Bear in mind that at this point the whistleblower’s name has been mentioned publicly, with Twitter showing a broad range of references, including in transcripts from House testimony and on live broadcast television.
Now, it may be said that Eric Ciaramella is merely an alleged whistleblower, and potentially not the whistleblower. I think that this is an entirely legitimate argument.
But at which point do we decide to censor the media to protect individuals? We have seen kids wearing the wrong hats targeted by the media, or people raising money for charities who quoted questionable jokes from shows broadcast on media companies’ television channels on Twitter.
You can argue that there is a duty to protect whistleblowers, and I think that this is true. But this has not, by and large, been the rule. The establishment already knows the identity of this person. Their name has been tweeted by the son of the president.
There is a vested public interest in understanding the people involved in the impeachment investigation on both sides of the aisle. We want to know when the president has done something wrong. We pay for the government, and in its charter it is said to operate for the people. Those of us who would not sanction wrongdoing demand to know.
But we also demand to have due process. When it is stripped from one it will be stripped from all. We demand to be know when witnesses have conflicts of interest. We demand to know what our government is doing.
And now Facebook has become an Orwellian establishment.
Lowly proles cannot be trusted with a name. They might make their own decisions and come to their own conclusions. They might decide that the government is not of the people. They might challenge the power structures that be, and force bureaucrats and politicians to give up the control that they have.
So it is time for the memory hole.
Post-script: Lest I omit this information, the photograph I mocked up for this post is a verbatim replica of a post I made earlier today on my Facebook account. It has been deleted without notification to me.
I’ve been reading Erich Neumann’s The Origins and History of Consciousness (Amazon affiliate link), and I got to thinking about the notion of the Hero in light of some of Neumann’s writings.
One of the things that I find interesting about Neumann that I either missed or overlooked in Jung and other writers is the notion of hunger.
The traditional understanding of the Hero’s Journey as posited by Campbell is that the Hero mediates between life and death.
But this is a binary system; it permits for good and evil, and the Hero is good and the world (or the element of it which is danger and chaos) is evil.
The problem with this symbolism is that the nature of life as changing is recognized, but the truth of reality and being is overlooked.
What Neumann points out that I haven’t seen other writers talk about is that the interchange between life and death is facilitated by hunger, and it occurred to me:
Archetypally understood life and death are not states we experience within our lives. We experience hunger.
We have various states of hunger, and one of the ways that we can react to hunger is sacrifice. We have a near-infinite ability to consume, though doing so in excess is harmful both to us and to others. Sacrifice is choosing not to consume so that we avoid over-consumption.
Or, in short, sacrifice is a way of saying “This is enough.”
If we believe Jung, which I generally do, our consciousness is a product of the world we live in and reflects greater objective reality. This is really Jung’s revolutionary idea. Jung expresses a statement that our consciousness is a product, which is the prevalent ideal of postmodernism but which by itself is dangerous. He also recognizes the traditional belief, that of the objective reality, that has shaped Western thought from primordial times.
When we take both these points together, the symbols of life and death do not answer the question. For instance, Buddhism teaches that the path to nirvana is to avoid hunger, but this is often wreathed in symbols of death; the highest goal is the end of a cycle of endless and miserable life in a broken world, which is not necessarily something which would be unworthy of human effort. However, as the only goal of being, the mere cessation of suffering is a lowly goal. The Hero and their contribution to the world are overlooked in the abstract.
Let’s look at the concept of the Christian Trinity. The Trinity is God; God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is a confusing way of expressing things, since it is one entity expressed as three distinct entities, but there is an archetypal reason for the existence of the Trinity.
Let’s start with Jung’s assertion that undifferentiated God is equivalent to life; life understood as Logos and divine and perfect. Note that this is distinct from Jung’s views on Christianity; when I speak of God here I speak of an abstract figure. Jung’s interpretation of the Trinity and the God the Father within it is heretical, because he views it as a symbol of the individual’s mind, rather than a divine entity (there are other reasons that this is true, but I don’t want to get bogged down in them).
