Thursday, January 31, 2013

Life Under Compulsion and The Abolition Of Man

Links to posts.

     As a student in a private religious high school in the mid Sixties, I was fortunate to be under the tutelage of a brilliant man who introduced me to important books.  One of them was The Abolition of Man, by C. S. Lewis, with its essay, "Men Without Chests."  Here began my introduction to the importance of the relationship of thought and language, and the realization that there is an ongoing war upon language.  The war upon language may be dangerous for at least three reasons: first, because it is so little recognized; second, because an effective defense seems difficult; and third, because a war upon language is actually a war upon thought itself.

     In the intervening decades since Lewis and others addressed the matter, many good writers have arisen who make the same, or similar, points, and have made an effective contribution.  I am thinking particularly of Wendell Berry's Standing By Words, but others will come readily to mind.

     Most recently, Anthony Esolen, who posts at Front Porch Republic, has written a fine piece titled, "Life Under Compulsion: The Dehumanities."  For those of us who think about the importance of language to thought, and the importance of thought as linking the human spirit to human life -- or we just happen to love Life, Liberty, and Language -- the essay provides much food for thought.  As do some of the comments that appear after it.

     You will notice that the posting linked above simply happens to be the most recent, in fact the eighth, in a series of essays.  Here are links to the first seven.

     1. Life Under Compulsion.
     2. Life Under Compulsion: From Schoolhouse to Schoolbus.
     3. Life Under Compulsion: The Billows Teaching Machine.
     4. Life Under Compulsion: If Teachers Were Plumbers.
     5. Life Under Compulsion: Human Scale Tools and the Slavish Education State.
     6. Life Under Compulsion: Curricular Mire.
     7. Life Under Compulsion: Bad Universality.

 *       *       *

This post was slightly revised on February 9.  Comments most welcome.

On February 19, I discovered that FPR added another post in the series.

     9. Life Under Compulsion: The Itch.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Crossing The Threshold Of Hope

     I love the old Pope, John Paul II, who has now passed from us in accomplishing that remarkable Disappearance which is the triumph of every good death; and I am grateful to God that he did not pass until he could see the end of the Twentieth Century, and the humbling of that vicious Perversion that was the scourge of Europe and of the world and of the Church for the greater part of that tragic and ghastly century, that called itself International Communism.

     I love the fact that he was an outdoorsman from his early days, taking youngsters kayaking and camping when he was a young priest in Poland.  I love that he became an avid skier, both as Archbishop of Krakow and even later, in his fifties and sixties, when he assumed the papacy.  The Vicar of Christ on skis!  That simple fact alone should bring joy and hope -- even laughter -- not only to "the Faithful," but to all men of good will everywhere.

     Speaking of hope, I have just re-read his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.  Of course it has many good and encouraging things to say, but I have selected just one excerpt, from the chapter of the book bearing the title, "Be Not Afraid."  Where there are italics, they are his own.

     ' At the end of the second millennium, we need, perhaps more than ever, the words of the Risen Christ:  "Be not afraid!" Man who, even after the fall of Communism, has not stopped being afraid and who truly has many reasons for feeling this way, needs to hear these words.  Nations need to hear them, especially those nations that have been reborn after the fall of the Communist empire, as well as those that witnessed this event from the outside.  Peoples and nations of the entire world need to hear these words.  Their conscience needs to grow in the certainty that Someone exists who holds in His hands the destiny of this passing world; Someone who holds the keys to death and the netherworld (cf. Rev 1.18); Someone who is the Alpha and the Omega of human history (cf. Rev. 22:13) -- be it the individual or collective history.  And this Someone is Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8, 16) -- Love that became man, Love crucified and risen, Love unceasingly present among men.  It is Eucharistic Love.  It is the infinite source of communion.  He alone can give the ultimate assurance when He says "Be not afraid!" '

     Now that we live in a time when an unholy and evil Club of Perverters has decisively taken over the media of the West, and its governments, and its other institutions, and we are caught in a matrix of seduction and insanity which has already led us far into a twilight world of officially sanctioned violence, war, and torture, and imposes a self-slavery upon us -- now, I say, it is good to remember those words and take them to heart, and determine for ourselves (individually and collectively, to use the pope's words) to cross the threshold of hope.

     "Be not afraid!"

