Wise Men From the Yeast
I'm very discriminating about the seminars I attend. I always make sure they are the absolute cheapest, regardless of topic, being that it is my custom to bring earplugs and a book and hunker down in the back of the room. Similar to when I was in college.
Tomorrow's seminar is called The Habits of Happy People, so if I hear any helpful tips, perhaps I'll LIVE TWEET them. Yes, INSTANT HAPPINESS, while you wait.
I guess I'm a little curious to find out whether the speaker will discuss the classic views on happiness, or whether it will be nothing but postmodern pneumababble. We shall see. But I don't see how a human can possibly be happy in the absence of religion, unless he's very stupid or very high.
And not just any religion, because most religions are rather bleak, e.g., Islam and Buddhism. A world unleavened by the Christian message is a pretty dark and depressing place, especially for atheists.
I recently had this experience in reading a book on the history of war that ranges from the pre-hominids to the post-human monsters of the left, e.g., Hitler, Mao, Stalin, et al. The book is called War and Civilization, and indeed, you could almost say that "war" and "human being" are synonymous: where one is, so too is the other. It is a depressingly naturalistic view of man, completely devoid of spiritual uplift.
So, as a kind of antidote (I hope), I just ordered a book called History in His Hands, which covers the same ground, but from the divine-human angle. I saw the author on The Journey Home on EWTN, which is without a doubt my favorite television program. I must have seen about 25 episodes, and nearly all are quite compelling (speaking of the search for happiness).
To the extent that Christianity fails to transmit joy above all else, then somebody goofed. Chesterton was very good on this point. In his The Everlasting Man, he speaks of the "unfathomable sadness" and pessimism of the pagan world, adding that "I doubt if there was ever in all the marvelous manhood of antiquity a man who was as happy as St. Francis was happy."
When we speak of the "leavening" of Christianity, that's what we're talking about: it occurs not just in the individual but in the culture and in history at large. It is the reason why America has always been the most optimistic nation -- and why it was of such world-historical consequence that we elected this bilious bonehead in 2008. Could the contrast with Reagan be more extreme?
Every doctrine has a method: in the case of Platonism, the method is up, out, and gone: "an attempt to reach the divine reality through the imagination alone" (Chesterton). It is what any atheist or materialist in his right mind would do -- that is, if he carries his depressing premises through to their suicidal conclusion: if the world is absurd, why participate?
Balthasar says much the same thing -- and not at all disrespectfully. For Plotinus, for example, the world itself is a fall from the One, so no salvation is to be found in it.
This is the polar opposite of the Judeo-Christian stream, in which the creation is fundamentally good, the very sensorium of our salvation. I would say that this is because time is "renewed" by grace instead of being just a meaningless circle or a less-than-meaningless descent into entropy. Grace is what renders time negentropic. We are not so much dropped into time as suspended there by a nonlocal thread that proceeds from the top.
We are... I've always liked how Harry Nilsson put it. He may not have been anyone's idea of a Christian, and yet, he was leavened just the same:
“Late last night, in search of light, I watched a ball of fire streak across the midnight sky. I watched it glow, then grow, then shrink, then sink into the silhouette of morning. As I watched it die, I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a lot in common with that light.’ That’s right. I’m alive with the fire of my life, which streaks across my span of time and is seen by those who lift their eyes in search of light to help them though the long, dark night.”
Or in Song of the Stars, by Dead Can Dance,
We are the stars which sing / we sing with our light... Our light is a voice / We make a road for the spirit to pass over
And every light has a source.