This undifferentiated God is the Trinity in complex, but it is difficult to understand why Christianity would have elements of Christ and the Holy Spirit on the same level as God the Father, when other Abrahamic religions distinguish between Christ and God (if they accept Christ as having any connection to the divine).
Within the Trinity, God the Father is associated with paradise and the perfect future, the Word/Logos, and divine will that leads away from damnation. I think it is fair to say that an archetypal understanding of God paints him as life itself, and other Abrahamic religions that do not include Christ, including gnosticism, recognize this element of God.
Christ’s own statements about His nature are confusing in this light: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6, NASB)
How can one entity bring another into itself? Wouldn’t the union logically be with Christ, and not with God, if the two are the same entity?
This is where Neumann’s concept of hunger comes into play.
If we forego the dualist conception of life and death as opposites, and instead consider them as polar ends of a broader scale of hunger, with all things existing between them, we see differently.
The Hero always exists to triumph over death, but they do this through sacrifice. Sacrifice is the only way we can create more life than there would otherwise be. This is because of the world’s entropic nature. It is not an accident that it is eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, of engaging with hunger, is the sin that begins all the suffering in the world, because it is hunger that symbolizes the world as is, and neither life or death can exist within that spectrum.
The Hero moves everything toward life, but everything falls toward death of its own accord.
Christ is the ultimate Hero. He goes into the realm of the dead by an act of sacrifice that includes not only physical death but also humiliation and torment and mockery and a black mark on his secular legacy. People will, until the end of days, ask why Christ did not use His power to save Himself, and they will use this to justify denying Him.
However, this ultimate sacrifice defeats death. It is no longer something to be feared, because life has entered into it. In classical Christianity, there is this idea that Christ descends into Sheol and ascends with the spirits of the righteous dead, bringing them to Paradise where they live with the Father.
The concept of the Hero is common, and an archetypal understanding of Christ and God the Father is simple. Jung was hung up in particular about the idea of three figures, though. They do not fit the life-death dichotomy, because two questions cannot have three answers.
Considering life, death, and hunger instead of the dualism, we see a place for the Holy Spirit within the Trinity, and this actually answers some important questions about the Christian life.
The Holy Spirit is the replacement for hunger. Christ has conquered death, but hunger remains, a corrupting influence that makes us unfit for true life.
The Holy Spirit replaces the hunger that resides within every person. The Hero only denies hunger, and for this reason no story of the Hero ever will be complete, because the Hero still has to face death. Even victory over death is victory over death for the Hero alone, because succumbing to hunger (in the form of original sin, if not deliberate sin during one’s lifetime) makes one unworthy of archetypal true life.
The Holy Spirit exists to give us a guide toward the life we ought to live; it is God’s answer to our hunger. I think that Pascal best describes this in his Pensees:
“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII
This is one of the reasons why the understanding of the Trinity as God in an undifferentiated state is important; God has replaced death and God has replaced hunger for those who follow him.
Had some socialization today, which is nice. Didn’t get a whole lot done in terms of writing or reading, but I’m giving myself a pass. Might have to make up for it tomorrow. I need to get some more reading material beyond just what I’m doing for my courses.
He is really wise who is nettled at nothing. (Maxim 203)
François de La Rochefoucauld
One of the things that I’ve noticed is that we associate peevishness with foolishness.
Oh how I wish I could be free of neurosis.
People who get agitated over things are opening themselves up to psychic influence; every little thing influences their mood.
I’m reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and one of the things that is interesting to me is that early on there’s a scene where the narrator is showing a flashback to her childhood, and one of her classmates (for lack of a better term) is explaining how he learned that art isn’t as important as it was made out to be and how his teacher told him that he doesn’t have to be artistic if he doesn’t want to be. It serves as a breakthrough; the character who was once prone to temper tantrums and violent rages becomes calm and collected.
One of the signs of wisdom is that people become efficient. Efficiency isn’t wisdom, but the wise have a way of turning everything toward a purpose.
If you become subordinate to passions you let yourself be led by emotion and your physical being rather than your mind and your spirit.
In this sense, one of the steps on the pathway to wisdom is a measured detachment, not because nothing matters but because everything is important enough to merit your best self.
If you become overly invested in something, especially for the wrong reasons, you wind up moving in the wrong direction.
Instead of becoming a positive force in the world, you can easily become a negative force or, worse, lead others into becoming negative forces as well by harming them.
And that’s one of the worst things you can do. It’s bad enough to waste your own life, but leading others to perdition, even without deliberate malice, is an act that promises to not only make the world worse but to make the world worse in massive ways.
One of the things that came up in a conversation I had today is the notion that there’s a ripple effect on all our actions, but that they also echo back to us. We can easily create problems around us that reflect back onto us, creating our own little slice of hell.
Be deliberate in action.
Work to create positive ripples.
Never forget my own potential for evil, which grows if left unchecked.
Today was a little quiet. Got some work done, though not as much as I could probably have. Didn’t get much exercise. Got the car back from the auto shop with the new fixes done, which was a little bit of financial pain but I’m not going to starve any time soon.
For the credit of virtue we must admit that the greatest misfortunes of men are those into which they fall through their crimes. (183)
François de La Rochefoucauld
One of the things that I find interesting is the dramatic notion of the tragic hero and the way that we construct tragedy.
I think that tragedies are the most just of stories. While none of us would wish ill will on all tragic figures–even if we may find irredeemable faults in some–we generally can concede at the end of a tragedy that its central figure has brought themselves to destruction.
I believe that there’s something to be said for virtue, but it’s more of a big-picture thing. Virtue defends us from our own follies, and when practiced faithfully over a long period of time it leads us to better outcomes.
The problem with this is that we’re still subject to circumstance, though by practicing virtues we also practice industry, which permits a certain amount of resilience and even anti-fragility (to borrow a term from Taleb).
One of the limiting factors here is that ultimately a whim of another person or circumstances truly beyond our control can derail our lives. We’ve all heard stories of people killed as a result of accidents or who become sick through no fault in their way of living.
However, one of the mitigating factors in this is that the vagaries of fate can strike both the virtuous and the dissolute. Everyone can have undeserved loss fall upon them.
That the virtuous are not immune to the cruelties of a fallen world is part of the human condition that I don’t believe we’ll ever have a comforting answer for, but it is something that does not in and of itself justify a condemnation of virtue or the universe.
Do all I can to practice virtue.
Never equate misfortune with failure; one is unavoidable, the other is a fault.
Avoid bitterness; the things outside my control will not be improved by my distaste for them.
Well, I got enough stuff done today to avoid a crisis, but that’s not necessarily saying a lot.
It turns out that having my car in to have the oil leak examined actually exacerbated it, because it’s not a gasket like the shop thought but an actual crack in the part itself.
But it won’t be the end of the world.
The art of using moderate abilities to advantage wins praise, and often acquires more reputation than real brilliancy. (Maxim 162)
François de La Rochefoucauld
I’ve always prided myself on making use of what I have relatively well.
In truth, this is probably a fantasy, and there are quite a few things that disabuse me of the notion, but it is true that to such a degree as I am successful there is likely more to be said for making do than being particularly exceptional.
One of the things that I’ve never felt is that I’m some sort of chosen one with exceptional aptitudes.
Now, admittedly, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I view myself as unimportant. But it does mean that I approach the world humbly as far as my potential.
Of course, I also believe that people have quite a bit of power and strength in them, so that’s not necessarily pessimistic.
However, as someone who’s had certain experiences as a part of growing up in my family (if second-hand anxiety is a thing, I’ve definitely got it) and been in traumatic work environments, I often find myself doubting my own potential and abilities. I know for a fact that this is keeping me down on my work; I always worry about my ability to complete my tasks.
