#150- Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos Part 2
Scott and Karl finish their discussion of Walker Percy’s 1983 book Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book.
Percy’s contribution to the self-help book craze deals with the Western mind’s tendency toward heavy abstraction. With that, he invites readers to think about how we communicate with our world.
The duo dives into Percy’s take on the problem with the self and the way that language works. Karl says, “You can see the cosmos around you but you can also see what it could be… because you have a world that has meaning but it may not be physical.”
Does Percy see that ability as a gift or a curse?
Scott warns, “This is a particular kind of book that is not about the blessings of humanness.”
Tune in for Part Two to hear Scott and Karl’s opinion on the matter. Brought to you by onlinegreatbooks.com.
Scott Hambrick 0:09
Welcome to the online great books podcast brought to you by onlinegreatbooks.com where we talk about the good life, the great books, a great conversation, and great ideas
Brett Veinotte 0:30
Hello, dear listener, this is Brett, I’m the producer of the online great books podcast. Welcome back. Today, Scott and Karl continue their discussion of Walker Percy’s lost in the cosmos. And we pick up right where we left off, there is no overlap between these two parts. As the second half of the conversation begins, Karl will be talking about boredom. And then they move pretty quickly into Scott talking about how the book smells and it just gets better from there. Also, please remember, if you love the online, great books, podcast, leave a review. There are numerous places you can do this beyond iTunes. In fact, whatever you use to catch your pods, there’s at least a way to give a rating. But there’s a lot of people out there who who just don’t get it. They just don’t get things right. And that doesn’t stop them from publicly commenting on the things they just don’t get. And podcast reviewing is not you know immune from this problem. So if you are getting a lot of value out of the podcast, go please take a couple minutes and counterbalance the ramblings of these people who just don’t get it. When it comes to online great books. I know Scott and Carl appreciate it. They mentioned it at the end of this conversation. So that’s it. Enjoy the rest of this discussion of lost in the cosmos. Thank you for your time. And here we go.
Karl Schudt 1:50
Maybe I’ll skip to the middle. The board self boredom is a really interesting philosophical notion to me. It’s connected with that fashion thing for me. Boredom is good things becoming bad without changing. You’re bored with your wife. Well, what happened? Did she change? Did she get worse? Did you change? Probably you changed. You know? Or you’re bored with your car? Is it no longer good? Does it no longer do what cars do? I’ve had it two years I need to lease a new one.
Scott Hambrick 2:24
Yeah, all these questions are designed to point out the problem of human imperfection or, or fallenness or whatever. He’s doing the good work here. It’s just I don’t know, you know, and this thing smelled like all these sort of, like smug mid century 20th century books you know, stroke me nuts Karl like when it’s called doing to me
Karl Schudt 2:49
torturing you. I like all the books you make me read.
Scott Hambrick 2:53
Karl Schudt 2:57
As far as you know.
Scott Hambrick 3:00
I don’t dislike this. It’s just not it’s just I’m just not as audience man.
Karl Schudt 3:07
Alright, let me I want to try to target us because I got to get I want to get to the to space Odysseys at the end, yes. If I just I love him. But he has this line about boredom under the circumstances which a man gets bored a dog goes to sleep. This is something for you to think about. And then he makes the point. Let’s say you take a tour of the Parthenon in Greece. And it’s boring it’s a tour. Now imagine under what set of circumstances the viewing of the Parthenon would not be aboard. For example, you’re a NATO Colonel defending Greece against the Soviet assault. You’re in a bunker in downtown Athens binoculars propped up on sandbags, that is dawn a medium range missile attack is underway. half million Greeks are dead two missiles bracket the Parthenon the next will surely be a hit between columns of smoke a ray of golden light catches the portico Are you bored Can you see the Parthenon? I bet you can. It’s like Churchill saying getting nothing makes the day better than to be shot at with no effect. Right. least somebody cares. I’m talking about depression. Now I get to the middle section personally knew about depression. Both parents probably both parents killed themselves. Yeah. And an uncle. So something’s something’s off in the Percy family. In section 11, you could read his cure for suicide, which might be interesting. And his cure, or his cure for depression is suicide not actually doing it, but not doing it. And then you realize that you don’t have to be alive. And that when you are it becomes a grace rather than just something that you are anyway, you could read that and you know,
Scott Hambrick 4:57
that’s actually one of the most as compelling chunks of the book for me was that was that argument?
Karl Schudt 5:05
Yeah, well, I guess I’ll read a little bit more than the X suicide. The X suicide is one who thinks about it but doesn’t do it. He opens his front door sits down in the steps and laughs since he has the option of being dead, he has nothing to lose by being alive, it is good to be alive. He goes to work because he doesn’t have to. Presumably, that’s, that’s what he did.
Scott Hambrick 5:27
I wrote in the margin here that suicide rates are worse now than they are you know, it’s it’s, it’s maybe the highest it’s ever been in North America. The people killing themselves. I know that these problems he points out are real. I have conversations with friends that struggle with this stuff. The numbers are there, and these people were taking their own lives. I don’t want to be unsympathetic. But I keep saying but I just can’t understand it. I just I just don’t have this experience. You know, I’ve lost pets and loved ones and had the flu. And you know, so there’s all kinds of stuff I can empathize with. By extension, well, I’ve had the flu, okay, you’re on chemotherapy math camp, that has to be way worse than when I had the flu. You blah, blah, blah, right? I can I can kind of get there with people. But this stuff here, it’s just
Karl Schudt 6:21
I bet I bet among our listeners, there are a substantial portion that don’t kill yourself listener don’t. Is that yours? No, don’t do that. But that’s not it. What I mean is, I bet there’s a substantial portion of the sorts of people that listen to our show. They’re going to be with me and are going to get it.
