Theology’s temptation is to set out a world structure or essence and then determine where we fit into that structure. The problem is that this obscures the fact that such structures are produced, and that they serve particular interests. The most radical insight of liberal theology is that what God is can’t be dictated in advance. On my account, this is not an excuse for relativism, but an affirmation that theology is anti-imperial, anti-supremacist, anti-capitalist, since it resists the domination of reality by a single principle of value. More positively, this means that God ‘is’ the reality which engenders multiple expressions of militant solidarity, the flourishing difference which is the common wealth of all creatures. God is possible, not in the weak sense of ‘may or may not be real’, but in the strong sense of a real possibility of expressing and living solidarity, curiosity, love or forgiveness in uncountable and unforeseeable ways.
The sixteenth century sought gold as the treasure of exotic cultures — we are now searching for spiritual gold. If the twentieth century was the century of physics in the mainstream, the margins were already looking ahead to the next great unknown: the mystery of the mind and the mind-body problem. The twentieth century unraveled the mysteries of consciousness but barely touched the non-conscious or unconscious despite Freud. That is precisely the area that has been more openly cultivated by nonwestern cultures. We admire it and we wish to acquire it. Gold may be valuable, but self-knowledge and mind control are invaluable. Wouldn’t you want to read nature like a Noble Savage, manipulate the minds of others, and control your body and illnesses? If there hadn’t been shamans we would have had to invent them, and in many cases we have.
Somehow we had decided on the left that religion belongs to Fox Television, or it belongs to some kind of right-wing fanaticism in the Middle East and we have given it up, and it has made us a really empty — that is, it has made the left really empty. I’ll point to one easy instance. Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. And what America heard was really a sermon. It was as though slavery and Jim Crow could not be described as a simple political narrative; racism was a moral offense, not simply an illegality. And with his vision of a time “when all of God’s children” in America would be free, he described the nation within a religious parable of redemption.
Fifty years later, our technocratic, secular president gave a speech at the Lincoln memorial, honoring the memory of the speech Dr. King had given. And nothing President Obama said can we remember these few weeks later; his words were dwarfed by our memory of the soaring religious oratory of fifty years ago. And what’s happened to us — and I would include myself in the cultural left — what has happened to us is we have almost no language to talk about the dream life of America, to talk about the soul of America, to talk about the mystery of being alive at this point in our lives, this point in our national history. That’s what we’ve lost in giving it to Fox Television.
In the past, the sociology of knowledge, by marshalling a great profusion of social factors, had explained only deviations with respect to the straight and narrow path of reason. Error, beliefs, could be explained socially, but truth remained self-explanatory. It was certainly possible to analyze a belief in flying saucers, but not the knowledge of black holes; we could analyze the illusions of parapsychology, but not the knowledge of psychologists; we could analyze Spencer’s errors, but not Darwin’s certainties. The same social factors could not be applied equally to both. In this double standard we recognize the split in anthropology between sciences, which were not open to study, and ethnosciences, which were.
The art of an era is nothing but the portrait of its patrons. It portrays the problem of excess as it is experienced in a given moment. In the domestic aesthetic of Xmas, as in the pagan rite of old, the problem is a simple if surreal one, of making the excess of the world over itself appear momentarily present. Once a ruling class has command of a sizable part of the surplus, the problem becomes an almost insoluble one of how the excess of the world can be made to appear as ‘naturally’ conferring on a ruling class a right to make that excess present itself. The artifice of the ritual, its purely formal and self-involved character, rises in direct proportion to the uselessness of the patrons in command of it.
i don’t think i’ve seen a better depiction of the physicality of depressive mental illness than that bit in melancholia where kirsten dunst is in front of the bath and charlotte gainsbourge is like
c’mon just lift your foot, step into the bath. youre right infront of the bath. its a nice bath, you know you’ll like it. just lift your foot.
and kirsten makes a noise and just slides to the floor
i think about that scene a lot
The world is not yet finished, but everyone is behaving as if everything was known. This is not true. In fact, the computer world as we know it is based upon one tradition that has been waddling along for the last fifty years, growing in size and ungainliness, and is essentially defining the way we do everything. My view is that today’s computer world is based on techie misunderstandings of human thought and human life. And the imposition of inappropriate structures throughout the computer is the imposition of inappropriate structures on the things we want to do in the human world