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Walker Percy At The Present Moment

A couple of you have sent to me this lovely essay about how Walker Percy can help us understand the present political moment. [1]Excerpts:

Consider one such sign: Americans are a sad people, and we commonly approach our sadness with the goal of eradicating it, rather than understanding it as a clue to what we’re doing wrong in our lives. Instead, what we do is seek wisdom from experts, whose theories of life and self-help we place our hope, and we try to escape through our wealth.

Because of these attitudes, Percy went so far as to label the end of the twentieth century the age of theory and consumption. He thought the experts we take refuge in were flawed because they tend to hold up partial pictures of human life and use them as a comprehensive way of ordering existence. The self-help aisle in bookstores always seems to grow, populated by “thought leaders” selling stories about human life that flatter the American sense of individual self-creation.

At the same time, we relentlessly pursue comfort and pleasure in the way we consume an ever-increasing variety of goods and services. But it isn’t just our “stuff” we accumulate or experiences that we purchase that count here. Percy thought we consume people and places, too. We go on vacation and do “vacation things,” that help us to escape our troubled selves, filling them with hours and hours of activities. Rather than engaging in rest, it seems like our days on vacation need to be occupied by doing something. What are we trying to avoid? Ourselves.

change_me

More:

Percy remains a guide to our times he offers us help in how to muddle through our ideologically divided times. He reminds us that we can never secure lasting victories in politics, indeed that the entire language of “problems and solutions” that we indulge in is a category error. Politics is the world of tensions and dilemmas that never fully resolve themselves. Indeed, Percy predicted that the great dangers of our world might come from the effort to eliminate politics entirely, which we see played out every time crowds left and right stifle free speech, every time politicians speak of debates being entirely settled, and whenever experts seek to evade the messiness of political compromise in favor of administrative power. Without this sort of awareness, these deranged times can’t be seen for how they really are.

Reading Percy’s work can help remind us that no matter how we work to transform our world into one of comfort, safety, and prosperity, it will never truly feel like home, and this is a reminder we need more than ever.

Read the whole thing. [1]

I was e-mailing the other day with a young Millennial reader, three years out of college, who doesn’t know what to do with her life. She said that most of her friends are like her in that they have no real direction. One of her friends has a job in Manhattan, but she isn’t happy. The reader said that to be honest, I don’t seem happy either.

I could tell after a few exchanges that the reader seems to believe that life should be experimental, and that “happiness” is a state of being in which all anxieties and uncertainties cease to exist. I told her that I actually am pretty happy, despite how things come across on this blog.

(A side note: Nobody wants to read frequent posts about contentedness, and besides, this is a blog whose purpose is to comment on the intersection among culture, politics, and religion. As I’ve said here many times, the “Rod Dreher” who writes this blog is not the same guy you meet in real life. I’m not playing a character or putting up a façade, mind you, but you only get to see one side of me if the only me you see is through these posts. In real life, I’m pretty laid back. Little makes me happier than eating and drinking with funny, smart, talkative, humane people, whatever their views on politics, religion, or whatever. I would a thousand times rather have dinner with secular liberals of a certain temperament than with a group of religious conservatives who agreed with me about most things, but who have no sense of humor or irony.)

Anyway, it’s almost a banality to point out that the only way to find happiness is to quit looking for happiness. But it’s a truth that is especially hard to grasp in our therapeutic American culture. There is no way to escape tensions and dilemmas forever, but there are ways to live with them, and even to thrive within them. But yes, as Percy knew, this world will never feel completely like home. And you may find that the things around you that make you feel more at home in the world blind you to reality in destructive ways.

Here’s what I’m talking about. I’m immersed right now in The World Of Yesterday, the 1942 memoir by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, who wrote it in exile from the Nazis. Zweig was born in 1881 in Vienna, and grew up in a prosperous Jewish family. His opening chapter makes fin-de-siècle Vienna seem like paradise on earth, at least for a wealthy, cultured kid. The title of that chapter is “The World of Security,” where everything had a precise place. You read that chapter, knowing what’s coming (the destruction of that world by the Great War, the economic turmoil afterward, and then the coming of Hitler), and you understand how illusory it all is.

