Friday, February 16, 2018

How to Fail at Humanness

The usual Friday ramble...

I have nothing concrete or practical to say about the recent school shooting. It does, however, remind me of something said in yesterday's post -- that alone among creatures, man may sink beneath himself and fall into a negative space of evil, absurdity, and nihilism: a creature no longer of God, but of what then?

This goes to the sufficient reasons for the human station, which are freedom, love, virtue, and truth: we are given freedom in order to conform ourselves to what is good, true, and beautiful.

If this is not the case, then to hell with it: the nihilist living in his negative space is no worse than the saint or scientist pursuing virtue and truth. We all just live our own peculiar way of being in error. In this context, to be an individual is to be uniquely as opposed to collectively wrong, since truth is inaccessible in any case.

At the same time, man can never attain his purpose alone. We are social animals before we are individuals, and the latter -- individuation -- is strictly impossible in the absence of the former.

This goes to the intersubjective and trinitarian nature of the human person, such that group and individual are always complementary and not opposed -- except in pathological situations, such as leftism, wherein the collective oppresses the individual, or libertarianism, in which the individual is an isolated monad abstracted from the group. Note that these two deviations are founded upon a systematic ignorance and denial of the human station.

Which, by the way, is why the natural family is the unit of human existence. It is the glue that binds people together, and consequently allows us to bond with people and groups outside the family. Strong and heathy families create strong and healthy individuals, at least most of the time. There's always a seemingly random, or at least unforeseeable, element in these matters.

But also, to paraphrase Dávila , sin "shuffles the cards." At any rate, if there were a pure cause-and-effect relationship between parental input and child output, we would be machines, not free beings.

President Trump is surely correct to call this a "mental health issue," but what can this mean in a culture that proudly transgresses all human norms and calls it freedom and progress? As said in yesterday's post, there is no progress beyond the human station: one can fail to actualize proper humanness, but no one can transcend it.

Which sounds arrogant -- as if humanness is a kind of perfection. Well, it is! But again, it is image, and it is up to us -- in freedom -- to move toward likeness. No conceivable anthropology can surpass this formulation. This is what is meant by the wisecrack that the only real failure and tragedy in life is "not to become a saint."

Why? Because this is the ultimate telos of our God-given freedom. Anything less "is to remain unactualized." Yes, almost all of us fail. But failure is only comprehensible in the light of possible success.

In this context, failure is a form of success, so long as it is aimed in the proper direction. In other words, man can improve in the trying, which is true of everything from science to sanctity. But in the absence of this telos, there is neither failure nor success, again, just the aimless drifting of cosmic flukes.

By the way, I would modify Bloy's crack somewhat, in order to allow for different types and destinies. Being that man is knowledge, sentiment, and will -- or truth, love, and virtue -- there is room enough for the sage as well as saint (not to mention artist or warrior or even merchant). Thus, if you are given the gift of intelligence and fail to actualize wisdom, then that is indeed a tragedy. Worse, it is tenure.

Precisely because man may conceive of the transcendent Absolute -- beyond which there can be no whicher -- he must be, as it were, immanent absoluteness; or again, a residue of absoluteness projected into time, space, and relativity.

Man cannot be intelligent "without an Intelligence 'in itself'" -- an Intelligence "which is both transcendent and immanent." This itself is a "quasi-fulgurating proof of the Omniscient, a proof almost too blindingly evident to be able to be formulated in words." Indeed, language is a shadow -- or better, image -- of the Logos, as is moon- to sunlight.

About the unsurpassable nature of the human station: "To say that man... is 'made in the Image of God'" is to say that human beings manifest "something absolute and for that very reason something unlimited and perfect" (Schuon).

Now, this kind of grandiose talk is liable to give a fellow a big head and lead to all sorts of mischief. But only if it is in the wrong metaphysical context.

For in a trinitarian context, our greatness is in our humility and self-giving: the meek, the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, are among those who gain entry to the vertical kingdom. These latter are receptive to God and thereby moving toward him, which is again the reason for the human station.

The animal, which can manifest perfections but not the Absolute, is like a closed door, as it were enclosed in its own perfection; whereas man is like an open door allowing him to escape his limits, which are those of the world rather than his own. --Schuon


Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, exactly what I'm trying to say:

"I'm going to go out on a limb here and state that if you really want to get at the root cause of what happened in Florida, it's the destruction of the nuclear family and Judeo-Christian morality and values that binds our society. And we all know who advocates that and why."

So, "pray. Good and hard. Pray for the restoration of morality and sanity to America and for the annihilation of Progressivism."


There is no cure for mankind, but some ideas and all ideologies make man sicker.

julie said...

Yes, just so.

The shooting was alarmingly close to where we live; many here, including many good-hearted people of faith, make the mistake of blaming the government or the NRA for what happened. Really, it was one extremely broken man. There's not much we can do about that, other than try to love our families as best we can so that fewer people will follow that broken path. Nobody has the power to legislate away the evil that lurks in such brokenness, but many of the proposed "solutions" help to make things much worse.

Gagdad Bob said...

In the mail today, a flier for the California Psychological Association convention. I can't even imagine becoming a psychologist today. Truly, it has become just another leftist cult. Sample offerings:

--Serving Undocumented College Students: A Social Justice Lens for Clinical and Institutional Responsiveness
--Working with LGBT Clients: 5 Ways to Miss the Boat and 5 Ways to Get on Board
--RxP: A Prescription for Social Justice and a New Opportunity for Psychologists
--Diversity Town Hall: When Psychology Becomes Political

I'd like to give a seminar called, I don't know, Practicing Traditional Psychology in a Climate of Progressive Hate and Delusion.

julie said...

In a sane world, you could offer it without fear of unpleasant repercussions.

ted said...

I just finished the Baker documentary. Fantastic! What a character, and what a life! He's tragic in a lovable way, because he's just manifesting his idiom in the midst of many chaotic mind parasites.

ted said...

Those courses are a hoot! They would to have to pay me to sit through them.

Anonymous said...

I'll drop one more tit-bit regarding the mass shootings. Reducing the availability of flesh-shredding death machines is an easy band-aid to put on the problem. Australia seems to have made some progress doing that.

But I concur with Bob and Julie. The over-arching cause is societal mores. Good luck getting any traction on those with "interventions." Prayer does indeed seem like the only thing to do.

Leftism is now well and truly established, and I would estimate, as a historian, that regression to past (better) societal conditions is only a remote possibility. So humanity is going to have to make leftism "work" as best it can.

The ultimate goal is decent living conditions in a setting of a space-faring, high technology culture with a high potential to evade extinction of the species. Inner conditions of spiritual growth will, as always, be up to the individual. We cannot expect any help from society on that quarter.

As you note, Bob, the practice of traditional psychology in the leftist milieu is rough, and will only get rougher until it will be impossible. Fortunately you will retire before things get to that stage.

Gagdad Bob said...

Ted: From the Baker documentary I was led to another good one on the Yardbirds. Their Roger the Engineer was one of the best albums of the '60s.