Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Over on Counterpunch, Jonathan Feldman has a meaty and comprehensive article on Our present economic situation and what has to be done to start steering away from the rocks (“Obamanomics”, http://www.counterpunch.com/feldman08232008.html).

I’ll leave the economics to him: he makes awesome sense.

He raises a point, however, that elicits a thought or two: that ‘economic’ security (defined as economic health) is tied in directly to ‘national security’. Woooooof. What Citizen isn’t concerned about ‘national security’. And rightly so.

But Feldman points out the really critical problem: ‘Health’ is a big part of ‘security’. And he provides a masterful assessment of Our economic health.

I’d just like to propose that We take his conception – thus far so nobly begun – to the next level: what about Our maturational health? What about Our cognitive and emotional and moral and – yes – spiritual health?

Especially since We are no longer in possession of much fiscal wealth, and since We already aren’t wielding military power with any efficacy, then perhaps We might in some way redeem matters by developing some chops in fields so long neglected.

The way We process information. The way We balance thought and emotion in Our individual lives and what sort of balance We choose to require in Our societal and political life. The extent to which We ground Our individual selfs and then Our common policies in sufficiently sturdy and comprehensive ‘values’ (‘sensuality’, recently proposed by someone paid as a university professor … of religion, not qualifying under either of the foregoing criteria).

In fact, I’m not sure that ‘values’ really get to the heart of the matter. We cannot Ground Ourselves merely by walking down some this-dimensional smorgasbord buffet of stuff it would be nice to ‘be’. Putting this or that on a plate – no matter how tastefully accomplished - is an exercise not in ‘value’ but in ‘desire’, which ain’t the same thing at all.

For Grounding oneself is not a matter of meeting this or that ‘desire’, it is a matter of being. Of be-ing. Of Be-ing, capital B and gerundive. And it’s kinda physics to realize that a quantity X that seeks to Ground itself must do so in some reality greater-than-X. A reality that exists on a higher order of Being.

The revolutionary materialisms of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, in which the foremothers of the 2WF and all succeeding Identities were fatally steeped, insisted that life in this dimension was totally self-sufficient, completely self-contained and capable of taking care of itself, providing for itself.

Yes, some such as Camus and Sartre realized that such self-sufficiency was so inadequate in the face of this-dimension’s threats and challenges that self-sufficiency – or, so in accurately, ‘freedom’ – was really a cause for profound despair; a deliberate stance of courage would be the best a human being could ‘do’, despite the fact that such ‘courage’ was utterly irrational, inefficacious and thus in a very real way meaningless.

But the revolutionaries of Russia and Germany and 1970s America considered this-dimensional self-sufficiency to be The Very Thing. Human beings could dispense with the limits and shapes imposed upon the things and inhabitants of this-dimension by some other-dimensional, other-worldly authority –whether that ‘authority’ was impersonal or Personal. Freed from a reliance upon, and a subordination to, any such ‘authority’, this-dimensional life could proceed to live-itself into broad sunlit uplands of achievement and fulfillment. Just what would constitute an achievement, just what would constitute ‘fulfillment’ … well, there was great disagreement there, and no ‘authority’ to determine the ‘answer’.

But that’s what ‘revolutions’ and ‘revolutionaries’ were for: to ‘get it’, to grasp the accurate Answer – or at least to declare some particular answer to be ‘Correct’ – and, if necessary, enforce that illumination with physical coercion. This of course, was precisely the lethal infection from which the Catholic Church had – though only at the price of great suffering endured and inflicted – recovered.

But that hard-won wisdom was precisely what the revolutions did not want to hear, not in 1789, 1917, 1933, 1949, or in the 1970s. If they couldn’t woo folks desperate for meaning and assurance, if they couldn’t inveigle folks to go along with them, then the revolutions would degenerate into mere exercises in terror and coercion and manipulation, no matter how wide and long sustained.

Not for the revolutionaries that irreducible and unavoidable and unspinnable fact that human beings are desperately needy for assurance and re-assurance, for some thing or force or Person that would be their rock in this queasy dimension and its life, which is actually indicative of a much larger Fabric, whose Matrix was not even in this dimension but in another dimension beyond it, a Beyond that was also the very source of this dimension and of its human beings, and was indeed a Person Who took benevolent interest in their well-being in this dimension and in the Beyond. And that in light of that reality, human beings could begin to infer their nature and their characteristics, and thus shape their life in this dimension in harmony with how they themselves had been Shaped.

Nope. No self-respecting revolution could allow any such rival. Rather than attack the Beyond, they simply pulled the rug out from under It, declaring that only this-dimension existed. And shooting or otherwise stifling any human being they could get their hands on who said otherwise.

But no matter how hard they tried, the revolutionaries could never eradicate the human need for a Beyond, a need that might actually issue not from some species-wide flaw, but rather from the simple fact that the species turned toward a Beyond because it came from that Beyond and was in the process of returning to that Beyond. Human beings, like ‘facts’, are stubborn things; and the ‘facts of human beings’ then are doubly stubborn things. Nor does any this-dimensional revolution have the tools or weapons to destroy them.

