The Return Narcissus
Posted: 13 August 2007 11:16 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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In case you don't remember your Greek myths, Narcissus, was a young man who's beauty was so extraordinary that the God's made a special pact with his mother, promising he would have a long life providing he never gazed upon his own features. When the lovely nymph Echo fell in love with him he spurned her advances and instead sat at the edge of a reflecting pool where he promptly looked down, and fell in love…with himself. In fact, he fell so head-over-heels in love with his own reflection that he killed himself via, 'pining away'.

There is a dangerous flip-side to puritism, fundamentalism and conservatism (all of which stifle societies), and that is decadence. Before empires are conquered from without, they rot from within. The United States has many social strains running through it, but there are two which are opposing, and dangerous, forces. One is a Christian, conservative, self-righteous strain, and the other is a decadent, narcissistic, self-centered strain; one is divisive, the other is conceited, and both are corrosive.

While Sam Harris and others 'preach' against the 'evils' of religiosity (and I whole heartedly agree with them) we have to also be vigilant for faith's antithesis-decadence. Otherwise Narcissus will return to take-up residence on our shores.

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Posted: 13 August 2007 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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[quote author=“FullFathomFive”]While Sam Harris and others ‘preach’ against the ‘evils’ of religiosity (and I whole heartedly agree with them) we have to also be vigilant for faith’s antithesis-decadence. Otherwise Narcissus will return to take-up residence on our shores.

The antithesis of faith is not decadence. It’s doubt.

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“The hands that help are better far than the lips that pray.”
          — Robert G. Ingersoll

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Posted: 14 August 2007 03:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“HappyHeathen”][quote author=“FullFathomFive”]While Sam Harris and others ‘preach’ against the ‘evils’ of religiosity (and I whole heartedly agree with them) we have to also be vigilant for faith’s antithesis-decadence. Otherwise Narcissus will return to take-up residence on our shores.

The antithesis of faith is not decadence. It’s doubt.

Thank you very much for your extremely literal correction.  While I realize decadence is not the ‘literal’ antithesis of faith, a decadent society is, in societal terms, the opposite of a post-third-century-monotheistic-religiously- fundamentalist state. That was my meaning. I’m sorry you missed the euphemistic forest for your literal tree’s.

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Posted: 14 August 2007 06:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Okay, maybe I’m missing something.  The purpose of your post is lost to me, and I’m wondering how you define decadence today. I infer that you’re saying it results from a lack of faith, but maybe I’m wrong. Since most of us here know how faith works, no need to define that.  But please unpack decadence.

Thanks.

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“The hands that help are better far than the lips that pray.”
          — Robert G. Ingersoll

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Posted: 15 August 2007 01:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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I think you misidentified this dichotomy.

Replacing an ordered, disciplined religious decadence with a chaotic, personal secular decadence is not a pretty sight. It might give fright to some. But it is the way out.

Narcissus has been here all along. I think he better make peace with his Maker.

The question is, can we, on our own, come up with a better reason to be good to each other?

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Posted: 15 August 2007 02:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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[quote author=“Nhoj Morley”]The question is, can we, on our own, come up with a better reason to be good to each other?

The original post seems to imply that there is no middle ground between fundamentalism and decadence, although I might be reading it wrong. Many fundamentalists claim that the only alternative to fundamentalism is decadence. They falsely claim that humans have no moral sense and must always be told how to behave.

I think the truer and more worthy opponent of fundamentalism might be some form of humanism that embodies the “better reason to be good to each other.”

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Posted: 15 August 2007 02:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“FullFathomFive”]. . .
While Sam Harris and others ‘preach’ against the ‘evils’ of religiosity (and I wholeheartedly agree with them) we have to also be vigilant for faith’s antithesis-decadence. Otherwise Narcissus will return to take-up residence on our shores.

