Islamic Terrorism in Paris and Charlie Chaplin’s Hitler Ballet

It occurs to me this evening that Charlie Chaplin’s classic globe dance, as a means of trying to enter and represent visually the psyche of Hitler, is curiously apropos to the why question surrounding Paris tonight. The idea of violently achieving a world of perfect harmony, all devils vanquished, and living under the banner of an alpha father and ideology (religious or secular), is an apocalyptic fantasy that will always spell-cast a lot of people–and lead some of them to actually try and create it through direct action. But, of course, the fantasy enacted rarely generates a new world, but rather blows up the one that is. (Chaplin’s dance piece brilliantly concludes with a bang).

In any case, the below ballet of Chaplin’s suggests a key aspect of the “why question” surrounding the Islamic terrorism that we are witnessing in Paris. And recall that, like our 21st century terrorists, Hitler also regarded Paris as a chief prize in his battle against secular democratic politics and the Anglo-French Enlightenment. What delight he took in conquering Paris! Like the Twin Towers in New York, the Eiffel Tower is a lightning rod that attracts the psychological electricity of those who would undo the Anglo-French (and American) Enlightenment.

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Marco Rubio Went To Disney World, And Republican Donors Paid For It

When the average, middle class Republican donor put up $40 to support the Republican Party, do you suppose (s)he knew that it would pay for Marco Rubio going to Disney World?

Mr. Rubio’s campaign released statements for his Republican Party of Florida-issued American Express card, hoping to at last quiet accusations that he used…
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Boycott Houston

Anti-gay bigotry and fear won in Houston last night. Let the city have its anti-equality ordinance, but not our money. Boycott Houston.

I see this as an example of how libertarianism cuts both ways. Certain business people and renters want the freedom to discriminate against any class of taxpaying individuals they don’t like, but forget that this cuts both ways: there are consumers who don’t like bigots, and won’t spend money in businesses or cities with a reputation for unfriendliness toward gay people and others.


In one of the most closely watched referendums in the country, voters repealed an anti-discrimination ordinance, handing gay rights supporters a stinging defeat.
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Prediction: Hillary Clinton Will Win The White House

Hillary’s toughness may be her greatest strength. I’m increasingly under the impression that she could win, and win big. How, after all, do Republicans capture the White House if the women’s vote breaks 52-48 (a low-ball estimate) for Clinton? Surely, there are not enough angry white dudes (the white right) to overcome even this modest degree of female support. And if there are, you pay a price for elevating their turn-out. Casting red meat to these pissed-off guys tends to be off-putting to females, driving up the percentages of women voting for Clinton even more. She seems to be sitting in a pretty darn good position right now. Darn good. I’m definitely impressed.

I’ll call it early. Hillary in 2016.

Thursday’s hearing on Benghazi was a reminder that Mrs. Clinton does best when she doesn’t try to hide her toughness.
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Kepler Space Telescope Detects an Alien Megastructure 1500 Light Years Away?

If you read nothing else between now and January, a recent article in The Atlantic Monthly perhaps should be it. (And then, when you start reading again in January, perhaps you should Google immediately the article’s subject for the rest of the story.)

The article is about megastructures, and it certainly puts life in perspective.

The Kepler Space Telescope may have detected megastructures (possibly large solar arrays) orbiting a star 1500 light years away. The star is designated KIC 8462852. So much light from it is being blocked by transit objects, and apparently not by round ones, as you would expect if they were planets, that astronomers think it’s possible that Kepler has stumbled on some very large civilizational artifacts. A radio telescope will be pointed at the star in January, according to The Atlantic, “to see if it emits radio waves at frequencies associated with technological activity.”

And this is in The Washington Post this morning: “[Megastructures] would probably comprise a chain of smaller satellites or space habitats, something that would block its star’s light as weirdly and irregularly as the light of KIC 8462852 has been blocked. That’s why researchers who are interested in finding alien life are so excited about the finding.”

