The Artifice of Always

Nature never really was anything more than artifice.

This is not the accepted view.

There exists a widespread belief that at some point in human history Man and Nature separated from each other; that they are things of intrinsically different quality and that this is very bad. The general sentiment holds that a beaver’s dam is natural but a house is unnatural. A wasp nest is natural but a computer is unnatural. And natural things are better, more pure. For a random example, we can look to the article The Separation Between Man and Nature by Julie Bentley from Odyssey wherein the author writes, “Technology is the ultimate separation between man and nature. We would rather get to the top of a mountain and text the first person we know about it than to sit down and admire the majesty and the vastness of the mountaintop. Think about how many things we have missed passing in the car because we’re on our phone.”

The first and most obvious question this raises is what makes human technology fundamentally unnatural since given the title itself she clearly doesn’t believe humans themselves are unnatural (as her utilization of “separation” implies there was a point of cleavage between what was once a wholesome union). The second pertinent question is: is the information contained within the phone more important than the information which could be garnered from gazing out a window at any given point in time? The answer is highly dependent upon the context of a given car-ride, clearly if one is the driver and their phone is not voice-operated then it is unwise to utilize it whilst driving given the increased risk of a crash, yet this has nothing to do with being natural or unnatural (which is really just to say, common or uncommon), but rather, risk-mitigation from two “unnatural” pieces of human artifice: a car and a phone. Further, one can easily reverse the ending cry of dismay and say quite reasonably instead: “How many things we have missed on our phones because we’re gazing idly out the window of a car.”

Now, without a proper definition of what “Nature” is, this delineation makes no sense. So let us concretely define our terms via The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th Edition), which defines nature as:

  • n. The material world and its phenomena.

  • n. The forces and processes that produce and control all the phenomena of the material world: the laws of nature.

  • n. The world of living things and the outdoors: the beauties of nature.

  • n. A primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization or artificiality: couldn’t tolerate city life anymore and went back to nature.

  • n. (Theology) Humankind’s natural state as distinguished from the state of grace.

  • n. A kind or sort: confidences of a personal nature.

  • n. The essential characteristics and qualities of a person or thing: “She was only strong and sweet and in her nature when she was really deep in trouble” ( Gertrude Stein).

  • n. The fundamental character or disposition of a person; temperament: “Strange natures made a brotherhood of ill” ( Percy Bysshe Shelley).

  • n. The natural or real aspect of a person, place, or thing. See Synonyms at disposition.

  • n. The processes and functions of the body.

When one shores away all of those definitions of the word which pertain to character, disposition and those which are further clarifications of previously mentioned descriptions, one is left with only three principal definitions:

  • (1) The material world and its phenomena.
  • (2) Humankind’s natural state as distinguished from the state of grace.
  • (3) A primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization or artificiality.

Definition 2 is a neurological phenomena and thus, too particular to be useful (it is also not typically what people mean when they refer to “nature” either casually or academically). However, definitions 1 and 3 demand some deliberation as they are both plausible and the two most commonly used. The problem is that definition 1 obviates 3, because 1 covers the whole of the material world it would — of necessity — include human beings, whereas definition 3 does not and in fact, mandates the exclusion of human beings from the natural order. One might be tempted to say that definition 3 only mandates exclusion of human civilization and artifice, and that would be fine insofar as civilization were concerned, but the whole of human existence is predicated upon artifice, as even something as simple as crafting a wooden spear or flint-kindling a campfire is still “artifice” no matter how primitive, as is the crafting of fur clothing and cave painting and so on and so forth. Thus, the two definitions are at loggerheads! However, the linguistic problem goes even further for just as all human artifice is a necessary product of bio-chemical action, so to might we also say that those bio-chemical actions themselves are natural artifice. This is to say that there is really nothing but artifice all the way down, the only meaningful distinction is between kinds of artifice – that is to say – between the various different forms of emergence, dissolution, recombination and reemergence.