FF5, I’d forgotten about how faith’s antithesis is decadence. I lost track of it when my master, Ms. Kikmyass, started drawing so much blood that I passed out. Just kidding—actually, I sometimes go to the opera with a ruthless dominator of people who for some reason enjoy the process she puts them through. I’ve known her and her husband for most of my life, and they’re two of the most interesting and intelligent people I’ve ever met. I also know a few people who masturbate, and I enjoy their company as well, though they’re constantly trying to rub my crotch in order to enlist me. I even know someone who has a weakness for cookies laced with finely ground cannabis leaf. He gains a little weight eating the cookies, then gets hungry from the pot. Then there’s the guy who likens high-quality vanilla ice cream topped with fresh blackberries to sex. Thanks to your insight, I now feel decadent-phobic whenever I need to prune back thorny vines.

What is decadence? Is it really the antithesis of faith or did you actually mean that it’s the antithesis of moral uprightness?

Is it contagious, able to steal its way into an entire society? If so, who defines the decadence? Is it the decadent themselves, or the army that overcomes them, stealing and raping? What specifically are you worried about? Remember, this is the philosophy section. Either stand up and think or go home.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 15 August 2007 04:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Before empires are conquered from without, they rot from within.

Briefly, this is a thinly-encoded attempt to discourse about God’s chosen people. “We must be vigilant.” Remember Derek Jacobi’s line at the end of the “I, Claudius” teleplay? He portrayed the embodiment of a wise ruler.

[quote author=“Nhoj Morley”]The question is, can we, on our own, come up with a better reason to be good to each other?

What’s the prize at the bottom of that crackerjack box? C’mon. Give me a break. Somebody.

Please. Get a clearer picture of what is, before waxing on about what could be.

I picked up another of those self-help books, you know, one of the many seductive ways to know an infinite amount of nonsense about nothing. Its title is “The Search for the Real Self” and its subtitle is “Unmasking the Personality Disorders of Our Age”. It is authored by somebody named “James F. Masterson, M.D.”

Condensed, or should I say, unpacked, its message sounds vaguely like that of Renton of “Trainspotting” fame:

Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuçk you are on Sunday night. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life…

Renton’s coda, of course, has to do with heroin. I’m advocating that we not intoxicate ourselves with anything, including witless warnings about avoiding decadence, by chanting endless prescriptions for the solution of society’s ills.

One way to be good to each other is to resist the impulse to mind each other’s business. I saw it in that Star Trek episode forty years ago. Some character founded a religion on going around asking “How can I help?” It still leaves your interlocutor the option of saying, “By sodding off.” But don’t just sod off. Give them some spare change and let them spend it on whatever they like. It’s about free markets and avoiding over-regulation.

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Posted: 15 August 2007 02:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“FullFathomFive”]The United States has many social strains running through it, but there are two which are opposing, and dangerous, forces. One is a Christian, conservative, self-righteous strain, and the other is a decadent, narcissistic, self-centered strain; one is divisive, the other is conceited, and both are corrosive.

Why on earth do you assume these are opposites?  Many self-righteous, conservative Christians are narcissistic, self-centered, and decadent.  A regular source of Schadenfreude is their being exposed.

[quote author=“FullFathomFive”]While Sam Harris and others ‘preach’ against the ‘evils’ of religiosity (and I whole heartedly agree with them) we have to also be vigilant for faith’s antithesis-decadence. Otherwise Narcissus will return to take-up residence on our shores.

“Faith’s antithesis—decadence.” 

I went to the Visual Thesaurus and typed in “decadent” and see what I think you mean.  On one of the legs, “decadent” simply means “bad person”.  On another, it means “effete”.  (Which would bring us closer to Narcissus.)

The faith = goodness meme is dead, and long buried (here in this very forum).  Search a bit and you’ll see.

Faithful = virile?  Fecund?  Strong, energetic, courageous?  Something without which the Fatherland, oops, sorry, Homeland cannot survive?  Hmmmm.

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“I will tell you with the utmost impudence that I esteem much more his Person, than his Works.”

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