Since it is my week off, I managed to write the preceding lecture notes and finish G.K. Chesterton's "Orthodoxy"-- at the same time. In fact, I finished Orthodoxy lying in bed this morning. It concluded with that famous paragraph about the "mirth" of God. How happy to see all the well-known quotes in context.
What am I taking away from all of it? Chesterton was a very original and logical thinker, as well as a lover of fairy tales and mysteries. Tales and myths stand in for that which is larger than us, the artful, the supernatural, the just, the special and simultanously the real. It is the rustic, the coarse man, the fisherman, the farmer... who knew and told these tales. Humanity knows many things instinctively. All these clues led Chesterton to Orthodoxy, or Rome, synonymously speaking.
Dr. Veith takes off somewhat in the same direction. We are startled by tales, by art, and thereby "defamiliarized", able to see old things in a new light, returning thereby to faith and orthodoxy.
Fine. Gentlemen. Fine. The imagination is a wonderful thing, and it can bring us back to knowing ourselves and God anew.
Which leaves me somewhat to ponder my own route along those lines. They involve the imagination as far as that I believe the sacraments to be real (or imagine them to be real), in that I have from infancy been acquainted with scripture and with fairy tales, as well as Bach cantatas and Schubert songs. In a way faith could be a function of the imagination.
And nothing matters to me like right doctrine. Because I have suffered under false doctrine. Chesterton understood this. Veith understands it. Many artists don't.
Chesterton gave a powerful defense of dogma and doctrine. He finds it right in the fairy tale because the tale comes right from human consciousness. He is not at heart, however, a dogmatician. He is an adventurer. He just happens to discover dogma where ever he goes on his adventures. Every day he discovers something that has been known for ages. It is the revelation of revelations to him. I suppose that Dr. Veith is aiming at the same thing.
But something like this, to me, just has to happen. I am perhaps not with Chesterton's Freedom of the Will. These revelations, the stories, the events, the ideas, they come from somewhere. We did not make them. We did not even imagine them. Maybe I am more "deterministic". Again, we have probably hit a paradox, two flames that burn side by side. We perceive to invent it, see it, imagine it, produce it. Yet, a true inspiration comes from a Spirit without, not within. Chesterton hints at that when he critiques those who follow the "inner light". There is nothing as despondent and dull as this "inner light". The Quakers he says are nothing but a "club".
A true inspiration always comes from the truth. And truth is outside of us.
A doctrine is a truth. A doctrine and a faith can inspire. An idea is the most powerful thing. What we seek is the true idea, since there are many bad ones; and they are abundant, not leading to human happiness.
What bothers me, when as a not so artistically creative person I begin reading and hearing about art, is that it sounds often like this circle Chesterton mentions in the beginning and the end. It is an circle of infinite points but it is a very small circle. It seems to be spinning around itself, a lot, actually. At least half of what you read is about the artist himself or about the artistic process. In the end art is only about art, a self-flattering, introspective hamster wheel.
Chesterton stresses that the rubber hits the road always at the crossroads, when you have to make a choice and take a road. In most systems, all roads are either good or bad, and it leaves you where you are: stuck at the crossroads. Hardly any system, neither Eastern religion or modern philosophy, will help you make a right choice or take a course of action. I am afraid that much of what goes as "art" leaves you at the same cross-roads, stuck, going in circles. As Veith says, the imagination needs to be redeemed and baptized, otherwise it will turn into another idol.
We make a little art and then we bow down to it.
We make a little discussion and then we bow down to it. What smart people we are. Or even, what fools we are in the great tradition of the great prophets and philosophers.
I know only one thing and this is my song: Christ crucified for me and you. We don't find him in the myths, in the fairy tales, in our art. He came to us from outside. We love him with our lives as he loved us with his. We don't even quite find him in Chesterton's musings. His thinking does not take him as far as justification. And this is the very thing that moves me to faith.
Chesterton makes the point that Western, or Christian saints are always looking out. Their eyes are wide open. But Eastern mystics are always looking in, eyes closed. This is why Christianity has always worked at transforming the world, while Eastern thought does not go there. (Stuck at cross-roads. It's all good, or else, all evil. Nothing really matters anyhow. What is real? Anything?)
This is just always the question: does peace come from within or from without. Eyes open. Eyes closed. Whom will we have: the Christ or the Buddha.
The Buddha sits there, contemplating compassion, all by himself over there. What will he be like when he rises? Will he do the world good? Christ is always in relationship, even within the Godhead, even asking questions within it: Why have you forsaken me? Is there no other way?
The Buddha accepts everything.
We do, too, when we say "Your will be done." But this is not resignation. It is an honoring of God, even after valiant struggle. And Christ struggled, too.
Art, perhaps, is supposed to be a struggle, lead us into struggle.
Alright. I'll give it that.
A temporary struggle, though, not an eternal struggle, not a never-ending struggle. In the end, peace comes from outside of us. Extra Nos.
Summer Reading Suggestions?
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