While I am working another post regarding the miserable state of educators (translation: I started on something else, but my inveterate laziness, perfectionism, and consumption of *copious* amounts of alcohol have prevented its completion), allow me to distract in the Internet interim. We all know that life is nearly unbearably tedious, so we construct charts by which to navigate through the despair and the boredom. My current mental masturbation in my ivory tower–at least the windows are covered–consists of my delving into cosmically pessimistic, nihilist, and antinatalist literature. Fundamentally–I think, I do not agree with these positions. Still, in order to say why I will not grant my non serviam to these positions, I feel compelled to investigate them profoundly.
This leads me to one of the most philosophically vivacious writers today, John Gray. Punchy and unsettling, he is what Nassim Taleb would be if Taleb did not have his Orthodox faith to keep him anchored from the metaphysical abyss. In Gray’s Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, he writes: “We cannot believe as we please; our beliefs are traces left by our unchosen lives. A view of the world is not something that can be conjured up as and when we please. Once gone, traditional ways of life cannot be retrieved.” Traditional ways of life cannot be retrieved. How true. I grew up in a religious community that still, for example, took seriously the idea of courting (if not arranged marriages) as opposed to dating, young earth theory, military hirsute men’s styles, and mawkishly religious music to, well, all other kinds of music. Looking back, though not bitter, I cannot help but think how quaint and precious such an upbringing truly was. This is not to dismiss the underlying wisdom of such positions; no, rather, I dismiss perspectives that do not realize that once good times have passed, they have passed.
I think about this, especially, in connection with my association with traditional Catholicism in which certain proponents (by no means the norm) argue, just to give one a glimpse, for geocentricism, neither pants nor college education for women, not spending time alone–under the pain of mortal sin–with opposite sex without a chaperone, and avoiding all rock ‘n’ roll because of its voodoo rhythms. Such time-thwarters belong to more traditional forms than cannot be conjured back into existence, fears of erratically-arranged mortal sins notwithstanding.
I get it. For example, while still an earnest Protestant, I somberly approached my philosophy professor, a very devout Presbyterian who introduced me to St. Thomas Aquinas and, subsequently, Catholic corruption, and told him that I think that geocentricism must be correct because of the destructive philosophical revolution that followed in the wake of heliocentricism. (*Preening*: I did this all years before Robert Sungenis would release his subtle manifesto, Galileo Was Wrong.)
However, as it is now, we are all postmodern (non)believers. We make exceptions to The Grand Narrative when it suits us; we treat the supposed traditions of our supposed elders as apps that we can gleefully choose and discard in order to accessorize the phone that is our belief network. Can you hear me now?