Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Living in New York City: J. Orlin Grabbe on CHAOS

Foto by tgw, New York City, January 2012
So long to: Roy Hartsfield. As a kid in Dallas, I remember Roy as the Dallas Rebels's second baseman in the Texas League. Later he went to the Majors after managing in the minors for years...and was the first Toronto manager. Adios, Roy. He had a good long life. Roy Hartsfield, 85, American baseball player, first manager of Toronto Blue Jays, complications of liver cancer.

Gus Zernial, another old-time Major Leaguer just died, at 87 (I remember him as a Detroit Tiger). Gus was a heavy hitting catcher. Gus Zernial, 87, American baseball player (Athletics, Tigers, White Sox), congestive heart failure

Reynolds Price, the man who learned to write by imitating William Faulkner has bought the farm. Came out of the closet with his "very sexually frank" essays. He was the protege of Eudora Welty. Nice Southern boy who really did think he was the regenerated Faulkner. Reynolds Price, 77, American author, professor at Duke University.
The Charms of Chaos or How to Approach Chaos Intellectually
We definitely are living in Chaotic times. I first came upon Chaos in the writings of Henry Miller and the paintings of his friend Hans Richter.
Hans Richter: Visionary Portrait--Emmy Hennings, 1917
I have since become a great believer in the inevitability of Chaos (or Entropy: the 3rd Law of Thermodynamics); in fact, I truly believe it is now a living presence in our current-day HUMAN world. The World itself is Chaos splendiferized. The World is the purveyor and controller of Chaos. To the World an exploding volcano, i.e., Krakatoa, is merely a pimple bursting on its face or its ass. To the World having a meteor hit it simply results in a common headache--a few more spiralings around the Sun and soon the headache is forgotten and the damage is incorporated into the workings of the working world.

The following is a lecture given by one of the great minds of our time, the mind of J. Orlin Grabbe, called a genius by all who really knew him, though they also called him a curmudgeon. A man of conspiratorial thinking and disruptive Economics and Sociology, a man who used the sleaziest forms of sexuality as a reminder that we all live sexually chaotic lives, though we seldom openly admit it--and, therefore, since we live sexually chaotic lives, most of our production and thinking and creativity is based on these sexually chaotic lives and our feeling deeply guilty about them. Grabbe in this lecture details the 3 Schools of Theoretical Chaos. It's brilliant stuff. Like this excerpt:
Change, the fundamental motion of
the universe, is bad. If a business goes broke, it's never viewed as
a source of creativity, freeing up resources and bringing about
necessary changes. It's just more unemployment. The
unemployment-inflation tradeoff as seen by Sixties Keynesian
macroeconomics is in the Second School spirit. These endemic
evils must be propitiated by the watchful Priests of Fiscal Policy
and the Federal Reserve, and you can only reduce one by
increasing the other. This view refuses to acknowledge that one
of the positive roles of the Market is as a job destroyer as well as a
job creator.
Like I said, this is brilliant thinking. It's a thinking I prefer. And, yes, Grabbe is a curmudgeon; his points are like barbs--enough barbs break the neck of the opposition, which is a good thing in the Grabbean way of deduction. Read ahead with pleasure:

From the The Daily Growler Hall of Famer, J. ORLIN GRABBE, a Lecture on CHAOS. [J. Orlin Grabbe died of a heart attack in San Jose, Costa Rica, in 2008.]
In Praise of Chaos

by J. Orlin Grabbe
Speech Presented at Eris Society, August 12, 1993.
Version reprinted Liberty, April 1994.
@1994 J. Orlin Grabbe, 1280 Terminal Way #3, Reno, NV 89502
Internet: kalliste@delphi.com

Introduction: The Intrusion of Eris

Chaos has a bad name in some parts. It was chaos that
brought us the Trojan War (Robert Graves, The Greek Myths,
chapter 159). Eris, goddess of chaos, upset at not being invited to
the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, showed up anyway and rolled a
golden apple marked "kalliste" ("for the prettiest one") among the
guests. Each of the goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite
claimed the golden apple as her own. Zeus, no fool, appointed
Paris, son of Priam, king of Troy, judge of the beauty contest.
Hermes brought the goddesses to the mountain Ida, where Paris
first tried to divide the apple among the goddesses, then made them
swear they wouldn't hold the decision against them. Hermes asked
Paris if he needed the goddesses to undress to make his judgment,
and he replied, Of course. Athena insisted Aphrodite remove her
magic girdle, the sexy underwear that made everyone fall in love
with her, and Aphrodite retorted Athena would have to remove her
battle helmet, since she would look hideous without it.

As Paris examined the goddesses individually, Hera
promised to make Paris the lord of Asia and the richest man alive,
if she got the apple. Paris said he couldn't be bribed. Athena
promised to make Paris victorious in all his battles, and the wisest
man alive. Paris said there was peace in these parts. Aphrodite
stood so close to Paris he blushed, and not only urged him not to
miss a detail of her lovely body, but said also that he was the
handsomest man she had seen lately, and he deserved a woman as
beautiful as she was. Had he heard about Helen, the wife of the
king of Sparta? The goddess promised Paris she would make
Helen fall in love with him. Naturally Paris gave the apple to
Aphrodite, and Hera and Athena went off fuming to plot the
destruction of Troy. That is, Aphrodite got the apple, and Paris got

While the Greeks had a specific goddess dedicated to
Chaos, early religions gave chaos an even more fundamental role.
In the Babylonian New Year festival, Marduk separated Tiamat,
the dragon of chaos, from the forces of law and order. This primal
division is seen in all early religions. Yearly homage was paid to
the threat of chaos's return. Traditional New Year festivals
returned symbolically to primordial chaos through a deliberate
disruption of civilized life. One shut down the temples,
extinguished fires, had orgies and otherwise broke social norms.
The dead mingled with the living; Afterward you purified yourself,
reenacted the creation myth whereby the dragon of chaos was
overthrown, and went back to normal. Everyone had fun, but
afterward order was restored, and the implication was it was a good
thing we had civilization, because otherwise people would always
be putting out the fires and having orgies.

Around us in the world today we see the age-old battle
between order and chaos. In the international sphere, the old
order of communism has collapsed. In its place is a chaotic matrix
of competing, breakaway states, wanting not only political freedom
and at least a semi-market economy, but also their own money
supplies and nuclear weapons, and in some cases a society with a
single race, religion, or culture. Is this alarming or reassuring? We
also have proclamations of a New World Order, on one hand,
accompanied by the outbreak of sporadic wars and US bombing
raids in Africa, Europe, and Asia, on the other.

In the domestic sphere we have grass roots political
movements, such as the populist followers of H. Ross Perot
challenging the old order imposed by the single-party Democratic-
Republican monolith. We have a President who is making a
mockery out of the office, and a Vice President who tells us we
should not listen to any dissenting opinions with respect to global
warming. Is this reassuring or alarming?

In the corporate-stateist world of Japan we see the current
demolition of the mythic pillars of Japanese society: the myth of
high-growth, the myth of endless trust between the US and Japan,
the myth of full employment, the myth that land and stock prices
will always rise, and the myth that the Liberal Democratic Party
will always remain in power. Is the shattering of these myths
reassuring or alarming?

In fact, wherever we look, central command is losing
control. Even in the sphere of the human mind we have increasing
attention paid to cases of multiple personality. The most recent
theories see human identity and the human ego as a network of
cooperative subsystems, rather than a single entity. (Examples of
viewpoint are found in Robert Ornstein, Multimind, and Michael
Gazzanaga, The Social Brain.) If, as Carl Jung claimed, "our true
religion is a monotheism of consciousness, a possession by it,
coupled with a fanatical denial of the existence of fragmentary
autonomous systems," then it can be said that psychological
polytheism is on the rise. Or, as some would say, mental chaos. Is
this reassuring or alarming?

Myth of Causality Denies Role of Eris

The average person, educated or not, is not comfortable
with chaos. Faced with chaos, people begin talking about the fall
of Rome, the end of time. Faced with chaos people begin to deny
its existence, and present the alternative explanation that what
appears as chaos is a hidden agenda of historical or prophetic
forces that lie behind the apparent disorder. They begin talking
about the "laws of history" or proclaiming that "God has a hidden
plan". The creation, Genesis, was preceded by chaos (tohu-va-
bohu), and the New World Order (the millennium), it is claimed,
will be preceded by pre-ordained apocalyptic chaos. In this view of
things, chaos is just part of a master agenda. Well, is it really the
case there is a hidden plan, or does the goddess Eris have a non-
hidden non-plan? Will there be a Thousand Year Reign of the
Messiah, or the Thousand Year Reich of Adolph Hitler, or are
these one and the same?

People are so uncomfortable with chaos, in fact, that
Newtonian science as interpreted by Laplace and others saw the
underlying reality of the world as deterministic. If you knew the
initial conditions you could predict the future far in advance. With
a steady hand and the right cue tip, you could run the table in pool.
Then came quantum mechanics, with uncertainty and
indeterminism, which even Einstein refused to accept, saying "God
doesn't play dice." Philosophically, Einstein couldn't believe in a
universe with a sense of whimsy. He was afraid of the threatened
return of chaos, preferring to believe for every effect there was a
cause. A consequence of this was the notion that if you could
control the cause, you could control the effect.

The modern proponents of law and order don't stop with the
assertion that for every effect, there is a cause. And they also
assert they "know" the cause. We see this attitude reflected by
social problem solvers, who proclaimed: "The cause of famine in
Ethiopia is lack of food in Ethiopia." So we had rock crusades to
feed the starving Ethiopians and ignored the role of the Ethiopian
government. Other asserted: "The case of drug abuse is the
presence of drugs," so they enacted a war on certain drugs which
drove up their price, drove up the profit margins available to those
who dealt in prohibited drugs, and created a criminal subclass who
benefited from the prohibition. Psychologists assert: "The reason
this person is this way is because such-and-such happened in
childhood, with parents, or siblings, or whatever." So any
evidence of abuse, trauma, or childhood molestation--which over
time should assume a trivial role in one's life--are given infinite
power by the financial needs of the psychotherapy business.

You may respond: "Well, but these were just misidentified
causes; there really is a cause." Maybe so, and maybe not.
Whatever story you tell yourself, you can't escape the fact that to
you personally "the future is a blinding mirage" (Stephen
Vizinczey, The Rules of Chaos). You can't see the future precisely
because you don't really know what's causing it. The myth of
causality denies the role of Eris. Science eventually had to
acknowledge the demon of serendipity, but not everyone is happy
with that fact. The political world, in the cause-and-effect
marketing and sales profession, has a vested interest in denying its

Approaches to Chaos

In philosophy or religion there are three principal schools
of thought (in a classification I'll use here). Each school is
distinguished by its basic philosophical outlook on life. The First
School sees the universe as indifferent to humanity's joys or
sufferings, and accepts chaos as a principle of restoring balance.
The Second School sees humanity as burdened down with
suffering, guilt, desire, and sin, and equates chaos with punishment
or broken law. The Third School considers chaos an integral part
of creativity, freedom, and growth.

I. First School Approach: Attempts to Impose Order Lead to
Greater Disorder

Too much law and order brings its opposite. Attempts to
create World Government will lead to total anarchy. What are
some possible examples?

* The Branch Davidians at Waco. David Koresh's principal
problem was, according to one FBI spokesman, that he was
"thumbing his nose at the law". So, to preserve order, the forces of
law and order brought chaos and destruction, and destroyed
everything and everyone. To prevent the misuse of firearms by
cult members, firearms were marshaled to randomly kill them. To
prevent alleged child abuse, the forces of law and order burned the
children to death.

* Handing out free food in "refugee" camps in Somalia
leads to greater number of starving refugees, because the existence
of free food attracts a greater number of nomads to the camps, who
then become dependent on free food, and starve when they are not

* States in the US. are concerned about wealth distribution.
But, to finance themselves, more and more states have turned to
the lottery. These states thereby create inequality of wealth
distribution by giving away to a few, vast sums of cash extracted
>from the many.

The precepts of the first school find expression in a number
of Oriental philosophies. In the view of this school, what happens
in the universe is a fact, and does not merit the labels of "good" or
"bad", or human reactions of sympathy or hatred. Effort to control
or alter the course of macro events (as opposed to events in ones
personal life) is wasted. One should cultivate detachment and
contemplation, and learn elasticity, learn to go with the universal
flow of events. This flow tends toward a balance. This view finds
expression in the Tao Teh King:

The more prohibitions you have,
the less virtuous people will be
The more weapons you have,
the less secure people will be.
The more subsidies you have,
the less self-reliant people will be.

Therefore the Master says:
I let go of the law,
and people become honest.
I let go of economics,
and people become prosperous.
I let go of religion,
and people become serene.
I let go of all desire for the common good,
and the good becomes common as grass.
(Chapter 57, Stephen Mitchell translation.)

You don't fight chaos any more than you fight evil. "Give
evil nothing to oppose, and it will disappear by itself" (Tao Teh
King, Chapter 60). Or as Jack Kerouac said in Dr. Sax: "The
universe disposes of its own evil." Again the reason is a principal
of balance: You are controlled by what you love and what you
hate. But hate is the stronger emotion. Those who fight evil
necessarily take on the characteristics of the enemy and become
evil themselves. Organized sin and organized sin-fighting are two
sides of the same corporate coin.

II. Second School Approach: Chaos is a Result of Breaking

In the broadest sense, this approach a) asserts society is
defective, and then b) tells us the reason it's bad is because we've
done wrong by our lawless actions. This is the view often
presented by the front page of any major newspaper. It's a
fundamental belief in Western civilization.

In early Judaism and fundamentalist Christianity, evil is
everywhere and it must be resisted. There is no joy or pleasure
without its hidden bad side. God is usually angry and has to be
propitiated by sacrifice and blood. The days of Noah ended in a
flood. Sodom and Gomorra got atomized. Now, today, it's the
End Time and the wickedness of the earth will be smitten with the
sword of Jesus or some other Messiah whose return is imminent.

In this context, chaos is punishment from heaven. Or chaos
is a natural degenerate tendency which must be alertly resisted. In
the Old Testament Book of Judges, a work of propaganda for the
monarchy, it is stated more than once: "In those days there was no
king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes"
(Judg. 17:6; 21:25). Doing what appeals to you was not considered
a good idea, because, as Jeremiah reminds us "The heart [of man]
is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked" (Jer. 17:9).

And in the New Testament, the rabbinical lawyer Paul says
"by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20), and elsewhere is
written, "Whososever committeth sin transgresseth also the law:
for sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4). And,
naturally, "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).

New age views of karma are similar. If you are bad, as
somehow defined, you built up bad karma (New Age view), or else
God later burns you with fire (fundamentalist Christian view). For
good deeds, you get good karma or treasures in heaven. It's
basically an accountant's view of the world. Someone's keeping a
balance sheet of all your actions, and toting up debits or credits.
Of course, some religions allow you to wipe the slate clean in one
fell swoop, say by baptism, or an act of contrition, which is sort of
like declaring bankruptcy and getting relief from all your creditors.
But that's only allowed because there has already been a blood
sacrifice in your place. Jesus or Mithra or one of the other Saviors
has already paid the price. But even so, old Santa Claus is up there
somewhere checking who's naughty or nice.

What is fundamental about this approach is not the specific
solution to sin, or approach to salvation, but the general pessimistic
outlook on the ordinary flow of life. The first Noble Truth of
Buddha was that "Life is Sorrow". In the view of Schopenhauer,
Life is Evil, and he says "Every great pain, whether physical or
spiritual, declares what we deserve; for it could not come to us if
we did not deserve it" (The World as Will and Representation).
Also in the Second School bin of philosophy can be added Freud,
with his Death Wish and the image of the unconscious as a murky
swamp of monsters. Psychiatry in some interpretations sees the
fearful dragons of chaos, Tiamat, lurking down below the civilized
veneer of the human cortex.

The liberal's preoccupation with social "problems" and the
Club of Rome's obsession with entropy are essentially expressions
of the Second School view. Change, the fundamental motion of
the universe, is bad. If a business goes broke, it's never viewed as
a source of creativity, freeing up resources and bringing about
necessary changes. It's just more unemployment. The
unemployment-inflation tradeoff as seen by Sixties Keynesian
macroeconomics is in the Second School spirit. These endemic
evils must be propitiated by the watchful Priests of Fiscal Policy
and the Federal Reserve, and you can only reduce one by
increasing the other. This view refuses to acknowledge that one
of the positive roles of the Market is as a job destroyer as well as a
job creator.

More generally, the second school has generated whole
industries of "problem solvers"-- politicians, bureaucrats,
demagogues, counselors, and charity workers who have found the
way to power, fame, and wealth lies in championing causes and
mucking about in other people's lives. Whatever their motivations,
they operate as parasites and vampires who are healthy only when
others are sick, whose well-being increases in direct proportion to
other people's misery, and whose method of operation is to give
the appearance of working on the problems of others. Of course if
the problems they champion were actually solved, they would be
out of a job. Hence they are really interested in the process of
"solving" problems--not in actual solutions. They create chaos and
destruction under the pretense of chaos control and elimination.

