"If the left during the 1960s, instead of attacking racism in the old
South, had attacked anti-Southern bigotry by Northerners, this is the
sort of book you'd expect to find. There is a lot in here about how
awful prejudice against the "Other" is, but nothing about how
reactionary that "Other" might be."
It's a bitter review, and I haven't read the book it is a review of, but I found it worth reading.
The will must be subject to the intellect: the intellect cannot, and
must not, simply be submitted to the will, or else the will ends up
flying blind. This is not "loving God with all your mind," it is a
perverse hatred of the mind. Such obedience, such submission, is wrong.
One cannot be properly obedient to authorities one does not understand, and any event of attempted obedience implies some degree of assumed understanding and attraction, even if the logic (logos) of this dynamic is fought down or cast away from entering into the understanding and reflection (or if it is painted-up and misrepresented).
In the Fathers, generally, the Intellect directs the Will. This is so East and West prior to the advent of Nominalism, after which the Promethean Will becomes the context for Intellect -- Reason/Intellect being merely instrumental to the Will's striving. (If this sounds simultaneously like Atheism and like Protestant theology, it is both.) I have here capitalized these terms because this was understood to be the case with God no less than with human beings, though at an analogical remove, because of God's simplicity. To say that the will is subject to, or should be directed by the intellect goes hand-in-hand with another principle: that the intellect, and not the will, is capable of recognizing the Good (and the True, and the Beautiful), which it is more closely related to. The intellect discerns the Good and governs the will accordingly. Actions, the choices of the will, are to be directed always to the Good in all things. They cannot simply obey brute commandments, for unless these commandments are clearly seen to be Good, obeying them is no virtue. (See picture example below.) (Anyone who obeys a commandment or the interpretation of a commandment is already attracted to it on some level anyway -- why resist articulating the logic of this attraction, so that the character of what one is doing might shine forth more clearly, and the will's Good be set forth more clearly?).
This is what disturbs me about those who would refuse to engage critically with Patristic sources on the basis of obedience -- for example, the Gospel According to St. Mark may have been written by a Mark (it is one of the most common names of the time -- Marcus), but it is certainly not written in Rome. Papias' claims that it was, and that this roots Mark in the apostolic tradition flowing from Peter, is an attempt to combat similar Gnostic claims trending at that time. The text from Papias does not give one this data -- one needs to simply know the context in which it was being sounded-forth. Not knowing that, many modern conservative readers stupidly think it is a timeless work of art or something, or a philosophical treatise, or an attempt to dispassionately convey information, and it is none of these things. Some of Papias' claims -- the ones he makes rather nonchalantly, and which he has no vested political interest in either way -- are not polemical, and are historically trustworthy (and can be validated on public grounds). But the historical claims about Roman origins are wrong (Mark is of Syrian origin, almost certainly). If one assumes the above model of obedience, though, then any critical pushback against the traditional narratives about Mark's Gospel enshrined in hagiography will be resisted by punches that sound like (a) "how do you know? you weren't there." and (b) "why are you contradicting the authority of the fathers?" and so forth. (This particular type of anti-critical naivete toward the figures of one's patrimony likely reflects and is reflected in a political posture that may be -- may be -- peculiarly American.)
Which is all to say that there is a theological and an ideological framework, riding atop these texts, structuring the church culture and religious lives of the people who think this way, that determines the terms of engagement with these texts, and which is not really allowed to appear for interrogation, because that would be too troubling to these Obediants. They walk down a dark and dangerous road that their ideology does not permit any light on, save the fire generated by their willpower.
What's terrible is that this is exactly not what one finds in folks like St. Maximus, who thought very differently about these matters concerning the will and the Good, etc. Also, different from the teachings of St. Mark the Monk on the primacy of the conscience. Also, it should be noted that this road of submitting the intellect to the will (and seeing both as untrustworthy, and requiring total submission to an external source for safety) leads to Nihilism, when the Good is completely arbitrary, and not universally discernible and which determines all things, and there is no horizon of shared meaning available. No matter how they wish to play it, the Obediants will never be able to justify their ideology, but will always have these esoteric and militaristic first principles that do not universally compel (and which compel very few, in fact), and which will need to justify this by villainizing those who are not so compelled. The illusion of antiquity and fidelity to the past does much to fuel this ideology, which is another reason why critical inquiry into the framework is resisted, because the ideology is very modern, and very unfaithful to the Church's tradition, even if it has (or seems to have) some recent saints amongst its adovcates.
My spouse asked me the other day whether any of the major philosophers have changed their opinions or positions on or commitments to things over the course of their lives. I said that yes: most have. I think of Nietzsche and Heidegger, or Plato, etc.
Nietzsche of course would say that philosophy is ultimately autobiography: we write ourselves large into a vision of things, a perspective. Perspectives are only perspectives: truth is not a perspective, and is a fiction of perspectives.
I was watching Sons of Anarchy last night -- a character Tara said she did not believe in "that God," i.e., the God who descended to the womb of Mary, but that she beieved there was "something", "something that connects all of us" -- which she said only days, in the show's timeline, after chewing out her boss and telling her what a rotten person she is and bloodying her face up nicely.
