Sunday, May 28, 2017

Aspirations: A Sunday Rumination

As the dust settles, see our dreams,
All coming true
It depends on you.
If our times, they are troubled times,
Show us the way,
Tell us what to do.

As our faith, maybe aimless blind,
Hope our ideals and
Our thoughts are yours.
And believing the promises,
Please make your claims
Really so sincere.

Be our guide, our light and our way of life
And let the world see the way we lead our way.
Hopes, dreams, hopes dreaming that all our
Sorrows gone.

In your hands, holding everyone's
Future and fate
It is all in you.
Make us strong build our unity,
All men as one
It is all in you.

[“Aspirations,” Gentle Giant, from The Power and the Glory]

     I chanced to listen to Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds yesterday, and it struck me afresh how great a pessimist was Herbert George Wells. His speculative fiction, most notably The First Men in the Moon, The Time Machine, and The War of the Worlds is unrelievedly dark-toned. Even stories with a relatively upbeat ending, such as The War of the Worlds, offer a vision of human impotence against forces unimaginably larger than Man could ever hope to oppose. Mankind, to Wells, was a pitiable thing, incapable of ascent from its grubby present condition to anything better...unless, that is, we should agree to surrender our freedom and accept the guidance of the higher minds in whom Wells reposed his socialist confidence.

     Wells, be it noted, was not a Christian. Neither was Olaf Stapledon, another socialist, who collaborated in the genesis of modern science fiction with Wells and Jules Verne.

     The moral might not be obvious, but then, there are a lot of words left before this tirade is over.

     The terrible pessimism about Mankind inherent in socialism and communism is a thing upon which too few analysts have commented. The socialist vision insists that without firm guidance from older and wiser heads, Man is doomed by his nature to be driven from pillar to post by economic and sociological forces he cannot successfully oppose. Naturally, socialists who look upon successful capitalist societies, such as the (still largely capitalist) United States, must find fault with them. Moreover, those faults must become the basis for a prediction of inexorable doom...unless, that is, the society in question should repent of capitalism and embrace the socialist model of governance. It follows that writers with a socialist political bent will reflect that conviction in their stories. Wells, Stapledon, and more recently John Brunner and Mack Reynolds all exhibited exactly that orientation.

     It also follows that socialist convictions should be accompanied by the rejection of Christianity.

     Christianity offers the possibility of an ascension to eternal bliss. The conditions upon which one may attain that bliss are relatively easy to satisfy: far easier, indeed, than many a goal men pursue in the temporal realm. The prospect of eternal bliss in God’s nearness gives comfort to all those who labor without reward or suffer without surcease under the veil of Time. No doubt ur-socialist Karl Marx had that in mind when he called religion “the opiate of the masses.” He, like the Russian socialists who came after him, saw that religion, especially Christianity, would be a barrier to the advancement of his notions in political economy.

     Contemporary hawkers of comparable world-saving schemes are aligned with the socialists in decrying Christian allegiance. All such schemes are totalitarian in nature, and no totalitarian scheme can tolerate men’s attachment to an alternate source of authority and guidance.

     But that’s not the end of the story.

     Life’s a bitch. Then you die. – common observation

     To be perfectly candid, human life viewed apart from all possibilities of an afterlife is a fairly dismal prospect. Consider the life of a typical American even in the best of times:

  • You’re born.
  • You spend a decade dependent on others of uncertain means and variable devotion.
  • You spend the next decade straining to become someone with something to offer to others.
  • You spend the next forty to fifty years straining to afford and live a relatively pain-free life.
  • After all that, you’re aged and enfeebled, once again dependent on the efforts of others.
  • Your final few years will probably be unpleasant, ever more so as you age.
  • You die and are gradually forgotten by those who knew you.

     If we lacked the possibility of a better afterlife, who, viewing the above pattern, would want to be born? What cause would we have to regard our Creator as benevolent?

     Indeed, only the prospect of a better afterlife redeems the human project. The very most accomplished and pleasant temporal life is purely vanity, as evanescent as the life of a mayfly, as meaningless as sea foam, and as deserving of pessimism as the socialists and other world-savers would make it. Only Christianity offers a program by which one can attain such an afterlife. Moreover, to one who adheres faithfully to Christianity’s requirements – the two Great Commandments and the Ten that depend on them – a supremely, eternally blissful afterlife is guaranteed.

     Christianity makes Man’s aspirations rational and attainable – and not only in the afterlife. The Christian dicta are also the requirements for a tolerable, peaceful life in this world.

     Scant wonder that socialists and nostrum-mongers hate it.

     We’re approaching the close of the Easter season. Last Thursday we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension; a week from today we celebrate the Pentecost, upon which occasion the Holy Spirit opened the understanding of the Apostles and granted them the gift of tongues they would need to “make converts of all nations.” After that comes the “ordinary time” of the liturgical year...if anything as glorious as the knowledge that by His Passion and Resurrection Christ has opened the gates of heaven to mortal Man could justly be called “ordinary.” And in a little while, the cycle begins anew with the four weeks of Advent.

     The cyclical nature of the liturgical year provides Christians with a constant reminder of our highest and truest aspiration: to “graduate” from this life into the realm of eternal bliss, where our labors will be rewarded infinitely beyond any material gain or popular acclaim. To the mature Christian, it’s a time of joy from one end to the other. The merest recognition thereof fulfills the greatest of human needs, the one the socialists and world-savers can never approach: the need to believe that our lives have an ineradicable, eternal meaning.

     May God bless and keep you all.


Kye said...

Thank you sir. Sometimes I get so bogged down in the earthly matters I forget what is really important. When I read your post it shook me awake again. Have a great Memorial Day holiday with your family and may God bless and keep you as well.

Differ said...

Seems only a few US diocese celebrate Ascension on Thursday any more. USCCB has allowed most to combine with the 7th Sunday of Easter.