Thursday, September 16, 2010

Our Incapacities and their Contrary


The religious man is happy in his imagination; he has all things in nuce; his possessions are always portable. Jehovah accompanies me everywhere; I need not travel out of myself; I have in my God the sum of all treasures and precious things, of all that is worth knowledge and remembrance. But culture is dependent on external things; it has many and various wants, for it overcomes the limits of sensational consciousness and life by real activity, not by the magical power of the religious imagination. Hence the Christian religion also. as has been often mentioned already, has in its essence no principle of culture, for it triumphs over the limitations and difficulties of earthly life only through the imagination, only in God, in heaven. God is all that the heart needs and desires – all good things, all blessings. “Dost thou desire love, or faithfulness, or truth, or consolation, or perpetual presence? – this is always in him without measure. Dost thou desire beauty? – he is the supremely beautiful. Dost thou desire riches? – all riches are in him. Dost thou desire power? – he is supremely powerful. Or whatever thy heart desires, it is found a thousandfold in Him, in the best, the single good, which is God.” But how can he who has all in God, who already enjoys heavenly bliss in the imagination, experience that want, that sense of poverty, which is the impulse to all culture? Culture has no other object than to realise an earthly heaven; and the religious heaven is only realised or won by religious activity.
Or, to take another view, one explicitly and avowedly indebted to Feuerbach, that of Karl Marx:
That which is for me through the medium of money – that for which I can pay (i.e., which money can buy) – that am I myself, the possessor of the money. The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power. Money’s properties are my – the possessor’s – properties and essential powers. Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality. I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness – its deterrent power – is nullified by money. I, according to my individual characteristics, am lame, but money furnishes me with twenty-four feet. Therefore I am not lame. I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured, and hence its possessor. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good. Money, besides, saves me the trouble of being dishonest: I am therefore presumed honest. I am brainless, but money is the real brain of all things and how then should its possessor be brainless? Besides, he can buy clever people for himself, and is he who has power over the clever not more clever than the clever? Do not I, who thanks to money am capable of all that the human heart longs for, possess all human capacities? Does not my money, therefore, transform all my incapacities into their contrary?
Either way -- if indeed these are two truly distinct views -- how much of life is swallowed up with accounting for an making up for our incapacities?

(via a swerving path that started at Ken MacLeod)

No comments: