Saturday, September 30, 2006

And now for something completely different

I should change my profile description: half a year ago I quit my work in the IT industry and scheduled five months of complete rest for myself. Good housekeeping was thrown to winds but it proved to be well worth it. The end of the tether had been reached and to have continued would have invited a true disaster. Things did not go as planned, when do they - a sad, sad, griveous loss was unexpectedly experienced in my closest family and the ensuing period did not offer as much mental rest as expected at the onset. At least I was confronted with the essential and eternal instead of any tedious, debilitating work, bleeding from thousands of cuts.

A slow recovery followed and as it happened I luckily and quite out of the blue got an offer about a modest teaching position at a small practical college just outside Helsinki. I accepted and such a change it has been. True, the salary is small and in these sad days teaching is not much respected. One wonders why: teaching the young is such a meaningful and honourable human activity - unlike being an expert in maximizing the "efficiency" of IT support processes in some faceless giant of a corporation which certainly was not meaningful nor very honourable (non dulce et non decorum...). Life is strange - I seem to stay stubbornly true to my principle of drifting, of trying not to be ambitious in the non-essential things (an area I tend to have challenges with), of using my short time in the world for the worthwhile issues: concentrating on the long views, the central questions, being surrounded by friendship and love.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hey Mister Tambourine Man

I suppose it is obvious from these posts that I see people as infinite promises never to be kept, as empty vessels of great potential never fulfilled. We are ever referring to things and meanings beyond our narrow scope, but can never really, genuinely, enlarge that scope, break free of our bondage. This is of course just another way of saying that our human history is a tragedy. I simply can’t see the Grenfellian, the Nietzschean fulfilment as satisfactory. It seems to me a forced compromise, a timid turning back at the mere onset of the journey, getting what one can get as opposed to what one would want to get. No hunting for me by blond beasts willing themselves to power in the misty forests. After a while it would surely be a bore, sounding like such a dismal affair. Instead we have chosen to wait to see, to hear the chimes of freedom flashing, perhaps perpetually in vain, but not settling for any watered down pragmatism, any compromises, reaching beyond the narrow scope.

The Cold Six Thousand

By now we know all the sordid details: the deception, the countless women used and discarded, the petty manoeuvres, the naked ambition. But I still suspect that this is not what the American conservatives rage against: it is the high ideal itself of an enlightened and rational political process, of human excellence. The mere suggestion, the mere possibility is an anathema, a horror. For what is then the rejection of these dreams, should they be legitimite. Today this conservative rage continues unabated, deep hatred, prejudice and ignorance are catered for – and if liberals respond in kind they will drag down into this dismal mud their own high beliefs in human reason and enlightenment, and if they don’t, they will be defeated. A no-win situation if any. The conservatives are a self-fulfilling prophecy and the liberals are self-defeated by our human inadequacy, by the terrible ease with which our best endeavours can be brought down. This said, not really a hard choice between these two camps, is it

Thursday, September 07, 2006

On religion

This is a subject where I have been curiously reluctant to wade in. In the modern West religion in its Christian guise is a mere shell of its former glories: it is now popularly understood only in its decayed fundamentalist form which is simply, humiliatingly, the deformed and despised twin of the 19th century positivist science - having us to believe all matter of nonsensical things about biology, geology and human sexuality among other things. Anyone faintly taking religion seriously is immediately tainted with this present combination of cruelty and utter stupidity. Of course religion is not about dogma, theology and formal institutions. It has never been about them. They are just tools for short sighted power struggles as any other tools in our tragic and bloody history. The official doctrines are intellectually utter nonsense trying - at their best - to formulate in formal language meanings that cannot be formulated in formal language. This is true I think of any religion, not only Christianity. Buddhism in its purest forms comes close to being a coherent philosophy but as a hopeful Western activist its resignation and turning away from the world is not a path that I would be able to accept in its entirety.

So, the essential religious question in my view is not "Does God exist?" - that is a trivial, fairly non-relevant issue - but instead, "What is the appropriate response to the experience of being in the world?" And here the mad visions of early Christianity, Sufi dances and dreams, abstract Buddhist mediations, still, for me, easily beat any completely rationalist scientific world views. Art has two faces: it has a continuous dialogue with philosophy but its other side is eternally facing towards religion. If our civilization abandons this concern with faith, with the mystical side of our being, it will not remain vital - or rational.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

Having used the grand Spenglerian title in the previous post I went for the genuine article. It was as I recalled. I suppose it must be my Anglo-Saxon cum Nordic cultural background that I find most German philosophical writing overly stuffy and formless (even in translation). Spengler is mostly obscure, non-analytical but with many poetic flashes of genius - and many sinister undertones echoing some other strident German analysis of our liberal-materialist Western civilization. But I wonder whether he still doesn't have a point. I used to appreciate this certain spiritual vacuum in the centre of our society: it leaves people free to live their private lives, to have their loves and losses in material comfort, it lets them fill the vacuum individually. Now I wonder if any non-aware, non-enlightened human society can retain this sort of emptiness indefinitely. When you look around you see tired people filling their free time with mindless entertainment, you hear a political discourse totally devoid of honesty, you see a society utterly dominated by profit seeking structures. Naturally I would prefer even this over any imaginable ideological alternative other than a transformation towards a genuinely enlightened and rational culture, but that is hardly the question.