Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hope: Natural and Supernatural

This is a post from five years ago BUT it converges on the previous two posts, as it has to do with appropriate and inappropriate forms of hope, i.e., hope as virtue and hope as developmental arrest. It has also been edited and tweaked here & there:

Pieper discusses the quite natural relationship between hope and youth, noting that the two are "ordered to one another in manifold ways."

This almost requires no explanation, and yet, is quite important -- and now that I think about it, undoubtedly helps to explain certain well known psycho-spiritual political pathologies of youth. For example, when the florid hope of youth is combined with its intrinsic lack of wisdom and experience, it produces... well, you name it. Obama is only their latest gift to the world.

Why anyone would place their hope in politics and politicians is quite beyond me; then again, I have only to think back to my own youth to realize that it's actually quite behind me. After all, my first vote was for Jimmy Carter, and in 1980 he was too conservative for me, so my preferred candidate was Barry Commoner of the illoustrious Citizens Party, a socialist front that mainly spread hysteria about nuclear power plants.

Pieper writes that merely natural hope "blossoms with the strength of youth and withers when youth withers." Again, no doubt true. This is obviously a sobering reality, but again, I think it explains why older people who should know better cling to the callow political enthusiasms of their youth. How else could a grown man be taken in by Obama's vacuous hopey-changey rhetoric?

It seems to me that one explanation might be the attempt to revive the kind of exciting hope for the future they once had as adolescents. As they say, when you see an old man with a young woman, it's not her youth he's after.

Likewise, when you see an old fart like Chris Matthews getting all tingly upon hearing his boyfriend speak, the real source of the excitement is not Obama's vague future but Matthews' own specific past. Thus, his recent disillusionment with Obama is just the other side of the prior auto-illusionment. He has awakened to his own projection, and yet, has learned nothing, since he now blames Obama for failing to uphold his beautiful illusion!

Being that politics is a substitute religion for the left, it is understandable that liberals would be prone to creating earthly messiahs. In reality, the entire process obviously took place in Matthews' own fat and spluttering head, that is, the illusion followed by the inevitable disillusion.

Now, the loss of natural hope brings with it the growth of what we might call "natural despair." This only makes sense. In the absence of any transnatural form of hope, it is simply an ironclad law of nature that when we are young the past is essentially irrelevant while the future is virtually unlimited. It is so full of potential that it can be mistaken for O, and can easily serve as a poor substitute.

But as we age, the past grows long while the future inevitably shrinks to nothing. How could one not be quite literally dis-illusioned? As Pieper describes it, the "not yet" of youth "is turned into the has-been," and we become a kind of bittersweet repository of "memories of what is 'no more.'"

Perhaps you have to be of my generation, but for me, there is nothing quite as pathetic as when pledge-drive time rolls around, and PBS disinters the usual decroded hippies to croon the same seedy songs they did 40 or 50 years ago, in the same way, hopefully kindling the same rancid emotions. As if hope is the same thing as embalming fluid.

Can you imagine having to sing something you wrote at the age of 20, while expressing the same emotions you felt then, with conviction? It is no wonder then that these people literally haven't taken a new political imprint since 1967. Ironic too that this desperate flight into the past is called "progressive."

This whole sad spectacle can be avoided with properly ordered hope. Pieper is at pains to emphasize that hope in and of itself is no kind of virtue. Rather, it only becomes a theological virtue when it converges upon its proper transnatural target.

Likewise, hopelessness and cynicism would be quite appropriate in a wholly materialistic worldview, for what is there to hope for aside from the grim maximization of an ever-dwindling pleasure while pretending death isn't right outside the door?

This very different type of transnatural hope is by no means tied to natural youth. However, consistent with Jesus' statements regarding the importance of holy childlikeness, this hope "bestows on mankind a 'not yet' that is entirely superior to and distinct from the failing strength of man's natural hope."

Looked at in this way, adolescents are more than a little hopeless before they gain real wisdom, and especially hopeless, or pathetic, if the condition persists well into adulthood, as it generally does in our tenured and media retardentsia.

Now interestingly, properly ordered (supernatural) hope has the effect of re-infusing, so to speak, natural hope, hence, the cheerful optimism of the Raccoon. We have discussed in the past how (↓) has a kind of "rejuvenating" effect, and how, for example, people literally feel "lighter" after attending a religious service.

Indeed, if I wake up feeling "heavy," I always feel lighter after a post, which is one of the reasons I persist in these verticalisthenics -- to keep the existential pounds off, so to speak. I would no more give up the habit than I would stop exercising.

Pieper writes of "the enchanting youthfulness of our great saints," for "nothing more eminently preserves and founds 'eternal youth' than the theological virtue of hope. It alone can bestow on man the certain possession of that aspiration that is at once relaxed and disciplined, that adaptability and readiness, that strong-hearted freshness, that resilient joy, that steady perseverance in trust that so distinguish the young and make them so lovable."

Which is why we may say with Pieper: God is younger than all else.

And why we may say with Petey: Too old, older than Abraham, too young, young as a babe's I AM. The circle unbroken by and by, a Divine child, a godsend, a touch of infanity, a bloomin' yes.

For in the end, hope is nothing more or less than a trusting and childlike Yes! to the Creator, and the faithful certainty that his creation is indeed good.


julie said...

Can you imagine having to sing something you wrote at the age of 20, while expressing the same emotions you felt then, with conviction?

A really awful example of this was when The Who sang "Teenage Wasteland" - (or rather, "Baba O'Reilly") at the Superbowl. Apparently they are still belting it out at various venues.

I appreciate the rare musician who manages to keep creating new things throughout his life. They don't have to become old caricatures of their younger selves, it's just that so many either don't know or can't imagine that there might be any other options. But of course, to try something new and different is to risk failure, which is a lot more terrifying if hope is all in the past.

Gagdad Bob said...

What happened to "I hope I die before I get old"?

Gagdad Bob said...

I guess 70 is the new 18.

julie said...

Ha - If you google "My Generation", there are no recent performances that come up, unlike Baba O'Reilly. Perhaps that one went conveniently down the memory hole...

mushroom said...

Catching up. Happy New Year.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Youth is inflicted on the young, not wasted. We'll all be required to answer....

Gagdad Bob said...

Ran out of time this morning. It's hard to transition from SlackTime back to MachineTime.

I'm thinking more and more that a genuine blogging sabbatical may be in order.

julie said...

Re. the time transition, yep. What a pain.

It's been quite a while since you've had a sabbatical; I hope it goes well, if you do it.

Van Harvey said...

...sabbatical... ugh. I *hope* it brings you slack... but... ugh.