Three Turns of Thought. Of Bitterness. Of Oppression and Confession.

  1. Bitterness of soul arises from words, seeming too sharp for speech, that ferment in the mute dark. Would speech be the uncorking that releases thoughts to the open air and sweetens their effect? What if they are indeed poison—a cure for the speaker to pour yet new bitterness for the hearer to drink? Is there no one who can drink this cup to the dregs and still live?
  2. In “getting things off the chest,” one lays burdens on others. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ teaches that one must not seek healing at the expense of another, for one already has healing at the expense of this man who endured all burdens beyond death. Has he been crucified in vain? Has he overcome death without effect? One must confess without oppressing—that is, confess to this Wonderful Counselor who can bear and has already borne all burdens.
  3. Bitterness of soul arises in the absence of confession. The Father unwounded hears and in the wounding of his Son heals.

A Quote. Some Questions. Of Bias.

To be biased, of course, means, among other things, to be socially typed, to have a social perspective from which it is necessary to view experience.

—John Dollard, Caste and Class in a Southern Town (1937)

Questions that linger:

  1. Is bias essentially social?
  2. Is bias a perspective?
  3. Is the perspective by which experience is interpreted (or “viewed”) essentially social?
  4. Can anything be said, in a human language, without bias?

Five Maxims. Of Laughter.

  • Laughter is a conquest, a seizure of the will. The grip of laughter is strongest when one wills most not to laugh.
  • A rare genius—no, not necessarily a madman—is the one who laughs in solitude.
  • One does not often laugh when alone unless it is believed that another would laugh in the same circumstances. When one does laugh alone, the lordship of the imagination is total, and in that case, it is not fitting to say that one is alone.
  • Laughter is as likely the voice of joy as the mask of wretchedness.
  • Derision and acceptance, disapproval and fellow-feeling—what do these have in common besides laughter?

John Dollard in 1930s Indianola

I with Yankee eye did cast my vision down
The tarnished streets of shining Southerntown.
I in calm reply did mind my manners here
As I spied truth beneath a white veneer.
I saw signs whereby the folks kept folks in place—
In class through caste by past beliefs of race.
I exposed a lie disguised in symbols fair:
black child denied adulthood by white “care.”
I have found out why—until the symbols sway,
White father to black brother—caste will stay.

A Passage. Of Skepticism. Of Sleep and Wakefulness.

This summary of a major position of the skeptics, from the seventeenth century, was also pre-production brainstorming for The Matrix and Inception:

. . . [Q]ui sait si cette autre moitié de la vie où nous pensons veiller n’est pas un autre sommeil un peu différent du premier dont nous nous éveillons quand nous pensons dormir?

Et qui doute que, si on rêvait en compagnie, et que par hasard les songes s’accordassent, ce qui est assez ordinaire, et qu’on veillât en solitude, on ne crût les choses renversées? Enfin, comme on rêve souvent qu’on rêve, entassant un songe sur l’autre, la vie n’est elle-même qu’un songe, sur lequel les autres sont entés, dont nous nous éveillons à la mort, pendant laquelle nous avons aussi peu les principes du vrai et du bien que pendant le sommeil naturel; ces différentes pensées qui nous y agitent n’étant peut-être que des illusions, pareilles à l’écoulement du temps et aux vains fantaisies [Var. ed.: fantômes] de nos songes.

Who knows if this other half of life, in which we think to be awake, is not another sleep a little different from the first and from which we wake when we think we sleep?

And who doubts that, if one dreamed in company and by chance the dreams agreed (which is ordinary enough) and if one then woke in solitude, then one would not believe things to be reversed? Moreover, as one dreams often that one dreams, pouring dream upon dream, life itself is only a dream on which others are grafted and from which we wake at death and during which we have fewer principles of the true and the good than during natural sleep—these different thoughts that bother us here being, perhaps, merely illusions, rather like the flow of time and the vain fantasies of our dreams.

—Pascal, Pensées §434

A Lamentation. Of Self-Definition. Of Identity.

A dark power has taught the past few generations of Americans to define themselves by transgression of boundaries rather than by stretch and strain toward ideals. Their minds are shackled by comparisons and negations. So great were the atrocities committed by their forebears that they are content to be not like them without becoming anything else, to be not inhuman without becoming human.

The desire to be other is not enough to draw one into authentic existence.

Definitions in Competition. Of Opinion, Knowledge, Faith.

The Skeptic: Opinion is the memory of a thought attended by a feeling of certainty. Knowledge is the memory of a thought attended by a feeling of certainty and an assumption that everyone else must feel the same about it once it is remembered.

The Mystic: Faith is a mode of thinking conditioned by telos rather than origin or memory. Knowledge is the desired yet—in this life—unreachable telos of faith.