Nor can a human being possess a ‘moral compass’ that is utterly self-referential. The whole reality of a compass is that it aligns itself to some reality beyond the ship and beyond the control of the navigator; and in reliably indicating the individual vessel’s position relative to that Alignment, provides a basis for selecting one’s way accurately toward one’s goal.

And in a culture and society that prize mobility and a certain rootlessness, and that depend upon the eternal possibility of re-inventing yourself ... well, if you can't or haven't been taught how retain a strong sense of some core self and an ability to navigate morally and to replenish and draw support from a Beyond that is everywhere - if you can't do that in such a fluid and ever-changing environment, then 'lost-ness' will be your lot. And if enough members of a society are 'lost' and if their culture can't help them, then the clock has begun ticking. If Western Civ goes, then a lot else is going down with it - Us included. This was an avoidable catastrophe.

It was for Us the fateful collision of 1960s ‘youth’ un-wisdom and the mis-wisdom of that century’s prior revolutions that created the anti-wisdom of postmodern life. We have, in the past century or so, regressed even more than progressed. The present condition of things indicates that the consequences of such anti-wisdom are now catching up.

Because if The People are the struts which anchor the ferris wheel of government as it spins around and around, and if The People and all the citizens individually be un-Grounded, then the whole machine is rendered unreliable, useless, and even dangerous.

Spiritual immaturity, immaturity so comprehensive as to entrap the individual – and many individuals – in the anti-reality of one-dimensional and this-dimensional existence … now that is going to undermine the health and security of this nation more profoundly than anything else.

This is not a veiled commercial for ‘church’. Too many of the churches have become pro-forma tenders and polishers of lamps without flames, and too many ‘believers’ have either despaired of the Beyond, console themselves with the fairy-tale that the Beyond is simply a permanent incarnation of this dimension, or maniacally exult in a Beyond whose authority – they feel – authorizes them to embrace their dark-side and to inflict it upon other human beings.

The Founders well understood the complexities and uncertainties of navigating: on the oceans of this dimension or the trackless seas of infinity. Not being church-goers themselves, they yet realized that the most they could achieve was to build the ferris wheel and hope that its struts would support it; they could not guarantee the Grounding of the struts. And if the struts went, the wheel would destroy itself in a final wild orgy of Shapeless energy.

I think that they prayed a lot, the Founders. They knew.

We don’t. Not anymore.

What then is to be done?

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Blogger David said...

Karl Rahner points out that *as human beings* we are all always already beyond our finite arrangements. These are, as you say, inherently "unreliable, often useless and even dangerous" with or without our explicit consciousness of an infinite truth, love & beauty which backlights finitude as a mysterious horizon toward which we cannot not orient ourselves whatever our beliefs.

To put it bluntly: in some alternative future, Oscar Romero, had he lived, would continue to critique the abuses of whatever Salvadoran Popular Front might have come to revolutionary power.

It is in the nature of human beings to strive past the ephemeral arrangements of composite finitude but I don't see honest theists as any less "lost" than the rest of us people of good will. In fact the closer one gets to the North Pole, the more useless any mechanical compass becomes.

I feel honest maturity requires a recognition of our precarious state and, in the measure that we forsake delusions of certitude, we will navigate by dead reckoning out of the swamps of violence toward the sunlit uplands of a future which none of us (believers and infidels alike) can foresee.

Christian hope "straight up" in its most naked form is no opiate. It most resembles a dark night of the soul equally familiar to Camus, Mother Theresa and the Carmelite mystics of yore.

11:51 AM  
Blogger publion said...

Yes, and that’s one of the reasons why I am so partial to the ‘ship’ and ‘captain’ analogies: with the (only partial) exception of the Sunday-boater-on-the-lake, the captain-voyager must actively seek accurate information about what is happening aboard and beyond the vessel. And thus must master the self-possession necessary to remain efficacious even under the pressure of understandable emotions that would yet degrade the capability to face a situation if they were given free rein. (Thus this women-are-from-Venus stuff is either right, with huge implications, or is wrong, with equally huge implications; but none of this makes simple maleness a shoo-in for maturity, as the Lord full knoweth).

Individuals and societies unable or unwilling to tolerate accurate information are not going to be well-disposed to tolerate – or demand – truth and Truth. Passengers who prefer to distract themselves down on the saloon deck or in their cabins so as to avoid being reminded of just what situation their ship is in … well, such passengers do not a democratic politics or The People make. Enough of such types and the ship of state ain’t going to be in good shape. And while heaven has promised to sustain the ship of soul – should the possessor be willing to accept the support – heaven has made no such promises in regard to any particular ship of state (the Fundoozie fantasies of being God’s Deputies notwithstanding).

We must all stand together, and try to help each other, and seek that help. Or Our prospects – in this world at least – are very dim indeed.

9:35 AM  

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