Mandeville, LA – One of my daughters recently told me that after high school graduation she wanted to take a year off from school and “go find herself”. I might have offered “a mirror would be a good investment” for that or “you can download a phone tracker app on iTunes and it will tell you exactly where you are and suggest restaurants too.” But instead I said nothing and pocketed the query for further contemplation before delivering a response. I now know that the correct response is “find God and you have found yourself.” The statement may seem simple-minded like 2 + 2 = 4, a mathematical reality that helps us count eggs but does not automatically make happy egg-eaters of the counters.
What the miserable egg-eaters do not realize is that in the reality of the egg, there is God and from God we get the reality of the egg. In learning that God made the egg through the hen, owned by the Borden corporation, elevates the egg into the beauty of Earth’s Order as all the food we take for granted today does. Knowing these simple truths, how can one choose to not love the egg’s Creator and be happy with his love for us shown through the planning that went into making the egg in the first place? I can similarly ask how one could choose to love a “God” that does not claim egg creation as part of his signature work of love for us? Like the God of Islam. Consider an excerpt of this provocative essay from Douglas Murray.
“For some years now I have been especially struck by accounts I have heard and read of people who have chosen to convert to Islam. Partly these stories are striking because they are so similar — and not only to each other. They are almost always some variant of a story nearly any young person could tell. They generally go something like this: “I had reached X age (often the twenties or early thirties) and I was in a nightclub and I was drunk and I just thought, ‘Life must be about more than this’.” Almost nothing else in our culture says, “But of course this is not all.” Instead the voice of our culture just says, “repeat, repeat.” In the absence of such a voice they search, and they discover Islam. The fact that they land on Islam is a story in itself. Why do these young men and women (very often women) not reach out and find Christianity? Partly it is because most branches of mainstream Christianity have lost the confidence to proselytise. Partly it is the trickle-down effect of the fact that Islamic traditions have not yet been so affected by historical criticism and scholarship. (I say “yet” because that scholarship is starting. Many Muslims sense it and they are fighting with all they have to hold it back because they know what it is going to do.)
But what is interesting to me is that everything about these accounts is both of our time and runs against the assumptions of our time. The search for meaning is not new. What is new is that almost nothing in our culture applies itself to offering an answer. Nothing says, “Here is an inheritance of thought and culture and philosophy and religion which has nurtured people for thousands of years.” At best the voice says, “Find your meaning where you will.” At worst it is the nihilist’s creed: “All this has no meaning.” Meanwhile politicians — seeking to address the broadest range of people — speak so widely and with such generalities as to mean almost nothing. Almost nowhere is there a vision of what a meaning-filled life might be. The wisdom of our time suggests that education, science and the sheer accessibility of information must surely have knocked such urges out of us. And the divide can be staggering.”
The “search for meaning” is meaningless unless it includes the meaningful, viz, simple wisdom that everything material has a purpose (which is the same as saying meaning) once Man acknowledges that we are not stones we are products of a Creator. But even if we were stones would be robbed of purpose? Hardly. It is true that the stones could be used to execute men as infidels just as the same stone can be used, with a few thousand others, to construct a Sanctuary where love of the Creator is practiced to prevent the stoning because the Commandments proclaim it mortally sinful. Is the stones existence an accident or the product of a mind who foresaw the uses of the stone to provide Man sanctuary from the elements and the temptation to mortally sin. When the stone is viewed in its proper role as the work of a benevolent Creator who, acting with purpose, gave the stone such a marvelous range of uses for his beloved Creatures, us, why are men searching for “meaning.” Do the people converting to Islam realize that the meaning they may obtain from their “faith’ will be to use the stones, milled from destroyed Christian sanctuaries, to kill infidels? Is it just coincidence that the world’s first recorded murder, that of Abel, was perpetrated with a stone?