Scott Hambrick 6:39
I have no doubt. That’s true. Yeah, I’ve no doubt
Karl Schudt 6:43
for whom a book like this or his novels might be might be helpful in getting yourself placed a little bit better. In the middle, he has a semiotic primer, the self, which he tells you, you don’t need to read. But you do. And I just want to sketch it out. Real briefly. The problem with the self in the way that language works is that you can’t get a signifier or a reference that points back to the self. The self is the one that is making that is doing language. It’s not the one that language is about. Right? The self is the one talking. So he does the Helen Keller example. So Miss Sullivan, spells out water in your hand. That refers to the liquid, but not to the actual liquid, but also to the concept of the liquid and that you cannot come with a symbol. You can’t come up with a signifier that refers back to the self. It just doesn’t work.
Scott Hambrick 7:52
Yeah. Do we believe the Helen Helen Keller story, Carl?
Karl Schudt 7:56
I don’t know. I thought you bring that up.
Scott Hambrick 8:03
If for the purposes of argument, that’s fine.
Karl Schudt 8:06
Some people have been poking holes at her. It’s an example, also of the weirdness of human beings, we’re the only that we are the only creatures that we have ever found that talk. Yeah. The monkeys don’t do it. The monkeys don’t learn sign language. They’re not doing it. They’re learning signals. You know, you hold up the thing for banana and they look for a banana. Yeah. Whereas you go up to human being and you say banana? And he says, What about it? You can’t stop children from getting language. And it takes a lot of bananas to get a a chimpanzee to, to sort of learn a few signs. It’s not really language. Yeah. Nothing against our our animal friends, but they just don’t do it. Probably the problems of the self are connected with language. They can’t even talk about itself because they don’t talk. Yeah. Part of the problem is is talking about the self, I think and when we talk about the ancient Greeks, you can start to see it. I was thinking about Achilles was thinking about Achilles into distance, they both have self problems. Yeah, Odysseus is always acting. And Achilles is he’s part divine, but not enough divine and so he wants to be divine but can’t be and he can’t be what he is. In Ajax. I remember Ajax says, Why don’t you munchie take the money and go fight. It’s all over girl. You’re being stupid. When Achilles won’t do it, he can’t. He can’t placed himself in that box as being just another fighter like AJAX.
Scott Hambrick 9:43
He has a choice in front of him. From the very beginning, you know, his mom says, You can be immortal. Or you can go back and forth. Nobody on earth. He can’t
Karl Schudt 9:53
be immortal, but he can be remembered forever. Or you can live a
Scott Hambrick 9:57
long life. Yeah, he’s immortal in that this one. Mitt Yeah, yeah, he can be, he can be legendary, you know, or he can go back and farm. He has the choice in front of him. So he has to he has to figure out what he’s going to do. And you know, which way western man.
Karl Schudt 10:14
So all the stuff about language is, I think really important that we are language users means that he’s some German philosophy here. For the sign user, a world is imposed upon the cosmos, to which he still responds like any other organism, so the cosmos would be think of it as the physical world, the world, the Veldt, the womb felt, it’s what all of this stuff means. You are, in a sense, you’re a physical creature like every other. But you also have myths and stories and meanings to your life. And it’s really weird. Yeah.
Scott Hambrick 10:54
I choose to just hold that it is that it is.
Karl Schudt 11:02
Well, so now the speculation here. Alright, so I’m trying to give us direction on this.
Scott Hambrick 11:10
Well, more on this, I can’t let you. So I’m reading the Joel Salatin book right now that we’ll be talking about here in a couple of weeks. And he was talking about caring for these animals. And he says, you know, you have an obligation to do the best you can. You’re depending on them, and they are depending on you, and whatever. And then he says, the cows don’t know that you could do better. Just they don’t know that the grazing could be better, or that their situation is less than it could be or that all they know is what’s right there at that moment. And maybe they don’t even know that. But they’re in that moment entirely. Always. So it’s, you know, it’s up to the it’s up to the husbandman. To provide them with all that it could be, they can’t do it. They’re not even they’re not even aware that it could be better.
Karl Schudt 12:11
I would say that’s part of being the sort of creature that can use language and think you can, you can see the cosmos around you physical environment of your farm, but you can also see what it could be. Yeah. Because you have a world which has meaning which might not be actually physical.
Scott Hambrick 12:32
Does Percy see that ability as a gift or a curse?
Karl Schudt 12:37
Well, it’s a gift, but it’s got a as he says, it is an Eden, which harbors its own semiotic snake in the grass. Right? If we were just gonna put it in evolutionary terms, and say, Well, you know, the humans got this really big brain that makes it so that childbirth is often deadly. For women in the wild. It’s really, it’s very weird. To put it in terms of evolution, why do we have such a huge head? How much brain do you need to be able to roam the plains, gather food and fling fpou. So the human brain, the intellect that we have is much more than we need for survival. And so maybe in the ice ages, we need it was the ones that were the smartest that managed to survive, right? Because they could problem solve and all of that, alright, fine. So you can problem solve now, and you can figure out where to put the fence on your farm. But you can also sit up at night, you know, trying to, you know, worried drinking yourself into oblivion because you can’t place yourself comfortably in your world. You can be depressed, you can be suicidal. You know, thanks, evolution,
Scott Hambrick 13:50
a disorder or deficiency of the essential of the type of man.
Karl Schudt 13:57
Yeah, I quote this all the time. As much as I don’t like contact quote him all the time. But he says, If reason was designed to lead to happiness, nature has come across a most unfortunate arrangement. And then I think he talks about dogs. The dog is much happier than you are. Sure. So blessing. Yes. Curse. Yes. Yeah. Does it have to be a curse?
Scott Hambrick 14:20
To me? This is a particular kind of book. And it’s not a book about the blessings of you know, humaneness. It’s not what it’s about. So, you know, to look to Percy and expect that in this book, it’s the wrong book.
