Friday, May 07, 2021

Facing America's troublesome Ship of Theseus paradox, with 'Live not by lies', and The Lord of the Rings (pt 2 of 2)

In yesterday's post I pointed out how considering 'The Ship of Theseus' paradox, reveals how easily surface changes can falsely appear to be significant, while a too shallow consideration of seemingly small changes, can fundamentally alter, and even corrupt, something or someone into being what they once were not, and yet appear not to have changed at all. A consequence of that is a tendency of those who see themselves as being fact based 'realists', to calculate themselves into a fictional sense of being able to see what the future really holds, forgetting that.... always shifting, the future is. And as our common reactions to new interpretations of once fixed terms tends to be "That just isn't true!", we are in danger of succumbing to the fear that 'America is now America in name only'.

There are those who'd very much like to see that fear come true, and especially as they know full well that it is not yet true, having you believe the lie of it is of supreme importance to them. The reality is that until those who so love power, have total power over us, they do still need something more from us, and we should understand what that is, because it is critical to our identity and to the possibility of restoring it. That's why I thought it was such fortunate timing that 'The Ship of Theseus' paradox - 2,500 year old metaphysical consideration of identity and change - was suddenly popularized earlier in the year in an episode of the TV show WandaVision, and if you are in the habit, as most are, of deciding the nature of identity and change on the basis of appearances, you really need to take that paradox more seriously, and especially what it is that causes something to be what it is, or to no longer be what it might still appear to be (see yesterday's post).

As to what those seeking power over you, need from you, have you given any thought to what it is that they require from you? Do you think that they need you to believe them? We so often say "That just isn't true!" as if we expect someone to acknowledge that they've been caught, confess, and put things aright. 

Does that sound plausible to you? Let's take a quick review of where it is you think we are:
Do you really think, that they think, that you believe, that the FBI is truly seeking to uphold the Law? Or that their forming a commission to look into packing the Supreme Court, is motivated by a desire for Justice? Do you really think that they expect you to believe that racists who're wistfully advocating genocide, care about Justice - social or otherwise? If they had little or nothing to say about the daily riots & violent attacks upon the federal justice building in Portland, do you think, that they think ,that you believe, that their ranting over one particular riot on Jan 6th has had anything to do with a concern for either peace, law & order, or Justice? Do the the Marxist founders of BLM who just bought a million dollar home in a predominantly white neighborhood (and three other homes), expect you to believe that they care about either Marxism or black lives? You and they both know that their praising & promoting songs like WAP & transgender story hour for kids, while condemning Dr. Seuss books as being harmful to kids, has nothing at all to do with a concern about what's good for kids (not that Dr. Seuss is all that good, but that's another story).
Are you getting the picture? The Covid Relief bill was not passed to relieve Americans, but to ingratiate politicians with influential players around the world, 'anti-racism' isn't an effort to oppose 'systemic racism', it's an attempt to impose an explicitly racist system upon us all, and HR1 is not an act to preserve voter integrity, but to eliminate it, so as to complete their 'maintenance' of America's own Final and Formal Causes into passing that point where America no longer bears even a passing resemblance to what America once was.

They're not doing what they're doing because they're concerned about your thinking "That isn't true!" - Truth isn't their value, power is, and they need more of it. They don't need you to believe them to gain more power from you, they only need you to go along with their making these changes for just... a... little bit... longer, and to be able to do that, there is something that they desperately do still need from you (are you 'them' or you?), and you do still have the power to deny it to them.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who knew a thing or two about not just standing up to, but winning against totalitarian thinking, wrote an essay "Live not by lies", and in advising what to do when faced with a system which persists in telling what you and they both know to be lies, he noted that:
"...When violence intrudes into peaceful life, its face glows with self-confidence, as if it were carrying a banner and shouting: “I am violence. Run away, make way for me—I will crush you.” But violence quickly grows old. And it has lost confidence in itself, and in order to maintain a respectable face it summons falsehood as its ally—since violence can conceal itself with nothing except lies, and the lies can be maintained only by violence. And violence lays its ponderous paw not every day and not on every shoulder. It demands from us only obedience to lies and daily participation in lies—all loyalty lies in that.

And the simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation lies right here: Personal non-participation in lies. Though lies conceal everything, though lies embrace everything, we will be obstinate in this smallest of matters: Let them embrace everything, but not with any help from me..."
His point is a deceptively powerful one, in that holding to what is true, and refusing to participate in the lie, is devastating to those who rely upon the power of their being feared, obeyed and accepted, all of which is dependent upon people accepting their lies. While admittedly our situation doesn't look good at the moment, we need to remember that appearances can be deceiving, and examining them is a giant step towards freeing ourselves from them.

Which brings us back around to 'The Ship of Theseus' paradox, and in looking at all of the substitutions that've been made, the more worthwhile question for us today is not is America still America, but can it become more like America again - and what would that involve? You can, and certainly do, know that the situation is bad right now, and you may be painfully aware that you do not see a way out of our situation, but that does not mean that there is no way out, it only means that you, me, we, are as yet unable to perceive it.
Fictional Realism
There is still the possibility, due to what we are not in a position to know, for our chapter of this story to end in ways that the wisest amongst us would not predict and cannot imagine. More than that, it is important to realize that denying that, is itself a corrupting aspect of the totalitarian mindset - a mindset that is and must be shared by both those in power and by those they rule over - it is an an act of believing that what is not and cannot be known, is certain, inevitable, and that it's 'unrealistic' to think otherwise. Faking reality is not being 'realistic', and you should beware the temptation of that, for it's a fatal one. Don't deny the harsh reality before you, but do deny that reality must somehow conform to your presumptions (or fears) of it, rather than the other way around. That subtle reversal of cause and effect is the mainspring of the darker transformations, which have been operating upon us since at least the time of Descartes.

That call to 'be realistic' is a deceptive one, and is the stock in trade of the morbid fact-checkers of the 'News' of what happens to have happened here, and there, and they're deeply invested in pretending to know what cannot be known ('experts say...'), yet despite the routine failure of their assertions and predictions (President Hillary could not be reached for comment about sixty years worth of predictions of the world ending in a decade), such 'realistic' notions have even less of true use to tell us about how to deal with the problems of the here & now. Once upon a time we understood that grappling with what is timelessly true is more important than faking it, even though it can have frightening consequences to who we think we are, and are willing to be. What was also once understood, was that if you left it to the 'here and now' to grapple with such issues, you'd be beaten to a pulp by them - if you want to have a fighting chance in life, that requires venturing beyond the appearances of the moment by stepping into the poetic realm of stories and works of fiction. Realizing that, it was once a commonplace for us to teach our children not just to read widely, but to memorize passages of scripture and poetry, a habit which most continued throughout adulthood, for pleasure, inspiration, and to have the support in their minds to aid them in carrying on through those darker moments which naturally incline us all towards hopelessness and despair. 

Perhaps the most tragic consequence of our pragmatic 'education reforms' and their shallow economy centric focus, has been that the formative stories of Western Civilization - its true substance and value - were among the first to be eliminated from our schools, and generations of children have been reared without the interest in or ability to transmit America's first and 'Final Cause's from one generation to the next (I highly recommend reading 'The Story Killers', which tells that tale so well). The crowded roles of the addicted and apathetic are made of those who never learned how to *escape* into the poetic and bring meaning back into their daily lives, and so instead they flee from life into intoxication and defeatism.
Even so, we haven't yet given up on such stories altogether, and there are far worse places we could turn to for the value in them than to works such as J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings', where the most meaningful questions of 'real life' are raised, their often frightening aspects confronted, and the stakes involved are made more clear than any news report could ever 'hope' to. What we stand to gain from such adventures, is not entertainment - though that too - but the real ability to see a way forward by seeing more clearly what we should be focusing on and why, as when in replying to the Hobbit's wishing that such dark times had not come, Gandalf the wizard replies:
"...So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
When you're feeling hopeless, that has less to do with the conditions around you, than with what you've been distracted from within you, and in those moments it's the powerful and inspirational scenes from fictional works like The Lord of the Rings, that restore your inner flame and improve your effectiveness here and now. That sort of inspiration is what flows out of, and into us, from scenes such as Aragorn's 'Men of the West!' speech before charging the gates of Mordor, or of Sam & Frodo's struggle to take the One Ring to Mt. Doom,
"...Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?
Sam : That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for..."
Our superficial 'realistic' certainty about how things will turn out, is not and should not be what defines and directs our actions, but acting in accordance with how you know that you should act, is. The memorable characters of story remind us that people are at their best and most admirable, not when they're worried about how well our petty circumstances will turn out for them, but when they realize that they should act as they should no matter how things might turn out for them, and we learn that not by argument, but by our own experience in responding to the characters and actions in the stories, and because of them we want to be better versions of ourselves by emulating them, here and now. What C.S. Lewis said in his Narnia stories
"Once a knig or queen of Narnia, always a King or Queen of Narnia"
, was well understood centuries before by George Washington when he saw to it that his troops had literature supplied or read to them, and had plays performed for them when conditions were at their worst, and that had not yet been forgotten by WWII when American soldiers were laden with Shakespeare as well as bullets, and they were because the timeless truths such stories lead their readers through, matter even and especially in times of war, in both it's tedious and terrifying moments.