Well, “illusory” not in the sense that it didn’t exist — it certainly did, and Zweig hymns the glories of that culture — but that its permanence was an illusion. In Chapter Two, Zweig talks about schooling, and about how deadening the rigor mortis-like educational system in Habsburg Austria was. He’s such a detail-oriented writer that he makes you feel the restlessness of his generation, chafing under the oppressiveness of the culture’s substantial weight. His third chapter is about erotic life in the Vienna of his youth. I’ll be writing about all this in a separate post, but I wanted to bring it up here because Zweig makes a profoundly affecting case about the personal and social cost of the intense social conservatism governing relations between men and women. I was especially struck by how that conservatism, in Zweig’s view, distorted art and literature of the era, in the sense that social and moral conventions demanded that reality must be concealed. 

In other words, the illusion of a happy, well-ordered culture and empire depended to a large degree on repressing anything that contradicted the narrative. This might sound to you like a cliché, but Zweig makes you feel in your bones how frustrating this was to live with. He’s making me grasp why the Great War completely discredited that social order. But what followed it, as we know — and as Zweig would discover at enormous personal cost — was chaos that ended by summoning Hitler. Writing in his sixties at the beginning of the 1940s, Zweig praises the sexual and social liberties of his time as more natural. Had he lived to see what we have today, it’s hard to imagine that he would have thought it healthy.

Again, I’m going to write about that in more detail later, but why am I bringing it up with regard to Walker Percy, the essay I cite above, and my exchange with the reader?

Because it is a powerful reminder that there is no such thing as utopia on this earth, and that so very many of us believe that utopia is achievable, even if they say they don’t. People who think they understand The Benedict Option wrongly assume that I’m trying to restore some version of Zweig’s youthful Vienna — an idealized past. The best we can do is approximate. Zweig quotes a saying to the effect that in life, we can usually have either the wine or the cup, but rarely both at the same time. What a great image to describe the constant tension between freedom and restraint — a tension that is irresolvable in life.

I think that my young Millennial reader labors under the illusion that anxiety about one’s direction in life is a problem to be solved, not a condition to be lived with. When I was her age, almost all my anxiety was about finding my One True Love, because I was certain that if I did, all the meaningful problems in my life would be solved. It was only when I read a letter Tolkien wrote to his son Christopher, warning him against idealizing women, and how destructive that would be if he did, that I began to rethink things.

This is true about anything in life — religion, politics, all of it. Flannery O’Connor said: “To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.” To expect that life will make you “happy” in the sense of being liberated from all anxiety is to set yourself up for a thousand misadventures that can only end in bitterness and brokenness. The Christian faith, properly understood, is a consolation not because it is an escape from life, but because it offers meaning amid inexplicable suffering. (I can imagine that other religions do this too, in their own ways.) Christianity, traditionally, construes our journey through life as a pilgrimage — a voyage of meaning, headed in a specific direction — not as a tourist itinerary subject to constant revision, as suits the whims of the traveler. The fact that so much contemporary Christianity has abandoned the pilgrimage for a tourist’s holiday makes it hollow, fraudulent, and, to be honest, escapist.

Percy’s insight that we can never be truly at home in this world is a way of ordering things. St. Benedict had it too, as do all Christians who understand what the faith teaches. We are all wayfarers; it’s in our the nature. The only way we can feel any sense of right order in this life is by setting our eyes on the Eternal, and understanding ourselves as living in a flawed world that is but a shadow of the world to come. I would say to the young reader that she is looking for something that doesn’t exist: the thing that will answer every question and resolve every tension. If she believes she can find it in this world, she will be on a grail quest that will inevitably end in bitterness.

The solution, however, is not to believe the other absolutist lie: that there are no answers, and that one way to live is as good as any other, because there is no such thing as objective meaning, or a real destination for the pilgrim.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” So said St. Paul. This is profound, profound advice for life. All solutions in this life are only partial, temporary solutions. All truths can only be partly known this side of eternity. All attempts to banish evil from this world once and for all will not only fail, but could bring even greater evils into being.

