The deep-revolving Mike Flynn has posted a wonderful series on the end of the Modern Age, starting here. Wonderful in the sense of making me wonder.
To sum up: We’re so doomed. Unless maybe we’re not.
Couple this with this year’s graduation speech by Cardinal O’Brien at Thomas Aquinas College:
In being formed by the unique education offered here at Thomas Aquinas College, you have been formed for a mission: and that mission is nothing less than the rescue of the civilizational project of the West. Some of you will do this in the beautiful microcosm of the family. Others of you will do this through a vocation to the priesthood or the consecrated religious life. All of you will do this, I pray, as citizens. It is a challenge that you have been uniquely equipped to meet, a task for which you are singularly well-formed. The challenge and the task are daunting, to be sure. But the challenge and the task are also exhilarating.
The whole thing is excellent, but raises the question: Are we commissioning our children to preserve something that is doomed, that is in fact already dead?
Flynn begins his analysis with the following quotation:
“We live in the ruins of a civilization, but the ruins are in our minds.”
– John Lukacs, The Passing of the Modern Age
As the West’s death spiral/probably unpleasant but not fatal altitude adjustment takes place – and it is taking place all around us – what do we try to save? As the ruins crumble around us, what in them is worthy of laying down our lives for? Conversely, what do we let slide?
The post modern mind is haunted, and deathly afraid of ghosts. Among the ruins in our minds are the ruins of the family – we are haunted by the ghosts of the faithful, loving mothers and fathers who never were. We see the ghosts of a living, heartfelt culture – of the traditions and street-level social support, last seen in immigrant neighborhoods, that the state can only replace with an empty, crushing shell. The intellectual ghosts of a common and bracing heritage, the true multiculturalism of men not just from different places but from different ages embracing each other in a battle of ideas. The ghosts of the vigor of that world still howls in the ruins, calling shame upon the small people of today.
What do you do if you deny the existence of what terrifies you? You must shout down – or worse – the tellers of the ghost stories. You must ‘suppress’ any followers of the ghosts. And you must attack even the ruins, in the light of day, with your horde about you, shouting down the bodiless voices with it matters not what battle cry – as long as its loud.
So, again, what do we save? What do I tell my children, believers in ghosts who have the gall not to be afraid, to do, knowing that if they do anything but conform, the haunted may go after them with fury born of terror?
Do we want some things to be preserved as monuments to us, gravestone with our birth, death and a witty saying? Or do we save the seedcorn?
2 thoughts on “Two Ideas at War”
Actually, it starts with a preface here: