Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Wise Men From the Yeast

It happens every other October: I wait until the last minute to complete my (dis)continuing education units. Therefore, I'll be at an all-day seminar tomorrow, which means the world suffers another 24 hour setback in the progress of cosmic evolution. In other words, no posting.

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.

35 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

you could almost say that "war" and "human being" are synonymous: where one is, so too is the other.

I started to read a post somewhere about libertarianism the other day, and had to stop a couple paragraphs in. The author made some claim along the lines that where there is scarcity, there is war, and if there was no scarcity there would be no war. Not sure if he actually thinks that, or if he thought someone else thinks that, or what his point quite was, exactly, but I had to stop reading right there. The ignorance was just too strong.

10/07/2014 09:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Existence is scarcity because imagination is infinite.

10/07/2014 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, just so. A person can never have so much that he doesn't want more.

He may not have been anyone's idea of a Christian, and yet, he was leavened just the same...

There's one of the big problems with how our culture has changed in the decades since then: it used to be that all but the most ardent atheist could not help but be leavened in our culture, in-formed as it was by Judeo-Christian values. Today, though, it is possible that someone could go his entire life without that leaven, Christian morality having been declared hateful and unfit for public expression. And where it is allowed, we must also now make room for "other religions," all being equally valuable in our multicultural salad toss.

10/07/2014 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, I'm encountering more and more unleavened kids, and it's quite palpably disturbing. It's getting harder and harder to coach Little League. Tristan and his best friend are highly leavened and a joy to be around, but the rest are feral and empty-eyed.

10/07/2014 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think daycare accounts for a lot of the soul-death as well, since those kids are essentially raised by our increasingly unleavened culture.

10/07/2014 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I suppose that without the leaven, they aren't "raised" at all...

10/07/2014 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

That wouldn't surprise me. So far, we've been fortunate in that most of the kids we encounter regularly have moms who stay home - and are thus much more likely to be from Christian families. We did notice a pretty interesting mix of parents when the boy played football this fall, though. Some of those families - and their kids - are clearly short on leaven. Probably also gluten-free.

10/07/2014 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Now that I think about it, it is almost as if Christianity is a logical extension of childhood, or a supernatural prolongation of it (in the sense of perpetual neoteny). Be as children, adopted sonship, etc.

10/07/2014 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Related, via Vanderleun's sidebar: Matthew Parris: As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God

"Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good."

In spite of its location, it's quite a good article. One wonders why the author seemed so convinced of his atheism in spite of all the evidence before his eyes. I wonder if he has changed his mind in the intervening years?

10/07/2014 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

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?

See, this is something I'd like to talk to people about, but you can't ask about this without them thinking that you're being mean... This was the (well, one of the) big question at the center of "The Sunset Limited" (and it crops up again and again in much of Cormac McCarthy's work, really), and it is an important one our age should be asking itself.

I am also a bit hesitant about bringing it up lest someone respond, "Hey, you're right!" and step in front of the next train, or else go full Chigur and start blasting people without compunction...

10/07/2014 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

"if the world is absurd, why participate?"

For its transient pleasures.

This is why orgasm, not marriage, is the world's reigning trope of union.

10/07/2014 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

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

That's twice this week I've heard that. Fr. Stephen was discussing this yesterday.

10/07/2014 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

To the extent that Christianity fails to transmit joy above all else, then somebody goofed.

That is the truth.

10/07/2014 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

... where there is scarcity, there is war ...

That's equating war with raiding. The big ones all seem to wars of surplus.

10/07/2014 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

Magister that is the true answer, and one I have been lamenting for some time now. That is why we as a society are trading everything of any possible value away as quickly as we can, killing our children, and financially enslaving the survivors for the promise of orgasm however, whenever, and in the company of whomever we want.

10/07/2014 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"To the extent that Christianity fails to transmit joy above all else, then somebody goofed."

And there's a lot of goofin' going on out there.

Especially from those who equate Joy with Pleasures and other faux-signs of prosperity.

But the goofs do seem to have good teeth. And hair.

10/08/2014 07:36:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"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."

Yep. Without that upwardly inwardly outward escape hatch, it would be ultimately meaningless; but even so, I think the meaning would remain without a leg to stand on, without the ground itself being brought into the fold.

