terça-feira, 19 de abril de 2011

Giving Nietzsche Eyes

In my previous post, commentator Nietzsche made the following comment:

"I'll provide another scenario. A secluded island of peoples that have no contact with Christian missionaries or the bible. Are they born Christian? Do they believe in Jesus or Jehovah? No, again goes to prove that without teachers or missionaries, Christianity like other pagan religions will die out. The only people who perpetuate the "faith" is its followers."

Consider a community of blind men who are strict empiricists. From their perspective, lacking the sense of sight, they would be unable to verify the existence of colours, and any statements with regard to colour, shape or pattern would be,from their point of view, unempiric and hence unscientific. Statements concerning visual phenomenon would be unable to be verified and hence would be articles of faith; a body of knowledge belonging to the category of superstition.

Now suppose a sighted man, literally a visionary, told them about the phenomenon of colour, how could they discern if they were telling him the truth or not? They can't, because they lack the sensory capacity to confirm the subject in question.

The core idea behind empiricism is that perception is the window to reality, and that any understanding of reality must be perceptually confirmed.

People say that seeing is believing. But seeing is not believing; thinking is believing. Seeing is knowing; everything else is emotive hope, probabilistic guess or reasoned theory.

Commentators Brockmann and Neitzsche have put forward the argument that without sensory input of any kind, a man would fail to be Christian, and that religious belief is conditional upon personal circumstances. Their view is partially correct. Men inherit their faith from their ancestors and certainly, for the unreflective man, faith is a circumstantial habituated practice.

The reflective man however has a problem. He questions and challenges his faith, and if logically consistent, finds that there is nothing in the Universe which supports his view. Thieves prosper, the good are murdered, and the completely innocent suffer tremendously. Empirically, there is no way he can confirm that Gay Marriage and Adultery are objectively wrong. Statistically he may be able to find data that supports a respective religious vision, but he cannot find any data the confirms a creed. As commentators Brockmann and Neitzsche imply, ought cannot be derived from is and hence the implication that transcendent truths are unknowable, and therefore arbitrary fairy stories; cognitive products of the imagination for whatever reason.

They are, of course, logically correct.

And yet they are wrong.

Because their understanding of the human perceptual capacity is in error.

I wish to illustrate what I mean by starting off with a passage of biblical text. Not because I want them to believe in the veracity of the Bible, but because the text succinctly explains the difference between believers and non-believers and problem of Modernity.
As it is written: God hath given them the spirit of insensibility; eyes that they should not see; and ears that they should not hear, until this present day.

(Romans 11:8 Douay-Rheims)
Note the term insensibility, the inability to sense or perceive. This is not a play on words, as different translations of text refer to same phenomenon. The Christian fathers did not think of faith as a cognitive process but a sensory modality. In their view, unbelief was not the product of faulty thinking, it was the product of insensibility; a perceptual failure.

To them, faith was a sixth sense; an eye or ear-like faculty which allowed us to perceive non-physical realities. When the Christian fathers asserted that men should not commit adultery, they were not plucking something out of thin air or making a rational calculation based up their value preferences; they were being empirical.

Where the strict empiricists(and quite a few Christians) go wrong, is in assuming that the phenomenon of faith is a cognitive process, the end point of some form of emotive or faulty rationalisation, instead of a sensory phenomenon.

A great example of this "perception"sense in operation, as opposed to cognitive effect, was the motive force behind C.S. Lewis' own conversion to Christianity:
"You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England" (Surprised By Joy, ch. 14, p. 266). (My italics)

Lewis was no gullible idiot. Here, what we see in this passage, is Lewis wanting to rationalise away a perception or experience that he was having. Like someone suffering a sore tooth, which forces itself to their attention, Lewis was being nagged by some form of unwilled sensory stimulus. His conversion was not the product willed rationalisation but of an unwanted experience: The intruding sense of "Him" was felt/percieved rather than willed. Lewis had no choice in the matter, in the same way he had no choice in choosing the colour of the sky.

When a man of faith says murder is wrong, it's akin to him saying an apple is red or the sky is blue. It's a statement of fact rather than opinion. Of course to the "blind" man who believes that all men are blind, there is no such objective thing as redness, saying that the apple is red or the sky is blue is purely arbitrary.

The Church fathers recognised that the "faith-sense" was the weakest of all senses, through which we saw "through a glass darkly", much like looking through a cataract affected eye; broad shapes can be detected but the detail eludes us. I imagine that a very undeveloped form of this faith sense is what explains humanity's default morality. All people have a crude understanding that murder and theft are wrong, and they understand that they are wrong at a deeper level than cognitive explanation, they percieve them to be wrong.

