Monday, May 25, 2009

On Remembering our Heroic and Selfless Witnesses to the Transcendent

Memorial Day -- like any holy-day -- is not a remembrance of things past, but of things present; or, a recollection of people and events of the past for the purpose of re-membering and reuniting ourselves with the eternal. It is a remembrance of things surpassed -- or of the fixed stars that transcend and illuminate our lives below, and without which we would surely lose our way.

Specifically, it is an occasion for vertical recollection of a divine archetype that is present now -- can only be present now -- but requires the substance of ritual in order to vividly apprehend and "renew" it. On a holy-day, time "collapses," so we draw closer to the archetype and to the celestial realm where it abides; for example, on any given Christmas, one is "closer" to the birth of Christ than someone was on a random July day in 500AD.

We remember our heroes because they illuminate the eternal realm of the heroic, a realm that we must treasure and venerate if we are to survive as a culture. Not only is the hero a transcendent archetype, but he is only heroic because he has risked all in defense of another permanent archetype -- truth, liberty, beauty, the good, etc. Obviously one is not a hero if one gives one's life to falsehood or tyranny, no matter how "selfless" (e.g., Islamists).

In the absence of this objectively true formulation, neither the hero nor his sacrifice make any sense at all. They are foolish, rash, even absurd. This is why to "deconstruct," say, George Washington, is not just an attack on the father of our country, but on fatherhood, heroism, strength, courage, truth, liberty, and the realm of the transcendent in general (i.e., the Real) from which they all flow.

Last year Will left a lengthy comment that touches on many of the things I wanted to write about this morning:

"So I was thinking, in what way is Memorial Day larger than it is -- as all spiritual ceremonies truly are? Well, as has been pointed out here, it's obvious that Memorial Day is a day for celebrating, honoring, remembering what heroism really means -- courageous self-sacrifice in the name of higher ideals and principles, which are, to be sure, spiritual ideals and principles. So in one sense, our fallen military heroes are symbolic of this ideal. They are the most vivid, the most tangible representation of this ideal that we have before us. There are others, of course, who likewise are vivid, in-the-flesh symbols of this spiritual ideal: police, firefighters, the anonymous citizen who rises to the heroic occasion and is so publicly honored. There is no hero, however, quite as vivid, quite so symbolic of self-sacrificing virtue, as the military hero.

"The great wonder of it, of course, is that our fallen heroes are not paintings, statues, images -- they were and are human. They are us. And still they are symbols, ideals in the flesh -- destiny selected them to serve this role. That role is to remind us that we all are potential self-sacrificing heroes, that we all are of divine essence. Somehow, on some level, we must realize this, otherwise we wouldn't have a day for honoring our fallen heroes.

"The other day Bob alluded to the some of the symbolic threads in the Wizard of Oz. I have long seen WoO as a tale of a journey into the Realm of Divine Archetypes wherein we (through Dorothy) see ourselves, and others, in our real, divine essence. In her eyes, her Kansas friends and acquaintances became Scarecrow, Lion, Tin Man -- became, in effect, their true selves, all on a heroic quest to reclaim their spiritual birthright. In Kansas, they were just dusty average Joes. In the Higher Realm, they were their real selves, knights, heroes.

"Most of us are Kansans. We do not have a symbolic public role to play. And yet there are countless souls who commit unseen (by the public) acts of tremendous self-sacrifice and heroism, whose deeds will never be acknowledged -- in some cases, not by a single other -- in this world. Our military heroes remind us that such heroism is possible. The secular attempt to 'deconstruct' military heroism is no less than an attempt to sever us from our Oz, our spiritual reality. We need daily reminders that we are on the yellow brick road of our personal heroic quest. And we need to remind ourselves that, though our personal acts of heroism may never be acclaimed in this life, we will, in the fullness of time, be acknowledged as the heroes we imagine ourselves to be."

