Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Life permeated with faith? An analogy with poetry

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If a life permeated with faith is the goal, then why is it so difficult?

Because it is difficult - and especially so for intellectuals.

What is wanted is that Christianity must be integral and habitual and intrinsic to whatever is being done; in the same way that poetry is intrinsic to the lines of Shakespeare.

Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

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Supposing we take Shakespeare's poetic stanza as analogous to the Christian life. Yet in our daily thought, intellectuals dwell within this world, devoid of poetry:

There are two different overall impact/outcome evaluation and monitoring paradigms which can be used. The first is to attempt to undertake impact/outcome on the 'full roll-out' of a program. The second is to just attempt impact/outcome evaluation on a pilot of a program and not attempt it on the full roll-out of the program. In the second case all that is done in regard to full roll-out of the program is monitoring that best practice is being applied. It is very important to distinguish between which of these two possible paradigms is going to be used in an evaluation. Attempting the first paradigm when it is not appropriate, feasible or affordable can lead to producing almost useless pseudo-outcome evaluation reports.


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It is clearly not sufficient to our goal merely to try and alternate between soulless, alienated modernity and Christian awareness. 
 
Christianity cannot be injected into modernity, poetry cannot be injected into bureaucracy - because that would merely yield:
 
There are two different overall impact/outcome evaluation and monitoring Fear no more the heat o' the sun paradigms which can be used. The first is to attempt to undertake impact/outcome on the 'full roll-out' Nor the furious winter's rages of a program. The second is to just attempt impact/outcome Thou thy worldly task hast done evaluation on a pilot of a program and not attempt it on the full roll-out of the program. (etc)


This represents the Christian periodically turning away from from his work, turning away from modernity, and recalling himself to God.

But the result is not what is sought - it is merely a mixture of incompatible elements and is neither Christianly effective, nor bureaucratically efficient.

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So this is why it is so difficult for intellectuals to live as Christians.
 
Modern public discourse in bureaucracy, government, law, science, education, the media... everywhere, is intrinsically materialist, worldly and secular; it has evolved for many decades on the foundation of excluding Christianity references and reason. 
 
This is why we cannot take public discourse as it is, and inject Christianity; Christianity is immiscible with modernity in the same way that Shakespeare is immiscible with management speak - when we add Shakespeare to management speak it is like sprinkling gold grains on oil: they cannot mix, the gold will sink to the bottom and all we can perceive is the oil. 
 
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This is the measure of our task.
 
The media of public discourse and Christianity have evolved into separate and immiscible elements, such that they cannot be recombined without destruction of what it.
 
Modern discourse - that which, as intellectuals we have spent so many years in mastering and attaining certificates of our mastery - must be discarded and all its benefits will be lost; and we must start anew to build public discourse  
 
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Because there are real benefits to modern discourse - as can be seen most clearly in the example of science.

 Compared with discourse which is integrally both functional and religious, modern scientific discourse has simplicity, precision, efficiency and focus. Much exact information can be communicated in few words, and modern scientific language can be used by ordinary people.

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By contrast the science of the past, someone like Sir Thomas Browne is complex, much harder to write and understand; and its difficult, rich integral-fusion of poetry and science (as of Christianity and public discourse) can be mistaken for diffuseness and imprecision:

The sexangular Cels in the Honeycombs of Bees, are disposeth after this order, much there is not of wonder in the confused Houses of Pismires, though much in their busie life and actions, more in the edificial Palaces of Bees and Monarchical spirits; who make their combs six-corner'd, declining a circle, whereof many stand not close together, and compleatly fill the area of the place; But rather affecting a six-sided figure, whereby every cell affords a common side unto six more, and also a fit receptacle for the Bee it self, which gathering into a Cylindrical Figure, aptly enters its sexangular house, more nearly approaching a circular Figure, then either doth the Square or Triangle. And the Combes themselves so regularly contrived, that their mutual intersections make three Lozenges at the bottome of every Cell; which severally regarded make three Rows of neat Rhomboidall Figures, connected at the angles, and so continue three several chains throughout the whole comb.


