Back in the late 80s I had begun my journey to understand the rest of life. Computers I knew. There wasn't much to know back then and today there is too much. Nevertheless my understanding of the liberal arts was nascent and simple. I was heartened by the observation of some great intellectual whose name I have forgotten - but he said that the life of the mind is circular and complete. That if you begin studying science you will find the same truths ultimately confirmed by the arts and vice versa. It is with that in mind that I had the confidence to be something other than a singular geek, although I cannot say with any conclusive certainty that I have become a Reconnaissance anything. Still, I have my moments.
I didn't know Norman O. Brown, like I don't know many figures of the liberal arts. But I had invented him as a foil to my own sensibilities. Here, R. R. Reno introduces him as the father of all today's post-modern primitivism.
These days, multiculturalists attack the very idea of a normative culture, but often with vague claims about “inclusion” and no clear idea of what sort of world they seek. In contrast, Brown sees clearly. Brown wants to release us from the tensions of history. Therefore, it is essential to let go of purpose. “The unrepressed animal,” he writes, “carries no instinctual project to change his own nature.” History is all about doing. In contrast, Brown wants us to affirm pure being, which he associates with the free, non-purposeful play of children. Or as he puts is elsewhere, we should embrace “that simple health that animals enjoy.”
Yes. I know, I know. I was just saying this in my Prick essay.
Stowe Boyd retweeted somebody saying, microblog style, that sometimes it's worth being gay just to annoy Republicans. To which I had to respond in the reverse, sometimes it's worth being Republican just to annoy gays - and it certainly is. But nobody tends to believe that old queers can take it, that they can just dish it in victimized frustration. I'm the one that's frustrated. Live and let live is what I say, but that doesn't apply if you're gay, or black, or Republican. Except that I should capitalize Gay and Black because they are not so much identities as political identities. The fact that we don't capitalize them shows the blurriness of our thinking and inability to recognize the difference between being and doing. Everything, it seems, is argued ad hominem because everyone, it seems, is trying to be loved. Doing something, to be loved. Say that slowly and realize how people struggle to achieve a state of grace, a retirement threshold after which you *are* something by acclamation. And so there is a political struggle, work and doing, to designate 'gay' as a state of grace, after the foolishness that granted the doublespeak of colorblindness that false honor.
I have been arguing against being in favor of doing for years now. It's one of the tropes of Cobb and now to see it reified elsewhere gives me glum satisfaction. There are at least two of us who see our cities on fire with the heat of wanton ignorance. And we know the arsonist.
I have also been saying that the Sexual Revolution is another sad revolution with no particular destination in mind and I was thinking just yesterday on how we conservatives are the enemy of Progress. This giant disambiguated 'progress' that goes under the heading of 'the modern world'. The modern world has been around for a century and because our cars are faster we naively try to believe that everything is getting better at the same pace, or that all incremental intellectual changes to what was are good. Surely, "we didn't know anything then".
I find myself fighting the temptation to leave society every day to stop pushing the boundaries of what my life has become. I am caught in the struggle between the appeal of solitude and responsibility to my fellows. Half of me wants to find a house by the lake 10 miles off the main road (with internet of course), the other half wants a penthouse on Central Park West. Which is the better retirement? There is some proper passage regarding this in Ravelstein. And I am reminded of all the books I am missing.
I attempt an economy of words. I hear this was Bacon's great gift, but I digress.
Conservatism is under threat for a number of reasons, all relating to the failure of society to maintain a level of integrity that allows a sufficient number of adults to remain in control. We conservatives are engaged out of discontent and the others out of desire. The deconstructors seem to have the upper hand.