For those foolish enough to mock such works as 'escapist fiction', do you not see the difference between seeking to forearm yourself to face unexpected dangers, and practicing denialism and defeatism of 'be realistic' in the face of them? What such literature provides us is the means to escape the darkness of the moment so as to see more clearly what is right and true, which helps you to understand better what you should do when faced with such moments here & now - that is not something to be turned away from, but something to be sought out and embraced so as to regain your ability to triumph over despair in the here and now. And for those truly softheaded folks, cynics who see themselves as being 'hardheaded realists' while admonishing you that "Things just don't happen that way in real life!"... it would be pointless and 'unrealistic' to remind them of the gems of history's unexpected twists and turns, from the Spartan's 'doomed' 300, to WWII's Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain, or of what was less likely to 'turn out well', than the American Revolution itself (which our Founder's swore their lives and sacred honor to wage against the most powerful nation on earth), because they will not see it. Yet the fact remains that those who shined brightest in those moments, were not acting on how certain they were that things would turn out well, but only that they were certain that things should turn out that way, but could not, unless they acted as they knew they should, as should we, whenever we find ourselves within such moments in time, or as one of George Washington's favorite lines in his favorite play, Cato, puts it:
“’Tis not in mortals to command success. But we’ll do more, Sempronius, we’ll deserve it.”
And while we're at it, it's equally important to recognize the villainous nature that lurks behind the 'reasonable' appearances of Wormtongue-like advice to 'be realistic' and go along to get along, and give in to the evils besetting us - good fiction reveals to us that those aren't examples of being 'realistic', but of fleeing into a decrepit fantasy world of pretending you can know and foresee the results of all people's choices. Their pretense of being 'realistic' is not an example of strength, but of abject weakness which is advising you to flee from doing what you should do, and even a denial that you (and especially them) can know what you should - such notions as those are villainous and should be strenuously guarded against.

If you find yourself flirting with 'realistic' notions that you know what doom is to come, you should take notice of how such *wise and knowledgeable* folk as that are depicted in 'The Lord of the Rings', in the figures of Saruman the Wise, and Denethor the Steward of Gondor. Two proud leaders who sought confidence in seeing farther than they could, by viewing the world through Sauron's Palantir for facts to reassure them that their conclusions were the only ones that intelligent persons such as themselves could believe. When the Palantir let their eyes see the facts that 'the black fleet comes!', and that 'Frodo has been captured and lost the ring', their cynically 'realistic' expectations were satisfied that they need look no further for news or judgement, than their own minds. As true in fiction as in real life, the shortsighted vision of what they were unwilling to see, was lacking a context which they refused to allow for, blinding them to other possibilities than what they expected, and the context missing from what the Palantir showed them, such as that though the black fleet was coming, it was Aragorn who was now leading it, and that as Frodo had dropped the ring and been captured, Sam picked it up, freed him, and they continued on - showed the facts which the Palantir's reported for Sauron's News Network, were the purest of lies - and how much do you want to bet that in those final moments, their reactions were "That just isn't true!"? You may laugh, but you'd do better to not stare for too long into your own glowing Palantir, be it from the news, or your social media devices, and remember that, as Gandalf says,
“Even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
, and to believe that you can, to think that you can and do know what is to come, despite all that you should know that you cannot possibly know, is arrogance, false pride, and, yes, corruption, and it results in your 'reality' being replaced, word by word, with a lie.

Resolving paradoxes
The paradoxical aspect of 'The Ship of Theseus' paradox, comes from our seeing the ship as only a sum of its parts, and in failing to see the 'One in the Many', we mistake the parts for the whole. But any whole, is more than simply its many pieces fit together - the intangibles of purpose and design are not found in those parts, but they are what lend importance to the actions we take, and the materials which we use to change those parts into a whole with. The 'Realistic' outlook of Materialism, is a soul-sucking worldview, and it will leave you awash in paradoxes.

The takeaway from 'The Ship of Theseus' paradox, is that it is built, and rebuilt, one plank at a time, in accordance with a design that's formed from a purpose, and it's important to realize that there is nothing that says that the paradox can't be employed in reverse, changing a vessel that has been corrupted, by deliberately restoring it, plank by plank, to its original purpose, design, structure and materials. It's even more important to realize that the planks in America's Ship of State are not wood, but are you, your friends, and your family, and that you have the ability to define the nature of what that one particular plank of the ship which you represent, will be - do you have the purpose and plan to set you apart from being a mere material plank? If so, you may even be able to influence a few of the planks around you, and that, which Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn pointed out, is an incredibly important, and deceptively powerful truth to be understood. The failure to grasp that truth, is one that - like Sauron's assumption that the Fellowship sought not to destroy the ring, but to use it - has been key to many a triumph that's gone unforeseen by 'the wise' and 'realistic', an understanding that once upon a time formed a critical part of the education which the children of The West were raised upon, and must regain if we are to continue.

Our 'educational system' has been the chief means of changing the purposes of our Ship of State (and of ourselves), and so became the means of corrupting it into something other than what it was intended to be, one plank at a time, and far from 'leading us out' of darkness and into living a good life in liberty with others, most schools today are intent on binding their students within rings of ideology which are fundamentally opposed to everything a 'well rounded education' was once understood to be and intended to do for you. Too many of us look upon the education we failed to receive, as a 'free pass' from suffering it's consequences because your schools failed you...It doesn't work that way. the good news though is that becoming an Autodidact (or Blogodidact 😎 ) is neither impossible nor unpleasant - it used to be a norm - and it doesn't take twelve or even four years, to get the basics of one, and there are more opportunities today to engage with others doing the same, than ever before. Just remember to be cautious where you go looking for an education from, and that as important as an education is, there's no more point in seeking a liberal education from those who delight in what is illiberal, than there is in seeking sweet wine from a bottle of vinegar.

If you choose to 'go to school to get a good job', then save yourself several years and tens of thousands of dollars and go to a trade school. Do that not because you don't need a 'well rounded education', but because (with few exceptions) you have less than zero chance of receiving such an education as that at a modern College or anywhere else within our establishment educational system, and the subject is far too important a matter to your life, to your children's lives, and to our nation, to entrust to the hands of 'educators' who feel compelled to deceive you for your own good. If your kids are in them, get them out. If you are in them, or teaching in them, get yourself out. Get an actual Education - you've got a much better chance of getting one on your own, than at any establishment school system (public or private).
And here it's worth noting one of the epic tale's truest statements, where Gandalf says:
"Some believe it is only great power than can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
, to which I'd add Solzhenitsyn line to the 'great' "...Let them embrace everything, but not with any help from me..." You have and are one of the parts in America's Ship of Theseus paradox, and you have replaced someone who came before you, and someone will take yours, but before passing your place on to another, it is within your power to right the process within at least that one plank that is yours, and whatever you do to fix you & yours, is restoring the original body and soul of at least one part of the whole of the materials and design of America's Ship of State. 

It remains to you, and it all may even depend upon you, and others like you, insignificant little Hobbits that you are, to simply do your part well. Even if you've failed all your life to do so, do what little you can, as well as you can, now, not by attempting something grand, but by doing something even more daring - refuse to play a part in the spreading of lies - "Let them embrace everything, but not with any help from me" - and do so because it is what you should do, and when you're told to 'be realistic!', to give in, that there's nothing you can do, simply answer back "That just isn't true", and do what you know you should... and leave it to the larger drama to unfold around you as it will.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Facing America's troublesome Ship of Theseus paradox, with 'Live not by lies', and The Lord of the Rings (pt 1 of 2)

Isn't "That just isn't true!", one of the more common reactions we have towards nearly everything we're faced with today? If it were just lying liars lying, it wouldn't be quite so bad, but as terms which were once understood to have unchangeably fixed meanings, such as Freedom of Speech, Racism, Justice, Education, etc., are now being used to convey radically different meanings in what is widely being accepted, tolerated and popularized in society today, we see the ludicrous presented as being scientific, the ugly as being attractive, obscenity as virtue, the despicable as being admirable, and injustice as Justice, so that the sense of "That just isn't true!" seems to permeate the very air. In other words, our words remain the same in name only - what better timing could there be for 'The Ship of Theseus' paradox to have resurfaced?

The Avengers' themed TV show 'WandaVision', recently got this 2,500 year old philosophical paradox on the nature of identity & change to begin trending on the web, when the virtual android, Vision, was made to confront a physical copy of himself, and so began asking about the essential nature of what something IS. If you missed the episode, or Philosophy 101, it refers to how for centuries the Athenians had preserved and maintained the ship which the hero Theseus was supposed to have returned to Athens in, after having slain the Minotaur. The paradox points out that as maintaining Theseus's ship required repairing or replacing its aged and damaged planks, there eventually must have come a point where no original material of the ship which Theseus and his crew had sailed on, remained within the ship that they were so carefully maintaining, and so it asks:
Is 'The Ship of Theseus' still the same ship? If so, how, and if not, at what point of change did it stop being what it originally was?
The 'common sense' answer, that Theseus's ship can't be the same ship because it's made of different parts, doesn't age well, and is particularly troublesome as you realize that your own body is not made of the same cells & minerals as it was some years ago. The Ship of Theseus paradox is troublesome, but it's also well worth asking because it's good for us to realize that the 'common sense' answers we are often so quick to give, often depend upon the thinnest of surface appearances which are too shallow a means for identifying what that ship, or anything else, is. Working our way through such paradoxes, leads us into a deeper understanding of identity and change, by asking: what do we mean by what something is, and how can we make changes to it and have it remain meaningfully the same? 