But even if there are no megastructures orbiting KIC 8462852, I like the thought of the word “megastructure” perhaps entering the pop cultural vocabulary over the next several months. It has a nice ring. Megastructure. Yum. It sings off the lips and tongue.

So, in January, after astronomers point a radio telescope in the direction of KIC 8462852, if they don’t pick up the alien equivalent of I Love Lucy reruns, it will be a disappointment, but this oddball star will still have opened up a space for wonder over the next few months, and introduced a cool word into the collective psyche.

Another word I like is hyperobject. It comes from literary criticism. If something alien is found, expect some academics to start theorizing the “megastructure as hyperobject.”

While waiting for more word on this (and more words to be coined surrounding this), the YouTube below is a bit fanciful, but informative.

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I Like This Image

Life perspective. Sunset on Mars, taken by Curiosity.

On Monday, NASA is going to have a big press conference (probably announcing the discovery of water beneath Mars’ surface).

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The Republican Party’s Dilemma for 2016: Should It Increase Its Hispanic Or White Voting Percentage?

Steven Cohen, at The New Republic, concisely slices and dices the Republican dilemma surrounding Hispanics:

Republican elites believe that they can stave off this racialized fissure with bilingual campaign ads and half-hearted appeals to pragmatism. What they ignore is not simply the extent to which they themselves have deliberately encouraged the accommodation of white supremacy within their ranks, but the likelihood that those elements actually have a more coherent vision for the future than they do. Latinos are not a one-issue monolith. Polling shows their views on key issues such as climate change, social welfare, and the minimum wage are out of line with GOP policy. Whites, meanwhile, still make up over 70 percent of voters. It’s entirely possible, likely even, that scaring enough white voters away from the Democrats to win a general election represents a more manageable task than moderating the Republican Party on almost every major issue. So while Santorum stands no better chance of becoming the next president than Graham does, his strategy of pitting working class whites against immigrants at least has the prospect of electoral success. Consciously or not, the Republican Party has decided to put it to the test.

Got that? The Republican Party has a choice between “scaring whites” or “moderating the Republican Party” (that is, moderating GOP policy positions in such a way that the most conservative whites still vote in large numbers; they don’t sit on their hands on election day).

At first glance, the “scaring whites” path looks far more likely to be a winning strategy for Republicans in 2016, but look again: the more you ramp-up white conservative energy, you also ramp-up white liberal energy (like mine). It may be that the Republican Party has reached its high water mark in getting the white vote with Mitt Romney in 2012 (70% and he still lost), and now it’s just a matter of gravity. Go further to the right, and more whites peel off than peel on.

There’s probably no escaping the fact that Republicans have to win more non-white votes than they did in 2012 to capture the presidency (or hope non-whites stay home on election day).

So this is also an interesting paragraph in Cohen’s essay:

What we are seeing now is more than just the usual dash to the right in the Republican primary. It is the end stages of a long fight for the soul of the party itself, the “tug of war,” as New Republic’s Brian Beutler has written, “between its own ego and its conservative id.” It may be tempting to dismiss Trump’s fearmongering (“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”) or Bobby Jindal’s fascism (“immigration without assimilation is invasion”) as outlandish and politically untenable, but Santorum’s appeal to the anxieties of “workers” is in keeping with a demonstrated decades-long migration of white lower and lower-middle class voters to the Republican Party. Taken together, they are articulating a coherent strategy to win back political power, one predicated on the supposed threat that immigration poses to the security, cultural purity, and economic stability of white America.

Here’s Lindsey Graham in debate with Rick Santorum doing an especially good job summing up the Republican dilemma (worth watching to the end for his comment on Strom Thurmond):

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If You’re Religious, Do You Put Your Soul At Hazard By Watching Comedy Central?

