Like many people in the world today, I’ve found new time for myself. Dark, grey skies and rain hang over Philadelphia, brooding uncertainty and tremor that mirrors the feelings of its population.
I’ve been reading Will Durant’s Civilizations: Caesar and Christ; admiring, disgusted, amused and elated by the lives of great people that’ve lived before us. With this knowledge comes the realization that we live in a vast universe of expansive and never-ending action. And within it all here I am with my puny agendas and dreams.
Through this humility are born kernels of thought that I wish to share here. One: that the modern world, broken in more ways than one, can be recouped by a silent revolution of Christian communities living in solidarity with everyone else. Two: we carry too much material baggage -both in the physical sense and in our psychological attachment to them. Three: that there is virtue and value in seeking to live a quiet life.
The first realization is partly inspired by a talk by Dr. Peterson (below) essentially saying that the world is a complicated place and if you want to change the world try starting by changing your habits, attending to your family’s needs and struggles, slowly growing outwards to your surrounding communities.
But it doesn’t stop there. Once the individual is put in order, he has the capacity to create a family that follows that order. Thus it’s not only one person acting in pursuit of virtue but two, then three, maybe four or more. The family can then grow together and form bonds with similar families, creating a local culture that can support itself and regenerate the culture along the way. I previously used the world solidarity because I don’t believe this change can be done in isolation from the rest of the culture, but rather in accompaniment with it. When yellow paint is poured over blue paint it changes the nature of the paint and becomes green. If the yellow paint had instead been poured in a separate bucket then both paints would never intermingle -societies will live apart and never learn from one another.
I also mentioned how we carry too much material attachment. There is much that I have to say about this, and will probably delve in deeper in another article but suffice to say that I believe our minds and hearts have been hijacked by the propaganda machine of modernism that abhors beauty and spews out ugliness. What we do, what we use, what we create I believe should be a reflection of our own selves. Because the human person is the most beautiful thing in the whole universe, and the product of our labor is a form of creation that makes the world a better place. It’s a curious thing to say in light of all that humanity has done to one another and to this planet. But I believe it’s true, because I’ve seen people do amazing things that bring harmony and greater sense of beauty to a place than nature was able to do. Does this mean that nature should be razed in favor of human inventions? No, I mean that nature and people can co-create together, with people adding to nature when they consider it prudent and wise.
I believe the third point I wish to note follows from the previous. Once we have a proper understanding of nature and our place in it, we can seek a place to make of it our own. One of the greatest Roman legends concerns Cincinnatus, a statesman who became dictator to defend Rome against its enemies, then, in the face of all the people applauding him and wishing to make him king, he retired from public life to live out his days in his farm.
There’s value in living in a city, where incomes are high, events and festivities are commonplace, and where the individual is most free. But there’s also value in “flyover country.” Land that is put apart from the business of urban life. The ruggedness and isolation (two things unfamiliar us moderns) force people to work together to live and prosper. In precisely these conditions the spirit thrives, innovation is encouraged, and culture is established.
There are subtleties and caveats to everything I’ve talked about here. One must find the, “middle way,” that Aristotle described, not indulge in fancy ideals. If you’re interested in diving more into the warm oceans of thought i’m swimming in these days, check out the resources below. I’ll pray, dear reader, that you and your families may be blessed and kept healthy.
The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle: https://www.amazon.com/Aristotles-Nicomachean-Ethics-Aristotle/dp/0226026752
Caesar and Christ by Will Durant: https://www.amazon.com/Caesar-Christ-Civilization-Christianity-D/dp/1567310141
Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick J Deneen: https://www.amazon.com/Why-Liberalism-Failed-Politics-Culture/dp/0300223447