*****

I am also reminded of a couple of particularly resonant lines in a piece by Vanderleun, Small Flags: "These days we resent, it seems, having [cemeteries] fill at all, clinging to our tiny lives with a passion that passes all understanding; clinging to our large liberty with the belief that all payments on such a loan will be interest-free and deferred for at least 100 years."

Elsewhere he writes, "It is not, of course, that the size of the sacrifice has been reduced. That remains the largest gift one free man may give to the country that sustained him. It is instead the regard of the country for whom the sacrifices were made that has gotten smaller, eroded by the self-love that the secular celebrate above all other values" (emphasis mine).

*****

Vanderleun touches on several themes that could be expanded into entire posts: the pathetic clinging to our vertically exiled lives; the earthly passion that defies understanding because it denies transcendence; the selfish notion that liberty is free; that death in defense of a spiritual ideal is the greatest gift one man can give another; and that self-love is the polar opposite of true love and sacrifice, and that which causes the country to contract vertically even as it might "expand" in every other way.

Sacred, sacrament, and sacrifice are all etymologically linked; all are derived from sacer, or to the holy and mysterious. This itself is instructive, for holy, of course, implies wholeness, and wholeness is indeed a portal to mystery, just as "partness" is a perpetual riddle that necessarily shades off into the absurd.

For example, a psychotic person lives in a bizarre world of forcibly disconnected objects and experiences that he cannot synthesize into unity, or wholeness. Often he will defensively superimpose a false unity in the form of paranoid delusions. Paranoia is "a false wholeness," but it is never far from the nameless dread that sponsors it. It makes "perfect sense," but in a manner that is always brittle, persecutory, and painful.

A couple of days ago I noted the truism that leftist thought -- even more than being ruled by emotion -- is primarily iconic. Or, one might say that the leftist simply has very passionate feelings about his icons, which he mistakes for "thoughts."

You can see this same phenomenon in our recent atheist visitors, who are also (ironically, but not really) ruled by overpowering feelings about their own sacred icons, such as "Ida," or "genome," or Darwin. Point out where they are wrong, and they hysterically accuse you of calling them animals and depriving them of the humanity which they deprive themselves. Rational they are not.

Or, at the very least, the more sober among them prove the adage that there is a form of madness that consists of losing everything with the exception of one's reason, or that there are incredibly intelligent ways of being stupid -- reductionistic and logically self-refuting Darwinism being one of them. Materialism is a gateway ideology to things far lower, for man cannot remain long in a static state between the attractors from above and below. Rather, he will tend in one direction of the other. Truth is a sword that cuts the world right down the middle.

A disturbing number of our fellow citizens not only believe that Islamic terrorists are not engaged in a global war against Western civilization (or "civilization," for short), but that the United States government itself engineered 9-11, or that the war on terror is really being waged to enrich George Bush and his friends. Obviously there can be no heroes in such a world, only scoundrels and dupes. If this were true, then the Keith Olbermanns of the world would be correct that the men who defend our country are just hired assassins, or as evil as any other terrorist, and it would be immoral to honor them.

Yes, the left is insane, but exactly kind of insanity is this? How have they become so detached from reality?

It has to do with the specific reality from which they have become detached. As another fine example of the shallowness and naivete of atheist thought, one of them writes that

"Millions and millions of people died in Russia and China under communist governments -- and those governments were both secular and atheistic, right? So weren't all of those people killed in the name of atheism and secularism? No. Atheism itself isn't a principle, cause, philosophy, or belief system which people fight, die, or kill for. Being killed by an atheist is no more being killed in the name of atheism than being killed by a tall person is being killed in the name of tallness."

This looks like a banal statement -- which it unavoidably is -- and yet, it is quite sinister in its implications, and illuminates all of Vanderleun's points mentioned above. First, atheism is petty and unworthy of man, being that it is immensely beneath the scope of his intellect. No one would give his life to defend it, since it is the substance of meaninglessness, precisely. Why sacrifice one's life for the principle that there are no transcendent principles worth dying for?

