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On Black Friday

Welcome to Black Friday, an infamous day that I have long railed against but one that grows on me for three reasons:

1. The cynical side of me recalls Albert Jay Nock's "revelation" that he shouldn't be disgusted by the bum on the street any more than he should be disgusted by a dog digging through garbage: neither can help it; it's just their nature. Nock's "revelation," of course, is scarcely Christian . . . charitable, in an odd way, but I believe theologically untenable from a Christian perspective.

He took the insight from Ralph Adams Cram (this essay in particular):

What kinship is there between St. Francis and John Calvin; the Earl of Strafford and Thomas Crumwell; Robert E. Lee and Trotsky; Edison and Capone? None except their human form. They of the great list behave like our ideal of the human being; they of the ignominious sub-stratum do not–because they are not. In other words, the just line of demarcation should be drawn, not between Neolithic Man and the anthropoid ape, but between the glorified and triumphant human being and the Neolithic mass which was, is now and ever shall be.

Cram's position says we shouldn't be shocked when people don't behave like human beings because they are not human beings. I think he was trying to be overly paradoxical at the expense of accuracy, but he was basically saying, "If you look at great men like Marcus Aurelius and St. Francis as the exemplars of what is expected of men, you are holding men to an impossible standard, because most men are not great men. They are more like neolithic man."

To pithisize the position: Plato is a human being. The mass of men are nothing like Plato. Therefore, the mass of men are not human beings.

That, as far as it goes, seems fine to me. Again, I think Cram was emphasizing the paradox at the expense of theological rigorousness, but his emphasize is on the idea that a handful of great men rise above the mob mass and we can't expect the mob mass to behave the same. If anything, it's almost like Cram says the great men aren't really human (demigods?), and the rest of mankind are the real humans.

But Nock seems to push the argument a bit further.

Nock's position almost seems to say men are born with one of two souls: some with noble souls, some with base souls. But different souls (or "natures"), nonetheless. From Nock's journals: That between the great man and the mass of men, "there was a difference greater than that which separates, shall we say, the obscene mob of the November Revolution in Russia and the anthropoid apes. They fall into two absolutely different categories." Robert Crunden, The Mind & Art of Albert Jay Nock, 121.

Nock concluded that we must not judge the people with base souls/natures because they can't help it. Again, charitable in a way, but dangerously close, it seems, to asserting God creates two different kinds of people. I could be wrong, but when I was hip-deep into Nock's works, that was one of a handful of areas that troubled me.

So anyway, from that perspective, I shouldn't be surprised at the Black Friday madness. The mass of people simply can't help it.

2. My increasing respect for Buddhist mindfulness, which, I think, teaches that the essence of mindfulness is non-judging. Judging agitates, takes energy, distracts from better things. Just let it go. What difference does it make to my pursuits, studies, and efforts if people tear themselves apart on Black Friday? For me to think about them makes me a bigger fool than them.

3. And finally: They're just having fun. It's not fun I appreciate, but there are all sorts of "fun" things I don't appreciate: golf, bird watching, fishing, hunting. It doesn't matter. Few people like blogging, reading Albert Jay Nock's journals, and gardening. Different strokes. Are my strokes more noble? Well, I'm not sure. Let me ask Ralph Adams Cram and Albert Jay Nock . . .


Learned while writing the above post: According to Wikipedia, Cram is venerated in the Episcopalian Church.

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