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Su Tung-Po On New Year's Eve

On New Year's Eve, I should go home early,
But am by official duties detained.
With tears in my eyes I hold my brush,
And feel sorry for those in chains.
The poor are trying to make a living,
But fall into the clutches of the law.
I, too, cling to an official job,
And carry on against my wish for rest.
What difference is there between myself
And those more ignorant than I?
Who can set them free for the time being?
Silently I bow my head in shame.

-- Su Tung-Po, Chinese poet, 1036-1101,
quoted by R. G. H. Siu in The Tao Of Science.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Virtue Of Dissent

A link to a post.

     Here is a link to an article, "The Virtue Of Dissent:  A New Concept Of Moralism."  I found it at the website, Waking Times, where the authorship is simply credited to "Z, a contributing writer."

     I offer it as food for thought, not because I necessarily agree with all of its "presuppositions" (to use a popular term of discourse), but because I appreciate its tone, and its willingness to challenge the Current Paradigm at a pretty fundamental level.

     I suspect that as you read the entire post, you will, as I did, find various points at which you disagree with the author's philosophical stance.  We might therefore reject him (or her) at the outset.  But permit me to intrude for a moment upon your thinking . . .

     Is it not true that in the American political scene, we find ourselves being driven by partisan agendas, left, right, and "center," that are not at all congruent with the old "American ideals," or "dream," or, to put it more modernly, "values,"  that we once upon a time did (or still do) believe are true and good and beautiful?

     I might tread even farther, among my co-religious, and ask:  Is it not the case that in the religious scene we, or at least some of us, are swapping out love of God, and love of neighbor, and love of the creation -- and the desire for true unity with God, neighbor, and creation that that love implies -- and in their place following after pseudo-religious crusades, culture wars, love of State, institution-loyalty, faction-thinking, label-making, banner-waving, and every distraction that we find?

     Shall we take this swapped-in thing and pass it on, or pass it off, to our children as "true religion"?  Shall we be upset if our children, or our neighbors, refuse it, and walk away?  How badly do we want them to believe in a media-driven Tooth-Fairy view of the world -- that the world should be run for the sake of the Tooth-Fairies with the prettiest teeth -- or the teeth that are longest and sharpest?

     Or is this just me?


     But back to the main point -- the virtue of dissent.  The virtue.

     Given our "consensus reality" (to use another popular term) -- that heady, boring, mesmerizing blend of Hollywood entertainment, pop culture, tabloid morality, twitter dialog, fast food courts, media hype, marketing, i-pad games, talking heads, and corporate fictions -- our children need to know that some alternative -- which includes truth, goodness, and beauty -- exists.  (Or needs to exist: we may have to learn to evoke it from nothing more than memory, or even imagination.)

     And given that we live in a generation where "reality" is owned and dispensed by the establishment-media-complex and where political correctness is enforced by the courts, dissent is going to be more personally costly to those who practice it, and more desperately necessary for those, especially among the young, who need to hear it, and who need to see someone practice it.

     For all these reasons, I am glad to find the writer, "Z," who is willing to make a strong case and provoke some good questions.

      Beginning with significant quotes from George Bernard Shaw and Erich Fromm,  the author begins to address the necessities of existence, the sick society, health, environment, and human consciousness, invoking John Stuart Mill, Krishnamurti, Camus, Carl Sagan, and others along the way.

     Here is one important paragraph:

     ' Fixing our broken society – not simply assuaging symptoms – must be a priority for us all. But first it needs to be understood that there is a broken society. As it stands, the majority of people live comfortable, passively-unhealthy, inert lifestyles, with no intention of disturbing those comforts, being proactive about healthy change, or transforming their inertia into courageous intent. People prefer the ignorance of bliss over the pain of knowledge. And anybody who goes against the grain and rebels will be seen as attacking those cherished comforts and indulgent luxuries, no matter how unsustainable those luxuries may be, or how unhealthy those creature comforts are to the environment. “We have an organizational system that works wonderfully well for products” wrote Daniel Quinn. “But we don’t have a system that works wonderfully well for people.” '

     I think this article is well worth the time it takes to read it.  It may help us all to move toward a more virtuous and confident New Year.

*       *       *

     More information about "Z" can be found at the end of the article, as well as links to Z's own website.

     Your comments are, as always, most welcome.