Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Violence Violence Violence. War War War.

Tonight I went out with a friend and his brother.

I had never met his brother before.

But his brother was a member of ROTC.

I really enjoyed talking with him. I thought he was a really thoughtful person. I felt like he had a lot of views that I wanted military members to have. He supported things like racial and sexual equality. He was very with it.

But talking to him reminded me more than ever of my interest in the military. My interest in war. My interest in violence.

Perhaps I'll share an anecdote to make this clearer. I have been getting to know a friend recently (shout of to j-dawg). Me and him share an interest in Zen and Buddhism. We were chatting one night and he told me about something he was reading. He said that certain people believe that in order to understand our own lives we need to understand the entire cosmos. That knowledge needs to be total, from the individual mind to the nature of the entire universe.

And my immediate reaction is, WHAT?!

Cosmic understanding WHAT?!

You want me to understand the entire cosmos?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Shall I flip out now or later?

The only option is to flip out now.

Because that notion conflicts with my deepest assumptions.

Today I told a coworker that it was fascinating to make assumptions explicit. When you take something that you have assumed, that has existed on an implicit level, and you make it explicit, things change. Suddenly things are raised to a higher level of consciousness. You are aware of yourself in ways that you weren't before.

And in that moment with J-dawg one of my assumptions was made explicit.

I assume that the highest reality (intellectually, analytically) is the political and social world.

The thing that I must analyze is the political and social world.

To ponder the cosmos is quite serious, but for some reason, feels inadequate or silly.

The world that needs to be contemplated is the political world.

And I don't mean to imply that there is a complete disconnect between the cosmic and the political world. That is one reason that I want to revisit John Searle's chapter 'Language as Biological and Social' in Making The Social World. Because there is undoubtedly a relationship between the natural (cosmic) world and the social and historical world.

But can violence, war, and politics be explained by references to the cosmic world?

I don't know.

But I need to pursue military history.

I am very upset.

I don't know how to continue to think about violence and war.

I think that Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point might be a good book for me to turn to.

I hope I read it.

I hope you love me.

I hope I love you.

1 comment:

  1. I think that I am probably on the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to looking at things cosmologically, but it is very necessary to do so even if your focus is on something much less macroscopic. I think that it is dangerous to imply that it is possible to find any kind of absolute in the world, and especially when it comes to politics and history, the idea of an absolute is especially fraught with danger.

    I also think that it is dangerous to try to cross vast distances by going directly from the cosmological to the societal. It has to be taken in progressive steps in order to be fully understood. I think Searle is good at this, and I'd be interested to hear what he has to say about language and biology. EO Wilson talks a lot about the bridge between nature and human concerns; his idea of sociobiology would be something worth investigating (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociobiology). Also that Adorno book I mentioned the other day, Adorno on Nature, talks about history and nature as being completely intertwined and non-reducible.

    I think that things like war and violence can easily be thought of cosmologically; if there is no absolute, clashes are necessary for progress. As Nietszche says, out of chaos comes order. Out of a clash of stardust come planets, out of a clash of people come nations, political parties, etc. The Buddhist idea of co-dependent arising is very similar: anything new has to come out of the interaction of several things.

    Even if you don't focus on the cosmological aspects of these issues, having a thorough knowledge up and down from the small to the immense will make your ideas more grounded because they have to stand up against a whole spectrum of similar interactions, and not simply exist in a narrow section which might give them an illusory air of truth.