Karl Schudt 14:39
So can I give direction now? So he’s ending this section in the middle on semiotics, which is sign using symbol using. He says, let’s see if the sign user first enters into an authentic state by virtue of discovery and constitution of the world by signs. It’s this theory that, you know, kids get super happy with When they start to use language, just like Helen Keller did and you know everything. What’s that? What’s that? In the Bible? It’s the story of Adam naming everything, which poetically at least talks about the truth of this. But he says there’s a it he says it’s an Eden which harbors its own semiotic snake in the grass. There’s no signified to which a signifier can be joined to make a sign the self has no sign of itself. No signifier applies, all signifiers apply equally. He says, I am rascal hero, Craven, brave, treacherous, loyal at once the secret hero and asshole of the cosmos, you find out that in the Eden story, it’s when they had to put the clothes on, which either you take as literal or poetic. He says the self perceives itself as naked, every self is ashamed of itself. And you Scott would say, probably not me, buddy,
Scott Hambrick 15:50
I was talking to my children the other day, my children are old. Now, I don’t know that their children are 17 and 19, we’re talking about,
Karl Schudt 15:58
and they’re pretty much done.
Scott Hambrick 15:59
They’re pretty much done. Well, I told him that, you know, at some point, you end up having a private life. In very small children have a private life, they have their own thoughts and wants and wishes and fears and whatever, they have their own whatever. But but at some point, it becomes, maybe the private life becomes bigger, maybe I don’t know, like not to minimize children’s inner inner monologue and whatever. But as I was telling them, that, that it’s okay for them to have a private life. And that not everyone has to know everything. You know, I’ve been married for longer than I haven’t been. And I don’t keep secrets for a mother What wife. But she’s also not privy to my every thought. And that’s okay. I’m not withholding anything damaging, but she needs not know, every single thing that occurs to me, I have a private life. And I think for some people, that is disconcerting for them. But to understand that you have a private life, is ultimately to understand in that you are alone, I am in charge of the finances of the Hamburg household. I am on a fixed income. But I don’t intend to make any more money than I’ve already made, we’ve got enough and if we’re careful and prudent, we can cruise it out. And I have fears about that. There are pitfalls that I need to avoid and there are things I need to do to make sure that all goes okay. My wife doesn’t need to know about any of those things. That’s private and that’s for me to deal with. That’s, that’s an example the best example I can get give people right now and still have a private life. But that causes problems for people. I don’t think we want to have a private life because when you’re in your private life, you are alone. And that is right to be that way in that time. Now somehow when we’re at our best that private life is probably tantamount or closely aligned to or parallel to a prayer life and at that point, maybe you aren’t entirely alone. But there is a point when you start to realize you have that and is right for you to have it and then the the spiritual chunk hasn’t caught up in there you are why did I say all that I don’t even remember why I brought
Karl Schudt 18:42
that up. So the private life I’m going to translate into the self. However it happens it’s something that language users can have and that non language users don’t have. And I know you hate this word, it is problematic. The way you defined yourself you not define yourself the way you talked about your private life was in terms of tasks that you had to do. Jobs that you have to do responsibilities that you have so there’s a mode of self placement there that you are the one who handles the finances you are the one that plans out the homestead you are the one that does this and that you that you have things that are yours to do. So you’re thinking of yourself as provider or as family I don’t know.
Scott Hambrick 19:33
Karl Schudt 19:34
It’s fine. The decider I don’t know. That’s something that needs to be done and that’s where things can go wrong. Percy talks about traditional modes of placement tota mystic, you know, I’m a parakeet. I’m a bulldog pantheism I am god you know all of these are kind of a problem because in fact, you’re not God. There’s the the old fashioned Christian one. That would be diagram 12, I am a self with you under God, that would be the Kierkegaardian thing. It’s a self in relationship to the one that made it. There’s the imminent self, that’s probably what a lot of people do, which is the consumer. You define yourself, gosh, the people that that post videos of themselves crying, watching the trailers for the next Star Wars movie. Crying with tears of joy, to see Ray, the Mary Jane, just consuming the next thing or caring about what celebrities do or jumping on the next political outrage. The self sees itself as an imminent being in the world existing in a mode of being you’re just immersed in all of that stuff. By passive consumer ship, then there’s the one that pisses me off. It’s the Transcend itself. And you’ve known people like this.
Scott Hambrick 21:03
You mean like Carl Sagan?
Karl Schudt 21:05
Yeah, where you exceed everybody else. And you treat everyone else as an object, and you’re the only self in the universe. And you get that way. Because you know, the real story. You’re the gnostic, you’re, you’re the deGrasse Tyson with the secret knowledge that Pluto is not really a planet. Actually. You’ve read a psychology book. And so, you know, you go to the party, and you’re secretly analyzing everybody. except yourself.
Scott Hambrick 21:38
They don’t think it be like it is, but it do.
Karl Schudt 21:44
The scientists are typically, gosh, this might sound familiar to you now, right? Trust the science, the science tests who transcend all of us by their secret knowledge of the peer reviewed journal articles that only they can properly read, that none of us poor fools can read. It’s not just a power trip. It’s, that’s their self identity is to be the ones that are smarter than you.
Scott Hambrick 22:14
They’ve been told that, you know, you took the MCAT and got selected.
Karl Schudt 22:18
They’re the princes of the age. Yeah, yeah, he says. But then you get reentry problems, because he can’t stay transcendent all the time. But the waiting of transcendence reentry Problems increase one manifestation, which always amazes laymen is the jealousy and lack of scruple of scientists. Their anxiety to receive credit often seems more appropriate to use car salesman than to a transcending community. It’s absolutely true. Just go to some conferences, and you’ll see it is no more hateful glares. And at the at the dinner speech, the keynote speech. But you can understand this is his, I mean, they’re trying to, they’re trying to figure out who they are to. And the way that they figure it out is they’re better than you. If you’re a scientist, if you’re an artist, you can do it. If you’re a politician, you can do this, are there ways up out of the common mass to establish yourself as I’m the special one? Because I’m above you,
Scott Hambrick 23:25
I used to give quite a few trade talks. You know, be invited to speak somewhere about what I used to do for a living. And people show up there to hear you talk. And sometimes I get picked got picked, because I couldn’t find anybody else. I know. It’s fine. You know, I’m not, you know, I don’t know, Tony Robbins, and people pay huge money or whatever. But you know, I’d get paid sometimes, and people would come and get continuing education credits for there’s, you know, whatever professional, initial thing they had after their name, and they go and talk and there might be 50 people there, there might be 200, something like that. And in that time, that I would give that speech, all those people would, would be looking at me and listening to what I had to say about that. And for that time, right, wrong, or whatever. I was the authority. And the dominant person in that room at that time. Everybody got quiet, they dim the lights, the lights are only on me and I had a microphone, nobody else did. And I spoke and whatever. And I don’t want to say, well, I don’t think that that would go to my head or anything. But then you say thank you so much for having me speak. If you have any questions, I’ll be in the lobby, and you have a good day. And that’s the end of the speech and you go out there and then a few people show up and they ask the questions and then they leave. And now you’re not that guy now, huh? No, I’m not that guy now and which is a relief to me at that moment, I would be just completely exhausted, I would be okay. And then the last guy that had a question or whatever, leaves, and then suddenly I would just, I would just need to go to bed. just exhausted. And, you know, I often would. And in you know, and then when you wake up or when I would wake up, or maybe I go get something to eat and a cup of coffee, and then be okay again. But it is jarring to go from a role like that to not that.
