Sunday, November 15, 2009

Vision of the Anointed, ch. 1

Originally I typed my notes from the online discussion of chapter 1 of The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy by Thomas Sowell on Saturday, August 29, 2003 and now I'm finally blogging mainly what interested and intrigued me as I read the sample pages online. If I remember correctly we didn't get beyond chapter 1, though the book arrived from Amazon so I might read more later. At UMassBoston we read the author's Race and Economics and I remember it was close to spellbinding, so the possibility of reading and talking about this book interested me.
Chapter 1, "Flattering Unction"

vision of the anointed"The vision prevailing among the intellectual and political elite of our time." "It is a prevailing vision… [offering] a special state of grace for those who believe in it." "…those who disagree are seen as being not only in error, but in sin." "People are never more sincere than when they assume their own moral superiority."

Vision, anointed, state of grace and sin all are biblical and theological buzzwords!

Early on our discussion moderator asked what the terms "vision" and "anointed" meant to us and why; she also asked if the author tells us why he chose those words, but since I don't have my book yet I can't answer that question, though possibly someone else can.

To do a brief word-study, in Israel, prophets, priests and kings were anointed into the legitimacy of their call; as the moderator pointed out, "Christos / Messiach" means the "anointed." As I posted on one of our earlier book threads, Jesus was anointed into his death in a most unconventional and unorthodox manner and in an unofficial, non-hierarchical setting outside of the legitimate religious, economic and political establishments. As Christians baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as we take the name "Christian" we're baptized prophet, priest and king.

Therefore, the "anointing" of those to whom Dr. Sowell refers are anointed into legitimacy. In our Christian tradition we use olive oil, from the olive tree – which arguably is the "Tree of Life" – as the anointing oil in our liturgies. So these anointed in Sowell's book can be imaged as anointed into fullness of life? Bizarre argument maybe, but I'm thinking! But then again, we Christians consider the cross the ultimate tree of life and although our moderator so aptly pointed out that economics is the most theological of disciplines, I've already cautioned against really getting off on a more explicitly theological track, so I'll quit on that particular subject, though not without saying "tree" is a persistent biblical image and concept.

Our moderator already wrote succinctly about "vision," and so many biblical "vision" settings are familiar to all of us, at the moment I'll pass on writing any more about visions. I'm interested in seeing what more he says about grace and sin in subsequent chapters.

Thomas Sowell speaks of the =insulation= of a vision, and he is very correct, because ideas and egos do become "inextricably intertwined," as he expresses it. Our own individual ideas (as if any idea anyone ever had were not at least somewhat derivative) assume the force of dogma and sometimes lives of their own mini-lives within our larger lives and worlds, so "I" need to protect and defend and, yes insulate "my" idea to the exclusion and sometimes the extinction of everyone else's ideas.

"Crusading movements among the intelligentsia usually include": (paraphrased)
  1. Assertions of great danger to the whole society…to which the masses of people are oblivious;
  2. An urgent need for action to avert impending catastrophe;
  3. A need for government to curtail the behavior of the masses in order to assert the ideas of those prescient few;
  4. A disdainful dismissal of arguments to the contrary.
His saying "Many are unaware there's any other way of looking at things" comes close to bringing me up short, since very suddenly I'm realizing that despite trying to broaden my "vision" by reading and discussing, all too frequently I become very, very unhappy when my ideas aren't accepted as the best, and of course when people aren't interested in listening to me and hearing me I can be truly devastated.

"Thinking People" vs. "Articulate People!" is an intriguing way of separating and distinguishing people! Seems as if the more articulate folks are the ones who get believed and get their articulations acted upon.

One of our discussion participants asked about Dr. Sowell, "what compels him to swim against the prevailing academic stream of thought."

"academic stream of thought" – because so-called liberal thought indeed does prevail in academic and intellectual groups and troops and is relatively rare outside of the educational and cultural whatever-you-want-to-call-it-complex.

I believe I was the one saying though I'd love to get into a discussion of otherness, Holy Other, Creator/creature and identity, I thought that'd get us off this book's track and into a more specifically theological excursion. But many thanks anyway for mentioning the necessity of something other than that supreme "me" and "I" when it comes not only to visions and dreams but when it just plain simply comes to life itself. None of us is self-generated, so thanks for saying the visionary force begins not inside of us but rather outside of us: the biblical distinction between Creator and created. Was not the very idea of creation a vision of our Creator-God's?

The whole superiority and self-righteous trip – me too, all more often than I care to admit. That's it on this chapter for tonight. Amazon said my book was supposed to ship yesterday (Monday), but I haven't gotten an email saying it has shipped, so I'll look forward to reading more of what everyone else has to say about this chapter.

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