Saturday, 5 October 2013

Wholesomeness versus sordidness - in relation to ideas, bloggers and commenters

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There is a thing which I call wholesomeness that is an attribute of some people, places, books, movies...

Wholesome stuff is - perhaps - a low-level experience of transcendental Goodness, a recognition of goodness? And the opposite recognition of unwholesome or sordidness, although not always bad, makes us uneasy at heart.

And ought to make us uneasy, alert, on guard.

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The distinction applies to ideas, discourse, debate  and other similar stuff.

This also applies to blogs - and especially to the comment sections of blogs.

Far too many blogs are a thoroughly sordid environment - including the blogs of people who represent themselves as concerned with making a better world.

In so far as they are sincere in this concern, I would ask them: does the world really need more sordidness?

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Clearly, even the most unwholesome and disgusting people value wholesomeness at some level, because they operate by trying to present their enemies as unwholesome - indeed they present wholesomeness as disgusting, sinister, hypocritical and indeed the very worst kind of unwholesomeness.

This is, indeed, one of the standard tropes, a cliche even, of twentieth century novels, movies and TV; that the apparently wholesome people (the well behaved, bourgeois, married with family and Christian types) are actually the most vile and depraved people on the planet... and this fact is gradually or suddenly revealed over the course of the novel, movie or TV series.

Unwholesome is seen as authentic and adult - like Blue Stilton cheese, unwholesomeness is superficially disgusting, but the discerning palate recognizes it as the queen of cheeses.

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Anyway, my experience is that the feeling of wholesomeness is a reliable indicator of being in contact with good things, and that the feeling of unwholesomeness is like a warning bell.

Blue Stilton is an exception, and disgusting-seeming things nearly always are disgusting in reality.

But I mean in reality. I mean in direct personal experience.

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We live in a world of secondhand experience, and most of what we know about things comes from the descriptions of others - from the mass media especially, and also from official, economic and educational propaganda.

We also live in a world where the people who originate and propagate the secondhand descriptions are themselves mostly unwholesome - in the case of the mass media, the people who dominate public discourse are mostly very unwholesome indeed, and they operate in sordid and corrupting environments dominated by disgusting individuals (places such as the BBC).

These proudly-sordid people naturally convey unwholesomeness in their descriptions, and the more that we dwell in this secondary 'media' world, the less wholesomeness we encounter - indeed there may in practice be none at all.

So as we spend more and more time in the media world, the corruption of the mass media people spreads - and the sordidness taints their accounts of the wholesome world by intention and by association.

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I think we all have 'wholesome detectors', and sordidness detectors too, and I think they work pretty well most of the time.

But we need to bear in mind that the world views of truly sordid people are intrinsically very unreliable - and the internet is full of sordid bloggers and blog commenters; and some of these unwholesome people and places purport to be reactionary and some even claim to be Christian - and maybe a few of them are...

But they are sordid; and this taints their views on everything.

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The trouble is that wholesomeness is humble, while sordidness is attention-grabbing; so the more sordid people tend both to grab the megaphone and shout things that are hard to ignore.

And one of the main things they say, is that wholesomeness is false, hypocritical and dull - and this is surely correct in some instances, but we should never take their word for it.

We need to experience for ourselves who is wholesome and who is not: exercise those wholesome-detectors!

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11 comments:

  1. "that the apparently wholesome people (the well behaved, bourgeois, married with family and Christian types) are actually the most vile and depraved people on the planet..."

    This is a plot theme repeated over and over in modern TV series. It seems every police procedural drama is required to have one episode where the Christian family is a vile inhuman monster(usually the father) but presenting themselves as morally upright. It is so clichéd that you see it coming a mile away. When it repeated in every series it's bound to set in on the minds of masses as being true of all overt Christians. Just another way the modern culture attacks goodness.

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  2. You mentioned Blue Stilton.
    Fresh milk is wholesome, but keep it (without refrigeration) for a few days, and it is wholesome no longer. Cheese, then, is a Hobbesian bargain whereby we contract with one microbe to have its way with our fresh milk in return for protecting it against all the other despoilers, just as we ask one stationary bandit to govern us in return for protection against all the other bandits.

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  3. Far too many blogs are a thoroughly sordid environment - including the blogs of people who represent themselves as concerned with making a better world.

    This is *precisely* a major reason I deleted my former blog. I realized after some soul-searching that I had created a sewer, and I decided that that was wrong, because it was unwholesome.

    On a couple of other sites that I sometimes read, I've encountered the argument that comment moderation should be minimal, because that creates "better" and "more legitimate" discussions. I disagree, now that I understand the issue more clearly. It's crucial to grasp that dwelling in an "unwholesome" environment is bad for theosis. If you sleep with the dogs, you wake up with the fleas, and a Christian needs to realize that immersion in an unwholesome environment simply will make one less wholesome oneself.

    Anyway, my experience is that the feeling of wholesomeness is a reliable indicator of being in contact with good things, and that the feeling of unwholesomeness is like a warning bell.

    *jaw-drop*

    I literally just wrote almost the EXACT SAME THING!

    I have become convinced, partly through the Miscellany, that beauty (in the abstract) is an unalloyed Good. In the beginning, God created all things to be beautiful. It follows that beauty, wherever we see it, reflects God - and this extends to spiritual beauty; "wholesomeness". In other words, it's exactly as you say: if something feels good (in the sense of "wholesome") it probably is, and if something feels "bad" (i.e., unwholesome), it probably is, or at least, your subconscious (what the bible calls your "still, small voice") is trying to warn you that something unhealthy is occurring.