It's this lack of sensory acuity which probably explains the profusion of religions, men have felt the pull of transcendence or mistaken an experience as transcendent, and interpreted the sensation incorrectly, in the same way that a group of nearly blind man can discern human forms but disagree with regard to the identity of them.

The atheist mistake is in assuming that the divisions amongst the religious are due to differing rationalisations instead of differing interpretations. To use our nearly blind group of men analogy, the atheist or rationalist blind man thinks that the man affected with the severe cataracts is making things up, whilst the man with the cataract is trying to understand what is going on. If you were to take a group of men with cataracts and present them with a the image of a person at a distance, one will say its Fred, some will say its Bill and the others will say its Judy, they will all know that they have percieved something even if they are not sure what it is, but the blind men, being unable to perceive, will assume that the cataract affected, are making things up.

What separates the Moderns from the rest of humanity is in this perception of "something else" beyond the five-sense barrier. And Christians ,in particular, should understand that from the atheist perspective (those who lack the faith sense), religion is logically ridiculous. And it is this fact that poses a huge practical problem for conservatives and it also gives an inkling of what we are up against.

When Christopher Hitchins or his ilk argue that faith is just superstition and "fairy stories", they are absolutely correct from their objective point of view. You see, Hitchins et al, live their life assuming with certitude, that there is no such thing as "faith-sight" and any statements with regard to "faith-colours or forms" are arbitrary. The honest ones amongst them are like blind men, who truly and honestly believe that there is no such thing as sight, and any statements regarding such are rubbish. Trying to convince these men, by rational argument, of the existence of transcendent moralities is by logical necessity, going to fail. In order to get the get the militant atheists on side you've got to get them to "see". They literally can't think their way towards religion because good thinking without faith is irreligious. Or to put it another way, arguing with them is like arguing with a blind man about the nature of colour, there is no way you can get him to "see" red.

This "faith-sense", not being a renationalisation process, cannot therefore be experienced by acts of rationalisation. Blind people cannot experience colours by study or by rational argument; they have to sense them.

The only way past this impasse is by some way granting them the ability to "see". The Church fathers also recognised that this faith sense was not "intrinsic" to our being but was rather a bestowed gift of God.* That means petitionary prayer; asking God to give our enemies "sight". This is why there will be no HBD or atheistic conservative revival (they may be able to give the appearance of conservative revival but it will eventually degenerate into leftist decay, it's a movement trying to empty a bathtub with a seive). They are operating within the same sensory frame of reference as do the atheists.

The West is doomed unless men start praying to God for revival and conversion of their enemies. When the monasteries start reappearing, that's when you know it'll all be right.

*(Personally I'm not so sure of this, I sometimes wonder if we all have this sense but that it becomes dulled either by Divine will or by evil human habit or will, i.e the sense is intrinsic to our being.)

