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GORDON LIGHTFOOT AND MY FATHER’S SUFFERING

September 16, 2013

HELEN’S EXILE 1948 (EXCERPTS)

Greek thought always took refuge behind the conception of limits. It never carried

anything to extremes, neither the sacred nor reason, because it

negated nothing, neither the sacred nor reason. It took everything

into consideration, balancing shadow with light. Our Europe, on

the other hand, off in the pursuit of totality, is the child of

disproportion. She negates beauty, as she negates whatever she

does not glorify. And, through all her diverse ways, she glorifies

but one thing, which is the future rule of reason. In her madness

she extends the eternal limits, and at that very moment dark

Erinyes fall upon her and tear her to pieces. Nemesis, the goddess

of measure and not of revenge, keeps watch. All those who

overstep the limit are pitilessly punished by her.

At the time of writing: Camus speaks not from the standpoint of consumer society, which cannot be truly understood as such until at least the 1950s-and probably more like the end of the 1960s-and not even then with the Golem-like spirit that it is made of today; in fact, history in this light could be viewed as simply a gradual loss of the hearth (Spengler) that leads fatally to the man’s destruction-or his eventual, imposed and calamitous return to it (the hearth), if he does in fact survive, to begin-it is assumed-again.

And Spengler’s hearth could be understood as the pre-Industrial-or pre-Enlightenment-psychological configuration of social man; at times it is exactly this that I feel I was lucky enough to have lived in the first years of my experience in Spain (1985 to 1995, more or less), even in Madrid, but especially in other provincial cities and in the life of the village.

For this I knew well and at that time: that Spain was not really a consumer society in the way a 1970s-early 1980s America was; it was not Africa, either, but it still was a land where people used the paper from newspapers-for example-for other things; where pets were never considered like people by anybody; food was not, for the most part, industrialized and neither were the bodies of people generally obese and terminated in their biological existence by statistically prevalent heart disease; television only operated after 3 in the afternoon; t-shirts and tennis shoes (sneakers) were seldom visible on the streets; a cultural persona of the good Samaritan abounded when dealing with strangers in whatever kind of relative need, and there was always a correct way of doing things, as well as a minimum of social decorum demanded of everyone as proper form in the daily treatment of others.

From an economic standpoint there had not existed, either, an historical process of capitalization with regards to corporations and their relationship with overall society: insurance, in some ways, had hardly penetrated certain areas of Spanish life; neither were there any serious investment funds at any level comparable to the US or other European countries and private pensions schemes as mechanisms of capitalization, hardly existed in a broader social sense.

There were only two or three McDonald’s restaurants in the whole country and it was not until 1990 that the first pizza delivery chain began to operate.

And quickly, all this changed-and the motor ultimately behind it from my observation-was a suddenly aggressive onslaught, culturally, of capitalization in what was termed then as something closer to an Anglo-Saxon economic model.

And behind this, collapsed everything else.

And yes, people suddenly felt proud and not defensive anymore about being Spanish, and material well-being seemed to improve, generally, for everybody-and traditional Spanish culture, of course, did not just suddenly vanish, but rather changed and evolved according to its own parameters, adapting-it seemed-that best of globalization while retaining-at least at first-something akin to its own essence;

But after a decade and a half, a clear distortion had finally taken place in many ways and with regards to certain fundamentals of a former way of being, and much was lost, though perhaps there might have been a brighter future perspective of combination and evolution, before 2007.

I am no Luddite, but rather someone who has always had a certain practical faith and belief in capitalism-although in my vitality and as I thinker I am most socialist.

And I base my moral judgments on Camus himself-and, ultimately, on Spengler-with regards to Spanish culture in my understanding of it as finally falling victim to a great degree to the very decadence of the West that prior to 1990-95 it had not really known.

And this decadence I now clearly see as flight, through science, the worst of the Enlightenment and man’s Nietzschean will to power, away from man’s original collective anthropological configuration as of agriculture;

For his physiological-psychological nature and his mode of relating physically to reality has not changed-has remained constant as an underlying crypto phantom that the contemporary world of social and Western man lives, to a great degree, in denial of.