This is not relativism — the denial of truth — but a prompt to humility, cognitive and otherwise. And, as Percy said in his own work, in his own way, you will always be a mystery to yourself. Anybody who tells you otherwise is either lying to you, or lying to themselves.

Percy said, in his Laetare Medal acceptance speech [2] at Notre Dame:

In my last novel, The Thanatos Syndrome, I tried to show how, while truth should prevail, it is a disaster when only one kind of truth prevails at the expense of another. If only one kind of truth prevails, the abstract and technical truth of science, then nothing stands in the way of a demeaning of and a destruction of human life for what would appear to be reasonable short-term goals.It’s no accident that I think that German science, as great as it was, ended in the destruction of the Holocaust.The novelist likes to irritate people by pointing this out. It’s his pleasure and vocation to reveal, with his own elusive and indirect way, man’s need of and openings to other than scientific propositions.The novelist, I think, has a special calling to truth these days. The world into which you are graduating is a deranged world. It is his task to show the derangement.

The search for truth may or may not make you happy, but it will make you more free than those who deny some truths so that the ones they prefer should dominate.

35 Comments (Open | Close)

35 Comments To "Walker Percy At The Present Moment"

#1 Comment By Sheldon On December 1, 2017 @ 12:07 pm

Samuel Johnson touched on a simple version of this truth 300 years ago: “Nothing is more hopeless than a scheme of merriment.”

#2 Comment By Nancy E. Head On December 1, 2017 @ 12:20 pm

I’m almost 62 years old, and I’m still working to avoid anxiety over what I am doing with my life. I’m not really anxious, but I have anxious moments. I am in pursuit of a goal I’m not sure I’m going to attain.

Yet I’m happy because I have a goal to pursue. I can speak truth into the lives of others. I can teach others truth.

I’m pursuing new ways to do that. Vive pursuit! It gives us purpose. Purpose helps us be happy.

#3 Comment By charles cosimano On December 1, 2017 @ 12:21 pm

So much here to have fun with but I will confine myself to the usual gratuitous Holocaust reference because I have a standard answer to such things.

“Your problem is not that it occurred, your problem is that you let it bother you.”

The problem with a search for truth is that it does not make you happy because you are looking for something that simply is not there. This means there is something even worse than searching for Truth–finding it.

#4 Comment By Rob Maloney On December 1, 2017 @ 12:28 pm

As for the non permanence of things, think about the scary things we worried about a generation or so ago overpopulation. Now look at the demographic collapse in the west. Things don’t always happen as predicted. Keep in mind the phrase, “If present trends continue.” They almost never do, and something unpredicted, unanticipated comes up.

#5 Comment By Eliavy On December 1, 2017 @ 1:09 pm

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

–C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

#6 Comment By TimG On December 1, 2017 @ 2:13 pm

The problem with your assertion, Bishop Cosimano, is of course that it is itself a Truth assertion. “The Truth is that there is no Truth” How do you know? Can you prove that? Do you wish to present any evidence?

That assertion privileges itself with the all-knowing position which no one has.

More honest to say, “The truth takes really hard work to pursue and there’s always a degree of uncertainty”

#7 Comment By Jonathan Davis On December 1, 2017 @ 3:45 pm

[The problem with a search for truth is that it does not make you happy because you are looking for something that simply is not there. This means there is something even worse than searching for Truth–finding it.]

This is a statement of fact followed by an objective value statement. You undermine your very point, rendering it meaningless.

#8 Comment By James C. On December 1, 2017 @ 4:21 pm

Thanks for this, Rod. It’s just what I needed today.

#9 Comment By Larry Ellis On December 1, 2017 @ 5:14 pm

This is one of your best, Rod. Thanks for it. The way you describe your off-camera personality reminds me of what I have read of CS Lewis.

