Friday, October 31, 2014

A New Birth of Freedom

No, I'm not referring to Election Day. Or maybe I am.

The "Infancy Narratives" are obviously rather scant, but from another perspective, it's rather remarkable that they exist at all. Why?

Because they place God in a rather unflattering, or at least undignified, light, especially considering a historical context in which casual infanticide was still widespread. "Historical documents of the time," writes Pursell, "say next to nothing about the women, children, and men living in destitution," which was the majority.

Even so, the existence of Rome brought about a kind of useable Cosmos, or functioning world order. To jump ahead a bit, if one wants to propagate -- much less incarnate -- a universal message, it won't do to download it into, say, an isolated group of hunter-gatherers, for the message will have no way to get out. Not only is there no writing or common language, there are no roads, no institutions, no way to get the Word out to others.

But the existence of Rome permitted a kind of convergence of Roman know-how, Greek know-what, and Hebrew be-who: technology, philosophy, and religion. So, there is a kind of nested context for the appearance of Jesus: a single family, within the womb of Judaism, situated in the wider context of Rome. As Benedict writes,

"For the first time, 'all the world,' the ecumene in its entirety, is to be enrolled [referring to the census that was taking place at the time of Jesus' birth]. For the first time there is a government and an empire that spans the globe....

"Only now, when there is a commonality of law and property on a wide scale, and when a universal language has made it possible for a cultural community to trade in ideas and goods, only now" can the universal message "enter the world." This goes to what is meant by "the fullness of time." The time must be ripe.

The first thing that will strike the shriveled sensibility of the politically correct will be something like "Universal? Spans the globe? What about China, or Persia, or the Aztec empire?" Well, maybe they weren't universal enough. Just sayin'. Even today, China may eventually conquer us, but they will never evangelize us. Nor will it be the first time that Christianity evangelized its own barbarian conquerers. Funny how God works that way.

Funny? Funny how?

"It is a colossal joke, actually, a characteristic of God's sense of humor.... The idea that God could have let himself be born as a defenseless baby occurred to virtually nobody" (Pursell). For that matter -- again, very much against the grain of the times -- Jesus "reserved his most dire warnings for those who harmed children and led them astray. He told everyone to live and love simply, as do children."

But although Jesus appears within the context of universal power -- or the most powerful civilization that had ever existed -- he is nevertheless born completely outside that worldly power. This is a true inversion (or "transvaluation") of values, another topic to which we will no doubt return.

But why would God incarnate completely outside what the world recognizes as power? I can think of several reasons; for example, to avoid confusing divine power with what the world recognizes as power. At the time, there was literally nothing as powerful as Rome; and to this day, there is literally nothing more powerless than an infant. That's what you call an infinite contrast. (Then again, think of the peculiar power of the infant to draw us into an intimate circle of love; truly, the infant is the hinge of psychohistorical evolution.)

Where does the Word dwell? Or, where does the word choose as a dwelling place? It seems that he has a marked preference for low and humble places -- that he resists the proud and mighty (or vice versa, rather). I would add that evolution always occurs at the edge of things, not the center.

In the animal kingdom, for example, it is said that speciation occurs as a result of a genetically similar population being isolated in a new niche. Benedict writes that Luke "wants to show that humanity starts afresh in Jesus." Thus, he represents a kind of speciation at the margin of empire, isolated in his niche by virtue of culture, religion, and class.

This implies that the cosmic speciation could not have occurred at the center of things -- which sheds new light on the difficulty faced by the rich man endeavoring to enter the kingdom of heaven, and conversely, the notion that the meek shall inherit the earth (among other passages).

So, Jesus is off in the bewilderness, not unlike the Jews wandering in the desert -- "desert" evoking the literal margin of civilization.

Of note, Jesus' purpose, one might say, is to participate in man, so that man might participate in God. But what does it mean to "participate in man?" I would suggest that there are many ways to participate in man, and yet, miss the point entirely.

For example, if one incarnates in, say, a Chinese emperor with 2,000 concubines, is that really going to give one a feel for what it means to be human? Will that provide a well-rounded, typical human experience? And will others be able to relate to the experience?

I would say that unless one directly participates in pain, helplessness, loss, powerlessness, betrayal, death, etc., one has not experienced the full human monty, but rather, eluded it.

