Some time back, one of my sons requested that I make available to him (and by proxy, the family) Beethoven's Violin Concerto because he recalled me having played it (or a portion thereof) in the past and he remembered wanting to hear more of it. Recently, in attempting to fulfill that request, while doing some research on which recordings of Beethoven's Violin Concerto are considered top-tier, I came across this thread on Talk Classical in which I saw a couple of recommendations of a recording with the soloist Itzhak Perlman under the baton of Giulini, which I then duly looked up. Now, I'm quite familiar with Perlman, but Giulini? Hmm, the name certainly rang a bell, but I couldn't place it, so I then looked into the recording a bit further and came up with the full name: Carlo Maria Giulini. Ahh! Getting closer in my mind, I'm almost positive that I have at least one recording with him, but I still couldn't picture him. Another search therefore commenced and immediately I recognized the face. He's one of those maestros that I remember for his kind, calm demeanor, that yet betrayed a high intelligence. I'm not here asserting that he was any of those things, just that in looking at his picture, that is what comes to my mind when seeing him and having heard interviews with him. There are numerous others, but Claudio Abbado also immediately comes to the fore for the same reasons.1Again, I must caution here that I am not endorsing either the lives or characters of these men. I did not know them, I'm simply relating my impressions of them based upon photos, their work, and an interview here and there that I've come across.
Off to the side of my ‘Carlo Maria Giulini’ search I saw a thumbnail/preview video from ClassicsToday.com by David Hurwitz entitled Preview: Carlo Maria Giulini's 10 Best Recordings--Spiritual, or Just Dull? Classics Today is one of those websites that I have found quite useful from time to time when I'm researching a particular recording. At the very least, their reviewers display, to varying degrees, a dizzying command of musical structure and familiarity with works of Art across the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras. In general, I find David Hurwitz's reviews to be refreshingly opinionated2Nota bene: from time to time he'll use a gratuitous profane word.. Hence, I clicked upon it, and was taken aback by the logo on his t-shirt:
Abnormal is fine.
Stupid is not.
The first thought that came to my mind was “What a stupid thing to wear on one's shirt!” Of course, what I should have thought is “What a foolish thing to wear on one's shirt!”3The reason for my differentiating between the two is subtle, but I believe sound: most of the time that people invoke the word 'stupid' what they really mean is that they believe that some action or belief of another is at odds with what they would do in such and such a situation, and it's often in a moral context. 'Stupid' does not mean lack of wisdom; in the main it means deficient in mental capacity, and that is something for which people should not be upbraided. but, engrained habits of being raised in a secular home steeped in a secular world, are hard to eliminate completely. Nonetheless, the overarching meaning is identical. Unless there’s something hidden in that which is inscrutable at the surface level, it is an absolutely foolish pair of statements, and that’s the tack I took: there must be more there than meets the eye. Considering that the logo in question is used on what I supposed to be merchandise from Classics Today, I executed the following Google search:
abnormal stupid site:classicstoday.com
The only results that turned up from that search were self-referential in nature: i.e., they were for merchandise with the logo. That meant that I was left to look elsewhere for its meaning. The next search I undertook was a more general one: perhaps these are phrases well-known to our current culture? I executed the following search:
“abnormal is fine” “stupid is not”
which yielded a grand total of eight results on Google.4 Based upon the dates of the articles and videos mentioned above, the phrase has only been used in the merchandise of Classics Today for two or so years. Even if we eventually discover that the words in question don't make sense, it's immaterial whether it has 'caught on' in my mind (unless 'abnormal' is being used to smuggle in something nefarious). There are so many truly mindless and pernicious phrases that saturate our culture already, that the merely mindless cannot be our primary concern. Phrases such as: "my body my choice", "trans rights are human rights", "you can’t choose who you love", "student debt forgiveness" are already so deeply entrenched, one more innocuous one matters but little. Of those, three were either from the Classics Today merchandise store or a link directly to it. The remaining five were
- An interesting post on Beethoven’s metronome markings from Talk Classical in which the phrase is invoked, but not explained in any way.