Below are four pretty good reasons for thinking humor is dangerous to religious belief:

  • Humor is dangerous to any confident expression of metaphysics, for it lampoons pretense. It deflates and complicates; it speaks on behalf of the sorts of contending truths that religious metaphysics, in its seriousness and blinkered focus, tends to ignore, marginalize, and oversimplify.
  • Humor is a weapon of democracy and experience, not miracle, mystery, and authority. It notices the marginal individual in the concrete, not just the abstract; the individual as an evolved social animal; an actor in contingent history.
  • Humor is subversive in that it takes the vantage of the outsider. The fool, the child, the fast food worker, the black lesbian: in humor, the vantage of outsiders like these becomes the fresh measure of all things; the vantage from which religion, God, and power might be judged–and found wanting.
  • The emperor has no clothes! Humor is a form of critique that can be directed at any metaphysics that is in excess of sane measure and reality testing–which is what faith and religion amount to (bad epistemic practice). Comedians are spell-breakers on bad epistemic practices.

In short, humor is on the side of doubt and irony, not certainty and religious metaphysics. Beware Tim Minchin and Monty Python!


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I’m With The Crazy Kentucky Clerk

Imagine applying for a government job in which one among the many duties listed in the job description is to lead a group once weekly in the Pledge of Allegiance, and being told that, if you are an agnostic or atheist, you still have to say, “Under God.” If you refuse to do so, you will be provided no designee to discharge the activity, and will be fired if you persist in not carrying out this duty. I don’t think the answer you would give to the atheist or agnostic is, “Don’t like it? Apply for another job.” That would be an undue burden on the atheist’s or agnostic’s conscience.

Likewise with Kentucky clerk and fundamentalist Christian, Kim Davis. We liberals should not be forcing her conscience, and she was right to do a Thoreau and accept jail as an alternative to compliance.

Gay and lesbian marriage should not be a zero-sum game where gays and lesbians secure a human right and religious traditionalists have their own human rights eroded. The free exercise of conscience is a human right.

I think her reasons for opposing gay and lesbian marriage are ludicrous, and her fear of hell if she signs the license is idiotic, but when I see her, I think of Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener (of “I prefer not to” fame), and say, “You are a nice reminder not to take shit from anybody. And though I don’t think your reasons for refusal are rational, I do recognize your gumption as a human being, and the heroism inherent in asserting your inner integrity. I understand what it means to feel one’s conscience violated.”

And empowering the state to put an undo burden on conscience means not learning from history (that state power easily metastasizes): “First they came for the fundamentalist Christians, but because I wasn’t a fundamentalist Christian…”

Kim Davis is thus right to stay in jail until the Kentucky legislature is shamed into passing a law that carves out protections for conscientious objection to gay and lesbian marriage for state employees–even as it also provides for legal designees without objections to process the marriage licenses of gay and lesbian couples.

Gays and lesbians aren’t going away, and neither are religious traditionalists. A win-win path to protected rights for all is available here, but partisan perches have to be surrendered to make that happen.

The clash in Kentucky over gay marriage licenses focuses attention on conflicts between law and religious belief that have echoed in legislatures and the nation’s courts.
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Franz Kafka On Reading Out Of One’s Comfort Zone

Below is a quote from Franz Kafka on the value of actively seeking out disconfirming evidence, counter-life perspectives, and counter-arguments contrary to your own beliefs, proclivities, and biases. A nice retort to the squeamish who won’t read books that “trigger” them out of their religious or political comfort zones (as recently happened when a Christian university student publicly declared that he wouldn’t read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, which was included on a university reading list of recommended books). Here’s Kafka:

Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow on the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we’d be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, at a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe.

Aggrieved students find books dangerous; neoliberal administrators say they’re useless. I’d take the former any day
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A Europeanized Republican Party: Is Donald Trump America’s Jean Le Pen?

The below quote startled me. It comes from a conservative writer who locates the signal in the noise as to what Donald Trump really means for American politics: the Europeanization of the Republican Party. In other words, Trump is riding an emerging wave of populist blood and soil nationalism before our very eyes, moving the party ever more explicitly toward white racial politics of the sort usually associated with the European right:

A classically liberal right is actually fairly uncommon in western democracies, requiring as it does a coalition that synthesizes populist tendencies and directs such frustrations toward the cause of limited government.