Now, despite what we have said about human powerlessness, the whole point of the Incarnation involves, to paraphrase Schuon, absoluteness entering into relativity, and there can be no power that surpasses the Absolute. How is this power recognized, if it has nothing to do with what the world recognizes as power?

For Schuon, it manifests Truth and Presence, or one might say the presence of divine truth and truth of divine presence (Emmanuel, "God-with-us"). How else to explain the peculiar power of the martyrs? Or even the inexplicable persistence of this powerless divine power, 2000 years on?

This powerless power is on such a different plane from worldly power, that the latter can often appear almost demonic by comparison, especially lately. And yet, the divine power has a way of resurrecting, and more generally, reasserting itself in unexpected times and places. Like maybe next Tuesday, for example.

Out of time... to be continued...

60 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Even today, China may eventually conquer us, but they will never evangelize us.

Indeed; if anything, it seems as though the converse is true. I was just reading that Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds; then when you consider the emphasis they place on elements of classical Western education, as well as all the things they have "borrowed" both culturally and even in the pirating of all sorts of consumer goods, it is clear that the West has influenced the Chinese far more than China has influenced the West.

10/31/2014 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Jesus said "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

It seems too much emphasis is put on how a person dies - a "tragic" death versus one that doesn't rise to the level of tragedy. A young person struck down or a mother with young children dies from cancer. Those deaths are considered more tragic than an elderly persons who slips into death while sleeping. And from a human perspective those are more tragic and evoke the visceral pleas to understand how God can let those things happen.

As in all things - look to Jesus.

Jesus was born poor and unimportant. His life was cut short right in the middle of the most important ministry in history. A tragic death if there ever was one - falsely accused and tortured. His death was tragic viewed from the human perspective but it is the doorway to spiritual life.

It's not important how or when we die, those are simply earthly milestones that all of us will reach at some point and in some way. What matters is how we live our life - for the earthly time we're given or for the eternal.

10/31/2014 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

and to this day, there is literally nothing more powerless than an infant.

Speaking of which, apparently amongst college students, the idea that "post-birth abortion" should be legal is steadily gaining traction (though admittedly, it's hard to find a solid source on this one, so don't know quite what is meant by "growing acceptance"). Peter Singer's contention that children younger than four or five have no self-awareness and therefore aren't really people yet seems to be taking hold amongst young nitwits who neither want children yet, nor spend any time around the children of other people.

Anyway, it seems that it is quite easy - almost natural, even - to feel only contempt for those who are the most weak and helpless.

10/31/2014 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

oops - have to remember to proofread before hitting "publish".

The point of my previous post was the Jesus was born humble beginnings to make the point that the purpose of earthly life is not about the trappings, it's about eternity.

10/31/2014 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

*doh! PIMF. I give up.

Ebony Raptor, that's something I have been thinking about a lot lately, especially when hearing about those who are dying for their faith. That is, even though our death is a significant event, it is still a practically microscopic part of our lives as a whole. When it happens, of course, it is everything - but only for a moment.

Then again, during any life there are often events that happen quite briefly from a temporal perspective, yet in another way they may never cease. For instance, either a great trauma or a moment of true metanoia.

10/31/2014 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

sheesh ... I think I'll stop while I'm behind. Typos-r-me.

10/31/2014 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

lol - re. the proofreading, glad it's not just me :)

10/31/2014 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"But why would God incarnate completely outside what the world recognizes as power? I can think of several reasons; for example, to avoid confusing divine power with what the world recognizes as power. At the time, there was literally nothing as powerful as Rome; and to this day, there is literally nothing more powerless than an infant. That's what you call an infinite contrast. (Then again, think of the peculiar power of the infant to draw us into an intimate circle of love; truly, the infant is the hinge of psychohistorical evolution.)"

The peculiar power. The power to choose. And "to avoid confusing divine power with what the world recognizes as power", you'd best look for a different, a higher perspective, otherwise

"... whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

10/31/2014 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Julie, I don't know if you saw the article in AmericanThinker the other day titled "The real war on women" by Elise Cooper. She begins the article by talking about the tragic death of Colleen Hufford, the woman beheaded in Oklahoma last month. There is a picture of Colleen in the article and it about broke my heart when I saw her. A sweet looking woman who had children and grandchildren who happened to be in the wrong place. It is only by the grace of God that I can hope she has run her race and crossed the finish line and that no matter how horrific her last moments are - she has won and the madman who murdered is eternally paying the ultimate price.

