When our weary world was young
The struggle of the ancients first began
The gods of Love and Reason
Sought alone to rule the fate of Man
- Cygnus X-1 Book Two: Hemispheres, Rush
The West, having divorced love (Christianity) from reason (science) in the Enlightenment, has lost both. Looking around us today, we see few examples of either – least of all from many Christian leaders and churches.
And so, those of us who are paying attention are waking up to the fact that the more we focus exclusively on our minds, the less we think about our hearts.
- Why Fairy Tales Might Be Better than a Vaccine, by Nicholas Kotar
An excellent discussion took place between Jonathan Pageau and Nicholas Kotar, prompted by this essay. (video) They begin with comments on the voluntary closure of churches by Christians:
Kotar: and this is what really mystifies me about the reaction by a lot of Christians to the closure of churches.
He raises the point: whatever happened to recapitulating the darkness that is around Christ during the moment of His crucifixion? He speaks specifically of His descent into hell during the three days. I know this is a controversial position, and I don’t intend to debate it here. It is sufficient to consider Christ’s suffering for Kotar’s point, I believe, to be valid.
The necessity for maintaining superficial health is more important than [recapitulating Christ’s suffering]. How many epidemics have we had [in history]?
He then offers one of the hundreds of Christian examples, during a cholera epidemic in nineteenth century Russia. Churches never closed; new hospitals were opened; the monastics were sent into the hospitals to minister to the sick.
He contrasts this with the “superficial, pathetic, lax lifestyle that we live in the west right now….” Instead of taking the opportunity as a wake-up call, we are closing the doors.
Pageau offers: the opportunity of coming together as a community during this time is what will get us through this “crisis,” not some hope for a vaccine. He then raises the point of the scandals in the old-people’s homes. They are abandoned, dying of thirst, no one caring for them.
Kotar (an upstate New York resident) notes that it was even worse in New York, where the governor sent covid patients into rest homes – into the populations most at risk.
The numbers in the US are clear: almost fifty percent of all people who have died from covid in the United States come from nursing homes.
In the meantime, people are furious that we are not all following protocol – a protocol designed to further disconnect community. Many are totally lost if the store does not have signs on the floor telling them which way to walk; they stand frozen.
They then move on to the deconstruction of the common stories as evidenced in the recent riots. There is no end to this: “it is the serpent that eats its tail.” Pageau offers that those who are doing the deconstructing today don’t realize that they will be the ones eaten tomorrow.
Kotar: [These riots] come from an extremely leftist position – a communist one. And what happened to the communists in Russia? They came to power immediately after the revolution in 1918. They were all killed twenty years later.
They discuss a Russian film, Burnt by the Sun, that depicts this reality in the 1930s Stalinist purges. Pageau continues into politically-incorrect no man’s land: we hear all about the atrocities of the fascists, but then we ignore the other side. We don’t really know anything about the atrocities of the Red Wave.
Pageau then offers his theory as to why: basically, we want to hide that the “we” that won World War Two was a “we” that included a monstrous regime as a partner – giving up half of Europe in the meantime. Kotar adds that we also gave up all of our universities at the same time – to the neo-Marxists, “who also have the ability to tell good stories.”
My view: Good stories beat sound reason every time. The best stories teach us something of ourselves. The best stories confirm to reason, as these conform to our purpose. Dry, rational arguments don’t win the day – if they did, we would all be libertarians, as there is no better political argument.
So how did this all happen so fast? How have we so quickly fallen into this abyss? It is because theneo-Marxists know the story-telling structure. They have the symbolism; we lost it.
Pageau: Christians in the West have lost it because they were too busy arguing about the age of the earth and about dinosaurs and about things that don’t matter in terms of your actual life. They started to see the Bible as just a bunch of facts that were aligned next to each other. They saw narrative as almost something demonic.
We have given up narrative to the enemy, and they are eating it up (and eating us up). We see it in the entire racial discussion today. The story they are telling is a good one, even if it is lacking in facts. Arguing facts won’t convince those who buy into the narrative – isn’t this overwhelmingly obvious?
We aren’t living through a clash of politics. It is a clash of worldviews, of narrative, of story. And we don’t have a good story. We are living in a very simple good guy / bad guy story, and the majority has willingly taken on the role of the bad guy. If this doesn’t change, this story only ends one way.
Pageau: How do you get out of that? Do you just self-destroy?
Kotar: That’s the only way.
Kotar then offers the “digital black face.” Apparently, this is a thing – people, not mocking, but identifying that they wish they had a different identity. People are separating their identity from their family, place, nation, etc. People have no story, no narrative. They are lost; they don’t even know who to be.
Again, I insert myself: this is the result of individualism run amok. Murray Rothbard warned libertarians of this kind of thinking:
Contemporary libertarians often assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by the nexus of market exchange. They forget that everyone is necessarily born into a family, a language, and a culture.
…usually including an ethnic group, with specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions.
Returning to the video: The two then enter into a discussion of ancient myths and stories, where there was the possibility to create complexity in the character; for example The Iliad. Even though it is a story told by the Greeks, it isn’t always clear who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. There is the well-known scene of Achilles and Priam, when Priam comes to Achilles to ask for his son’s body. One ends up siding with Priam – the Trojan – in this encounter.
Kotar: But Jonathan, you have to have the capacity of holding more than one idea in your head at a time to be able to do that. I am increasingly seeing the inability to see the possibility of any complexity to any argument.
Modern communication and social media are intended to remove nuance. Kotar offers that these systems were designed to do this: reduce us to our basic needs and wants for the purpose of advertising. We can no longer see the story without first seeing the color of the protagonist.
Tolkien – apparently there is now a discussion that the Orcs are black, and this – obviously – is racist. Kotar offers that Fahrenheit 451 has it right: there will be no books left; all books must be burned.
Kotar: If you have lost your connections to your stories and traditions, you are easily manipulated by anybody. You will be manipulated by anybody who has the best story with the loudest voice.
There is a wonderful discussion about the margin and the center – with lessons to be learned by conservatives and liberals, Christians and atheists. Take a listen, as my writing has gone on too long.
Let the truth of Love be lighted
Let the love of truth shine clear
Armed with sense and liberty
With the Heart and Mind united
In a single perfect sphere
Returning to Kotar’s essay:
After all, Christ himself, reaching down to the level of his fallen creation, told the most compelling truths in the most compelling way: by parables and symbols.
Whether you are a believer or not, you cannot disagree with the fact that Christ’s narratives changed the world. There are numerous lessons here for those who seek liberty.