Saturday, October 10, 2015

a few links to Practical Theology for Women on how American evangelicals have arrived at reductionists approaches to men and women

Now certainly to any number of readers the following observations will seem obvious but a teacher once gave a useful axiom, "never underestimate the obvious". It may be given to every generation to have to rediscover the obvious in our time.  So here we have a couple of links to things published at Practical Theology for Women that deal with ways American conservative evangelicals have over-reacted to the rest of culture in ways that either paradoxically reinforce the very sort of simplification about sexuality it ostensibly critiques on the one hand, or totalizing precepts in a way that can be disputed by biblical texts.
In my experience, men and women in the conservative church are mostly encouraged to not have any of those relationships at all beyond a superficial level. The fear that an inappropriate relationship between the sexes will develop justifies for many the avoidance of any male/female relationship outside of marriage. I'm afraid that in an effort to avoid inappropriate relationships between men and women, we have forgotten to foster appropriate ones. [emphasis original]

At the risk of quoting myself ... this got me thinking ...

Some men who think they are good Christian guys instantly converse with women only in categories of "wife candidate" or "not wife candidate" and conduct themselves very differently according to how they assess women. Women lament that "no guys ask me out" but neglect to mention the men they shut down who they didn't find attractive or interesting enough to date. I've heard a Christian guy say "I don't care if they're real as long as they're of a certain size" and then somehow still manage to be upset at how "shallow" women were because after a decade he hadn't managed to find too many Christian women he thought were attractive who would consider him as a possible boyfriend. I've met women who want a guy who gives her emotional space but will never let her cry, scarcely realizing that these criteria are mutually exclusive.

But even beyond that, when men and women within conservative Protestantism seem to collapse all possible ways of relating to each other into the category of eros and when "the friend zone" (a mysterious put-down of a category of relating that I didn't know existed until within the last ten years) is dreaded, it seems as if at a subcultural level the desire to avoid "inappropriate relationships" is more than just that, it's become a kind of abjection of other categories of relating.  Guys get so fixated on finding that wife both because it's a coveted relationship to have and because there's also a social pressure for it that anyone who's not identifiable as a candidate on that track is a time-waster.

Christians who object to the worldliness of sexual mores in the United States may paradoxically be worse about that focus. Particularly conservative Protestant dudes may be completely incapable of making a distinction between beauty and eros, most of all at an interpersonal level. Once I heard a fellow demur at the possibility of spending time with some people because, to paraphrase, if you're going to spend time with an attractive member of the opposite sex and nothing's going to come of it that all just seems like a big tease.  No, that's your problem by way of imposing your expectations on to a situation and a person. There "is" a distinction to be made between appreciation that someone is physically beautiful and the "tease" of your own hopes or expectations or senses of entitlement.

Sometimes it seems as if beneath the veneer of propriety and piety many an American Christian dude is a Sterling Archer.  Or Barry. You "might" have to know who those cartoon characters are to get what I'm getting at ... or you could look `em up on Wikipedia or something.

Moving along to the next post.  The quoted excerpt speaks for itself nicely:
There has been a similar round of conversation lately about submission as it relates to gender. Instead of submission being attached to the specific context of marriage, submission is being attached to womanhood as a defining characteristic, as leadership is to men. In that view, a woman’s submission to her husband is absolute, so as to reflect the church’s submission to Christ. And in life, that view teaches that a woman is to avoid vocations, actions or even words that will in any way guide or correct a man, or in some way dilute his inherent ability and masculine need to lead her. God’s work through women who lead, and even lead in rebellion, such as the midwives of Egypt, or Deborah or, my personal favorite, Jael, is dismissed as a collection of anomalies from the Old Covenant era. But it’s a New Testament story of God’s punishment of a woman’s submission which exposes clearly the wrong teaching that submission is some kind of definitive aspect of general godly womanhood.

Acts 4 and 5 describes the joyful generosity of the early church as they sold what they had to share with those in need. In an act that was far more about sinful pride than avarice, one man in the church named Ananias sells some property just as others have done, keeping some of the profit but behaving as if he was giving all to God. Many presume that Ananias’ wife, Sapphira, was complicit in the decision to keep back some of the profit. But the text makes no such presumption. The decision to sell the property was Ananias’ and Sapphira’s together. But the decision to keep back some of the profit was his, albeit a decision Sapphira knew he had made. Ananias chose his course, and Sapphira submitted to his choice.

