Highlights from room 1 of the SEX and GREASE final conference for this year’s English 382 enlightenment course.
Highlights from room 1 of the SEX and GREASE final conference for this year’s English 382 enlightenment course.
Of all the things I learned this year in this course on enlightenment is that enlightenment, and the ideals expressed by the enlightenment thinkers, can be discovered through different methods that simple study. The most important part of enlightenment is to be able to take the ideas and opinions of others and digest them to the point where you either understand why you disagree or you can integrate them into your own worldview and set of ideas. Enlightenment, as we learned throughout the course, if being able to shed your nonage and understand the world without the impediments that plagued your unenlightened ways of thinking, and the most effective way to do this is to learn about, understand, and attempt to change your own ideological prejudices so that you are open to anything but still able to differentiate between the helpful and the harmful.
Most importantly you must be able to overcome your own ego and to understand that you do not know nearly as you think you do on your own. But with the help of others, and the input of those around you, you should be able to index all of this information of ways that are optimistic but still seasoned by skepticism and self-evaluation. It is sort of akin to the way Descartes was able to place everything that he know on his metaphorical table and strip down his ego to it’s most basic form. He did this so that be could shed his former nonages and build himself up to a higher state of enlightenment that he had previously achieved. It’s kind of like when a forest becomes too crowded with decay and foliage and must be set ablaze to give way for new life to grow and become strong and powerful.
Shedding your nonage sounds like a personal journey, but the most important part of becoming enlightened is not what you can teach yourself but what others can teach you about yourself. Humans are social creatures who thrive on interaction and connections between each other. You can always learn something from anyone, regardless of whether it is the right way of doing something or the wrong way. The true key to shedding a nonage and achieving enlightenment is through the mutual respect for everyone’s ideas and their own egos, for the ego can never truly be conquered, but it can be tamed. The most effective way for the ego to be tamed is to let someone who is not controlled by it offer reflection onto the nature of itself. Human interaction. Through understand others you become must more intimately attuned to the understanding of yourself, and that is truly what shedding a nonage is all about.
Enlightenment is subjective and its pathways are as numerous as they are treacherous, but self-awareness, objectivity, interaction, skepticism, and most of all optimism are the quickest and most effective ways to navigate the minefield of our environment. Whether you decide that it exists or not, the true path to enlightenment is for you to find out, but impossible to do on your own. That’s what enlightenment is all about.
how can you people blindly follow a doctrine you have never validated or encountered but through the words of other men? man should not allow other men to decide for him the consequences of his own actions. this is an age of reason, one where man is governed by his own ideas and his own interactions with his environment, not with what he has been told to do or think. the age of religion is over, bring fourth a new era of enlightenment to destroy the structures of doctrine and allow man to progress towards his ultimate goal of enlightenment both mental and spiritual. let the shackles of religion no longer hold back the freedoms afforded to every man.
let not the rhetoric of your former masters cloud your judgement in regards to the state of british tyranny. they would spit lies at you in a fashion that not only makes the common man feel inadequate but to purposefully confuse you into a state of submission. every man is provided his own palette of common sense and the words of those whom he has chosen to govern him should reflect the ability of the listener to comprehend. no more charged and difficult rhetoric, this is the propaganda of the aristocracy. common sense dictates that every man should have equal opportunity to understand the works and ideas of his leaders, for after they are the ones who serve him, not in reverse. if you can be told what you see of read, then if follows that you can be told what to say or think. protect your ability to understand, for no one else will do it for you.
equality for all man means equality for all regardless of his social, political, religious, and racial background. man is not made up of an ocean of beings who think, look, and live the same. humanity of made up of individuals and each individual can contribute new understanding because of the inherent differences within him or her. mans multifaceted social structures are what make him strong and not weak. the people, in all their glorious complexities and unique circumstances, weave the cloth of society together into a bright and comfortable blanket that shields them from the winter cold of oppression and tyranny, both physical and mental. all men deserve to be treated equally and to have their ideas treated equally, regardless of who or what they are. this is an age of reason, not an age of fear and doubt.
Please let me sing for you,
In a round about sort of way.
About a path to enlightenment
That’s sure to make you stay.
To be able to recognize
That the world isn’t what it seems
That not everything you know
Is all there is to be seen.
Now lend an ear to the man who don’t fear
Got rhymes that speak to the senses like Richard Gere
We got three eyes open wide to all that’s here
But were scared of the world that might disappear
You see less than half of what you want
And you want more than all of what you see
So open your mind, find the rhyme
And explore the world and what you can be.
The only truly functional and accurate definition you can give art is that art is something that was made with expressed intent of being art. This basically works out to mean than everything that has ever been created and will be created can be art. It also means that, functionally, there is really no such thing as art at all. Art, in the general sense of the term, is completely subjective in every way. Any attribute that someone could define as objective could have possibly been the intent of the creator, and even if it wasn’t, as long as someone considers it good art it is good art. As Richardson says, “Readers are too apt at first sight to condemn as error, what an author may have found after laborious, and tedious enquiry to be truth.”
Because of this, the art critic must realize that nothing he says or thinks is either right or wrong. Criticism of art in general cannot escape the realm of the subjective, for any medium that calls itself art (as we have already understood to possibly anything) is the result of a subjective evaluation. It is because of this that prejudice when consuming art is not only inescapable but wholly necessary. Because of the failure of art to elevate itself past the subjective, to consume a subjective perspective of art you must find those who most closely align with your prejudices. Perhaps you like landscape paintings, or strong lines, or melodic structures, or dissonance, or long shots from a camera, or strong acting, or angular architecture, or smooth and rounded angles on sculpture, etc. None of these preferences or prejudices can be objectified in any way, they are wholly the result of your subjective experience.
In general terms, this idea is what we refer to as “taste”. What do you like and what do you not like? You can decide this, or you can let someone else decide this, or you can choose to not care altogether. That is the beauty, and not in fact the limitation, of art in its purest form. Art, in general, is a window into the soul, a way for the preferences and prejudices of the individual to express themselves in tangible and communicable forms so that others who have identical or similar prejudices (see: taste) are able to consume and digest another’s expression.
Humans are social creatures who thrive on communication, and art is simply another method through which we communicate, simply in more abstract terms. It is neither good nor bad, worthless nor valuable. It simply is, and you can take for whatever you like. That is what makes it interesting if nothing else.
As for my own personal taste, I’ll stick to criticizing music since that is what I’m most used to at this point (all i could say about visual art was that I liked it or I didn’t).
Autechre is my favorite musical act at the moment, but at the risk of sounding like a pompous ass it’s music that would be rather difficult for most people to truly appreciate. It’s abstract, cold, dense, and difficult, but I think that’s what pulls me in. I’ve listened to so much music in my life that I’m unfortunately bored with most traditional forms of music. Like most of everything else i consume I don’t do it for pure entertainment, and as a result most music i just fond sort of banal and vapid. The guitar, drums, and bass are all annoying, I don’t like the human voice except on rare occasions, and I’d rather listen to music that doesn’t have lyrics.
Autechre make music that i still can’t figure out. I listen to it and I don’t know how it’s made and that makes it all the more alluring for me. Some people would describe it as emotionless but i wouldn’t agree, it is music that simply evokes a response that we’re not used to, and maybe that resonates especially with me, but I can’t get enough of it. And on top of that, Autechre’s music is unique because it is, at this point, the furthest abstract music has been able to go while still being listenable. What Autechre have perfected is the ability to create abstract sounds without completely alienating the listener, because after all you have to like the music you listen to to be able to listen to it.
I generally don’t listen to or criticize music i don’t like because i think it’s a waste of my and everyone elses time, but I can’t stand The Beatles. It’s everything I find annoying in music turned up to 11. And not only that but the fact that they are deemed the greatest band of all time simply because they we’re popular (especially seen through the cloudy lens of nostalgic revisionism). The Beatles did nothing of importance for music aside from use some revolutionary recording techniques. They made popular music that everyone could like and had great success doing it, but calling them the greatest band of all time for anything other than recognizing what people wanted to listen to and giving it to them is quite shortsighted.
