I am less of myself and more of the sun;
The beat of life is wearing me
To an incomplete oblivion,
Yet not to the certain dignity
Of death. They cannot even die
Who have not lived.
The hungry jaws
Of space snap at my unlearned eye,
And time tears in my flesh like claws.
If I am not life’s, if I am not death’s,
Out of chaos I must re-reap
The burden of untasted breaths.
Who has not waked may not yet sleep.
If the world taking shape around us today seems to make us strangers in a strange land—strangers in our own land—that’s because it does. If, while preaching freedom, the world seems filled with cynicism, ugliness, blasphemies big and small, and sadness, that’s because (too often) it is. What the modern world really wants, wrote Josef Pieper, “is flattery, and it does not matter how much of it is a lie.” But since every lie is an act of violence against reality and a deforming of the the truth, the world also wants the right to disguise the lying, so “the fact of being lied to can be easily ignored.” The result is predictable: “The common element in all of this is the degeneration of language into an instrument of rape.”1
And that rape is carried out not just against the dignity of the human spirit, but against the the beauty of the earth itself. Just as the face of a beloved shines with the inner light of the person’s soul, so the world as a sacrament shines with the face of God. The atheist culture of our age, says Roger Scruton, has a number of motives—but one of them is the desire to escape from the eye of judgment. And we escape from the eye of God’s judgment by mutilating the face of his world.
Thus the spoiling of the earth with waste and brutalizing of our human habitats with ugly art and buildings are not clumsy mistakes of progress, but desecrations. As Scruton notes, “Sacred places [like a sacramentally understood natural world] are the first places to be destroyed by invaders and iconoclasts, for whom nothing is more offensive than the enemy’s gods.” We should recognize “that much of the destruction of our environment today is deliberate, the result of a willed assault on old and despised forms of tranquility.”2
–Archbishop Charles Chaput, Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World, pg 226
1Josef Pieper, Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power, 26, 32.
2Roger Scruton, Face of God, 123-24.
After having thus taken each individual one by one into its powerful hands, and having molded him as it pleases, the sovereign power extends its arms over the entire society; it covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules, which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot break through to go beyond the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces action, but it constantly opposes your acting; it does not destroy, it prevents birth; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupifies, and finally it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
I have always believed that this sort of servitude, regulated, mild and peaceful, of which I have just done the portrait, could be combined better than we imagine with some of the external forms of liberty, and that it would not be impossible for it to be established in the very shadow of the sovereignty of the people.
–Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
“Everything that human beings are doing to make it easier to operate computer networks is at the same time, but for different reasons, making it easier for computer networks to operate human beings.”
–George Dyson, Darwin Among the Machines
All things (e.g. a camel’s journey through
A needle’s eye) are possible, it’s true.
But picture how the camel feels, squeezed out
In one long bloody thread from tail to snout.
–C. S. Lewis, Untitled, Poems, Pg. 134
All the world’s wiseacres in arms against them
Shan’t detach my heart for a single moment
From the man-like beasts of the earthy stories—
Badger or Moly.
Rat the oarsmen, neat Mrs Tiggy Winkle,
Benjamin, pert Nutkin, or (ages older)
Henryson’s shrill Mouse, or the Mice the Frogs once
Fought with in Homer.
Not that I’m so craz’d as to think the creatures
Do behave that way, nor at all deluded
By some half-false sweetness of early childhood
Look again. Look well at the beasts, the true ones.
Can’t you see? . . . cool primness of cats, or coney’s
Half indignant stare of amazement, mouse’s
Tipsy bear’s rotundity, toad’s complacence . . .
Why! they all cry out to be used as symbols,
Masks for Man, cartoons, parodies by Nature
Formed to reveal us
Each to each, not fiercely but in her gentlest
Vein of household laughter. And if the love so
Raised—it will, no doubt—splashes over on the
Who’s the worse for that? Marry, gup! Begone, you
Fusty kill-joys, new Manichaeans! Here’s a
Health to Toad Hall, here’s to the Beaver doing
Sums with the Butcher!
–C. S. Lewis, Poems, Pg. 2