    This all sounds so simple... but it's probably a very controversial idea to rely on "feelings" as an arbiter of good and bad. And yet it just always turns out to be true, empirically, that dwelling in unwholesomeness leaves us less spiritually healthy than before...

    Unwholesome is seen as authentic and adult - like Blue Stilton cheese, unwholesomeness is superficially disgusting, but the discerning palate recognizes it as the queen of cheeses.

    Bonald (of Orthosphere fame) was recently criticized, rightly in my view, for his gratuitous use of profanity. (He took the criticism well, to his credit.) Too often Christians think they need to show an "edgy" side or else the world will think Christians are lame and thereby reject the gospel, or something.

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  4. @SJ - I like the idea of Sampson's Jawbone dropping!

    I don't know whether you used to read Lawrence Auster, but he was often intrigued by these significant-seeming coincidences or synchronicities - and so am I. I think a life well lived is often full of them.

    "In other words, it's exactly as you say: if something feels good (in the sense of "wholesome") it probably is, and if something feels "bad" (i.e., unwholesome), it probably is, or at least, your subconscious (what the bible calls your "still, small voice") is trying to warn you that something unhealthy is occurring."

    Yes - and I think this has theological implications, as I will discuss in a post today.

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  5. It's never better to tolerate the expression of vile opinions (in the interest of so-called "free speech") than to suppress them without compunction, if you can, in allegiance to moral standards which are so frequently held in contempt.

    A version of Gresham's Law applies in the blogosphere - the bad drives out the good.

    This commentary addresses a question that many blog owners choose to ignore.

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  6. Ah good old Lawrence Auster - missed, sorely missed.

    Cheese, a Hobbesian bargain? A most unwholesome opinion! How about - instead - a very wholesome, delicious and varied way of not WASTING milk - wasting being UNWHOLESOME?

    When I grate Parmesan on my Bolognese, the last thing that comes to mind is a Brit Champion of liberal thought. And the same is true while snacking on Gorgonzola (so good it's got a town in Lombardy named after it - or perhaps it's the other way around).

    In any case, if you want to win souls, you can't preach to the choir, but need to be prepared for a slugfest.

    On the other hand, if you need to talk fine theology and allow truth, goodness and beauty to shine, you can't allow a sewer.

    Moral of the story, the Christian "thinker" can't win, he can only triumph when he brings the other NOT so much to awareness, but to penitence.

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  7. @ND - "In any case, if you want to win souls, you can't preach to the choir, but need to be prepared for a slugfest."

    Disagree - I don't think it is as hopeless as that - we are NOT in a double-bind.

    Preaching to the choir is not totally without value, but that is not happening because there is no 'choir' to preach to.

    The people I hope to address are, like me, more or less lost souls, trying to stay on or near the path - on the basis of a handful of shared assumptions (but a lot more unshared).

    But if anybody who fancies it can hijack the comments, spout obscenities, or engage in attention-seeking behaviour or fake-machismo, or take-fake-offense (that is to say most blog commenters on most blogs) - then the whole thing would either flip into doing more harm than good, or become an exercise in fire-fighting; but never get any further.

    So comment moderation must be strict to provide a decent environment. I'm not saying I do this particularly well, since I am too irritable and lazy - but in principle this needs to be done, and it is better to moderate with flaws than not at all.

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  8. Do the comments of a man such as Richard Dawkins come within the scope of a condemnation of unwholesomeness? Surely, some Christians feeling the force of his attacks would think so? Yet, does not the structure of his arguments against a moralistic interpretation of evolution operate to provide a roadmap with which the errors of blank slate political correctness regarding the sameness of human attributes can be exposed? And, in so doing, Dawkins is performing a service to society?

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  9. @Curle - My posting is about the style or form of blogging - not so much about content. Some of my postings here are on evolutionary theory, or psychology, and would presumably attract scientific comments.

    On the other hand, I would not allow the Christian postings to be hijacked by atheists who expressed incredulity at the ridiculousness of Christianity - these postings are for people who are at least religious or prepared to entertain the possibility that religion might be true.

    It would be boring and futile if every single Christian themed blog post was supposed to defend Christianity against any skeptics who happened to want to challenge their premises!

    I briefly participated in one of the blogs at Dawkins web pages a few years ago - and it was not an experience I would want to repeat: it had in extremis all the faults of which I am complaining here!

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  10. @SJ - I like the idea of Sampson's Jawbone dropping!

    Glad I could amuse, but alas! I've been victimized by the dreaded insertion of "P", again!

    It seems worth correcting the misperception that by striving for "wholesomeness" in our own lives, we are advocating retreat from the world and its forms of dialogue. Not so. Of *course* we're called to take the gospel to the heathens - but we should also always make it quite clear, to the extent that it is ever under our control, that there is a "better way".

    I think that to see whether or not you agree with me, all you have to do is ask yourself whether or not you agree that "unwholesomeness" is damaging. If you don't agree with the latter, well then, you may not agree with the former.

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  11. Nicholas Fulford7 October 2013 at 03:25

    I think a little atheist commentary is probably useful from time to time, provided it is respectful, intelligent, and adds something to the discussion.

    (Hint: You do let some of my writing through when it falls within these parameters.)

    It is rather like writing a letter to the editor, where the editor publishes as (s)he sees fit, not as the writer sees fit. Hence, I don't get my knickers in a knot.

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