Sunday, August 1, 2010

Clinging to Darkness

The thing is not sturdy.
And so it must be clung to.

From where comes rigidity of thought?  In black and white thinking is righteousness an indication of unstable ground?

The ability to incorporate nuance is an indication of ideological coherence. The coherence is a comprehensivity.  The greater the points of logic, of consonance, the greater the ability to incorporate nuance. 

This often appears as simplicity.  And simplicity is often mistaken for coherence.  Its elegance and apparent universality is deceptive.  Truth, in its absolute coherence, often takes a simple form.  Yet when pressed upon, it is infinitely comprehensive.  2 + 2 will always equal 4.  Whether apples or plums.

Although simplicity does not imply falsity, it does not automatically provide for incorporation.  Thus, through elaboration, through incorporation, simplicity becomes complexity.  And in a debate of ideas, simplicity is at a disadvantage to complexity.  It lacks the means with which to meet complexity. Thus when truth, in simple form, encounters nuance, it unfolds.  This unfolding, ordered and without dissonance, is beautiful and elegant.

Falsity masquerades as truth by claiming simplicity and elegance.  Yet, because it is false, it can not be comprehensive, it can not bear nuance.  Unable to extend itself without creating dissonance, falsity must always resort to fascism, bullying, self-interested conquest by force.  Built upon a weak and malformed foundation, it compensates via rigidity and brutality. In contrast to truth's elegant unfolding, falsity unfolds through trickery and legerdemain, relying on devious maneuvers and distractions.

The one thing that falsity can not suffer is magnanimity, recognition of the other.  To do so would allow that critique is possible.  Yet critique - and this is often only understood by the unconscious - is the surest path to dissonance, to ultimate defeat.  Oh, what armies we command within our depths, all knives sharpened for the dissonant hordes.  The more fragile the kingdom, the longer the axe.  Barricade upon barricade must encircle and defend the weakest idea.

The easiest strategy of course is to relocate.  While a good idea may take solace from its eternal truth, able to live comfortably within the brightest fires, a bad idea must remain forever vigilant, comforted only in darkness and isolation.  Within this pit of snakes it slithers, unaware, ultimately, of its own form.

Truth cannot help but build upon itself.  Like a gracious host, or a wise and empathetic teacher, it strengthens all other truths it touches.  Its firmness gives shelter to the radical, bedrock to the speculative.  It lends itself to the erection of beautiful cathedrals of possibility.  In contrast, falsity brings only confusion and hindrance.  It remains atomized and shy, an impediment to expansion.  Like an unstable and reactive chemical, it must be hidden away and protected from interaction. 

In the end, falsity does not really exist.  Under examination it collapses into contradiction.  Its pretense to logic falls away and substance is revealed as vaporous illusion.  For many, this devilish smoke is intoxicating.  But ultimately it nourishes nothing but malcontent and dissatisfaction.  The human mind, having become addicted and accustomed to this state, becomes limp and zombie-like, autonomatonic and reactive, predictable and without self-awareness.  From necessity, cognition has been forced into wrinkled and craggly spires, teetering in its own heated wind and pathotropic catharsis. 

Comfort in this state comes only through tradition and habit.  Yet like a patient suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, the fear and dependency induced by never ending cognitive dissonance creates for itself a life-like alternate universe in which truth is adjusted for and falsity is substituted for through an elaborate series of perceptual detours and cognitive trusses. 

From an evolutionary psychological perspective, or at least one of cultural evolution, this has been a universal human adaptation to cognitive and perceptual limitation.  Even with the sharpest logic cannot cut through a lack of information, or a lack of a theoretical framework for understanding an event's causality.  So it is easy to see why reliance upon magical thinking would have seemed a very logical resolution to the unknown - especially when the unknown presented a very real and dangerous threat.

In today's world, while cognition and perception are orders of magnitude more advanced, a wealth of information is at hand, this adaptation is still with us.  Viewing the same event, the same data, two minds can vary wildly in their interpretation.  The project of synthesis and the discrimination it involves is still no small task.  Thus these old adaptations, these old habits of mind remain strong.  We erect our fragile pinnacles of fallacy, our islands of thought.  Yet as has been the trajectory of history and progress, the tide of human knowledge and interconnection, with its powers of abrasion, cannot but slowly bring enlightenment, if only ever in fits and starts.

We are young.  But we have minds.  And these minds are designed for truth.  If nothing else, that is unlikely to ever change.

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