But man’s anthropological, collective configuration-as of agriculture-rises forth form his core physiological-psychological nature, being this nature the final product of his very biological evolution as result of human natural selection, which agriculture effectively and finally put a halt to.

Exactly this nature, as Camus and Spengler affirm is what is denied, ignored and even scorned especially by post-Enlightenment human history.

And it became a matter of those limits that Western philosophical tradition after Hegel (and Marx)-after God himself- no longer recognizes.

Simply that: a question of limits that, because of the free reign given to man’s drive and will to power through science as, really, his core psychological savagery, the cultural mechanism of restraint-through religion for example-vanished, condemning man himself to our own disappearance, as civilization and, ultimately, as a species.

And the most serious of thinkers already knew this-considered it perhaps even a certainty-by the 1920s in a post-WWI world of chemical gas clouds and the heavy machine gun as strictly analytical thought at the heart of industrial death.

II.

 

It is Christianity that began substituting the tragedy of the soul

for contemplation of the world. But, at least, Christianity referred

to a spiritual nature and thereby preserved a certain fixity. With

God dead, there remains only history and power.

Science is today the Western foundation of the world itself, of the human condition that all cultural manifestations as originally anthropological life mechanisms for collective man rest on, in one way or another;

And it is, I believe, disingenuous to consider-or posit-that there are specifically localized cultural logics independent now of science-even if it could be said that a specific society rejects or in some way lives outside of the reaches of the Enlightenment and the Industrial era psyche of individual and collective man;

Disingenuous because globalization as of the 90s, which objectively indeed erected itself as a logic of the world from then on, only partially hides or beautifies what is an underlying structure of hierarchy and, simply, subjugation of-above all-the individual to a life of prostration under the empty tonnage of a vital and semiotic cult to material comfort itself;

And all anthropological cultures-at least originally-have that in common: that the problem of the soul of man (his cognizance as vital ferociousness) is dealt with by placing the true weight of life on the body-on material, biological need, and only engaging, essentially, the higher hunger and drive of man through what is most often only a form of hype or sublimination as narratives of redemption, liberation or permanent but future progress.

But science is not originally of Christian origin-not the underlying natural condition of man to perceive and eventually ponder his spatial reality.

The Old Testament, for example-in Genesis itself and later in Job-is something of an anthropological expose of man’s understanding of his relationship with reality, based, above all on need and-perpetually-the permanent psychological mortification that the contemplation of death imposes in the individual.

And it is out of this understanding that the projection of a paternal-like power figure as deity arises as the promise itself of restraint, security and the very possibility of agriculturally based, collective life;

For without God-some form of higher deity-I will simply kill you-my very nature-that I know so well and that, ultimately, frightens me just as much as death itself-for I am death in my wrath, fierceness and hunger-needs to be contained-needs a master because, in my misery I am unable to do this myself!

For my violence as vital hunger, knows no limits whatsoever!

And hear the real plea contained in these words: God have mercy; forsake us not!

Protect us from ourselves through your love, or, in any case, our ultimately voluntary subordination to you and your powers.

And this is true even of the Greeks-and I am sure with regards to an originally Hindu cosmology as vital vision: we live off of the bounty of the land, but our very survival through time and the possibility of further generations into the future, depends on the presence of a higher power, of a great creator as controller and corrector as guardian.

But, in the end, it is your power, in some form, that must subjugate us for we are defiance in our very nature-limitless drive to attainment as satisfaction of need as imposition.

It is in the white of our eyes, our very fabric.

III.

How, in this light, could science as a cultural narrative of progress, be understood as any different from what was originally the so-called myth of religion?

Science as a cultural narrative of progress, also subjugates in that it creates a form of collective containment, projected-just like all religions in essence-into the future, putting value, unfailingly, on our future generations.

The locus of the miracle of science also is an abstracted realm of the distant technical-financial elite of a government controlled super science as the all powerful, that we only know-really- has put us on the moon and by its technology as products and services that eventually grace our daily lives.

How could this not be also understood, for the majority of people as common man, as a kind of myth as an Olympus of the analytical elite?

It certainly is a cliché as a global semiotics of our own understanding as societies.

