred neither by the claims of justice nor by the interests of the state; their one standard was the pleasure of their own party at that particular moment, and so, either by means of condemning their enemies on an illegal vote or by violently usurping power over them, they were always ready to satisfy the hatreds of the hour. Thus neither side had any use for conscientious motives; more interest was shown in those who could produce attractive arguments to justify some disgraceful action. As for the citizens who held moderate views, they were destroyed by both the extreme parties, either for not taking part in the struggle or in envy at the possibility that they might survive.
— Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, translated by Rex Warner (Penguin, 1972; pp. 242–245) in What Thucydides Knew About the US Today, by Edward Mendelson, The New Yoerk Review of Books, October 29, 2018, 12:20 pm
The recent calls for a second civil war by members of the Republican faithful, a reckless and dangerous rhetoric replete with target practice, dog whistle calls for malevolent action against opposing politicians and reporting journalists, and the persistant everyday practice of blatant lying and naked denial of facts and truth, have set the stage for an idiot's war that could easily break out without forewarning.

Mendelson writes earlier in his article:
In the third book of his History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides describes the outbreak of civil war on the northern island of Corcyra in 427 BC: 
"There was the revenge taken in their hour of triumph by those who had in the past been arrogantly oppressed instead of wisely governed; there were the wicked resolutions taken by those who, particularly under the pressure of misfortune, wished to escape from their usual poverty and coveted the property of their neighbors; there were the savage and pitiless actions into which men were carried not so much for the sake of gain as because they were swept away into an internecine struggle by their ungovernable passions." (op cit)
I don't know what is in the wind. The hot-air provocations of foolish men and women broadcasting bellicosity who think their bully hawkish threats and intimidatiion only make their payday salaries more secure, are hurting so much more than their intended targets.

Yes, The Mueller report will be issued. Yes, attempts to bury and debunk the findings with take partisan stage. And, yes, denials and accusations and bilious slander will echo throughout. There will be noise and smoke and unbecoming words. Regional courts and grand juries will pick up threads and carry on the inquiries. The wreck that is our current government with take on water and list even further.

Future historians will have a trove of written words -- briefs, documents, articles, and books -- to sift through and analyze. Judgments will be made. Those who learn from history -- that small number of scholars and citizens -- will wonder how it happened, how it got to be the way it did.

nothing other than the realization of this, here, and now

God is existence

Christ is emergence

You and I are nothing other than the realization of this, here, and now

Thus, the task is becoming
  • what and 
  • who we are, 
  • where we are, 
  • when and 
  • as we are
In this way
  • as you
  • so me
  • as within 
  • so without
Prayer is the practice of this realization as itself becoming fully present

Thursday, February 21, 2019

good gifts

It's been a reading/listening ten days. The books, now that I am not teaching, arrive easily, are devoured happily: 
  • Inside 9-11 (Der Spiegel), 
  • 102 Minutes:The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers (Kevin Flynn, Jim Dwyer), 
  • Jesus Out To Sea: Stories (James Lee Burke), 
  • The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump (Andrew McCabe), 
  • Fear: Trump in the White House (Bob Woodward), 
  • The Assault on Intelligence (Michael Hayden),
  • Lincoln in the Bardo (George Saunders).
Also progressing with 

  • Life of the Mind (Hannah Arendt), and 
  • After God: Richard Kearney and the Religious Turn in Continental Philosophy (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy) (John Panteleimon Manousakis).
With the help of SCRIBD as well as hardcopies, I am back in the corner candy store of my childhood. 

Browsing, musing, pondering, indulging.

Knowledge and imagination.

Nice to be reading again.

Good gifts.

their devastation, their mourning, ours

It's too simplistic to pit the argument as pro-Trump or anti-Trump.

Rather, the problem presents as being for decency in disagreement versus cynical malicious threats toward opposing views.

The time is rapidly coming to an end for viewing Mr. Trump as a laugh line or parody fodder or a toss-off sarcastic dismissive abberrance.

He is much more than that.

He is, in the titles of recent books, about fear, about threat, about dangerous circus.

He is on the cusp of irreversible dismantling of whatever it was that America thought itself to be.

Problem is that much of what America pretended to be was an illusion.

Racism, sexism, elitism, imperialism, domineering global militarism -- the ways of smiling yet shielding the dagger poised between shoulder blades of both friends and enemies.

The fact and metaphor of him shoving one world leader aside so as to take front spot in photograph. Kowtowing obsequiously to other world leaders to curry favor or personal money or to avoid their emasculating goods on him.

It is a very dangerous time.

I think Mr. Trump continues to ascend in whatever nefarious and plotting scam and scheme bubbles in his psyche.

I fear he will prevail.

All the protestations of justice and constitution and law and order and balance of powers and majority of popular opinion --- are all secondary to Mr. Trump's strong and determined, albeit delusionary and near-psychotic, spasms of total control over the fate of the country, nation, and population.

I am neither optimistic nor joyful that any other corrective will emerge or prevail.

I have to sit squarely in the paradoxical koan the Trappist monk offered me before his death, when he said, "Cheer up, Bill, things are only going to get worse."

They will, I fear.

They are, I suspect.

He will prevail.

I stare out at the morning, snow quietly over everything, the faint sounds and muffled sobs of millions of people's sorrow, their devastation, their mourning.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

feel it

I think

it is time

to affirm


after thought

It's time

Using coals to reinvigorate wood stove fire

Chanting morning invitatory at barn door in 8° under full moon angling over Ragged Mountain

Adding kibbles to night watch hefty cat bowl

Entering silence




Tuesday, February 19, 2019

familia incognito

Reading Lincoln in the Bardo.

Looking out at running track under foot of snow at Bates College.

What is it I do not see?

Monday, February 18, 2019

sans doute

To all who doubt the president of the United States — remember, there’s nothing wrong with doubt.

itself out

Zen is not asking why. Rather, Zen is asking me to sit down, be quiet, look in, and allow 'why' to find itself out by finding out itself.  

Sunday, February 17, 2019

seeing is all

Earth is fragile drift

 in empty space

Will you help

look around

are you kidding

It occurs to me that truth is not attractive.

There seems to be an attraction to lies.

I know, it seems odd.

So this is called the post-truth age.

It is, some still say,  wrong to prefer lies.

Still, many, if not most, do prefer lies.

No kidding.

Seems strange.