extracted from the Social Pathologist

terça-feira, 12 de abril de 2011

The Last Days of Layne Staley

The Last Days of Layne Staley

by Charles R. Cross
Rolling Stone
June 1, 2002

In the summer of 1987 , guitarist Jerry Cantrell walked in a raucous Seattle party and saw a man at the center of it all , with bright pink hair pilled atop his head by means of fire poker. "he had a big smile on his face, and he was sitting with two gorgeous woman," Cantrell recalls of the moment he met Layne Staley. Cantrell didn't have a place to live, so Staley took him back to what passed for his residence - a dumpy, piss-smelling rehearsal studio where both would live for the next year. And when Cantrell heard Staley sing, he was convinced their friendship would be a lasting one: "I knew that voice was the guy I wanted to be playing with. It sounded like it came out of a 350- pound biker rather than skinny little Layne. I considered his voice to be my voice." Sometime in the first week of April, that oversize voice - which fueled a half-dozen radio hits and helped sell millions of albums - died along with Staley. On Friday, April 19th, his body was discovered in his Seattle condo. The medical examiner estimates Staley had been dead for two weeks, putting his date of death roughly as April 5th - the exact date, eight years earlier , when Kurt Cobain took his own life. A heroin cooker and a syringe were found next to Staley, and though authorities remain uncertain of the cause of death, drugs clearly played a role. Staley was thirty-four. His death ends the fifteen-year history of Alice in Chains, of the most successful Seattle bands of the Nineties. It also ends one of the longest-running personal tragedies in rock, as Staley's protracted drug problems were well documented both in the press and in his powerful lyrics. Half of the songs on 1992's 4- million- selling Dirt touched on heroin addiction, a theme that Staley detailed painfully in such songs as "Junkhead" and "Down in a hole." "I wrote about drugs, and I didn't think I was being unsafe or careless by writing about them, " Staley told Rolling Stone in one of his last interviews. "They worked for me for years, and now they're turning against me - and now I'm walking through hell." The end didn't come as a surprise to band mates who had watched his slow deterioration and failed rehab efforts, but it still left them grieving. "It's like one of the world's longest suicides," says Alice in Chains drummer Sean Kinney. "I'd been expecting the call for a long time, for seven years, in fact, but it was still shocking, and I'm surprised at how devastated I am." Staley's death came at a time when the influence of Alice in Chains on modern rock seemed greater than ever. Groups as diverse as Creed, Puddle of Mudd and System of a Down show Alice's influence in their dark sounds and themes. "When Dirt came out, the thing did not leave my CD player," says Sully Erna, whose band, Godsmack, shares its name with an Alice song. "I've never heard someone's voice hit the tape like that. He's the reason I started singing." Staley was born on August 22nd, 1967, in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland. He began as a drummer but quickly switched to singing with his first garage band, sleze. While most Seattle groups were exploring punk, the initial incarnation of Alice was decidedly glam - Staley wore baby-blue satin suits on stage. "He had a real cockiness about him," says musician Johnny Bacolas, a longtime friend. When Staley teamed with Cantrell, Kinney and original bass player Mike Starr, Alice in Chains quickly gained a Northwest fan base. "He was funny and lucid, and without a doubt he was not reluctant to be a star," remembers Pearl Jam Mike McCready. Alice signed to Columbia in 1989, and on an early tour they headlined above the then - unknown Pearl Jam. The band played itself in the Cameron Crowe movie Singles, and "Would?" - its contribution to the soundtrack became Alice's first hit, in 1992. Dirt quickly followed and went platinum. By late 1993, as Nirvana and Pearl Jam cooled off, Alice had headlined Lollapalooza and briefly reigned as the most commercially successful Northwest band. In 1994, Jar of flies became the first EP ever to debut at Number One on the Billboard charts. But even before the band's greatest fame, substance abuse problems - not just Staley's threatened to derail Alice. "We partied like demons." admits Kinney. "It took a toll. From 1991 on, it was getting pretty ugly, and Dirt is a shining example of how ugly it got. No one wanted to address it , because no on wanted confrontation." During the early Nineties, Staley enrolled in several rehab programs , but he failed to stay clean for long. At one point , the other members flew to Los Angeles for weekly therapy at Staley's rehab. "We would have done anything he wanted to have helped him," Kinney says. "Sadly, I felt that what he wanted was for us to leave him alone." Cobain's death in April 1994 scared Staley into temporary sobriety, but soon he was back into his addiction. "Everyone around him tried over and over again to help him get clean," says Pearl Jam manager Kelly Curtis. "In the end there was little else anyone could do." Alice's managers turned down lucrative touring possibilities and kept the band off the road, hoping that would help. With Alice temporarily on hiatus, Staley formed a side project called Mad Season, with McCready. "I told him ," McCready says, " ‘You do what you want, you write all the songs and lyrics. You're the singer.' He'd come in , and he'd do these beautiful songs." The resulting album , from 1995, quickly went gold and spawned the hit "River of Deceit." McCready had hoped that playing with sober musicians would encourage Staley. "I was under the mistaken theory I could help him out," he