Karl Schudt 25:36
Yeah, so that would be the reentry problems that he talks about. Yeah. This is why only good poets kill themselves. The bad thoughts just stick around.
Scott Hambrick 25:45
Right? Nobody, nobody reads it. They never have that problem. But we
Karl Schudt 25:49
make fun of on our other show, you know, don’t don’t date musicians. We’re not reliable. We have reentry problems. Gosh, should you manage to really play music? Well, or compose something wonderful. And you’ve you’ve touched the divine for that moment. How do you come back down? You know, you’ve transcended everybody. And maybe you’re not mean about it’s just look like, what do you do after you write the Fifth Symphony?
Scott Hambrick 26:20
You know, I mean, about it’s just you’re not, you’re not well, same for a while, but
Karl Schudt 26:23
you might go to the opium den.
Scott Hambrick 26:27
You know, isn’t this really a problem with modernity? You know, if there weren’t specialists, if everybody’s 100 Gather, well, live inside Dunbar’s number, you know, there’s 100 people that we know and who know us, like, do you ever have the reentry problem? Probably not. You never exit?
Karl Schudt 26:47
Right? Well, whatever you are, you’d be it. If you’re the shaman, you’re always going to be it. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So a lot of these are problems of modernity of problems of prosperity. I think,
Scott Hambrick 26:59
yeah. Hey, we want to pay you and you fly you out. And then you’ll talk to our people about, you know, whatever. And I’d go out there and do that. And then and that’s over. I should never have even been there.
Karl Schudt 27:13
Yeah, but we have a conference. We have to have a speaker. Oh, dude,
Scott Hambrick 27:16
did you see the did you see the record center warehouse fire in? Probably not. There’s this company called access that runs like these, these documents, storage records management facilities, like what I had, and they had one that was devoted strictly to TD Ameritrade, TD Ameritrade gets a notice that they’re going to going to be under SEC investigation. burned to the ground this weekend. Oops. Interesting. Sprinklers failed, Carl.
Karl Schudt 27:47
That’s amazing. That’s fortunate for for them, I guess. Yeah. Yeah, I find that discussion of re entry in this book. Pretty good. Pretty compelling to me, especially the talk about, you know why poets and musicians have so much trouble and scientists don’t? Well, scientists, scientists are the princes of the age, they don’t fall that far, when they fall out of their transcendence. You know, when our current medical folks, when they get done speaking, they’re still transcending,
Scott Hambrick 28:20
yet they never take the lab coat off. Right?
Karl Schudt 28:23
Pick your favorite musician, the really good ones seem to have a hard time coming back down. And I was thinking about this. And one of my favorite bands is rush. And I think I don’t think they ever had those problems. And I was thinking that you would probably respond. Well, they aren’t that good.
Scott Hambrick 28:42
No, they’re really great at what they do. I just don’t hear that guy’s voice. They’re really great at what they do. If they didn’t have those problems, I would say it’s because they’re on the spectrum so much that they never drop out of that headspace.
Karl Schudt 28:56
They were one of the more intellectual bands they would joke that it was It wasn’t Sex, drugs and rock and roll it was sex books. No, it was books, drugs, and rock’n’roll.
Scott Hambrick 29:04
Yeah, they’re pretty Sparky. Spark rock is what I took. Yeah,
Karl Schudt 29:08
I’ve been listening to the live albums, and doing some old rush Xana do and Jacob’s Ladder, some good stuff.
Scott Hambrick 29:17
I think I told you this. Maybe I didn’t. Charity was listening to some brush the other day and in training, you know, and I came in here. And I didn’t know what it was. I thought maybe it was like a yes album. I hadn’t heard like, I didn’t hate it. And come to find out. It was a newer rush album, you know, and had this fingered lost a step or two and I’m like thinking about it took the edge off. Like I can listen to this. It’s the guy’s voice Carl. It’s just I can’t Yeah,
Karl Schudt 29:45
it’s a little shrill. The last two or three albums, I think are really good.
Scott Hambrick 29:49
Yeah, I enjoyed it. I listened to I think we listened the whole album. I can’t remember which one it was. I wrote it down. I enjoyed it.
Karl Schudt 29:57
So where are we we’ve got the self which is a problem to the self because it can’t define itself using the tool of language, which is what makes it itself. And so we have all of these ways to put yourself in the world and they’re entertaining to me. I think you lost you lost it a little bit around question. 13 Which one’s that one? Oh, that’s the corn dance in Taos, which I’ve been to. And it’s just an examination of all the characters that go to this, to see that the Native American that see the old Indian dances do their stuff and how they’re watching it. And
Scott Hambrick 30:30
yeah, I texted Carl and said, I can’t read any more of this.