While this type of gender-roles-follow-creation-order American may attempt to argue that Deborah ad prophet and judge was an anomaly from the terrible time of the judges, Barry Webb is probably not the only scholar to have pointed out there's nothing in the text or tone of the book of Judges that indicates that Deborah holding these roles was considered in appropriate or a sign of a decline in Israelite society--that would be an imposition upon the text and its narrative by contemporary interpreters.  The case for this is not just from that text and its interpreters, though, it's a strong inference even from the precedent of Huldah being the prophetess to whom Josiah dispatched people to confirm the authenticity and validity of the discovered book of the law.

Starke, in her guest piece, points out that Peter dealt with Saphhira as having her own moral responsibility and complicity in her husband's deception. Had the apostle followed the submission trope that contemporary complementarians of a certain stripe insist upon why wouldn't Sapphira have been exonerated as having submitted to the headship of her husband? Well, I suppose we could point out that the husband and wife agreed to the deception but the rhetorical point still has merit, "if" Sapphira merely went along to get along would she have been off the hook? Probably not, because if we invoke creation order and federal headship as consistently as some complementarians have wanted, she'd be on the hook.  The larger point remains, that in an eagerness to assert a creation order as informing the way men and women relate to each other within a marriage, there's been a totalizing process that goes beyond not just a general observation about men and women but that runs into some problems within the narratives of the scriptures themselves.

To revisit an already posted observation, John Piper can talk about men and women and authority in abstract terms but there's still not much getting around that a teenage son, however biologically manly he may be, should still obey an order from his mom to take out the trash.  The idea that in the general world women should be deferential to the point of not issuing orders in an authoritative way to a male seems too abstracted from life as we know it.  If we're men we have all at some point gotten a direct order from our mothers and if we were understanding and obedient sons we chose to follow that order even if it was something we didn't particularly relish doing.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Atlantic: "When Amazon dies" ... don't forget that your streaming options are indefinite rentals not "ownership".

When everything's on the cloud and the cloud dissipates everything goes with it.  The era of the internet may make it easier than ever to believe that online culture has a potentially unlimited shelf life but it isn't necessarily so, obviously.

authors discuss why famous women don't self-identify as feminist ... when being merely a "humanist" isn't enough.

In an interview with Porter magazine, Oscar-winning French actress Marion Cotillard criticized feminism, saying, “We need to fight for women’s rights but I don’t want to separate women from men… Sometimes in the word feminism there’s too much separation.” And her sentiment was echoed this week by none other than Meryl Streep, who declared in Time Out London, “I am a humanist, I am for nice easy balance.”

Listen, I’ve learned to roll with the punches for Marion. Let’s not forget that this is a woman who could be described as both a 9/11 attacks truther and a moon landing denier. I love her movies, and short of a reveal of a secret racist or anti-vaxxer past, I plan to see every movie she makes from here on out. But I’m not about to subscribe to her political newsletter any time soon.

But Meryl… girl I am surprised at you. You, Mary Louise Streep—you are not a feminist? You, the star of Silkwood and A Cry in the Dark? You, who leap out of your seat every time another lady beats you for an Oscar? You, who are campaigning Congress for the creation of an equal rights amendment? You, who railed against Walt Disney last awards season for being a “gender bigot?” Self-described feminist Maya Angelou said that when people tell you who they are, believe them. So OK, Meryl, fine. You’re not a feminist. You’re only starring in a movie literally called Suffragette to fight for awareness of gender-neutral humanism.

Protestations about feminism as being “too separatist”—as Cotillard puts it—are no surprise coming from young starlets who have yet to get curious about the world beyond their success, but coming from women like Streep and Cotillard, the usual refrains about wanting balance and not wanting to cut men out are confusing. These are women whose careers and whose lives have clearly benefited from feminism, and who clearly seek out extraordinary women to portray in their work.

So what is it that’s so undesirable about the word feminist? Why does the myth of separatism persist? Women like Meryl Streep are supposed to be our base, not our swing votes. If we can’t convince Meryl Streep to call herself a feminist in public, how are we ever going to reach women?

While Gwyneth Paltrow is certainly able to claim that nobody is worth the amount of money Robert Downey Jr. may have who is worth the amount of money Paltrow has, for that matter?

Something that is a recurring theme at publications like The Atlantic or Slate or New Republic is the riddle of why women who are successful and well-known in a given field of activity do NOT self-identify as feminists.  Well, maybe one possibility is that even if a person spends decades self-identifying as being for women having opportunities in a job market or artistic field all that status can be retroactively revoked in symbolic fashion by people on the internet based on one interview and the statements therein.