10/31/2014 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I can think of several reasons; for example, to avoid confusing divine power with what the world recognizes as power.

This is one of the starkest contrasts with the worldview of most of Islam and one of the reasons I tend to view it mostly as an antichrist system.

10/31/2014 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Emily Litella said...

WHY DOES ANYONE NEED 2000 PORCUPINES? IT JUST MAKES NO SENSE! MAYBE ONE MIGHT BE INTERESTING, BUT...

10/31/2014 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous The Sphinx said...

It is better to have 2000 porcupines and not need them than to need 2000 porcupines and not have them.

10/31/2014 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

There is less potential for pain as a porcupine herder.

10/31/2014 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Well, I guess this calls for the obligatory Halloween-porcupine-pumkin-eating video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cILZ_cB3_so#t=132

Somebody had to do it.

10/31/2014 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Holy smokes - they talk (well, not with words, but still)? I had no idea. I met one once, while I was out walking, and gave it a respectable distance. Had I known they have such hilarious voices, I might have tried to strike up a conversation.

It turns out one porcupine really is interesting. But 2000 are just a statistic.

10/31/2014 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

It turns out one porcupine really is interesting. But 2000 are just a statistic.


LOL!

10/31/2014 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Apropos it being Halloween, I was just disemboweling a pumpkin a few minutes ago when Pope Francis' recent mention of the rise in Satanism came to mind. Which is apparently true, given the number of public "performances for historical reasons" that have been put on of late, along with an assortment of displays in public places, and of course the pro-abortionists who chanted "hail satan!" at one of their rallies. (Granted, the vast majority of those playing the game are actually atheists who think they are just yanking the chains of Christians, but it is likely that no small number of them are quite serious).

Anyway, it occurred to me that the old observation about how the devil's greatest trick was convincing people that he didn't exist was only half right.

Having accomplished that first step, the followup is that, "even if he's real, he's not such a bad guy - he just got a bad rap!"

These idiot children are the future...

10/31/2014 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Hmmm, yanking our chains may loosen others.

Going through the motions is not without some effect.

10/31/2014 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Speaking of PIMF I have finally tried non-stick foil.
It is indeed non-sticky.

10/31/2014 11:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Son Of A Sphinx said...

The devil who gets a bad rap is the devil who raps badly.

10/31/2014 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"So, Jesus is off in the bewilderness, not unlike the Jews wandering in the desert -- "desert" evoking the literal margin of civilization."

The bewilderness is infinitely more interesting than the center of human civilization.
Ideally, any civilization that wants to advance must be based on liberty and freedom and ought to follow Jesus into the bewilderness.

11/01/2014 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Interesting that one of the enduring ideas of progressives is that the suburbs are terrible places, and that we should all be crammed into urban centers -- those diverse places like New York, where everyone thinks the same. Kotkin goes into detail about this in The New Class Conflict.

11/01/2014 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I read an article the other day about how the federal government has a new policy of analyzing areas by zip code to determine if they are sufficiently "diverse." Places that aren't will be forced to build low income housing. That way, every area can become as peaceful as, say, Ferguson, MO. Can't wait!

11/01/2014 08:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"Liberty is the right to be different. Equality is a ban on being different." Don Colacho

11/01/2014 08:20:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Low income housing in Beverly Hills would be entertaining.

11/01/2014 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Now that is an aphorism we can believe in. I still marvel at Don Colacho's ability to distill the essence of vintage nous.

11/01/2014 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Envy tends to be the true force behind moral indignation."
Don Colacho

11/01/2014 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

The mystery virus demystified:
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2014/11/the-case-of-the-mystery-virus-contd.php

This would be headline news if a republican was President.
Instead we have bureaudoctors covering for Obama. Again.

11/01/2014 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The story of liberalism: "A New Dearth of Freedom."

11/01/2014 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

The thing about equality -- we share the same word, but not the same definition.