Put another way, a growing number of Republicans increasingly don’t want smaller government and free trade, but stronger protectionist government that is ever more heavily militarized and suspicious of the outside world–and led by a strong white man not deterred by moderating courts or legislatures (an American Putin; an American Mussolini).

Donald Trump could transform the Republican Party into a coalition focused on white identity politics. We’ve seen this in Europe, and it’s bad.
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Build a Wall: Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump’s Alternative To The Demographic Californication Of America

This recent quote from Rush Limbaugh surprised me:

If you want to find the future of the Republican Party and the country, look at California.  There isn’t a single Republican in statewide office.  There never will be in the future.  It’s not gonna happen.  The Republican Party practically doesn’t exist statewide.

The quote surprised me because its admission suggests a non-conservative conclusion: the Republican Party had better stop bashing Mexican immigration. It mustn’t make the mistake in 2016 that Republicans made in California in the 1980s and 90s, promoting policy positions akin to those found in the now notorious 1994 anti-immigration ballot measure, Prop. 187.

But this isn’t the conclusion Limbaugh draws. The lesson he takes from Republican decline in California is that Republicans in the 80s and 90s weren’t militant enough; weren’t anti-immigrant enough. They should have used their political power at the time to stop Mexican immigration dead in its tracks:

You can tie the end of the Republican Party in California to 1986, and that was the Simpson-Mazzoli amnesty immigration bill. We’re talking back then 3.9 million illegal aliens granted amnesty.  Since then it’s been curtains for the Republican Party, which means constant victory for the Democrat Party.

In other words, conservatives losing on the Simpson-Mazzoli immigration bill in the 1980s tells contemporary conservatives like Limbaugh that they mustn’t lose on the border fence in 2016. The winning Republican strategy isn’t to make nice with Mexican Americans as a constituency, as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio might want to do, but to arrest outright Hispanic immigration with a southern border fence extending from sea to shining sea:

People are a combination of angry, scared.  And there isn’t a single candidate for president addressing the issue in a way that resonates with the American people, particularly Republican primary voters, not one, until Donald Trump comes along. […]  Trump wants to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it.  He wants to deport all undocumented immigrants.  They have to go.

Put another way, Limbaugh is talking Custer’s Last Stand for conservatives here. 2016 will mean stopping and reversing Hispanic immigration to America–or witnessing America’s demographic Californication:

When politicians talk about ‘immigration reform’ they mean: amnesty, cheap labor and open borders. The Schumer-Rubio immigration bill was nothing more than a giveaway to the corporate patrons who run both parties.

Talk about drawing a line in the sand! Or, rather, a Great Wall in the sand. If ethnic Chinese can keep foreigners out, why can’t white Americans use their collective majority to staunch Hispanic immigration before it’s too late?

[L]ook at the Chinese.  Look at their wall.  They got a Great Wall.  They built it, how long is that wall?  If they can do it, we can do it.  If they got the Great Wall, we got the greatest wall.  We can build a greater wall, we can do anything we want.  We can do it.  Who says we can’t do it?

Aside from being racist, this is a politically unachievable and utopian strategy for dealing with America’s ongoing demographic shifts. It’s an escape into pure imagination. In terms of demographics, Californication of the nation as a whole is ongoing, and national Republicans today are repeating the errors of California Republicans of thirty years ago, alienating a fast-growing constituency.

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Memo To Democrats: Thomas Jefferson Is Not The Confederate Flag

thomas jefferson

Thomas Jefferson is a Southerner, but he is not the Confederate Flag. I understand why the contemporary Democratic Party would backbench the two white males (Jackson and Jefferson) who founded the Democratic Party, but I still love Jefferson. His words sing. He was the Anglo-French Enlightenment come to America–and you wouldn’t have America absent the Anglo-French Enlightenment. In terms of early Americans, he towers over even Lincoln.

Here’s Lincoln on Jefferson:

All honor to Jefferson–to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth [all are created equal], applicable to all men [and women] and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.