Take Chrissie Hynde, for instance.

As The New Yorker discussed not too very long ago, there's also been a breach between generations of feminists on whether the transgendered can ever count as women.

For at least older generations of feminism male privilege can essentially be something you can never lose even if you get gender reassignment surgery. Even if you try to give it up you can't really do so.

The LGBQT side of things has revealed, over time, that feminists have not all agreed on those issues across the last forty years and newer generations of feminists writers may (and often have) combined causes into a single totalizing approach. Your credentials as a feminist, whatever they may have been in the past, are contingent on whether you additionally sign on for other causes as well. It's not that feminists from earlier generations ever stopped being feminists, really, it may be that newer generations of feminists have added additional categories that may or may not have any essential connection to feminism. What gay men do would seem to have nothing at all much to do with women overall but a contemporary feminist may well be expected to be sympathetic to the cause even if gay men may simply be part of the patriarchy.

Hanna Rosin has been writing at various intervals about the disconnect between feminists writing online about the obstacles they face to getting what they want and what anyone else who doesn't make a living from writing might run into.
In the real world it’s hard to find a young woman who spends her time scanning for sexist insults. But on the Web it’s a steady job. And you can, if you look hard enough, find some sexist bastard at a tech company or a hedge fund or a frat who says insulting things every day. But this doesn’t mean that the patriarchy is thriving. The satire response to my piece from the Cut, “The 39 Things We’ll Miss About the Patriarchy,” includes a handful of genuine, timeless horrors such as rape and honor killings but also dozens of minor ones such as juice cleansing and vibrators shaped like cupcakes. See what I mean? Look hard enough, and you’ll never run out of examples.

One of the potential conundrums for those who are celebrities identifying or not identifying as feminist now or in the past (and we could just non-randomly consider a Taylor Swift) is that even with entrenched sexism in the entertainment industry some of the women who some feminist authors think "should" be feminists make more money in a year than many another woman (or man) may make in ten years. It's difficult to not recall what Joan Didion coldly proposed back in 1972:
July 30, 1972
The Women's Movement
To  make an omelette you need not only those broken eggs but someone "oppressed" to beat them: every revolutionist is presumed to understand that, and also every women, with either does or does not make 51 per cent of the population of the United States a potentially revolutionary class. The creation of this revolutionary class was from the virtual beginning the "idea" of the women's movement, and the tendency for popular discussion of the movement still to center around daycare centers is yet another instance of that studied resistance to the possibility of political ideas which characterizes our national life.

"The new feminism is not just the revival of a serious political movement for social equality," the feminist theorist Shulamith Firestone announced flatly in 1970. "It is the second wave of the most important revolution in history." This was scarcely a statement of purpose anyone could find cryptic, and it was scarcely the only statement of its kind in the literature of the movement. Nonetheless, in 1972, in a "special issue" on women, Time was still musing genially that the movement might well succeed in bringing about "fewer diapers and more Dante."

That was a very pretty image, the idle ladies sitting in the gazebo and murmuring lasciate ogni speranza, but it depended entirely upon the popular view of the movement as some kind of collective inchoate yearning for "fulfillment" or "self-expression," a yearning absolutely devoid of ideas and therefore of any but the most pro forma benevolent interest. In fact there was an idea, and the idea was Marxist, and it was precisely to the extent that there was this Marxist idea that the curious historical anomaly known as the women's movement would have seemed to have any interest at all.

Now some authors, like Amanda Marcotte, have noted that, hey, things have changed a whole lot since then.

It may be one of the recurring faultlines within progressive thought, that if anything is finally achieved groups within the progressive wing can conclude that the goalposts need to move to the next goal. Now that those gay men and women who choose to can get married, some progressives hope to redefine what even a marriage and a family may be.  Divest marriage of the tendency to accumulate private property, for instance.

The more utopian the vision of the ideal society, the more totalitarian the means of reaching toward it often tends to be. The historic pitfall of the left and the right over the last ... well ... more than a century really, is that whether we're talking about groups Richard Taruskin has described as utopians of nostalgia or utopians of a future society, they both have shown in the last century just how totalitarian they are willing to be to work toward that utopia. 

from New Republic, a slightly surprising "case against free college" and from the Atlantic doubts about the obligatory bachelor's degree

