"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, May 2, 2019

If Life’s A Sideshow, Then Why Not Enjoy It?–A Long-Awaited, Delightful Circus In The White House

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There are four kinds of people who remain sane looking out the window– the devoutly religious who believe that God in his infinite wisdom and grace created an imperfect world designed for our salvation; those who believe that the world was created randomly and all actions within it are random and purposeless; those who believe that regardless of origin or fate, the world is a perfectible place; and those who see the world for the hilarious sideshow it is.

Christians believe that there will be a Second Coming and they must be prepared for the Parousia, the Day of Judgement, and the Apocalypse when God once and for all scourges the earth of evil, and raises the righteous to heaven. While God alone knows who will be saved, without faith all will be lost.  Prayer, devotion, and the spreading of Christ’s good news is at least a hedge against divine exile.  As importantly, such faith is comforting.  Regardless of how mad the world may seem, it and one’s own travails will end either now or later.

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The Nihilist is as well off as the Christian, for he also knows that however mad the world may seem, such incoherence is logical.  A random world in which events are nothing more than the ricochets of other events, a philosophical game of pool with no outcome, is a comforting one.  Nothing matters, all is possible, and nothing ever judged.  While Nihilism lacks the spunk and spirit of Christian fundamentalism with its epiphanies and ecstasy; and the world of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Schopenhauer can be a very bleak one indeed, taken in the right light purposelessness is liberating. 

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The Progressive members of the congregation have tried to find a niche between the two, a world of possibility beyond and independent of God’s divine plan and defiantly confident that randomness can be organized and arranged to suit human needs.  Their evangelism is particularly difficult since it lacks the logical grounding of Christianity and Nihilism.   Nietzsche and Tolstoy pointed to the repetitious nature of history – human nature is such that history is bound to repeat itself in endlessly predictable way; and that no deliberate human intention can possibly reform it.  Martin Luther rejected the institutional interventionism of the Catholic Church and created a new, more streamlined, personal, and demanding religion.  Only Jesus can sort out the world and there can be no sacramental penance to mitigate the chaos.  One is either saved or is not.

When asked why they are so invested in secular progress – a more civil, just, humane, equitable society – Progressives have no answer except a solipsistic one.  It is important to progress to a more just society because just societies are better than unjust ones.  No Aquinas, Tertullian, Augustine.  No ‘Being and Nothingness’, ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, or ‘The World as Will and Representation’.  Only the romantic, utopian works of Whitman, Emerson, and Thoreau give any guidance to understanding the modern Progressive.

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Yet, how can anyone look at American politics, for example, without enjoying the ride, especially now with Donald Trump in office.  He is a vaudevillian, a circus performer, a Borscht Belt comedian, and an unalloyed product of image, glitz, and glamour.  Finally, happily, and at last, sanctimony has been given the hook.  There may or may not be meaning in the world and it may or may not have been created by God, but whatever it is, it is worth the price of admission.  While Progressives bemoan this unsuspected and totally surprising backsliding towards the antediluvian world they have fought against for a century, and while Nihilists yawn and take Trump’s excesses in stride, most of the rest of us love the fanfare, the outrageousness, the sheer chutzpah and braggadocio of Donald Trump and the hysterical circus antics of the Left.

The irony is that Progressive observers have correctly characterized Trump as a vaudevillian, clown, carny barker, and magician; but in their disparagement have missed the point that when people go to a circus, they don’t want facts, truth or reality.

The Great Gandolfo was the greatest magician of the early 19th century.  Because of a somewhat shady and questionable past, the big circuses like Barnum & Bailey never engaged him.  On the small tent, county fair, 4H and watermelon circuit he was a big draw.  He performed all the classic magic tricks – sawing a woman in half, wriggling out of a buccaneer’s chains, and making pigeons and rabbits appear and disappear – but his real talent was legerdemain.  What his audience saw – a hand of cards, a live toad, a glass of water, or a furled flag – was nothing of the sort.  He made everything change in appearance, change places, colors, dimensions, and posture.  By the end of his show no one was sure exactly what they had seen or what had become of what they did.

Gandolfo was brilliant, exotic, and absolutely compelling.  He wore a traditional magician’s outfit – top hat, white tie, and tails – before every audience no matter how humble.  It was a showman’s outfit, what everyone expected; and his hat woven of fine silk, his studs of 14 karat diamonds, and his tuxedo tailored in Bond Street, showed his respect and gratitude for his followers.  He never thought of them as gullible or naïve, and prided himself on giving them what they wanted in glamorous style.

More importantly, if life itself is a sideshow, than why take it seriously?  Every puffed-up, silk-suited don, every Judge Judy episode, every stupefying sermon, every shameless huckster, every redneck, every pipe-stemmed San Francisco hipster, and every architectural, locally-sourced, organic meal is a reason to rejoice.  What is the nature of humanity?  Forget Jefferson’s contract with the people, Lincoln’s rectitude, and FDR’s liberal interventionism.   They had no inkling of the real nature of American culture.  Their vision of a fair, equitable, just, and reasonable society drawn from European philosophical tradition and the ways of the academic elite were as far from home base as can be imagined.  The Founding Fathers understood individual freedom as a hedge against political tyranny; but they never could possibly imagine how deformed and petty it has become.  When individual freedom justifies doing fuck-all, then what to expect except a circus sideshow? Exaggerated individualism implies image – selling your product and looking good – and it doesn’t take much to make image the expression of culture.

We love Donald Trump’s yachts, resorts, arm candy, and unabashed showmanship.  Why shouldn’t we have a man of Hollywood and Las Vegas as president when that’s exactly what we want to be.  Kant, Augustine, Hamilton, and Russell mean nothing to us, so why bother pretending they do?  Philosophers have always tried to make sense out of madness and have only provided ‘logical constructs’.  They never have looked beyond their noses to see that life is and always will be the most illogical, happenstance, delightfully ridiculous show ever imagined.  And why not, then, have the most illogical, happenstance, and delightfully outrageous President in the White House?

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