Shooting from the gut

Yes, of course, the answer to my last post about the dominance of the rational is ‘Well, what about the late pernicious rise of the irrational? What about the growing power (indeed real political power) of a mentality that rejects scientific method and consensus, and the authority of evidence or even of logic? What about the multitudes who indulge in magical thinking about economics or science or healthcare or national security? Who don’t believe in climate change or vaccinating their kids; who don't see a link between guns and gun violence; who are probably about to vote for Donald Trump?’ The prospect of America’s ‘id’ as president is alarming, as is the prospect of rising oceans and unbreathable air, the return of typhoid and polio, unending war in the name of freedom. A world like this would truly represent the triumph of the irrational. 

To all of this I might answer that the irrationalist insurgence is not a sign of rationalism's decline but a result of its dominance. It's a revolt against authority, based on a suspicion (sometimes justified) that authority is both dishonest and self-interested, and an intuition that rationalism doesn't cover the waterfront of human life. And it might have been mitigated if the rationalists had been more tempered by their counterparts, the humanists. If rationalism had given more ground to the holistic, poetic aspects of human being, it might not have lost so much ground in the war against populism. The repression of ego left id and superego to battle it out. In other words, relegating the heart made room for the gut to mount a challenge against the mind. And gut is winning. 

Afternoon post

Too busy to post anything substantial this week, so before another Friday arrives clamouring for its poem, here are some things I've been reading, thinking about, writing in the last sennight:

  1. I read that Stephen Hawking thinks heaven is a fairy tale for those afraid of death. I admire his courage, but I find his flat dismissal of heaven bemusing, given the wildly speculative nature of his own exploration of the heavens.  Is a belief in other universes we cannot know or see so very different from a belief in heaven? (See Jon Stewart's excellent interview with Marilynne Robinson for more on this). I also read (a few weeks ago) a Sydney blogger who claimed that we now know enough about the physical universe to be pretty sure that it contains no such place as heaven. To which I think most thinking Christians, at most times in history, might reply 'Well, duh.'

  2. I read that a strange conjunction of planets occured this week, (though I think I slept through it) and that astronomers have discovered as many as ten 'wandering' planets in the Milky Way: ie, planets that are adrift from any bright, particular star.  I've also been enjoying the immense moon. Though I'm in love with it, I have always resisted learning more about the moon. Part of my enjoyment comes from that startling wonder of seeing it where I don't expect to; finding it fuller or more golden or more luminously white or more cloud-haloed than I thought possible. If I knew its phases and motions, more than half the magic would be gone.  (I am also deeply annoyed about the whole 'moon landing' thing.  How dared we?)

  3. I read an interesting post at The Millions about what Philip Roth calls 'the indigenous American berserk.' This is what impels the regular interruption of American pastoral by episodes of insane violence, and it's been happening since America began.

  4. A wedding I went to on Saturday made me think that what I like about my country is how an Indonesian girl can marry a Malaysian boy in a big old gothic church in a big white dress and sing Welsh hymns, and how they can have a Chinese tea ceremony at their reception and also sing a duet from Phantom of the Opera.

  5. I read that Donald Trump has withdrawn his presidential bid.  Not sure whether to be glad or sorry. And I think he probably represents indigenous American something, but I'm not sure what that is. (Whatever it is, it's not that far from berserk.)

  6. I wrote and sent a proposal for an ABC Radio National 'Encounter' episode - another step towards radio stardom!

  7. Last night, I thought about Jesus' words: 'what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet forfeits his soul?'

And that was my week.