says. "I wanted to lead by example." But Staley's descent continued. After 1995's Alice in Chains, which also went to Number One, the band played only a hand full of dates. Its final shows were as the opening act for kiss, one of Staley's favorite bands. The biggest blow for Staley came in October 1996, when his long time girlfriend , Demri Parrott, died of bacterial endocarditis as a result of her own drug abuse. "He never recovered from Demri's death," says Mark Lanegan, formerly of Screaming Trees and one of Staley's best friends. "After that, I don't think he wanted to go on." Following Parrott's death, Staley moved to a penthouse condominium in a secure building and rarely answered the door or the phone. His health deteriorated to such an extent that most of his close friends thought him near death. Abscesses from years of heroin abuse covered his arms, ad he lost most of his teeth. A 1997 internet rumor that he had lost an arm to gangrene became an urban legend. But Staley steadfastly refused to return to rehab and vehemently argued that self - help groups such as Narcotics Anonymous were not for him. "He was way , way past the point where walking into an N.A. meeting would have been sufficient," says a friend. "There were so many rationalizations he had of why he couldn't get better." For several years, Staley rarely left his condo and spent most of his days creating art, playing video games or nodding off on drugs. He began to mix heroin and cocaine, and he started using crack. Even finding drugs became a physical burden, so he employed a series of dealers and other users who regularly brought him what he jokingly referred to as his "medicine." "His daily life," confides a friend, "was just a extreme struggle to get his medicine. His sense of time became so distorted." Acquaintances would visit after an absence of a year or more, and Staley would insist they'd been away for only a month. "It got to a point where he'd kept himself so locked up, both physically and emotionally," says Kinney. "Even if you could get in his building , he wasn't going to open the door. You'd phone and he wouldn't answer . You couldn't just kick the door in and grab him, though there were so many times I thought about doing that. But if someone won't help themselves, what, really , can anyone else do?" It is a question that has plagued everyone who cared about Staley. "I loved him and will always love him," says his manager, Susan Silver. "He was like a brother to me. He was this little broken but gentle spirit. We did everything we could thing of to help him choose life, but sadly the disease won instead. Even as the sickness progressed, Staley's friends and band mates continued to reach out, with little success. "I kept trying to make contact," Kinney says. "Three times a week, like clockwork, I'd call him, but he'd never answer. Every time I was in the area, I was up in front of his place yelling for him." Both Kinney and Cantrell say they hadn't spoken with Staley for at least two years. He did remain close to his mother, Nancy and stepfather, Jim. In February, the family was overjoyed when Staley visited after the birth of his first nephew. Staley's spirits seemed raised, and he used a video camera to capture the event. In early March, Staley's friends speculate, he may have contracted an illness, and with his drug weakened immune system, he couldn't fight it off. "I know for a fact they will find drugs in his system," says Kinney, "but I think his body just gave out." Staley had the wealth to continue his addiction unabated, but , ironically, it was money that served as the tip-off that something was wrong: His accountants noticed there had been no activity on his accounts for weeks. On April 19th , his mother and stepfather went to his condo with the police. At 5:50 p.m. they kicked down the deadbolted door and found Staley's body on the couch. A week after Staley was found, 500 fans gathered at Seattle Center on a rainy day night for a public memorial. "I knew Layne was loved because I loved him," his mother says. "But had no idea he had this kind of impact on so many people." A private funeral the next day brought together Staley's band mates, friends and family, away from the glare of publicity. "It's not the newest story," says Kinney. "It's the fucking rock & roll cliche, and I wonder if it will ever stop. I just hope nobody has to go through this again." Cantrell says he'll choose to remember his late friend from an act of generosity in his pre-addiction days. In 1990, Cantrell and Staley visited New York and were put up in a ritzy hotel by their record company. That night Staley befriended two homeless men. "It was Layne's idea to invite them up to the room," Cantrell says. "We fed them room service and sat up and talked to them all night. That was the kind of guy Layne was - a guy with a huge fucking heart." The addiction was worsening. In 1994, after the release of the ‘Jar of Flies' mini-album, the band cancelled their support slot on a high-profile Metallica tour. Rumours immediately began to circulate; the band had split (true, as it happens, though only for six months); Staley was suffering from AIDS; Staley was dead. The one thing that was undeniably true was that Alice In Chains were once a band who could have it all; now they were in danger of losing it all. In 1995, Alice In Chains regrouped to record their self-titled third album, which emerged in October of that year. Muted and lackluster, it lacked the black-hearted grandeur of ‘Dirt'. Only the first single ‘Grind', with it's defiant opening couplet ‘in the darkest hole you'd be well advised/Not to plan my funeral before the body dies', contained the spark of old. Journalist Jon Weiderhorn interviewed the band for ‘Rolling Stone' magazine around the time of the album's