From Garden of Cyrus


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Thus we are locked-into the dead and deadly discourses of modernity.

Since these discourses cannot be modified without damage, attempts at reform will - insofar as effective - be destructive.

We cannot get from where we are to where we want to be without retracing our steps.

If we are to escape alienating modernity then it must be replaced, not modified.

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3 comments:

  1. Interesting post. Sometimes I wonder if it is really possible to live a life outside of modernity if your entire habit of thinking has been trained in a modern way. Even arguments one finds espoused in blogs as yours that for example try to show that the belief in a god is more logical than disbelief are fundamentally modern. For they try to present the evidence in a coherent fashion and assume that a) is correct since there are more points in its favour than say in the case of b). But once one supports this kind of reasoning moral relativism sets in. For certainly there seem to be things that look plausible to do: would it not be, for example, sensible to kill handicapped infants? Judging logically it would certainly be so.
    For the current generations it will probably not be possible to escape modernity. I can spot this within myself. I try to act in a Christian way. Often, however, merciless logic sets in which brings me to conclusions that are fundamentally opposed to Christian ethics (for example systematic application of eugenic principles). And nothing I do can remove this "scientific" way of thought from my mind. It is as if your mind was irreversibly tainted. The only logical way to undo modernity is perhaps the systematic extermination of the intelligentsia (Khmer Rouge method). Even if the people would repent (and among them the high IQ-class) I fear that some time later we would have to confront the problems that are today before us since the structures of thought have not changed. Doubt will continue to gnaw. Christianity has to be embraced by the heart. Not by the mind. Which is very difficult for intelligent people.

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  2. @Anonymous (please use a pseudonym) - I know exactly what you mean.

    These habits cannot be broken, or at least not quickly - all I can do is repent over and over again; and try to avoid defending or proselytising for evil.

    But no Christian can claim they they weren't warned that this is exactly how it would be, here on earth.

    Indeed, so long as we are clear about our repeated failures and wretched inability to reform, then perhaps this is less dangerous than imagining we have succeeded?

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  3. Anonymous writes:


    The only logical way to undo modernity is perhaps the systematic extermination of the intelligentsia (Khmer Rouge method). Even if the people would repent (and among them the high IQ-class) I fear that some time later we would have to confront the problems that are today before us since the structures of thought have not changed.


    But these are just the sorts of things – total transformation of society, or of men’s minds – that gnostic utopian revolutionaries like the Khmer Rouge put into practice. If we really want to transform society in such a way that it abjures totalitarian utopian schemes, we ourselves must abjure such schemes – must abjure even any thought of them. The traditionalist nisus, then, should not be directed at reforming society. It should be directed at personal righteousness. To Hell with society. Render unto Caesar. Our duty is to be good men. If enough of us do that, then a different sort of society, altogether orthogonal to our own, will begin to develop and propagate in its midst, like yeast.

    And there is nothing illogical or pre-rational about that. The problem of modernity is not a surfeit of logic and rationality, but a deficit thereof. Or no, wait, that’s not quite accurate either. The problem is not that modernity is too rational, but that it is too timorous and dishonest, too afraid of the Real. It applies its superabundant rationality – which is, after all, one of its strengths, its virtues (think of the brilliant achievements of massive coordination: DDay, the Moon landings, the internet) – to the development, elaboration – and, more and more, the rescue – of a fundamentally specious and inadequate model of reality. Our society is like a man who, once having lied to his wife, finds himself forced thereby to devote more and more of his mental resources to the maintenance of his lie, keeping track of what he has said, and monitoring every word that falls from his lips. That’s what PC culture is doing. The cost is the roughly 40% (or more?) of our economic resources that are devoted to the fake economy – to the business of fakery, pretense, and compliance with the ridiculous pretense.

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