[percy-l] Re: Some Random Thoughts, Largely Unrelated, Based on Previous Discussions and Readings

Steve Dye sldye at bluegrass.org
Thu Dec 5 12:22:19 EST 2002

Related to this discussion, there was an essay in a recent issue of Harper's Magazine titled something to the effect of "The Poverty of Unbelief" - dont remember the author's name but will find it and send out. 
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Mike Frentz 
  To: percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org 
  Sent: Thursday, December 05, 2002 11:52 AM
  Subject: Re: [percy-l] Re: Some Random Thoughts, Largely Unrelated, Based on Previous Discussions and Readings


  I largely agree with your thoughts.  But I have to say your commentary also struck me a bit curiously (it struck me almost as representative of an observer of a world rather than a participant in the world..).  One of the obvious byproducts seemingly symptomatic of our end of the twentieth century perspective is the notion of "political correctness" -- that is our (now pervasive) habit as a society of only saying what is considered socially acceptable rather than what is true, in order to avoid being rude. Consider the difference between the statements:

  "I believe there are universal truths" vs. "There are universal truths"

  What is the purpose of the first statement, other than to indicate that I believe that there is a truth however I don't believe it strongly enough that you should also believe it?

  There are universal spiritual truths, but they never were (and will never be) entirely agreed upon.  There will always be the unenlightened.. This really isn't new relative to anywhere or anytime that I am aware of.

  I think what is new (from an American perspective, at least) is that the Judeo-Christian principles upon which American society (and Western Civilization, for that matter) were built are no longer being predominantly held in our society as being valid to the point that *all* members of that society must either acknowledge them to be true or to risk incurring the societal view that the philosophy they subscribe to is inferior.  Case in point:  this whole 10 Commandments controversy in Alabama -- this would have been considered frivolous fifty years ago.

  One of the key factors of the twentieth century to my thinking (borrowed from Percy) is that it destroyed the heretofore assumed/purported innocence of post-Enlightenment thinking.  Having more people murdered during the twentieth century than the number that cumulatively existed throughout the history of the world, and in the vast majority of cases, by initially "well-meaning" philosophies that nevertheless displaced God by man as the supreme being (Blackmun, Stalin, Hitler..)  Without God, a society will not stay "good" (yet our American educational system denies His very existence to the point where children cannot acknowledge that fact without fear of retribution by authorities).  That is the true "gift" (the German meaning is even more apt..) of the twentieth century.

  All genuine religions aren't true, but all genuine religions ARE good, and each contains some fraction of truth (but only one contains the fullness of truth, by definition, if you acknowledge that the Truth exists, and also believe that God isn't incredibly perverse).  Luckily, that religion teaches that your theology doesn't need to be perfect, the important thing is that you as an individual are striving for Truth, and given enough instruction, mentoring, searching (and lifetime), you will eventually find that Truth.  It is there.  And that is what we will be judged on (i.e. having Christ in your heart even if you've never heard His name).  That doesn't make all religions the same in terms of equivalency, but good nonetheless, for those true of heart.  Not everyone can eat steak.  Pablum is also good food for the spiritually immature.

  I agree with you, in terms of  spirituality being more of a "do it yourself" project in these times.  I think this is abetted strongly by the overt expulsion of God from publicly supported institutions; these institutions which, in turn, strongly influence a society (the more Godless the society, the more pervasive these institutions seem to become, as well).  It is ironic that the more information that is available, the more lost people become.  The most educated society in the history of the world is, in many ways, the most clueless.  

  You might be interested in the book "Chance or Dance" by Thomas Howard (Ignatius).  Peter Kreeft describes it as the best book on the medieval mind he has ever read.  Hearkening back to your earlier comment, I don't think the Renaissance was at all incompatible with the Middle Ages -- it was more the Reformation with its subsequent Enlightenment that caused God to be expelled from polite society rather than the Renaissance.  Science and religion aren't nearly as incompatible as many of us were lead to believe (the Galileo debacle notwithstanding..)


  Christianity is doubly offensive becasue it claims ... that God became one man, He and no other.  One cannot imagine any statement more offensive to the present-day scientific set of mind.  Accordingly, Hinduism and Buddhism, which have no scientific tradition... are far less offensive to the present-day scientic set of mind, are in fact quite compatible."  (Signposts, p. 312)

  P.S.  I also saw no offense in your Baptist, et al comments..

  Karey L. Perkins wrote:

Jim -- I wasn't trying to put down Southern Baptists, or those who believe
in JC, or those who don't, or those who think they're "fairy tales" (or even
liberal literary theorists).   Sorry if it came out that way.  The point
that I was trying to make is that NONE of these stances is a given any
more -- the person sitting next to you could just as easily believe in
Buddha, Mohammad, Christ, or be an atheist, or something else entirely.  The
person on the other side of you believes something completely different.
There are no universal spiritual truths that are agreed upon any more.  That
doesn't mean that there might not actually be universal spiritual truths (I
personally happen to believe there are, as I believe did Percy) just that
the 20th century didn't make that easy to find...it obscured such things,
and often, denied such things.  But people need this and as a result we have
existential loneliness and alienation of our times.  That's the problem with
the century -- but also the gift of the century.  If society doesn't give a
spirituality to you, then you have to search for the truth that really is