But we don’t have to limit our wonder of the purpose behind stone to its ratio homine. Consider the density and weight of the stone. There is no intrinsic law of nature that dictates the stone which fits in the palm of your hand must be light enough for you to pick it up and hold it or if you’re seeking infidels, pick it up and throw it. If the stone had no purpose and was just the result of chaos and chance then the chance is it could be so dense that a crane would be unable to move it and there would sit the unused stones, marveled at, sans an earthquake, their permanent location. Yet the ancient world’s entire infrastructure was constructed using stones.
If men of good will cannot see the purpose behind the stone then they cannot see it’s Creator and they are thus deprived of good will. It’s a short skip from there into the violent apostasy that is Islam. But to suggest that Islam has any advantage over stones when it comes to Purpose (meaning) is an error that modernity has compounded. This is why the flirtation with opinionated “versions” of the Christian God made flesh in Our Lord are so destructive and have practically surrendered humanity to the Islamic hordes. It was Catholic Christianity that delivered Muslim defeats at Vienna, Malta and LePanto. Do you fancy that the corsairs of Jon Sobienski or the sailors with Don Jon or the Knights of St John at Malta sought “meaning” before engaging battle with the Mohammedans? Pope St. Pius X, he the former Bishop of Venice, saw what the Progressive modernists were about to attempt on The Church, charged with the sacred duty of safeguarding ultimate meaning: the Magisterium. Pius acted boldly issuing first a syllabus, then and encyclical followed by a mandatory oath that all Roman Catholic clergy had to either sign or resign. In Pascendi Domini Gregis Pius explained his reasoning. Every lay Christian should be able to find purpose – “meaning!” – in Pius’s stand against the evil that was let into the Church and not coincidentally, every secular institution of government in the West.
“The office divinely committed to Us of feeding the Lord’s flock has especially this duty assigned to it by Christ, namely, to guard with the greatest vigilance the deposit of the faith delivered to the saints, rejecting the profane novelties of words and oppositions of knowledge falsely so called. There has never been a time when this watchfulness of the supreme pastor was not necessary to the Catholic body; for, owing to the efforts of the enemy of the human race, there have never been lacking “men speaking perverse things” (Acts xx. 30), “vain talkers and seducers” (Tit. i. 10), “erring and driving into error” (2 Tim. iii. 13). Still it must be confessed that the number of the enemies of the cross of Christ has in these last days increased exceedingly, who are striving, by arts, entirely new and full of subtlety, to destroy the vital energy of the Church, and, if they can, to overthrow utterly Christ’s kingdom itself. Wherefore We may no longer be silent, lest We should seem to fail in Our most sacred duty, and lest the kindness that, in the hope of wiser counsels, We have hitherto shown them, should be attributed to forgetfulness of Our office.”
Douglas Murray may be onto something with his essay on the Western Man’s quest for meaning but as I hope to have at least begun to demonstrate with the saga of the rock and the Creator meaning is not elusive but it is Modern Man that evades meaning. G.K. Chesterton wrestled with the same heretical doctrines Pius X would put at bay for a generation and gives us some guidance on where we will find our meaning even if we don’t fully acknowledge that it is comes to us as revelation.
“I felt in my bones; first, that this world does not explain itself. It may be a miracle with a supernatural explanation; it may be a conjuring trick, with a natural explanation. But the explanation of the conjuring trick, if it is to satisfy me, will have to be better than the natural explanations I have heard. The thing is magic, true or false. Second, I came to feel as if magic must have a meaning, and meaning must have some one to mean it. There was something personal in the world, as in a work of art; whatever it meant it meant violently. Third, I thought this purpose beautiful in its old design, in spite of its defects, such as dragons. Fourth, that the proper form of thanks to it is some form of humility and restraint: we should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them. We owed, also, an obedience to whatever made us. And last, and strangest, there had come into my mind a vague and vast impression that in some way all good was a remnant to be stored and held sacred out of some primordial ruin. Man had saved his good as Crusoe saved his goods: he had saved them from a wreck. All this I felt and the age gave me no encouragement to feel it. And all this time I had not even thought of Christian theology.”