Can we change and remain the same? Well... consider the source: Are you still you?

Getting a better understanding of what we mean, requires going beyond appearances, which is what Aristotle was doing when he identified Four Causes which are essential to what makes something what it is, and in his hierarchical system, matter, the Material Cause, that 'out of which something is made' - is the last and possibly least important of those causes. The Formal Cause, 'the design and form of what-it-is-to-be', precedes that and directs what matter will be used, and how; prior to that and more essential still, is the Efficient Cause, 'the primary source of the object' coming into being, as with the making of the ship by its maker, who creates it from a design which calls for those materials that are to be used in it; and finally there's the Final Cause, 'the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done', which is the initial source that provides the purpose for what is being made - the reason why it is made, and why it was made as it was. The ship that Theseus and his crew took to sail home in, consisted of more than the surface of its parts - which they may or may not have touched - and when a plank of the ship is replaced, the rest of it's matter, form, workmanship and purpose, remain. In that sense, if the materials replaced are of the same type, quality and purpose as the Final, Efficient, Formal and Material causes which had brought it into being, then even as that ship undergoes changes, it remains the same ship (not the pieces, but the whole) that Theseus and his crew once sailed on, and which they would likely prove on returning by recognizing it, crewing it, and sailing it back home again - whether or not they'd remember to change and raise the sails... that's another question altogether (though John Locke's take adds something to that aspect of the paradox ).

There is of course a potential dark side to the paradox, in that what if the changes made are not made with the same materials, quality, and purpose? What if in practice, the changes are maintaining only the surface appearances of the ship, while beneath that surface its deeper structure is being progressively altered? Then in that case, wouldn't the apparent maintenance being performed upon the ship that was Theseus's, be gradually corrupting it into being that which 'The Ship of Theseus' was not? What answer would the captain and crew give to their own paradox, if they returned and could not recognize it, because of the nature of what those changes, had changed Theseus's ship into?

The troublesomeness of the 'Ship of Theseus' paradox should trouble what we mean by our own Ship of State too, as one by one a Ship of State's original founders eventually retire and pass on, and as with the planks of wood being replaced in Theseus's ship, they too are gradually replaced in society by members of the next generation, until eventually the time comes when none of the original founding generation remain. When that time comes, is that Ship of State the same? How do you decide that? And when their children's children, replace them, what then? The answer is not in the 'thing' itself, but in what makes the thing, the thing it is. If those children, and their children, are mindful of their nation's essential causes - if they retain their nation's purpose, while understanding and living by its fundamental principles and holding to the same quality of character in the day to day life of that nation, then yes, it is of the same nation, and they are the same people, and they do sail the high seas on the same Ship of State.

And if that's not the case? America today, is an example of both approaches to change being imposed at the same time upon America, by Americans. Much of the original form and substance of our founding has gradually been replaced, its deeper designs have most certainly been altered, corrupted even, but the more paradoxical question facing us today, is whether or not the changes we're still calling for are in fact doing more to maintain or corrupt it, and between us - Left, Right & Center - we do not even seem to be able to agree upon how to differentiate between the two. To the question 'is America, America, in more than name only?', I think you'll find that the answer to that has less to do with America, than with the Americans living within it. Us. Who are you, and why, and how do you know it?

We can begin answering that question by looking at how the changes we've undergone began, which just as 'The Ship of Theseus' paradox describes, they began gradually and with the best of intentions through small and seemingly sensible steps, to improve our lives. One of the first and most significant of those changes, came from our changing the purpose of going to school, from 'get a good education so as to be capable of living a good life in liberty', to 'get a good education for the skills to get a good job!' Of course that change was made then, as most parents still make it today, to ensure their child's economic success. Unfortunately, despite their good intentions, that change in goals implicitly conflicts with two of those four most essential causes that America was formed from - with the purpose of education (it's Final Cause), and the form (Formal Cause) that education was to be given through. Had they, and we, thought beyond the scope of efficiency and material causes & short-term benefits, we might've been more mindful of Mark 8:36,
'What doth it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?'
, for what good does it do Americans, to aim at succeeding in America, while losing what made America, America?

But where we really need to have the troublesomeness of 'The Ship of Theseus' paradox felt today, is less with those changes we can see, than in those intangible matters which easily change over time and produce major changes in everything that we can see and touch, and yet which go unnoticed because the part of them that we can see - the name - remains the same. You'll see this pretty quickly if you consider what has been meant over time by getting an education, as the popular understanding of that word has been radically changed over a relatively short period of time, and I challenge you to think of some aspect of our lives that is not touched by the education we do, or don't, receive.

It's not necessary for our purposes here to go into the details, as a quick glance at its outward appearances makes it clear that something major has been changed within. For instance, a well educated person traditionally has - from the 17th century to the 21st - been thought of as someone who's gone to college and received a degree, right? Well a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1820, the generation following our founding, was fairly similar to one received in our Founder's era of the 1700's, and though notable changes had been made, the Bachelor of Arts and even the new (1860?) Bachelor of Sciences Degrees, were still recognizably *the same* as what would be awarded even as late as 1920. But those degrees resemble the nature of the B.A. & B.S. degrees being given out in 2020, in no more than name only. And so when we say today that education is important, and it is, it's unlikely that what we mean by that word today, is what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he said of it that
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be"
, so what do we mean by 'education', and in what way does getting a college degree indicate that someone is educated today? How sure are you that what you mean by 'education', isn't what Jefferson meant by expecting to be 'ignorant and free'? Why? That too is a troublesome question, which for now I'll leave to you to educate yourself on - I'll just point out that the paradox is paradoxical in name only, as the original and current meanings bear no resemblance to each other beyond name only.

What's more important for our purposes here, is to realize that turning away from well founded aims - Final Causes - such as 'get a good education so as to be capable of living a good life in liberty', for more shallow and ill-considered goals such as 'get a good education for the skills to get a good job!', can't help but make obstacles of those deeper and more worthwhile paths which our new goals turn us away from, especially as today they've left us unable to either define 'education', or what is 'good'.

The lack of clarity which accompanies working at such cross-purposes, implicitly weakens those essential causes that make something what it is, especially as they detract from the 'Final Cause', which will in turn affect the actions, designs and substance which follows from it. Shallow and ill-considered goals weaken our understanding and create uncertainty in what we should do, which generates a falseness in what we choose to do, and why, which becomes visible in our later attempts to defend our having done it, and in that turbulence truth recedes and power naturally rushes in to fill in the gaps. In the absence of truth, the finest minds behave stupidly, as consciously or not, to accept the lie is to reduce your ability to perceive what is in reality true, and so we act on what isn't, and consequently in losing contact with reality, our actions become less justifiable, and their results become more chaotic, and in more need of power to sustain them.

As people perceive that growing chaos, it naturally steers them to seek reassurance in greater power, and they will advance themselves over those who don't, and as that scenario becomes the norm, power, brutality and injustice will reign, while true Justice is rained upon. Not intentionally, but necessarily so, because of the purposes that've changed. Corruption is not only wrought by deliberate dishonesty, bribery, or the criminal behavior of those in power - it's also the process of something being changed from its original purpose, even and especially with the best of intentions, into an opposition to that original purpose; it's a process of decay and putrefaction, and there should be no mystery why it's all around us today.

I do think it's important for us to realize that these changes weren't only done to us by devious men working behind the curtain - we've all participated in at least some aspect of it, right? We've all seen, and even reveled in, some aspects of these changes - we saw their effects in our movies and in our television shows, and as they mocked what was good and respectful, we assured ourselves that 'It's just a joke'. 

It was more than a joke, but everyone else was laughing and so we laughed along as well, and after all, they were just harmless little things, right? We all laughed as the late-night shows 'man in the street' interviews, showed us our fellow Americans - usually students - who didn't know who America fought in the Revolutionary War, or even who won in our Civil War, and as we laughed at those, we took comfort in spectacles of chanting 'USA! USA! USA!', as if the enthusiasm from people who didn't understand what was meant by 'USA!', could substitute for those planks of understanding that were being lost from our American Ship of State. What is more than a little bit funny, is how many of us now behave as if shocked that those now coming of age, and into power, have little or no knowledge of, or respect for, the ideals that America was founded upon. Seriously folks, we haven't just accidentally reached the point where students are being taught that it's racist to deny that 2+2 can =5! And no, I don't think our problem is our lack of 'Critical Thinking' skills. IMHO it is much more likely that our rapid immersion in that shallow construct of 1940's wacademia - a system which has no coherent or consistent definition or design - may be one of the darker examples of our employing 'The Ship of Theseus' paradox upon ourselves within our very minds. Our accepting of ''Critical Thinking'' as a replacement for thinking reasonably, gradually replaced the principled thinking that American's were once known for, with the flowcharted and narrowly calculated style of short term thinking, which we're better known for today.