- A post of some sort in which the author expresses that the phrase is ‘perfect.’
- A blog in which the author avers that the phrase is ‘pithy’ and well-nigh impossible to explain to ‘grizzled old-timers.’
- A post of some sort in German about architecture and home building in which the phrase is invoked with no discernible context, and hence, no meaning can be gleaned there either.
- An article in the pdf of the ‘County Journal’ of 2021-08-05 discussing the link between Claud Moye (aka ‘Pie Plant Pete’) and another musical figure who is not named in that article.5However, I did manage to find the name of the other musician from the 2021-09-02 issue of the same publication: Claudia Cassidy (aka ‘Acidy Cassidy’) who was a performing arts critic for the Chicago Tribune. In this, the phrase is praised as a ‘worthy motto.’ We’ll circle back to Pete momentarily…
Hence, it appears that we’ll be left to our own devices as to parsing what the phrase might actually mean, for in the mind of this author, a prima facie reading can only yield that the phrase is decidedly ‘not fine.’ We'll begin with 'abnormal.'
What first comes to my mind upon thinking on this word are pictures of grotesque distortions of the human form brought about by either genetic or environmental corruptions of the normal growth and development process. Secondarily, I think of the general category consisting of that which has ‘gone wrong’ rather than ‘gone right.’ And finally, at the very periphery of acceptable uses of the term, I think of it as connoting the category of those things that are ‘abnormal’ but in a positive way: e.g., an abnormal score on a standardized test, meaning a perfect or very high score.
Turning to the dictionaries at hand, both the OED and Unabridged Merriam Webster’s (UMW) have one of its interpretations as being (essentially) ‘deviating from the ordinary rule or type; contrary to rule or system; irregular, unusual’ all of which could be taken as neutral in meaning. The other gloss that the OED gives is ‘aberrant,’ decidedly negative. The UMW also gives us three more definitions:
- Greater than or superior to the normal : EXCESSIVE
- Less than or inferior to the normal : deficient in intellectual powers : characterized by mental defect or disorder : SUBNORMAL
- Departing from the accepted standards of social behavior
1. is decidedly positive in connotation6Although the gloss ‘excessive,’ like the word under consideration could only be considered positive in a tortured way, and 2. and 3. are decidedly negative. The gloss of 'aberrant' given by the OED belongs in the latter category as well.
We therefore have three possibilities. Tackling the ‘neutral’ one, while it’s possible that this is the connotation intended, taking this path would lead to the rather strange statement: “Both good and bad are fine (good).” and “Stupid is not (good).” Which even a sliver of thought reveals to be self-refuting.
We are therefore left to consider the applicability of the decidedly negative or decidedly positive connotations of ‘abnormal.’
We’ll start with the most likely candidate of these two, which is the negative connotation. I say most likely, because in the normal (sorry to run the poor phrase thus) day-to-day conversations of people and the writings of people who are familiar with the patterns of normal English discourse, that is the intent. I won’t waste time listing out examples of such usage: the reader can furnish plenty on their own. Suffice it to say that if the negative is what is intended, then the phrase ‘abnormal is fine’ is, if not downright pernicious, nonsensical at best.
Lastly, we turn to the positive connotation. Let us here be frank: ‘abnormal’ being used in a praising or positive sense is itself abnormal. When speaking of exemplary conduct, ability, or accomplishment, no one who is interested in communicating clearly and effectively would say of e.g., a tremendous athlete: “You need to see how abnormal this guy is. It’s abnormal!” No, what would be conveyed would be more akin to: “You need to see how amazing this guy is. He’s off the charts!” The only way it really works is if it is invoked in a litotical sense (intentional or unintentional), but even then it’s a bit tortuous. It can also work when invoked adjectively, as in ‘abnormal strength,’ but that is not its use in the phrase under discussion.
Hence, as to ‘abnormal is fine,’ we’re left scratching our heads. Perhaps the use of ‘stupid’ will shed some light on it and the whole?