We all want to say everything is connected -- until we need to accuse someone, until we crave a scapegoat, until we wish to hold forth a person, abstracted from the interconnections of things, and to load him or her up with responsibility so that we might not be caught in the web of interconnections -- because then _we_ would have a share in the responsibility, then _we_ would need to accuse _ourselves_.
The line about everything being connected, as with most religion or spirituality these days, is not a real belief, or vision, but a narcotic, indulged in when convenient, dismissed when appetite or the passions move us in a direction which might otherwise be regulated away by a consistent attentiveness to the connectedness of things.
"We're all connected" -- but not when you hurt me or anger me. Accusations and blaming others are easy in isolation. If we are connected, however, self-accusation is always involved at some level. We are not usually aware of the psychology involved in our philosophies, or our indulgences -- and when we are, they too often undermine them. We need to learn to be honest about our motives for our commitments, and beliefs.
(There is, of course, the obvious issue -- if I am out taking a stroll, and you hit me with your car because you weren't looking, then the immediate blame falls on you. Am I to accuse myself in this matter? I am not wise enough to know how to answer this. My suspicion is that we are responsible for our reaction to this sad and undesirable event -- responsible, if we wish to be perfect and divine -- to forgive our offender. Just a guess.)
Romeo. Thou canst not speak of that thou dost not feel: Wert thou as young as I, Juliet thy love,
An hour but married, Tybalt murdered,
Doting like me and like me banished,
Then mightst thou speak, then mightst thou tear thy hair,
And fall upon the ground, as I do now,
Taking the measure of an unmade grave.
If there is an illustration of dispassion versus the madness that comes from the sensual life, this is it. "Adversity's sweet milk, philosophy." One hears Boethius in the background. One hears the Renaissance clamoring in Romeo. One hears these two ways of life reduced to sensual preferences -- ears and eyes (and the eyes are the more dominant in the human cognitive structure and sensual pyramid, leaving the implication that the philosophical life is a perverse life, and that the senses naturally have their objects, and that these desires for these objects throw us into tragic relations).
If only they knew the Christ of the Anglo-Saxons, the Christ Who ascends to the Cross like a warrior, and Who holds Himself over suffering, holding Himself there, not torn, until torn, and thereby shows what Life looks like, thereby giving Life. Adversity's sweet milk: suffering. Holding oneself in the pain, not being thrown in the direction where it throws one, not consenting to be so driven, but attending carefully to every note of the pain, sitting in the pain, not being impelled, not being torn, holding the form, feeling every drop of blood that pours out, not diminishing it, not complaining or resenting it, greeting it as a worthy challenge, greeting it as a concealed friend, greeting it as the truth of our life and our freedom: this is wisdom, this is true philosophy. In working to relieve our suffering we must be careful. There are types of suffering which are disastrous for some, but vivifying for others. In this age, the risk is not overly-eager mortification, but various narcotics to dull or remove the pain.
How should we best summarize this philosophy? "O Lord, bless, hallow, and guard me by the power of Thy precious and life-giving Cross." To ask to be blessed by the Cross, to be hallowed and guarded by the life-giving Cross, is to ask to be blessed and hallowed and guarded and given life by one's own pain: our pain becomes the means of our union and communion with God, and the site wherein we come alive as who we are. Our pain is truly our own. We speak of the divine power of the Cross: our pain is filled with divine power.
Otherness means differentiation: differentiation means the possibility of tension, hostility, violence. Creatureliness means finitude, and so differentiation, but should not be closed at the horizon of finitude, but open to an infinite horizon. Our pain lies closest to our ownmost experience, as it cannot be communicated: our pain, in being our ownmost and incommunicable, carries a great possibility of being or becoming a cage, and isolating. Yet insofar as things are, they are not discordant and isolated, but harmonious -- in Tolkien's Silmarillion the song of the gods is harmonious, and there is no natural discord, in Pseudo-Dionysius' cosmology, there is no evil that obtains by nature, but only by mode. Our mode, the one we are born into, the one we are thrown into, inevitably means suffering, though. The Cross gathers us together in unity and harmony -- it has power to gather together all discord and pain into unity. This is not magic. This is work, this is divine wholeness in our bleeding.
Good job, Catholic Archdiocese! Way to turn this all into an issue of authority: have you not noticed that authority doesn't operate in the modern world as it did in the Middle Ages? --did you not also notice that rational discourse in the Middle Ages was at a much higher level than the propaganda we mistake for conversation in advanced media-saturated industrial Modernity? Please take note. Only truth is authoritative: don't make an idol out of the institution and her history: no one will follow her even if she's right if you can't (a) demonstrate the truth of what you're committed to rationally (if those things concern public things, such as on this topic) (b) take care of those Catholics whom you relieve of their post, as though they really were family members.
Of course, who knows if this teacher was a problem before -- but 12 years...
This situation is not helped by telling it with the Rebel Alliance vs. Evil Empire trope in the background.
"Don't trust anyone over 30." --that anyone could say such a thing suggests a profound lack of any historical perspective, any sense of time outside of the field of objects that correspond to appetites, fears, aversions, disgusts. Would such a person who said such a thing as the quote above not recognize that they would one day age out?