11/01/2014 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"Two political parties divided by a common language."

11/01/2014 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Deferring to the dictionary would resolve so many political disputes.

11/01/2014 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Viruses have a right to immigrate to the US according to Obama, because they are just poor viruses lookin' for work.
Obama doesn't want anyone documenting them. Thus we now have undocumented viruses.
Afterall, what does it matter how they got here or from whence they came?

Before we know it, viruses will have the right to vote.

Too late.
Next up: viruses are code words for racist epitaphs.

11/01/2014 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Blogger Gagdad Bob said...
Deferring to the dictionary would resolve so many political disputes."

The leftist dictionary: Words; mean whatever you want them to mean.

Thinnist dictionary evah.

11/01/2014 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

When equality is elevated over liberty we are all equal slaves, except for leftists, because they smugly deem themselves morally superior homowreckedus.

11/01/2014 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That's what Don Colacho says: instead of many classes we end up with two: rulers and ruled.

11/01/2014 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Proof that reading lots of fiction not only confers no defense against idiocy, but often enables it. I suppose "artists" lean left because anything's possible in a fantasy world.

11/01/2014 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The freakishly prolific Mr. Scruton has a new book on Conservatism.

11/01/2014 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "Proof that reading lots of fiction not only confers no defense against idiocy..."

Fiction? What fiction? With the possible exception of Moby Dick (and his comment "I found it to be a beautiful boy’s adventure story and not that difficult to read." pretty much rules that out as having been 'read' by him), there wasn't much fiction in that slew of books he 'of course' read.

Well, maybe I exaggerate a wee bit, but when your 'fiction' differs from your standard news paper reports by little more than byline - you aren't reading Fiction, but only ideological fabrications which lack the Truth that makes Fiction worthwhile. The reader that ventures no further than that, isn't capable of enabling what they read to become Fiction.

Another comment than caught my eye, "I don’t read many books twice"... that's the sort of thing that leaves books like Moby Dick as a 'beautiful boy's adventure story'... can you imagine what he got out of The Brothers Karamazov?

And with there being little beyond the 20th century... and picking Philosophy up from the autistic Bertrand Russell, I'm afraid Bruce is a typical 'Temporal Provincial' who manages to 'read' widely by reading as shallowly as possible.

At least he didn't miss out on anything by missing college - his absence wound up fitting right in with the 'education' he would have gotten had he attended.

11/01/2014 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Huh. Yep, that looks as bitter as it felt writing it. Go figure.

11/01/2014 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Unlike good fiction writing, I can't tell if that was Springteen answering those questions or not. Plus, it read like he was given the questions and responded in writing, as opposed to a live interview. I didn't learn anything about the books. Was the equivalent of name-dropping. This book was good, then I read this one...which was pretty good..of course.
Like Obama tweets, it was probably a hired hand writing it and sending it in. Or was made from an assembly of 2-star Amazon comments.

11/02/2014 05:18:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

On the other hand, it is fine to have only a surface appreciation for these books. And it is better writing that a serious work is also beautiful at the surface. I've always loved (and will) the story of Noah. Fell in love with it as a child.

11/02/2014 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I remember some advice Schuon gave to disciples, among which was "One must not read novels, profane, unhealthy, trivial literature."

He adds, however, that it's kosher "to read books worthy of interest on historical, cultural, artistic, etc. subjects, but without losing oneself therein."

I suppose the key is to read things in order to find your higher self, not lose it.

Other tips from the shaykh:

"One must not waste on'e time with worldly, unnecessary and often trivial distractions."

Check.

"One must not regularly read a newspaper from one end to the other, especially in the morning," although it is "obviously permissible to inform oneself, with measure."

This is a constant temptation now, what with the internet. I see those zombies staring at their phones in public and say to myself DON'T BE THAT GUY!

"One must control one's curiosity."

Everyone knows about the good side of curiosity. Few people are aware of the negative side -- that some areas are like gang-infested parts of the city. Just don't go there.

Bottom line: "One must live 'in a little garden of the Holy Virgin,' without unhealthy curiosity and without ever losing sight of the essential content and goal of life. That is 'holy poverty' or 'holy childlikeness'; it is also, so to speak, a 'holy monotony.'"