The result is that I really value the idea that someone who doesn’t have exceptional talent can go on to create something spectacular, and overcome their basic aptitudes.
And I think that this is something universal, something that everyone can appreciate. Yes, the masters have their place, but most of the masters also have a distance from us by merit of their peculiar talents.
I think of it like classical music. I love classical music, but I grew up in a family with a lot of musicians, including (if you go far enough) professors of music and professionals with advanced degrees in music (from back when degrees meant something).
One of the things that interests me here is that most of my family members aren’t what you’d consider prodigies. They’re good, perhaps even great, at what they do, but none of them just picked up music naturally (except perhaps my maternal grandmother and a few individuals on her side of the family who I’m not familiar with). My parents, in particular, though musical, are where they are as a result of practice and not just having skill from the very beginning.
And I think that there’s some merit to that which you don’t get if you’re just particularly sharp. At some point, your edge fades, and you have to find the strength to carry on. If you’ve been tapping into that strength forever, you’ve developed it, but if you’ve been getting by on raw talent there’s not that substance there to carry you on.
Work with what I have, not what I would like to have.
Well, today was more productive than the last couple days, so that’s a good start. Car’s fixed, life’s good.
I’m still feeling some lingering anxiety, perhaps from the past couple weeks, perhaps due to money. I’m not hurting on money right now, but I’m basically barely breaking even and using savings to pay for my master’s program. In the long-run, I think that’s a good strategy if it works, but in the short term it’s risky.
The most deceitful persons spend their lives in blaming deceit, so as to use it on some great occasion to promote some great interest. (Maxim 124)
François de La Rochefoucauld
One of the things that I often find myself dealing with is the idea that I might be myself one of the liars that I claim to detest.
Of course, I don’t think that this is true (though you’ll have to take my word for it), but I’ve always wondered about the idea of self-deception.
I’ve been reading some of Kazuo Ishiguro’s work again, and one of the things that is a recurring theme in his work is the idea of self-deception and how it colors our concepts of the world around us. Particularly in The Remains of the Day, which might be one of his more famous works, this sort of self-deception in memory is a common staple in his work.
I’m not entirely sure that I’m dishonest, but if I am it’s (typically–I have not achieved moral perfection and likely never will) without my own awareness of it.
I used to find Descartes interesting, but a little eccentric. I personally adhere to a deontological philosophy (albeit a nuanced one), and I’ve found some of Descartes’ teachings interesting.
But I always used to find Descartes’ demon something of a self-indulgent thought exercise.
After all, I’m sort of a meat and potatoes guy, and I’ve always been of the idea that the simplest solution is typically the most likely. If I see and feel things, that means that they’re there. One can trust one’s perceptions when they present things that are simple.
But part of the problem with this is that there’s a major distinction between perception and consciousness.
I may perceive a light, but am I conscious of it? Most of the time, probably not, if we’re being honest. My desk lamp is something that I think of only when it is too dark and I become conscious of the lack of light, or when something goes wrong and I must get it going again.
For most of my waking, even if I sit at my desk, I am not conscious of the lamp. It sits in my field of vision, but I have culled it from my awareness because it is not something interesting. I do consider it quite a good lamp, but that’s not even enough to make me aware of its presence (and small little bouts of gratitude about everyday things like that would probably improve my life quite a bit).
If I am not really conscious of something that sits in front of me almost all the time, how can I be conscious of the greater meaning of existence?
It seems unlikely.
The only way to be honest is to admit that I am flawed and may not be reliable.
Not a whole lot of productivity today either. I’ve become hooked on Stranger Things and I just can’t seem to function. Though, to be fair, I spent a lot of time waiting in the auto shop to try and get my car fixed today.
Turns out it’s going to cost more than I expected. Take longer, too, which isn’t such a big deal because I don’t need to drive anywhere any time soon, but it’s a bad turn all ways ‘round.
Our repentance is not so much sorrow for the ill we have done as fear of the ill that may happen to us. (Maxim 180)
François de La Rochefoucauld
One of the things that’s been on my mind recently is horror fiction, and what makes things scary.