Each of the changes which we've allowed over the last century have made some change to the essentials of what being an American was understood to mean, and little by little the small good things which we once routinely performed for each other without much concern for the effort required (such as civility & manners), were replaced with easier means & more usefully satisfying appearances (rudeness & self-serving), and we failed to realize that the lack of knowledge and character being paraded around for our amusement, were less causes for amusement, than the unavoidable effects of making intentional alterations and re-formations of us. We thought we could escape the consequences of indulging in or ignoring the 'little things', but of course we couldn't, and we haven't, and we're living in the consequences of our having given respectful attention to fools & knaves ('beotch!') we thought seemed so 'cool'.

Ronald Reagan famously said that 'liberty isn't passed down through the bloodstream', which is true enough, but unfortunately for us, barbarism is! Every generation is a barbarian invasion, and education (not schooling!) is our chief means of repelling them. All that was required for the vaunted quality of American Exceptionalism to fade away, was for us to teach less and less of it to the next generation, each of which would then be less exceptional and more barbaric than the one preceding them, and by the end of the 20th Century enough of that exceptionalism was absent, to excuse our importing the unexceptional materials and designs that've long defined and permeated most of the rest of the world. Sure, our maps still label this land as being 'America', but if the original captain & crew returned, would they recognize either it or us? Abraham Lincoln once warned that no one else would or could invade America, but if we weren't careful, we'd do it to ourselves. We may not have sunk ourselves yet, but all of these changes have left America's Ship of State leaking & adrift in dangerous waters, and it's not difficult to predict what the future holds for us.

And yet... if you believe that by being 'realistic', you can see what will happen next, you are probably the least connected to reality of us all, having forgotten that 'always shifting the future is'. And we'll look at what Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and The Lord of the Rings, can tell us about that, in tomorrow's post.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Earth Day today is the same old rot it was yesterday: Comply, or be put six feet under it!

No need to update this - the environmentalist's warnings are still the same silly lies they've always been. The underlying meaning of Earth Day, a day that was chosen to coincide with Vladimir Lenin's birthday, shouldn't be all that difficult to realize. The fact that one of its original promoters and first MC, was a fellow who later murdered his girlfriend and composted her body, shouldn't be all that shocking. Neither should it be shocking that its like minded enthusiasts openly populate groups such as 'Earth First', who advocate terrorism in order to halt industry, and who pine for an event that would 'reduce the population of the earth' by several billion lives; "Back to the Pleistocene!" is one of their slogans, and the ideal of gurus of theirs like Paul Shepard.

Neither should it be shocking that other like minded movements over the decades, have routinely promoted crisis hysteria fads, that have come and gone, and come back again, from 'Silent Spring of DDT!', to 'acid rain!', to a 'population bomb!', 'vanishing oil!', 'new ice age!', 'the ozone hole!', 'global warming!', 'global cooling!', 'climate change!', 'Go Green!', etc - they all seek to link the loss of an apparent good, behind the cover of 'science!', so as to attain unrestrained political power, over as many people as they possibly can.

It's a tactic that's proven effective, from Robespierre, to Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Hugo Chavez, and the vast number of our current wannabes scurrying around on 'Earth Day' today. What it is all about, is putting a zealous few, into positions of overwhelming power over the many, so as to live our lives for us, in a manner which they anticipate will be satisfying to them.

When you see the heart tugging images, before succumbing to emotion, remember that what they all seek to do, and find common cause amongst themselves in doing, is sating their movement leader's own moral self satisfaction, through attaining the power to compel other people's thoughts and actions, to agree with, or else submit to, their own desires.

Nothing but evil can, or will, follow from that.

Monday, April 19, 2021

The shot heard 'round the world, drew blood - Lexington & Concord, April 19,1775

Because it seems as if 'The shot heard 'round the world' needs to be heard again, a repost: 

The shot wasn't heard around the world to protect an adolescent desire to do whatever you please, it was heard and echoed on down through the ages to give birth to Liberty, and to take up its often weighty responsibility.

Before you blather thoughtlessly on about 'my rights!', take some time to think upon what they actually mean, and what heavy costs are attendant to them. Honor those who first made Liberty a reality, treat it as something more than a glittery trinket.

The shot heard 'round the world, drew blood. If you've forgotten that; remember it. If you never knew it, it's your responsibility to give more than a little consideration to it, and to why it might be that you were never made aware of that self-evident truth.

The shot heard 'round the world was fired at Lexington & Concord, April 19, 1775, may it echo ever on.

Concord Hymn
By Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sung at the Completion of the Battle Monument, July 4, 1837

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
   Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
   And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
   Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
   Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
   We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
   When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
   To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
   The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Anti-Asian Violence and the Evolving Algorithm of Wokeness

Though I quibble with its emphasis, this is an otherwise spot on response against the latest Woke fad of expressing concern for 'anti-Asian violence':
"...You use our victimhood, turning it into your political gains—whether to infringe on the 2A or keep portraying Trump as that boogeyman. You sided with the rich NBA players over the freedom fighters of Hong Kong. You sided with Disney and NIKE over the lives and the dignity of the Uighurs in western China. You praised Antifa while they harassed and doxxed a gay Asian journalist. You sided with the rioters and looters that stole, robbed, and burned down our shops and businesses all last summer.

Yesterday, we found out the killer in the Georgia shooting rampage is a disturbed young man who is an Asian fetishist. Not exactly the perp that my brother’s friend wished for. I find it twisted and sick that there are a lot of white folks who get a ‘hard on’ for minorities’ victimhood. It’s as reprehensible as someone who has an Asian sexual fetish. Which is confusing—because one moment we are categorized with the ‘Whites’ when we are applying for colleges and universities and we don’t get the same affirmative action benefits of other POC when applying for a job— yet we are marginalized victims again, to serve your political purpose.

So we are just pawns.

My brother told his ‘friend,’ or his ‘ally,’ to snap out of trying to be the white savior...."

And while understandable, and quite accurate from a numerical point of view, allowing the focus to be put on those 'trying to be the white savior', misses the more important mark: that every race, creed, gender, ethnicity, or sub-groupings of those by personal proclivity, are all well represented in the would-be savior game today - it is, after all, a numbers game. The best way to end that game, is to put the focus on what best identifies, unites and empowers it, and that is the Pro-Regressive 'progressive' ideology itself. Also, don't be misled into thinking of 'progressives' as being only on the Left - yes the Pro-Regressive Left has larger numbers, but never forget that the Pro-Regressive Right is still trying as hard to pump up their rookie numbers to compete as well.

And also of course, Pro-Regressives do care about Asians, as they once cared about preventing Asians from coming to America, and later cared about rounding Asians up and putting them in internment camps, just as they now care about protecting them from 'Asian hate'. Pro-Regressives also care about Blacks, as they once cared about keeping them enslaved, and when that became too problematic, they cared about keeping them separated at the bottom of society with Jim Crow, and just as they now care about protecting them from 'white supremacy'. Pro-Regressives do care about homosexuals as well, just as they once cared about sterilizing and imprisoning them, and now care about being their 'allies'. And of course Pro-Regressives care about White Christians just as they once cared about protecting their racial purity & social status by utilizing eugenics measures against all other races & creeds, and by employing economic means (such as minimum wage laws), in order to save them from competition from all minorities, just as they now care about denouncing White Christians as a central platform in the Pro-Regressive's efforts to show how much they care about every other race, creed, gender, ethnicity, or personal proclivity thereof.

Do not lose sight of the fact that Pro-Regressives - without regard for race, creed, gender, ethnicity, or personal proclivities - will be extremely pleased to put anyone up on a pedestal, and once having put them up there, they'll be equally delighted to praise them, or chain them, or whip them, or engage in any other action, that best serves their purposes in securing more political power by appealing to those other races, creeds, genders, ethnicities, or personal proclivities, whose numbers have the potential of making it worth their while to 'help' them in the very same way.

Who it is that the Pro-Regressives of the Left and Right do not care about, is the individual - no matter their race, ethnicity, creed, gender, or personal proclivities - they despise the individual, because the Pro-Regressive's power depends upon groups, upon collectives, and whatever collective of race, ethnicity, creed, gender, or personal proclivities which they've identified as having the potential to secure them more power over individuals, they will curry favor from them as best as they are able to. What the Pro-Regressive hates most, is truth and justice, and it hates them because those serve the individual, and so serves to weaken the Pro-Regressive's power over them.

Pro-Regressives care about every possible grouping of humanity in exactly that degree to which they are useful in preserving and increasing their power. Wokeism is nothing more than the latest evolution of their algorithm for calculating which segments of race, creed, gender, ethnicity, or personal proclivities, are most useful to be curried to, or condemned, in order to secure more power for the Pro-Regressives to rule over individuals with.

Alert readers may have noticed that every race, creed, gender, ethnicity, or personal proclivity are so as individuals first, and if you let Pro-Regressives help you to forget that, then you will become just another useful number in their algorithms. And if you are foolish enough to want to play in their Woke games, you are exactly the fool that they are looking for. 