----- Original Message -----
From: Jim Wesson
To: percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Tuesday, December 03, 2002 8:53 PM
Subject: Re: [percy-l] Re: Some Random Thoughts, Largely Unrelated, Based on
Previous Discussions and Readings

well, it has more to do with the way you put down
others like your'good ole southern baptist
students,and people who belive in JC(no less. and
people who believe in  fairy tales. it is just a
rather mean spitited attack on people really doing you
no harm just because they think differently than you.
has nothing to di with literary theory,marx,atheists
or stuff like that.
  i think Percy thought it was ok to respect others
thoughts.he even might have been
 'the last gentleman'

--- "Karey L. Perkins" <karey at charter.net> wrote:
Well, if you do figure it out, let me know!   I had
a literary theory
professor once -- young, largely liberal leftist,
Marxist, atheist (as is
often found in the academy these days) -- who
refused to debate Percy with
me, saying, "I would be hostile to your point of
view" (since he knew
Percy's stance before we even began).  I was sorely
disappointed, as I
thought his thoughts would inform mine -- especially
since we began from
different premises.  Either I would discover flaws
in my arguments, or new
points to consider, or change it slightly or
entirely, or, in the end, find
it confirmed and strengthened -- or all of the above
in some way.  Anyway,
perhaps the important consideration here is:  what
did Percy think about it?
Didn't he think that the 20th century culture (on
the whole) lacked
spirituality?  Wasn't that one of his primary

----- Original Message -----
From: Jim Wesson
To: percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Tuesday, December 03, 2002 2:04 PM
Subject: Re: [percy-l] Re: Some Random Thoughts,
Largely Unrelated, Based on
Previous Discussions and Readings

defines us.  There are many
sub-cultures that do so -- I live in Atlanta, and
whole lot of my students
are good ole South Georgia Baptists, firmly
themselves with a
meaning, and defining themselves and their place
purpose in the world as
spiritual creatures -- saved by Jesus Christ no
-- but this is a
sub-culture and they have just traveled only
miles from their
hometown to sit side by side in a classroom (and
work I suppose as well)
with others -- the majority I'd say -- who think
they're living a fairy

 well, i am not religious but you may have this all
wrong and i can not even explain what i mean!
Oops -- same message, but Plain Text format this
time.  I keep forgetting.

----- Original Message -----
From: Karey L. Perkins
To: percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Tuesday, December 03, 2002 12:05 PM
Subject: Re: [percy-l] Re: Some Random Thoughts,
Largely Unrelated, Based
Previous Discussions and Readings

Aristotle thought the teenagers of his day were
all going to pot.  An
in Percy's Signposts says more (American) men
killed in the Civil War
than WWI and WWII put together. On a physical
level, the 20th century
any worse than other centuries... On a material
level, our lives are
terrific (Percy would agree) and far better than
they have been ever (at
least the Northern Hemisphere).   The 9/11
and the wars that are
following it are tragedies of course -- but no
worse than those that came
before and actually far less I would say.

However, on a spiritual level, we don't know why
we're here, or who we
are -- THIS is what's different about our
On an ETHICAL level, however, I'd have to say
century is no better or
worse than any others...  We can still learn to
"ethical" in this
transient, anonymous, capitalist, postmodern
society -- ethical implies a
statement about our behavior in the physical
world, and the laws of nature
still apply.  I.E.:  If you're lazy and don't
work, you won't produce and
hence you will be fired, become hungry, and
motivated to work.  If
you're a freeloader, people will know it, resent
you, abandon you, and
you'll soon lose people to freeload off of.  If
you cheat and lie, you
(eventually) be found out.  Enron and WorldCom.
Being unethical just
doesn't work -- in the long run -- and the
structure of the universe will
ensure that we learn our lessons and act
to succeed, or not
our lessons and fail.  "What doesn't work will
eventually fail."  There
exceptions, of course, but generally our world
THE world -- works that

However, ethics is different from spirituality
though the two are
more often than not.  Spirituality implies a
of meaning and purpose
behind our actions.  Spirituality implies
something that is transcendent
the physical world.  Spirituality implies, esp.
for Percy, something
human -- different from the animals -- and
such concepts and
experiences of "joy" and "alienation" and a
and a "dark night" and
"pattern" and "purpose."

In other words, I can act ethically for the
physical rewards/benefits of
that and have no spiritual purpose behind it at
all (though spirituality
usually entails ethical actions).  You referred
the "Thanatos
Syndrome" -- in it you have the characters
cavorting about engaging in all
sorts of meaningless sexual acts -- it's not
that's unethical that is
the problem with this -- but that it shows the
absence of spirituality --
there's no meaning or purpose behind what should
be a spiritual act.  In
the water is tampered with to make a happy
on a physical plane,
there's no purpose to the happiness, no
transcendent meaning related to
that.  (In this way, to me, Thanatos Syndrome is
very closely related to
Huxley's Brave New World -- in events and in
Huston Smith (best known for his "World
work) has a great
book, a pretty quick read, called "Beyond the
Post-Modern Mind" (1989?
though that might not be the first edition).  In
it he says the middle
=== message truncated ===

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