Wednesday, October 8, 2014

constellations and chaos

The new age will declare that the secularized facets of Christianity are sentimentalities. The world will be filled with animosity and danger but it will be open and clean. The new Christian attitude must possess courage and trust. 
--Romano Guardini, The End of the Modern World

Nothing makes me feel lonelier than a history lesson. In a history lesson, all of a sudden, I am confronted with the stark truth of how utterly divorced my world is from the the world of my ancestors. The iPhone-earbud-UberApp-MacbookAir-Gmail-Apple world we inhabit is so cold and cut off from the warm and rich worlds of our forefathers on earth (this is getting sentimental and overly Rousseauian).
We are living in an utterly different cosmos than our forefathers. Sphere of the primum mobile? Try 60 billion galaxies in viewable space and dark matter in between them all? Although those two concepts don't have much to do with my daily life, and I don't really think about either when I'm trying to navigate a crowded subway with patience, just the simple way we view outer space says so much about how we view ourselves.

This says:
World is ordered.
Place for everything.
World is finite, and beyond it: the infinite.

Although the world seems to be more ordered, the spiritual is just beyond it--infinities into which we cannot see.
And now, space, instead of being a manageable, comprehensible orbit, is this:
 Underneath the nebulae are string theories, quantum physics, and black holes. Our world is now an infinite labyrinth, whose edge is hidden in the darkness beyond the starlight. 

Historical epochs are lonely because they are so permanently past.
There is no going back: human history means that once the sun has set on a certain historical moment, that period is no longer re-visitable.
We do not have the solace of regressing, really. There is only going forward into the next epoch, and the next, and the next.
Our ancestors' world can never be our world.
And yet, of course, it is.
The dirt that we tread upon in Hyde Park has been there for centuries, and many esteemed members of the London bourgeois have walked the same paths as we.
And yet, this is almost more lonely: we inhabit the same physical space as these people did, and yet we are so completely sundered from them. While we are physically in close proximity to the world of the past--as we literally live in the ruins of past civilizations--we are separated from the populations of those world by lightyears.
I find this so lonely, and strange. A hundred years ago is nothing in the life-time of the world, and yet it is already far beyond our reach.
And no matter how much I read about how the medievals thought about the world, and how they approached the world without the sometimes overwrought ideas of personality and psychology that we apply to our world today, I will never be able to think like a medieval.
I will never be able to step into their shoes and see the world from their point of view: as much as I love Romantic poetry, I will never view the natural world with the mysticism of a Romantic. I will never approach an ethical framework with the tolerant rationalism of Ancient Greece. As much as a  I can immerse myself in their period of time through reading their literature, I will always remain absolutely confined to my own time.
We are prisoners of chronos, our only escape are those things that are timeless: that exist in kairos, not chronos: for example, the Truth.

A faith will therefore open itself to what is genuinely real; its center of gravity will descend more deeply into the personal; it will affect all things with decision, loyalty, and self-conquest.
--Romano Guardini, The End of the Modern World

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