Is the intended use of 'stupid' to take a stand against deficient intellectual capacity? If so, that’s a bit strange. Such a stand would only make sense if there were a sufficient mass7Equivalently: an insufficient mass given access to the mass media to brow-beat the intellectually and morally defenseless masses into submission. of people extolling the virtues and benefits of being intellectually deficient. Mind you, it literally would not surprise me in the least, considering that wisdom herself is all but banished from the land, and further considering that the murder of the unborn, the destruction of marriage, the homosexual agenda, the invasion of women’s bathrooms by grotesque and perverted males, Antifa, BLM, and the morbidly obese are all celebrated and extolled by the ‘brights’ of our civilization (see below). But, that being said, I have not yet seen where mental retardation is extolled, and therefore I don’t believe that that is the point. Even if it is the point, considering that mental incapacity is abnormal, if we put that together with ‘abnormal is fine,’ we end up with ‘stupidity is fine and not fine,’ and so again, nonsense. Hence, this potentiality of ‘stupid’ has not helped us to make heads or tails of ‘abnormal is fine.’
Is the intent ‘foolish’ as opposed to ‘wise’ in the invocation of 'stupid?' If so, then I agree wholeheartedly. However, if that is the case, then no light has been shed on what we’re to think or comprehend about the ‘abnormal is fine’ phrase. What we can say is that if this is the intent, then because wisdom dictates that words have meaning, if one wants to communicate effectively and clearly with others, words should be chosen carefully and judiciously. As Mortimer Adler once said during an interview with William F. Buckley: “Persuasive language should be elevated without being obscure.”, and I agree with him. If a phrase destined for mass consumption is so obscure as to be indecipherable by the normal modes of discerning meaning, then it can only be called ‘foolish.’ Therefore, if the phrase under discussion is meant to extol wisdom, then we have yet again arrived at a self-annihilatory impasse.
As there are no positive construals of ‘stupid,’ we’ve been stumped, and must conclude that if there is an actual meaning to those phrases, it is beyond reason, and therefore ‘not fine.’ But, let us press on: Invoking the philosophical principle of charity, we could be tempted, given that the phrase is on the merchandise of a site dedicated to reviewing classical music recordings, to take ‘abnormal’ in the sense that Beethoven was ‘abnormal,’ in that he revolutionized just about every genre of music that he lay hold of, and what he did was an 'abnormally' unusual accomplishment and manifestation of ability? Hence: “Abnormal ability and capacity such as that which Beethoven had is fine.” But then we’d be left to contend with the ‘stupid’ portion and have to countenance a rather bizarre turn of phrase when it comes to classical music: ‘stupid classical music is not fine.’ I have no idea what would constitute 'stupid' classical music. But, considering the penchant of recent generations to mindlessly repeat phrases that sound ‘hip’ or ‘cool’ (merely a manifestation of the endemic of a lack of concern for the meaning of words in the West) we’re left with its potential meaning only being found in and around the very penumbra of understanding, to be found only after grotesque and bizarre twists and turns, and yet will still end up with an interpretation that is repugnant to reason and good sense.
So where does that leave us? Well, in the capable hands of ‘Pie Plant Pete,’ that’s where. What of him? Can he help us to see our way through?8Unfortunately, the answer is 'no:' it seems that the inscrutability of the phrase is pathological.
Well, to begin with, he was a ‘hillbilly’ performer who lived during the years of 1906-1988, who is made note of on the Country Music Hall of Fame website, and who played ‘novelty and mountain songs’ which were variously recorded during the 1930s-1940s. In the County Journal article referenced above, the author makes mention of one of Claud’s songs entitled "Don’t Try It, It Can’t be Done”, and as this post makes abundantly apparent, I have a decided propensity to be pulled away by tangents, and therefore after doing a search for that song, I listened to it, and I must say, I found it delightful. Simple, but humorous nonetheless.