10/08/2014 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Julie said "The author made some claim along the lines that where there is scarcity, there is war, and if there was no scarcity there would be no war."

Yep. The hippies of the right are just as Utopian as their hairier & smellier buds on the left. Just as sure that their schemes can 'fix' us, and just as blind to the fact that their fixes would lead to the destruction of the Liberty they supposedly revere.

10/08/2014 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Paul said "...enslaving the survivors for the promise of orgasm however, whenever, and in the company of whomever we want."

And of course when you really need it now, you should just go ahead and cut out the middle-man. "Single woman who failed to find love after dating for six years decided to marry herself and even proposed in the park"

10/08/2014 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

I give it 7 years. Man O' Man... that divorce is gonna suck.

10/08/2014 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

Van said: And of course when you really need it now, you should just go ahead and cut out the middle-man.

Most people are barely aware of the other person (if there is one) as it is. It's not a person, it's just an object to use for my own satisfaction. I have to "win", whatever that means. Media screams this at us our whole life. I don't know why we're fighting over the definition of marriage when most of us don't even know what sex is, don't know what it's for, and the only sexual horror known to your average person is what is supposed to be the natural outcome of intercourse: a child.

I once shocked a room full of men into silence by casually stating that I do not look at pornography. It was not a matter of offense or that they felt I was trying to be holier-than-thou. They simply could not fathom why someone would not do so.

10/08/2014 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Paul said "I don't know why we're fighting over the definition of marriage when most of us don't even know what sex is, don't know what it's for, and the only sexual horror known to your average person is what is supposed to be the natural outcome of intercourse: a child."

Boom.

10/08/2014 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"To the extent that Christianity fails to transmit joy above all else, then somebody goofed."

Joy. Without it, there truly is no point.
Joy is something I strive to nurture within meself, keepin' in mind that joy also requires grace and revelations.

Certainly can't do it on my own. Tried it, more times than I remember, and failed.
OTOH, I have learned that grief n' joy are possible at the same time.
Through grace and bein' open to God. That's the part I can do, be receptive to His Spirit. Only then does the Good Gnews become realized as truly good, ergo joy.

Joy is selfless jest as love is. At least jOy with a capital O.

Funny how often I tend to forget that. I call it joymentia.
Thankfully, there's a remedy for that.


10/08/2014 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

You have my sympathies, Bob.
Ugh, seminars. Today is trash day so I almost feel yer pain, Bob. Almost.
Hang in there.

10/08/2014 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

In lieu of a post today, an appropriate snippet of Political Philosophy Needs Revelation: A Conversation with James V. Schall

JVS: Rather than take up each of these issues, each of which presents serious new problems for the polity, let me state what seems to me to be the basic issue. I have briefly argued that we can best understand where our polity is in the order of political things not through our Constitution, both the actual one and the living one, or in modern political philosophy. Rather we must see it through Aristotle’s discussions of virtue and the different forms of polity.

My late colleague and friend George Carey used to argue adamantly that no part of the present American government follows the structure and sense of the written Constitution, not the president, not the legislature, not the courts. The long controversy over the relation of the American founding to the natural law tradition and to classical philosophy is related to this discussion as it the issue of whether America is a modern or republican founding.

If we compare notions of individualism, relativism, freedom, and equality, we see quite clearly that we live in a regime that is rather described rather accurately by Aristotle. A regime is a political order that is formed to facilitate the kind of virtue or vice that the citizens have chosen for their way of life. Thus, I think that the proper title of the present American regime is a classical democracy that has seen its ruling authority to be taken over by a tyrannical type ruler. In the Greek sense, such a ruler is not a brute or madman, but a suave, rather sophisticated, eloquent operator who is personally rather disciplined. But he has no internal principle of order but his own will.

Now we do not and probably cannot bring ourselves to use these classical Greek terms even when they do describe the souls we see. But if we look at the reality, we can see that the Greek idea of a democracy as a deviant regime, that is, one that has no common good, but a “good” that is defined by the actual ruling principle in the souls of the citizens. The key is a concept of virtue that held that the citizens lived in a regime of “liberty.” It sounds rather attractive. But here the word “liberty” means precisely that no standards or norms exist. Freedom does not mean follow reason, but follow whatever we want. Each person chooses his own definition of happiness or the good, as one of our Supreme Court justices is fond of telling us. No one agrees on anything except that no good requires human beings to live according to reason, a reason that is found in human nature itself as expressive of its good.