K. Lee is refusing to play a part in the algorithm's Woke power-play. Be like K. Lee.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Testing Knowledge & Wisdom to Promote Learned Helplessness

Here's a problem for you: We all recognize that we've got problems today, but we don't seem to recognize that a deeper problem which we have, is the problem that we don't recognize as being part of the problem that we do recognize we have. Clear? No...? Ok... well, try looking at it this way: Have you ever had one of those moments where you hear a comment that sounds good, you nod your head, maybe even high-five it... followed soon after by a 'wait... wut?' as a growing stew of doubts begin bubbling up in your mind? That gets at what I'm talking about, and it happened with me not too long ago, after a friend posted some common sense observations that began with,
  • "Knowledge is knowing tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad."
, and continued along the lines of:
  • "Good judgement is the result of experience, and experience? Well that's the result of bad judgement"
“Wisdom begins in wonder.” ~ Socrates (Plato)
Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality, while making it easier for them to part with them.
~Vaclav Havel
, together with some pointed comments on how far too many people who have had no experience in acting on their own judgement, behave as if what they've been certified as having learned in school, makes them knowledgeable and wise enough to not only make their own decisions, but to make our decisions, for us, as well.

You probably recognize that problem. But there was one line in his post about knowledge and wisdom as pertaining to youths, which was the line that doubled back and wut'd me:
"They can be smart and knowledgeable, but not wise."
My first reaction was the obvious 'yep, Book smart, Life dumb', but something in that line soon began nagging at me and sowing doubts, that began springing up like weeds throughout the rest of my day. It wasn't the obvious intent of the statement which seemed doubtful - that wisdom comes with age & experience - that's a valid point which was already old when Aristotle made it again 2,500 years ago. No, there's something else going on within that line that unsettled the ol' grey matter and began doubtfully bumping up against other things I knew to be true, such as that most 'ordinary' people of our Founder's time, which included the likes of Ben Franklin & George Washington, routinely entered into adult lives while in their early teens, demonstrating both knowledge and wisdom in ways that were not at all uncommon for youths of their time, to do. My friend's comment was by no means baseless, but as our brains haven't changed between their time and ours, something else clearly has - what is different?

Still more doubts raised still more questions which began rubbing up against still other thoughts that I've come across in seemingly unrelated posts and comments, to the point that I've now got to make my own post here, before I can get on with finishing the other series of posts that I really wanted to leave behind in 2020 [looks at calendar... 'the best laid plans'].

If you're still pleasantly doubt free on this, maybe I can start slipping some unease into your noggin by putting this question to you:
"Can you be knowledgeable about a subject without having wisdom regarding it?"
That's a very different thing from 'Book smart, Life dumb', and 'Book smart, Life dumb' is not what I'm not shaking my head 'no' to, or rather, it's that fact of life which I'm saying that the real issue, is hiding behind.

It's not the age of the youths we've credentialed to have knowledge and wisdom, that is at the root of the alarming lack of knowledge and wisdom we are being afflicted with in our world today, but the abundance of trivia & ideological positions ( 'Book smart, Life dumb') which we mistake for being knowledge and wisdom, because of what we've been taught to think that 'knowledge' and 'wisdom' are. That, and how it is that we go about attaining, and being credentialed as possessing 'knowledge' and 'wisdom', is what has plunged us into the swamp that we're striving with today. Poke about with that last question, and you too may begin exposing some serious flaws that are rooted in our popular assumptions about those terms - and what was not meant by them in Franklin & Washington's day - and more to the point: what we often don't bother to think of when we're busily building our thinking with those terms in our minds, every single day.

Learning a Learned Helplessness
More than just a metaphor, 'Building thoughts' is what we do with the words, terms & concepts that we form our thinking from - how sturdy can those thoughts and assumptions we build with them be, if those building materials we use are unsound, unsteady, and prone to leaking and collapsing under pressure? That question, in answering itself (self evident?), found still more fertile soil in the concerns that I'd heard a school teacher raise on a separate thread, where she worried that:
"Is it possible that we have taught our students over the years that if they don’t understand something in class (something in the text they read for example), that if they just wait long enough, or raise their hand, the teacher will give them the answers or reteach it a few more ways? Have we contributed to promoting learned helplessness in our students?"
If we focus a moment upon what might be involved in 'promoting learned helplessness', it puts an important focus upon the nature of what our students go to school to learn, and specifically to have learned, and in particular to how effectively those youths which my friend's post was referring to, are credentialed via multiple choice tests, True/False, and fill in the blank worksheets, as having the 'knowledge' and 'wisdom' which their grades & degrees certify them to possess.

See if this question brings the various threads closer together for you:
Does testing a person's ability to scan a page for obvious facts or to successfully recall what they've momentarily memorized, tell us anything meaningful about their knowledge of what is allegedly being tested in those 'Fill in the blank' worksheets, or True/False & Multiple Choice tests?
Are you starting to see the problem? What do such tests, test, and why?

What do you mean by 'Knowledge'? Have you thought about it? Is knowledge, the same thing as the ability to scan for and recall facts? Anyone who has ever slacked off in class, confident that they'll be able to skim a worksheet or textbook sections for the keywords they'd need to answer quiz & test questions with, both of which are soon after forgotten - answers & questions - should be experiencing some doubts of their own at that. Yet those students who ace such tests, appear in the eyes of themselves and others to be 'smart enough' to get good grades, right? Colleges use the likes of SAT scores as a sizable factor in deciding which students to admit - do they tell you who's 'smart enough' for college? Most will automatically nod their heads appreciatively at a high SAT score which shows that they are 'smart enough', yet many of those who initially score low on such tests, will take something like a SAT Test Prep, to get their scores up to 'acceptable' levels - did those test preps make an unsmart person, 'smart'? There are Test Prep's for every course in college - why bother with college? What relation does being 'smart enough' have to having 'knowledge' and 'wisdom'? If the ability to recall facts and data is not the same thing as having knowledge about what they are facts of, will the short-term memorizing of facts to get A's on tests, lead to building sound knowledge and the wisdom to apply it, or will it lead to something else? And what are we left with as those short term memories fade away? We tend to appreciatively nod our heads 'yes' that test scores tell us something worthwhile about who is, and isn't, 'smart enough', when maybe we should be more vigorously shaking our heads 'No!' to the entire notion.

Another consequence of our orienting our educations around tests, is that such tests expect specific 'answers', to the specified 'questions' that the test taker has been given, questions which are necessarily as meaningless to the student as the answers they are expected to retrieve for them, are. If you've learned that 'answers' are what are to be found to fit the questions you've been told to look for, then finding them is reduced to a trivial matter of either scanning for them 'out there' in the materials that someone else has told you to retrieve them from, or by recalling memorized materials from 'in here' which someone told you you'd need to know in the future ("This will be on the test") - those with some experience of life may be having doubts as to whether life's challenges tend to unfold in such a scripted manner. Such 'answers' to 'questions' are less learned, than stored, and they are that way because they were always less about developing the understanding of students, than with a *wink-wink* between Tests and Schools (with many students in on the gag) to make each other look good, neither of whom are too concerned that the student hasn't learned what the given answer means, or why the question was thought to be worth asking in the first place.

Students who are taught in such a way are put in a prime position for unwittingly living out the old truism of
'appearances can be deceiving'
, which should bring to mind Reagan's quip that
'their problem is that so much of what they know, just isn't so'
, and you should be thinking of that because that is the process by which they come to 'know' so much that just isn't so.

Sure, it is useful to be able to find answers that appear to be needed, but are the questions worth asking, and if so, Why? To that, they rarely have answers and even fewer questions. This entire process which students are misleadingly taught to think of as 'thinking', has reduced reasoning to little more than a mental CTRL+F to find an 'answer' located 'out there' on random pages of popular opinion, as directed by one group or another's handy-dandy flowchart of 'critical thinking' steps .

Especially in the world today where any information can be found in no more time than it takes to type a request for it into a browser, 'answers' are easy to find, but it's the questions that are hard to come by. When you've developed the sort of familiarity with the underlying matters that comes from a close consideration and reflection upon them, your own understanding will give rise to questions that you'll think worth pursuing, as well as an appreciation for the sometimes very different questions that others might raise. That appreciation for the questions themselves will bring a purposefulness to the effort of resolving them, and without that... you're left with the empty act of collecting answers to other people's questions, neither of which you can have any more interest in than the grade you're rewarded with for having fetched them.

No doubt you've seen an echo of this on a daily basis, in the many virtual friends you've seen become overnight 'experts' on the constitution, or viruses, or impeachment, after 'finding answers' on the internet - AKA: 'doing research' - while giving little or no consideration to the questions behind them. Not surprisingly, when these experts new found 'knowledge' is questioned, most will erupt into furious attacks on whoever it is that questions them, demonstrating neither knowledge nor wisdom in their responses, but only a pathetic helplessness in the face of what they 'thought' they knew. How much different do you imagine it to be when those who go to school - primary, secondary, college and post-graduate - and are 'educated' by means of textbooks, fill in the blank worksheets & multiple choice tests, are themselves being taught to find the answers to other people's questions - what do you suppose that such graduates will most likely experience when faced with a situation where they aren't told either what questions to ask, or what answers to find? The 'knowledge' that their grades will certify them to have acquired, will likely be of a brittle sort that rarely questions its own answers, and routinely lashes out defensively at being questioned by those who lack what they've been so expensively certified to know.

