Thursday, February 5, 2015

Our Age of Authenticity

The most interesting topic that I found from this weeks readings was the idea of the Age of Authenticity. It is interesting to see this idea of an age dominated by authenticity. "This contemporary social imaginary is crystallized in terms of authenticity" ( p.85). This leads to a world in which choice is the only value and the only sin that isn't tolerated is intolerance ( p.85). This is certainly an interesting observation that I would largely agree with. Smith goes on to discuss how Taylor draws an analogy to fashion and ultimately the consumer identity ( p.86). This is particularly well articulated in the quote from Taylor on pages 86 and 87. Essentially Taylor says that for many young people their sense of identity comes more from styles in relation to celebrities or products than from any "large scale collective agencies, like nations, not to speak of churches, political parties, agencies of advocacy, and the like" (p.87). This is where Taylor starts to note the problem of modern culture. "Here is where Taylor locates the most significant shift in the post-'60s West: while ideals of  tolerance have always been present in the modern social imaginary, in early forms this value was contained and surrounded by other values that were a scaffolding of formation" (p.87). This all leads to Taylor's views on the sacred in this Age of Authenticity. Taylor identifies that religion in this age is marked by the great importance of it being a personal choice and that it must speak to the person (p.88). I think that perhaps the most interesting part of this analysis of the Age of Authenticity is that Taylor doesn't seem to really condemn it. At the same time he doesn't seem to really warm to it in the same way that the New Atheists might. Taylor seems to offer a middle of the road view on this Age of Authenticity. "In other words, while the spiritual seeker in our secular age is on an individual quest, that quest might actually end up with a conversion to Roman Catholicism that cuts against the libertarian individualism of the quest itself" (p.90). He chooses to differentiate between the framework and the content of the religion of the Age of Authenticity (p.90). This allows him to hold a very mild view of the Age of Authenticity and neither herald its coming nor champion against it. This leaves me very interested to see how Taylor will treat all the topics in A Secular Age.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Not Dark Yet and Trying to Get to Heaven

In not Dark Yet, he says he doesn't know why he should even care which leads me to think about the idea of depression. He knows it is getting dark but its not there yet and doesn't seem to me that he wants to try and make anything better. Also the tone of the song gives it this kind of giving up feeling, like something is coming to an end and he is accepting.

In Trying to Get to Heaven, I think that it is just talking about trying to live a good life and get into heaven. It is just one man by himself wandering through life wanting the most out of what he has. He also seems confused about what is "alright" which is part of why he is traveling the world trying to live a fulfilling life.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Malaise of Immanence quiz

Both of the songs were were based on the disenchantment with life. In trying to get to heaven there is a longing to get into heaven which gives it a transcendent feel while at the same time it expresses a doubt that there is a heaven and maybe wanting to die while there is still a belief of heaven. Not Dark Yet is all about seeing death as the end. A sort of darkness and nothing more in my opinion.
Both songs express disappointment & disenchantment with life, and a longing for death.

In Trying to get to Heaven Before the close the door, they seem to be cross pressured.  Trying to get to heaven expresses a belief in the transcendent.  Before they close the door expresses doubt.  It seems to say he wants to get to heaven before he loses his faith it exist.

Not Dark Yet doesn't seem so cross pressured.  With the second part of the phrase, but it's getting there, I get a sense that he sees death as the end.  Dark, nothing else.

Prof Langguth has referenced the song "IS That All There Is?"  It also has the theme of disappointment & disenchantment with life, however there is no longing for death.  The last verse states:  I know what you must be saying to yourselves.  If that's the way she feels about it why doesn't she just end it all?  Oh, no, not me.  I'm in no hurry for that final disappointment.

Here is a link to that song:  "Is That All There Is" by Peggy Lee

"It's Not Dark Yet, but It's Getting There"

A forlorn Bob Dylan sings into the microphone with a sad sense of surrender on the song “Not Dark Yet,” the first single off his 1997 album Time Out of Mind. Dylan sounds like he’s been weathered down after years of fighting the (supposedly) good fight; it’s not dark yet, but the weary singer can see the writing etched on the wall. Dylan’s plight is not unique, however, as this despondency is just an all-too-common symptom of the modern secular age.
            In James Smith’s companion piece to the noted philosopher Charles Taylor’s masterwork A Secular Age, the idea of the buffered self is explored in detail. This so-called buffered self is “insulated and isolated from its interiority.” (Smith 30) It contrasts the medieval notion of the porous self, which was vulnerable to outside (supernatural) forces. An unfortunate consequence of shielding one’s self from outside influences, however, is that “the modern buffered self is also sealed off from significance, left to ruminate in a stew of its own ennui.” (Smith 64) Man is alone in himself; he is plagued by a sense of cosmic isolation.
             During the song, Dylan refers to this idea of a buffered self, claiming that his soul has turned to steel1; he has lost his sense of humanity2. The things that once proved beautiful for the folk singer are now associated with pain3, so much so that Dylan feels like he has been numbed by his time on this temporal plane4. The world has been disenchanted for Dylan. He is starting to grow tired from treading water in the sea of secularity; soon he will fall victim to its power and sink beneath its waves.