It’s not necessarily the unknown; we actually have a part of us that relishes novel experiences and that which we cannot predict. The unknown is often scary, but it’s not that bad by itself.
Uncertainty is much worse.
We can deal with the unknown because we have a schema for it; we are either in charge of our world or we are not, and we respond accordingly.
On the other hand, when we have uncertainty, it puts us in a dilemma.
It’s not the unknown that scares us, it’s the unknown that we don’t have an answer for that poses a threat.
And this isn’t necessarily to say that it’s the only threat we can face; people can take a fearful and anxious approach to the unknown. However, uncertainty strikes everyone equally.
Of course, the strength of conviction and belief can be stronger in some than in others (for instance, it’s possible to accept uncertain things if the uncertainty is low in emotional and psychological value), and not everyone will be crippled by uncertainty or find it odious.
I’m in a stage of my life where I’ve embraced a lot of uncertainty in exchange for the promise of a potential future.
The question I have to ask myself is whether I can maintain my value in the face of potential disaster, if I can keep going when I am opening myself to potentially losing more than I ever have.
Of course, the great practical reminder here is that everyone else still seems to be making it in the world, even if they’re not living their dreams. The number of people who are abjectly miserable is probably fairly low, and even then a lot of people who are really struggling are living in a way that leads them toward that path and could change it if they were conscious of the interactions between things in their life and psyche that create those conditions.
Pursue value, not certainty.
Make decisions based on the future, not the present.
Today was unproductive, but I wasn’t feeling well and I’m going to chalk it up mostly to that. I just couldn’t focus on anything for any length of time.
I’m tentatively blaming my morning walk for a portion of it; I didn’t really pay attention to the temperature and I was out in the hot for basically an hour. I think I’ve also pushed myself past my limits on sleep recently, so getting a little more going forward would be nice.
The name of virtue is as useful to our interest as that of vice. (Maxim 187)
François de La Rochefoucauld
One of the things that I feel hard-pressed to deal with in my own life is my tendency to put a favorable spin on my own behavior.
It’s very easy to point to things I don’t like and condemn them, and I think this is generally true for everyone.
However, I think it’s also really easy to point at something I like to do and accept it as the one true way to live, which is equally dishonest.
There are some things I’m entirely certain of, like the idea that acting honestly is one of the few ways to guarantee a better world regardless of the circumstances. There are also a lot that I can’t claim to have the same degree of certainty for.
Another thing is that sometimes virtue can be used by false teachers.
For instance, things like justice and charity are virtues, but you can twist and turn them selectively so that people follow a fragment of the whole virtue; they believe in justice for themselves and charity for those they consider their own, but fail to consider those outside the scope of their immediate concerns.
I recall an exchange in Kazuo Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans in which the protagonist reflects upon his mother’s outbursts against the British colonial government in India acting contrary to Christianity.
In the scene, she argues that while Britain is ostensibly importing “charity” by helping to establish a government in China, they’re really creating a destructive force by encouraging the spread of opium. They may be establishing order, but it’s order for order’s sake and not order for virtue’s sake.
I’m simplifying things, of course, and I may be stretching the point a little as it regards Ishiguro’s intended message. However, it’s worth noting that traditional wisdom states that wolves wear sheep’s clothing.
It’s very hard to motivate people through vice; you can condemn them, but that’s only a bitter and destructive path.
If you appeal to their virtues, you can deceive them even as they feel good about themselves.
Act in accordance with greater virtues.
Weigh those who claim to preach truth.
Never manipulate through virtue; it is the worst lie.
Today was good and fun, even if it wasn’t the most productive. I don’t aim for much productivity on Sundays, so I think that I overshot my expectations.
Actually got some good gaming in. One of my players shot me a thank-you after our session, which is always fun and affirming.