The least of atheism's baleful effects is that it automatically makes the hero a fool because there is nothing worth defending. The more catastrophic effect is that it leaves the field open to evil-doers who are openly hostile to the transcendent principles that animate our uniquely decent and beautiful civilization.

This is why you see an Old Europe that is supine before the barbarians in its midst who wish to destroy it. Socialism has nothing to do with "generosity" or selflessness; rather, it is the quintessence of selfishness, and diminishes a man down to the conviction that his animal needs should be provided for by someone else. The only thing that can rouse his passion is a threat to his entitlements. If only the Islamists were to threaten their 12 weeks of paid vacation, then they might be taken seriously by socialist EUnuchs.

This is also why, as Venderleun writes, the habits of automatic treason have become just another fashionable denigration of the country that has made their liberty to believe the worst of it not only possible but popular. This is the complete and utter cynicism that results from destroying the reality of the vertical and clinging to one's puny life with a passion that preempts and vanquishes any deep understanding of it.

For just as wholeness, the One, is associated with the peace that passes understanding, the exile from this real human world into the bizarre and fragmented world of the secular left brings not so much the passion that passes understanding, but the passion that cannot comprehend itself because it has no vector or direction beyond its own flat and cramped existence.

In fact, nothing can be understood in the absence of that which it is converging upon, which reveals its meaning. To systematically deny the vertical is to obliterate the very possibility of meaning and truth, which is obvious; however, it is also to destroy the hero and that transcendent reality for which he is willing to sacrifice his life. It is to deny the love of which there is no greater, i.e., the love that motivates a man to lay down his life for another.

Of the sacred, Schuon writes that it is in the first place "attached to the transcendent order, secondly, possesses the character of absolute certainty and, thirdly, eludes the comprehension and control of the ordinary human mind. Imagine a tree whose leaves, having no kind of direct knowledge about the root, hold a discussion about whether or not a root exists and what its form is if it does: if a voice then came from the root telling them that the root does exist and what its form is, that message would be sacred."

Again, the message is sacred and holy because it is transcendent and relates to knowledge of the whole.

Therefore, the sacred also represents "the presence of the center in the periphery, of the immutable in the moving; dignity is essentially an expression of it, for in dignity too the center manifests outwardly; the heart is revealed in gestures. The sacred introduces a quality of the absolute into relativities and confers on perishable things a texture of eternity." (Never wonder at the profound lack of diginity of the left, for it is intrinsic and inevitable.)

Another way of saying it is that the sacred relates to the world as "the interference of the uncreate in the created, of the eternal in time, of the infinite in space, of the supraformal in forms; it is the mysterious introduction into one realm of existence of a presence which in reality contains and transcends that realm and could cause it to burst asunder in a sort of divine explosion. The sacred is the incommensurable, the transcendent, hidden within a fragile form belonging to this world; it has its own precise rules, its terrible aspects and its merciful qualities; moreover any violation of the sacred, even in art, has incalculable repercussions. Intrinsically the sacred is inviolable, and so much so that any attempted violation recoils on the head of the violator" (Schuon).

Which brings us back to Will's riff on the Wizard of Oz. On the one hand, the United States, more than any other nation, is flat and dusty old unassuming Kansas. But at the same time, it is Oz, the vertical and shining Emerald City on a hill. We must never forget either fact, one of them Real, the other merely real.

Nor can we forget the very real Kansans who gave their lives to bring us closer to that Reality. In order to honor them, we must never do anything to change this into a country that would be unworthy of their sacrifice -- indeed, one they would scarcely recognize. That's the deal in a vertical democracy in which its fallen heroes, of all people, still have a say. We must be their voice and their witness, always. And if you can't be grateful on this day, at least have the decency to be ashamed of yourself.

33 Comments:

Blogger QP said...

AMEN Bob. Thank you for being a very big voice
for Truth.