I won’t post the lyrics here, but here are some samples:
- Well you can't hit a ball with a bat of your eyes: don't try it, it can't be done
- You can't take a goose and make gooseberry pie: don't try it, it can't be done
- You can't take the rattle all out of a Ford: don't try it, it can't be done
- But you can't get milk from a gentleman cow: don't try it, it can't be done
It is the last of these which piqued my interest and served as the stimulus for this post, for in the muddled mind of the modern leftist/secular denizen of the West9Perhaps the world? Due to the mind-boggling stability and success that Christianity brought to the West and eventually, the world, in equal but opposite measure, the brokeness of the West is being disseminated at the speed of light around the globe as we speak, and has been doing so for decades., you can get milk from a gentleman cow. Sure it might take billions of dollars of research, the complete upending of every established rule, law, and tradition built up around cattle over hundreds of years, millions of dollars in horrific and gruesome surgeries, tsunamis of drugs and hormones, along with the requisite sacrifices of reality, with the inexorable end result being that the animal, if it was sentient, would spend the rest of its days contemplating suicide. But what is that in comparison to 'freedom,' to remake reality as one sees fit? It is as nothing, especially if others are forced to foot the bill and deal with the consequences. It was here that I was reminded of a conversation which I had had with one of the ‘brights’10'Bright' is the term that the philosopher Daniel Dennett said that atheists should use when referring to themselves., i.e., a typical modern-day graduate of the university system created by Christians for Christians to further Christianity, but now overrun by the calculating barbarian, on the importance of words having meaning:
Me: But certainly, we can’t redefine everything?
Bright: Why not?
Me: Well, let’s take for instance the term ‘basketball.’ That word carries with it certain ideas and boundaries such as, it is played with a ball of a certain circumference, volume, air pressure, material, etc. and it also is played on a court with certain boundaries and various physical attributes, which while they have been modified in a variety of ways over the years, have not changed the fundamental aspect of the game as to make it wholly unrecognizable. The changes to the rules, etc., have been differences of degrees, not of kind. So, let’s say that a rule change was introduced in which basketball was to remain fundamentally the same in all other aspects, but a net akin to those used in tennis was introduced mid court over which players had to pass the ball before proceeding, and the ball were changed to something resembling a football. We couldn’t fairly or rightly call that game basketball any longer, could we?
Bright: Why not?
To anyone who has had children and paid attention to them, the above will be quite familiar. This aspect of the mind of a child is a truly wondrous and beautiful thing: in a child. In an adult, it is disturbing, dangerous, and fright-inducing. The dialog snippet serves to illustrate the unbridgeable divide between the modern ‘open mind’ and the mind that is willing to open, but which seeks to ascertain reality, truth, cogency, and relevance prior to doing so. As Chesterton wrote: “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” Incidentally, this same individual with whom I was conversing, said, with a straight face, and in all seriousness, that the women who were gang raped by the Russians at the fall of Berlin towards the close of the European theater of WWII, practically in many cases, raped until they were dead or good as11The shrieks and cries of suffering were said to have been heard 24-hours per day for at least two weeks straight. The modern woman would have just punched those Russians' lights out, just like Gal Gidot and Scarlett Johansson do in the movies, right? Same with those women in Nanking. Too bad those oppressed German women didn't know that they can do anything, *anything*! If only they'd had the Marvel Universe to show them the way. <sigh>, did not necessarily suffer any more than a woman who wanted to run her own business in 19th-century America yet was denied. It’s all in the mind. I pressed further on that point and asked, rather incredulously:
Me: So, it seems to me that what you’re saying, is that depending upon the person, a splinter might be just as upsetting and difficult to deal with as having a limb amputated, and that we should be willing to countenance the pain and suffering of each as equivalent in some way?
Again, children serve us well here. In the mind of a child, the tiniest of offences, the tiniest of hurts, are invariably cause for an out of bounds reaction: even the very thought of the soul’s desires not being met, or an affront not being revenged will generate howls of protest. Unless the parent teaches the child to govern their thoughts and feelings and to make them subservient to that which is other than the self, the infant will carry these traits into physical adulthood, and we’ll end up with raging and rampaging infants in the bodies of adults. We see this writ ever larger today across Western Civilization as the products of easy and no-fault divorce, the endorsement of wholesale murder of innocents (and innocence), and endorsements of the transvestite assault upon every edifice of decency erected over the 2500 years of Western Civilization, run roughshod in heightening cycles of rage and violence. Richard Weaver, channeling Plato, adumbrated this in his seminal work, Ideas Have Consequences:
But he who is cognizant mainly of self suffers an actual derangement; as Plato saw: “the excessive love of self is in reality the source to each man of all offenses; for the lover is blinded about the beloved, so that he judges wrongly of the just, the good, and the honorable, and thinks that he ought always prefer his own interest to the truth.”
