East is West and West is East and Never the Met Are Twain (light posting)

[amazon-product]0393333566[/amazon-product]…when, a few months ago now, something about the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy made me think of William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, I thought I was just reaching for a convenient allusion… especially regarding Islam I was working mainly off a belief in freedom reinforced by readings on Locke and the American Founding, other than that off a life’s impressions, picked up as much from the margins of books about other things or from random personal experiences as from any intensive study… I rested on Blake’s “every thing possible to be believed is an image of truth”… while the idea of responding to 9/11 ten years later with an ecumenically oriented house of worship seemed like a “marriage” that Blake might approve of…

…and then came the arguing, and arguing, and the reading – general background, the many articles we’ve RecBrow’d, and books like The Evolution of God, Destiny Disrupted, also Talking to Terrorists after a while you’re working from such different assumptions and taboo perspectives – for instance, that maybe it’s counterproductive in the extreme to talk of Hamas and Hezbollah as “terrorist” and “Iranian proxies,” of Israel as “the Jewish state,” maybe even of “winning” (until re-defined) in Iraq and Afghanistan – it begins to seem like a waste of time even to speak up, at least in conservative circles, as you will not be understood…

…am now on to God’s Crucible… terrific lively almost Gibbonesque but very modern history of early Islam and Medieval Europe – how Europe became “Europe”… wish I’d read it before all of this Islam discussion had started, though if it hadn’t been for the Islam discussion I might never have gotten to it… taking up Islam for a history buff means encountering some great work that has been done over the last 10 years, it means re-acquaintance with familiar tales from an unfamiliar perspective (how the West’s win was), and it means having this vast, complex, violent, colorful, generously if not always comprehensively chronicled history opened up for you… for a Westerner it’s like reading an epically imaginative “alternative” and “speculative” history that just happens to be located in the past and to matter…

In a for me ideal world or anyway one where I’d made happier career decisions, maybe I’d go on a campaign, write careful reviews, attempt systematic discussions – and I’d have time to pick up on fiction, too… The Sandbox isn’t bad for a first book… very dark noirish view of America-in-Iraq, a little too incredibly cliche leftwing nihilistic anti-military in the end but still worth reading… and Conspirata was an involving and well-observed Fall of the Republic novel from beginning to end… and Spies of the Balkans is the masterful Alan Furst at his most relaxed, some of the darkest hours of the Nazi onslaught offered in effect as light escapism – the most touching scene for me may have been the one where the heroic Greek policeman/spy has to separate from his beloved mountain sheepdog… vague resonance of the ancients abandoning Athens ahead of the Persian invaders, their abandoned pets swimming out into the sea and drowning while trying to reach them…

…but doing things like writing appreciative reviews and systematic critiques that don’t have any immediate purpose… there’s only so much time in the world for that kind of thing when you need to make a living… flaming and japing unjustified certainties and laughable self-contradictions may not be a political project, tends more to be a philosophical where not a vain or ill-mannered one (or taken those ways), and making the impolite/impolitic political is more than a full-time job…

…this dialectic is the stuff of On Tyranny and I’d struggle try to tell you why I think it’s worth contemplating – urge you to read the dialogue of the poet and the tyrant (try it, it’s not long – especially if you skip all of the footnotes interrupting the e-text)… I’d try to explain how, perhaps, the holy sinful synthesis of politics and philosophy that Strauss and Kojève cannot perform, they enact in a lifelong friendship, counter-filling for each other a deficit, in a way that neither could think into his work, as revealed in the letters appended to their debate … philosophy-against-politics and politics-as-philosophy meeting maybe (I do think so) at the same point where Wilson (via Pestritto) and the Founders (via Wood) would also meet… not quite nowhere… where the left and the right and East and West and religion and agnosticism and atheism and Heaven and Hell also meet…

…but frankly the title of the prior post was ironic because what I really have to do is get to work on work… I’ve written and posted and thought myself out of real existing conservatism and possibly real existing politics altogether…  so probably won’t be writing any essayistic posts for a while… may not have time for more than occasional observations, or responses on whatever you all happen to bring up…

18 comments on “East is West and West is East and Never the Met Are Twain (light posting)

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  1. Well I liked Conspirata, but since I first read with Saylor and Caldwell, I’m seen this story better told. Sandbox was not really worth the hasle and I’m including Ignatius and Hagberg’s earlier work as comparison, haven’t really dug into Furst, maybe some day, the latest Dan Silva
    is very good

  2. @ narciso:narc, read the post again and respond to the main point and I promise to stop pulling your tail.

    Matter of fact, I’ll go easy regardless. I still think you’re cute.

    But I would sure appreciate an occasional lapse into logic, just for the reassurance of it.

  3. I was focusing on the book review part, not to be too confrontational
    with the highlander, I’ve made my points of contention rather clear, some would say crystal. My quarrel has not been with Islam but with
    the Salafi and Hambali brands of Deobandism (which I really didn’t know about until Charles Allen) and Wahhabism.