Just folks being their real selves, you know - knights, heroes.

5/25/2009 08:15:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

MEMORIAL DAY (a poem)

Every year, it is like this on Memorial Day:
Our ruddy mayor giving speech from a platform
In the village square, then
The crowds and sunshine, the high school marching band,
Neighbors, friends, waving to each other across main street,
Children held on shoulders, and veterans, old and young,
In wavering rows march smiling, nodding,
Sun at its zenith -

Then the sun slides down one degree, two,
A cloud passing over its face, a heavy, spoked light
(one suddenly notices the used paper cups in the gutters)
A delicate wind with chill in its marrow
Then come the marching dead -

Parents with children quickly turn away,
A few teens, trying to prove bravery, linger,
Many others turn away
Once I turned away -

They walk as if wheat rows walked,
In faded light soundlessly -
Those of us who dare to watch
Are not here to applaud
but only to meet their brief lancing gaze -

Imagining themselves in the uniforms
They wore when they fell,
Revolutionary War slap dash,
Civil War knits blue (and gray)
Doughboys in the pie-tin helmets,
Sleek greened GIs, Marines and
Leather jacket aviators of World War Two
The draped fallen in Korea
In faded light soundlessly
Yet vivid as an unexpected face
In a photograph -
Do they see us? Or think themselves
The heroes we strain to properly honor?

Now the Vietnam vets with wounded, confused eyes
And I brace myself, thinking "I will be accused",
But I am not, no, never,
As the honored dead pass by
Like fluttering leaves
On their way to their city.
And If they ask anything of us
It is that we simply live and die
In the manner they summarized -

One last one, taken in Afghanistan, passes,
Becomes a shadow, a mute vibration -

Cars now in motion, the usual sounds.
My neighbors and I look at each other,
We lower our eyes and say nothing.

The parade is over
Street cleaners push the trash into mounds
I am home, with the soundless dead in my bones
As I bend to simple tasks.

5/29/06

5/25/2009 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger Lynn said...

G.Bob wrote: "In fact, nothing can be understood in the absence of that which it is converging upon, which reveals its meaning. To systematically deny the vertical is to obliterate the very possibility of meaning and truth, which is obvious; however, it is also to destroy the hero and that transcendent reality for which he is willing to sacrifice his life. It is to deny the love of which there is no greater, i.e., the love that motivates a man to lay down his life for another.

"..... In order to honor them, we must never do anything to change this into a country that would be unworthy of their sacrifice -- indeed, one they would scarcely recognize. That's the deal in a vertical democracy in which its fallen heroes, of all people, still have a say. We must be their voice and their witness, always. And if you can't be grateful on this day, at least have the decency to be ashamed of yourself."



Picture



"...During a moment at the burial, Christian stepped forward to receive the flag for his father. The expression of grief on his young face was captured in a photo and became a powerful symbol for soldiers, their families and anyone who sees it.

When asked about his dad ... Christian said, "He was a hero. He helped our country." .. "He helped our country and tried to stop terrorists," Christian said.

Marc Golczynski's commitment to his country has left his son fatherless. But that son still dreams of growing up one day and becoming a Marine.

Just days before he left for his second tour, Marc sent a letter to his family that would be his epitaph.

"Due to our deep desire to finish the job we started, we fight and sometimes die so that our families don't have to. Stand beside us because we would do it for you. Because it is our unity that's enabled us to prosper the nation," Marc wrote.


HERE

5/25/2009 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

A perfect post for the day. I'm still reading, but this snagged on my keyboard,

"...and that self-love is the polar opposite of true love and sacrifice, and that which causes the country to contract vertically even as it might "expand" in every other way."

"...and that self-love is the polar opposite of true love and sacrifice, and that which causes the country to contract vertically even as it might "expand" in every other way."