To assert that the principal distinction between human artifice and non-human artifice is conscious direction — and to therefore imbue in human thought some cosmic separateness — is to affirm that there is nothing at the base of action which moves it or to assert some ghost-essence (the principal conceptual limiter in questions of “free” will); that your neurological impulses are not controlling for what makes you you, but that the conceptual you is controlling the neurological impulses. Humans do not require, as a matter of base principal, a understanding of the intricate operations of the brain and central nervous system, of the heart and lungs, we just needed to know (as we still do) that we are separate enough from the system which created us so as not to be killed by it.

This is all that lies at the base of identity.

Separation from the artifice of always is the necessary generative nexus for life itself.

 

Morning Joe & The Failure of Form

The internet has recently been awhirl with the barbed, blow-trading occurring between US President, Donald J. Trump and the hosts of MSNBC’s flagship talkshow, Morning Joe (get it, because Joe Scarborough is named Joe and its in the morning when people drink coffee, which is colloquially referred to as “a cup of joe” – mildly clever) which is generally hosted by Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.

The hub-bub concerns a series of tweets which the POTUS sent out attacking, “low I.Q. Crazy Mika,” claiming that Ms. Brzezinski was, “-bleeding badly from a face-lift,” when she and Scarborough (whom he referred to as, “Psycho Joe”) had visited Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club during New Year’s Eve.

Here are the messages in question to provide better context:

[POTUS, Jun 29, “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..”

Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump Jun 29:
“…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”]

Naturally, both Ms. Brzezinski and Mr. Scarborough took the utmost offense to this statement with Ms. Brzezinski playing the swooning damsel in distress and Scarborough donning the armaments of a true white knight; shooting back, just as ruthlessly. I shan’t delve any further into the particulars of their feud as that would merely be a waist of time; it was childish and wholly unnecessary. Rather, I should prefer to grapple with the failure of form demonstrated by our most colorful world leader.

The left is most certainly correct in decrying the POTUS on this particular issue – it was wholly uncalled for – and those few, level-headed public commentators amongst their ranks have issued forth a sentiment of, “Why can’t he act more “Presidential?” The GOP-right and Nu-Right respectively have decried this position; to them, Trump is, “Sticking it to the Lefties!” He’s, “Triggering SJWs.” This is a completely ludicrous position.

It is entirely irrelevant whether or not the Morning Joe team deserved the comments they received the only thing that matters is that they received them. This, as previously stated, is a tremendous failure of form, that is, form of leadership which might, itself, best be described as the ability to restrain oneself from any action which does not project those qualities which one’s offices demands. In the case of the Office of the Presidency, it demands vision, energy, emotional discipline and a tunnel-visioning of objectives, that is to say, a complete and utter disregard for all that is superfluous to those projects under the leader’s purview, both immediate and prospective. A leader in the position of POTUS should be relentlessly engaging in those mammoth undertakings that formed the bread and butter of his or her campaign, informed and modified by the wisdom of his or her advisers. Infrastructure tending, debt reduction, wealth creation, diplomacy with world powers, native political unification, ensuring the security of the US border and ending the sway of the Mexican drug cartels, officiating wars and their prevention where possible; these are the issues which should be absorbing the energies of the leader of the US, a world dominating empire in all but name.

It is irrelevant to all aforementioned “bread & butter” issues that our current president is “triggering” the left or verbally vomiting on annoying news anchors online.

In place of bread and butter the American People have received bread and circus.

Dionysus or Aphrodite? The Porn/Erotica Distinction, Prt. 1

Observe the cover image; is it pornographic or erotic or is there no worthy distinctions to be drawn between such fickle words at all?

The argument about how human sexuality should be properly represented in the arts is a extremely old one with three broad factions splitting up the lion share of opinions. Either sexuality should be displayed as the artist pleases – no holds barred – or, there should be some kind of restrictions placed upon sexualization (whether in regard to sex acts or simply mood/lighting/setting and more numinous aesthetic parameters) or that sex and sensuality in art should be harshly suppressed if not outright banned. Regardless of which camp (if any) one falls into in this discussion, on matters of sex-in-art there is a ever present question: Is it erotica or is it porn? Let us turn our attention, briefly, to some linguistic definitions for these two words to help use in navigating the murky terrain established by these two rather nebulous terms.

pornography (n.) – 1843, “ancient obscene painting, especially in temples of Bacchus,” from French pornographie, from Greek pornographos “(one) depicting prostitutes,” from porne “prostitute,” originally “bought, purchased” (with an original notion, probably of “female slave sold for prostitution”), related to pernanai “to sell” (from PIE *perə-, variant of root “to traffic in, to sell”) + graphein “to write”. A brothel in ancient Greek was a porneion.

erotica (n.) – 1820, noun use of neuter plural of Greek erotikos “amatory” (see erotic); originally a booksellers’ catalogue heading. erotic (adj.) – 1650s, from the French érotique (16c.), from Greek erotikos “caused by passionate love/referring to love,” from eros (genitive erotos) “sexual love.”

There is then, something inherently commercial and prurient about pornography embedded within the word itself whereas erotica, definitively, is more inter-personal (booksellers’ catalog connotation aside).

Archetypally speaking, these distinct categories are perhaps best personified by the Greek gods, Dionysus and Aphrodite. Dionysus was classically represented as a young, beautiful man (in older depictions he was bearded and gaudily dressed), often nude; the deity of wine, intoxication, rituals, madness, religious ecstasy and theatre. Aphrodite, contrary to many modernistic conceptions of the goddess, was not a being of carnal delight but of love, child bearing, civic unity, the sea (from which she was born) and, in dire times, war (due her relationship with Ares, god of War). Dionysus – (or Bacchus, as he was later known) a transient being of lasciviousness, celebration and epiphany, who appeared to his followers randomly, wildly bestowing gifts of wine and joyous madness, disappearing just as suddenly as he had come – might then be seen as an embodiment or harbinger of both the brevity and bliss of carnality.

In contrast, Aphrodite was a lasting goddess, that is, she was a being of continuance, of that which lasted and withstood the test of time (births being the most notable example of this – a continuation of the species being the most potent and lasting of all human pursuits).

Sex, under the auspices of Aphrodite, was ultimately tied to love and was seen as an eminently sacred enterprise, so much so that her priests (all female) took strict vows of chastity. Bacchanalians, however, were possessed of no such sacral impulse (due to Dionysus’ affinity for transgression of all things) as Dionysus and would often congregate in orgiastic rituals where all sexes and ages would copulate with wild abandon. So disturbing were these lascivious displays of Dionysian Orgia in 186 BC the Roman Senate attempted a catch-all ban – called the Senatus consultum de Bacchanalibus (senatorial decree concerning the Bacchanalia) – on the Dionysian religion itself to put an end to the supposedly sexually depraved displays.

Senatus_consultum_de_bacchanalibus
Senatus consultum de Bacchanalibus, 186 BC

So as a linguistic dialectic, the pornographic/erotic distinction might best be seen as a distinction between these two divine aspect, that of Dionysus and Aphrodite, bliss of momentary carnal delight and the dutiful cultivation of those emotional bonds and by extension, social bonds, which foster the continued procession of humanity itself.

Pornography, thus, is generally considered “in bad taste” or “base” because it is a inherently selfish enterprise and one which has very low time-horizons. Any individual who pleasures himself or herself to the Bacchanalian displays of the thousands of porn sites across the web is elevating the senses for but a brief moment. The action can not be built upon in any meaningful way, societally speaking (and in this age to speak of the actions of people is, in no uncertain terms, to be speaking of some aspect of some society – for how common are the hermits!). In many ways the pornographic ritual of self-pleasuring is lower than the Bacchanalia, for in the latter instance one was, at the very least bonding both with his/her community and with the terrestrial aspects of Dionysus himself.

 


Sources:

http://www.etymonline.com: [1. Pornography] [2. Erotica]

Oxford Classical Dictionary, eds. S. Hornblower and A. Spawforth (Oxford, 20033 ), pp. 479-482