Of the two it's more surprising to read anyone making any case against free college at The New Republic since someone over there was writing in the last month about how every family should have a smart phone. Nobody reads maps printed on paper anymore?  Nobody uses a compass?  Nevertheless, there's a case at tNR against free college and once I saw the case (which is that the people angling for free college tend to be already better off and don't see how free college will exacerbate income inequality in the long run) I was less surprised. "Free college" still costs somebody something and the case is that working class taxpayers will not benefit in the same way those who make more money will,.
...The main problem with free college is that most students come from disproportionately well-off backgrounds and already enjoy disproportionately well-off futures, which makes them relatively uncompelling targets for public transfers. At age nineteen, only around 20 percent of children from the poorest 2 percent of families in the country attend college. For the richest 2 percent of families, the same number is around 90 percent. In between these two extremes, college attendance rates climb practically straight up the income ladder: the richer your parents are, the greater the likelihood that you are in college at age nineteen. The relatively few poor kids who do attend college heavily cluster in two-year community colleges and cheaper, less selective four-year colleges, while richer kids are likely to attend more expensive four-year institutions. At public colleges (the type we’d likely make free), students from the poorest fourth of the population currently pay no net tuition at either two-year or four-year institutions, while also receiving an average of $3,080 and $2,320 respectively to offset some of their annual living expenses. Richer students currently receive much fewer tuition and living grant benefits.

Given these class-based differences in attendance levels, institutional selection, and current student benefit levels, making college free for everyone would almost certainly mean giving far more money to students from richer families than from poorer ones. Of course, providing more generous student benefits might alter these class-based skews a bit by encouraging more poor and middle-class people to go to college or to attend more expensive institutions. But even reasonably accounting for those kinds of responses, the primary result of such increased student benefit generosity would be to fill the pockets of richer students and their families.

Student benefit campaigners tend not to focus on these sorts of distributive questions, preferring instead to gesture towards a supposed student debt crisis to prove that those who attended college really are a hurting class needing higher benefits. While there are certain extreme cases of students with very high debts, and certain college sectors such as for-profits that are truly immiserating specific groups of students, the reality remains that college graduates are generally on track for much better financial outcomes than non-attendees. Even in the wake of the Great Recession, which hit young people harder than anyone else, those with bachelor’s degrees had median personal incomes $17,500 higher than young high school graduates. Just one year of this income premium would be enough to wipe out the median debt of a public four-year-college graduate, which currently stands slightly above $10,000.

I would have thought that the case that given the way standardized tests tend to filter based on socio-economic and even racial lines that someone might be able to make a case that even "if" college is free for everyone the entire testing regime will still be stacked against people who aren't more upper crusty anyway and that this could be a secondary effect not anticipated by relatively well-off white people who want free college because they haven't considered it as even being part of their white privilege.  That wasn't actually sarcasm there, by the way. One of the more brilliant moves by South Park in sending up the social justice warrior element is that they're presented as uniformly white frat boy bros who are busy checking other peoples' privilege while basking in their own, namely college education.

Over at The Atlantic there's a piece raising doubts about whether the bachelor's degree should be the "necessary" step to a middle-class life.  If there's another case to be made against free college that seems more compelling than even the case that free-college-for-all would exacerbate income inequality it's that there's no reason a college degree should be a prerequisite for "normal" economic life that's construed as "middle class".
It is because of this belief that general-education requirements are the center of the bachelor’s degree and are concentrated in the first two years of a four-year program. The general-education core is what distinguishes the B.A. from a vocational program and makes it more than “just training.” It is designed to ensure that all degree holders graduate with a breadth of knowledge in addition to an in-depth understanding of a particular subject area. Students are exposed to a broad range of disciplines and are pushed to think critically about the social, cultural, and historical context in which they live. It is supposed to guarantee that all graduates can write, have a basic understanding of the scientific method, have heard of the Marshall Plan and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and know that iambic pentameter has something to do with poetry.

While few would challenge the importance of general education, both to students and to a well-functioning democracy, there is good reason to question why it has to come at the beginning of a B.A.—and just how general and theoretical it needs to be. The pyramid structure of the bachelor’s degree, which requires that students start with the broad base of general requirements before they specialize, is what makes college unappealing to so many young people.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is no iron law of learning dictating that students must master general theories or be fully versed in a particular historical or cultural context before learning how to do things. Some students will do well under this approach, but ...

