07 October 2010

It's the Pattern that Matters, not the Facts--the Mind of the Right

Enough about the lizard brain...really, enough.

It's actually more "higher level" than that and it's something we all carry: a desire for pattern and fiction that fulfills expectation.

Here is the truth wrought via quotation from only the first lecture/essay in the late Sir Frank Kermode's The Sense of an Ending:

"Men in the middest make considerable imaginative investment in coherent patterns which, by the provision of an end, make possible a satisfying consonance with the origins and with the middle."

"in every moment slumbers the possibility of being the eschatological moment. You must awake it."

"Already in St. Paul and St. John there is a tendency to conceive of the End [sic] as happening at every moment; this is the moment when the modern concept of crisis was born..."

"In fact the mythology of Empire and of Apocalypse are very closely related."

"fundamentally arbitrary chronological divisions...are made to bear the weight of our anxieties and hopes...when we refuse to be dejected by disconfirmed predictions we are only asserting a permanent need to live by the pattern rather than the fact..."

Now, here's the real kicker via Nietzsche, "The falseness of an opinion is not...any objection to it," and the only relevant question is "how far the opinion is life-furthering, life-preserving, species-preserving."

How does one determine those predicates? Sadly, only via the fictions already extant.

Whose fictions are in the ascendancy?

Wordsworth: "Nature never did betray/The heart that loved her." Human questions, human answers, human predicates.

And, again, Nietzsche, "What can be thought must certainly be a fiction."

What this comes down to is that the clerisy writes the story--determines the ways we make sense of the world: "The more learned the cleric, whether theologian, poet, novelist, the 'higher' the kind [of making sense, Ed.] he practices, the more subtly these types are overlaid." By types Kermode is referring to the typology and imagery of Apocalypse...wherein, like, say, Nostradamus, the priests read the tea leaves as they might fit the moment. Obama is the Anti-Christ is a current example.

The fictive pattern REQUIRES the hand of man AS narrator/storyteller. Hannah Arendt: the philosophical or anti-philosophical assumptions of the Nazis were not generically different from those of the scientist, or indeed any of us in an age "where man, wherever he goes, encounters only himself."

So, the real catastrophes on the global stage, the real possibility of the "end times" brought on by changing weather patterns and rising temperatures will likely only be addressed if it becomes an eschatological prediction that fits the story of a current powerful clerisy. When the time is too late, the predictions will come and the fault will be laid at the foot of one "evil" man.

[The above, nearly all stolen, from 38 pages of Kermode's "Mary Flexner Lectures" at Bryn Mawr in the fall of 1965.]

1 comment:

  1. A lot to digest here. I'm going to sit on this for awhile, but am working on at least somewhat of a cogent response.