The theme of today’s posting was suggested by the commentary to the earlier post on “Too Much of a Good Thing”, in which C.S. Lewis’s use of the term “Tao” was raised. I wondered why Lewis, a devout Christian as we know, would have preferred the name “Tao” over “Logos“, since they are equivalent in meaning. A comparison of some of the fragments of Heraclitus (who first used the term “Logos”) with the writings of Lao Tse on the Tao pretty much confirms that the Logos, the Tao, and (in some contexts) the “Dharma” of Buddhism are the same. In the passages cited from Lewis in the comments, you could substitute “Logos” or “Dharma” for “Tao” without any loss of meaning.
I just began reading John O’Donohue‘s Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World, and I am quite impressed with it so far. He might be compared favourably with William Irwin Thompson, for those of you who are a fan of the latter.
Anam Cara is Gaelic, and translates as “soul friend”, as O’Donohue explains in the Prologue. (The Anam Cara is also quite evidently the “Friend” of Rumi’s mystical poetry). And it’s from the Prologue that I want to quote, rather extensively, to illustrate and highlight the themes of the previous post, for it was tremendously serendipitous to take up O’Donohue’s book, and read his Prologue, after posting “Too Much of a Good Thing”. So the following is an excerpt from the Prologue to Anam Cara.
Sometimes — perhaps most of the time — the most intractable dilemmas and predicaments evolve, synergistically, out of the simplest of errors or deficient beliefs (or “sins” if you will). “You can’t have too much of a good thing”, which I hear uttered occasionally in one form or another, and which is assumed or implied in great many similar statements or acts, is one such error, faulty belief, or “sin” which gives blessing to excess, gluttony, greed, cupidity, avarice, self-indulgence of all kinds as being virtuous. “There is no such thing as a house that’s too big”; “Everyone can use an extra 500,000 dollars” are statements I have heard with my own ears which reveal the spirit of hubris (or “transgression” as the Latin puts it) that underlies many of the problems of the Late Modern Era.
Here the popular saying that “big things come in small packages”, which is actually formalised in non-linear logics, complexity theory, or chaos theory as “The Butterfly Effect” is very appropriate. Popular sayings often record very profound truths that, nonetheless, are even ignored by the populace that utters them. Or, lip-service is paid to these popular truths even as one acts contrary to them — “honoured in the breach” only.
Baal (or Beelzebub) is called The Lord of the Flies. Indeed, some people are attracted to piles of money, and fall under its allure and spell, like flies to heaps of excrement, wherefore it is said that “the love of money is the root of all evil”. Wherever there is decay or death, there is the Lord of the Flies. The Lord of the Flies is connected with Lewis Mumford’s cogent observation that what were formerly considered the “seven deadly sins” have been, thanks to the “Invisible Hand”, massaged and revalued as being virtues. In traditional Catholic demonology, in any case, The Lord of the Flies is one of “the seven princes of hell”, and even the chiefest of the princes of hell.
It was the dreadful Grenfell Towers disaster in London, and following that story (which some are pinning on the consequences of deregulation, “cutting red tape”, and social inequality) that brought to mind The Lord of the Flies. William Golding’s famous book by that title is less about what could be than it is about what already is, and the Lord of the Flies is implicated, too, in Naomi Klein’s critique of “disaster capitalism”. I wouldn’t discount the view that the spirit of the age is that of The Lord of the Flies.
I was perusing the pages of The Guardian today and came across this novel word “idiocracy” (in, of all places, the sports section of the paper). “An amusing but appropriate neologism”, I thought. My curiosity aroused, I googled up the term and found that it was the title of a 2006 science fiction movie that, though getting positive reviews from the film critics and having since become a “cult film”, was poorly promoted and didn’t do well at the box office. Natch, I just had to order it.
I’m not sure who should be credited with the phrase “the shock of the real” (but it is, apparently, the American environmentalist Edward Abbey from his book Desert Solitaire). It’s a very good phrase. It’s basically the meaning of the word “apocalypse” and has been borrowed extensively by others too to describe the bursting of bubbles of all kinds. “Shock” has become something of a theme of Late Modernity or the post-modern condition — Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, or, indeed, “Shock and Awe”. Shock might even be said to be the essence of “the New Normal”.
The phrase “shock of the real” brings to mind the Tarot card called “The Fool”.
If Mr. Trump thought that pulling the United States out of the Paris Accord on Climate Change would force the rest of the world to buckle and flock to his doorstep to renegotiate the agreement with him, he very badly miscalculated. Trump’s arrogance in that respect seems rooted in a long-standing fiction — at least since Madelaine Albright — that the United States is “the indispensible nation”. There are no “indispensible nations” in the grand historical view, and I think Mr. Trump has just definitively popped that bubble (and apparently, so do others).
Ironically, though (and what isn’t ironic these days) Mr. Trump, quite despite himself and his intentions, may have just made the US federal state and national government irrelevant anyway, and prepared the way for some form of “glocalism“,