Sunday, December 26, 2010

welcome to the new dark ages: a response to geof huth

i usually walk pass the church of scientology building on i st on the way to and from work. the church is most often buttoned up. the blinds are drawn but the front door is open with a tv in the window facing the street. the tv is on and showing i don't know what but i assume it to be a documentary on scientology and its founder l. ron hubbard. oh, you can see thru the open door a portrait of hubbard. i'm fascinated by the building and the people who go inside her, more than i am interested in the dogmas of scientology.

this is not a knock on scientology, at all. each of us can draw our own conclusions about the philosophy. i'm not a religious man. i am however drawn to the mystic. as thom gunn was once described, i too am an atheist who admits to the supernatural. take from that what you will. i do celebrate christmas and not as a christian. i celebrate the giving and receiving of love and fellowship. i do think we live in a corporate culture, a society that worships the few with enormous wealth. in spite of our culture of greed i think we need to spread more love, practice a greater lovingkindness, and do this with a large measure of humility.

christmas ceased to be a strict christian holiday since probably the late 19th century. we teach our children to believe in the magic of santa claus rather than the birth of a man who was the son of god. as proof of this secularization of christmas the church of scientology week before last was not buttoned up. its windows were open and the lights were on. inside i saw a christmas tree and a person at the front counter wearing a santa hat. i'm aware that scientology takes from a host of religious doctrines, including christianity, and bakes them into its own pie. i'm also aware of my own ignorance of both scientology and christianity as i make these remarks.

but there is no denying the brutal facts of christmas being mostly a commercially driven holiday. it's totally corporate and we see the reports from the news media how important sales are to the health of our economy. these sales are either adrenalized spikes or a lowly depression in consumer confidence that even a regimen of tricyclic medications won't cure. it is at christmas when these sales become the most important.

rather than get over my head as i'm neither an amateur spiritual guide nor even a lackadaisical economist i am haunted by this christmas post by geof huth. geof is one of the most grounded men i know and when he says that our present time is 'slipping into a new dark age' he echoes a conversation i had yesterday with my father. both my father and me are not optimistic about our near future as a species. what's interesting is the role of technology plays in the faith of people. for example, when a couple goes thru a few sessions of in vitro fertilization the children born from this scientific procedure is 'a miracle'. even tho christmas is mostly, of course not all, but mostly secular holiday our lives seem to be governed by blind faith and un-reason.

i agree with geof that we are perhaps moving into a new dark age. take a look at the tenor of what passes for political discourse for an immediate example. and yet. . .and yet. . .science is what makes our civilization great. even if we believe in faith we pray that the doctor in the e.r. has the right tools and training to save our lives when the need arises. perhaps not all is lost as there are a very many people who use their intellect but do not speak in the language of fear. fear is best digested in byte-size and is the loudest voice of all.

i don't know where we are going but it doesn't look good. when a man as lucid and intelligent as geof huth warns that we are slipping into a new dark age i sit up and take notice. i'm worried obviously that the practice of money and the corporatizing totally of our culture[s] will make us more ignorant and fearful. and yet. . .and yet. . .i am a happy pessimist. or try to be. because despite our best and worst intentions the future is still an undrawn map. we still have yet to find the roads before we can make a choice over this one and the road not taken. even when the future goes dark i still might have to wear shades.


At 12:20 PM, Blogger John B-R said...

Richard, I've been thinking about this post. My only disagreement is that we can't be slipping into something we never left. Who was it said, oh yeah, it was Ghandi, when asked "Western Civilization", said "I think it woud be a good idea?"

Plus, when you mention people using the word "miracle", you gotta remember, we dont speak language, it speaks us. We just use the phrases it supplies us. Kinda like generals fighting the previous war or something ...

At 11:22 PM, Blogger richard lopez said...

maybe we never left the dark ages but there are segments in our civilization where the light shone bright.

i agree that the language speaks us but i use the word 'miracles' in quite the literal sense. as i understand the meaning used by couples in my example they are quite sincere that it was the great maker's graciousness that created the children. i'm not sure where science in this example factors in to this sort of thinking.

i don't know. in speaking about technology as used in the new dark ages i used the example of the heaven's gate cult who committed suicide in the mid-90s when the cult thought that there was a spaceship trailing behind the hale-bop comet and the only way to get on board was thru death. the heaven's gate members were major sci-fi fans and i think made their living as web developers. they also, if memory serves, had some money in small bills and some change in their hand. the money was to pay for their transport. the source for the cost of this fare was a short story by i think mark twain where the protagonist galloped around the universe and paid for his fare with the small bills and some change. the exact amount evades me but was the same for the cult members as it was in the story.

in short, we will probably see not a rejection of technology when it comes to unreason and wishful thinking, but techology will augment and abet our ignorance.

at any rate, that was probably way off topic and your point, john. my point i think is that certain words, like miracle, are used deliberately by people who really believe in the divine even if it is technology and human knowledge and resources that was the source of creation.

but then again to the believer to counter the argument if god wanted us to fly he'd given us wings, god wants us to fly because he'd given us the knowledge to build airplanes.

in other words, to reason against faith is an endgame of desperate porportions.

which is what you were probably saying with fewer words and more to the point than my rambling here.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger John B-R said...

Richard, I'd never argue against faith. I'd never argue against reason, either. I think both are overrated and fetishized.

Fundamentalists scare me no end. Free market rationalists scare me equally. So do those who believe in science.

We're just a poor stumbling bunch of animals with all the sense of a carrot (I mean that literally) and no more.

The chances are, you and Geof are right, in that the 21st century will probably make the 20th, which was unutterably horrible, look like a walk in the park.

It's at moments like these I almost wish my daughter weren't pregnant, but she is, and it is miraculous (!), inasmuch as even in a godless empty utterly meaningless universe such as ours, little kids (think of your own) are miraculous.

Got a better word to describe your son?


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