  4. narc, Is it much ‘mudgeonly to flog the expired draypulller and ask you read comments 1 & 2 and then read the conclusion of the post

  5. Dan Silva’s The Rembrandt affair, suggests a solution to the Iranian nuclear problem similarly to that floated by Eli Lake and other
    commentators. It is worth noting that the Israelis tried that tactic
    with Tammuz 16 (Osirac) but ultimately they had to pull the trigger

  6. I’m dissapointed you feel that way, CK, wish you the best in your next endeavor, glad you humoured my occasional stubborn outbursts

  7. @ narciso:
    @ Ill Papa Fuster:
    Geez, guys, it wasn’t a resignation note or End of the Blog note. I said I won’t be writing essayistic posts for a while. Not sure how long the sabbatical will last – need to establish a little financial security: I strongly suspect that what that means for me would for most of you qualify as an emergency calling for close family members to be gathered together and begin wailing.

    A sense of a larger, real world purpose wouldn’t hurt either, but I’m not sure that any ideas I have along those lines are worth discussing. Anyway, don’t see any reason to shut down the blog. Just taking a “vacation” from hardcore blogging.

  8. @ CK MacLeod:


    I recognize active neural plasticity when I see it.

    The “earning a living” part I get, I mean, I’ve wondered “How does this guy make $ with all the intense blogging?”

    But your post indicates that’s just the tip of the synapse.

    In Tibetan terms, your lung energy is out of whack.

    The W article focuses on the esoteric aspects of it, but the exoteric remedies I’ve run across for out of whack lung include:

    sex, scotch, red meat, chocalate.

    This assumes a reasonably clean living person.

    Of course all this can be overdone, the key is to view it as medicine (I’m actually serious), altho having fun is part of the treatment too.

  9. @ bob:
    eh, I’m sure there’s a lot of that, but “something happened here”: A bit more than a year ago, I created this blog for refugees from the canceled comment threads at Contentions. The complement, including several initially enthusiastic co-authors, was overall quite conservative politically, but cosmopolitan and disproportionately Jewish. It had a positive trajectory in readership, participation, and I even had a good response when I once tried fundraising. We also had what seemed like a potentially fruitful tie-in relationship with HotAir through the Greenroom.

    For better or for worse, however, there were problems beneath the surface. Some of it was familiarity breeding contempt. A lot of it was I’m sure growing dislike for me personally – or, since no one here knows me personally – for my style and attitude.

    But I’d refer you back to the Was I wacked at HotAir post: There is a political subtext to this all.

    A lot of people are comfortable only in an explicitly sectarian environment. Of course, even non-/anti-sectarianism becomes something of a sect. However you want to look at it, the blog is either reaching its natural (very small) audience, between audiences (or audience concepts), or between an audience and no audience.

    There’s something to be said for a small group of people who merely exchange ideas and discuss things honestly and thoroughly. We have much better discussions on this blog than most other blogs I’m aware of: I’d certainly pick our comment threads over the comment threads at HotAir, ThinkProgress, or some mainstream site. But it’s a different audience concept for me to write for.

    Writing while imagining that you just might be getting “somewhere” is a different motivation, a different intellectual environment calling for a different voice and leading to a different development, than writing as an end in itself with a small circle of correspondents.

  10. @ CK MacLeod:

    Well, OK. Rereading the original post and #15, they say kinda the same thing, but they also illustrate the quandry you describe. Very allusive, interconnected vs straightforward and logical.

    I’m not sure how long I’ve been commenting here, but the whole time my impression has been the “open discussion, small audience” mode vs the “sectarian, large(r) audience mode”. In other words, it sounds like you’re kinda catching up to the reality of ZC – for better or worse. (Assuming, against all evdence that I’m any kind of judge of what reality is.)

    The point of the lunganalysis is that, to pivot successfully you have to be in firm contact with the ground. The original post above, not so much. #15, more so.

  11. As audiences go there’s “small” as in sub-microscopic, and then there’s small as in “clearly never going to give HotAir a run for its money.” From some perspectives, HotAir and the Weekly Standard are quite “small.”

    At the same time also, a non-sectarian approach has a potential “market” extending broadly across all sects, with only committed sectarians excluded. You don’t have to be absurdly overly optimistic about human nature to conclude that the upper limit on audience is far beyond anything a mere blog can reasonably aspire to. An active readership of a mere few hundred people and commentator-ship of a few tens would make this blog seem like Grand Central Station, and is quite attainable over time without great exertions.

    You arrived at a fairly late point in the first phase (don’t know how you found your way here). Looking at it purely from a personal perspective, it was the height of my very limited notoriety, when I was net-publicly dueling with the likes of Jonah Goldberg, Mark Steyn, and Allahpundit, getting quoted on rightwing radio, inspiring anti-CK hate groups among HA users, alienating co-bloggers and regulars, etc.

    The voice of my “serious” posts is the voice of someone who believes he’s talking to, or potentially talking to, a larger audience, fighting meaningful fights, “tilting at windmills” perhaps, but real windmills on a real planet at least. Without a larger, at least theoretically self-sustainable mission, it doesn’t make sense to tilt that way. If I were co-blogging somewhere else or being published for real somewhere, it would make sense. But I’m not. Maybe down the line.

    For now, a less formal, end-in-itself kind of approach makes more sense to me, for me. I also imagine over time forcing more of the “comment thread content” – that includes you guys – into “main/post content.”

    Unless you depart for greener pastures.

    More later.

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