Karl Schudt 30:36
I figured you were done at that point. But just very I don’t know I find it really good. But I want to go to the end. Let’s get to the end. There are two Space Odyssey is at the end. Just like in last in the cosmos last in the cosmos ends with Carl Sagan writing on this imaginary spaceship for me as a kid it was I don’t know I really liked it. But you know, there are things that you see as a kid that don’t do any good. So let’s go to COVID-19 the self marooned in the cosmos. So it’s a story about the future it’s it’s 2050 The world is in trouble. And so we are we send a a buzzard ramjet spaceship to the nearest place we can find that has a planet and it’s it’s Proxima Centauri. And the the astronauts get there, and they trying to land the planet. But it finally dawned on the crew they’re being held in orbit, the aliens don’t want him to land. And so they work out a language. The aliens are asking, what’s your C type? What? What are you talking about? Let us land? What is your C type? And what they mean is? Are you having problems? Are you let’s see c one is a first order consciousness, then there, which is just, you know, unfallen. Then C twos are the Fallen type that haven’t gotten help and see threes in the Fallen type that have gotten help. And the aliens want to know, they want to know what’s your metaphysical status in the humans like let us land let us land. We need help and the alien say, Well, what tell us why did you leave? How are things going on earth? Well, we really haven’t heard anything from them since we left. Yes, there was a war. How are you doing on your ship? Well, we had started with 12. Among the nine survivors, we’re doing okay. What happened to the other three? Well, they were killed in fights over the women, you know, so that they’re it’s turned out? Let’s see the captain, the commander he’s out of it flaked out He sniffs coke and reads Ron McEwen and Richard Bach. He’s not functioning we need to land Request permission.
Scott Hambrick 33:00
Did you ever read any Richard Bach? No, I haven’t. I have Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Yeah, it’s could only been written in the 70s. It’s ridiculous.
Karl Schudt 33:11
The executive officer is screwing his brains out. I’m too busy flying the ship request landing. And the aliens say no, your species is in trouble. You don’t even know whether you have a civilization. And so the aliens, you know, figure out help has helped was not requested and has not arrived. And the guy says, Well, you know, all those religions were just a bunch of crap. And the other immediate troubles my two women are fighting both are thought to be culturally livery culturally liberated and we’re so certified by the screening procedure, but one is reverted to the old monogamy and wants to Captain America. The other one wants to screw the captain and me at the same time and also run the ship. And then you hear over the microphone. The alien says, My God, we need these people, like get them out of here. And so they get turned away? Well, and so the question would be, what do you think? What is? Are you a c one, c two c three? I think the question is less important than the story. dangly which is this idea that humans might be really messed up? In some of the Space Marine stories I’ve been reading recently are like that, that the humans make it out into the galaxy and it’s really bad for the galaxy. It’s not not the good guys.
Scott Hambrick 34:28
And I said earlier in the show that the Voyager thing we should never have even done it. You know, should never even had the camera out there.
Karl Schudt 34:36
I don’t know. I like the Jupiter pictures.
Scott Hambrick 34:40
What does that do for us though? It’s a parlor trick.
Karl Schudt 34:45
Okay, pretty good. It has its own justification. It’s weird for people who don’t think there’s anything really to talk about to try to talk to the aliens.
Scott Hambrick 34:53
Yeah, that’s one of the things about the small talk. Like most people don’t actually think that there’s anything really to talk about, you know, they may or maybe they want to talk about the bears or whatever. And some of them do it because they’re nervous. Some of them do it because it’s safe. But a great number of them really don’t have a hierarchy of things to talk about in their mind. And that’s not to say that they’re dumb. It’s just, everything’s the same now.
Karl Schudt 35:21
Yeah, I find that the sports talk really depressing. Why is this even something that you care about?
Scott Hambrick 35:26
Yeah, sports should be played.
Karl Schudt 35:30
Sports. All sports should be local. Yeah. Should have a manhood stone in your yard. And if if somebody is visiting, and he can pick it up, he gets a beer and a feather for his cap. Yeah. I think that’s the way it should be. I want to do the second Space Odyssey. Just my favorite reminds me of Highland and canticle for Leibowitz. Akash I don’t know how much of it to tell you. I think maybe should go read it. Same kind of a story. Same crew, I think similar crew,
Scott Hambrick 36:05
they got turned away. And the way I read it, they got turned away because they were see twos. I mean, well, I guess we’ll just go back and hit it back to Earth.
Karl Schudt 36:13
It could be the same one. Except that the captain hasn’t gone bad. Well, I know there’s some interesting character sketches. There’s Marcus Aurelius Schyler. Who’s the captain? He’s like Dean Martin and one of the air airplane movies. Well, they go off and they find out that there was no signal. There was nothing out there. They have the the crew is they’ve decided that there’s going to be one man three women.
Scott Hambrick 36:41
Yeah, that’s right. It is a different crew. I read this, like, in the middle of the night. Like taking medicine.
Karl Schudt 36:47
Yeah. After you texted me saying I’m done with this. What should I read? Well, at least read the last bit. And you have Tiffany and Kimberly and Jane. Gosh, I can’t give you all the details. Dear listener, you’re just gonna have to read it. It’s funny. Tiffany and Kimberly are very happy to just live in this polygamist you know, kind of modernist sexually liberated crew. Jane has some problems. Jane is an old time Methodist claims that she was over that but she wasn’t really. And then when they’ve been out in space long enough that her husband must be dead. She had a husband. She she wants to marry the captain. Well, anyway, alright, I will get to the good stuff. Okay, so they make it back home. And it turns out, there’s been a war and there’s no there’s almost nothing left and they meet a couple of groups of people that have some options, but before I get to that, I’m gonna get to the names of the kids. On this ship the names of the first seven children were Krishna Vishnu. Indira out of Kimberley, Anna Freud, Opie, Irene carry out of Tiffany and John out of Jane Smith.
