Thursday, April 27, 2017

Celestial Living in the Sublunary World

In lieu of a hiatus, maybe I'll just continue with shortish posts for awhile, until the urge to bloviate returns...

If materialism is the case, then all problems -- and their solutions -- come down to matter. So, "if all men were exempt from material cares," asks Schuon, "would the world be saved?"

"Assuredly not," because "evil resides above all in man himself, as experience proves."

I thought of this the other day when reading this article reminding me that you and I are Richer than John D. Rockefeller.

Think about the fact that in 1924, the 16 year-old son of a sitting president died of an infected blister. How much worldly power would you give up just for antibiotics? How much wealth would you exchange for...

The medical list alone is endless: powerful analgesics, MRIs, cancer cures, organ transplants, open heart surgery, hip replacements, psychopharmacology, etc. I mean, insulin didn't become available until 1922, so I'd be a dead billionaire.

The bottom line:

I wouldn’t be remotely tempted to quit the 2016 me so that I could be a one-billion-dollar-richer me in 1916. This fact means that, by 1916 standards, I am today more than a billionaire. It means, at least given my preferences, I am today materially richer than was John D. Rockefeller in 1916. And if, as I think is true, my preferences here are not unusual, then nearly every middle-class American today is richer than was America’s richest man a mere 100 years ago.

That is what you call a miracle: that the free market system has effectively transformed millions of ordinary people into billionaires -- or, into a lifestyle beyond the dreams of a 1917 millionaire.

But has it resulted in an increase in happiness? Do the average victims of a state-sponsored indoctrination even have the historical perspective to think in these terms, or are they utterly Creatures of the Now? Certainly the left doesn't look at it this way, by definition. For, in the words of Schuon,

Progressivism is the wish to eliminate effects without wishing to eliminate their causes; it is the wish to abolish calamities without realizing that the are nothing other than what man himself is; they necessarily result from his metaphysical ignorance, or his lack of love for God.

There are no material solutions to spiritual problems. That is a category error. But every problem looks like a nail if your only tool is a hammer... and sickle.

Envy has always been with us, but the political left has existed in a conscious and organized form for a couple hundred years (think of the left as intellectualized and/or organized envy). The left claims to be "progressive," but imagine if we had enacted their programs at any point along the way -- for example, in 1917.

Envy, of course, homes in on the existence of millionaires such as Rockefeller, and on the disparity between his and our incomes. Envy demands that this gap be closed now.

That could have been done, of course, but at the cost of destroying the Economic Progress Machine that in one hundred years would make us richer than Rockefeller. In other words, leftist policies can be fully enacted, but only once -- as in Venezuela. And good luck merely maintaining the level of prosperity that existed when you enacted them, since you destroy the very incentives that redound to the production of wealth.

Well, at least there are no longer any spiritual problems in Venezuela: spiritual hunger has been displaced by plain old hunger.

Is it even conceivable that an envy-driven leftism could be compatible with Christianity? "[T]radition has never admitted this kind of economic blackmail addressed to God" (Schuon). Nothing enslaves the spirit like liberation theology, and nothing asphyxiates gratitude -- the key to happiness -- like envy unbound.

Instead of having his gaze always fixed on the imperfections of the world and the vicissitudes of life, man should never lose sight of the good fortune of being born in the human state, which is the road leading to Heaven. --Schuon


julie said...

I mean, insulin didn't become available until 1922, so I'd be a dead billionaire.

Yep. Me, I never would have survived my mother's pregnancy. She wouldn't have survived it, either. Even 1975 was mind-bogglingly wealthier than 1916. Or 1917.

But has it resulted in an increase in happiness?

Ha - nope. Going back to Biblical times, when Jesus offered living water to the woman at the well, what she envisioned was something like running tap water in her house. We have that, and so much more, but few of us today are as well-off as she in any way that matters.

Van Harvey said...

"...Nothing enslaves the spirit like liberation theology, and nothing asphyxiates gratitude -- the key to happiness -- like envy unbound."

Gratitude - the key to happiness. There is much Truth packed into that. And much of it, the lack of it, seems to swirl around the desire for, and expectation of, perfection. I was just reminded of that this morning, as someone confessed their disgust with the short comings of 'our system', which they can no longer 'have faith in'. Well, what were you doing having Faith, in a man made system, in the first place? And second, if perfection is what you expect, and cannot tolerate being without, how can you receive anything other than resentment and anger?

Not surprisingly, these are often people who are materialists and deny free will.

Free Will cannot be, if we cannot make an error. Cannot. And... so... as they cannot tolerate that, they opt for materialism, which Must be deterministic, one thing followed by another, in the perfect Physics of material perfection... and you've got to look about and wonder how satisfied they could possibly (! 'Possible' is also out, but why press the matter) be, with the society we have, beginning the embodied perfection which they are seemingly unaware that they expect?!

They've cut themselves off from the ability to be surprised, and so from the ability to be grateful, or even ever the least bit happy.

That's gotta make you impoverished, no matter when you are.