Lunacy and Solvation in the Cosmic Funhouse
Some additional murmurandoms on this book...
It is a truism that the psychospiritual left is the cult of weirdos -- of misfits, the alienated, the bitter, the troubled, the unhappy, the envious, the reflexively treasonous, the generally abnormal (in the sense of celebrating their deviation from the real human ideal). Chesterton offers some insight as to why these people also tend to be secular, since they are too preoccupied with their externalized concerns to focus on reality.
Furthermore, they reject the idea of "original sin" while implicitly believing that our falleness is susceptible to political remedy. In short, politics is their substitute religion through which they hope to heal their own spiritual alienation by means of political action. As such, they miss out on the true oddness of reality, for "Oddities do not strike odd people. This is why ordinary people have a much more exciting time; while odd people are always complaining about the dulness of life."
Chesterton discusses the irrational folly of trying to comprehend the world with reason alone. Polanyi recognized the same thing, but spelled it out in a more systematic way, showing how every act of perception is an imaginative leap of irreducible creativity. As Chesterton writes, "poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea," but "reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so to make it finite.... The poet asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits."
And why is it so difficult to have a rational discussion with these hyper-rational people? For the simple reason that their minds are not impeded by the distraction of reality. Think of a watch dog. The reason why a dog can be so effective at guarding your property is that it can exclude everything irrelevant to the task. Similarly, "The madman's explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory," but at the cost of moving "in a perfect but narrow circle."
This foreshadows Gödel's theorems, which proved that a formal system can be complete or consistent, but not both. Thus, the end result of atheistic scientism is "a combination between a logical completeness and a spiritual contraction" -- which is why all these atheistic popularizers amount to much ado about everything. By definition, the more they explain, the more they leave out.
As Chesterton points out, the atheist's metaphysic "explains a large number of things" but not "in a large way." But it's difficult to oppose this "insane simplicity," since it requires not so much "arguing with a philosopher" as "casting out a devil." Such a person doesn't need more arguments but more air, which is to say, more breathing room outside the monomaniacal suffocation of their one Big Idea. This idea is actually a trap, a snare, a "clean, well-lit prison," a disability turned into a virtue. Oh, but
How much happier you would be, how much more of you there would be, if the hammer of a higher God could smash your small cosmos, scattering the stars like spangles, and leave you in the open, free like other men to look up as well as down!
For that is what a human being is: situated halfway between the stars above and the dust below -- or between freedom and determinacy, matter and spirit, security and adventure, animal and God, part and whole, time and eternity. So,
Look up -- look up
And seek your maker
Before Mr. Gabriel blows his horn --Francis Albert
If the world were as simple as the atheist insists it is, not only would it not be worth understanding, but it would be too simple to have ever given rise to understanders. And it is "certainly more limiting than any religion," the reason being that the properly religious person should have no difficulty fitting the entire world of the materialist into his metaphysic, whereas the materialist cannot allow for the merest speck of religion. Hence, their fanaticism.
For example, in my neck of the woods, the ACLU carried out a fanatical campaign to remove a tiny cross from the seal of Los Angeles County. The cross had been there for some 50 years, and no one had even noticed it before, much less taken it to be an endorsement of a state religion, but there you go. By definition, any reminders of religion must be effaced in order to make the victimized atheist feel comfortable in their narrow fantasy world.
Are there religious people who think and behave like atheists? Of course. But this is not because of religion; rather, the opposite. It is generally because of their materialism -- for example, insisting on a literal reading of Genesis, for what could be more materialistic than that? Thus, as usual, extremes meet: like the religious literalist, "the materialist's world is quite simple and solid.... materialists and madmen never have doubts."
Real spiritual doctrines do not limit the mind, but allow it to soar, while materialistic prose just makes your aesthetic sensibilities sore. I can't imagine how boring the world would be if I were still trapped behind those bars. Even if God couldn't be proven, I would still be a believer, if only because it's so much more fun:
"Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity." The spiritual person situates a Mystery -- O -- at the heart of his metaphysic, which also happens to coincide with the human heart -- which is to say, the higher mind. This mystery grows, even as we illuminate more of it -- just as a flashlight shined into the night time sky only emphasizes the darkness engulfing the narrow beam.
For in the end, "the one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in the light of which we look at everything." We share in the light of that central spiritual sun, which cannot be seen but is that by which we see -- and know. On the other hand, the detached intellectualism of materialism is "all moonshine; for it is light without heat, and it is secondary light, reflected from a dead world."
In a word, lunacy.