Scott Hambrick 38:04
Out of I think like horses Well,
Karl Schudt 38:07
or biblically, like Jacob’s wives. So they make it home. And they have a few more kids, Carl Jung Siddartha. Chomsky, Sarah and Marianne out of Dr. Jane Smith. And so they meet. They meet Abbott Leibowitz, and Eris, Dorcas Jones, which if you read canticle, for Leibowitz with us, it’s who they are. And so we have two proposals of what to do. So the whole human race, will nobody’s having any babies because of the radiation, so what are you going to do about it? And so there’s a couple old monks with with the Abbot, and then there’s the, the Californian scientist and he says, Here’s my proposal, let’s go colonize Europa. We can grow some food there. We will create. With a bit of luck, we can colonize Europa in the same way as Europe colonized the new world except that and here’s the exciting part. There’s no reason why we cannot develop a society such as the one my namesake lived on in ancient Ionia a society based on reason and science, and do so without repeating the mistakes of the past. For example, the Dark Ages 2000 years of Plato and Judaism and Christianity, a sexually free and peace loving society, where the science is an arts can flourish freed from the superstitions and repressions of religion. This is his plan. He is going to be enlightenment paradise. We’re going to go live on this moon of Jupiter in a cave. And it’d be great.
Scott Hambrick 39:49
That’s never been tried before.
Karl Schudt 39:53
The Abbott says Are the children invited? Well, the space children are we make no sense to perpetuate genetic defects. I see. All right. So that’s your first plan. So dear listener, you want to think about this, this is your plan, Earth has been mostly destroyed, their fertility is 1% or lower. It’d be great. We’ll go off to Europa, and we’ll have, it’ll be great. And then Abbott Leibowitz, his proposal is different. So he says, I’m not sure how to how to sum this up. So what he wants to do is we’re gonna go to last Cove, because your ship can take us there. We’re gonna go to last coast, Tennessee, which I think will be okay. And he says, As far as I know, I may very well be the Pope. That is to say, as an abbot, I have the fiscal power of consecrating priests and if there are no bishops left and no Pope left, guess who that leaves as Abbot. I’m in the apostolic succession, the direct line of laying on hands that goes back to Christ Himself, so his point, so I’m going to go to here maybe I’ll be able to ordain somebody to carry on after me. So the church survives. The only ones that I know are your boys, Krishna. Vishnu, said Arthur Opie, Carl Jung, Chomsky, and John, I love those names. So terrible. He says it’s he’s got a different view of that he thinks he thinks he has a divine call. He says, it’s my obligation to remain because the church will survive to the end of Earth time and until Christ Himself comes. And so I’m the head of the church. I have to stay. So I’ll take you there. I will marry you and Jane, your marriage in space by yourself is canonically suspect to say the least. And I’ll baptize kids in Lost Creek. So you can go with AirSTAR cojones. But what if I say is not true. You’re like the Gentiles. Paul spoke of a stranger to every covenant with no promise to hope for with the world about you and no God, you’re stuck with yourselves go cells, which never become cells, you’re stuck with each other. You’ll never know how to love each other. Even if you succeed, you and your progeny will go to Europa and roam the Galaxy lost in the cosmos forever. Alright, these are your two options. Which one do you take? So the second option seems I mean, the first one sounds good, right. It’s technologically adept, and all your needs will be provided for you. It’s a science fictiony future you’ll get to keep Kimberly and Tiffany and Jane Oh, that she won’t be very happy about it. It’ll be great. Or you can go be a dirt farmer and loss Cove. Right? Well, we get to see what happens. We get to see what happens. You can think about it. So
Scott Hambrick 42:29
take the potato to pill.
Karl Schudt 42:31
They take the potato pill Yeah. So they show you the captain’s now 65 years old, he’s living in that cave in Europa. It looks like they’re managing to feed themselves. The colonies operated on the principles of Skinner’s Walden to modified by using self analysis with suitable rewards for friendly social behavior and punishment even exile for aggressive, jealous, hostile, solitary, mystical or other anti social behavior. Daily Diwali is from the Hindu are held in a kind of Kiva where a dried like and remarkably like Earth, frick DeCoste. Marcela is smoked, inducing a mild euphoria. So this is your life.
Scott Hambrick 43:10
Sounds like hell, a Skinner, Ian behaviorist society,
Karl Schudt 43:16
but, you know, you get lots of sharing of your feelings and lots of meetings. They’re not very happy. Dr. Jane is sulking in her cave. The captain is is reading Henry the fourth again. But he’s got he’s got, you know, all the women he wants, I guess. Yeah, but, but there you go. So that’s your first option. Alright. Or the second option. You go to Tennessee with Abbott leaflets. You settle down in the mountain valley. You grow wild maize collards, trap rabbits, wild pigs and quail. You’re 65. Turns out there’s a few other survivors even like there’s even some Catholics and Protestants and Jews around. And so you’re sitting up there on your porch. Dr. Jane says why don’t you come to mass and you say my cathedrals, the blue sky My communions with my good friends. She says bull, she gets down to church, and you’re sitting there watching your your son serve mass. Some of your sons one of the one of the monks has gone back to with the Baptist. But there you are, I don’t know is anything better than some of the some of the hill people are conspiring against some of the other ones, you know? It’s the same old stuff. And it ends the captain rises quickly takes a pull of the Golden liquor. I got to get back to the cabin. He says to no one in particular, j will be looking for me I got a pig in my smoker. I use pecan for smoking beats hickory. All right. Where would you rather be? Where do you think yourself is in a better placement
Scott Hambrick 45:00
Are you asking the listener?
Karl Schudt 45:01
I’m asking you and asking the listener and neither is the captain, a believer in whatever system of belief there is. In Europa, he’s just, he’s just there for the women. And in last Cove, he doesn’t participate in the Abbott’s plan. He just watching it,
Scott Hambrick 45:19
I am not a utopian, and don’t care to be I don’t even want to I don’t even want to flirt with that sort of stuff. And, you know, I’m fine with the potato pill man.
Karl Schudt 45:33
What’s better for the captain in the second? If the if the second case is better than the first? What makes it better?
Scott Hambrick 45:40
For him and specific? I don’t, I don’t really know. But I think that a person has a better shot at living out their proper Telos in this more and managed society, their last co hm, you know, the fact that we’ve got this union Skinner influenced governance system alone, I mean, it’s just a nightmare. And on Europa, and it doesn’t have to explicitly be one of those kinds of things. Right? If it’s not going to be an agrarian, sort of small holding thing, society, there’s going to be that sort of central management crop up. Yet, whether it’s, you know, pick your system, whether it’s, you know, BF Skinner, or Taylorism, or whatever it’s coming.
