Weekly Miscellany IV: December 30, 2013–January 5, 2014
John Dewey, Art as Experience (1934)
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (1880) FINISHED
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar” (1837) FINISHED
Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (1972)
Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain (1997)
Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (1961)
Jose Manuel Prieto, Rex: A Novel (2009)
Robert C. Solomon, The Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy (2002)
Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (2001) FINISHED
Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall (1928) FINISHED
What do I really want? What am I really seeking?
Over time, the minute complexity of the problems that afflict one’s intellect and spirit begins to break down, and the entire region of the “unsolved” blurs into confusion. In this confusion, the answers grow more complex, but the questions begin to manifest in startling simplicity. If it feels at times that the edges of one’s map have begun to disintegrate, that the borders of ignorance where be only dragons draw ever closer to the heart of one’s philosophy, this contraction of knowledge is followed by a seeming expansion of spirit to incorporate not only those dragon-infested lands but the dragons themselves.
More prosaically, one is drawn from fearful awareness to acceptance. This acceptance is not passive. It does not incline one to stop questioning and seeking, but it is a happy and active embrace of mystery. I have realized the limitations of my intellect, the essential arrogance of ready pronouncements of understanding, and the importance of quiet, receptive contemplation. Macarius wrote, famously, “The heart is but a small vessel; and yet dragons and lions are there…. There also is God.” Rather than merely the best system of doctrine, I seek a living theology, whereby I might descend into the heart, discern Christ, and sanctify it for his purposes. I do not claim to possess the whole map, or claim that the distant mountains are no different from the molehills on either side; I rejoice in the shade of the trees around me, in the shadow of the dim majestic shapes that falls on me every morning, until I am able to ascend to those mountains.
Given the near coextensivity of the sum of truth and my ignorance, it is necessary for me to intellectually reduce my spiritual questing to its essentials. Rather than fracturing my attention on hundreds of questions and conflicts, without knowing what end I have in mind; rather than wandering through the regions of a thousand philosophies, arbitrarily choosing between this table or that at which to sit and eat; it is necessary that I propose a fundamental question to direct my conduct. That question is, “What do I seek?”
My answer to this primal question is “Christ.” All else must be ordered that I may best discern him, follow after him, and become like to him.