Apparently the oft insufferable first two years of often time-wasting "general education" hasn't gone anywhere in the last twenty years. What made those general education courses seem so idiotic was that during high school I'd get told that I was getting a well-rounded general education to prepare for a career and/or college and then I got to college and was told the general education was a requirement.  Wasn't college supposed to be for more specialized study, finally?  Ah, yeah, just those last two years of the undergrad degree and then you do two MORE years for a master's.  There was no room for actually using more than "maybe" half of those four years JUST studying the stuff you wanted to study.  Not that I exactly regret going to college but sometimes it seems like American higher education has mutated into some gigantic con job.  You can learn plenty if you're working with teachers who want to actually teach rather than secure tenure or play the status/honor game of scholastic prestige ... but in the last ten years or so I've advised younger friends to not bother with college unless they are certain they can't get a job in a career they're interested in without the formal credentials associated with a degree.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Rebecca Mead at the New Yorker on the new Muppets, "... that's the recipe for Muppets humor: take champagne and add sugar. Not salt."
Not that the Muppets are strangers to innuendo. Charles Grodin’s lust for Miss Piggy, in “The Great Muppet Caper,” is legitimately steamy—though it’s never implied that they actually have sex. What the new show misjudges isn’t some kind of moral standard but what makes the Muppets funny in the first place. They exist in the rude, recognizable world of adult humans but are too innocent to notice. It’s funny, in a cheap way, to joke about Zoot being in Alcoholics Anonymous. (“It’s not that kind of meeting,” he’s told in the pilot.) But it’s a lot funnier when Fozzie, at a London nightspot in “The Great Muppet Caper,” says of his champagne, “You know, if you put enough sugar in this stuff, it tastes just like ginger ale!” Maybe that’s the recipe for Muppets humor: take champagne and add sugar. Not salt. [emphasis mine]

It’s a testament to Jim Henson and Frank Oz that the Muppets sensibility has been so tricky to get right without them.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Short Fuse on a biography that describes Engels as pretty literally the world's first "champagne communist"

Among the most memorable words Karl Marx ever wrote — up there with “A specter is haunting Europe” and “Workers of the world unite” — are these, on the advantages of the world that communist revolution would bring about: “Communist society,” he predicted, would enable “me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd, or critic.”

This is from “The German ideology,” published posthumously but written by Marx in his twenties. The image of freedom expressed is an unmistakably youthful one, conveying more about recreation than vocation, and providing no remotely plausible basis for any society, revolutionary or not. If cattle rearing occurred only in the evening, there’d be neither beef nor dairy. If hunters and fishers were active only when the mood took them, we’d all be vegans, except that vegans would starve, too, since what Marx said about hunting and fishing was meant to apply just as strictly to farming, nut gathering, and apple picking.

This utopia of an early Marx consists of aristocratic pastimes, diversions, games. It is a vision of a global human retirement community, of our species relaxing after the terrible toil of history. If such idyllic circumstances could be achieved, what would the critic find to “criticize after dinner”?

But there are substantial weaknesses in Hunt’s account. Hunt does a fair job of describing the various intellectual disciplines that were fused into Marxism. There was, above all, the Hegelian dialectic, Germany’s seminal contribution to Marxism. That was joined with the tradition of French revolutionary activism, and with English analyses of economics.

But Hunt never steps back to contemplate the inherent problem of such grand syntheses when bought to bear on human life. To seek a unified field theory in physics is one thing. If found, it would not lead to gulags or concentration camps, the way ersatz unified field theories of human activity seem always to do.

Hunt writes: “Was Engels responsible for the terrible misdeeds carried out under the banner of Marxism-Leninism?. . . the answer has to be no. In no intelligible sense can Engels or Marx bear culpability for the crimes of historical actors carried out generations alter, even if the policies were offered up in their honor.”

But throughout this biography, Hunt himself seems divided on this issue. He writes, for instance, about one purge of communist ranks carried out by Marx and Engels: “What the next 150 years brought in terms of expulsions, denunciations, and political purges within left-wing parties is grimly foreshadowed” in this instance. There are many examples of such foreshadowing.
Marx once dreamed about a world that allowed for going from “one thing today and another tomorrow.” The intellectual weaponry he and Engles forged for their successors led, contra their youthful hopes, to the opposite.

It's seemed to me over the years that Marxism was just a secularization of the postmillennialist optimism of the era within nominalist Christendom and the real deal proselytizers. It's the apocalyptic expectation and hope that one day the lion will lay down with the lamb but by dint of a different kind of pamphlet writing, the kinds that don't eventually get canonized into a biblical text that imagine that it's more likely a supernatural creator-god will create such a utopia than the observably improbable contribution of the humans who formulated the kinds of economic systems in which oppression and poverty are never necessarily gone.

a series or two may be incubating here

Between that Robert Morris comment and the old Samuel D James remarks and even the "court of Google" stuff from Leithart, it just seems like a long-form case for the viability of what people call watchblogging may be in order.  You know, draw on the precedent of OT case law and the Torah; draw upon the precedent of the prophetic literature; draw upon explorations of prophetic office and activity as studied by Reformers like, oh, maybe Heinrich Bullinger; talk about theories of the press and how they play out in public commentary about the legitimacy of "platform".

