Thursday, April 23, 2015

You Can Learn a Lot from a Baby

Picking up exactly where we left off yesterday, I would put it this way: "I" and "we" are never found apart, and yet, the "we" must be ontologically prior.

Even so, this terrestrial "we" will form a closed circle unless it can somehow participate in the Cosmic We, and this cannot happen unless the higher We breaks into the lower, so to speak, in order to draw us into this infinitely wider orbit of eros. This is apparently what Petey meant by that crack about pointing our eros into the heart of the son and then just holding on for dear life.

This is encapsulated in the formula of through Christ in the Holy Spirit to the Father, in a kind of sweeping metacosmic movement. Each preposition is equally necessary -- through, in, and to -- and strikes me as analogous to formal (Son), efficient (Holy Spirit), and final (Father) causation. And final causation is the "cause of causes"; if it is chronologically last it is always ontologically first. And the last shall be first!

Later in the book, in a different essay, Ratzinger makes the point that "to pray is not just to talk, but also to listen."

Again, this presupposes the We, such that "This act of leaving the circle of our own words and our own desires, this drawing back of the I, this self-abandonment to the mysterious presence which awaits us -- this more than anything constitutes prayer."

Self-abandonment to the mysterious presence. We'll come back to this at some point. Maybe tomorrow.

Was it just yesterday that Hillary Clinton referred to marriage as "the fundamental bedrock principle that exists between a man and a woman, going back into the mists of history as one of the founding, foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization"?

I have a question: how does one escape from a bedrock principle without suffering brain damage or becoming an entirely different person? For what is a principle, anyway?

First of all, the qualifier "bedrock" is superfluous, since all principles are founded on rock; they are the rock -- or sand, depending -- upon which thought builds its cathedral -- or trailer home, depending.

To say that a person is "unprincipled" is to say that he is -- yes, a Clinton, but beyond that, someone who derives his so-called principles from the moment-to-moment requirements of power. Thus, the real principle is power, and certainly not truth.

But a Clinton is just a synecdoche.. bag... of the postmodern mentality. As Professor Schmitz writes, in our age "the very conception of a principle" -- one might say "the very 'principle' of principle" -- "has come under increasing challenge." To put it mildly.

It seems that a bedcrock of modern liberalism is that principles somehow limit our freedom instead of enabling and perfecting it. This would explain Hillary's Houdini trick of slipping free of her own principles, since a higher principle is at stake, the unholy trinity of narcissism, nihilism, and nominalism, the sum of which seals us in a badrock of immanence.

Returning to Ratzinger, he discusses how abortion follows from the principle of no principles, for the "right" of a mother to kill her baby is founded upon a radical separation of the two, in which the fetus must be reduced to a kind of aggressive parasite in order to justify its destruction.

But this argument is ultimately grounded in the inviolability of the radically separate I of postmodernity. In reality, to destroy a baby is to destroy a mother, but since there is "no such thing as a baby," it is really to undermine the principle of principles, the primordial We that is our ground of being, both vertically and horizontally.

As Ratzinger describes it, the being of the baby is surely dependent upon the being of the mother, but this is not an argument for separation, rather, for a sacred unity of otherness: the distorted unity ("it's the mother's body") "does not eliminate the otherness of this being" or authorize "us to dispute its distinct selfhood," for this selfhood-in-other is the very form of our existence. Motherhood is a being-for, which countermands the "desire to be an independent self and is thus experienced as the antithesis of [the woman's] own freedom."

But this is the Way It Is. Nothing magically changes outside the womb, in that the baby retains the form of a "being-from" and a "being-with" who is "just as dependent on, and at the mercy of, a being-for." Mother of mercy!

However, it is not as if we ever outgrow the form of our being-from and being-with. Rather, "the child in the mother's womb is simply a very graphic depiction of human existence in general," for "even the adult can exist only with and from another, and is thus continually thrown back on that being-for which is the very thing he would like to shut out" (emphasis mine).

Indeed, this denial of our being-for, -with, and -to the cosmic Being-From, AKA God, is yet another iteration of the Fall.

Bottom line for today's scattered post: "The radical cry for freedom demands man's liberation from his very essence as man, so that he may become the 'new man.' In the new society, the dependencies that restrict the I and the necessity of self-giving would no longer have the right to exist.

"'Ye shall be as gods.' This promise is quite clearly behind modernity's radical demand for freedom" (Ratzinger).

10 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

For what is a principle, anyway?

That depends on whether you're a normal person or a Clinton.

4/23/2015 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

Man, ya gotta be careful about spinning the gyroscopes so fast, Bob. This is an incredible post!

4/23/2015 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

In the new society, the dependencies that restrict the I and the necessity of self-giving would no longer have the right to exist.

Indeed, such dependencies (except where they force one to depend upon the State) become an affront which sets off trigger warnings and requires that safe spaces be set up to shield the would-be self-sufficient from any unpleasant experiences which might require them to give their attention to something beyond their personal dramas.

4/23/2015 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

...the child in the mother's womb is simply a very graphic depiction of human existence in general...

This. This is where my mind was already travelling as I read the title of the post. How do any of us differ in our need for others, especially our mother? Which of us is not irreparably wounded upon losing her (or never having her in the first place)?

Take away the "we," and any of us quickly becomes an unviable tissue mass.

4/23/2015 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Thus, the real principle is power, and certainly not truth.

There are many antichrists, and they all worship the god of force.

4/23/2015 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Apropos, Does same sex marriage increase abortions?

4/23/2015 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

To the point of the post, I would have to say the answer is, "of course." Not necessarily in the causal sense, but rather a society that holds up sterile relationships as being equal to the ideal of man-woman-child is one that will see no problem with both abortion and with the sorts of dehumanizing encounters that result in abortions.

4/23/2015 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Backup: How Christianity Invented Children.

4/23/2015 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. the rampant abuse, in many parts of the world, particularly the Middle east, this is still how children are treated. I have heard it said by people who go to third world countries, especially, that what we take for granted - the idea that children are people, with intrinsic dignity - is not at all universal.

Then again, thinking of Van's recent link to the odious proposals of Peter Singer, we can't assume that all Westerners still feel the same way, either.

4/23/2015 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"To say that a person is "unprincipled" is to say that he is -- yes, a Clinton, but beyond that, someone who derives his so-called principles from the moment-to-moment requirements of power. Thus, the real principle is power, and certainly not truth."

Yep. Billary, modernity, and pragmatism, are all opposed to Principle, on principle. Like the liar trying to get away from Truth, you can't get away it - you can have sound or unsound principles, but you can't not have principles... your thought is built upon bedrock or sand.

I think that drives their heatedness against those who embrace principles, the gnawing knowledge that they can't avoid what they hate. Like the liar who can't tell a lie without being in some way truthful - even a word salad can only be seen as such because of meaningful words - they can only fall, and no matter how far or fast they do, they will never get bottom, they will never escape what they flee.

Poetic Justice.

4/24/2015 07:24:00 AM  

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