Posted by: Harold Knight | 11/02/2009

FRENZY UNLEASHED, or –life, liberty, and the pursuit of WHAT?

Random thoughts (or how one hypergraphic mind with bipolar grandiosity works)
The Eve of All Saints, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day.


All Saints (or merely souls) Day

This blog is NOT a personal journal published for the world to read. I’m putting all this stuff out into cyberspace because I, in my grandiose bipolarity (or something), think it might be interesting. Folks who have no clue might find a way of thinking about my two little demons (and they are small), Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, and (perhaps) Bipolar Disorder.

I know the danger (stupidity?) of my putting stuff out where anyone can read it. But I ask: do you really, honestly think anyone who was determined couldn’t find your stuff? Dream on. If you’re reading this, you’re in the great data base in the sky (or at NSA/CSS). A year ago I was listening to the ironically-named call-in show on our NPR station, KERA, “THINK.” Krys Boyd, the pseudo-intellectual host, asked her guest, who had written a book about the “security” industry, if we aren’t becoming a “security state.” The guest replied that the only true security state is Israel. And she said, “Yes. Exactly. I hope we’re becoming like them.” NPR may hope we’re “becoming a security state.” I don’t. Which of us already has her wish fulfilled? 
Random thoughts.


Sometimes my hypergraphia morphs. I can’t get a grip on it. Not often, but once in awhile. This weekend I was in a frenzy pursuing another compulsion and could not stop. The same as this frenzy, but I have nothing to show for it. Is writing something to show for frenzy? I channeled my frenzy into productivity. I graded a few student essays. I love teaching. But if you think teachers have some kind of cushy job, I’ll send you an essay to grade. The universe doesn’t contain enough gray matter, patience, or frenzy to fix most student writing.

The students this semester are writing about the First Amendment. Their first essay was about the background philosophies of the Declaration of Independence, especially, “nature’s God” and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

One student says that the “greatest and most important” legacy of John Locke’s “religion of nature” (as opposed to “natural religion”) is property rights. My student says life and property are the most important rights, and that government’s purpose is to protect those rights. That may be a correct reading of Locke. I don’t know enough to say. I do know that the First Amendment does not mention property. That comes in the 5th Amendment and again in the 14th Amendment. The Declaration of Independence doesn’t use the word “property.” Random thoughts. 

The “religion of nature” interests me. I could write a book (maybe tomorrow if I can concentrate on writing and not let my frenzy slip away into something else). Is capitalism part of the “religion of nature?” Or does capitalism simply pay lip service to the “religion of nature” to justify running roughshod over people, the way the Leninists and Stalinists did except they said the natural state is one where no one owns property. Same difference, isn’t it? I think resorting to “the religion of nature” to justify anything is likely to end in tyranny. Just as the “religion of anything” does.

My student then makes the pronouncement that, without the “religion of nature,” the protection of property through “due process,” and our concomitant laissez-faire economy, the government could involve itself in such projects as heavily regulating business, assigning different citizens to different jobs, and controlling the distribution of wealth.

My fevered brain couldn’t keep up with that. All that from the Declaration of Independence? What, you might ask, are English composition students writing philosophical/historical essays for? They’re not. They just get carried away and forget the point is to make a sound argument. But that’s yet another chapter.  Random thoughts.

I asked him to ponder our national rejection in the last year or so of his interpretation of the “religion of nature.” Government is doing what he says is impossible: regulation, assigning jobs, and controlling wealth distribution. Of course, if W. Bush’s government had been more involved in those things, we might not have slid into the position that the government had to take over those functions in a trillion-dollar way, distributing great wealth upwards.  

Where was I headed before my derailment by random thoughts? All Saints, all Souls. I attended a retreat on the Eve of All Saints designed to gain insight into forgiving and being forgiven by someone who is dead (saint or soul, take your pick). I wish I could explain my line of thought from the NSA through Chris Boyd, through natural religion, through the Declaration of Independence through laissez-faire property rights, through the W. Bush tyranny, through the trillion-dollar gift to the rich, to here. It connects in my mind. I tell my students to write so Poor Dumb Reader can follow all of the connections of their thinking (notice I did not say “logic”). I don’t practice what I preach. How did I get here from there?

Samuel West's church

Samuel West's Church

Oh, yes! This began (believe it or not) with my finding out in an email at 4 AM today that a friend of mine from forty years ago is in prison for sexual assault on a minor. In the state where he was found guilty, his crime is called an “[act] constituting a crime against nature.” Nature. Nature’s God. Natural religion. Crimes against nature. I am devastated. My frenzied brain has no way to wrap it self around this concept in regard to my old friend (whom I have not seen for thirty years). The All Saints Eve retreat. Sitting in my imagination face to face with the dead perpetrator of a crime against nature trying to find the words to forgive him. Unable. What is “nature?” What is “natural religion?” I know what a crime against one young boy was (is). I know the horror. I have no hesitation calling it a crime. But I don’t get this “nature” stuff. Who is to say what is “natural?” Is security in our property more important than security in our person? Who are we to say? If God exists. . .  I no longer even know how to finish that sentence. Nature. If I suffer from bipolar disorder, from temporal lobe epilepsy, is it natural? Is it a trauma? What about the “crime against nature?” Did it play a part? How about my friend in prison? I have no answers to these questions. They are not “rhetorical.” They are mind numbing, and, I should think, overwhelming for anyone. The answers may lie in one’s “faith.” That does not, however, mean the answers are the same for any two of us, or that they are “natural.”

But for the civil authority to pretend to establish particular modes of faith . . . and to punish all that deviate from the standard which our superiors have set up, is attended with the most pernicious consequences to society. It cramps all free and rational inquiry, fills the world with hypocrites and superstitious bigots – nay, with infidels and skeptics; it exposes men of religion and conscience to the rage and malice of fiery, blind zealots, and dissolves every tender tie of human nature; in short, it introduces confusion and every evil work.   
    West, Rev. Samuel (1730-1807). “On the Right To Rebel Against Governors.” An Election Sermon preached to the Council and House of Representatives of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, May 29, 1776. Archives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (Rev. Samuel West, Pastor, Congregational Church of Dartmouth.)



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