Meditation on the sacred

May we think about the sacred without informing ourselves as thoroughly as possible about our species’ rich religious traditions? Isn’t our meditation predestined to be a desecration, a profanity, no matter what we might arrive at? Philosophical contemplation of the sacred seems to be implicitly critical of the religious authority that decrees what is sacred and what not (or: whatnot). We take a breath and smile.

We confront authority if we must. But first we remember the concept of homo sacer, taken from Roman Law and brought to our attention by Giorgio Agamben’s 1998 eponymous book. The political category of the sacred or the ‘bare life’ means those we can be killed without punishment, but cannot be sacrificed in a religious ritual. His idea was that this is becoming paradigmatic in our era. The definition of the sovereign is that which produces the bare life. Think about refugees. We breathe again, somewhat heavily.

The sacred is not simply the supernatural. It is that which not belongs in our narrative, that which would stain our rituals, so it is to be ignored at all cost. This idea of endangering the narrative we can generalize. Perhaps we should explore how the sacred emerged in human tribes, when they were in the verge of mastering language as ‘that which cannot be mentioned without negating it’. This is a vague description of an alleged human instinct that co-evolved with the language instinct. Can we think of some examples? Tacit agreements based on mutual respect and goodwill cannot be spelled out without negating their voluntary and friendly character. A gentleman’s agreement is a promise, not a formal contract. Keeping a promise can be experienced as a sacred obligation.

I wildly claim that the instinct that allows us to make arrangements for sex on a second date without ever mentioning the word, lies at the heart of the religious experience as well. When more literate peoples emerged in the greater Levant area, this had to be made explicit. God began his evolution as ‘He who cannot be named’. We imagine sex and God as experiences that go beyond language, and hence beyond the community (while still in the service of community). The dimension of the sacred is the imagination of the unspeakable. We want to think about this more, but for now we take a few breaths and consider them sacred.

Meditation on the sacred was originally published on Meandering home

Advertisements

Writing. Laughing.

What is the value of writing? Thinking, shared. The ability to think old thoughts again, sharpen them, create a monument for our live thinking that otherwise would exist only as marginal comments to whatever circumstances we’ve concentrated our thoughts on. Systems of thoughts can be dangerous; history is full of examples. See the system of the bible, promoting human superiority (“and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth”, Genesis 1:26).

Deconstructive writing, that French fashion that had to be ahead of its time – is not really possible as much as it is necessary today.

I have an intuition about what this life is all about. It has a lot to do with the ability to laugh deeply, genuinely, affirmatively, to laugh in unison with the universe.
The philosophical idea of the universe “observing” itself through humanity as ultimate goal and final act of history in Hegel is, in my view, the ultimate consequence of abstraction running wild. It’s where the doctrine of “everything is connected with everything else” ultimately leads us, pretending to actually have words for everything. Abstraction, and the creation of concepts, has been divorced from the realm of tools and given an ontological quality just because we think it has. Of course, this is not the place for simplistic Hegel-bashing, and you probably need a couple of thick volume to spell out all the consequences and “trap” him like a rat in a cage. Hegel himself famously said that philosophy is the struggle against the primitive abstract thinking of subjectivists. To me, that sounds like a carpenter saying that carpentry is the struggle against the functionality of his tools – saws, hammers, screwdrivers, or words. It makes no sense. Words are abstract. Thoughts, however holistic and all-encompassing and overwhelming they might be, are arrangements of words, subtle interplays made of the elements with which we represent and figuratively “grab” the world. Why are we still bashing the early 19th century protestant think er? Because we can learn a lot from it. From observing his neat system that claims to accommodates the structure of everything we can dream of, and from observing the son of my brilliant bald Hegel professor who had Down’s syndrome (the son, not the professor), I felt this is not my playground. But I still feel the importance of this pivot, or prism, in thinking: the self-relation of our minds.

I said I have an intuition and I feel like being a bit more verbose about it than I usually am. So far what we’ve got is that the self-relation of our minds has to be accommodated in our lives – in our everyday life – by bouts of deep and sincere cosmic laughter, rather than by academimics carving out nifty formulations like Ich=Ich, Id, Es, and a lot of much longer intellectual circumcisions.

