Friday, March 25, 2005

Reading up on Western Liberal Society

Till yesterday, I was never suspected of being a liberal. I was therefore rather intrigued by Caleb's diagnosis in his comments on my blog from yesterday. Somewhere down the comments, near the end, he suggests some remedial reading, which I have done, and which I recommend to others. (Was it a ploy to increase the readership of tNP? I had not bothered to read these articles, though now I have...). Very interesting points, about which I mostly agree, having lamented (perhaps not here, though) many elements of our culture that are probably traceable to the Enlightenment assumption of individual autonomy as the only basis for civil society. (Ironically, my reading at St. John's these two weeks has been Hobbe's Leviathan and Locke's Second Treatise, both of which start at this premise and both of which are obviously foundations of our current Western democracies.)
While granting, for now, his diagnosis (in this sense), it remains to be seen whether anything can be done about it. Some things are irreversible; the opening of Pandora's box cannot be undone; the native American's will never have their land or culture back, etc. Can we go back to tradition (heritable culture), as opposed to simply "adopting" traditions, which is really just individual choice exercised in the area of quaint practices?
I have my doubts. There is much talk of monasticism these days, even among protestants. I would and have considered monastic orders, but then I come from a Catholic background. I was intrigued when John Michael Talbot and his wife entered the Franciscan (I believe) order when I was much younger. However, I cannot see this movement as having any real chance to change the culture, though it may allow some to escape it. This site is named after a failed religious community in England (Little Gidding). The monasteries and cloistered communities are already out there, and have been for a long time. Lots of people read Merton but few join the Cistercians. We Bobos all have Shaker furniture, but where are the Shakers? I live a few miles from the Amish, and I see no movement to adopt their lifestyle or to be attracted to Christ through their witness. I don't know. I don't think there is any going back, though I'd be willing to try if someone provided some credible vision of how to do so.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:51 PM

    While I respect many individuals in monastic lifestyles, and many of the practices emphasized in those lifestyles, I would have to agree that I don't see them transforming the culture. Could the answer be to find a modified way of observing many monastic practices in our everyday lives? We could still practice many disciplines such as religious readings, charitable deeds, prayer, and fasting while going to work everyday, raising families, etc. Maybe we need more communal disciplines that involve the whole church, not just a monastic community. Hannah