Alan Bloom echoed all but the same when he wrote in The Closing of the American Mind three decades ago: “Indignation is the soul's defense against the wound of doubt about its own; it reorders the cosmos to support the justice of its cause. It justifies putting Socrates to death.” Reorder the cosmos? No doubt. But the Constitution is a good place to start, and we’ve seen and continue to see this darkness made manifest there.
While the problems of the psychological world view cannot be numbered (for who can number the imagination of man?), one of, if not the most pernicious evils which it compasses is that it reinforces the core problem that already exists in the heart of every person: the love of self, and the propensity to solipsism which ever lurks in the soul. Does the psychological world view contain true statements? Certainly. But so does Lysenkoism, Aristotelian astronomy, Buddhism, Marxism, the evolutionary speculation, etc. The question is not whether any of these contain smidgeons of truth, but whether they represent an accurate picture of reality as far as the human mind can discern it, and the answer is that none of them do so. And so it is with psychology as a whole: there is nothing relevant and true that it tells us about the problems of the human condition that has not already been dealt with in a far better way in the words of the Holy Bible. Harold Bloom unwittingly averred the same in The Western Canon when he wrote "The Freudian map of the mind is Shakespeare's; Freud seems only to have prosified it." A moment’s reflection by anyone familiar with Shakespeare’s works will see in canvassing all of the sufferings and their resolutions in matters of the heart, mind, and soul in his plays and poems are to be found, again, in God's Word. Finally, in the same spirit, we have the words of Dr. Johnson: “How small of all that human hearts endure, That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.” It then follows that applying the psychological world view to the heart and mind of man is akin to treating a person who has been poisoned by the 'Destroying Angels' mushroom with a steady diet of 'Destroying Angels' mushrooms. And it is here that the pathological obsession with the self leads us: all that matters is personal experience. Outward reality and standards must all yield to the personality. Nay, lay prostrate before it.
Bear in mind, my interlocutor in the above illustrations is a graduate of a top-tier Ivy League university with post-baccalaureate work and accreditation. It doesn’t matter which of those universities were actually attended: I’ve encountered this phenomenon across the board in conversations of varying topics. It matters not whether they be graduates of the highest and most esteemed universities such as MIT, Caltech, Stanford, Berkeley, Yale, or Princeton, or graduates of those not of name. It is tantamount to a complete rejection of reality coupled with a concomitant lack of the tools necessary to untangle one's self from the miasma that the secular and unhinged mind has created. The evidence adduced is not anecdotal either: peruse any of the periodicals of the once hallowed universities, and you will be deluged with the same world view. Due to the fact that the psychological world view amounts to the personal view being paramount, it is obvious that this is demonstrative of the self-annihilatory nature of psychology: for given that the self must exist within the whole, when the importance of the whole inevitably recedes and is ultimately subsumed by the self, it will not, nor cannot be sustained and will inevitably die. And so it is with Western Civilization. What Richard Weaver wrote in The Image of Culture comes to mind here: “When democracy is taken from its proper place and is allowed to fill the entire horizon, it produces an envious hatred not only of all distinction but even of all difference.” The world is at the very least sameness, difference, and nuance. As with Art, if you change the content, you alter the form, if you change the form, you alter the content. You cannot remove ‘difference’ and be left with the world in any cogent meaning of the term, so that to hate difference is essentially to hate the world.