Of course, this "monotony" is not remotely "boring." The opposite, rather: utterly compelling, for it is

"dominated by the proximity of the sacred, and on the margin from the uproar of this lower world."

Thus, you won't see me celebrating Tuesday. maybe just a brief sigh of relief; or a sigh of brief relief is more like it.

Still, watching MSNBC will be a religious experience.



11/02/2014 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That was a joke, but not really, because a good left-hand way to God is to appreciate the demonic darkness that is loose in this world. It has no rational explanation.

11/02/2014 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I know. Al Sharpton is proof of God. Who knew?

11/02/2014 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Just think: the demon is already feverishly at work, spinning Tuesday's rebuke into something unrecognizable. Imagine such a mind! Or maybe you've been to graduate school.

11/02/2014 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"Holy monotony" reminds me of Nik Wallenda. He'll be focused on one thing, but he won't be bored.

11/02/2014 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Schuon was right about newspapers. Most are works of fiction.
Best to read a good nouspaper such as OCUG instead.

11/02/2014 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I love Schuon, but I know he would find me to be utterly scandalous, if not outright contemptible.

But hey, if it weren't for unfettered curiosity, I probably never would have found my way here, so there's that...

Perhaps I can quibble with him instead, inasmuch as it is quite possible to read all sorts of things fictional and non-fictional which lead one to one's higher self, and just as easily away. It all depends on both what it is and who the reader is.

11/02/2014 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

""One must control one's curiosity."

Everyone knows about the good side of curiosity. Few people are aware of the negative side -- that some areas are like gang-infested parts of the city. Just don't go there."

Outstanding advice. There are some things better off not known, and I speak from experience here.

Those who think it's monotonous to see beauty, truth n' goodness are committing cluelesside, for there is nothing more fascinating or curiously healthy or healthily curious.

11/02/2014 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

That is a good point, actually, and I really can't argue with the rest of Schuon's observations, either.

As to curiosity, the modern take is that what has once been seen, cannot be unseen. So far as I know, nobody has yet succeeded in creating an adequate brain bleach, and looking at kittens only helps so much...

11/02/2014 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Reminds me of when II first discovered Gagdad and then OC.

Unlike Salon or Puffington Host which is simply akin to watching monkeys flingin' poo (talk about monotonous), there is somethin' that's actually substantial here that piqued my curiousity without moiderin' the questyon.

Not to mention, which I am, the mighty fine tasting humor without a tumor to be found here.

11/02/2014 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "I suppose the key is to read things in order to find your higher self, not lose it."

I think the missing ingredient, is Wonder. The leftist's take on literature, does not contain it. Startlement, amazement, shock... sure, loads of it. But Wonder? Nope. Even when reading works which do contain such, they do not see it, they look no further than the appearances the words use - they see the finger pointing, but do not look towards what it points to.

As I said above, "The reader that ventures no further than that, isn't capable of enabling what they read to become Fiction."

With their willing complicity, the Truth protects itself from their profane minds.

11/02/2014 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The world is full of click-bait.

11/02/2014 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

Rick,

Why love for the Noah story? The image of the ark, mainly? For me, it's: apres le deluge, ... le vin!

Planting a vineyard for the long haul is the anti-thesis of everything shallow and postmodern.

HappyAcres has an image of an old couple sitting at a table with tomatoes and a lamp, looking at us.

11/03/2014 06:33:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Rick knows a thing or two about vineyards, these days...

11/03/2014 06:54:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Mag,
As a child I loved it because there were animals in it. And he saved them. Plus a very large boat that he built out of trees.

Now it seems hardly about those things at all.

Anyway, me and the kid are both right.

11/03/2014 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"Planting a vineyard for the long haul is the anti-thesis of everything shallow and postmodern."

I actually had to plant one to find that out ...the faith aspect of it.

11/03/2014 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger John said...

We all know how much Schuon loved Jazz and Sunshine Pop, too!

11/03/2014 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said " I see those zombies staring at their phones in public and say to myself DON'T BE THAT GUY!"

Unless... you're in stealth zombie mode, pretending to be 'that guy' in order to read One Cosmos on the down low without being devoured by the biters.

11/03/2014 12:45:00 PM  

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