“In this world of lies, Truth is forced to fly like a scared white doe in the woodlands; and only by cunning glimpses will she reveal herself, as in Shakespeare and other masters of the great Art of Telling the Truth, even though it be covertly, and by snatches.” Herman Melville
We must continually seek out these glimpses of Truth – wherever there is art, beauty, goodness – we will find truth reflected. It is easy, in our modern materialistic and concrete environment, to stop believing Truth even exists. Our culture is degrading into subjectivism and nihilism – modern art and architecture are often either narcissistic or coldly utilitarian. If we take the time to read a novel by Dostoyevsky, listen to a Sonata by Beethoven, read Fairy Tales with our children, travel to and discover a unique culture – we will “snatch” some of these glimpses. Seeking and finding this “scared doe” can bring faith and hope to our perspective.
“For they (art and music) are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
“We need to understand the role of art, and stop thinking about it as an option, or a luxury, or worse, an affection. Art is the bedrock of culture itself. It is the foundation of the process by which we unite ourselves psychologically, and come to establish productive peace with others. As it is said, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). That is exactly right. We live by beauty. We live by literature. We live by art. We cannot live without some connection to the divine — and beauty is divine — because in its absence life is too short, too dismal, and too tragic. And we must be sharp and awake and prepared so that we can survive properly, and orient the world properly, and not destroy things, including ourselves — and beauty can help us appreciate the wonder of Being and motivate us to seek gratitude when we might otherwise be prone to destructive resentment.”
A recent newspaper article showed a remarkable image, two rival football teams kneeling in prayer after a hard-fought game. American Football fans will know that rivalries and losses are real for these young men – so such displays are rare. The image provides a stark visual contrast to our current political and social polarity, in the United States and many parts of the world. Can we kneel together, despite our differences, despite having opposing goals? Is our society leaving a space for such an act of unity?
First we have to ask ourselves, why would these young men do such a thing? A football game is serious to those playing it, dreams and pride are on the line. However, despite its perceived importance, it is still just a game, so we can see how displays of unity are possible. But real life, with real stakes, surely, is something different. But is it?
In WWI in a remarkable event known as the Christmas Day Truce, young men from both sides, (German and British), despite orders to stay put from their superiors, jumped out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy. They sang together, exchanged gifts, and celebrated the birth of their common Savior. The day before, these young men had been shooting at each other. But somehow, as we imagine those young men grasping hands in 1914, it seems that war had been a game after all, and the Truce was something more real – it was a glimpse of potential. We imagine an opening of truth to these young men, just as the football players experienced something real in that prayer-circle, after what had been just a game. But in order to get those glimpses of peace and unity, there has to be a unifier.
These two groups of young men would go on fighting, go on playing the game – and there is purpose in their conflict, there are lessons that needed to be learned therein. But conflict itself is not the purpose, and they knew this. There was something that made them stop fighting – a power above the disputes of the world. They paused and prayed together to their common God, they celebrated the birth of Christ. Belief in this transcendent truth is crucial for our sense of perspective and our ability to cope in a life full of suffering and strife. There must be something above to give meaning to the things below.
In the late 1800s Friedrich Nietzsche made the bold declaration that “God is dead, and we have killed Him.”* With rising secularism, we see that many, unfortunately, believe in Nietzsche’s unbelief, and live their lives without God. But, as Nietzsche understood well*, this shift away from God does not come without dire consequences. Without God, how now, are we motivated to come together after a football game, or shake hands during a war? Where can we see the growth in tragedy, or let go of grievances without any hope of eventual victory?
The philosophies of men are like man, limited and finite. They are doomed to follow our follies, our imperfections, and our short-sightedness. We need a guiding philosophy that transcends man, one that humbles us, that emanates from beyond ourselves. Something that falls on all of us – good or bad, Boise State or BYU, German or British. This is the truth that fell on these young men.
There simply is no earth-bound philosophy that can do this. In a post-truth society, there is nothing to bring opposing teams together; no unifier, no comforter. Secular individuals may seek out a worthy existence in a post-truth world, without examining how or why they seek worthiness – but societies will fall.
So what are we left with, without God? Everything is now much more serious. This is no test; there are no games anymore. The end is coming hard and fast. There is no hope for a day of eventual unity and no moral good to strive towards. All beauty, goodness, and truth are simply illusions. There will always be a conflicting philosophy that keeps us from kneeling with an “enemy”. There will always be offenses too distressing to let-go of, with no belief that someone greater can take the burden.
We see this often with publicly-displayed breakdowns when our candidate loses, or indiscriminate rioting in the streets when we feel our group is persecuted. We see such isolation in our modern grief. We are told: our nation was build on blood so don’t turn to patriotism for stability; our religions are all hypocritical and intolerant so theology won’t calm you; our political and social leaders are corrupt so don’t seek advice from those lying lips; even the individual standing next to you is simply a product of implicit biases and privilege’s; and God, we are told – He is in our mind – an evolutionary adaptation. So we stand alone in a dark and wicked world.
People suffer when their God has died. Our souls become starved as we grasp for meaning and purpose while caught in a downward spiral. We become cogs in a machine. We become our own Superman but with no one to save. Our modern world shows the signs of this secular suffering. We see how people react when their “world” comes falling down, when their political party fails, and when their dreams are shattered. Rather than seeking a hopeful eternal perspective, they must face the bleak world before them. They are less able to laugh at the tragic game of life, less able to forgive, more judgmental, less resilient, and more selfish. It is not necessarily them I blame – these are the natural reactions of a person living in a Godless world. But is this bleak world-view true? In the Scientific Method we know that something is true if it works in experimentation – is this working?
We return to our properly-aligned young men. Their displays of unity won’t be applauded by all. Those driving the will of our will-less world will not take it kindly, for it is threatening. They see these football teams kneeling before God and are appalled. They want to stop such displays of religiosity – stop the so-called brainwashing. They portray this display of belief simply as intolerance of other beliefs. Once Truth is discarded, reminders of it tend to sting. The “Conditioners”, as C.S. Lewis calls them – replace our outdated Truth with man-made imitations. And what weak replacements they turn out to be. Their fuel is envy and resentment, their compassion is apathy, and their motivation is power and greed. Postmodernism, Marxism, Subjectivism, Materialism are all designed to tear down all our Christmases, all our prayers on the football field, even our love of our homeland or shared admiration for a historical figure. Nothing can be shared, nothing can be held in common or above the struggle.
But it is a lie. There is a force that unites us all. A truth from above that ignites our inner goodness. We are brothers and sisters. And we know this – it is written in our hearts. We have urgings for love; we desire peace; we feel that loyalty is a virtue. We see the potential in an angry young man – if he could see the Truth. God is alive, and His workmanship is all around us, hope and joy are available to all. Our deep morality and kinship remain, and these demonstrations, by young and ordinary men, show that there is hope in our deeper natures – for we are always called by higher things.
Note: You may ask, what does this have to do with motherhood? It is crucial that mothers see these dynamics, that we understand the state and direction of the world. When we see the ditches in front of us, we can step around them. When we understand what deception sounds like, we can teach our children to recognize the lies, and to seek out goodness instead. It is so crucial that we mothers don’t follow the destructive philosophies that surround us. It is up to us to ensure that, in our method of mothering, our children will build a future where truth, goodness, and beauty are allowed to thrive.
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Friedrich Nietzsche quote: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”
A highly informative clip on Nietzsche (the whole video is great) – that helps us understand his worldview and start to see the results of his shift in perspective.
Good clip on Postmodernism, Nietzsche, and conflicting philosophy