What can the experience of such 'knowledge' and 'wisdom' be, but a kind of learned helplessness? Of course not all students come through our educational system as brittle as that, but they do so because of something in themselves, not because of the educational system that we put them through. The nature of our entire educational system, and the default thinking for those who've graduated through it, is one of 'promoting learned helplessness', and it's with just such cracked & rotten mental building blocks, that the terms and structures of our 'woke' world today are predominantly built with.

Do we still know what Knowledge is?
At this point it'd be a good idea to go back to the first rule of logical reasoning (which comes after first having a reasonable understanding of what it is you intend to get all logical over), and that's to check that our premises are true: What do we mean by Knowledge, and then what do we mean by Wisdom, and are they what we've been thinking they are?

The first 'internet definition' that pops up for Knowledge, is this:
"facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject."[emphasis mine]
Which is a rather pragmatic idea of 'knowledge', where the fact gathered and stashed isn't concerned with it being true, but only that it 'works' - whether that be to get an 'A' on a test, or applause from the crowd, or whatever else might be served by it. And what about the chasm which that 'or' that I bolded, leaves unbridged? We'll come back to that in a moment, but be aware that this is not what is, or at least what once was, meant by Knowledge. The current Webster's online - somewhat surprisingly - gets closer with their definition, the first line of which is:
'(1): the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or...'
, the next three entries are restatements of that, and then wedged in at the fifth entry is one that harkens back to an earlier understanding
"the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning"
Returning to the 'or' above, it is a very modern assumption that there's no valid connection between the "...theoretical or practical ...", but the connection between them is that a theory which doesn't work in practice, is an invalid theory, and it is the faculty of reasoning that is concerned with identifying such connections. Those pretending that there's no connection between the theoretical and the practical, more than likely prefer to speak of 'critical thinking', than capital 'R' reasoning, and are more than likely deeply invested in giving elaborate lies the appearance of respectability (hello modern 'economics' and 'critical race theory'). That modern gap is expressed again two more entries below that in a fractured combination of old and new, with the very modern quantitative gathering of facts ('sum') with little or no regard to the 'quality' of what's been gathered:
"the sum of what is known: the body of truth, information, and principles acquired by humankind"[emphasis on that reoccurring crack, is mine]
, while a less modern usage of 'knowledge' begins to come through from the 14th century, as
"capacity for knowing, understanding; familiarity"
Excuse me if I get too graphic here, but the sense of what Knowledge actually is, IMHO is better conveyed with the last entry's reference to the old euphemism of 'knowing someone in a biblical way'. The process of gathering knowledge isn't accomplished as one might go about picking up shiny pebbles and dropping them into the empty sack of a mind; the process is more akin to intimately knowing how one 'fact' integrates with another, then pressing forward to reveal the hidden aspects that aren't visible from the surface, pushing in deeper still to further integrate them into the depths of all that you know, and from that act of penetrating into what can be known, the 'depth' of your knowledge is more than implied, it's established. Without that intimate familiarity, you can have no deeper knowledge of a subject, but only the shallow 'Informational Text' that most students acquire about it in their promiscuous acquaintances with random facts & data, made more akin to classroom STD's, than to lasting knowledge - they may know many facts, but they do not have knowledge of them.

Put less provocatively and more geometrically, if you'll think of a fact as a geometric point, it will follow that any two points form a line of data, and that any additional point outside of that line will establish a shape between them - a third forms a triangle, a fourth expands to a rectangle or a square, with five a pentagon, and six a hexagon, etc., - each shape enclosing a wider space of information within a plane. With that in mind, and in much the same way that a triangle is to a tetrahedron, or as a square is to a pyramid or a cube, I propose that:
'Information is to knowledge, as flat geometric shapes are to three dimensional objects'
The question then is, as 3-Dimensional objects have depth through the vertical axis which 2-Dimensional shapes lack, what should we imagine would provide that vertical dimension to knowledge, which the flat plane of information is lacking?

It might help to imagine (or recall) being told to memorize the dates of the Boston Tea Party, the battles of Lexington & Concord, Bunker Hill and Yorktown, dates which are important facts containing useful information about the American Revolutionary War, but it feels two dimensional, doesn't it? Even *advanced* classes which might have thrown in still more dates to memorize, and added in a host of names like Franklin & Washington, George III, and possibly even an entire timeline of names, dates & events involved in our revolution; those data points will still lack the depth of knowledge - not to mention interest - of which they are only information of. It's only when at least one higher level conceptual point is integrated into that informational space, that your understanding realizes a vertical axis to rise above the flat informational plane of mere facts & data, enabling you to enter into the object of what you know. With that, what had been a two dimensional data square of length and width, is transformed into a three dimensional object of knowledge having real depth, and with each additional concept the object of what you know is developing not just in appearance, but in weight and substance, from the inside out, into a pyramidal form, a cube, a dodecahedron, and eventually into a well rounded three dimensional sphere.

Having that conceptual component is what gives the thinker something to think about and room to think about it in, in a way that is not possible to do with a simple flat fact - a date is just a date, even multiple names & dates & labels, are but flat and deathly uninterestingly facts. It's only when you begin adding conceptual depth to the flat informational plane, that those revolutionary events begin to develop an understanding and interest in the nature and struggle for Liberty (which is... what?) which you'd previously had only information about. When each data point in what you know, itself anchors another 3-D point, it serves as a natural framework for further questions ( what point does Liberty integrate into Law, and into community) seeking to fill in the inevitable gaps in a person's knowledge, extending both outwards (... is Law separable from Justice, community, and government), and inwards (... how does virtue extend from education and morality), further integrating any new set of facts & concepts into the spaces between what had been known, developing a more well rounded knowledge through a process that can and should continue ad infinitum, 'for as long as you both shall live'.

Importantly, in developing a knowledge that's worthy of the name, we begin perceiving patterns within the information and concepts running through what we have knowledge of, general rules of thumb - principles - palpably organize and strengthen our understanding of what we know, leading the mind into a deeper familiarity with them, and our ability to learn from and apply the knowledge we have. Such principles, whether they be in mathematics, or science, or the arts, help us in further recognizing a harmony in what we know, and what is discordant with it, helping to safeguard the integrity of our knowledge, i.e., the person who has a knowledge of thermodynamics, will, when presented with a plan for a perpetual motion machine that violates the familiar principles of thermodynamics, they're freed from wasting further time considering the scheme. Note: That's not the same thing as saying 'Perpetual Motion violates the Laws of Thermodynamics, therefore it's bunk', which, although it might 'work' in most cases, is more like an 'answer' to someone else's question. Instead, when we are able to see into what's been proposed, unsupported violations of principles which we're familiar with, then we're able & equipped to knowledgeably identify the proposal as a deceptively shallow scheme. Would that the editors of the New York Times 1619 Project, had been able to do the same, but alas, they have far too many degrees certifying the information that they know, while having little or no knowledge of it.

It is an important 'test' of knowledge, that when a person is presented with information and assertions which jostle or conflict with what their knowledge is comprised of (such as the 1619 Project's assertion that America was founded to preserve slavery), they will mentally sense that a link cannot reasonably be made between that which they're being told, and what they have knowledge of - something in the facts, data, information & principles (if any) that they're being asked to accept into their knowledge, won't integrate, and a mental jolt of doubt rises into awareness that something is 'just not right' and 'just doesn't fit. Such natural doubts let us know that we need to re-verify, or at least need to think more deeply about the matter, and begin questioning and reexamining what the relevant pieces are, and how to best fit them back together. But those who've never learned to intentionally seek & establish that depth wherein one part of what you know, is integrated into the rest of what you know, are unlikely to experience real doubts when fed a contradiction, a falsehood, or a lie (hello again to the anti-American 1619 Project and those witlessly teaching it).

There are most definitely consequences to individuals and to society, when their people who lack actual knowledge of a matter, are asked to accept or act upon that which a knowledgeable person would recognize as being absurdly unwise to do. The ignorant person who's been led to see their head full of unprincipled information & wishes as knowledge and wisdom, will very likely comply and go 'rushing in where angels fear to tread', even to the point of imagining that good intentions can transform lies into something suitable for teaching to children.

I've often brought up Voltaire's observation,
"Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities"
, and this is exactly the sort of situation where it comes into play, where a person or people who have only a two dimensional grasp of facts, data and information, and no knowledge of what they mean, are unlikely to see the absurd in what they're told, and the door is opened that much wider to repeating the worst lessons that history has to offer.

So now let's continue on with checking our premises by going back to Webster's 1828 dictionary, which is situated at the border between the classical and modern worldviews, for its definition of knowledge. The 4th entry has that modern sense which we should be wary of, presenting knowledge as a shallow 'acquaintance with any fact' - especially useful for 'good grades!' to those that care for nothing more than a trivial grasp of the facts & data of 'Informational Text'. Left with being neither knowledgeable nor wise, though believing themselves to be, they're unable to identify or avoid the absurd or the atrocious, which fosters an attitude of cynicism and skepticism towards all knowledge and wisdom - that society which rests and relies upon them as their 'best and brightest' is led into accepting those absurdities, and eventually committing those atrocities, which Voltaire had warned against.