“Not Dark Yet”

Shadows are falling and I’ve been here all day
It’s too hot to sleep, time is running away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel1
I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal
There’s not even room enough to be anywhere
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain2Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain3
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writing what was in her mind
I just don’t see why I should even care
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Well, I’ve been to London and I’ve been to gay Paree
I’ve followed the river and I got to the sea
I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies
I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes
Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

I was born here and I’ll die here against my will
I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still
Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb4
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don’t even hear a murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Monday, February 2, 2015

Bob Dylan's song "Trying to Get to Heaven" has a verse in it that really struck with the theme of the chapter "The Malaise of Immanence" in a very prevalent way;

People on the platforms, waitin' for the trains
I can hear their hearts a-beatin'
Like pendulums swinging on chains
When you think that you've lost everything
You find out you can always lose a little more
I'm just goin' down the road feeling bad
Tryin' to get to heaven before they close the door
I especially find the line "When you think that you've lost everything, you find out you can always lose a little more" very important. As discussed in the chapter, the multiplicity of faiths and systems of beliefs offered by the modern age weakens the strength and presence of religion in today's society. As such, this pluralism acts as a double edged sword; on one hand, more beliefs are accepted and people are (generally) more open minded, however, on the other hand the whole mystery of life becomes less and less of a mystery and more of hunt for answers, not enlightenment or spirituality. Therefore, we, as a society, are losing something we can never truly get back, hence "I'm just goin' down the road feeling bad, tryin' to get to heaven before they close the door"
So after a fair amount of introspection tonight, I am ready to write on the Malaise of Immanence, with special regard to Bob Dylan's Not Dark Yet.  The lines which really hit me were the opening of the second verse "Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there's been some kind of pain"

In this secular3 age where questioning, and doubting are the name of the game - it seems one of the most prominent results is that some kind of dirt (the 'pain' of which Dylan could be speaking) has been dug up or made up about literally everything you can believe, and it seems that all the Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) have got it worst, but things like Scientology and even Atheism have certainly got their 'skeletons in the closet.'

Each faith sets forth what is intended to be a beautiful image of existence, present or future - and a beautiful set of principles by which to achieve the best possible existence.  But there is always some dirt to smear in all of it... so I suppose what we're all looking for is the faith/nonfaith that doesn't stain.  The immanent focus of this age is prone to staining, after all, nothing in the material world is perfect, no man or woman, no society, no creature, even nature itself can seem a little mucked up sometimes... but if we can use our imagination - our spirit's imagination, we believe there must be something higher (not necessarily transcendent), something which does not stain at all, but it is so hard to find because you gotta clean the dirt off anything before you can tell if it'll stain... so we feel the Malaise.

Austin Justice: Malaise of Immanence (QUIZ #1)

Throughout the progression of history, the ideas of secularism have spread around the world at an alarming rate. Mainstream society continues to explore countless options, in regards to immanence/transcendence and disenchantment/enchantment. Humanity has become increasingly haunted by the lack of knowledge of the world in which we live. A wide variety of options alters our system of beliefs and the meaning behind certain situations, which is known as the "nova effect" (Smith 62). The cross-pressures mankind consistently faces on a day-to-day basis contribute heavily to our confusion, in terms of finding ourselves (even with all of the other external/internal influences that deal with an individual's identity). Our buffered identity not only encloses and isolates us from outside factors, but it also exposes us to internal factors. While scientific achievements, coupled with technological advancements, have significantly improved our quality of lives, it has completely clouded our judgment in pursuing the meaning of life, our place in the world and our social responsibility to others. In both of the selected songs, the singers are deeply disturbed by their lack of focus (which is attributable to the countless cross-pressures). They are unable to seek solace in any aspect of their lives because they can't possibly begin to imagine the "truth." We've nearly been overcome by the movement towards secularism, but because immanence still exists with the legitimacy of transcendence, citizens have become bewildered at the notion of choosing between conflicting ideas.

Immanence & Trying to get to Heaven

I think that the song Trying to get to Heaven kind of emphasizes the 'buffered self' in the Malaise of Immanence chapter. I think the verse 'I only saw what they let me see' resembles the rise of rationality in the buffered self - less vulnerability. I think the verse 'I'll close my eyes and wonder if everything is as hollow as it seems' resembles the negative part of the buffered self of something being beyond human is lost, a void one can fill through looking into the immanence. In the song, the artist talks about being alone a couple of times. I think this emphasizes the loss of the holy presence.

here is a link to Trying to get to Heaven by Bob Dylan:
lyrics at: