“The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in the light of which we look at everything. Like the sun at noonday, mysticism explains everything else by the blaze of its own victorious invisibility. Detached intellectualism is (in the exact sense of a popular phrase) all moonshine; for it is light without heat, and it is secondary light, reflected from a dead world. But the Greeks were right when they made Apollo the god both of imagination and of sanity; for he was both the patron of poetry and the patron of healing. Of necessary dogmas and a special creed I shall speak later. But that transcendentalism by which all men live has primarily much the position of the sun in the sky. We are conscious of it as of a kind of splendid confusion; it is something both shining and shapeless, at once a blaze and a blur. But the circle of the moon is as clear and unmistakable, as recurrent and inevitable, as the circle of Euclid on a blackboard. For the moon is utterly reasonable; and the moon is the mother of lunatics and has given to them all her name.”
Excerpt From: Gilbert Keith Chesterton. “Orthodoxy.”
I can’t stop the noise. There is such a loud blast of background hiss. The air conditioner? The TV? The crickets outside? Of course, it’s why silence is deafening… Too much noise. That’s right up there with too much doing. I can’t sit still. It’s the curse of the technological era with its constant demand and sound bytes… It’s at me; a thousand percent. I’ve been admonished to pray more; to tune out the hiss, but alas, it breaks my concentration.
I’ll bet it breaks everyone’s. Socrates mocked the people of Athens inability to rest; they must be entertained because if they sit still long enough, they are forced to deal with their thoughts, their hidden thoughts and the lurking thoughts of mortality. More beer! More game! More! More!
They can’t deal with the mundane, from the Latin “of the world.” Being confronted by the world. By that I mean, the day-to-day stuff of life that grasps for your attention and attraction and demands you listen up. In that rat race, there is God: the source of Being; what Tillich and Aquinas dubbed being itself. It was Schleiermacher who posited God as the “source of the feeling of absolute dependence.” There’s a concept.
Absolute dependence. The very idea is repugnant to homo modernum. But it was Pythagoras who bellowed man was the measure of all things. This was pre-Christian paganism that finds its way on the lips of Kant; bookends to a rational aeon of common sense… In which the mundane was ordinary under God; the mundus deum. And it was silent, so that one could think and theorize and reflect and order day to day the stuff of life. Now we are squeezed tight by the wirey strands of a disjointed absence of Being, in which now instead of silence, we have noise, because we cannot tolerate the void of meaning. We will not allow the mundane because God is there in the everyday stuff of life and arguably not in the noise.
I guess it’s middle-age musings. I guess it could be the ease of typing on an iPad. Maybe it’s just because today is a beautiful day in South Carolina. When is the last time I noticed how blue the sky was?
Can you quantify a nice? Can you empirically observe a sense of awe or what Rudolph Ott called, “The Holy”? Sure, neural firings can be observed by a computer but like Chesterton said, just because you know the way it works, doesn’t means it’s no miracle. We used to say when I was a Presbyterian (I still think so as a Thomist!) that God normally works through ordinary means. However, my journey across the Tiber has opened Narnia to me. Aslan was on the move singing his beautiful melodies that won my heart and my imagination.
Did I say the sky was blue? It is a beautiful Sunday afternoon with the bellowings of children playing, and I see around me the wonders of the human spirit. Sadly, some materialist would have just said, “Look at the grand accomplishments of the species!” Or worse, by the Nietzscheans, “Eh, it’s not so great.” Sagan said we’re a lonely little speck of a blue planet. I distinguish the grand genius of those that fashioned those fiber optic cables to the creative skills of those in the imago dei. A materialist would just say, “Yeah, so.” Darwin said the weakness of his random theory was the complexity of the eye. He couldn’t dissect wonder. Nor the blue sky.
Alluding to an idea discussed in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Sartre writes (2007), “Since God does not exist and we all must die, everything is permissible” (p. 78). The origin of morality and values lies within the self. Whatever the self does is good as long as one is true to oneself and does not live hypocritically, which Sartre called “bad faith.” Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil suggests when humanity evolves beyond the morals that psychologically imprison us, we will truly be free to be ourselves, our authentically human being, the übermensch or “superman.”
The results of postmodernism are the serious decline in a sense of moral responsibility in our culture and the birth of a genuinely self-absorbed and nihilistic culture.
