Pithy quotes from our current reading which give us pause to reflect

Thanks. I shared that with my wife–deep thoughts.

1 Like

We should begin where many Christians probably don’t want to: acknowledging the problem. There are places in the Gospels (and other parts of Scripture) that present sticky issues. It doesn’t help the discussion when Christians act like they don’t exist. To be overly dismissive of tough passages is to look like we’re not taking them seriously.

2 Likes
  • The highly publicized TV series “The 3 Body Problem” showed up on NETFLIX on Friday. Curiosity sucked me into watching the whole series. At the end of Episode 5, the aliens sent a world-wide digital message to every screen on Earth. The message was: (Spoiler Alert)

“You are bugs.”

1 Like

Long time no see but I couldn’t resist sharing this lovely piece on G.K. Chesterton (@Randy and @KateKnut) in my favorite weekly newsletter by Maria Popova now known as The Marginallian which I suspect is an acknowledgement of her tendency to make good use of the pages in the books she reads (like a certain librarian here @Kendel). This is how she begins her treatment of Chesterton:

The Dandelion and the Meaning of Life: G.K. Chesterton on How to Dig for the “Submerged Sunrise of Wonder”

BY MARIA POPOVA

The Dandelion and the Meaning of Life: G.K. Chesterton on How to Dig for the “Submerged Sunrise of Wonder”

There is a myth we live with, the myth of finding the meaning of life — as if meaning were an undiscovered law of physics. But unlike the laws of physics — which predate us and will postdate us and made us — meaning only exists in this brief interlude of consciousness between chaos and chaos, the interlude we call life. When you die — when these organized atoms that shimmer with fascination and feeling — disband into disorder to become unfeeling stardust once more, everything that filled your particular mind and its rosary of days with meaning will be gone too. From its particular vantage point, there will be no more meaning, for the point itself will have dissolved — there will only be other humans left, making meaning of their own lives, including any meaning they might make of the residue of yours.

And here is the where she begins sharing his writing:

How to awaken to this miraculousness and begin to make meaning is, of course, the great creative challenge of life.

All of this — the dandelion, the insistence on wonder as the sieve for meaning — reminded me of a some passages by G.K. Chesterton (May 29, 1874–June 14, 1936) — philosopher, impassioned early eugenics opponent, prolific author of several dozen books, several hundred poems and short stories, and several thousand essays — from The Autobiography of G.K. Chesterton (public library).

G.K. Chesterton at seventeen

A century after Baudelaire observed that “genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will,” and a generation before Dylan Thomas insisted that “children in wonder watching the stars, is the aim and the end,” Chesterton looks back on his early life and how it fomented the animating ethos of his later life as a literary artist and thinker:

What was wonderful about childhood is that anything in it was a wonder. It was not merely a world full of miracles; it was a miraculous world.

With an eye to the absurdity of pessimism as a life-orientation, given the astonishing good luck of existing at all in a universe where the probability is overwhelmingly against it, he adds:

No man* knows how much he is an optimist, even when he calls himself a pessimist, because he has not really measured the depths of his debt to whatever created him and enabled him to call himself anything. At the back of our brains… [there is] a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life [is] to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he [is] actually alive, and be happy.

Once Chesterton found the art through which to channel this blaze of astonishment, he found his writing “full of a new and fiery resolution to write against the Decadents and the Pessimists who ruled the culture of the age.” He reflects:

The primary problem for me, certainly in order of time and largely in order of logic… was the problem of how men could be made to realise the wonder and splendour of being alive, in environments which their own daily criticism treated as dead-alive, and which their imagination had left for dead.

Art by Dorothy Lathrop, 1922. (Available as a print and as stationery cards.)

And so we get to the dandelion:

I had from the first an almost violently vivid sense of those two dangers; the sense that the experience must not be spoilt by presumption or despair… I asked through what incarnations or prenatal purgatories I must have passed, to earn the reward of looking at a dandelion… [or a] sunflower or the sun… But there is a way of despising the dandelion which is not that of the dreary pessimist, but of the more offensive optimist. It can be done in various ways; one of which is saying, “You can get much better dandelions at Selfridge’s,” or “You can get much cheaper dandelions at Woolworth’s.” Another way is to observe with a casual drawl, “Of course nobody but Gamboli in Vienna really understands dandelions,” or saying that nobody would put up with the old-fashioned dandelion since the super-dandelion has been grown in the Frankfurt Palm Garden; or merely sneering at the stinginess of providing dandelions, when all the best hostesses give you an orchid for your buttonhole and a bouquet of rare exotics to take away with you. These are all methods of undervaluing the thing by comparison; for it is not familiarity but comparison that breeds contempt. And all such captious comparisons are ultimately based on the strange and staggering heresy that a human being has a right to dandelions; that in some extraordinary fashion we can demand the very pick of all the dandelions in the garden of Paradise; that we owe no thanks for them at all and need feel no wonder at them at all; and above all no wonder at being thought worthy to receive them.

