An Abandoned Preface to First Loves (Vol 1 of Love at a Reasonable Price)
[Editor’s Note from First Esssays: We liked this essay, but it didn’t really make sense as the Preface to “First Loves”, so we put it here instead.]
Editor’s 2020 Note:
This 2017 essay — originally intended as a preface to First Loves — is included in First Essays.
We’d written the essay in response to an article (cited at the bottom of the page) on Steve Bannon’s notions that our nation had cultural aspects that could not be universally shared.
Our position is that the fundamental culture we as a nation have always — in our better moments — strived for is one of mutual respect for and commitment to the fundamental values:
We should work to better and better feel/think/act aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, kind, joyfully sharing, joyfully together, joyful /
We should work to gain more and more insight into that inner sense of “we’re all in this together” that ratifies and explicates itself and “aware … joyful”.
That is the “American Experiment” that we can care about.
Only to the degree one understands that and in what way the universal values are True can one understand, follow, and care about one’s owns thoughts and actions. Therefore, for people to more meaningfully share a representative democracy, they must work to better and better share active insight into those fundamental values.
The goal of sharing meaning implies not a forced adherence to xyz religion and/or patriotism (what meaning to people get from forced beliefs?), but working together to maintain a culture and government that allows us to all be faithful to those values without which our own feeling/thinking/acting can have no meaning to us.
What is needed is not uniform religious beliefs or cultural heritages, but rather a shared enthusiasm for open, honest, civil/kind-spirited discourse; and a transparent, accurate, competent, fair-playing and open-hearted/-minded government. These are the norms / this is the government that allow people to live and share the universal values.
Blind faith distracts people from the fundamental values and from the actual actions of their leaders — especially given the distances and the amount of power involved in government.
With a shared faith in our shared ability to relate meaningfully to the universal values (ie: in our shared humanity), along with a shared commitment to the norms and rules that allow us to meaningfully observe and impact our shared government (transparent, open, honest, fair process and fair elections … ), we have a shared starting point that we can keep returning to, and from which we can build and maintain healthy systems.
We don’t have to agree on all the details of life to relate meaningfully and work well and joyfully together. Agreeing on the fundamental and universal values — aware, honest, gentle, competent kindness –, and sharing a healthy representative democracy is enough.
This essay is one of many based around the general worldview of Something Deeperism.
You can find others on the NYC Journal Politics page, as well as on the Something Deeperism Institute page.
Most of the Something Deeperism essays on those pages are also included in A Readable Reader, First Essays and First Loves.
We generally suggest that would-be readers start with A Readable Reader, which contains stories and essays from both First Essays and First Loves. Or with Superhero Novella — a fun breezy little fiction with just a sprinkling of metpahysiking, followed by some pieces from our websites (all books available on the !Buy the Books! page).
An Abandoned Preface to First Loves (Vol 1 of Love at a Reasonable Price)
When the Evil comes swirling like leaves in a summer breeze. When the Evil comes courting with flowers picked from the well-kept little garden plots in the yards between Evil’s house and yours. When Evil laughs so loud and self-confident at the movie he picked, and you slurp the soda and munch the popcorn that you’d desired and he’d cheerfully treated you.
Shall we build a wall to keep out the Evil? But wouldn’t that require an intricate series of fortifications crisscrossing our own souls?
Shall we, that failing, build a wall to keep the bombs out? We The People never sit down, look each other in the eyes, and admit that none of us know how to make sure no one smuggles a nuclear bomb through one of the gazillion openings in the USA — nor even how to guarantee no one physically or cybercleverly overpowers our own world-annihilating nuclear stores. Nor ever gather we together to discuss how we can keep this pledge: “Come what may, let’s always stay calm and put good government ahead of the ‘necessary evils’ that sell so cheap when the Reichstag burns and the panic sets in.”
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You see, friends, the US is more than a market among markets. The US is a nation with a culture and a reason for being. (1) [see Editor’s Notes at the end of this essay.]
Our culture is valuing kindness, creativity, a fair and honest exchange of ideas where a free and thoughtful people together debate and in good faith together choose the best ideas, the rule of law — continually sought, found, and nourished by a free people each seeking a relationship with the Law in a way that best speaks to them. Our reason for being is to show ourselves and the world that a shared democracy, sense of purpose, and vision can work on a giant, continent-sprawling, multi-racial, multi-religious scale. Our Truth is accuracy and honesty in public discourse, the pursuit and reward of excellence, the rule of law and equality under the law, a government that is responsive to the citizens. Our Truth is people working together to get better at working together and together making their shared situation better. Our greatest Truth is that we know that we humans are all in this together and so we should help each other and the other people in the world.
Or else what? If we’re not up to something along those lines, what workable goal have we? What do we have worth defending?
You’ve not achieved it! So prepare to meet your just doom! Ha ha ha!
Why? How does that help?
