« On Eating While Walking | Main | The Enlightenment's 'Race' Problem, and Ours »

January 30, 2013


Abbas Raza

Don't be so stupidly self-indulgent and idiotic. First, even though you may think people care about your profession of faith, no one really does, so unless you have something to say about the world that goes beyond your own subjective feelings about it, keep it to yourself, or at least don't complain when people reply. Second, stop trying to justify a life studying historical nonsense by trying to insist that that nonsense is very valuable and therefore your studying of it was very worthwhile. Third, your first essay, to which this sequel is a pathetic defense, was complete drivel. Fourth, for someone who is constantly throwing the term "love" around, you should be a little less aggressive. Okay, motherfucker? Calm yourself and stop being so motherfucking condescending in all your writing. Your friend, Abbas


hey, abbas. i suspect the problem is that justin smith so much surpasses you in learning and wisdom and commitment and grace (and i'm not trying lionizing the guy -- there are a lot of people around i'm sure who similarly surpass you) that it's just a foregone conclusion that his writing will come across to you as condescending. in fact, seems to me it would take a special sort of mean and sickly spirit to react as you do here to justin's generous attempt to make sense of his faith. no doubt there were one or two flat-headed realists at the back of the hall at harvard scoffing at emerson, too. i feel ashamed on your behalf smelling the resentiment squeezing out of your pores. it doesn't smell too good, mate.


Let's see, I wonder if anything's been going on over here at jehsmith.com while I was busy watching walrus exercise vid... Holy fucking hell!! Yikes!! First of all, Joe, I appreciate your support, but you should know that Abbas and I are like bff's and against this background the above is a much less serious incident than it might appear. Abbas has, it's true, written something that would clearly violate the comments policy at 3qd, but then again this isn't 3qd and I've never made a comments policy explicit. I'll respond only to the fourth point in Abbas's list of complaints: it's true, I should be less aggressive in the way I write, and I hope that publicly declaring my belief that love is the supreme principle of the whole gigantic universe, etc., will help to pull me back from aggression where I might previously have been tempted into it.

Dave Maier

Justin -

I can tell you are not addressing me, or the likes of me, in your posts on this matter because in some respects you are, as we say, "pushing at open doors" -- to such a degree that you would be (were you in fact addressing me) standing in the middle of my living room, as it were, making pushing gestures, which I would find most confusing and not at all enlightening or constructive.

In other words, I credit you with understanding that, if you and I were talking, say, about the limits of what language can do, or even the significance of religious language, you would know that it would be entirely inappropriate -- that is, that you could get a good deal of what you wanted, conversationally speaking, without it, whatever its merits in the context of your posts here -- to bring that insufferable mystical skepticism, that "mere human language cannot encompass Higher Truth" crap, to the table.

And that fact itself -- the context-sensitivity of what it is appropriate or meaningful to say (and mean, and claim, without perverse mystical qualification) -- points to the vast middle ground, which for your own purposes you here ignore, between the bean-counting of "insurance claims" on the one hand and sublime, nonsensical Truth on the other.

For example, I like Emerson fine; but the reason it is appropriate for him to talk like that is that he's addressing Harvard Divinity School in 1838, where they're all stroking their beards nervously and going "hmmmm, I don't know, Brother Ralph, that sounds *awfully* unorthodox to me ....". In that context, fine, play those misologistic cards. But again, to bring that noise to a discussion about language and meaning generally (with me anyway, if not your "puffed-up fool"), would be manifestly perverse.

So that's how I know that's not what you're doing here.


oh. ahem. that makes me the dork here, then. ok. i can go with that. it won't be the last time. seeing as i'm a 3qd subscriber, and i've seen jehs's blog entries posted there, you might think i would've cottoned on. i must've just been in the mood to wax all righteous on your behalf, justin. because, shucks brother, i think you're a righteous sort of a bloke. the only other thing i would like to say here is: abbas -- you're a mischievous motherfucker. i like your work. god bless you both.


Dave: thanks for these comments. I agree that the appropriateness of anything one might want to say is entirely dependent on context, and Emerson was surely in the right context when he said what he said. But that leads me to wonder: what sort of context are we in here? We're in the damned Internet! It was said of television a generation or so ago, by George W. S. Trow, that that was 'the context of no context', and surely this is all the more true of this new medium. So we all just say what we feel like saying, and hope some of the people out there will find it fitting and right.

Joe: much obliged!

Abbas Raza

I see that my attempt to step outside the limits of rational discourse and into the realm of "feelings" has not been entirely unsuccessful! :-)

Joe: if I am ever attacked as viciously as I attacked Justin (just to shake him up a bit, I assure you!) I would be lucky if someone came to my defense with all the vigor and vim you mustered in Justin's! You are clearly a good and solid man and have my respect.

Justin: Love, Abbas :-)


If one is not american or religious, should he read (and can he "get") Emerson?


Jay chetram

This is hardly a defense that was expected from hiim concerning Buddhism. Instead convoluted language concerning Love

Jay chetram

Finally, and relatedly, some critics did not appreciate my dismissiveness concerning reports of 'Western' conversions to 'Eastern' faiths (one critic claimed to know 'hundreds' of successful long-term converts to Buddhism; I don't know hundreds of people of any sort). I say 'relatedly' because, again, in that essay I was not interested in conversion at all; I was interested in taking stock of faith, and I suppose I am at least conservative enough to believe that such stock-taking can best be done in the terms already available to one. Because it touches upon something so deep, moreover, something the first bubblings of which come with the first experiments in thinking as a young child, it is fitting that one draw on the cultural forms that were already there at that early stage, rather than the later calques that came with the various young-adult projects of 'mind-expansion'. I am a student of the Upanishads and of Dharmakirti; but I am, in the spirit of Emerson, a Christian student of them.

This is EXCELLENT, Justin. I now got your insight.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)