III. Third School Approach: Chaos is Necessary for Creativity,
Freedom, and Growth

You find this view in a few of the ancient Greek writers,
and more recently in Nietzsche. Nietzsche says: "One must still
have chaos in one to give birth to a dancing star." The first
fundamental point of view here is: Existence is pure joy. If you
don't see that, your perception is wrong. And we are not talking
about Mary Baker Eddy Christian Science denial of the facts. In
this approach you are supposed to learn to alchemically transmute
sorrow into joy, chaos into art. You exult in the random give and
take of the hard knocks of life. It's a daily feast. Every
phenomenon is an Act of Love. Every experience, however
serendipitous, is necessary, is a sacrament, is a means of growth.

"Saying Yes to life even in its strangest and hardest problems, the
will to life rejoicing over its own inexhaustibility even in the very
sacrifice of its highest types--that is what I called Dionysian, that
is what I guessed to be the bridge to the psychology of the tragic
poet. Not in order to be liberated from terror and pity, not in order
to purge oneself of a dangerous affect by its vehement discharge--
Aristotle understood it that way [as do the Freudians who think one
deals with ones neuroses through one's art, a point of view which
Nietzsche is here explicitly rejecting]--but in order to be oneself
the eternal order of becoming, beyond all terror and pity--that joy
which included even joy in destroying." (Twilight of the Idols).

It is an approach centered in the here and now. You cannot
foresee the future, so you must look at the present. But because
"nothing is certain, nothing is impossible" (Rules of Chaos). You
are free and nobody belongs to you. In the opening paragraphs of
Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller says: "It is now the fall of my
second year in Paris. I was sent here for a reason I have not yet
been able to fathom. I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I
am the happiest man alive."

Your first responsibility is to take care of yourself, so you
won't be a burden to other people. If you don't do at least that, how
can you be so arrogant as to think you can help others? You make
progress by adapting to your own nature. In Rabelais' Gargantua
the Abbey of Theleme had the motto: Fay ce que vouldras, or "Do
as you will." Rabelais (unlike the Book of Judges) treats this in a
very positive light. The implication is: Don't go seeking after some
ideal far removed from your own needs. Don't get involved in
some crusade to save the human race--because you falsely think
that is the noble thing to do--when what you may really want to do,
if you are honest with yourself, is to stay home, grow vegetables,
and sell them in a roadside market. (Growing vegetables is, after
all, real growth--more so than some New Age conceptions.) You
have no obligation under the sun other than to discover your real
needs, to fulfill them, and to rejoice in doing so.

In this approach you give other people the right to make
their own choices, but you also hold them responsible for the
consequences. Most social "problems", after all, are a function
of the choices people make, and are therefore insolvable in
principle, except by coercion. One is not under any obligation to
make up for the effects of other people's decisions. If, for example,
people (poor or rich, educated or not) have children they can't care
for or feed, one has no responsibility to make up for their
negligence or to take on one's own shoulders responsibility for the
consequent suffering. You can, if you wish, if you want to become
a martyr. If you are looking to become a martyr, the world will
gladly oblige, and then calmly carry on as before, the "problems"

One may, of course, choose to help the rest of the world to
the extent that one is able, assuming one knows how. But it is a
choice, not an obligation. Modern political correctness and
prostituted religion have tried to turn all of what used to be
considered virtues into social obligations. Not that anyone is
expected to really practice what they preach; rather it is intended
they feel guilty for not doing so, and once the guilt trip is
underway, their behavior can be manipulated for political purposes.

What would, after all, be left for social workers to do if all
social problems were solved? One would still need challenges, so
presumably people would devote themselves to creative and
artistic tasks. One would still need chaos. One would still need
Eris rolling golden apples.


In the revelation given to Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley,
authors of Principia Discordia, or How I Found Goddess and
What I Did to Her When I Found Her, the goddess Eris (Roman
Discordia) says: "I am chaos. I am the substance from which your
artists and scientists build rhythms. I am the spirit with which your
children and clowns laugh in happy anarchy. I am chaos. I am
alive, and I tell you that you are free."

Today, in Aspen, Eris says: I am chaos. I am alive, and I
tell you that you are free.

Courtesy of www.spunk.org/

for The Daily Growler

1 comment:

Marybeth said...

And Jack LaLanne is dead. Who would ever think HE could die?