Great men should not have great faults. (Maxim 190)
François de La Rochefoucauld
One of the great tragic figures is the fallen hero. I can’t think of a better example than Shakespeare’s Othello, because he is so thoroughly transformed by his tragedy.
What Rochefoucauld catches on to with his assessment is the idea that a great person can be undone by a single flaw.
The bigger the flaw, the more likely it proves fatal.
In reality, everyone has issues that stem from their character, even if they try their best to overcome their natural inclinations.
What we can hope for is that the damage we cause is minimal and that we are able to keep it from undoing the progress that we have made, not that we never cause any damage.
It’s like sacrifice. To borrow from Jordan Peterson, we don’t get to choose whether or not to sacrifice, but we do get to choose what to sacrifice. Ideally, we sacrifice something other than our morals.
A great flaw, however, tends to reach all the way down into our character.
We are only able to improve ourselves to the extent that we are aware of our weaknesses and strengths. It may be possible for someone to seem great if they have mastered their strengths, but if their vices or shortcomings are still extreme they risk having a negative effect and applying their strengths to an unworthy cause.
I may have stayed up past my bedtime already, so my apologies in advance for short, scattered, thoughts on this maxim.
Today was better, at least if only in my mind, than yesterday and the day before. I wasn’t super-productive, but I was at least happy (and there was some productivity).
We do not like to praise, and we never praise without a motive. Praise is flattery, artful, hidden, delicate, which gratifies differently him who praises and him who is praised. The one takes it as the reward of merit, the other bestows it to show his impartiality and knowledge. (Maxim 144)
François de La Rochefoucauld
“I don’t see how Rochefoucauld influenced Nietzsche so profoundly,” I said, before reading Maxim 144, “They share many of the same ideas, but that is not so rare among thinkers, especially ones who share an intellectual tradition.”
But here is the proof; this is a statement that will sound familiar to any who have familiarized themselves with Nietzsche.
One of the interesting things about praise is that it really has a complex role in our lives.
We often withhold praise for one reason or another; fear of causing insult (if what we praise is not the right thing or our praise is not sufficiently fervent), desire to appear superior, inability to recognize merit, or just plain stinginess. Those are all deliberate reasons, too, overlooking the fact that it may simply never occur to us that something should be praised, that we find our own assessments to be based on universally self-evident qualities of someone’s work and therefore redundant.
We may also not communicate ourselves well. When I was teaching, I had many students who assumed that an A on a homework assignment meant the same thing as an A on the quiz; the homework was graded for earnest effort (with feedback to correct mistakes as needed), the quiz on accuracy. A pupil who was diligent but not particularly blessed with proficiency for one reason or another (typically a chronic absence of body or spirit from the classroom) would be astounded to find that they did not receive equal grades across grade categories.
Part of being a good teacher is communicating, bringing the truth to students by going into detail about what has and has not happened in their learning journey.
In this sense, praise is critical because it is a reflection of what students have learned. It’s also easier to incorporate praise into future work than it is to incorporate negative feedback; the praise is a reinforcement of mastered aptitudes, the suggestions require innovation and a new approach. Without both, students have a hard time growing.
But this is only one specific area where praise is especially important, and it should not monopolize our discussion.
The ironic thing about praise is that it’s often an attempt at self-aggrandizement. It’s a perfect way to ingratiate one with others, and in this sense it can become deception. The way around this is to make sure that one is always honest with one’s praise, in the sense that one never lies when praising and by doing so avoids a descent into hollow flattery, but also in the sense that one should praise without selectivity that which is good.
Of course, there’s often a matter of taste (I’ve been writing reviews for perhaps a decade now, and there is definitely taste involved in figuring out what I like in things). There’s also a question of where and when praise should be administered; sometimes the best praise is a quiet affirmation of someone’s value as a creator. At other times, it is to shout one’s truth to the world. Just as one should be truthful in the things one praises, the methods should also be sincerely felt.
Praise that which I find to be good.
Do not speak falsehood for the sake of self-service.
Let words serve their purpose as I should serve mine.