What we lose when we backbench Thomas Jefferson. The logic of Jefferson–his affirmation of science and skepticism; of the separation of church and state; of the right of assembly and free union organizing; of university learning; of equality; of democracy; of liberty; of progress; of freedom of speech; of the unhindered pursuit of individual happiness worked out by the individuals themselves, not dictated by the State–is the very logic of America, and (one might go on presuming and hoping) the Democratic Party.

But it’s also true that Jefferson never freed his slaves. And yet it’s also true that without his early theorizing and soaring vision of democracy and equality when the intellectual ground was still hard against these, there would be no Lincoln, no Elizabeth Cady Stanton (who echoed Jefferson in her 1845 Declaration of Rights and Sentiments with these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal,…”), no Martin Luther King.

So the truth is complicated. It always is.

And while it’s true that Jefferson was a slave owner, it’s also true that there’s a straight line from this in Jefferson (“…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…,”) to this in Martin Luther King (“One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”).

Complicate the messenger, don’t shoot him. It’s one thing to render more complicated the historical figures we otherwise admire, rounding them out as characters and treating them with nuance, and another to re-render them into flat and two-dimensional forms again, but just from another angle, enacting feigned offense at their sins, engaging in self-righteous and Puritanical purging, and indulging in iconoclasm.

Someone so emotionally and intellectually complex as Jefferson, who said, “I cannot live without books,” does not deserve this.

Thomas Jefferson shouldn’t get the John the Baptist treatment. It’s a huge error for the Democrats to hand Jefferson over to the Republican Party with his head, as it were, on a platter. Republicans will simply appropriate Jefferson to their own ends–and that quite gleefully. What a gift to lay in their laps!

We don’t need the Second Coming of Thomas Jefferson draped in the ludicrous ideological garb of Ted Cruz and the Tea Party. And the American flag and America’s founders don’t belong to the Republican Party either. How ironic Jefferson would have regarded such a turn on his fate: his abandonment by the very party he started.

Obama and Jefferson. President Obama certainly has never ceded Jefferson to the Republicans. In May of 2010, he quoted and commented on Jefferson–a slave owner, let me again emphasize–before a group of graduates at a historically black university (Howard), speaking the following words:

Years after he left office, decades after he penned the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson sat down, a few hours’ drive from here, in Monticello, to write a letter to a longtime legislator,…’If a nation expects to be ignorant and free,’ he [Jefferson] wrote, ‘it expects what never was and never will be.’ What Jefferson recognized, like the rest of that gifted generation, was that in the long run, their improbable experiment – America – wouldn’t work if its citizens were uninformed, if its citizens were apathetic, if its citizens checked out, and left democracy to those who didn’t have their best interests at heart. It could only work if each of us stayed informed and engaged; if we held our government accountable; if we fulfilled the obligations of citizenship.

Why did Obama deploy a quote from a slave owner at a historically black university? Because Obama is an intellectual–a Constitutional law professor–and was modeling nuance for the students graduating. The world is complicated and grayscale, rarely black and white. Competing goods are grappled with in intellectual life. The good and the bad are acknowledged and kept in conversation–not sublimated, not buried.

That’s the way the Democratic Party should deploy–rather than dispatch–its founder, Thomas Jefferson.

Driven by a desire for racial and gender inclusion, activists are removing the names of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from political dinners.
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Marco Rubio: “The Constitution of the United States” Forces Women to Bring to Term Rape and Incest Conceived Fetuses

Marco Rubio thinks “The Constitution of the United States” necessarily forces women to bring to term fetuses conceived against their will by rape and incest. Wow. He really fucked himself here.

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Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Increasingly Repudiates Nonviolence

The Muslim Brotherhood is every bit as dangerous for Egypt as the Nazis were for Germany. And recall that Egypt, like Germany in the 1930s, has a vulnerable minority, readily susceptible to terrorist violence (in Egypt’s case, Coptic Christians make up 10% of its population). The United States should open greater opportunities for immigration to Coptic Christians.

