Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil. *
This is a meditation on the vagaries of time as instanced on this, the 14th anniversary of Gates of Vienna. It is also a contemplation of the tensions that surround any notion of goodness, beauty or truth. At least these are my beginning intentions, but bear in mind that essays are ornery critters. They are often heedless of their author’s aims, developing their own signification.
We’ll see what transpires, eh?
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What began as an intellectual distraction from the deep grief due to my daughter’s sudden death has changed gradually into a pilgrimage of sorts; we’re marching to the end, wherever that is. Picking up fellow-travelers along the way, we’ll journey on until Fate intervenes. Some may stay for the entire trip while others drop out as their interests shift. Not everyone can abide the effluvial current that underlies our reality. I certainly can’t.
The often sad and tragic stories we’ve collected over the last fourteen years may be a reflection of a downward spiral of Western civilization as we understand it. How could it be otherwise with the twined efforts of Islam and its fellow-travelling radical socialists? That the former will devour the latter while the mindless sing “Kumbaya” is one possible fate to be contemplated. The coda to that song is probably “Imagine” as sung by China’s National Choir.
But wait! What is that we hear whispering in the wings, waiting to appear? Could it be the muffled voices of a new conservative-populist alliance rising in tentative unison throughout the post-globalist post-empire? They comprise a new chorus rightfully beginning to take themselves seriously as they enter stage right.
Much like the Christian Reformation (credited to Luther, but not possible without the simultaneous populist religious uprisings across Europe), should widespread changes occur, there will be counterattacks, but eventually… if history is any example…
There are severe limits built into the present socialist ethos, where no greater sin than “racism” is possible, nor any greater virtue than “tolerance”. No doubt there will be similar transgressions in the post-secular age. Pray they do not become mirror images of the old sins. Otherwise we will move from chaotic socialism to rigid authoritarianism in our restless search for ontological certainty.
Here’s the thing: Our knowledge of reality has outpaced our ability to digest and comprehend that reality. The human mind flees from ambiguity, is often unwilling or unable to stand in the face of doubt, even if that stance leads eventually to understanding and wisdom. Thus did science and religion draw swords against one another. Yet working together they could inform a far greater comprehension than presently exists.
Will we have the courage to say “who knows?” and wait to see what happens? It takes great patience to wait to see what floats up from the abyss.
The psychiatrist Eric Berne came of age in a time when all American men served in the military. During his stint, Berne created a questionnaire for soldiers he encountered, and from that survey of a cross-section of young American men he created two perceptual categories, two temperaments. He called them Farmers and Mechanics.**
Farmers are those who know they cannot control the greater forces of weather events or pestilence that ultimately affect their crops. While they weed and cultivate, they wait to see what happens. Mechanics are fixers. Things can always be improved or invented out of whole cloth. Though Berne never said so, Farmers are dependent on Mechanics for the inventions that have made their livelihood far easier. But then, Mechanics need to eat, so there you go — another necessary interdependence.
To judge by the comment threads, most of our readers are Mechanics, methinks, though there is an admixture of folk who are content to observe what is, without demanding that anything be “fixed”. Sometimes there simply is no fixing for lies, evil or ugliness. Not in this world; but in the next, who knows?