Here is the link to that newsletter: The Dandelion and the Meaning of Life: G.K. Chesterton on How to Dig for the “Submerged Sunrise of Wonder” – The Marginalian

5 Likes

Just in case. that last post didn’t chew up enough website bandwidth here is some background on Maria Popova supplied by Adam Setser in his seemingly Christian centered blog.

She moved to the States for college (Pennsylvania University), and has lived here ever since on a work visa, hoping to attain citizenship. (She’s another foreigner who makes better use of our national resources than most of us native Americans do.) She lives in Brooklyn, NY and spends her time reading, writing, giving the occasional lecture, and trying her hardest to find Truth and help others live better lives.

It was during college that she had an awakening about education which has led her to devote her life to the quest for truth. Being a typical bored college student, she found classes stifling and the assigned work as having a negative impact on her creativity. Then she found TED, an organization founded by Richard Saul Wurman, who is another vocal proponent for self-education and “information architecture”. In the talks TED is so renowned for, she experienced explosive discovery unlike her classroom experience. She has been deepening her devotion to learning and self-education ever since.

Her Faith

The national religion in Bulgaria is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, but communism sought to destroy religion altogether, which led to a sort of hard atheism. The closer you were to government the more nonreligious you were. Her Mom, growing up in the country, was therefore more religious than her Dad who came from a heritage of intellectuals.

She was caught in the middle. She says, “So I had these two grandmothers. One was the hard, atheist intellectual and the other who still to this day says prayers for me every night.” So she grew up with a “cautious curiosity” of religion. You can sense this curiosity in her writings where she seems to be trying to find the truth somewhere in between all that’s been said through history.

And I spend most of my days sort of buried in book piles and letters and diaries and old philosophy books and what not. But there’s this term that we hear in kind of new-agey circles: spiritual reparenting. Which is a bit too new-agey even for my taste, and I can be quite the hippie sometimes.

She defines spiritual reparenting as, “Doing the work that your parents didn’t do for your spirit or for your character.”

Maria’s work is a natural outflow of this curiosity and mission. Her work is fast-paced and magnanimous, but what I respect about it most is her ultimate goal: "Above all, it’s about how these different disciplines illuminate one another to glean some insight, directly or indirectly, into that grand question of how to live, and how to live well." In a world of materialism and narcissism, her passion and work is quite rare, and to this we now turn.

4 Likes

Mark, thank you! Those were terrific uses of bandwidth and a few moments.
Miss you regularly, even though I’ve been a terrible correspondant.

Thanks for showing up with good stuff again.

: )

2 Likes

Well I’ve been peeking in on some of your Wright discussions too so you’ve been broadcasting good stuff too.

2 Likes

A curious quote I found while reading about Schleiermacher in The Making of Modern Theology series

“If we conceive of an interest in religion and a scientific spirit, existing in a state of union, in the highest degree and in the greatest possible equilibrium, and with a view both to theory and practice - we have the idea of a Prince of the Church.”
Brief Outline of the Study of Theology, Schleiermacher

1 Like

He’s one of the guys that my grad school professors said wasn’t worth reading because he was seriously heterodox. As people quote some of the others that were “verboten” I find myself thinking that those professors were operating out of fear that we students might get “polluted” and thus never allowed the chance of finding some of the real gems from those theologians.

1 Like

I realize that Jordan Peterson isn’t endearing to the hearts of all here, but I think that this recent conversation of Peterson with Bishop Robert Barron is some of Peterson at his best (as of old). Be patient with the first 30 minutes though where the conversation may still seem a bit intellectual and stuffy, rehearsing some of the tired themes of “the existence of God” or whether or not God is “a being”. That alone may be interesting enough to some, but I would say it’s just the conversation starting to get warmed up! Listen into it and I think you’ll be rewarded with both Peterson and Barron engaging deeply with a lot of scriptural themes.

“Perhaps everything was weird and strange. And the moment you accept that there are angels, then suddenly the world just seems richer and more interesting.”
Tom Holland

1 Like

“Holland says that his desperate prayer was directed towards the Virgin Mary. Holland says he was as surprised as anyone that this was the circumstance to persuade him that Christianity might be true. ‘God must have a sense of humour,’ he laughed.”

Justin Brierley, A Christian revival is under way in Britain

Psalm 18:26 comes to mind with respect to God’s humor. It can cut both ways for the religious and irreligious alike.

I love Peterson’s critique of Sam Harris near the beginning. It’s a point I’ve brought up in conversations about Harris that his fans just don’t get even when I point out that if he’s correct then if someone wrote down their words in that conversation then those words wouldn’t have their own meaning but could mean whatever a reader wanted them to.

Great discussion of “I AM”!

I have to say that Peterson is doing the very thing that he criticizes Harris for claiming: his approach to the Garden story is total eisegesis, stuffing modern thought into that narrative. What he does is darned near an allegorical interpretation.

Loved the part comparing Job and Jesus! That seems pretty obvious once it was pointed out.

1 Like