Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Defenders of the West

I just started reading The Marriage of Sense and Soul, by Ken Wilber. I had read things like The Spectrum of Consciousness and bits of Integral Psychology before, so I thought this was going to be a rehash of ideas I had seen before. I probably wouldn't have picked it up at all, except it was the only Wilber book on Audible.

Sometimes it's nice to be wrong. I had forgotten just how freakin' smart Wilber is. He takes a subject as vast as the conflict between science and religion, and cuts threw it with such insight, combining vast amounts of reading and knowledge with (paradoxically) a very simple presentation. I'm torn as to which is the more fun part -- the structure of his own arguments, or the way he delicately squewers his opponents with wit and devastating simplicity. He starts with a crisp statement of, say, post-modernism philosophy, summarizing it in its own language and with such thoroughness that any postmodernist in the audience must be nodding his head in appreciation -- "Yes, that's right, he got it right." Then he proceeds to point out the "performative contradictions" -- the ways postmodernism collapses under the sheer weight of its logical failings and narcissism.

Its also wonderfully refreshing to hear someone give due credit to Western civilization and modernism without the least speck of cultural chauvanism. So many defenders of the West come off sounding like patriot cheerleaders, in spite of all their intellectual prowess (Francis Fukuyama comes to mind). But Wilber manages to describe exactly what's good about modernism and the rise of Western civilization without betraying any bias. He honors it for what it is, not because it happens to be his culture. After mountains of self-recriminating attacks on the modern West, its so wondeful for someone to stand up and say, in effect, "Hello? Liberal democracy? The end of slavery? Equal protection under the law? Human rights? These are all the products of modernism."

Nor does modernism get a free ride, either. Wilber makes no bones about the fact that he's got it in for scientific materialism, and he does justice to postmodernism by pointing out the valid critiques it does have for modernism. He has a chapter called "The Dignity and Disaster of Modernity", which pretty much sums it up. He has utmost respect for what our culture has accomplished, and still sees that it's a mess.


Post a Comment

<< Home