The purpose of the ruling principle is to guarantee that this form of “liberty” be protected and expanded. Equality means that no criterion of excellence or good exists. The regime then comes to be a systematic dismantling of any residue of a claim in nature that a proper way of man to live can be found. The institutions and virtues that were needed to protect family and personal integrity are now overturned. In Aristotle’s sense, out of this moral chaos we would see a leader arise who could manipulate this moral chaos of the citizens into his own arbitrary power. He would no longer see any reason not to put his own ideas about what was good into effect.

Gradually, civil government becomes an instrument to implement these ideas fashioned by the leader who promises to lead the people to happiness against their enemies, principally those who affirm that there is an order in nature and that the liberty to do anything or live any way is rather a form of self-chosen and eventually government imposed ideology. The HHS mandate in this context is little more than Rousseau’s forcing everyone to be free, free to live by the positive laws of the rulers that have no higher principle than themselves and their own declarations.’

10/08/2014 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

I give it 7 years. Man O' Man... that divorce is gonna suck.

LOL!

10/08/2014 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

10 pm last night:

"To: All benefit-eligible faculty and staff

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from decisions striking down bans on same-sex marriage in several states, including Indiana. This means that the law in Indiana now recognizes same-sex marriages and the University will extend benefits to all legally married spouses, including same-sex spouses. Notre Dame is a Catholic university and endorses a Catholic view of marriage. However, it will follow the relevant civil law and begin to implement this change immediately."

"Catholic" unless the law says otherwise.

10/09/2014 06:07:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yep. Though from what I've been reading lately, most Catholic universities have been so in name only for quite some time.

More and more, the most subversive thing one can do is proclaim the truth, and live accordingly.

That said, I'm not sure how, under the law as it is heading, any business will be able to function while maintaining faith-based standards regarding marriage. Perhaps one could argue that it is a case of rendering unto Caesar - that is, giving benefits as the law dictates - but then they would have to do more to proclaim and uphold the sanctity of marriage as the Church has always understood it. Though considering how much pressure there is for the Church to change itself to fit the times, one wonders how long that will be the case, either.

10/09/2014 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

Agreed, but I think the problem is deeper. What ND has basically said is "we'll say and act Catholic unless secular law tells us to say and act otherwise."

The goal is to hollow out and gut every religious institution in the country.

When that's complete, they'll relish the job of doing the same to religious orders and monasteries.

10/09/2014 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

While entertaining many fun thoughts last night, I was reminded of Edmund Burke, who, while seeing that the modern deep thinkers (Helvetius, Rousseau, Robespierre) ideas would clearly lead to the coming feast of the guillotine, he wrote:

"Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thorough-bred metaphysician. It comes nearer to the cold malignity of a wicked spirit than to the frailty and passion of a man. It is like that of the principle of Evil himself, incorporeal, pure, unmixed, dephlegmated, defecated evil."

Take a look at the last paragraph I pasted from Schall above:

"Gradually, civil government becomes an instrument to implement these ideas fashioned by the leader who promises to lead the people to happiness against their enemies, principally those who affirm that there is an order in nature and that the liberty to do anything or live any way is rather a form of self-chosen and eventually government imposed ideology. The HHS mandate in this context is little more than Rousseau’s forcing everyone to be free, free to live by the positive laws of the rulers that have no higher principle than themselves and their own declarations."

Those who want to maintain the institutions - from Catholic to Republican - rather than what their institutions were created to preserve and spread, will go along with forcing everyone to be free. For the greater good.

If power is not forced to serve Truth, truth will be abandoned for power.

10/09/2014 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

Sigh.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

10/09/2014 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Ultimateky, that's all any of us can do.

10/09/2014 08:00:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

*ultimately

10/09/2014 08:00:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

If power is not forced to serve Truth, truth will be abandoned for power.

Totally tweetin' that.

10/09/2014 08:20:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Joan said "Totally tweetin' that."

"I t'aught I 'taw a pu'ty cat!"

:-)

10/09/2014 08:23:00 AM  

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