In G. K. Chesterton’s All Things Considered (The Vote and the House), he remonstrates with us about the dangers of passivity in matters of the mind. A mind that is not discriminating about what is read, watched, or listened to will be exposed to a veritable torrent of inanities.12It was not always so, for in days past, that which passes for entertainment fare today would never have seen the light of day due to the moral standards of Christianity which held sway at that time. In the midst of those will be just enough moral evils so that they pass undetected in order that the moral and intellectual slumber not be disturbed: the more the mind is accustomed to ignoring inanities, the more easily will profanities and vulgarities gain entrance to it. It is precisely such minds that the forces of destruction have preyed upon and used as vehicles for the support of what seems to be an ever-expanding list of moral horrors. One such journey began with 'free love' and its most recent destination has turned out to be 'chemical and physical child mutilation.' Every one of these evils began with words, phrases, and slogans that were not barred entry into the heart and mind and which were primarily, almost exclusively, smuggled in via entertainment fare. I have not met a single person who supported the profanation of marriage by homosexuals who could muster up a single reason that hadn’t been spoon fed to them for many years via the mass media. Not a single one who had bothered to do a smidgeon of reading or research about it: they all did exactly as they were programmed to do, not exhibiting any indication that their minds had closed upon something solid. I would argue that it is essentially impossible to be ‘plugged in’ and to not fall prey, at least in some measure, to such a hijacking because to fight off the never-ending streams of such material would leave one exhausted. Sure, it seems that ‘Abnormal is fine. Stupid is not.’ is harmless enough in and of itself, but the passive imbibing of and allowance into the mind of an army of such inane word salads only serves to weaken the mind for the matters for which it is most important for it to be at the ready13The discernment of what is true. and it is precisely such weakness that has brought us to where we are.
- 1Again, I must caution here that I am not endorsing either the lives or characters of these men. I did not know them, I'm simply relating my impressions of them based upon photos, their work, and an interview here and there that I've come across.
- 2Nota bene: from time to time he'll use a gratuitous profane word.
- 3The reason for my differentiating between the two is subtle, but I believe sound: most of the time that people invoke the word 'stupid' what they really mean is that they believe that some action or belief of another is at odds with what they would do in such and such a situation, and it's often in a moral context. 'Stupid' does not mean lack of wisdom; in the main it means deficient in mental capacity, and that is something for which people should not be upbraided.
- 4Based upon the dates of the articles and videos mentioned above, the phrase has only been used in the merchandise of Classics Today for two or so years. Even if we eventually discover that the words in question don't make sense, it's immaterial whether it has 'caught on' in my mind (unless 'abnormal' is being used to smuggle in something nefarious). There are so many truly mindless and pernicious phrases that saturate our culture already, that the merely mindless cannot be our primary concern. Phrases such as: "my body my choice", "trans rights are human rights", "you can’t choose who you love", "student debt forgiveness" are already so deeply entrenched, one more innocuous one matters but little.
- 5However, I did manage to find the name of the other musician from the 2021-09-02 issue of the same publication: Claudia Cassidy (aka ‘Acidy Cassidy’) who was a performing arts critic for the Chicago Tribune.
- 6Although the gloss ‘excessive,’ like the word under consideration could only be considered positive in a tortured way
- 7Equivalently: an insufficient mass given access to the mass media to brow-beat the intellectually and morally defenseless masses into submission.
- 8Unfortunately, the answer is 'no:' it seems that the inscrutability of the phrase is pathological.
- 9Perhaps the world? Due to the mind-boggling stability and success that Christianity brought to the West and eventually, the world, in equal but opposite measure, the brokeness of the West is being disseminated at the speed of light around the globe as we speak, and has been doing so for decades.
- 10'Bright' is the term that the philosopher Daniel Dennett said that atheists should use when referring to themselves.
- 11The shrieks and cries of suffering were said to have been heard 24-hours per day for at least two weeks straight. The modern woman would have just punched those Russians' lights out, just like Gal Gidot and Scarlett Johansson do in the movies, right? Same with those women in Nanking. Too bad those oppressed German women didn't know that they can do anything, *anything*! If only they'd had the Marvel Universe to show them the way. <sigh>
- 12It was not always so, for in days past, that which passes for entertainment fare today would never have seen the light of day due to the moral standards of Christianity which held sway at that time.
- 13The discernment of what is true.