On the Utter Uselessness of Coons (5.18.10)
Josef Pieper writes that "Truth is the self-manifestation and state of evidence of real things. Consequently, truth is something secondary, following from something else. Truth does not exist for itself alone. Primary and precedent to it are existing things, the real. Knowledge of truth, therefore, aims ultimately not at 'truth' but, strictly speaking, at gaining sight of reality."
Therefore, when we speak of "truth," we must add truth "of," since different things are known in different ways. For example, material objects are real -- i.e., they are antecedent to our knowledge of them -- so understanding their truth involves aligning our minds with their properties. But the truth of matter is very different from the truth of man or the truth of God. Or, you might say that matter speaks one way, while consciousness speaks another. And God speaks yet another way, although he is also, ultimately, the basis of all the otherwise inexplicable "speaking" and "hearing" that occurs at every level of being.
The idea that matter speaks its truth to human minds is weird enough. Weirder still is that its particular mayafestations also speak to us in very specific ways, something known to every poet, and without which even good poetry would be impossible. For example, rivers, mountains, oceans, wind, trees, seasons, storms -- in fact, nature in general -- all of these material things whisper their secrets -- their truth -- to the human soul (which is one way we know we have one).
Now that I think about it, the radical environmental movement probably represents what you might call a godless effort to preserve this aspect of God's reality -- a sort of hollow memory of the fullness of God's self-revelation. The environmentalist loves this divine truth -- or one part of it -- but not the source of this truth, which is to say, reality. Thus, he often slides into the barbarism of pantheism, or at least becomes the functional equivalent thereof. (Of course, I am speaking in generalities, as there are obviously countless people who love nature but are not radical environmentalists.)
Similarly, if we attempt to understand man in the same way we understand matter, we will simply generate confusion and paradox. And if we attempt to build a philosophy and a way of life around this misunderstanding, we will create a human nightmare, for we will have created a misanthropic world that is unfit for human habitation. This is reason #847 that leftism is a waking nightmare, for not only does it elevate matter to the ultimate, but it elevates our most primitive way of knowing the world to the highest wisdom, which is no wisdom at all. This would be reason enough to reject the radical atheists such as Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkns, since they not only reject reality, but declare war on man as such. Theirs is truly a misosophy aimed at the lowest and commonest demonimatter.
This is why Aristotle noted that all other disciplines are more necessary than philosophy, but none is more important. To which I would add, "except theology." That is, the higher the discipline, the less necessary but the more significant. At the same time, the higher the reality -- i.e., the more real -- the less important the thinker. Again, truth is a secondary phenomenon, contingent upon the ultimate Real. Since religion is the science of this ultimate real, we must ultimately eliminate ourselves, so to speak, if we would fully comprehend it (or rather, it us). And this is why religion involves both revelation and faith, for revelation is the manifestation of the ultimate real in terms the average human can understand, while the "full emptiness" or "empty fullness" of faith is the mode of knowing it.
And of course, this is where our divine slack comes into play, for if it is true that philosophy must serve no purpose in order to remain philosophy, then theology must be utterly useless. In other words, theology can never serve anything other than the Real. It cannot be made to serve some manmade, "practical" end. Rather, we were made to serve it. And serving it is the sufficient reason for our slack, which is otherwise simply a "waste of time."
Slack is that which makes us free insofar as we are engaged in an activity that serves no purpose outside of itself, the ultimate case being worship of God, or conformity with the Real. In losing our freedom, we regain it. Or in dying, we are reborn. However you wish to put it. But it is a passive state, which is why it is more analogous to hearing (which is feminine) than to seeing (which is active and masculine):
"Leisure amounts to that precise way of being silent which is a prerequisite for listening in order to hear.... Leisure implies an attitude of total receptivity toward, and willing immersion in, reality; an openness of the soul, through which alone may come about those great and blessed insights that no amount of 'mental labor' can ever achieve" (Josef Pieper).
When we talk about the true meaning of "separation of church and state" -- which, of course, does not appear in the Constitution -- the deeper meaning is the preservation of our divine Slack, which is the purpose of the state, not vice versa.
As Pieper writes, this free and slackful space is exactly "what is meant by the ancient term scholé, which designates 'school' and 'leisure' at the same time. It means a refuge where discussion takes place, in total independence -- that is, without the interference of practical goals." Rather, it is a "zone of truth" that is "set aside in the midst of society, a hedged-in space to house the autonomous engagement with reality, in which people can inquire into, discuss, and assert the truth of things without let or hindrance; a domain expressly shielded from all conceivable attempts to use it as a means to achieve certain ends."
Not only must this slackademic space be defended and preserved from without, but also from those threats that arise from within "as an infection of intellectual life itself." We know some of these nasty infections by the names "political correctness," "speech codes," "diversity," "tolerance," "multiculturalism," "critical theory," etc.
Thus -- at risk of being a champion of the bobvious -- the problem with our schools is that they are no longer schools (scholé), which is to say, pointless and disinterested centers of leisurely slack serving no human end. Instead, they are centers of indoctrination that reduce human beings to serving the ends of leftist ideology. This leftist ideology is also the essence of selfishness, in that it is the polar opposite of the selflessness required to know higher truth. No one is more appallingly grandiose than the secular leftist. (Not to raise a sore subject with our uncomprehending troll of a couple days ago, but this is again why I insist that the atheist makes a God of himself.)
I heard a perfect example of this on the Michael Medved show the other day, someone Gide might have been thinking about when he wrote that "as soon as we are no longer obliged to earn our living, we no longer know what to do with our life and recklessly squander it." Medved's guest was a radical feminist -- her name escapes me -- or maybe I chased it away -- but she had written a book that excoriates women for choosing to stay at home and raise children instead of working, the reason being that these women have selfishly abandoned feminist ideology.
Unfortunately I don't have time to outline the full horror of her inhuman ideology, but the point is that her ideology -- which is always true of any leftist ideology -- reduces the human being to a faceless and soulless unit who exists to simply serve the ends of leftist ideologues. Therefore, it is quite patently the opposite of "women's liberation," or any kind of liberation at all, for that mater. Rather, it is women's servitude, in that you must subordinate yourself to the glorious "revolution."
In this regard, as Josef Pieper writes, "politics must inevitably become empty agitation if it does not aim at something which is not political." It becomes meaningless "the moment it sees itself as an end in itself." Both feminism and the civil rights movement long ago achieved their ends, so they have now become circular, self-enclosed ends in themselves, utterly isolated from the Real.
Again, this is 180 degrees from our divine Slack, which has no purpose and no end except to conform ourselves with reality and humbly serve its truth. I hope you get my point, which is to say, my pointlessness.
All practical activity, from practice of the ethical virtues to gaining the means of livelihood, serves something other than itself. And this other thing is not practical activity. It is having what is sought after, while we rest content in the results of our active efforts. Precisely this is the meaning of the old adage that the via activa is fulfilled in the via contemplitiva.... [T]he ultimate meaning of the active life is to make possible the happiness of contemplation. --Josef Pieper (all quotes taken from this outstanding little compendium)