release. Although he dismissed rumors about his health, Layne Staley refused to comment on whether he was still addicted to heroin. Wiederhorn pointed out Staley's "uncut, dirt-encrusted fingernails", and noted "what appear to be red round puncture marks" from the knuckles to the wrist of the singer's left hand. "And as anyone who knows anything about (intravenous) drugs can tell you," wrote Weiderhorn, "the veins in (the) hands are used only after all the other veins have been tapped out." The issue containing the feature hit the news-stands in early 1996. It was the last time that Layne Staley spoke to the press. Alice In Chains played what would turn out to be their final live show on July 3, 1996 in Kansas City, Missouri, the fourth of four scheduled dates supporting Kiss on the latter's comeback tour. Up on the stage, Layne Staley looked ill: dangerously thin and unnervingly pale, he clung to the mike stand, barely moving. At the end of the set, the band took their bows and walked off the stage. And then Layne Staley disappeared. It's not clear whether Staley initially intended to take a temporary hiatus from music, or make a permanent break, but sightings became increasingly rare. Sources close to the band suggest that it was the death of Staley's girlfriend Demri Parrott (sp?), that was the final straw. Parrott, 27, died of a heroin overdose on October 29, 1996. According to one report published at the time, the singer was so grief-stricken that he was put on a 24-hour suicide watch. Friends say that after Parrott's death, Staley didn't seem to care about his own drug habit anymore. In his absence, stories began to spring up. It was rumoured that Staley rarely left his apartment, that he spent all his time painting or playing video games, that he had lost the ability to ingest food and was living on a diet of Ensure - a nutritional drink favoured by vitamin deficient pensioners. The most widespread rumour of all suggested that he had contracted gangrene from using dirty needles, and that he'd had, depending on who you talked to, either fingers, a hand, or a whole arm amputated (an allegation vigorously denied by everyone connected to the band). One man who did see Staley during this period was ‘Dirt' producer Dave Jerden. Alice In Chains reunited in October 1998 to record two new tracks for their ‘Music Bank' box set. The singer, said Jerden at the time, "weighed 80 pounds, and was white as a ghost". In the late ‘90's, Seattle music paper ‘The Rocket' were said to have already written Staley's obituary, waiting for the inevitable opportunity to run it. "We did say that the next time we'd be writing his name it would be for his obituary," says Joe Ehrbar, the editor of ‘The Rocket' during Staley's years of inactivity. "We used to joke about writing his obituary, but we never got round to it." Staley might not have been visible, but a glimmer of his presence was occasionally felt in Seattle. When AIC's longtime manager, Susan Silver, announced her retirement in 1998, ‘The Rocket' ran a piece asking ‘But who's to wipe and clean Alice In Chains now?" "It was a dig at Layne and the constant rumors about his health," says Joe Ehrbar. "A few days later, we received a package containing a jar of piss and a bag od shit, with a not attatched saying, "Wipe and change this, motherf**kers!'. It had to be from Layne. What a classic response." Between 1997 and the time of his death, there were only a handful of public sightings of Layne Staley. Scour the official Alice In Chains message board, and you'll find only a handful of reports from fans (a grey-faced Staley, filling up his sports car in a gas station; a man resemebling the singer drinking in a Seattle bar called the Tractor Tavern). One posting claims that Staley had alienated all his friends, "except his dealer". In 1998, Jerry Cantrell told Kerrang! That the members of Alice In Chains regularly hung out at Layne's house, "drinking beer and playing video games". Twelve months later, Sean Kinney also spoke to Kerrang!. The drummer was less upbeat. "I talk to Layne, but we don't hang out," he said ominously. "I don't live his lifestyle, so his house isn't the healthiest place to be around. I don't need any help to get annihilated." Three years later, Layne Staley was dead, an apparent victim of that very same "lifestyle". Precisely what happened in the years leading up to his death is unclear at the moment; considering the circumstances, there's a very good chance that it'll remain that way. In death, as in life, Layne Staley remains an enigma. At 6 pm on Saturday, April 20, just 24 hours after Layne Staley's body was found, a vigil was held at the International Fountain in Seattle. Two hundred fans gathered to light candles and pay tribute to Staley. The vigil was organized by Alice in Chains fan Cain Rurup via the band's official website. "It's the least I could do for what he gave to me," said Rurup. "Every Alice In Chains album came out a time of my life when I really needed it. They fit like pieces of a puzzle. I think they saved my life, because I had some of the same addictions." Later in the evening, Staley's bandmates Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney, and Mike Inez turned up at the vigil. They were joined by ex-Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell and Susan Silver, Cornell's wife and Alice In Chains former manager. "My heart is broken," said a tearful Kinney, while Cantrell hugged fans. Members of Staley's family are also in attendance; the singer's mother is reported to have spent time comforting grieving fans. The final word should go to Jamie Staley, speaking outside her brother's apartment. "It's clear that people loved him and will miss him," she says simply. "It would mean a lot to him too, to know that this many people loved him."