What does any of that have to do with why I like writing so much? I feel that our faculty of laughing can benefit from writing and the whole tradition of letters. How? I don’t know of course, that’s because I haven’t done too much of it yet. The laughing somehow lets us fully “be” without the need of that complete grasp of the world. Laughing is, again here’s my intuition speaking so don’t expect much of an explanation, a detour to taking up our humble place in the universe. It is how we can make our scientific and philosophical ignorance bearable.

I have this very sophisticated philosophy in mind, with said form of laughing at its heart, as some sort of sacred entry point of thinking. As a tangible manifestation of self-reflection that as such can be acculturated as a sacred act, an act of reaffirming a fine tradition of thinking that let us admit we don’t understand how history, or the mind, works. That doesn’t need to pretend this in order to “save” its very foundations (Hegel). It would be an open-minded philosophy, indeed anyone who can experience this existential laughter can be a philosopher. And to be a philosopher means to be inquisitive, to have all the answers to the big questions while knowing they are makeshift answers, and above all, to make others laugh.

Writing. Laughing.

What is the value of writing? Thinking, shared. The ability to think old thoughts again, sharpen them, create a monument for our live thinking that otherwise would exist only as marginal comments to whatever circumstances we’ve concentrated our thoughts on. Systems of thoughts can be dangerous; history is full of examples. See the system of the bible, promoting human superiority (“and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth”, Genesis 1:26).

Deconstructive writing, that French fashion that had to be ahead of its time – is not really possible as much as it is necessary today.

I have an intuition about what this life is all about. It has a lot to do with the ability to laugh deeply, genuinely, affirmatively, to laugh in unison with the universe.
The philosophical idea of the universe “observing” itself through humanity as ultimate goal and final act of history in Hegel is, in my view, the ultimate consequence of abstraction running wild. It’s where the doctrine of “everything is connected with everything else” ultimately leads us, pretending to actually have words for everything. Abstraction, and the creation of concepts, has been divorced from the realm of tools and given an ontological quality just because we think it has. Of course, this is not the place for simplistic Hegel-bashing, and you probably need a couple of thick volume to spell out all the consequences and “trap” him like a rat in a cage. Hegel himself famously said that philosophy is the struggle against the primitive abstract thinking of subjectivists. To me, that sounds like a carpenter saying that carpentry is the struggle against the functionality of his tools – saws, hammers, screwdrivers, or words. It makes no sense. Words are abstract. Thoughts, however holistic and all-encompassing and overwhelming they might be, are arrangements of words, subtle interplays made of the elements with which we represent and figuratively “grab” the world. Why are we still bashing the early 19th century protestant think er? Because we can learn a lot from it. From observing his neat system that claims to accommodates the structure of everything we can dream of, and from observing the son of my brilliant bald Hegel professor who had Down’s syndrome (the son, not the professor), I felt this is not my playground. But I still feel the importance of this pivot, or prism, in thinking: the self-relation of our minds.

I said I have an intuition and I feel like being a bit more verbose about it than I usually am. So far what we’ve got is that the self-relation of our minds has to be accommodated in our lives – in our everyday life – by bouts of deep and sincere cosmic laughter, rather than by academimics carving out nifty formulations like Ich=Ich, Id, Es, and a lot of much longer intellectual circumcisions.

What does any of that have to do with why I like writing so much? I feel that our faculty of laughing can benefit from writing and the whole tradition of letters. How? I don’t know of course, that’s because I haven’t done too much of it yet. The laughing somehow lets us fully “be” without the need of that complete grasp of the world. Laughing is, again here’s my intuition speaking so don’t expect much of an explanation, a detour to taking up our humble place in the universe. It is how we can make our scientific and philosophical ignorance bearable.

I have this very sophisticated philosophy in mind, with said form of laughing at its heart, as some sort of sacred entry point of thinking. As a tangible manifestation of self-reflection that as such can be acculturated as a sacred act, an act of reaffirming a fine tradition of thinking that let us admit we don’t understand how history, or the mind, works. That doesn’t need to pretend this in order to “save” its very foundations (Hegel). It would be an open-minded philosophy, indeed anyone who can experience this existential laughter can be a philosopher. And to be a philosopher means to be inquisitive, to have all the answers to the big questions while knowing they are makeshift answers, and above all, to make others laugh.

Writing. Laughing. was originally published on Meandering home