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Archive for January, 2013


gary winogrand commented that he photographed to see what the world looks like photographed. i write to see what the world looks like worded.


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we might suppose language evolved because of adaptive advantages. groups that could meet at a specific time to trade goods, and who could conceptualize relative valuations (“money”) grew stronger, healthier, faster and had more children. from there, inscriptions on paper generalized this function to an exponentially growing population. but somewhere along the way we learned to bow down. to worship. we forgot that at the end of the day it was the exchange of goods that directly helped us, not the conventions of sign. the word really doesn’t impress me greatly. the event, much more so.




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In 1953, contemplating the aftermath of world war, Leo Strauss asked a simple yet profound question: are rights natural and inviolate or are they relative and conventional? Before him, Thomas Hobbes had famously articulated the tradition we call classical liberalism by supposing that civil rights and liberties are wholly conventional and contingent upon the might of the sovereign power. Hobbesian social modeling is thus dualistic: in nature we live a nasty brutish existence characterized by the valueless war of all against all; in civil society the comfortable self-preservation featured by a republic of rights and liberties flourishes. The natural objection to this model is that, a republic being a matter of convention maintained by oversight of the state, civil justice is merely a byproduct of power. Convention being somewhat arbitrary, there would appear to be no necessary ground for objecting to the conventions of an Auschwitz or Manzanar. Nor could the apologists for the American revolution readily identify any rational justification for their blatantly felonious theft of British titular lands during the colonial rebellion of 1775-1783. Indeed, in the US Declaration of Independence we see articulated the struggles of a community united by ideology not heritage. In such a context of course convention sought its naturalized ground. Yet American political thinkers of the 18th century believed they had realized considerable progress by reducing Hobbesian duality to the serial realization of a necessary, not contingent, phenomenon. Their aim was to overcome a more classical dualism, which would have embarrassed the rational presentation of their rebellion to a candid and expectant world, and to replace it with the monism of a natural rights republic. Has the attempt been successful?


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When does the voice in the wild become the only voice you hear? When the necromancer the phoenix? I am disappointed with the pedestal putting of contemporary Buddhism. Because I don’t think the Buddha said anything that you can’t say. Because I think the Dalai Lama is just as holy as every you.



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If by the term “anti-Christ” we mean someone who dares to think for themselves, despite the political pressures to do otherwise, then I think there have been many anti-Christs throughout recorded history:

Socrates, the Buddha, Moses, Nietzsche, Shakespeare, Skinner, Jesus, Rosalind Franklin, Mohammed, Kant, Hume, Leibniz, Hesse, Kierkegaard, Rosa Parks, Brunelleschi, Plato, Einstein, Beethoven, Martin Luther, Émilie du Châtelet, Carol Gilligan, Martin Luther King, Jr, Abraham, Marsha Linehan, Ghandi, Sappho, Velázquez, Rilke, Tenzin Gyatso, Beverly Tatum, Eduardo Duran.

Any questions?


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Leibniz proposed the following idea about truth: that from a god’s eye perspective, all events would appear necessary and good. The dialectic of contingency melts away before a solitary, all seeing eye. Thus, even a life such as mine which appears to be nothing but a magnet for violence despite a constant desire for love would appear just, necessary and good. Of course such a perspective exists only in our imaginations. An imagination that led Tolkien to put the words of a Christian ethic into the wizard Gandalf’s mouth: “Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends.” In this same way my own life has been nothing but a constant experience of illness, with death the only conceivable cure. Naturally, the obvious question remains: Death of what? Life of what?

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The concentration camps of the early 20th century were not a specifically Nazi phenomenon. Two of the major Allied nations also built concentration camps for ethnic and political segregation: Russia under Stalin and the USA under Roosevelt. More recently of course nations like the USA, South Africa, Israel, Mauritania, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Colombia, Yugoslavia have all recently practiced or are still practicing policies of active segregation based on ethnicity, gender or ideological alliance. (Did you know that slavery was not officially declared a crime in Mauritania until 2007, and 20% of the population may still live in slavery?) We are still very much living in the world of the concentration camp. Just look outside your door.


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