The Ordeal Of Desire.


"The East has the ordeal of privation. The West has the ordeal of desire". Saul Bellow.
 
It is perhaps the final paradox of the paradoxical age in which we live that while no other has been marked by personal suffering on such a vast scale, yet also in no other have so many agreed that violence and atrocity are controllable in principle. True, most of the appalling bloodshed of our century can be explained as a side effect or function of the technological intensification of modern war, rather than as evidence of increasing wickedness or cynical unwillingness to seek peaceful solutions. Nonetheless, the Western World seems to remain optimistic on one subject, on whom there may be less ground for optimism than any other, the innate improvability of man. Similarly, our belief that a benevolent world order (New World Order) is obtainable seems strangely undisturbed by the colossal spectres looming on the horizon as a result of what has been done so far; we cannot satisfy even basic expectations rapidly enough. There is just not enough power, food, and basic medicine, to go round without redistribution of so dramatic and radical a kind that it cannot be envisaged and would be practically impossible on a reasonable time-scale. Yet desire and envy are outrunning satisfaction.
 
An even more frightening spectra looms behind that one too. May not the West, have in fact, communicated to the rest of the world expectations which are not merely unsatisfiable in the short run of a couple of decades, but unsatisfiable in principle, because limitlessly expanding beyond our power to meet them. It is not just the colossal demands of the burgeoning populations of poor countries for fuel, food, even water, that are so frightening. (Though there may be actual finite limits to our material resources). What is worse is that the faith that history is progressive may have already led us to set ourselves goals, which are psychologically unattainable. Many people seem already to think that any physical or mental pain ought somehow to be removable. Such assurance is a terrible, and a burdensome legacy of our utopianism and our confidence in the rational manipulation of nature. Perhaps it is the same thing, which has been identified by some, as the "Faustian Urge of Western Man" his relentless striving for power, after power, to open the way to felicity. If the West’s ambiguous gifts to mankind include this, then along with our confidence and self-centeredness, we shall have passed to the rest of the world a bias towards self-destruction.
 
John Roberts, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton is best known for his single-volume, ‘History of the World’. In addition his 1985 thirteen part TV series, ‘The Triumph of the West’.
 
What are the moral values, basic beliefs, and world outlook, which lie behind all that we see on television, hear on radio, and read in the popular press? All we can detect is a number of assumptions not logically connected, the power of science and the dominating necessity of satisfying physical needs, especially sexual desires, the duty to be tolerant, complete indifference as to any purpose in the universe; science has destroyed metaphysics. There is nothing to do but to enjoy oneself, with as little trouble to others as possible. It is inconceivable that this philosophy could infuse or sustain a civilization for more than a very short time! R P C Hanson, Professor Emeritus, Manchester University.
 
I think Roberts is right and Hanson wrong. History abounds with examples of really sick societies lasting for hundreds of years, but we do not wish to know about them as it makes us feel uncomfortable.
January 1989.
 
 
 

About luckyme0

My First family, second marriage, bringing up my 18-year-old twins, boy, and girl. I am a third generation Humanist, who has some old handwritten information and notes; collected over many years. Someone may find the articles interesting, or helpful. They could bring back a little ‘reality’, after being ‘shocked’ and ‘brainwashed’, by some malicious group, or institution (REBT Therapy). People should know better, than to do this, to our very young, and the ‘obviously’ vulnerable! Go to easily accessible, non-superstitious knowledge that is not charlatanism! https://charleslizzy.com/2011/08/06/independent-schools-inspectorate-isi-marketing-spirituality-buzzword-or-maybe-even-for-you-to-shiver-at-the-something/ The blog has given me an incentive to order my thoughts, learn, and read up again, after a few non-thinking years of (very silly) imagination and passion. Why not, get your own key to a ‘door’, customise it to suit you, and it can be, all of your very own! Don’t believe, or be led by someone else’s; inherited, stupid, and a very likely (past, and not of today’s) ‘totally preposterous reality’s’. Only some interest in the ‘really big questions’, keeps life above the level of a farce, and very little else! KEEP THINKING! Some of the posts may need some correcting. Interests: REBT Counselling, Atheism, Secularism, Humanism, Psychology, Reading, Popular Science, School Ethos, Philosophy, History, Family, Parenting, Psychology, Horse Riding, Sailing, Rescue Boat Driver, Skiing (Teppichswinger), TV Documentaries, Motorbike Cross Country Riding, Volunteer Sports Stewarding, Writing, Primitive Man, Pre-history, Social Anthropology, British Humanist Association, BHA, Meaning of Life, The Big Questions, Where am I, What am I, Why am I, Hippie Love, Knowledge, Education, Globalisation. Favorite quote: “The world belongs to those who, at least to some degree, have figured it out.” Carl Sagan, ‘The Demon Haunted World’, ‘Contact’, and other famous books DVD ‘Cosmos’. The warning of another and horrendous, “Age of Superstition”. “Isn’t there something deeply absurd in the presumption that children ought to inherit beliefs from their parents. It can be deeply damaging, even lethally divisive. A ‘them’, with an ‘against us’, mentality” – Professor Richard Dawkins. “The will to believe is stronger than mere reason in the vast majority of people” – Dr J.Brown, Army Psychologist of the 1960′s. Humans will believe in almost anything, in fact, they seek it! Why? “98% of us, trained to be just good consumers, let’s train our children to be the 2% who have their very own creativity and discernment”; quote by a famous surreal artist. “The lack of reason brings forth monsters”. “Global interconnectedness is lethal against mass religion, nationalism, racism, and other destructive memeplexes. Let us connect everybody they hate it in restrictive regimes”; from the ‘meme learning group’, Richard Brodie’s book, ‘Virus Of The Mind’ (Richard Brodie a designer for ‘Microsoft Word’). Following on, J.Bronowski, and ‘The Ascent Of Man’ TV series, and a book http://www.bbcshop.com/science+nature/the-ascent-of-man/invt/9781849901154/ with the last DVD in this series, ‘The Long Childhood’ being especially revealing. ‘Prehistory’ and the ‘Making of the Human Mind’ by Colin Renfrew, with P.Wilson’s, ‘The Domestication of the Human Species’, and Nigel Spivey’s, TV series and book, ‘How Art Made The World’, offers some further explanations. Latest reading: Jared Diamond http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared_Diamond
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