Too true. But the term 'self-love' though, always irks me in the way that people with phony degree's on their resume do, it's not only a fraudulent use of the term, it degrades it... better said as self-obsession. I don't see any room for Love in it, least of all for the self that matters... or rather the 'self' that is regarded is only the portion they've entwined with matter.

I seem to be stuck in semantic-mode this weekend... sorry for the Horshack moment. Back to the post...

5/25/2009 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Nor can we forget the very real Kansans who gave their lives to bring us closer to that Reality. In order to honor them, we must never do anything to change this into a country that would be unworthy of their sacrifice -- indeed, one they would scarcely recognize. That's the deal in a vertical democracy in which its fallen heroes, of all people, still have have a say. We must be their voice and their witness, always. And if you can't be grateful on this day, at least have the decency to be ashamed of yourself."

Amen.

Outstanding post today.

5/25/2009 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger QP said...

A gathering chorus.

Another fine witness from Robert Spencer. This man, too, understands the mindset of our enemies; not just the ones over there.

5/25/2009 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Speaking of photo's, the third one in my post for today "Memorial Day, for those who said "If I don’t do it, then who will?", of Mary McHugh, lying on the grave of her fiance, Army Sgt. James John Regan, at Arlington National Cemetery, just tore my heart open.

The site I originally found it on was using it to denigrate her, her Hero and the day that honors them... horrifying. Fortunately I found other sources, and linked to those.

As you said, "To systematically deny the vertical is to obliterate the very possibility of meaning and truth, which is obvious; however, it is also to destroy the hero and that transcendent reality for which he is willing to sacrifice his life.".

Friends and family often wonder why I will not tolerate what seem to most as 'little things', particularly snide humor directed at some aspect of The Good, The Beautiful and The True, I'm rarely able to sum it up quickly, and rarer still are they willing to take the time to look at what those 'little things' really mean, but that is it. Those 'little things' assault all that is Holy, and all that I know is essential to their lives.

Big things come in small packages, and I will not tolerate those damned 'little things'.

5/25/2009 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Will spoke
"Then the sun slides down one degree, two,
A cloud passing over its face, a heavy, spoked light
(one suddenly notices the used paper cups in the gutters)
A delicate wind with chill in its marrow
Then come the marching dead - "

You too....

5/25/2009 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Beautiful post, Bob.
Thank you.

5/25/2009 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

It is good to be reminded, by way of this masterful essay, that the Darkness simply cannot overcome the Light. To read this is to be strengthened to our task of transcendence. thanks.

5/25/2009 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Excellent! Sterling, in fact.

Your final paragraph states a critically important truth: we living now must understand the necessity -- the holiness, even -- of honoring our fallen heroes on this Memorial Day.

You have explained Europe's ideological problems quite well:

The least of atheism's baleful effects is that it automatically makes the hero a fool because there is nothing worth defending. The more catastrophic effect is that it leaves the field open to evil-doers who are openly hostile to the transcendent principles that animate our uniquely decent and beautiful civilization.

This is why you see an Old Europe that is supine before the barbarians in its midst who wish to destroy it.
No wonder I can't understand Eurabia's dhimmitude! I don't have the same frame of reference.

PS: Interesting word verification for this comment: "deistic."

5/25/2009 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Leslie Godwin said...

God bless our real-life superheroes who sacrificed everything for us. And their families, likewise. I hope I deserve a fraction of what they've given me.

If you want to make a difference in the morale of a soldier, please go to www.soldiersangels.com and adopt a soldier. You write a letter a week and send a small care package a month. It's hard to believe, but my soldiers have told me it's true, that this really means a lot to them and makes their burden a little lighter.

If you have any questions, please email me:
lesliegodwin@dslextreme.com

Happy Memorial Day!
Leslie

5/25/2009 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Thanks for this post today, Bob - I'm borrowing some. Some of Will's comment, too.

And Leslie,
I hope I deserve a fraction of what they've given me.

Amen to that.

5/25/2009 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Another man-bites-
God
story.

