Sunday, August 8, 2010

Conflict and Duality, or Boys Finding Sex Distasteful

 I realize life is conflict but sometimes it's so funny and seemingly pointless that you either start to cry or the lure of mysticism starts to take over, tempting you to forsake the rational and just wallow in the mystical and the strange.

It's funny how two people, one deeply critical of Abū Ḥāmed Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī (aka Al-Ghazali) and the other nearly worshipful, wind up saying much the same thing at certain points in their otherwise very different presentations.

Oddly enough, where they intersect, saying something like the same thing, is when each of them speak of how human sexuality works, and where it's located.  The rationalist denigrates the engineering of the human genitourinary system while the mystic points out that its "low nature" is a sign of why we should not seek pleasure or happiness based in the here and now, or in the material world.

I'll let you be the judge if there's something here or not, as if I had any other choice in the matter.

The part about the combination sewage treatment and entertainment center actually comes later in this video, at 34:25, towards the end of this 39 minute video. The entire video is worth watching though, maybe more than once?

Then, there is Shaykh Hamza Yusuf's glorification of Al-Ghazali, and what's interesting here is that Yusuf apparently seems to be a leading, present-day voice for bringing at least some aspects of the Age of Enlightenment back to the Muslim world, from which the West largely stole, adopted, adapted or inherited it, depending on your interpretation of history.  He is someone looking to resolve some of the conflicts between the "faithful" and materialist "non-believers" that seems to be at the heart of the resistance and conflict between the materially dominant oligarchies of the West, and the post-Communist world of resource-rich, industrially-lagging cultures outside the "developed" world.

It's not clear, at least not to me, how much headway Yusuf is making, though, as he seems to be demonized as a heretic of sorts himself, or even as a shill for the West, at least if some of his apparent critics have much sway with the masses of believers who have every material reason to resist continuing development and evolutions of capitalism and its mutant offshoots.

I must confess, at least for now, my own abundant ignorance of much of the late medieval history of the Islamic world that leaves me ill-equipped to determine in great detail just what is going on here.  My interest in all this, was triggered mainly by Neil deGrasse Tyson's comments, laying the blame for the collapse of the Islamic Golden Age mainly at Al-Ghazali's feet.

The point of common insight comes here within the larger video below, at 2 min. 25 seconds and onward, though I suggest watching all three videos for the full context.

Perhaps my own sense of present despair comes from knowing how attractive mysticism was, at least when I was younger? Do I truly expect people to forsake that pleasure, transitory as it may be, when the alternatives are rarely as enjoyable or (non-materially) rewarding?

The rewards of being a booster for the scientific-industrial complex, if you will, seem to come mainly if you manage to find yourself in a privileged position as a guru or leader of the committed on that side of the conflict.  Then again, isn't that also true for the spokesmen for faith and mysticism, in many cases?  Perhaps that is an aspect of this that deserves more attention?

The rewards seem to me no better, at least in basic, visceral terms, than the joys of being a well-regarded pundit on the other side of the coin.  Both dress well, and appear to live comfortably.  Someone is going to take those jobs in any still functioning society.  Society, like nature, abhors a vacuum.  Perhaps one day we will have a fully fleshed out "ecology" of social conflicts and the niches they create, that someone inevitably has to fill?

I'm feeling like this is barely scratching the surface, and that my own ignorance, especially of Islamic history from Al-Ghazali's era, is hampering my insights here, but rather than wait until I can write a better comment on that part of the subject, I'd like to open this up in the hope there might be some comments on what I feel has just scratched the surface of some intriguing aspects of human society and the various forms of what we imperfectly label as knowledge and belief.  So here are my undeveloped thoughts for now, as well as I can express them at the moment.

Finding conflict as distasteful as I do, it's times like these that usually lead me back to wanting to just read the Story of the Stone.

Readings that may be related to this article:

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