Friday, March 30, 2007
Transparency, Sacramentality and Representation
Lets start with the politics. As G.K. Chesterton explains in his What's Wrong With theWorld, the big shift from medieval to modern power was its being handed over to the people. Of course we all know that "the people", in modern democracy", are "represented" by "their people". So the moderns erected the pillar of transparency upon which thier construct might stand. You can't have the representatives of the people making decisions in a sacred and hidden castle chamber like that of an English Medieval king! Everyone must see what everyone is doing so that everyone may keep everyone from screwing everyone over. Only problem is, as history unfolded, it seems not to have prevented everyone from screwing everyone over; but that's a digression from the topic of transparency itself.
Because the question or issue of transparency is actually an issue of sacramentality. That which is sacred is that which is hidden. Either the king's sovereignty - and perfectly legitimate right to rule from his castle - is sacred, or his hiddenness mirrors the hiddenness of that which is sacred. Another pillar upon which modern democracy rests is desacrilization. If that which is sacred is hidden, and we want to see everything, then, well, everything can't be sacred (of course)!
So we have arrived at the epistemological question. To know is basically to see something, for something to be a spectacle of your vision (or at least that has a lot to do with the origin of the idea). Interestingly, however, the Greek verb "to see" is "thea", which, of course also very much has to do with the sacred. "Thea" also means "god". Ever heard the term "theology"? Interestingly, once recently I was having a conversation here (search "transparency" if you want to find the sub-conversation in that conversation) with a contemporary American lawyer (Catholic, interestingly) who claimed that Socrates and Co. lauded and spoke of "transparency" as one of the highest of virtues. For one, of course, the above history tells a different story; but as well any time Socrates and Plato ever even spoke of knowldege, they were at least partially making references to the divine! Modern projection, dude! Jeez. Again, however, concerning projection, I digress. But just to give an idea of how deeply transparency runs in our bloods: even Neitche, despite his distaste for the moderns, still lived in an epistemologically transparent space!
On to everyday living...we spend a good fraction of our lives staring through a mechanically-made "windshield". What need exists for a windshield if no one presumes transparency in the first place!? Damn bodies of wind (which we can't see)...they just get in our way now. And what good is a city hall these days without curtain windows? Or at least a big huge glass entrance. Before modern glass? Just make everything white! Take a little stroll around Washington D.C., and you'll see what I mean. And here's an interesting example from "everyday living" that many of you may not have seen before.
The way I see it, this whole issue hinges around a question of representation. This, however, is the broaching of a huge topic, but I will keep it short, sweet and relevant. Basically, in terms of the question of representation, you can sort it out into a question that is asked or answered in the two ways outlined above. That which is hidden -and held in extremely high regard, even called "sacred", protected, "hallowed" - might be revealed in the appearances of this sensible world. Or there might be nothing sacred. It becomes our sacred duty to uncover all that might otherwise be sacred. To expose it to view, to know its workings. Even to control it technologically. Interestingly, however - as some have noted - after that point in history the physical universe seems to have ceased existing.
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