#10 Comment By Blueshark On December 1, 2017 @ 5:17 pm

the “Rod Dreher” who writes this blog is not the same guy you meet in real life…. In real life, I’m pretty laid back. Little makes me happier than eating and drinking with funny, smart, talkative, humane people, whatever their views on politics, religion, or whatever. I would a thousand times rather have dinner with secular liberals of a certain temperament than with a group of religious conservatives who agreed with me about most things, but who have no sense of humor or irony.)

Rod, you’re not that good at disguising yourself. We’ve never met, and I do not know you outside of your writing in this blog. But this is pretty much how I imagine you are. And although your views occasionally exasperate me, I can still only see them as forming an interesting basis for discussion.

#11 Comment By Celery On December 1, 2017 @ 5:24 pm

I do not know these sad and directionless Americans. Those I know are challenged and concerned but still optimistic. Perhaps that’s because we have community where to help each other succeed is the most important thing we do. It is not a church community, but one of family and friends. Perhaps we are our own “BenOp”.

charles cosimano You are a fortunate man to have never experienced a problem so great that wishing its pain away was insufficient.

The ability to not be crushed under the load of problems is perhaps more important than finding an end to them. That’s hard to do alone.

#12 Comment By Curious Reader On December 1, 2017 @ 6:15 pm

This is not really meant for publication, unless you decide it warrants it. But just possibly, if you’re interested in Zweig, you might want to read Gregor von Rezzori as well. The NYRB has put out his most famous work, or had a few years ago.

#13 Comment By David J. White On December 1, 2017 @ 7:19 pm

<i€for the non permanence of things, think about the scary things we worried about a generation or so ago overpopulation. Now look at the demographic collapse in the west. Things don’t always happen as predicted. Keep in mind the phrase, “If present trends continue.” They almost never do, and something unpredicted, unanticipated comes up.

Heck, I remember in the 70s when the big concern was Global Cooling.

#14 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On December 1, 2017 @ 8:37 pm

Walker Percy sounds a bit like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine,” a song that as an adolescent I thought summed up a way of life we were rapidly throwing away. Then they built the Great Mall of America, to compete with the Great Wall of China. Or something like that. Anyway, Utopia did not break out.

#15 Comment By PubliusII On December 1, 2017 @ 9:28 pm

“(A side note: Nobody wants to read frequent posts about contentedness, and besides, this is a blog whose purpose is to comment on the intersection among culture, politics, and religion. As I’ve said here many times, the “Rod Dreher” who writes this blog is not the same guy you meet in real life. I’m not playing a character or putting up a façade, mind you, but you only get to see one side of me if the only me you see is through these posts….”

Glad to hear it. Ya could have fooled me.

[NFR: Bless your heart. — RD]

#16 Comment By cermak_rd On December 2, 2017 @ 2:03 am

I have found that music is the best consolation I have ever had. In 2012 I picked up a clarinet (Bb soprano, the usual clarinet) and I have taken lessons since. I have now joined 2 ensembles where I play contra alto clarinet (2nd largest member of the family) in one ensemble that meets Wednesdays and the bass clarinet which I play in a learning ensemble that meets Sunday evenings.

So I meet with other musicians twice a week for common work and with my guru once a week for individualized instruction. And I practice for 1-2 hours a night.

I’m not sure if it’s dopamine or seratonin or whatnot, but man, I get an incredible feeling of contentment after a practice session. And unlike drug addictions I can keep increasing the complexity of the music because I have never heard of anyone ODing due to music (of course if one plays really loud and high hearing protection is recommended–I have earplugs specially designed for musicians).

I play classical, etudes, and lately, I’ve been hitting some jazz and learning my Dorian minor scales.

#17 Comment By Alison On December 2, 2017 @ 9:48 am

This analysis:

…we relentlessly pursue comfort and pleasure in the way we consume an ever-increasing variety of goods and services…

seems dated to me.

It harkens back to a time when there was a general sense that upwardly mobile participation in economic life was open to a wide swathe of the population and that economic security and its comforts were attainable.

Life without God, and too often with it, was already prone to unending forms of addiction, distraction and idolatry which were nevertheless considered “socially acceptable”: from the great drunken and abusive artistes to the more banal upper-middle class exotic vacation to serial marriage.