The group faces a widening generational split at a time when its discipline is fraying and many young members blame their elders for bungling the Arab…
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Marco Rubio Is Not Outraged “Over A Dead Lion”

Marco Rubio signals that he’s anti-environmentalist and anti-feminist in the same (poorly worded and incorrectly punctuated) tweet: “Look at all this outrage over a dead lion, but where is all the outrage over the planned parenthood dead babies.”

A lot of people on both sides of the political divide have been saying today that as a society we’re expending too much emotional energy condemning a man for…
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A Brief History of Everything: Lucretius and Giordano Bruno Would Have Loved This Video by Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson

And they would have been astonished–astonished!–at how thoroughly atomism has vanquished Platonism–and supernaturalism generally–from the story of cosmic creation, evolution, and our origins.


Also, I notice that, toward the end of the video, Neil deGrasse Tyson sounds for all the world like he’s been contemplating Spinoza: “We are not simply in the universe, we are part of it; we were born from it. One might even say we’ve been empowered by the universe to figure itself out.”

We are a part of God thinking herself?

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Hume Hearts Buddha, Picasso, And Einstein–But Not Nazis, Aquinas, Or Monotheism

Hume hearts Buddha. In Hume Studies (Volume 35, Number 1&2, 2009, pp. 5–28), Alison Gopnik has a fascinating essay–“Could David Hume Have Known about Buddhism?”–in which she writes the following:

Hume’s argument in the Treatise, like Nagasena’s “chariot” argument, points to the fact that there is no evidence for a self beyond a collection of particular psychological parts.

In other words, Gopnik is saying that, just as Nagasena, the Kashmir Buddhist sage from 150 BCE, noticed that a chariot dissolves into parts under close inspection–into wheels, a carriage, etc.–so Hume, in his Treatise, on looking into his own self, discovered no evidence of anything permanent or substantial, but rather noticed that the self too is something that actually dissolves into parts under close inspection.

Hume gives a dharma talk. Put another way, for Hume, as for the Buddha, there is no essential and independent self apart from the rest of “the music of what happens” (a phrase from Seamus Heaney’s poem, “Song”). That is, the self is emergent, as a mirage of water is emergent from sun-baked asphalt. To get the mirage, you need its confluence of conditions–and these, like a mirage, are aflame; the mirage is ever-shifting with conditions. “Oh bikkhus,” said the Buddha, “the world is on fire!”–and Hume would agree.

So a Buddhist might put Hume’s position this way: No flower in the flower. No chariot in the chariot. No self in the self. If you’re dwelling in ignorance (avidya), you’ve mistaken the self that is non-dual, empty, impersonal, contingent, impermanent, and interdependent for something dual, essential, personal, permanent, disconnected. You’ve mistaken a rope for a snake; a composite chariot for a simple, self-existent, and self-same chariot. You’re under the spell of one side of a figure-ground illusion.

So here’s Gopnik quoting Hume sounding for all the world like he’s giving a dharma talk:

There are some philosophers who imagine we are every moment intimately conscious of what we call our self….For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception. When my perceptions are removed for any time, as by sound sleep, so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be said not to exist…I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement (T 1.6.4, 1–4; SBN 251–53).

Hume’s insight here marks a break with traditional western monotheism, with its notions of immortality and a self that is simple and not consisting of parts. But if Hume’s view of the self is a break with the dominant classical and medieval philosophical threads of the western past, it also anticipates the innovations in art and physics that came out of western culture in the early 20th century–most directly represented by Picasso and Einstein.

