Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Soul of Man under Technology

I suppose it sounds mundane and facile to place one’s chief hope in technology after all these grand ethical and metaphysical arguments. If we are so corrupted, so incapable of reason, how could mere gadgets save us? It is admittedly a bleak position: basically I then place my hope in random history that would eventually lead us to a transformation despite our all destructive actions. But yes, if any true progress comes, it surely will come despite the usual vested interests, the usual elites – and trough the usual blind, panicky, shortsighted struggle for power and safety that our human history has consisted of.

In short I don’t believe in any ethical, any rational shortcut consciously embraced because of reason and compassion. Technology can eventually destroy the cruel restraints of human life: cure diseases, prolong life, abolish all physical want. In such profoundly changed conditions we are also bound to change profoundly. And only through profound change, a fundamental ethical and spiritual transformation, can we begin to realize our true potential, our true humanity. So, my little faith in human self-governance is placed on random history, on science and reason somehow prevailing over fear, aggression and stupidity. It does not sound very likely, does it? I would still say that at least this position gives a rational foundation for hope which will always exist. We live in bleak times, we have always lived in bleak times, but there will always exist hope for better, even in the grimmest of circumstances.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

On Finnish folk hymns

I have little use for Bach's majesty or Mozart's unearthly Requiem as regards religious music with my particular inheritance of the Finnish Pietist folk melodies. It is strange to think how a collective, non-intellectual effort reaches to the same universal heights as with these individual, artistic geniuses. Negro spirituals (among many others) have the same effect. I wonder what this says of art? T.S. Eliot had a personal answer with "Tradition and the Individual Talent" but that I find hard to accept in its entirety. Surely he had a point of sorts, but I feel that he missed the essential and went overboard with his strange dogmas though he did touch on certain very crucial aspects of art.

In any case, I don't think that the religious aspect of these beautiful, sad hymns is beside the point as a pure aesthete would have it, somehow I think it is the essence of the message, but not literally, theologically interpreted. The longing for a true home connects both religion and art (and philosophy for that matter) in a sense that contradicts Plato's view of art as something distracting the true human pursuit of the essential. A very crucial issue to settle I would think. Well, in any case I feel tremendously priviledged as having these unearthly melodies as my childhood context: no wonder I have seeked universal art so singlemindedly - it was my very inheritance.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Civilizational rites

I have lately been participating in arranging a Finnish Pietist funeral. It has been very strange to witness the added meaning and form associated with the process: a death gets its proportionate place, its formalized, proper meaning - a certain warmth is thus added to the proceedings. I have very hard time imagining the same with a purely materialist point of view. What really could be said in that case, what would be the point of saying it? With the Pietist tradition there are universal echoes, satisfactory form and proportion. This is very far removed from any crude literal interpretation of Christianity, but the sad, beautiful Finnish folk melodies easily reach beyond any primitive fundamentalism. Such universal songs of hope and homesickness. In so far as we these days lack these regulated, proportionate ceremonies, these signifying meanings, we lack civilization itself. And that surely is not a sustainable state of affairs.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Death's dream kingdom: sad, unforeseen news

When we talk about death, we really always talk about life. It is moreover very clear that with death pure materialism will simply never do. This is not to posit anything about a pre-existing empirical reality but discussing what meaning if any we can create into our lifes. Of course, a pre-existing empirical reality may or may not exist - but that is not what our experience here is ever really concerned with. This point I suppose is related to what Nietzsche aimed in his clumsy, plodding way to express, drawing only, as always, the most inane imaginable conclusions. So, we are measured by death, by life and to choose love, to give up all our imaginary power is the only meaningful test we are faced with here. A cold coming we certainly have had of it, and all failures are pre-excused, but not all fail, not always.