"The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life,
but that it bothers him less and less." - Vaclav Havel (Letters to Olga - 1980)
My father’s death on February 5, 2018 sent me back on a journey. This time the journey was driven by grief. It sent me back to the big questions: Why am I here? What is my purpose? Are we eternal? What is important? What is absolute? This was the third time in my life I was willing to be fully open to various commentary on the big ideas as I want to know truth, not as it is comfortable to me, but as it is.
If I could decide what truth would be I would choose a faith that says, “It all ends well for everyone.” As we know, this is not true in reality, and I have no ability to create truth as I want it, I was once again searching.
"I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity."
– C. S. Lewis
Reason, reality, and revelation are the blocks for discovering and defining truth. The experiences and exhibits must correlate and speak to the paradoxes of life in order to discover an absolute. But where does one find the truth in a society that has sold its soul to positive-nihilism?
Francis Schaeffer once said, “Today it appears the only absolute is there are no absolutes.” Yet the very people that decry there are no certitudes, will assert their own absolutes upon us. The new term, “my truth” is a great offense to the intellect.
"Thus it is the no good philosophers telling us: 'Withdraw into yourself and there you will find your good.' We do not believe them, and those who do believe them are the most empty and silly of all."
- Blasie Pascal (Pensees) 1660 AD
Modernity has given us a wealth of indignant people willing to impose rules and behaviors on us, but their only source of explanations are their emotions. There is no longer any hierarchy in the universe from the ancients or the world faiths to offer credence to their imposed values. At the same time they demand to each his own truth – they in turn demand we accept their values as unquestionable. People scream “fascist” to one group, but only offer totalitarianism as a replacement.
“We know now that modern man did not win the Faustian wager in which he had hoped to free himself entirely from his condition. He was unable to inaugurate a new era free from the conflicts of good and evil, need and scarcity...the failure in this attempt can be seen in the spontaneous and unexpected re-emergence of everything we had rejected. Ban the economy and a black market will blossom. Decree that religions are obsolete, and you will have sects. Deny that human beings are good and the ghost of the good will appear surreptitiously under the guise of correct thinking. Societies that attempt to rid themselves of the figures of economics, religion, and morality must put up with them in their black-market forms.” Chantal Delsol, “Icarus Fallen”, 2003, ISI Books, pg. 25
Science deconstructs the heart to the programming of a pet. Religion of all sects have absorbed the peace and wealth message of this age and made itself irrelevant and ugly. Politics is no longer a guard for the individual, but a tyrant to the minority. Politicians no longer protect a multi-ethnic consensus but multi-cultural mayhem. Debate is lost in the screams of unyielding hate. The greed of the poor in retaliation of the greed of the wealthy has not laid down its head since 600 BC according to Plutarch. The failed socialist experiment won’t die with the tens of millions it killed and democracy creeps closer to anathema for young people.
Again, how does one find meaning in what feels like chaos?
The Republic of Letters can ground us. We must turn back to the letters of our ancestors who felt lost in their times and went searching various elements in the Cosmos for the truth. We must not dismiss them as they were exactly as human as we are human. We must not isolate our issues to be completely unique to our age. Thoughts on faith, politics, economics, and morals were pondered as far back as we have record.
Is it not possible that the big questions have been answered?
“He who marries the spirit of the age soon becomes a widower.”
- Dean Inge of St Paul’s Cathedral in London
I was raised in a Christian home and understand the bias this upbringing may place upon me. Twice in my life I blew up all I knew in search for something better – twice I returned to the Christian message as the truth and the window from which to measure all things in the universe. There are times I wish the Christian message was not true.
As I pondered the questions again after my father’s death, I did not blow up the truth, but I was looking for further affirmation.
I found comfort in the questions of Boethius and his conclusions in his, “The Consolation of Philosophy”. His philosophical approach to faith. His convictions before he would suffer greatly as the last true Roman.
In his final written words to us Boethius gives us a clear direction for life. “Avoid vice, Theodore, and cultivate virtues; lift up your mind to the right kind of hope,and put forth humble prayers on high. A great necessity is laid upon you, if you will be honest with yourself, a great necessity to be good, since you live in the sight of a judge who sees all things.” - Boethius “Consolation of Philosophy” 520 AD, Penguin Classics, Pg. 169
Our great faith…my father’s faith…is true. Christ is all and has led us to the answers our souls beg to understand.
Jesus brought us a modern message. As He and then later Phillip, Paul and Thomas showed us, our cultural backgrounds or color should not separate us. As Jesus made clear in multiple cases, men and women are equal. As or own conscience knows and as He said, we are prone to evil, yet He is great to save.
In the hopeless dark, the message of Jesus Christ and His followers over millenniums proves true in reality and reason if we will respond to His words rightly.
My tears and heartbreak drove me to the men and women who lived before me, who struggled with the same things, who articulated their discoveries better than I ever could. Grief would seem alien in a cultural of smiling Instagram posts, but billions suffer and are seeking answers.
“Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you. Amen,”
- St. Thomas Aquinas.
Grief is powerful and present, but searching hearts overcome.