Karl Schudt 46:31
For me the the horror of the first option, is that there, yeah, you might be prosperous, but there’s no point to any of it. There’s no guiding end, there’s nothing sacred about it. Yeah, we’ve got, we’ve got I’ve got my cave on Europa and another, another encounter meaning to go to, to what end? You know, we could live like this for a million years. Great. To what end? What greatness will we do you know, where the captain sitting on his porch looking down at the, the old monk and his and one or two of his kids? He He’s not participating, but in his in his in loss code. There’s people who think that there is a point of it all. Mm hmm. The Baptist would think they know what’s going on. The Catholics think they know what’s going on. The Jews are are still there, you know, there’s a vertical dimension to the second option, which there isn’t in the first option at Europa, it’s entirely horizontal. And even where I an unbeliever, I think I’d rather live in the place where there’s some people that think vertically. You know, at least eventually, they’ll build a cathedral,
Scott Hambrick 47:43
even with all the conflict. Yes, of course, came to play it. Come on. Oh, sure.
Karl Schudt 47:51
One of the best times ever had was my discussion with the Lutheran organist is very centered. I was singing a wedding for a Lutheran friend, and she was telling me well, you know, because you’re Catholic, you’re going to hell. And I thanked her for her concern. And we had a nice conversation. You know, she was speaking from her belief, this is what she thought was true. She wasn’t saying, Oh, she didn’t, you know, flatten it all out and say everything’s equal in the same. Which would have been would have been disgusting. You know, I’d rather she told me that. And then I would say, Well, you know, I think Luther got it wrong on this, that the other thing and she would say, I appreciate your opinion. And it was honestly a great discussion. Much better than some sort of ecumenical Europen Aerostar cojones flattening of everything. Can’t do it. Quick. I have read this book, probably 15 times. I’m sorry, you don’t like it as much as I like it? Well, no, it’s okay. You don’t need to like it,
Scott Hambrick 48:56
move. He paints he paints this picture of loss Cove and then Europa. What does that have to do with the self? And the theme of the book?
Karl Schudt 49:12
Well, it has to do with how you would place yourself in the universe in the cosmos.
Scott Hambrick 49:19
It has implications about modernity. And so I think,
Karl Schudt 49:28
yeah, the, the problem with modernity for me is the flatness of it. Chesterton says in I forget which book it was that ethics begins not out of a social contract. It begins in the presence of the sacred, you know, whatever that is. That you know, you shouldn’t do this because it’s somehow unholy. Well, if you don’t have anything that sacred then anything goes But nothing’s particularly worth doing. Yeah. So I gotta have that the vertical dimension.
Scott Hambrick 50:06
I think I think people need it. get so tired of this.
Karl Schudt 50:12
Tell me what you’re tired of,
Scott Hambrick 50:13
maybe I don’t maybe I don’t like, step aside and look at myself. But when I when I when I, when I speak on the podcast, I can hear that I can hear people’s arguments against the things that we were saying and what I could hear right, then we’re all the people that say, oh, okay, well, last Cove has set themselves up for all of these conflicts, because religion is responsible for all this war and blah, blah, blah, I’m just so tired of all that kind of stuff. I don’t even want to speak to it. It’s just, it’s just dumb. Full stop. It’s just, it’s just dumb. But let me back up. I think what we do here is mostly a good thing. I think we leave the woodpile taller than we found it and, and we get emails from people that say, we’ve been helpful. I’m appreciative of those. But the more I kind of think in public like this and publish it, the more I realize that, while we may help a few, there are there’s something like 7 billion that we cannot do anything for. Now, you know, if you help somebody, you know, that maybe that’s infinitely good. You know, maybe helping three people is actually not much more than helping one or 300 or 3000. But it’s just harder for me to do it all the time, Carl, because of that. Does that make sense to you?
Karl Schudt 51:40
Well, I don’t know if it’s a good thing to do. You just do it. You don’t worry whether you’re going to be there at the harvest.
Scott Hambrick 51:47
Well, if it’s a good thing, you just do it. But if it’s a good thing for a million people versus, you know, for it’s a little easier to roll out of bed, read the book you’re not interested in, or whatever, in the same old tired arguments that come back that have been refuted, you know, 800 years ago?
Karl Schudt 52:07
Well, you have to you have to manage your time and find things that are worthwhile. Yeah. But still, it’s kind of the blue dot thing. Unless we get a big enough market, I guess it’s not it’s not worth it. You know, the argument for smallness. We get a fair amount of listeners that keep listening to this thing. It’s pretty good.
Scott Hambrick 52:28
We do we
Karl Schudt 52:29
do we probably beat Rachel Maddow.
Scott Hambrick 52:32
Oh, there’s no question. Nobody listened. Yeah. A guy named Nick emailed us, Carl, at the end of the St. Benedict show. I asked about should we do some long form things? You know, you remember that? Mm hmm. And Nick says, my thoughts on episode publishing in the future, he says the Mainus thing people pick that up. That’s good. My grandmother would be pleased. The minus thing is to keep putting them out once a week I rely on this podcast more than any other. It’s the only one that I feel intimately a part of I imagine you have a narrow but invested listenership and I count myself as one. I depend on it to balance my mood. That’s, that’s, that’s screwed up dude. And remind myself that the world is crazy. Not me. You Carl, and we listeners, our fellow travelers, surely, and he says if you and Carl want to crush some long books, they take 468 parts. I don’t think we dear listeners will mind at all. As long as we get a podcast once a week.
Karl Schudt 53:32
Well, I appreciate that, Nick, if if we’re helping you so much. Just make sure you buy a t shirt or something. Okay.
Scott Hambrick 53:37
Right. Yeah, just do this somewhere. He says please keep up the great work. And we’ll give Carl my best. Hey, Nick gives you his best. Oh, thanks, Nick. Yeah. And then we had another cat. I only got a couple emails on this. Here’s one. Let’s see from Kevin. He says let’s show loves the weekly regularity. I don’t care if you spend six hours on one book. But I do enjoy the bite sized pieces. But the has been assembling if you give me six hours on a Thursday, I’ll devour it one day and then have nothing but barbell logic reruns. For five weeks, Kevin, a reformed Protestant from Texas. So does that mean he’s like a reformed reformed theologian, or did we reform him away from that?