Enlightenment is nothing. Neither is reality really, so it’s a mutual exclusion, but the point is that nothing ever said, written, or done has helped mankind to achieve enlightenment. And there’s a good reason why. All you have to do is take into account what every other “enlightenment” thinker has ever said to come to the inevitable conclusion that not only is the world you live in an unreality but the words of other people are not even a part of an external source at all. Kant said, “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage.” It’s not, because that is impossible. Descartes said, “I think therefor I am.” But he isn’t, and neither are we, because we think and still nothing exists (not even ourselves). La Mettrie tries to come to terms with both of these concepts, saying that, “In this territory, experience and observation should be our only guides.” But how can they be? Perception is intimately bound up in how the mind chooses to processes it. So then how can any experience understood through the veil of the senses be trusted as an accurate representation of reality? The answer is it can’t, and won’t ever be able to. The rest of these guys are more interested in the intricacies of this fabricated dreamworld we think exists, so what they have to say is totally irrelevant.
Because of the failure of perception to possibly ever give an accurate representation of reality so that the mind (or at least what we understand as the mind) can become an integrated part of the world it inhabits, we must then assume that the external world that we perceive through our senses is nothing more than a projection of the energy we understand as the mind processing inner stimuli in ways in which a consciousness can easily digest. The idea that this supposedly singular consciousness defines being (“I think therefore I am.”) is ludicrous because the only concept of being that we understand is that of a self fully constructed within an exterior world, one that is now understood to be a complete fabrication, a construction of logic to familiarize the mind with the concept of being real.
We see hints of this process throughout our constructed world (whatever our mind is, is not without a sense of humor (or whatever you call something like that that doesn’t derive from the human experience). We experience most of the world through constructed windows. We refer to it now as media, but all it really amounts to is books, movies, poems, songs. Anything that equates to an understood experience through the veil of a separate medium is basically a mirror into how our perception of our own constructed medium is consumed (we see the veil of perception through a window much like the glass of a TV screen).
And since we cannot understand the nature of being within the confines of this constructed world we call reality, then we cannot know if the presence behind our augmented perception is a singular entity or the amalgamation of many entities all working together to construct the exterior world. This would make sense though, because without the multiplicity of consciousness behind the construction of reality it would be rather difficult to represent the innumerable different ideas that derive from the synthesis of experience of the external world.
So, in conclusion, enlightenment is unacheivable because reality doesn’t exist. It is simply a projection of whatever force lies behind consciousness attempting to make a possibly singular entity come to terms with understand the universe through perception, hopefully so it can then begin to understand objective existence through a more intimate connection to exterior stimuli.
The case i chose involved a woman named Jane Kent who was accused of witchcraft and the Diabolical arts, supposedly by the family of those she apparently harmed. The evidence levies against her included the bewitching of his daughter and his wife, causing the ultimate death of his daughter, the bewitching of his swine after a failed exchange, and other witchlike occurrences like the testimony of her physical state (holes in ears and a teat on her back, very witchy stuff) as well as the recollection of a failed carriage ride that was the result of witchcraft. She was able to provide accounts of her piety and her churchgoing activities that ended up being sufficient enough for the jury to find her not guilty, which means the original accusation was probably levied as a result of a personal dispute or disagreement (i’m willing to bet it was those pigs).