But our increasingly displaced society reveals the sordid truth of our addictive society especially seen in the abuse and neglect of children. Need I list all its facets? I think not.

#18 Comment By Alison On December 2, 2017 @ 10:25 am

Although to be fair regarding my observation about our cultural movement from consumption to full-on addiction, there certainly remain “acceptable” addictions: to sports, to workaholism, to one’s phone.

Probably the perfect example of my point about acceptability is the shift in attitudes from tobacco companies intentionally making cigarettes as addictive as possible (BAD!) to the whole handheld device industrial-complex seeking to addict all of us (A WAY TO MAKE A GOOD LIVING, STATUS-SIGNALING)

#19 Comment By Rob G On December 2, 2017 @ 1:29 pm

“if you’re interested in Zweig, you might want to read Gregor von Rezzori as well”

I don’t know Rezzori (yet) but I’d also recommend Friedrich Reck and Joseph Roth.

#20 Comment By Shelley On December 2, 2017 @ 1:42 pm

This is beautiful. Sharing it widely. Thanks Rod.

#21 Comment By Mark On December 2, 2017 @ 3:31 pm

Hi Rod–your fin-de siecle reading reminds me to ask you did you ever read any of John Lukacs’ works? He’s a historian and RC who describes himself as “reactionary” If you can find his book “Thread of Years” i highly recommend it
[3]
Some readers would find his asides and digressions annoying–to me it’s a long conversation in a coffee house of the best sort. And I will definitely read the Zweig book

#22 Comment By Carl Eric Scott On December 2, 2017 @ 7:46 pm

Yes, the side note is the best bit here!

Particularly understood by this ex-blogger. You write on the kinds of issues Rod does, and you get drawn in in ways that makes people think you’re obsessed. And some days, for some hours, you are.
But that’s not the full you. Or the main you. Rod has his sky-is-falling tendencies/issues that sometimes show up in the writing, I had (have) my anger issues that did similarly, but it’s still the case that you can remain a basically laid-back person outside of the writing. Good art, spiritual life, and simple pleasures help. It’s a strange thing, and can feel like you’re in contradiction with yourself, but it’s a blessing. May God continue to grant it to Rod, atop of course the underlying restlessness we all deal with short of heaven, as Pascal and Percy knew so well.

#23 Comment By stephen cooper On December 2, 2017 @ 8:01 pm

“We are not meant to be comfortable in this world”.
That we includes me.

However, there are more important people than me in this world, namely saints.

I have read (or I have heard) that there are saints, not all of them elderly, who prefer to remain longer in this world because they love people so much that they are willing to delay their entry into heaven.

Are they comfortable in this world? Maybe, maybe not – no poet, no writer, no ordinary theologian knows the heart of a saint like that. But did they prefer to be here rather than in heaven, even when they knew heaven was ready for them? Did they have access to the joys of heaven while living on earth? I think the answer was yes I think that was true of Saint Therese and several other saints who lived recently enough that we have accurate biographical details.

Anyway thanks for this interesting post on Walker Percy.

#24 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On December 2, 2017 @ 8:38 pm

Heck, I remember in the 70s when the big concern was Global Cooling.

It wasn’t a big concern. It was discussed in various disciplines now and then. As we now know, it was substantially wrong.

#25 Comment By pavlos On December 2, 2017 @ 11:48 pm

Chaos may have followed the Great War, but it wasn’t chaos that summoned Hitler. What summoned Hitler was hatred of the German people, and saddling of them with unjust reparations for the war which was technically started by Austria-Hungary, and actually started by all the European powers as much as any one singularly. Germany only came to the aid of her ally, as all the other European powers did the same.
Hatred for Germany and the German people lies primarily at the feet of the pompous snotty nose aristocratic Brits who began propagandizing against Germany a full decade before the Great War. It’s British aristocracy that thinks it, above all, is destined to rule all other people and can’t stand any economic or military competition which Germany had begun to dish up after finally becoming organized into a nation in the 1800s.
The US through it’s typical Atlanticism joined in the British promulgated propaganda. George Creel was the gestapo of American anti-German hatred. One writer has said how shameful it all was, how never before or since has an ethnic group been so derided and bullied out of it’s cultural identity. Another has said how the Germans were hated in Europe as much as the Jews were, which makes it ironic that the two ethnic groups ended up in opposition instead of allied.
For all the disgusting details, see Linda Shaitberger’s website Exulanten.com/hysteria.html

