elisi: (Salt of the Earth by eyesthatslay)
[personal profile] elisi
This year especially (Trump being the most glaring example), it seems as if we are constantly asking ourselves what has happened to the world. Shouldn't we have learned something from the past, shouldn't we be better than this now?

Well, earlier in the summer I was reading a small book with a collection of addresses/speeches given by Dorothy Sayers, mostly at the beginning of the Second World War. This part especially struck a chord with me. For those that would like the current events to be placed within a Christian framework, I have transcribed the relevant passage, and hope it makes sense standing alone.

I have also broken it up a little, as the big block of words was rather awkward to read.

Creed or Chaos?
An Address delivered at Derby, May 4th, 1940, by Dorothy L Sayers

[Within the address she touched on 7 subjects/different dogmas. Have transcribed one of them.]

2. MAN. - A young and intelligent priest remarked to me the other day that he thought one of the greatest sources of strength in Christianity today lay in the profoundly pessimistic view it took of human nature. There is a great deal in what he says. The people who are most discouraged and made despondent by the barbarity and stupidity of human behaviour at this time are those who think highly of Homo Sapiens as a product of evolution, and who still cling to an optimistic belief in the civilizing influence of progress and enlightenment. To them, the appalling outbursts of bestial ferocity in the Totalitarian States, and the obstinate selfishness and stupid greed of Capitalist Society, are not merely shocking and alarming. For them, these things are the utter negation of everything in which they have believed. It is as though the bottom had dropped out of their universe. The whole thing looks like a denial of all reason, and they feel as if they and the world had gone mad together.

Now for the Christian, this is not so. He is as deeply shocked and grieved as anybody else, but he is not astonished. He has never thought very highly of human nature left to itself. He has been accustomed to the idea that there is a deep interior dislocation in the very centre of human personality, and that you can never, as they say, ‘make people good by Act of Parliament’, just because laws are man-made and therefore partake of the imperfect and self-contradictory nature of man. Humanly speaking, it is not true at all that ‘truly to know the good is to do the good’; it is far truer to say with St Paul that ‘the evil that I would not, that I do’; so that the mere increase of knowledge is of very little help in the struggle to outlaw evil.

The delusion of the mechanical perfectability of mankind through a combined process of scientific knowledge and unconscious evolution has been responsible for a great deal of heartbreak. It is, at bottom, far more pessimistic than Christian pessimism, because, if science and progress break down, there is nothing to fall back upon. Humanism is self-contained - it provides for man man no resource outside himself. The Christian dogma of the double nature of man - which asserts that man is dis-integrated and necessarily imperfect in himself and all his works, yet closely related by a real unity of substance with an eternal perfection within and beyond him - makes the present parlous state of human society seem both less hopeless and less irrational.

I say ‘the present parlous state’ - but that is to limit it too much. A man told me the other day: ‘I have a little boy of one year old. When the war broke out, I was very much distressed about him, because I found I was taking it for granted that life ought to be better and easier for him than it had been for my generation. Then I realised that I had no right to take this for granted at all - that the fight between good and evil must be the same for him as it had always been, and then I ceased to feel so much distressed’.

As Lord David Cecil has said: ‘The jargon of the philosophy of progress taught us to think that the savage and primitive state of man is behind us; we still talk of the present “return to barbarism”. But barbarism is not behind us, it is beneath us.’ And in the same article he observes: ‘Christianity has compelled the mind of man, not because it is the most cheering view of human existence, but because it is the truest to facts.’ I think this is true; and it seems to me quite disastrous that the idea should have got about that Christianity is an other-worldly, unreal idealistic kind of religion which suggest that if we are good we shall be happy - or if not, it will all be made up in the next existence. On the contrary, it is fiercely and even harshly realistic, insisting the Kingdom of Heaven can never be attained in this world except by unceasing toil and struggle and vigilance: that, in fact, we cannot be good and cannot be happy, but that there are certain eternal achievements that make even happiness look like trash. It has been said, I think by Berdyaev, that nothing can prevent the human soul from preferring creativeness to happiness. In this lies man’s substantial likeness to the Divine Christ who in this world suffers and creates continually, being incarnate in the bonds of matter.


The key passages for me were:

'I was very much distressed about [my son], because I found I was taking it for granted that life ought to be better and easier for him than it had been for my generation. Then I realised that I had no right to take this for granted at all - that the fight between good and evil must be the same for him as it had always been, and then I ceased to feel so much distressed.'

And:

‘The jargon of the philosophy of progress taught us to think that the savage and primitive state of man is behind us; we still talk of the present “return to barbarism”. But barbarism is not behind us, it is beneath us.’

These two passages have made me feel immensely better, and helped me get a much better perspective on everything.

Of COURSE we should still do everything humanly possible to make the world better. But also we should not be discouraged.

From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.

Profile

elisi: (Default)elisi
September 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 2017