Karl Schudt 54:21
Right? That’s, that’s ambiguous. Yeah, I
Scott Hambrick 54:24
don’t know. We’re gonna have a clarification there. He says I thoroughly enjoyed the St. Benedict episodes. My dishwasher is busted. So I’ve been hand washing everything for the past three months. It makes me more conscious of the stuff I choose to use. Yeah. Yeah, so I got a couple others as well about that. But definitely Carl there. The consensus is that they got to have a show a week. That makes it tough if we’re going to do a big one. That makes it tough though, because while we’re reading that big book, we still had to be putting out weekly. It’s tough.
Karl Schudt 54:58
We’d have to take the like booking divided?
Scott Hambrick 55:01
Yeah, I want to read the rest of the Shelby Foote books. But when am I going to get that done? I want to read the gibbons books. Have you read those? Nope. Is that on your infinity pile or
Karl Schudt 55:14
the Infinity pile? Yeah. They were influential, not just because of what he says about the Roman Empire. But his opinions that I think it drove some later politics. So I think that’s probably why it’s a big deal to read that book.
Scott Hambrick 55:32
Yeah, yeah, I want to read it for those reasons. And there’s a whole lot more than that I want to get to as well. I’m kind of doing some of that long form stuff. I’m, I’ve committed stupidly to reading and, and summarizing. St. Thomas’s Summa contra gente. Lee’s Antilles on my blog, there are people who pledged to read that along with me and I typically will get well, we’re going to do it over two years. So we’ll be doing about 35 chapters a month. And, you know, I want to do some of those long form things, but I don’t know that I need to do for the show. I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out. We’ll, we’ll try to do it.
Karl Schudt 56:16
The next time is Joel Salatin. Yes, he always faced micro.
Scott Hambrick 56:19
And then we talked about reading the rock, Robert Hutchins. Yeah, the great conversation essay. And then I then I had a Dewey essay on education, and I thought we might cover I don’t know if people want to sort of education chunks in a row. What what are you thinking about? You smiled. I said, Dewey, and you actually smiled hurt.
Karl Schudt 56:46
Do is not my favorite person in the world. So it’d be fun. I
Scott Hambrick 56:50
Karl Schudt 56:52
Yeah. We could do that. And then it’s too far ahead of head for me to think.
Scott Hambrick 56:58
Get the Dewey pieces. Short, Carl, it’s 1935 Maybe it’s 10 or 12 pages.
Karl Schudt 57:05
I’ve been diving through Alsace Fox set up through stra, which is super fun and weird.
Scott Hambrick 57:12
Yeah. Yeah, I haven’t read them a long time. That’d be good. See, I need to reread that. How’s it gonna get all this stuff?
Karl Schudt 57:20
Just don’t sleep. Right.
Scott Hambrick 57:25
Now, Nisha, was reading a little bit of beyond good and evil girl. And I highlighted where Nietzsche says there’s a point in the history of society when it becomes so pathologically soft and tender that among other things, besides even with those who harm it criminals, it does this quite seriously and honestly punishing somehow seems unfair to it. And is certain than imagining a punishment and being supposed to punish hurts It arouses fear in it. Is it not enough to render him on dangerous? Why still punish? Punishing itself is terrible. With this question, herd morality, the morality of timidity draws its ultimate consequence. Juicy, Friedrich savage. What else man? I think it’s probably it. It so I don’t jive with existentialism. I do. Sorry. In this also has that sort of mid century. Smart guy, smarty pants book flare. That makes my hair stand up. You know what I’m talking about, Carl?
Karl Schudt 58:32
Yeah, but I think that that’s probably me.
Scott Hambrick 58:39
Little bit. Yeah, not not not not my gig. But it’s really interesting. It’s funny. And he’s never not smart. Person. That’s true. He’s never not smart. My dislike for it isn’t isn’t because it’s not thought provoking. Or, well wrought, because it is. There you go. Oh, gosh. Well, there’s that show. Go listen to the music and ideas show we’re gonna do some some Russian stuff here pretty soon.
Karl Schudt 59:10
Pretty soon. Yeah, I have to deal with more prep on that. Are you?
Scott Hambrick 59:15
Are you going to talk to your Russian handlers? Yes. So that we so that you portray them properly?
Karl Schudt 59:23
Oh, it just it just some Russian romantic stuff that that I think is it’s probably gonna be more of an introductory show than a deep analysis. It’s like, Have you listened to board and you need to listen to board and
Scott Hambrick 59:34
yeah, you know? Yeah. Good. Yeah, well, anyway, there’s that. You can always email us if you want to weigh in on what what you might want to hear we’re gonna do whatever but you might pose a suggestion that we would that we’d be interested in. You can email support at online, great books calm and we’ll get that email. And yeah, if there’s nothing else go leave a review. Wherever you listen. I just recently saw that we have a lot, a lot, a lot of listeners that listen to us through pod bean. I didn’t even know the show was syndicated to pod bean, but it is. So you know, late, wherever you listen to your shows, go leave a review for us. That’s helpful.
Karl Schudt 1:00:19
And you can go to online great books.com and sign up for the mailing list.
Scott Hambrick 1:00:23
Yeah, that’s how we that’s how we justify doing this thing.
Karl Schudt 1:00:28
And then maybe you become a member. And then you go to seminars and talk about great books with well, they’ll soon be your friends. Yeah, go make big talk, not small talk.
Scott Hambrick 1:00:40
And then I I’ll get to do the orientation and make, you know, 4% of you angry and quit immediately. Immediately. Do you want to hear the parts that make them want a quick or
Karl Schudt 1:00:52
I already know the parts that make them want to quit?
Scott Hambrick 1:00:56
Well, if you’re interested in the things that I might say that would make you quit, join, and then when you quit, I’ll give you your money back. Because that’s what we do. Right? No risk. Yes, no risk. You can even keep the book