On the other hand, the first entry in that same definition from Webster's, offers us a clue to the way out:
1. . A clear and certain perception of that which exists, or of truth and fact; the perception of the connection and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy of our ideas. We can have no knowledge of that which does not exist..."
, as does the second entry's reference to a tragic line from from Shakespeare:
2. Learning; illumination of mind. Ignorance is the curse of God, knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.
Those two classical references do point the way forward, while the 'modern' definitions lead down the shadowed path of pro-regress. There's a dangerous ambiguity in thinking about the terms of knowledge and wisdom as being flat and disconnected items 'acquired' along with other terms, less like even Lego blocks, than smoothly interchangeable slabs lacking in those three dimensionally connective qualities that enable your thoughts to align with, link up to, integrate into and permeate throughout all of the rest of what you know.

As our standardized tests make abundantly clear, it is easy to quantify our ability to recall facts, but as the degreed fools plaguing us make clearer still, whether or not those facts have progressed within your mind to the point of having the quality of knowledge, and how much wisdom can accompany them, is a very different and more difficult issue to determine than any multiple choice, fill in the blank, or True/False test will ever be capable of measuring.

With that in mind, it'd be wise to take a closer look at what it is that we mean by wisdom.

Is thinking of 'Wisdom' as a thing to be acquired, wise?
A person - young or old - can acquire facts and information and have no wisdom in regards to it, and that is what I think my friend had in mind with the comment that had 'wut?'d me, but I question whether they can gain the quality of Knowledge which is an 'illumination of mind', without also gaining wisdom relating to it, and that brings me back to my question:
Can you be knowledgeable about a subject without having wisdom regarding it?
Even with those 'book smart, life dumb' folks firmly in mind, I've been shaking my head 'no' to that, and it's time to start looking at why. If we look for 'Wisdom' on the internet (ahem), the first definition found is,
'the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.'
, which although not too bad, gives the impression that 'Wisdom' has all the depth of being awarded a merit badge for having successfully acquired some useful things. Even the 1828 Webster's only pokes around the edges,
"1. The right use or exercise of knowledge; the choice of laudable ends, and of the best means to accomplish them. This is wisdom in act, effect, or practice. If wisdom is to be considered as a faculty of the mind, it is the faculty of discerning or judging what is most just, proper and useful, and if it is to be considered as an acquirement, it is the knowledge and use of what is best, most just, most proper, most conducive to prosperity or happiness. wisdom in the first sense, or practical wisdom is nearly synonymous with discretion. It differs somewhat from prudence, in this respect; prudence is the exercise of sound judgment in avoiding evils; wisdom is the exercise of sound judgment either in avoiding evils or attempting good. Prudence then is a species, of which wisdom is the genus."
,but this more describes what those who are wise do, than it describes what Wisdom is, which is a typically modern reversion to the sophistry that Socrates found himself battling against, for just as knowledge is more than facts and data and information, Wisdom is more than knowing what one should and should not do. Prudence and Practical Wisdom are contained by Wisdom - species of its genus - but far from being stand-alone skills, they are the results of that wisdom which gives rise to them, and treating either one as the 'thing itself', reduces the whole into being less than the sum of its parts, and dangerously faulty structures will be built from that, both within, and without.

What is it that gives rise to what wisdom is? Let's spiral in towards the target by going back to an earlier and once common understanding, with a line from Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics:
"wisdom is a combination of both the virtue of science and the virtue of understanding"
(Book 6)
[emphasis mine]
, note the synthesizing 'and' there, and not the disintegrating 'or' of the earlier quote on knowledge. And bringing us right up to the edge of the bullseye, is Thomas Aquinas's commentary on Aristotle's comment:
"Hence wisdom is a combination of understanding and science: Wisdom, in declaring the truth about principles, is understanding; but in knowing the things inferred from the principles, it is science..."
Thomas Aquinas [Commentary on Aristotle]
Now with that description of what Wisdom is formed from, we can begin to poke at the bullseye of what Wisdom is, and what it emanates from, through this passage from Aristotle's Metaphysics, noting that,
"...the point of our present discussion is this, that all men suppose what is called Wisdom to deal with the first causes and the principles of things; so that, as has been said before, the man of experience is thought to be wiser than the possessors of any sense-perception whatever, the artist wiser than the men of experience, the masterworker than the mechanic, and the theoretical kinds of knowledge to be more of the nature of Wisdom than the productive. Clearly then Wisdom is knowledge about certain principles and causes..."[emphasis mine]
There are a couple points in that to look closer at. First being that as "... Wisdom is knowledge about certain principles and causes...", then someone who has true Knowledge of a matter cannot be entirely lacking in what knowledge provides to Wisdom, right? For just as Knowledge takes lower level facts & data, raised and organized by concepts to reveal principles, Wisdom results from using those principles that are revealed by knowledge, as a rich and complex musical chord is able to resonate and reverberate out of the several individual musical notes that comprise it, wisdom sounds from those deeper first principles that it is the science of. 

As the person who has Knowledge, and the person who has Wisdom, use the same medium, principles, the person who is knowledgeable has through those principles some wisdom, while the person who is wise, having greater access to such principles, has deeper and greater wisdom which enables them to see deeper and farther with. Wisdom naturally anticipates effects from causes that are often not visibly apparent to those who are as yet conceptually unaware of them, and while the person we call Wise has more of it, the person who has Knowledge, rather than a sack full of facts, has some wisdom as well. The person who is Wise, differs from the person who is knowledgeable, by degree rather than by kind, having a greater familiarity with those principles which wisdom makes a deeper study of, and more intimately aware of the relations between the principles that they are familiar with, begins to reveal and integrate them into still deeper principles, and on down into First Principles, which govern all subsequent connections in our wider understanding.

And that brings us to the 2nd point from that passage of Aristotle's: Did it seem odd to you that Aristotle placed the artist above the man of experience in wisdom? Is your immediate reaction to that, that it seems backwards to you? I'll suggest that that is more a result of the modern corruptions and inversion of understanding, than in Aristotle having gotten it backwards. No doubt as well, that those parents and teachers today, will, with their students in mind, be baffled by the very first line of Aristotle's Metaphysics, which is:
'All men by nature desire to know'
, but they would serve their students better to question the nature and quality of what it is that they've been taught, and the materials it's being taught with, rather than the natural desire of students to develop knowledge and wisdom.

Because the Pro-Regressive nature of modernity has reversed matters, put 'Descartes before the Horse', as it were, it seemed reasonable for my friend to remark that youths may seem to have knowledge, but not wisdom, but the truth is because the two are inseparable, they have the appearance of the one, and none of the other. It's not that students today have lost an ability to have knowledge and wisdom, but that what we teach them as being knowledge, isn't, and so they don't have the wisdom that would've accompanied it, and as their educations aren't centered around either... well... here we are.

The smart youth whose head is full of little more than the facts & data that they've been trained to recall and regurgitate, do not have knowledge, and without knowledge there can be no wisdom, only at 'best' a certain cunning and craftiness that is taken as being 'smart enough'. The process involved in acquiring capital 'K' Knowledge requires employing mental effort in the reflection upon, and contemplation of a matter in such a way, that questions about it naturally arise in their own mind, as well as a desire to seek for answers which extend 'the facts' they know of deeper into the rest of what they know about that subject. Understanding what gives rise to such questions that are worth asking, and what is involved in the asking of them, realizing the implications of pursuing them, that not only takes, but leads to knowledge and an ever deepening grasp of what it is that you understand that you do know, and seek to know still, and Wisdom naturally results from that.

What wisdom does not result from, are lifeless textbooks and fill in the blank worksheets, because they do not lead a student to contemplate the material being learned, nor will they prompt worthwhile questions to arise within them and prod the learner to seek answers in principles, in a process that spirals and resonates through the mind of a person who is being or has been educated.

The natural habit of mind of one who desires to know, is abruptly put a halt to by the application of True/False, Multiple Choice tests and Fill in the blank worksheets which do little more than install 'the answer that kills the question', and sows the weeds of 'learned helplessness'.

The skilled regurgitators of facts, who've never learned to question, consider & reflect upon what they know, and who instead develop a pragmatically dismissive attitude towards principles in general, and their relation to the rest of what they know, are led into the illusion of thinking that the facts that they were required to acquire, were all that they needed to know (needed? Why? To make something 'work', no doubt, 'for the moment', not to understand why it did, or its implications). However, when not indoctrinated into viewing facts as flat and isolated trivia, the student who is habituated to the process of learning as a knitting together of facts and data and ideas and principles, into three dimensional structures of knowledge, enjoy a continual inner prompting towards further understanding, and in being introduced to contemplative and active reasoning, they are naturally brought into an awareness of the wider implications and considerations which pertain to what it is that they know. For them, when receiving a question about what they know, it is taken as less an attack, than an opportunity for further exploration.

