Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Why I Write

This blog is suppposed to be a gaze into the blinkered mind of one who would write a book in a world of such a kind. A recent artice in the New Statesman gave me some reminder as to why. It is about how evangelism in America is to many, not just an irrational dogma or another form of nihilism. Chet Raymo, who has written extensively about the subject, drew the comparison with Ancient Greece.

In The Greeks and the Irrational ER Dodds points out that during the third century BC, Greece was the closest thing to an 'open' society the world would see until modern times. It was an economically accomplished society confident of its powers. Aristotle had urged his fellow citizens to recognize the divine spark within themselves. Zeno had asserted that God's true temple is the human intellect. Soon however, supernaturalism would return, and rationalists would be scapegoated:

As the intellectuals withdrew further into a world of their own, the popular mind was left defenseless...and left without guidance, a growing number relapsed with a sigh of relief into the pleasures and comforts of the primitive...better the rigid determinism of the astrological fate than the terrifying burden of daily responsibility

I've found enormous inspiration in Soil and Soul by the poet, human ecologist and activist Alistair McIntosh. He describes the Celtic bard who, like Thomas the Rhymer in The Faerie Queen has been granted, and must not betray, the 'tongue of truth.'

To the bard, historical truth is a psychological and spiritual reality rather than an absolute. He must help his people understand who they are, and that their lives are part of the deft weaving of history.

Bardism is an alternative to the irrational dogmatism that attempts to resist the bulldozing of history. As an (unintentional) explanation for Bardism, here's a long quote from Memories, Dreams and Reflections by CG Jung. For now I have nothing to add to this quote:

Our souls as well as our bodies are composed of individual elements which were all already present in the ranks of our ancestors. The "newness" in the individual psyche is an endlessly varied recombination of age-old components. Body and soul therefore have an intensely historical character and find no proper place in what is new, in things that have just come into being. That is to say, our ancestral components are only partly at home in such things. We are very far from having finished completely with the Middle Ages, classical antiquity and primitivity as our modern psyches pretend. Nevertheless, we have plunged down a cataract of progress which sweeps us on into the future with ever wilder violence the further it takes us from our roots. Once the past has been breached, it is usually annihilated, and there is no stopping the forward motivation. But it is precisely the loss of connection with the past, our uprootedness, which has given rise to the "discontents" of civilisation and to such a flurry and haste that we live more in the future and its chimerical promise of a golden age than in the present, with which our whole evolutionary background has not yet caught up.

I told myself I'd get serious about this blogging business. I can't promise I'll try, but I'll try to try in the near future.