Sacred Whispers – Canto Two

Tradition is a dang’rous word, to me.
Not the me of song, but rather it is thee.
The me of placeless condescension,
And of ration’l righteous derogation.
The me in ignorance of his own past.

For while the push of old, and pull of new,
Doth guide the thoughts of men who blindly grow,
The structures of their mind on shifting ground,
When all that’s seen and seen to be is found,
Still blurry and unclear: a fancy’s dance…

…the masters hold their minds in chains and binds,
They show the way, and hold the reigns that guide:
The voters, plebs, the serfs, and slaves alike,
All are bound, enraptured in delight,
Before the splend’rous stories told from on high.

The power of the empire is the might
Of state, the strength of state is in the nation’s bite,
And as the people are the nation’s fist;
It’s lofty stories that inform their grit.
So if allowed, the bard is seldom low…

Tales around the fire of lengthy evenings,
Of great and mighty heroes and of kings,
From whom they all descend, and take their traits,
Virtues, quirks, and thus a glorious future make.
All behind the tongue of skillful bards.

In every song and tale there lies a test,
Will he who sits in shade beneath the best,
Rise to meet the challenge set – or maybe…
Go beyond the simple path and daily
Strive for greater things than any other.

But more than that the tales bestow a truth,
No single lesson, but a tree to bear fruit,
In newer ways to view their world and;
The ground on which a fact may thusly stand,
In full embrace of all and held in kind.

All the while; those bards, those wily wards of thought,
Will craft themselves the place within – they sought,
So built within the frame we’ll find them,
Champions of vital tales; the gems
In need of care and polish, lest they dull.

The finest bards are those who act their works,
With all their grandest foibles and their quirks,
Carried through in faithful acts to creed and will,
Or perhaps even to simple thrill,
As alluring as his words; are they all.

They speak the earth into its great purpose,
A wonder to enjoy or as a nurse;
We’ll know it by their song, be it the sky
In open space eternal? Or a mine,
Of precious gifts that only need be grasped?

Thus only in the wake of word and deed,
At last we find a full and honest creed,
To follow in their footsteps laid ahead,
We’ll know the sight and smell; and taste the bread
That nourishes our souls and calms our fears.

We know at once from whence we hail and rest,
Both who we are, and who we were, a blessed
And providencial folk of fate divine.
We as they once sung these chants but lost the cry,
Among the multitude of fleeting ‘me’s’.

Measured by the skill of bards and heroes,
When they as we once trod the path that goes,
Beyond the lives of mortal, ration’l man,
Our hardened hearts eschewed the easy; and,
Set ourselves upon the path to glory.

Crafting virtue into words was made
An easy task, so too the words to deeds.
Words to guide, and words to show the truth now-
Known and felt, a truth to which they all would bow,
With pure and righteous words upon their lips.

A single tool was now required to fill
Their hearts and minds – to now at last reveal
The path to: all we see around us hence:
In stone and steel their will is left to us.
But by that last component lost – we’re blind.

Only through a lifetime spent in works do
The stories, truths, and lofty virtue true,
Begin to make and grant a loyalty,
Giving a purpose, and drowning the ‘me’,
In a sea of honour, duty, and resolve.

Even the shadow of a valiant thread,
Only partly spied – not fully known. Yet
Working on the world and minds, revealing
Wants and ways, a tradition appealing
To the need for guidance in life and thought.

While heroes blazed the trail, the multitude
Grant conviction, strength, and sire the brood
To march the story, onwards, ever on.
And only then does a tradition become:
A Civilisational foundation.

But they were not to know it yet, for they:
Huddled around a warming fire, would pay
The fruits of their devotion forward, and
Through great and terrible dismay but grand
Designs and plans now built, on humble thought.

The glow of fireside hopes – yet warms me
Even now, and though their names are lost in seas
Of time and noise, the lore they felt and loved,
Once dragged the earth into the sky above,
Defiant in their fight against the fates.

Critiquing Critical Theory

Critical theory builds on the theories of psychoanalysis put forward by Freud, and applies them to areas of literary analysis (among other areas) and has yielded a number of fields which take specific framings to deconstruct entities and relationships which claim to reveal realities about power imbalances. An oft repeated maxim of the use of models is that: the outputs are only as good as the inputs. This is one case where a whole field is corrupted by the systematised proliferation of models which encourage bad inputs derived from unstated and often undue assumptions.