To have knowledge in that form is to have an adequate acquaintance with both facts and their relations to other facts and ideas in their understanding, and some wisdom unavoidably accompanies the development of that, acquainting them with further principles which leads to their becoming a 'principled person' - not as a priggish performance, but as a result of what they understand to be true. Such a person is also far more likely to have the wisdom to recognize (know thyself) that their knowledge and wisdom is incomplete, and to realize that what they do possess, is a very different thing from the degree of wisdom that typically comes only from the experiences of having put their knowledge and wisdom to the test in the moment (prudence), and of consciously reflecting upon the successes and failures which follows from doing that (practical wisdom), which is something that those who've only acquired facts by answering other people's questions, will not and may never have.

In short, wisdom, with its thoughtfully penetrating grasp of first principles, is a principled means of seeing beyond the immediately obvious, to seeing causes that may not yet even be visible to the naked eye, leading them to anticipate results which those lacking their knowledge and wisdom have no obvious reason to expect. The wise person has naturally come, as Blake put it, to
"... see a world in a grain of sand And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand..."
, which can only come from having a principled understanding of how one thing relates to another in ways and manners that never occur to those who are lugging around a sack full of facts, data and information, and lack that wisdom which comes from first having knowledge of them that is more than certified as being 'knowledge' in name only.

To have facts alone, and not their relations, is to have very little knowledge, and worse, those who've been credentialed as knowing what they need to know, are unwise enough to think themselves not only wise, but wise enough. And never having heard of Practical Wisdom, Prudence, or those experiences which it (hopefully) results from, are typically unwise enough to rush in where angels fear to tread.

How Americans lost America
The question which my friends post raised, and led me to the worried teacher's comments, also connected up with another comment in another thread which highlights the motive power that brought us to where we are today, and that is a tragically common assumption which has ensured that we remain very far from knowing ourselves, and it is well expressed in this too common complaint that college should be about helping you to get a good job, and worse, that your tuition should not
"... force you to fund other departments (arts, english, etc) ..."
, or go towards requiring or supporting non-technical classes and curriculum. If you'd like to pinpoint that moment when Americans began to diverge from our Founder's generation, it came at that intersection of having willingly exchanged meaningful knowledge and wisdom, for trivia & ideology, and having accepted the notion that a student should go to college (or any school) to get a 'good job'. Rushing down that path is what ushered in the pragmatic innovation of primarily acquiring facts and data and of testing for the ability to retrieve them, the STEM darling of 'Informational Text', being preferable to outmoded notions of 'knowledge' and the left turn through which the world we deal with today became a tragically guaranteed fate.

There is of course nothing wrong with acquiring marketable skills, or in spending time and money in doing so, but that was once understood to be something that you gained experience and knowledge of through apprenticeships, and not by going to college. Going to College wasn't where you somehow 'got an education', it was where you deepened the education you already had, and a very sound education was had, and is still easily attainable by most anyone, by the time of their early teens, which is one which would naturally and continually deepen in and throughout their adulthood.

I suspect that Mike Rowe's idea of sending most students to technical schools to learn a trade, would not have bothered our Founder's generation at all, they probably would have quickly understood and enthusiastically supported the idea of establishing technical schools for learning the skills, habits and important information needed to excel in a job or profession.

Most of our Founders' generation (not all, there were a few of them who actually, though unwittingly, put us on this path - Noah Webster (yes, the Dictionary guy who pointed our dictionaries and textbooks towards becoming what they are today), Dr. Rush, and others) would have been stunned at even the possibility that Literature, Math, History, Arts COULD be referred to as somehow being 'other departments' of a college - those subjects were what the colleges were!

It would've been equally stunning to them (because it is a supremely stupid idea) that everyone should go to college, or that it would even be useful to most people, let alone to everyone. Our Founders' generation would also have been shocked at the notion that a people could live in liberty without having a liberal education, as is expressed in Thomas Jefferson's statement that:
“...if a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was & never will be...”
and no, there is no contradiction between thinking that only a few should go to college, and thinking that everyone should be educated! Jefferson's statement was not meant as a call for higher SAT scores and diplomas! College was for deepening the already solid educations of those who showed an unusual interest in and knack for diving deeply into the details of a liberal education in order to get a deeper and more intense understanding of those subjects than they could've managed to get on their own. There was and is no need or point for those who aren't both inclined to and adept at, to go college, and sending those with only one or none of those requirements, is a foolishness which makes us all dumber and poorer for it. Knowledge and Wisdom are not synonymous with getting 'good grades', and becoming Educated is not simply a matter of attending school, and it never needed to become anything like the now twelve year slog that all are subjected to today, let alone the miserable fourteen, sixteen or even more years, that the 'educated' are made to suffer today.

The point of getting an education was to become capable of, and worthy of, living in liberty ('educare', to lead out of oppressive ignorance) which can only be secured by knowledge, understanding and wisdom, without which a person would too easily become a thrall of another, and that core purpose was easily accomplished for most people in just a few short years ("Reading, 'riting & 'rithmatic"), and most people - remember, the Federalist Papers were written for the average man-on-the-street, even the letters written by the soldiers in our Civil War, were far more literate than Jill Biden's 'doctoral thesis' - pursued a deeper education on their own and with friends, while some others sought out more specialized tutors, and a few applied to college (where most were rejected for not meeting the minimum requirements).

Replacing Knowledge and Wisdom with Facts and Data leaves only Ideology
What we today should rebel against, is confusing the attaining of such skills with getting an education. The notion of going to college to get trained in technical skills 'to get a good job', should appall us, and the notion of having a Liberal Education (in the sense that is almost non-existent today, even and especially in so-called 'Liberal Arts Colleges'), being made to play second fiddle to a student acquiring technical skills, would've been recognized by our Founders' generation as being the darkly counter-revolutionary ideal that it is. The leading edges of what was to come were already a huge controversy in the early 1800's, when Harvard, and then Yale, began offering 'Law school' as part of a college education, followed soon after by Harvard's dis-educational innovation of encouraging students to choose 'elective classes' - a student becomes a student so as to learn from those who know better what they lack understanding of, and not as a means of picking tasty treats from the end of a cafeteria dessert line of '*knowledge*'. The notion that getting an education could come second to that of getting trained in useful jobs skills, would've caused even more violent riots than what followed from the first attempts to convert colleges to something like that, prior to the Civil War.

The endarkened world we live in today is the realization of their well founded and worst fears of what such innovations would bring to pass. Where once we had knowledgeable youths who lived lives worth living, we now have credentialed fools who are afraid of and hostile to the thought of other people thinking differently than they do.

The truth is that the point of modern education has always been - no matter how well intentioned it may have been in its beginning (which is questionable) - to redirect students from developing a proper familiarity with knowledge and wisdom, and to focus them instead on utility, pleasures, and economic power, which is now cloaked in terms of what is 'politically correct', or 'woke' virtue signaling. The knee-jerk response that most have to such schools today, has been to pull students out of public education and send them instead to private, charter or home schools... but if they then use the same textbooks, worksheets and tests, are they really being taught anything fundamentally different than they would have been taught in a standard public school? I'd say no, and if you want to protest that private, charter or home schools, teach those materials more effectively than they do... is that really a good thing? Think about what you mean by knowledge and wisdom, and what will and will not lead a student to them!

Ideology doesn't lead you out, only in
One result of slighting an education that actually educates and 'leads out' from those easily ignorant habits and misconceptions which enslave, a consequence of trivializing knowledge and the wisdom to apply it, is the growth of what the quote from Vaclav Havel's 'The Power of the Powerless' at the top of this post came from, and that's ideology and its philosophical handmaiden, Pragmatism. The wider passage which that quote came from, is this:
"...Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them. As the repository of something suprapersonal and objective, it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves. It is a very pragmatic but, at the same time, an apparently dignified way of legitimizing what is above, below, and on either side. It is directed toward people and toward God. It is a veil behind which human beings can hide their own fallen existence, their trivialization, and their adaptation to the status quo. It is an excuse that everyone can use, from the greengrocer, who conceals his fear of losing his job behind an alleged interest in the unification of the workers of the world, to the highest functionary, whose interest in staying in power can be cloaked in phrases about service to the working class. The primary excusatory function of ideology, therefore, is to provide people, both as victims and pillars of the post-totalitarian system, with the illusion that the system is in harmony with the human order and the order of the universe...."
The barbarous abomination that is our 'educational system' today, is an entirely modern concoction, which began to be fully realized upon us through the pro-regressive 'progressive' era (especially the 1890's+) and is guaranteed by its approach, content and style, to do exactly what it has done: To Pro-Regressively produce a nation of uneducated people who go into debt (thralldom) to others for the privilege of being credentialed with work papers ('Diploma') which permit them to 'participate' in 'our' system, ruled over by experts 'for' us.

If you want your kids, or yourself, to get an education today, don't go looking for it in our establishment schools - you won't find them teaching what they don't believe in and viscerally oppose. If you've got kids in establishment schools - public or private - getting them out would be the wise thing to do. Don't pursue regress, pursue knowledge and gain wisdom, and don't accept what leaves you lacking in both.