Hume hearts Picasso and Einstein. Like Hume, Picasso discerned that when we really linger with a thing, it quickly unravels into parts; into things we zoom-in on and give weight to, making them important–even distorting their objective relation, out-sizing them to match thoughts, desires, and aversions. And in art, Picasso saw that he could then juxtapose these heavy and lingering blocks of attention in novel configurations, generating a surprising and fresh way to represent things. Against mere objective mimesis (imitation) in art–the best picture looks like a photograph–Picasso juxtaposed the broken image; fragmentation. He returned the subject to art; the wayward, surprising, and ever shifting attention of the individual awareness to art. The subject perspective, for Picasso, was not marginal to the truth, but intertwined with it. Likewise, Einstein also discerned a shifting relativity to perception, conceptualizing space and time from the vantage of the ever shifting subject. As George Johnson, in a book review for The New York Times puts it:

From our blinkered perspective we see qualities called space and time. But in relativity theory, the two can be combined mathematically into something more fundamental: a four ­dimensional abstraction called the space­-time interval. Time and space vary according to the motion of the observer. But from any vantage point, an object’s space­-time interval would be the same — the higher truth that can be approached only from different angles.

Einstein’s insight here is in stark contrast with essentialists like the Nazis. Here’s Johnson again:

It’s no wonder Nazis hated relativity. They lived in a world of absolutes. There was a master race with one true religion and one true language, with a music and literature that celebrated its glory. There was a true German empire, sliced up by the arbitrary boundaries of concoctions called nation­-states. With absolute might the Fatherland would regain its proper position in space and time.

Now comes this Einstein. Without even the benefit of a proper German education, he was fiddling with numbers and symbols and through some kabbalistic magic conjuring a universe in which it was impossible to say where you were. You could only describe your position in relationship to something else — which could only describe its position in relationship to you.

In Einstein’s cockeyed scheme you couldn’t even say with authority what time it was. Again, your time was relative to their time and their time was relative to yours. This was from his Special Theory of Relativity. The sequel, General Relativity, was even weirder. Gravity is the curvature of some four-dimensional mind stuff called space-­time. It was a trick of the Elders of Zion, some philosophical disease. “Scientific Dadaism,” a prominent German scientist called it.

Einstein hearts Hume–as do professional contemporary philosophers. In his A History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell writes that “Albert Einstein admitted that he could not have the gumption to oppose Newton’s immortal status without reading Hume,” and in polls of professional contemporary philosophers, Hume always manages to be at the top–or near the top–of lists of favorite and important philosophers.

So if Hume seems to reach back to Buddhism, as Alison Gopnik claims, he also reaches forward to modern art, physics, and culture. Were Hume our contemporary, it’s not difficult imagining him delighting in what the scientific, philosophical, and art worlds have become. And were you to meet him, you might have found yourself sitting next to his large and robust frame at a meditation class–though maybe not a yoga class!

But however he took his exercises, I think Hume would be gratified to discover that he and Buddhism appear to have won the future over Aquinas, the Nazis, and monotheism.

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Climate Scientists Contemplate Moves To Canada and Greenland

Buy land in Canada now?

This is crazy. Wow. Climate scientists discuss their angst and frustration with Esquire over being ignored about global warming. They’re obviously seeing themselves as today’s Noahs, sounding the alarm–and like Noah, they’re not being heard.

And if you don’t listen to Noah, what does Noah do?

A number of our contemporary Noahs are confessing to actively contemplating bug-out scenarios for their families (moving to Canada and Greenland are the main contenders, it appears). That’s how bad the climate science is starting to look to experts.

So they’ve got private ark ambitions.

The irony is that there may be many Americans, blowing off climate change and resentful of Mexican immigration today, contemplating their own desperate immigration to Canada in the future.

Will Canada need a wall? The Great Wall of Canada? Keep the Americans out?

There’s been a rush of dystopic news on climate change in the past week or so. An off-the-charts burst of west winds in the Pacific Ocean is locking in one of the…
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What’s Good About Monotheism, Again? What Part Of It Is Worth Treasuring And Rooting For? And Why, Exactly, Is God Always Gendered Male?

Robbed, killed, raped, enslaved–all in the name of God. Ain’t monotheism grand?

ISIS and other extremist movements across the region are enslaving, killing and uprooting Christians, with no aid in sight.
NYTIMES.COM|BY ELIZA GRISWOLD [Article appeared in the NYT July 22, 2015]
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