Christians are strangers here, because Heaven is home – meaning, communion with God, as Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden, is the meaning and purpose of life, not material luxury, convenience and comfort, all the things over which the worldly political order argues, especially when parading itself as being of Christ. That communion is not something enjoyed in temporal life anywhere near to its fullest extent possible.

I wouldn’t think anyone would want to read frequent vacuous posts on culture, politics and religion any more than pollyana posts on contentedness. Truth is anything but contented in the modern sense, and wisdom is a whole other ball game. Any talk of culture, politics and religion is vacuous when it’s mindless of the very issues that Alasdair MacIntyre raised in Secularization and Moral Change, and stifled with the same slavish devotion to a status quo, parochial partial viewpoint as was Vienna before the Great War.

That “so much contemporary Christianity has abandoned the pilgrimage for a tourist’s holiday, making it hollow, fraudulent, and, to be honest, escapist” – testifies to what MacIntyre said about the reason America remains to a higher percent Christian than Europe – because Christianity in America from early on became secular in nature, and did not remain theological like European Christianity. IOW the secular nature of American Christianity (civic religion), which serves the overarching American national moral order, makes it possible for many to most Americans to remain Christian in form without substance, thereby nulling any need for becoming overtly secular forthright.

#26 Comment By Fran Macadam On December 3, 2017 @ 1:31 am

Zweig’s diaries play a significant part in Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke, which from contemporary sources of the time follows the trajectory of what Zweig experienced as well, into the immoral cauldron of war. It demolishes for anyone reading it any pretense of morality on the part of any of the majority societies involved in the cultural and political runup to war. It certainly transformed my understanding for all time, along with the eye opening experiences I myself had more recently.

Highly recommended – “Human Smoke.” You’ll never be the same.

#27 Comment By BERRY FRIESEN On December 3, 2017 @ 5:31 am

Jesus spoke most of all about the Kingdom of God, an understanding of life that had little to do with heaven. I wonder why the KoG isn’t mentioned in a broad discussion like this of the Christian worldview. Best I can tell, the afterlife is the key for Rod to that Christian worldview–heaven as he puts it.

#28 Comment By Pavlos On December 3, 2017 @ 9:50 am

Literally its true there are more scriptural references to Kingdom of God than Kingdom of Heaven, but KoH is synonymous with KoG. After all, who is it that rules in Heaven?, which is a condition/state of being as much if not moreso than a place. Many fools throughout history have tried to find the Garden of Eden and succeeded in nothing but further delusion.
Being/communion over place is why it’s often said that heaven or hell begins in this (temporal) life, and becomes eternal in the next, after(temporal)life.
References to pilgrimage and denial of utopia are all well and good, but actions speak louder than words. If utopia were not the goal of American conservatism, then there would never have been any active focus on warring over culture, and upon losing the war, retreat into religion that was never as deep and meaningful when it was used to beat American society over the head as now is claimed it must be. If it had been, then it may never would have been used as a club as it has/is.
Far from journeying toward communion with God (kingdom of Heaven), conservatives seem to have been/are much more interested in creating/recreating some imagined almost utopia of 1950s middle America, in which life can be lived in nostalgia – a black&white kind of simplistic, oversimplified illusion-delusion – instead of Truth/reality.
“Nostalgia is a very [fallen] human trait.” that reveals lack of communion with God. “When school children returning from summer vacation are asked to name good and bad things about their summer, the lists tend to be equally long. As the year goes on, however, if the exercise is repeated, the good list grows longer and the bad list gets shorter, until by the end of the year the children are describing not their actual vacations but their idealized image of “vacation.””
[4]
Well, there goes the neighborhood as usual 😉
[5]
[6]

Matthew 18:3
and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 19:23
And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 16:19
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
Mark 4:26-29
And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows–how, he himself does not know. “The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. read more.