And what was the power of Shiva or the Almighty, is now the CIA or the world intelligence community and its technical-financial union with world military order;

And does this not, provide, ultimately, a sense of comfort as presence, ultimately of control and oversight, in the end, of world affairs-and finally, over the boundless ambition of sundry world rogues, that are, of course the rogue at the heart of our very own nature as man?

It did for me, subject-of course-to some form of judicial tutelage-even if remote as well-and human rights.

And besides Scooby Doo, it was this very sense of security that I lived in that allowed me to never-ever-have seriously needed to contemplate any form of spiritual understanding outside of human psychology itself and the empirical.

Why believe in something that there is not the slightest evidence of, especially when from an anthropological standpoint, I really understand myself to live much in the way people of faith live: my world seems to be under some form of human control, although it is not perfect; but neither is the mythical understanding of a religious vision of existence perfect-but I am in no danger of becoming a hypocrite, for I affirm as imposition nothing.

IV

We, too, have conquered, moved boundaries, mastered

heaven and earth. Our reason has driven all away. Alone at last,

we end up by ruling over a desert.

 

And it has always been, really, a father that I have never ceased to look for-to seek in thinkers and writers-and as musicians; as statesmen and judges-in men and women, both real and as characters in fiction-and his embrace I even found as a projection I imposed, even with regards to the arms or mind-or soul- of a women;

Or in personal relationships of idealization before someone I somehow considered my superior in some way.

But it is also true that that embrace-at certain levels-was only truly possible in the figure of a woman, for I was not trapped, in the company of women, by the physiological-psychological turmoil I would consistently feel with regards to men to rivalize with them-to defeat, subordinate or necessarily subjugate myself to (which, of course, would enrage me even more at deeper levels of myself).

And my mother, for me in many ways, is that father from a vital-intellectual standpoint (and also, probably as well, in regards to emotion and feeling), for as a child and young man, I could never tolerate what I perceived as the shortcomings of my biological father, most of all because I perceived him all my life as never being able to really tolerate me.

And always was he, in my eyes and in part of my heart, a distant figure who protected me, it seemed, in his physical virility-and later through his money- but who also left me in his own aloofness to my own devices as a thinking and feeling individual-who even, in certain moments of rage on his part, was clearly my foe; someone to keep at bay and never take your eyes from-whom you always knew had just come through the downstairs door and whom you had to be good-some times-at hiding from and avoiding.

But the stories I was read, and Nixon on black and white TV in the mornings, and the understanding of why a certain cat we had adopted from the street-from the wild-was different (more independent and elusive) than the other cats we got at the SPCA-and the tears and the pain as emotional response of a person at the death of one of these cats that was crushed by heavy marble table top-because she had let it fall without realizing the animal was under it-was my mother;

A physical proximity that was warmth when I stroked the flesh of her calves as she read in bed one morning-and who was unable, at first, to find a bar of soap when she dragged me into the bathroom once to wash out my mouth after I had been warned repeatedly not to use foul language.

But my father’s was the 38 revolver and the dark suits hanging in the bedroom closet;

The man I saw in the early evenings in those dark suits under a grey-beige overcoat just off the train that had returned him from the city, who would then come in and sit with a cigar and a martini-with an olive in the glass-watching Walter Cronkeit in our smoke-filled living room, alone it seemed, in pretty much in total silence.

And it was he, finally and for a time, whom I blamed for my parent’s divorce because he had-according to my mother-forced her to use her own fingers in her cunt; and it was my father who could almost not stop himself from physically hurting her in his rage, when they both burst into my room to carry on in their verbal violence while I pretended to play on with my superhero action figures, soldiers or building blocks;

But my mother was the one who explained to me-just after my father then left our house forever-that the reason she had taken the argument into my room was because down stairs he had actually struck her, and that she knew that in front of me he wouldn’t do it again.

And it had only been a few months previous to this that my mother had started taking course at Princeton University, in New Jersey; and it was the door of my bedroom that opened directly facing her hallway office, where she had sat reading and studying at a desk with folders, note cards, file cabinets and a map of the world on the wall.

And the cushion part of her swivel and wheeled office chair was the color orange:

SK

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