You know, stuff like that. If neo-Calvinists and Robert Morris types are so relentlessly revealing their ignorance of biblical literature and writings from the Reformation then maybe it's worth taking a lay person's shot at overviewing some of the literature. It won't be a categorical defense of "all" watchblog activity, but a case for the restraint and constraints within which there is a scripturally and historically defensible precedent. As you can guess from that summary that's not going to be a swiftly developing project.

Another project is more a musicology meets history of ideas thing. Not much to say about that just yet.

I also haven't forgotten writing about the DCAU but that's tabled until next year.  This was supposed to be the year to return to blogging about animation and while we're not close to done venting about the artistic failures of Legend of Entitlement, better know as Legend of Korra, there's time to vent about the tokenism of that show later this week, maybe.

Ridley Scott making more Prometheus sequels that will "eventually" tie back into the Alien franchise?

well ... I read somewhere Scott said the xenomorph is pretty well played out and maybe with a recent advertisement over at CBR highlight Alien vs Vampirella ...

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Dreher/Wilson thing continues

The gist of Doug Wilson's defense (which, it seems inevitably, continues) could be summed up a la Han Solo "It's not my fault".  Sure, Wilson went ahead and got the two parties married because, well, maybe it was gonna happen anyway and there's nothing for it.  After all, in the end there was nothing that Wilson could have necessarily done or said to have stopped it.  Wilson's defense of his approach amounts to "capitulation was the only realistic option because if I didn't capitulate they were going to do their thing anyway".  If that's the case then not capitulating may not have stopped two people from entering into a potentially ill-advised marriage but it would preclude the possibility of Doug Wilson having this thing called culpability.

It's as if advising a guy to live a life of celibacy in light of his convictions (for crimes, not the other kinds of convictions) was never even on the table for Doug Wilson, or was it?

Had Wilson not spent decades seeking a role as a public figure preaching and teaching on how people ought to behave, and doing so in a way that made him a lightning rod, he wouldn't be dealing with any of this. Mark Driscoll at least came to an appreciation that once you have sought out and attained a certain level of celebrity you become the kind of public figure about whom a great deal more can be said than could be said about a private citizen.  Had Doug Wilson not spent so many decades publicly sounding off on all the things he considered suitable and unsuitable regarding the sexes and sexuality, things he did or didn't do or say in the past wouldn't be "on the table" for consideration this year. If Doug Wilson's going to keep blogging about how he's at the gallows in a court of cyber-opinion it's not like anyone forced him to walk up to the gallows.  He seems to have run up there himself and said "Look, I got something I just have to say for the public record."

a blog post quoting Morton Feldman on indeterminate music--"An indeterminate music can lead only to catastrophe. This catastrophe we allowed to take place. Behind it was sound--which unified everything."

“An indeterminate music can lead only to catastrophe.”
 —Morton Feldman

It’s a catchy quote, coming as it does from one of the founders of indeterminate music—but to be fair, we should perhaps let the tape run a little further: “An indeterminate music can lead only to catastrophe. This catastrophe we allowed to take place. Behind it was sound—which unified everything.”

To Feldman, indeterminacy was a means to an end—a way to break through the walls of traditional composition in order to reach the pure physicality of sound beyond. Just as Wittgenstein had dismissed his Tractatus as a ladder to be thrown away after it was climbed, Feldman climbed the ladder of indeterminacy and, having reached the top, discarded it.

So indeterminacy can theoretically be assessed as if it were saying something about the cosmos as a whole but we can look to a statement by someone who helped pioneer indeterminacy in music and see that it was a means to an end, a recalibration of our understanding for and appreciation of sound as the foundational physically perceived sensation from which we make music. 

Whether we're looking at Stravinsky's assimilation of Russian and Ukrainian folk songs into his early works; T. S. Eliot going back to Dante and metaphysical English poets; or even Cage with Zen and Feldman with indeterminacy seeking to recover sound as the foundation of musical perception in place of a mental lexicon of aural syntax, there may be a sense in which any avant garde is always is in some paradoxical sense a move backward to something an artist believes we have missed in whatever our path to the present was moving forward.