#29 Comment By Pavlos On December 3, 2017 @ 10:36 am

Now everyone can find their utopian mecca with Clarity Campaign Labs’ tool – “What town matches my politics?”
[7]
lol

#30 Comment By Percy Walkin On December 3, 2017 @ 11:15 am

We go on vacation and do “vacation things,” that help us to escape our troubled selves, filling them with hours and hours of activities. Rather than engaging in rest, it seems like our days on vacation need to be occupied by doing something. What are we trying to avoid? Ourselves.

while truth should prevail, it is a disaster when only one kind of truth prevails at the expense of another.

The search for truth may or may not make you happy, but it will make you more free than those who deny some truths so that the ones they prefer should dominate.

I call this kind of thing “other people’s problems.” Other people do “vacation things?” Why, whatever are they running from? Themselves, of course. Me, I do stuff on vacation because I enjoy it.
I may not be happy, but at least I’m more free than those Other People Who Deny Some Truths Because It Makes Them Comfortable. Me, I live in the Truth.
Disaster happens when one kind of truth prevails at the expense of another. I, of course, know what kind of truth should prevail. Not like Those Other People, the poor, poor fools.

#31 Comment By BERRY FRIESEN On December 3, 2017 @ 2:24 pm

Pavlos: Yes, as you say, KoG and KoH are synonymous. From John we receive repeatedly yet another phrase–“eternal life”–which is his way of describing the same.

And yes, “being/communion over place is why it’s often said that heaven or hell begins in this (temporal) life, and becomes eternal in the next, after(temporal)life.”

Yet the question of place remains, not merely as a curiosity, but as something important enough to emphasize in the 21st chapter of Revelation: “See, the home of YHWH is among mortals; he will dwell with them as their god, they will be his peoples and YHWH himself will be with them (21:3).

“Mortals.” Seems the place of the afterlife isn’t different from the place where mortals now dwell.

#32 Comment By Pavlos On December 3, 2017 @ 3:13 pm

“. . . but who have no sense of humor or irony.” — RD

“The human race has only one really effective weapon [against culture war] and that is laughter.” — Mark Twain

Being able to laugh at oneself, to see the humor in one’s own plight, makes our complex and often confusing existence decidedly more tolerable. . . greatly reduces stress, strengthening our immune systems in the process. . . not only reinforces social bonds, it’s essential to our survival. When life gets tough, laughter is often the only thing that makes us feel better. . . sets the spirit free through even the most tragic circumstances. . . helps us shake our heads clear, get our feet back under us and restore our sense of balance. . .integral to our peace of mind and our ability to go beyond survival. . .vital to our sanity and longevity. . .gives us strength, both spiritually and mentally.
(Or is this only for elites, and therefore not for conservatives?)
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Have a belly laugh over “losing” the culture war with this read (long but worth the effort) of Lawrence Wright who continues Molly Ivins’ journalistic legacy of Texas truth telling – reporting the clash between business and (social, religious – primarily S. Baptist) cultural conservatives that is currently airing in TX and which is at the heart of contemporary American politics, explaining a lot about what’s actually been going on these days – because as Texas goes, so goes America. Once it was about turning state from blue to red, now it’s about turning purple (in anger?) as the pendulum swings from left to right, and right to left – the TX Republican party following the same track of demolition the TX Democratic party blazed that yielded political color change.

The mayor of McKinney TX is right, and right about making the right move to TX. (He must be a business conservative, while Paul Chabot of “Conservative Move” who moved from CA to TX is a cultural conservative).

Especially see the “prayer” of Rep. Hoetze (R), thought leader of Conservative Republicans of Texas PAC (Political Action Committee) in contrast to Matthew 5: 43-48.

