16 November 2009

Remember Tomorrow

Knowledge on its own, Augustine said, causes sadness. We are plugged in at every turn to the great information complex of the current age. Bits of knowledge are a click away, ahead after a word from our sponsor, if you have, that is, the wherewithal to sift through the oft-discussed bias of the voices telling you what's going on.

Why sociologists and other data gatherers are not committing suicide en masse is a mystery to me. Tristitia overcomes scientia . They gather numbers at a dizzying rate, releasing generalized information about us faster than we can do the math. They know things. So do other scientists, probably even to greater extents. I read recently in a coffee shop bathroom a line by Aristotle that philosophy begins in wonder. It was scrawled out in chalk on the wall. The hand was unsteady. Too much caffeine. Too much wonder.

Philosophy is, of course, the queen of the sciences.

What Augustine was onto is the same thing I get after watching the news. Oh yes, it's something to know of the latest heinous murder or failed school or degenerate parent; it passes the time to hear of the latest ramblings of some Hollywood activist. It doesn't, however, budge the status of my happiness even in the slightest toward the light.

A growing critique of the philosophy of the past few hundred years is that truth has been discarded for the sake of mental logic, the sort of abstraction that is fun to think about but has no practical application. One has to only look down the line of the important philosophers of recent centuries and see, with few exceptions, a body of people united not by language or interest but by vaulting unhappiness.

So what. It's not enough to know. It's not enough to get the good grade, the satisfaction of being affirmed by the professor. It's not enough to finish the reading ahead of time. Like any passing thing, I find I must keep refilling the tank to grasp the fleeting feeling of happiness. It never lasts.

Aquinas, as was his style, indicated in no subtlety that we are pointing at the wrong thing, embracing the shadows and foolishly expecting them to hug us back. Like it or not, it's so intimately tied up in the God question that only the arrogant and terribly fearful refuse to acknowledge it. Inquietum est cor nostrum donec recquiescat in te. Augustine had it, after years of looking under all the wrong rocks; Aquinas had it, throwing his efforts into the air as straw in the wind. And maybe Francis Thompson had it, too, as he versed fleeing God down the nights and down the days, down the arches of the years, the labyrinthine ways of [his] own mind...

And Percy's Jack (Binx) Bolling in The Moviegoer, put down these words while staying at his mother's bayou-encircled home:

Starting point for search:
It no longer avails to start with creatures and prove God.
Yet it is impossible to rule God out.
The only possible starting point: the strange fact of one's own invincible apathy - that if the proofs were proved and God presented himself, nothing would be changed.
Here is the strangest fact of all.
Abraham saw signs of God and believed.
Now the only sign is that all the sings in the world make no difference.
Is this God's ironic revenge?
But I am onto him.

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