5/25/2009 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Rat bastards.
There's a website for defending the memorial. (It's got a lot of flash & video components, so if you're still on dial-up it'll take forever to load.)

5/25/2009 01:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Northern Bandit said...

Speaking of paranoia, Queeg apparently travels the internet looking for comments made by people who have accounts on LGF, then bans them from LGF based on comments made on other sites. I had an account on LGF called "Northern Bandit" which which I posted maybe 5 or 6 times in the past year, and not in at least 2-3 months. The only other place I've mentioned anything about LGF is here, so obviously Queeg cares very much about stamping out the slightest affront to his sterling reputation.

Can you imagine if Queeg had serious political power?

*shudder*

What I tried to post on LGF today was David Warren's typically brilliant fisking (Ringling science) of the "Ida" farce.

Gotta protect those Queeglings from ideas that make their leader look bad (i.e., just about any conservative, rational idea).

5/25/2009 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It would appear that Queeg is by far my most noteworthy contribution to popular culture.

5/25/2009 01:50:00 PM  
OpenID kaffepaus said...

Beautiful post.

We would be nothing, and I mean that litteraly, without yours and our heroes.


/Johan

5/25/2009 01:52:00 PM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

Thanks Bob.

5/25/2009 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

He gazes out of the photo, mute, enigmatic, not quite smiling, and speaks to me across the decades.

5/25/2009 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Bob, have you read World of Prayer already or is it just in the lineup?

5/25/2009 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Haven't yet read it, although there are many passages from it in vol 5 of the Theo-Drama. In fact, that whole volume is rooted in von Speyr's work, since it delves into the deepest mystical depths -- or heights -- of the Trinity, into places where only a mystic can go.

5/25/2009 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

So does that mean you finally have Volume 5 in hand?

(I know, I know - patience. I'm working on it; I never claimed to have achieved it yet. ;)

5/25/2009 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes. Been reading it this weekend, in fact.

5/25/2009 05:38:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die". - D. Bonhoeffer

Of our fallen on Memorial Day: I believe we honor them best when we answer the Call. This is the way we follow their examples. Yes, there are myriad ways in which we do answer the Call, there are myriad ways in which we will die as a consequence. And yet there is only one answer to the Call and there is only one death - Christ's answer, Christ's death.

To answer the Call *is* warfare. We're all on the front lines, we're all under bombardment, all the time. The watchword is "vigilance". The daily decisions we make are a matter of life and death.

5/25/2009 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

Good Call Will. Thank you. And good night all.

5/25/2009 07:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

Beautiful post for this special day! And, Will, thanks for the poem.

5/25/2009 08:05:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Super post, Bob! Thanks!

This entire post is quotable. Like this, right from the beginning:
"It is a remembrance of things surpassed -- or of the fixed stars that transcend and illuminate our lives below, and without which we would surely lose our way."

Outstanding!

5/25/2009 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks Will for posting your Memorial Day poem!

5/25/2009 10:58:00 PM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

Coming in at the end of a long day to read OC and the attendant comments is the perfect benediction to a long anthem.

The Veterans Cemetery (just up the road from us) was packed today, moreso than I've ever seen. I'd like to believe there is a groundswell of real patriotism and honor afoot. And so I will.

5/25/2009 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks Mrs. G. for mentioning Soldiers Angels.
They are a remarkable help for our men and women serving.

Adopt a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, or Airman is a great way to say "thank you" and it really does make a difference in morale. :^)

5/25/2009 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Dojo said-

"The Veterans Cemetery (just up the road from us) was packed today, moreso than I've ever seen. I'd like to believe there is a groundswell of real patriotism and honor afoot. And so I will."

I with you on that, Dojo! Same observation here. :^)

5/25/2009 11:18:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

The memorial I went to yesterday was packed, as well. And when they played Taps, I don't think there was a dry eye in the house.

5/26/2009 07:33:00 AM  

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