Sententiae viri ex temporibus duobus

Finished Snow Crash

Snow Crash was a great book! It’s one of those gold plated volumes of the cyberpunk fiction canon and rightly so. It features all of the standard conventions: cyberspace, rogue-ishly sexy mercenary girls, and a wily hacker with swords.

The part I found most interesting was the discussion of ancient Sumerian myth and “deep neurolinguistic structures”. The idea being that if you could master the fundamental linguistic atoms that humans use to perceive the world you could re-program them. Think a second. Can you think without using words?

No really. Try. Nope? Something changed in how you think when you started realizing you wanted to say something and the big people who bring you food and fresh diapers respond, curiously enough, to sounds associated with those ideas. Fun premise, no?

Continuing on, this book is very much like the other works of Neal Stephenson: adventurous romps across strangely familiar landscapes that you don’t quite recognize.

Interestingly enough Stephenson writes about systems of social control in primitive society. He envisions early men as automata, slave to tradition and information dictated by Witch Doctors (or their equivalents).

(Aside: Hardt and Negri did an excellent breakdown of systems of distributed social control in their book Empire)

Modern man, Stephenson’s characters opine, began when a rational basis for knowledge was formulated. When people integrated the wisdom of Witch Doctors, evaluated it, and then, of their own volition, decided to let pieces of it go.

This is very interesting to me. It reminds me of the slaughter of the Gods when Thales, Anaximander, and Anaxagoras called the myths of Olympus “myths” and boldly urged the Greeks to move towards philo-sophia and science instead of xenophobic fundamentalism and the will of a bunch of nonsensical entities.

Aren’t we glad to have left the Witch Doctor’s wisdom back in the BC era?

Embryonic stem cell debate moves to the Senate

President Bush renews his veto threat…[saying] “The use of federal dollars to destroy life is something I simply do not support”

–From Source

Hm, apparently the work of moving men from ignorance to science has yet to reach its end.

(Aside: Although I would love to see the man who can’t explain how Social Security is better off in the free market pin down the answer to: “Tell me, Mr. President, where does life begin, exactly, and how do you know?” )

In any case, the Witch Doctor’s apprentice at 1600 Pennsylvania drive notwithstanding, Stephenson also wrote about obsessing over the word and demanding church intercessors for one’s faith. Having grown up Protestant I gave Neal a hearty “Hear, Hear”. I’ve just recently shared my agreement with that sentiment here and am surprised by the synchronicity that brings Snow Crash into my life so shortly after having written that post.

Stephenson offers a splendid quote on page 401 in my edition:

Christ’s gospel is … an attempt to take religion out of the temple, out of the hands of the priesthood, and bring the Kingdom of God to everyone. That is the message explicitly spelled out by his sermons, and it is teh message symbolically embodied in the empty tomb. After the crucifixion, the apostles went to his tob hoping to find his body and instead found nrothing. The message was clear enough: We are not to idolize Jesus, because his ideas stand alone, his church is no longer centralized in one person but dispersed among all the people.

People whe were used to the rigid theocracy of the Pharisees couldn’t handle the idea of a popular, nonhierarchical church. They wanted popes and bishops and priests… (Stephenson, Snow Crash, pp 401-2)

I wrote in my book journal, after reading that:

What is Jesus Christ but a koan? Looking for Him, we find only ourselves. Searching ourselves, we find Him. His essence is the latent nothing of Sein (pure being) [cf. Heidegger].

I suppose that it is this mystical Jesus the god-man who told his disciples to forget his body, forget his personage and instead remember his ideals. This is the beauty of the Holy Spirit - a way to make the mystical last forever without the need for the intercessors blocking Pure Communion with God

John 20:22: “And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit…’”

Look at that, the Holy Spirit resides in the breath, take Him in, let Him out. Breath gnosis in, breathe gnosis out (take yoga, master pranayama?). I think Christ’s ministry was of subtlety, of the ineffable, of the quantum. The exact opposite of that? Saint Peter’s basilica?

I’m convinced more and more that this eschewing of blind adoration of the word and the pontiff is where Christianity is/was meant to go.

Obviously this train of thought is still developing…pre-Socratic Greek, Gnostic Christian, Zen traditions, Existentialist interpretations of being, Kierkergaard, Sein und Zeit…they all collapse into something somewhere.

Where? What?

In any case, I enjoyed this book very much!