This trial happened in 1682, so the diffusion of the type of mindset that would cause these kind of accusations was becoming a widespread phenomenon at this point. The paper by Ankarloo, Bengt, and Clark carefully outlines the methods through which this state of mind was achieved. “This making of the mind-set of the human sciences – the basic expectation that social action is to be understood by impersonal, universal, natural and social law – went with a multitude of day-to-day indications that polite and propertied society, when confronting adversity, was less disposed than before to look to the Hand of God, and certainly not to the meddlings of Satan” (Ankarloo 205). Even though there were deep religious sentiments around at the time (of course there would be in 17th century England), most of the time these religious sentiments were more of less the paths through which disputes of a more mundane flavor were brought to fruition. The hyper-spiritual and religiously fundamentalist viewpoints of the time did less to stoke the fires of witch hunting that it did to provide an avenue of exploitation through which disputes, usually with little real legal ground, could be decided through the power of the church rather than law, an avenue that is extremely conducive of hearsay and other forms of questionable evidence and testimony, as i imagine happened with poor old Jane Kent.
Yet, in retrospect, we look back on these events with condescending disdain because we’re so advanced now. Oh we have science, we know ghosts and ghoulies and witches aren’t real, these people are just superstitious idiots right? Right guys? Then why are we still so fascinated by the macabre and the unholy? Sure we don’t call anyone witches anymore (we’ve replaced the exploitation of superstition with new methods, most of them having to do with sex), but we’re still fascinated by them. And demons and zombies and vampires and aliens and serial killers and crazy madmen and all sorts of things. Why? Well it’s pretty simple really.
We know so little about everything. Granted we know a lot more that we used to, but we still don’t know anything at all. Sure, people like to hide behind the facade of scientific understanding to justify their own ignorance and fear, but while science has helped us understand many things it hasn’t explained everything. It might be able to, who knows, but science gets stuck in the same ideological loops as religion does when it comes to progress. Thinking about things in new ways is difficult if impossible within rigid and long standing traditions. Statements like this further reinforce the adamant preoccupation with understanding things the way we are comfortable with understanding them. “Modern superstition, surrounded by every influence to dispel it, can offer no excuse for existing at all. It has centered, more of less, around hypnotism and beliefs concerning coincidences, dreams, presentiments, apparitions, table rappings, and above all, spiritualism and clairvoyance” (Scaife 47). But i bet that guy would still be scared as shit trapped in an abandoned asylum for a night.
There’s still all this stuff we don’t understand, and we manifest it in things we can form images of but still cant quite decide what they are. That’s why all the ghouls and zombies and stuff. Hell, even those things are products of other fears. Zombies were the result of a deep fear of nuclear technology after the cold war. Slasher villains and serial killers were the result of fear of the suburban, modern family life being invaded by unwanted ideological influence after the Reagan era. All the things we know and imagine are synthesized from things we’ve experienced. There is no such thing as a unique thought.
So are these things simply the manifestation of mundane fears or are they expressions of strange phenomena that modern science and human logic can’t understand (as of humans were capable of objective logic in the first place)? I’m not saying that these things exist, but i’m not saying they don’t exist. All i’m saying is that we manifest our fears into substantial realities, whether they be influenced by real life or hyperreal life. We create the world we live in through the filtering of experience through perception, and sometimes that filtering happens at the source, or beyond it. Maybe ghosts are simply the result of the conservation of mass and energy failing to be 100% efficient and leaving behind trace samples of untamed energy that manifests itself in the form of strange phenomena that modern science refuses to explain. Maybe schizophrenics all have enlarged pineal glands and are evoking extra senses that we aren’t accustomed to using and are able to see far past the veil of reality we live behind into some indescribable and unknowable dimension that has no tangible substantiation under current physical models and only catch glimpses of this otherworldly realm. Maybe the only thing we have to fear is each other, and we refuse to face that fear and create barriers of fiction to resolve these conflicts. Who knows, but superstition still exists, and will probably always exist, whether we like it or not. Or maybe it won’t. Who cares.
Witches will always be cool though.
Ankarloo, Bengt, and Stuart Clark. Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Vol. 5. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1999. (read p. 197 to the bottom of p. 206.)
Scaife, Hazel Lewis. A True Ghost Story, or Three Nights in a Haunted House and a Brief Sketch of Superstition. Louisville, KY: Press of R. H. Carothers, 1895. (p. 42-52).