The exact framing and assumptions used in each case vary slightly depending on the specific subject, but to take a critical gender theory lens; the representation of femininity and women, as pitted against men and masculinity – will be used to generate conclusions pertaining to the writer, the reader, and/or society at large. For example: Romeo and Juliet may be said to provide encouragement to a view of masculinity which is aggressive, and domineering, whereas femininity is demure, accommodating, and subservient. The prevalence and wide readership of this book thus subjects many to this categorisation and way of being – which reinforces existing stereotypes, and guides men and women into discrete positions in society in the dominant and submissive positions respectively. The conclusion might then be something like; Romeo and Juliet thus needs to be removed as a central pillar of literature if women are to be equal – else successive generations of girls will continue to be subjugated by the patriarchal encouragement of the text. In this example then, how many assumptions have been smuggled into this (admittedly rather basic) analysis?

As in most such instances, a social constructivist approach is assumed, by the implication that this piece of media is informing interactions and expectations of conduct; where there had prior been, and thus where there would otherwise be: equality. It is assumed that equality is either preferable, or ‘good’ in a metaphysical sense. It is assumed that the portrayals of these characters are designed to be taken as uncritical recommendations of conduct by the reader/viewer, and that they are indeed viewed that way. This list is far from complete, and only covers the elements which are known to be questionable, but nonetheless – many of these broad assumptions apply in other critical theory fields. Whether through the lens of race, sexuality, class, or potentially any other characteristic, a dichotomy is set up between the two considered categories, and observations drawn out with relevance to prevalent attitudes or historical relationships. This would be the more neutral view of what is taking place during these analyses, though this neutrality – again, makes certain assumptions about ideals and preferences.

Drawing all of these presuppositions into an entire field of study is justifiable perhaps – if these presuppositions are either continually reinforced and proven, beyond doubt (and/or true by definition), or engaged with in the full knowledge that they may be incorrect – or indeed are subject rather than objective assessments. None of these options seem to apply to the outputs of critical theory.

In order to reverse this issue, and prevent the products of this flawed methodology damaging our collective understanding, quite simply the reverse of the above stated problems must be implemented. If a charitable interpretation of the conduct is maintained, then it ought to be simply encouraged that the practitioners of critical theory make themselves more aware of the totality of the justifications for their subject, rather than accepting tenuous conclusions as fact for their starting point. Or even merely that they acknowledge that their presuppositions are flimsy, and factor that into the analysis. If these practitioners are not trusted however, then the issue becomes more difficult – as it must be tackled from the outside.

In the past, study was rarely consigned to a single specialist subject, and most academics would have a basis in philosophy (or generally the foundational building blocks of their subject) which would then allow them to construct their own contributions atop this more foundational understanding. This was particularly true in Ancient Greece, but so too during the Enlightenment and Victorian eras, though ever less so in these latter two periods. In light of this, while it might be perhaps desirable to reimplement the same expectations of a more complete academic education in order to be considered a serious contributor to the academic world – the requirements this would impose on the sciences may be considered intolerable compared against current needs. If this is not an option then, a specialist response may be required.

The mistakes made in the fields of critical theory are elementary in the sphere of formal logic and philosophy, and so the expertise developed there might be drawn upon. It is however, not an issue solely possessed by critical theory, as many more fields (of the social sciences particularly) make certain presuppositions of sometimes dubious merit. Therefore, a refined method of observing and perhaps even criticising the connective tissue of these fields – could be a field in itself (if we must make it a separate field). The issue of how a subject is framed, what are the devices used to frame it, and whether the frame itself leads to certain conclusions; are all meta-topics which need to be discussed and considered for all subjects as a form of audit, which might prevent the runaway self-replicating but ill-founded authority of an academic field which has an illogical founding. If this proposal requires a name, then perhaps something akin to; Skeletology, or Framology – the study of frames and frameworks.

The obvious structural issue here, and a potential barrier to this subject having any real success is that it – by design – treads on the toes of vested interest groups within these institutions. There is little reason to think that any field of academics will willingly accept the judgement by an outside entity – that the subject of their life’s work is illegitimate, but this is a necessary outcome if the newly proposed field is to have any meaningful effect. In all likelihood then, any attempts to manifest this suggestion will have to take place outside of the established academic context if it is to be honest, truth-seeking, and unconstrained by institutional pressures which have thus far been the purview of the administrative university apparatus.

To gather this all together then: to untangle the web of assumptions, presuppositions, and accumulated baggage of academic specialisation, a field of study perhaps ought to be introduced which can conduct itself across the range of all these disciplines to take a wider view of whether their core assumptions and by extension sometimes their currently constituted existences – are warranted. To take some examples outside of the aforementioned and subject of this piece: is it reasonable to separate business as a distinct entity of study, rather than one of a number of forms which all function similarly given certain conditions? Is there such a thing as a psychological baseline ‘norm’ from which deviations can be measured, or are there merely observable characteristics of individual or group-level psychology? Are the assumptions of materialist rational self-interested individuals in economics – reasonable? Many of these sorts of questions are posed within the subjects themselves, but their conclusions are often leveled merely as criticisms of certain models, rather than being taken to their paradigm-shifting logical conclusions (where they are sufficiently significant, of course). Unifying these efforts under the microscope of philosophers with the appropriate training ought to, as previously stated, streamline these efforts, and escape the muting of the implication of their findings.

Therefore, let there be a cadre of philosophically trained, rigourous, and clear-thinking analysts; who can state with clarity and categorise the assumptions, presuppositions of different fields and subjects, and how topics are grouped, with an eye to streamline and clarify these disciplines now that centuries of specialisation have siloed them, despite their ever increasing authority and prestige.

Sacred Whispers – Canto One

Alone I stand; among the great and old,
Towering heights and finest sights untold.

The depth of carved inscriptions glow a hew
Of echoes found of knowledge sown but left
Fallow when none would care to reap, bereft
Of their once mighty claim or yet – perhaps;
The mighty will of these descendants: lapsed.

And yet, these towers, raised up to the gods,
Project the wisdom of an age, a nod
To all who care to see and understand
Or heed their call: a roundly felt command.
Those who did are lost, they who might, are far.

And so I trace a hand across the stone,
So close and yet deep in the unknown,
My fingers clasp at knowledge found, and yet,
The truth is shrouded ‘neath a lone regret.
Of lost language and a way to convey.

But even as the words are rent from rock,
And pulled as though they’re held by key and lock,
I know there lives no wisdom there, for while
I may unpack the signs, there is no style,
No thought, nor mind – a loss to endless time.

The death and thus ideas lost of those,
Who gave this stone a skin, ‘tis they who know,
While here – a mere creation left, to grant
Insight anew, never to know or plant
In fresher minds while sure of what they thought.

A solitary tear for every thread,
In hopeless want of more, and extant dread,
Of what may yet await me and my kin
Even while they stream down my face in vain,
In thankless, careless shadows of judgement.

To those about me; ignorant of cost,
Do they know that all is clearly lost?
Can they ever know the pain – or will they
Drown in canny schemes until the final day.
When all that’s left is ash beneath the stone.

These faces know no grief or empathy
But ignorance is blameless while they see
No thing beyond their eyes and ears, and so
Put signs upon their sight and claim they know
The feelings, thoughts, and knowledge held in kind.

These signs, these symbols held in kind, aloof,
Eternally they wear the mask of truth,
But can no sooner peer beneath
The veil – than change these laws with mere belief.
Behind the veil they stay – ‘neath lock and key.

And while we may yet touch the truth beneath,
It hides amongst the fog in lofty keeps,
Deliberately elusive of our gaze,
Unless it is mere man that crafts the maze.
It matters not, for blind – we shall remain.

Behind high walls; in wait the truth doth lie,
But even when they’re scaled, it will pass by
Without you ever knowing where it hid,
And so you’ll plant your flag to make your bid,
And hope your company is wise and true.

A wise detective you may be with tools
And expertise to match, but you’re the fool
If you attempt to peer into the mind
To see what’s held beyond the flaws of sign.
Or worse, to look into infinity.

You may convince the masses of your truth,
But know that it will stand up proud, aloof,
And rise beyond your small desires and wants,
For though you kneel beneath the sacred font,
Your god is silent – but his judgement: swift.

From atop your perch you’ll fall and wonder,
How it was your bond was split asunder,
By whom you were betrayed, for what, and why,
And as a humble seer of truth you’ll die,
Still blind to where the truth did hide that day.

Enough of your demise and fall; ‘tis they,
The men who went before – who’ll have their say,
Their glyphs and signs – though murky to decrypt,
Might yield the grandest tale, behind the script
That I, as humble seer of truth – will find.

Scribbles sheath the stone, and still elude me,
Their rocky etchings grin with teethy glee,
Betrayed by dancing satyrs with their pipes,
Who play a rhythm oft and true – to strike,
A reader with their music on the air.

I see the notes in play across the sky,
They sing a song of once titanic rise,
Atop the shoulders; great, of heroes found
In times of strife – who brought from out the ground,
A splend’rous age of virtue and plenty.

These men who held the bellicose masses
Close to hand and heart but knew how to dress
Their words in elegant delights and thus,
United man in common cause to truss,
The walls of empire, kin and kith – for me.

I: the sage; beyond the age they fought
To make their own, beyond the goods they bought
And sold, beyond the trifles, wants and needs,
Beyond the petty rivalries and greed:
See the ghost of what was once a mighty will.

Their relics carry through the ages past,
But all will fade to dust and then at last,
The signs will lie beside the minds they crave.