Second Thoughts About John Paul II: There But For the Goad of Grace Grow I
There's a second volume that takes the story from 1999 to 2005, providing additional information about his struggle against communism (because of the opening of the Soviet archives), and giving an overall summary and analysis of his meaning and significance. It might be the more sensible purchase for the buy-curious.
First of all, John Paul is another one of those people -- like Reagan and Thatcher -- to whom I didn't pay sufficient attention while they were alive, mainly because of my stifling moonbattery, but also because, sad to say, Catholicism was completely off my muleheaded braydar anyway. I might add that I had even been laboring under lingering delusions about Catholicism until reading this very book, persistent moron which below.
I am now resigned to the fact that it will take the rest of my life to eradicate the secular indoctrination I assimilated through osmosis just by virtue of living in this time and place, but greatly exacerbated by my passage through the upper reaches -- or darkest depths -- of academia. In another lifetime I could have been... fill in the blank with your least favorite idiotorialist. But I would have bent all my energies toward promoting the illiberal leftism I had confused with freedom and truth.
So much of my life has involved a new appreciation of precisely those things I had previously devalued and/or dismissed with deep contempt. When I say that I was exactly like our predictable hydraheaded troll, Willionymous, it is no exaggeration. My mind was a vast and specious warehouse of alreadymade cliches about God, politics, science, woman, gaia, and everything else the leftist Knows with dead certainty. Politically, all of them involved danger on the right!
On the one hand it makes one cringe with vicarious embarrassment for the poor sap, but it also reminds one of the power of grace, because as I look back, I see a pattern of coincidences that the cheesiest novelist wouldn't inflict upon his readers. There but for the goad of grace grow I.
As it so happens, John Paul regarded his own life in the same manner, and in considering its dramatic and unlikely plot line -- which reads as if it were written by the hand of anOther -- one is hard-pressed to disagree. This was a man of not only true world-historical significance, but of divine-historical significance.
What I mean by this is that his "horizontal" impact upon history is evident to even the most myopic secularist. But the source of this impact was clearly in the vertical, of which the circularist can recognize nothing but outward features cut off from their roots -- which are aloft, in the upper atmansphere, not below, amidst the deceptive mayaplicity.
John Paul's historical impact was ultimately a result of the prolongation of this vertical energy -- or light, or truth, or freedom -- into time and history. Absent this vertical source, he would have been just an oddly dressed man with a stick and funny hat and a lot of unlikely stories.
Also, the animus he generated in assouls such as myself was really a precise measure of the light and truth he embodied. I now see this with great clarity. Although I would have undoubtedly regarded him as a "reactionary," it was I who was reacting in a kneejerk manner to the blows of truth. When one is struck, the first reaction is to lash back at the perpetrator.
This is a fair description of my modus operandi, as is true of the left generally. They have such preemptive contempt, that they inevitably smear us in that endearingly predictable way by attacking our motives, without ever pondering the source of the energy provoked in themselves, i.e., their various derangements.
Just as there is a predictable "canon of dissent" against the Church -- e.g., abortion, celibacy, female priests -- there is a similarly reactionary loose canon on the left, e.g., "tax cuts for the rich," "income disparity," "attacking Medicare," "homophobia," "racism," and other sacred cowpies.
One of the major things I learned from this book is that I am actually -- surprise! -- a Vatican II guy. Prior to reading the book, I was an anti-Vatican II guy, oddly enough, because I knew literally nothing about it.
Rather, based upon rumors from trusted sources (mostly traditionalists such as Schuon), I assumed that it was some kind of modern aberration designed to pander to the needs of spiritually crippled modern folks. Instead of asking these people to rise up to truth, it was a watering down of truth in order to reach them. The reality could hardly be more different.
Come to find out that the real spiritual meaning of Vatican II is to open the church to everything, AKA to reality, not by altering its fundamentals, but by engaging and dialoguing with all sources of truth, whether from science, religion, or culture, in order to deepen and broaden the faith.
Most particularly -- and this is a central tenet of the Raccoon -- its purpose was in part to present the faith to modern men in such a way that they could see beyond the blinders of modernity and grasp it.
It is not that the Church was or is "medieval." Rather, it naturally developed in a manner that allowed it to transmit its truths to the medieval mind. For a host of reasons, this tended to settle into a kind of institutional inertia, which made the Church slow to react to the developments of modernity in philosophy, science, politics, and economics. (Indeed, there is still a struggle with the latter, for in many ways the Church still embraces the antiquated zero-sum economics of the left.)
This is what prompted my appreciation of the Orthodox east, in that I assumed they preserved the truth in all its premodern goodness. But these trappings are no more essential to the message than the trappings of Greek philosophy. Of necessity -- because there must always be cultural, historical, philosophical, and even personal vehicles and matrices of divine truth, there is always going to be a "human margin" where the essential truth shades off to the inessential.
Weigel notes that John Paul managed to change the world with what the world calls "power," but from his perspective it was a very different kind of power: the power "to be the truth that could set people free in the deepest sense of freedom: the truth about the dignity, vocation, and destiny of human beings..."
There is a certain cliche about the trajectory of his papacy, suggesting that he was a kind of progressive radical prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, becoming a more of a reactionary scold thereafter.
There is simply no truth in this, for John Paul never placed freedom above Truth -- as if freedom itself, absent any transcendent ground and vector, were some kind of unambiguous human good.
Rather, with the acquisition of freedom the battle is still half-fool -- perhaps even more than half if freedom is misunderstood, misused, and misoverestimated. Thus, the so-called "scolding" was no more than a reminder of the purpose of freedom, which no leftist wants to hear about, since it insults their self-centered lives and calls their manmade, and therefore relativistic, values into question.
Opponents of the Church often obsess over their own warped interpretation of its views on sexuality. Another major revelation to me was the extent to which John Paul was anything but a narrow-minded prude -- you know, one of those "celibate old men" who imagine they know so much more about human sexuality than Bill Maher or Anthony Weiner.
To the contrary, he explicated -- and you will forgive the analogy -- a virtual doctrine of Christian "tantric sex" in his "theology of the body." Not only did he regard sexuality as a divine gift, but he saw it as an icon of the trinity, a kind of terrestrial revelation of the trinitarian goings on that go on behind closed doors in the interior Godhead. I don't see how any soul-washed secularist could apprehend the truth and beauty of his writings in this area. I would call it a spiritual ménage à trois, but that would be utterly tasteless.
Further Cosmic Adventures with John Paul.