TX cultural conservatives are quick to decry the Californication of TX, which is sure to subsidize Chabot’s real estate business. Maybe they’re business conservatives at heart, at least in part.
Bless their hearts.
Truth is definitely stranger than (political) fictions, and much funnier. Fact and opinion are taught at 3rd grade level, and all too easily forgotten, especially when it comes to politics.
Stay healthy. lol

#33 Comment By Pavlos On December 3, 2017 @ 3:20 pm

America’s Future Is Texas
With right-wing zealots taking over the legislature even as the state’s demographics shift leftward, Texas has become the nation’s bellwether.
By Lawrence Wright
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#34 Comment By Pavlos On December 3, 2017 @ 11:43 pm

“The Future is Texas” on WNYC
Lawrence Wright (Tulane alum, 70yo experienced journalist and Dallas native) discusses his content rich piece (audio recording)
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Berry Friesen: “Seems the place of the afterlife isn’t different from the place where mortals now dwell.”
What Bible translation are you quoting that uses the term “mortal” in Rev 21:3? NIV, ESV, NASB, KJV and HCSB – none of them use that term, but instead simply refer to either people, man or men.
Revelation 21:3 takes place after verses 1 & 2, the passing away of the first heaven and first earth, so that place referred to in v.3 has then become eternal, not mortal.
The place where God makes His home among people that exists both temporally and eternally is the human heart, which is a spiritual (not physical) organ of the soul that does not die/decay like physical organs of the body do/will.
“The kingdom of God is within you.” per Luke 17, etc.
That said, I must add that I refuse to delve much into Revelation and consider it very dangerous to take much of anything in it literally, as it is highly symbolic. The book is not even read as part of Eastern Orthodox liturgy.
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“The wrong method of interpreting the book of Revelation is to give some sort of exclusive meaning to its many visions, equating them with specific, concrete historical events and persons, and to fail to understand the symbolical significance of the many images which are used by the author following biblical and traditional sources.”
“Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread”. Most if not all the Church fathers did not go there, unlike latter day reformed protestants who seem to delight in not only culture war but speculating about everything from millenialism to Gog and Magog, and other terms/topics derived from Revelation, seeing specific prophecies here and there the way Roman Catholics seem to delight in seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary in tea leaves, shadows on the wall, and anything and everything. With such state of mind, it’s no wonder that devolving cultural conservatism spearheaded by the Reformed and Catholics has made strange bedfellows with the likes of conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, white supremacists, etc.
Donald Trump and the “Amazing” Alex Jones
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Just watched A Christmas Carol, the highly favored 1984 version with George C. Scott. The film wouldn’t be as great without Dickens’ literary masterpiece for a screenplay which the film follows closely without much artistic licentiousness.
What’s amazing is how similar Dickens’ times (1800s) with its crushing poverty and homelessness are so similar to modern times today, nearly 200 years later, to which regressives (cultural conservatives) have returned U.S. and would like to take U.S. further.
And how (unlike political cultural conservatism, and so many modern self proclaimed conservative christian authors) Dickens is never preachy and rarely mentions God, and Jesus never. No cultural bible thumping or fire and brimstone demand to repent. There is mention of church, churchyards, Christmas carols and a few scriptural references in an overtly Christian setting but that’s it. Yet the story is definitively one that conveys the meaning of “keeping” Christmas as the hope and joy of salvation, Scrooge’s “reclamation” as the ghost of Christmas past refers to it.
Scrooge literally comes face to face with his damnation (eternal death, separation from communion with God resulting from his greed and selfishness, in antithesis of the conservative goddess Ayn Rand) when he wipes the snow from the tombstone bearing his name at the direction of the ghost of Christmas future. It’s then that he finally understands the significance of the ponderous chains worn by Marley’s ghost who tells Scrooge he too is enslaved with such chains even though they are invisible. This burst of insight is immediately followed by Scrooge’s tearful repentance and miraculous transfiguration. A Truly Moving Picture
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and great work of English literature
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that never fails to uplift, awe, inspire and fill with humility of true Christmas spirit.

#35 Comment By Dave Duty On December 4, 2017 @ 9:14 am

You might want to review Walker’s distinction between knowledge and news.