I don't understand how a whole generation could have so little depth of vision. I don't understand how the 60's happened. Hoping to eventually buy and read this.
I remember seeing a video, or reading an article, years ago -- an article about a family who used modern technologies to build a house that would be warm in winter and cool in the summer -- without AC and without any heating other than bodies and perhaps a fireplace. It was mostly about insulation. I mentioned this story to a friend of mine tonight, after explaining to him how the Victorian I grew up in cools very naturally in the summer (it was built as a summer home), and does so just by naturally using the way the world works, rather than trying to force it to do what one wishes it to do -- at the constant expense of the rest of the world (i.e., AC's releasing heat into the world and drawing lots of energy). Tall cielings, tall windows with lots of shade so that not too much direct sunlight cooks the air in the room, cross-breezes possible throughout the house, etc. Modern apartment buildings are not built with this in mind: they depend upon central air and central heating. They'd often be unlivable without them. Not energy efficient.
The conversation, as it so often does with me, careened off into another direction -- in this case, the potential for energy-efficient homes to restore a central Enlightenment hope in progress and the corresponding optimistic mood that this progress founds (and perhaps is itself founded upon). Technology that could actually produce a lasting and sustainable benefit without tapping into the sacrificial system of so much modern technology: purchasing a benefit that was built upon, while what was purchased was purchased expensively, without any certainty that it would be sustainable: air conditioners and cheap energy (or certain political systems that depend upon airplanes and cheap energy -- Skyping is replacing jet-setting to business deals and meetings, but look at what happens when the network goes down...a network that relies upon: cheap energy and political stability...).
The Revolutionaries were not cynics like the generation of the 60's and 70's: they were optimists, idealists, utopians. Suffering does not necessarily give rise to Revolution: the absence of bread only necessarily leads to the desire for bread, not revenge against the system: one must be fed the idea of a better system, the belief that it is possible, and the distaste for the current one in contrast. It is simple, optimistic, even naive.
The utopian machinery that emerges from this didn't break down until the generation that came of age in the 40's and 50's were resisted by those who came of age in the 60's.
The 60's represents the first real break with this utopianism, with the social and technological machinery of the Enlightenment: criticism of the excessive conformism of the generation of the 50's, which, though it had collectivism and conformism, was still very individualistic, and did not have the kinds of communities necessary to arrest the dissatisfactions of the youth (which were already being collected as a cohort by shared media such as the Beatles, etc.).
The 60's represents a real break with this optimism of the machinery of the Enlightenment, too: the exposure of so much unhealth, the emphasis on nature and what was natural, revealing the atrocity that grows in the dark underbelly of the beast: this is what the optimistic utopianism cannot take, and the tension between the naive hope and what is presently exposed gives rise to critical consciousness.
By the 70's, this critical consciousness had turned sour. One can see the difference between the generations' products: the modernist buildings of the 60's have a kind of optimism that the trashy blocks of the 70's do not have at all, and often were deliberately made to upend. One can see it in the more muted colors that were popular, and even the transition from more missile-like shapes for cars and other machines (which are still found in the organic world) to blocks and mineral-like shapes (that were not found in the organic world). The music reflected this, too. As far as I can see, so did the trends in the drug cultures that were popular: I'm not certain of what was statistically used more often, but the icons of drug use shifted toward harder drugs not out of exuberance but simply to escape, and even to damage, or knowing the risk. The mood seems, from where I sit, to have changed.
To round it all up: to see that technology can produce goods that are a marked and notable gain over older ways of doing things, gains that are not purchased at the price of a hidden sacrifice or dependent upon sacrifices that must regularly be made (and within conditions where the supply of sacrificial victims to fuel the machine is in doubt), would be of great benefit to restore some of the inheritance of the Enlightenment that is essential to who we are and have been, and need to be for our current commitments to be sustainable.
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring. Something happened in the 50's and 60's that has not, to my knowledge, been diagnosed. A generation galvanized as a youth culture via the Beatles, etc., yes: but also a generation united against the technocratic regime that went before them. Did the hippies express this ethos best? They did not know how to heal or diagnose, only how to resist. Have they offered any viable long-term solution? Individualism is simply an inversion of their parents collectivism, but instead of a classical liberal individualism, this individualism was absorbed back into the technocratic blob via media, as a consumeristic individualism.
In previous ages, there was a sense that things -- words, objects, events -- might figure or participate in something transcendent. The world was not closed-off. There were people who thought of the sacramental life as "outward signs of inward grace," and who thus saw a discontinuity between the sign and the transcendent signified, but there was still a relationship.
I saw a boy with a large cross around his neck at Church the other day. I think he was an early 20-something seminarian. Very pious-y. Didn't talk with him. I kept trying to imagine what the outcome was that he was looking for in putting it on -- why do it? The only answers I could come up with -- and the only answers, I challenge, which any of us can conceive of -- ultimately reduce to something this-worldly, or just worldly: that is, all the possible motives reduce to intelligible outcomes within this world, within the horizon of finitude and accomplishable ends within this life.
This is part and parcel of the modern era: modernity and secularism are worldliness.