Law, Taboo

Every tree dweller understands: if you fall, if the bough breaks, down will come baby, cradle and all. There’s no lawyer there, no priest, to ask the baby if it intended to fall. Gravity, any “law” of nature, applies: intention, will, the best laid plans … have no bearing.

Freud impressed the hell out of me when I was reading his late writings in Lionel Trilling’s lit class around 1958 or ’59. Freud reported anthropology as maintaining that “primitives” take their taboos literally: if it’s taboo to see your mother in law’s breasts, and an earthquake pins you under a boulder, and ants eat your eyelids off so you can’t close your eyes, and the tidal wave caused by the earthquake by whatever series of consequences strips your mother in law naked and flings her, boobs rampant, against your face, it makes no difference that it was impossible for you to avert your gaze, her nipple jabbing your cornea means that you have violated the taboo: and will now take the consequences.

In primitive religion sin is something you are to avoid. (Don’t look too expectantly into the religion to find out what “sin” means: the religion itself doesn’t remember exactly. Anyway: you sin, you pay.

In the (set of) religion(s) we regard as modern (because we belong to it (/ them)) there’s an infinite series of ways out: there are lawyers and priests to say you didn’t mean it. There are layers and priests to say that your sin has been redeemed. There are lawyers and priests, and churches, galore, hell-bent on confusing the god, on getting him to forget what he’d said, what he’d threatened, what his own rules are …

You’re a monkey in a tree, a chimp, a man: you meant to step on the next branch, but you missed … You’ve got a tree full of priests and lawyers … You step out into naked mid-air … What’s gonna happen?

Social Epistemology Reality

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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