From my Dissertation…
“Now it is the charge against the main deductions of the materialist that, right or wrong, they gradually destroy his humanity; I do not mean only kindness, I mean hope, courage, poetry, initiative, all that is human. For instance, when materialism leads men to complete fatalism (as it generally does), it is quite idle to pretend that it is in any sense a liberating force. It is absurd to say that you are especially advancing freedom when you only use free thought to destroy free will. The determinists come to bind, not to loose. They may well call their law the “chain” of causation. It is the worst chain that ever fettered a human being. You may use the language of liberty, if you like, about materialistic teaching, but it is obvious that this is just as inapplicable to it as a whole as the same language when applied to a man locked up in a mad-house. You may say, if you like, that the man is free to think himself a poached egg. But it is surely a more massive and important fact that if he is a poached egg he is not free to eat, drink sleep, walk, or smoke a cigarette. Similarly you may say, if you like, that the bold determinist speculator is free to disbelieve in the reality of the will. But it is a much more massive and important fact that he is not free to praise, to curse, to thank, to justify, to urge, to punish, to resist temptations, to incite mobs, to make New Year resolutions, to pardon sinners, to rebuke tyrants, or even to say “thank you” for the mustard.”
Excerpt From: Gilbert Keith Chesterton. “Orthodoxy.”
“For we must remember that the materialist philosophy (whether true or not) is certainly much more limiting than any religion. In one sense, of course, all intelligent ideas are narrow. They cannot be broader than themselves. A Christian is only restricted in the same sense that an atheist is restricted. He cannot think Christianity false and continue to be a Christian; and the atheist cannot think atheism false and continue to be an atheist. But as it happens, there is a very special sense in which materialism has more restrictions than spiritualism. Mr. McCabe thinks me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism. I think Mr. McCabe a slave because he is not allowed to believe in fairies. But if we examine the two vetoes we shall see that his is really much more of a pure veto than mine. The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle. Poor Mr. McCabe is not allowed to retain even the tiniest imp, though it might be hiding in a pimpernel. The Christian admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the materialist’s world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane. The materialist is sure that history has been simply and solely a chain of causation, just as the interesting person before mentioned is quite sure that he is simply and solely a chicken. Materialists and madmen never have doubts.”
Excerpt From: Gilbert Keith Chesterton. “Orthodoxy.”
In 1944, Oxford scholar C.S. Lewis wrote a volume called The Abolition of Man. Lewis was a specialist in medieval literature and subtitled this work “Reflections on education with special reference to teaching English in the upper forms of schools.” Lewis had encountered several books and began noticing a trend in English education that parallels the erosion in America. He recognized what is now called deconstructionism in a book he called The Green Book. He interacted with the authors of this text throughout the volume. Lewis observed that the authors were suggesting —as modern constructivism does—that the meaning in a text is subjective; that there is no meaning to anything other than that which the self gives—a feeling, an impression, but certainly there is no meaning in the thing itself (Lewis, 1944).
He notes, “If the view held by [the authors] were consistently applied it would lead to obvious absurdities” (Lewis, 1944, p. 3). Further he says, “The schoolboy who reads this passage in The Green Book will believe two propositions: firstly, that all sentences containing a predicate of value are statements about the emotional state of the speaker, and secondly, that all such statements are unimportant” (p. 4). Lewis’ concern is not so much what the authors intended in their book, but with the effects it will have in generations. The effects are subconscious, not obvious. The authors do not state, “This is our motive and our worldview,” but that is what comes out. It is fallacious to say that a statement means nothing. Sentences in formal logic are not statements; statements have truth value, sentences do not: e.g., a command is not a sentence. “What color is middle C?” is not only a question, but it is nonsense. The authors of The Green Book (similar to deconstructionists) wrote that there was no meaning in printed text. Lewis exposes the fallacy and demonstrates that they really do not believe that, for they write as if their book had meaning. The statement, “There is no meaning in this text,” is similar to saying “There are round squares.” Lewis’ book was a clarion call regarding the erosion of culture by the abandonment to subjectivity. Much like Aquinas, Lewis emphasized without the proper place of reason, the foundations for truth, meaning and ethics would be indiscernible. He feared the growing trend and the publication of more such books as The Green Book (Lewis 1944).
In terms of human behavior, Lewis sought to explicate what he (borrowing from Confucianism) dubbed the Tao, the way of moderation, values common to most cultures– what Aquinas and the Western moral tradition have identified as “natural law.” In the appendix, he lists selections from cultures all over the world that share this natural outlook regarding human behavior. Lewis (1944) ends the first chapter of the book with a casual warning of the consequence of the subjectivity of morality.
And all the time—such is the tragic-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour [sic] for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’ or dynamism or self-sacrifice or ‘creativity.’ In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour [sic] and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful (p. 26).
— Excerpted from my dissertation…