Head First Into Christianity
What this supposedly means is that I can only write about what I am preoccupied with -- or rather, what is preoccupying me -- and that I cannot "plan ahead," not even a single day. Nor can I look back, what with both hands on the plow, or I might not run into something.
This "method" has its virtues, I suppose, but renders it impossible to make any Major Announcements about the direction -- or even purpose -- of the blog. Like you, the best I can do is find out as we go along. You may be the last to know, but I'm only a few minutes ahead of you.
I do suspect or hope that the process is guided by some sort of nonlocal providence, both in the short and long term. The short term process seems more evident, even obvious, to me, because I see it happen every day.
However, as soon as one says this kind of thing, one is flirting with unbearable pomposity -- as in, "my pen is guided by the hand God!" -- when it is always meant with the utmost humility. All I can say is that it is accomplished through active surrender. We can argue over what I am surrendering to -- e.g., O, my monstrous narcissism, the collective unconscious, whatever -- but the underlying process is the same.
Last night I was laying on the couch, just like everybody else, looking at the basketball game while thinking about Pope John Paul II's cosmo-Christian spiritual anthropology. There was a commercial of some kind, showing how insanely hard the players work out between games. This is how you end up with a Dirk Nowitski or Kobe Bryant. All professional athletes have a gift, of course, but the greatest ones usually also work the hardest to develop the gift, have the highest expectations of themselves, and are always trying to improve their game at the margins in any little way possible.
This reminded me of the formidable spiritual athleticism of a Pope John Paul, whose biography I am currently reading. Here was truly an athlete for God. Now, one can, of course, pretend that God or O doesn't exist, which would make the eccentric Mr. Wojtyla an athlete of... of what? An elaborate delusion? A strange mental complex? A cosmic conspiracy theory?
If that is the case, why did he make such extraordinary progress in assimilating the delusion? How can one "progress" toward unreality? Isn't that the very definition of regression?
In mental illness, the further one is enmeshed in one's delusion, the more obviously dysfunctional one becomes. Sick individuals do not dramatically grow in the capacity to love, or acquire new skills for which one has no training or aptitude, or become more creative, or channel timeless truths in an elegant and refined manner.
Rather, everything becomes alternately more rigid and disorganized, as more and more primitive material needs to be projected outward in order to maintain the brittle delusion against the forces of reality. This is associated with a kind of frantic irritability, not the spiritual serenity of the motionless mover at the cosmic center.
The point is that it is quite evident that Karol Wojtyla manifested an unusual spiritual gift early on. The gift was unusual in both its depth and its diversity, combining spiritual attributes that are not normally present in the same individual, and often even at antipodes -- e.g., being equally comfortable in the depths of the most abstract philosophy and the depths of concrete persons, i.e., in the realms of Love and Truth (which is one reason why he could speak so intimately of the non-separateness of the two).
Wojtyla also (at least from what I can discern) seemed to work much harder at developing his gift than is typical, and moreover was singularly humble in taking no credit for any of it.
Speaking of humility, back to me. As I was saying, the short-term purpose of blogging is pretty clear to me, even if the longer term trajectory has eluded me. Where is this all going? If one were to undertake an exhumination of my buried corpus of 1,720 posts, would it reveal any larger pattern or trajectory? Is it any "closer" to the object of its attraction than it was five or six years ago? Is there less "noise" and more truth, less particularity and more universality (or at least the former in service to the latter)? Is it any deeper, or higher, or more encompassing, or is it just going in tiresome little circles, to which anytroll can attest?
Yesterday I had occasion to read an old post from 2006, because a number of sites had linked to it. I wasn't necessarily embarrassed by it, but it was definitely below current standards, not just of truth, but of depth and style. So if one considers it from a sufficiently arbitrary distance, one is able to prove that I am getting warmer, just like the globe.
I didn't intend this to be such a lengthy preramble, but it's just my way of saying that there are a couple of large subjects that have seized my inattention, and that I would like to stay with for awhile, even though I cannot promise anything to myself of all people, the Sprit blowing where it will and all. One might say that these principles are the missing key to my own preoccupations, or that they help to illuminate the point of my bobsessions.
First of all, this has emerged through a recent immersion in the works of Wojtyla and Ratzinger (I will refer to them by their pre-pope names, partly because that's when they did most of their writing, but also because I don't want to conflate this with any kind of "top-down" promulgation of a pre-cogitated magisterium, irrespective of how magisterial).
To my great surprise, both men were and are caught up in the same nonlocal attractor I find myself in. To be clear, I do not think they are in mine; rather, I have been pulled into theirs, just as they were pulled into something transcending themselves, otherwise it would not be real and true.
Anyway, two broad ideas or principles have come into focus. One would be what I might call "cosmic anthropology." Like me, Wojtyla became convinced that the human person is the most important "fact" in all of creation. By no means did he exclude physics, biology, and history from his metaphysic; to the contrary, he was in constant touch with experts from these and other disciplines. It is just that he never managed to overcome his awe over the very existence of persons, from which proceeds his belief in their intrinsic dignity, nobility, and potential greatness.
Absent this prior ground of meta-cosmic personhood, there can be no secure and inviolable ontological basis for a whole range of truths we know to be true, but could never "prove" with mere logic, e.g., the sanctity and infinite worth of the individual, the intrinsic right to religious freedom, and the a priori illegitimacy of any state that intrudes upon man's claims to truth, dignity, and justice.
The other organizing principle that has seized me could almost be the title of a book: Head First Into Christianity. I have blogged about this subject in the past, in that from my experience, most people -- Protestants and Evangelicals, anyway -- seem to come to Christianity via a kind of "emotional conversion." It is often a sudden change, and for this reason can lack a thorough penetration to all corners of the psyche. As a result, a kind of premodern, mythological belief system can exist side-by-side with the modern scientific worldview, inevitably leading to interior or exterior dissonance and lack of integration.
For example, this is why someone would use the tools of modern science to propagate a belief in literal creationism -- i.e., ironically use technology that never could have developed within a mythological framework, in order to argue for that framework.
This is not fundamentally dissimilar to, say, the Iranian mullahs who want to use the physics discovered by a Jew in order to cleanse the world of Jews once and for all. Or, more mundanely, it is analogous to leftists who deploy "tolerance" as a weapon to undermine the very Judeo-Christian civilization for which tolerance -- within reasonable limits -- is a virtue, or use Judeo-Christian appeals to morality as a means to install a premodern genocidal tyranny next door to Israel.
But in my case, I have been lead this way solely via the intellect. By no means did I begin with the principle, say, that ultimate reality incarnated in history as a man, and then go from there; rather, the converse: for me, that was and is the more or less final frontier, the last country to be colonized (which, not coincidentally, never can be, or else we would be God).
As it so happens, this is quite similar to the approach taken by Ratzinger in his Introduction to Christianity. I am almost halfway through this 359 page book, and thus far I don't remember a single reference to Jesus (or any other miracle) in the main text.
According to the index, the earliest mention is p. 196, but the main point is that Ratzinger is arguing from the bottom up and outside in, not from the dogma that can only crystalize at the end of the journey. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with an emotional acceptance of this dogma, being that its authenticity can be vouched for by various saints and mystics.
Nevertheless, not everyone is built the same way, and some of us want to place our invisible hand in the open wound at the center of our intellect.
To be continued?