If there are, and there must be, strands of Good and strands of Evil in each of us, with the Good strands placidly unrolling forward and the Evil ones whipcording frantically in every chaotic, hopeful/hopeless direction. If the key to selflessness is not just seeing beyond the self in yourself, but also seeing that everyone else is just as much the Light trying to tame and guide their own ten million strands of thought and energy. If we’re all the Light wearing rags (2), what course is there but to relax, calm down, stop pretending we’re different from each other and be kind to each other? We could start with honesty, thoughtfulness, respect and freedom of expression in public discourse. The less we have that, the less we have a workable Democracy.
Cynicking, calling every politician an equal fiend, proudly lamenting how the whole thing is lost: fodder for the Evil — for the impulse to wipe out all honesty, all decency, all selflessness, all freedom of thought and speech and action. As long as there is breath of Democracy left — and there very much is — we have a duty to keep gently pushing to make our nation more Democratic, more just, more aware, more together, more loving.
By what revelation am I empowered to speak thus? And where is the sign of the wisdom and how was it won? Come on! It’s not like that. These are the Truths that we hold self-evident, because they are self-evident to all of us. It was self-evident to both Ben Franklin the Particular Sort of Deist He Was Within The Context of His Time and Place and James Madison the Particular Sort Of Christian He Was In His Time and Place. And it is self-evident today to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Jainists, secular humanists, and etc etc etc. There is a Light within that has to be right for any of our most sacred personal beliefs to be right. And that Light tells us we are all in this together and should work together and help each other and enjoy each other and go for it together. So let’s at least agree on that sense of honest and respectful exchange, togetherness, and mutual-respect and -appreciation that all of our sacred beliefs support. Let’s not undermine these basic already shared values in order to obliterate all dissent in matters that only matter if these basic values are respected. Let’s not self-defeat.
What does this preface have to do with this book? The book’s about one fictional personage’s struggle to find a foothold within Reality. But part of what he, in his journey towards a path and rhythm that would allow his mind and heart enough presence within his own thoughts and feelings to travel with them to his own conclusions: part of what he couldn’t help but notice was that we’re all in this together, wrapped up together, and so must care for and support each other and our shared frameworks, systems, organizations, environments.
The days of the heroes, the days of the giants — those will always be the days of myth: beautiful stories, but ultimately just stories, not livable paths; and so stories that turn ugly when mistaken for the Truth. One’s success and failure is tied inextricably to the success and failure of one’s community, nation, government, economy — with the cultures, families, friendship circles, systems for organizing human and capital; with the humans and human structures within which one lives; with, ultimately, the whole world. There were, living inside of The Ballooning Evil, great individuals who refused to compromise: some helped somewhat, but most got murdered pretty quick while the Evil rolled on. I guess we’ll have to stop pretending we’re heroes or other people are heroes or fiends, and admit we’re all in this together and together need to work together to push towards the Good and away from the Evil.
We can still get married!(3) We can still have fun! Indeed, good living is decent living is competent living is joyful living is healthy living. Or else we’ve all been sold somewhere down the line(4). But we know the Holy can no more sell us out than It can whine and fidget; so let’s not give up.
I mean: not to knock heroes — not to say we shouldn’t try to be heroic when so called upon. It’s just to say that the system where most of us fart around until things are so messed up that people have to sacrifice themselves to maybe get back a little order and decency: that’s a stupid system and accepting it an evil.
Ah well, we’ll wait for the wind to die down!(5) Then we’ll ride out, across these dusty redsands, over the scraggle-mangy balls of tumbleweed, the round prickly cacti, the tiny sharp-leaved bushes that believe themselves trees. The way’s gonna appear clear and bright when the wind dies down. We’ll ride out together then. For now, tell me about yourself, where you’ve come from and where you’re heading to, what you’re thinking of and how you got to those thoughts.
Somewhere Out At Sea
March 26, 2017
(1) See “What does Steven Bannon Want?” by Christopher Caldwell, published in the New York Times on February 2, 2017
(2) If we’re all the Light dressed in rags: See “If It Be Your Will” (Leonard Cohen, Various Positions, 1984)
(3) We can still get married! : See “There is a War” (Leonard Cohen, New Skin for the Old Ceremony, 1964)
(4) Or else we’ve all been sold somewhere down the line: See “Somewhere Down the Line” (John Stewart, Bombs Away Dream Babies, 1979]
(5) Ah well, we’ll wait for the wind to die down! : See “Wind Dies Down” (John Stewart, Cannons in the Rain, 1973)
copyright: AM Watson
This is a Something Deeperism essay.
The Something Deeperism Institute tab has some introductory essays. Those essays are also included in First Essays & A Readable Reader.
Which brings us to:
If you like our essaying, First Essays has a lot of essays.
And of that lot, A Readable Reader has a selection of the most readable ones.
And Superhero Novella has more philosophical asides than some believe it should.
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