Welcome to the first issue of 2005 (and our fifth overall). Nothing much has changed since last year, with the exception of an exhilarating attack on our editor's mental faculties on December 31st. Our quality weekly tradition now spans two years.
A Stab of Light
Since the stabbing death of Theo van Gogh in November, presumably everyone has heard about the Netherlands' spiked dilemma: dealing with a menace when their country officially doesn't believe in menaces. Conservative commentators have noticed the problem for years. Now, even liberals seem to understand it, as evidenced by a feature article this month in The New Yorker. Here's the lengthy article's penultimate paragraph:
"After the war, and especially since the nineteen-sixties, the Dutch prided themselves on having built an oasis of tolerance, a kind of Berkeley writ large, where people were free to do their own thing. Liberated, at last, from the strictures of religion and social conformity, the Dutch, especially in Amsterdam, frolicked in the expectation that the wider world would not disturb their perfect democracy in the polders. Now the turbulent world has come to Holland at last, crashing into an idyll that astonished the citizens of less favored nations. It's a shame that this had to happen, but naÃ¯vetÃ© is the wrong state of mind for defending one of the oldest and most liberal democracies against those who wish to destroy it."
A Wise Atheist?
In a recent article on Spike!, professed atheist Brendan O'Neill fired smart buckshot at ten myths about assisted suicide. We don't provide a lot of links, but this piece merits one. It is worth distributing to all people who think only religious nuts oppose euthanasia. Here is the Link.
Also, here's an excerpt:
"To break the taboo against suicide would be a sure sign of societal breakdown. Though the disintegration of society and the disappearance of socially integrating institutions receive much attention, there is little recognition of the relationship with the right-to-die movement. The sociologist Emile Durkheim made the point that 'Man is the more vulnerable to self-destruction the more he is detached from any collectivity.' Is suicide not the most awful manifestation of the 'drop out' society? To encourage it is a celebration of alienation and anomie. The taboo on suicide marks the recognition of our interdependence. We should maintain it.
"Even Mary Warnock pointed out, what sort of society tells its members that it values their right to starve to death, especially if they are a burden on society? Surely a mark of civilization would be to offer people in despair some sort of argument that their lives are valuable, that they do have some worth. Instead, right-to-die advocates project their own gloomy estimation of the worth of human life on to these poor souls."
"Those who have lost the capacity of blushing are incorrigible." Epictetus
Good objectivity is hard to come by. The ego, of course, is the biggest problem. Due to its ever-active prowling, it's always influencing us and usually in ways we do not discern. Those who think they have attained objectivity are often fooling themselves. Arrogant of their objectivity, they're ignorant of their subjectivity.
Good objectivity is also hard to get because of a paradox: Good objectivity requires subjectivity. If a person is going to be objective, he better take into account all the facts and phenomenon, including subjective ones.
Josef Pieper touches on this in his criticism of the scientist who ventures from his discipline to pursue philosophy (to "determine what the world is all about"), but then limits his inquiry to "clear and distinct" evidence: "What makes him so sure that there are no possible insights into reality, which are in fact true and yet can neither be verified nor defined 'clearly and distinctly'? A 'critical attitude,' for the philosopher, does not primarily mean accepting only what is absolutely certain, but being careful not to suppress anything."
You have to take into account everything, including imagination, foolish dreams, emotion, intuition, plus all the scientific facts.
Of course, it gets quite confusing; indeed, overwhelming. It's enough to make a head explode.
Maybe Pascal knew something when he said the heart has reasons the head can't understand.
And maybe St. Paul was pointing out a similar thing when he wrote, "I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts." He was quoting Jeremiah, who was, in turn, drawing from God.
Ten by one of the 20th century's finest thinkers, Josef Pieper:
10. "Every person who asks the meaning of the world and existence as a whole begins as a believer."
9. "The ultimate meaning of the active life is to make possible the happiness of contemplation."
8. "Frequently, the demonic power of untruth has been loosed on the world when someone, defying the authority of the Church, has attempted to promote a certain truth at the wrong time." (Citing one of the 19th century's finest thinkers, John Henry Newman)
7. "The possibility of incurring guilt is the ultimate existential threat for every person."
6. "Reality is simultaneously knowable and unfathomable."
5. "The future is void without a past."
4. "Lovers and philosophers are connected by special ties, insofar as both exotic excitement and genuine philosophical quest trigger a momentum that, in this finite existence, can never be stilled."
3. "Only the pure of heart can laugh freely and liberatingly."
2. "The true antithesis of love is not hate, but despairing indifference, the feeling that nothing is important."
1. "To be so 'unselfish' as to be ready to renounce the ultimate fulfillment, eternal bliss, is entirely impossible for us. Our will is unable not to desire such bliss."
Crapulous: Relating to drunkenness or the drinking of alcohol. "New Years Eve is often a crapulous evening."
See you next week.