Sunday, June 05, 2011

Smashed to pieces on the rocks of the 20th century

This institution ...
one of the greatest traditions in all of human history has been under a merciless and relentless assault for the last one hundred years. I'm referring to the accumulated knowledge of over 2500 hundred years, spanning from Ancient Greece to the early Renaissance and through to the extraordinary pinnacles of ...achievement ... These traditions, just when they were at their absolute zenith, at a peak of achievement, seemingly unbeatable and unstoppable, hit the twentieth century at full stride, and then

... fell off a cliff, and smashed to pieces on the rocks below.
I keep coming across this again and again. An almost exact parallel between the ending of the great artistic and liturgical traditions of the West.

Since World War I the contemporary visual arts as represented in Museum exhibitions, University Art Departments, and journalistic art criticism became little more than juvenile, repetitive exercises at proving to the former adult world that they could do whatever they damn well wanted ... sadly devolving ever downwards into a distorted, contrived and contorted notion of freedom of expression.

Hardly surprising considering how closely the two had been intertwined through the last 2000 years. So closely that it is difficult to guess which is dragging down which.

Some days, sometimes, for various reasons, I am brought up short, to a complete halt, and am forced to ask, again, what satanic madness hit the world in the 20th century? How have we come to such a pass that we can say that a woman must have a "right" to murder her children before they are born, that artists who create ugliness and engender despair are "great", that liturgy childish enough to insult the intelligence of very stupid children is the peak experience our 2000 year old Church can offer?

The ordinary secular world can smell this rot. How could they not? Everyone knows that SOMEthing is terribly wrong. Each may have a different idea of what it is, and especially how to fix it, but I can't imagine anyone over the age of 20 not realising that things are not turning out as hoped.

The rosy, bubbly naivete of a document like Gaudium et spes just reminds us now of cheap, sweet fizzy wine, the kind that leaves an aching head and some embarrassing, hazy memories the next morning.

Are we waking up from our 50 year-long binge yet? I sometimes wonder if the lotus has been so strong that it will keep some in its spell for the rest of their lives. I've known lotophagi of that generation who never gave it up, and died locked in their fantasies.

From such a horrible fate,

Dear Lord deliver us.



Bill White said...

I've sometimes wondered whether the mass insanity of the last century was a result of (or at least principally fueled by) the world wars and other years of slaughter. Perhaps those who were to preserve our civilization were lost on the battlefields and in the prison camps.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

I think with the Wars, you are looking at more symptom, not cause.

Dr. Adam DeVille said...

How often I think of the comments attributed to Sir Edward Grey in August 1914: 'the lamps are going out all over Europe and we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.' Except, of course, they have never been lit again in nearly a century now. Like you I sometimes feel this is a horrible dream and must pinch myself to see if this barbarism is truly the reality we are living: eg., 40 million unborn children slaughtered in the last four decades; widespread chaos in the Church; etc.

Anonymous said...

Get a grip everyone - a basic grasp of history will show you that whatever the century, some pretty horrific things have happened. It's folly and short sighted to think that it's the worst it's ever been - every generation says that.

Yes, abortion is horrible and so is every other manifestation of the evil one. But, Our Lord is here no matter what.

Stop wringing those hands and cooperate with the Holy Spirit to be the instruments for Our Lord that we are asked to be!

Here endeth the lesson.


Martial Artist said...

Miss White,

I think you are quite correct about the wars being more symptom than cause. My own thoughts on the matter run to seeing the cause as the natural outgrowth of the progressive movement (in politics, economics, art, i.e., essentially in every field of study which today are considered either in the "liberal arts" or the "social sciences," disciplines which are not quantitative, but, in some sense subjective.

To explain a bit further, I see progressivism, defined by the idea that the history of humanity demonstrates a gradual, but relatively steady, progression marked by the ever greater knowledge and wisdom within humanity (at least within those who can see that progress).

However, what it really represents is the gradual ascendancy of the, often tacit, assumption that our rational faculties are now sufficiently advanced that we no longer need any outside referents to guide our understanding of what is beautiful and true. This should suggest to us that what we are witnessing is simply one more chapter in a potentially endless reiteration of the original sin, the sin of thinking that we could be our own gods. Seeing this reenacted yet again should bring us up short, and not simply on those issues which are as clear cut as abortion and "feticide," but also on the insanity (spiritually and intellectually disordered behaviors) which we see erupting about us repeatedly throughout history.

I am sorry to have seem so negative, but I think that is what is at the heart of our astonishment, even when we don't immediately recognize that connection.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

lambertdw said...

Interesting theory that the world wars were the symptom and not the cause. I have to think, though, that the sheer amount of slaughter caused by the new technology was the cause of the great changes in society that have overwhelmed us. Just think, we went from soldiers on horseback to an atomic explosion in less than 50 years. That was too much to bear.

Anonymous said...

what satanic madness hit the world in the 20th century?

Simple: An attack on the possibility of being human at all.

The enemy has always hated humanity, and that hatred only compounded with the Incarnation. The attack now is on the essentials of humanity itself: the capacity for a spiritual life, the murder of the unborn, the phobic renunciation of beauty and reason, the popularization of methods by which the human body is intentionally mutilated or defaced, the war on authentic sexual roles and identity, the loss of attention span through assaults on silence, recollection, and solitude; the willful coarsening of sentiment to sub-animalistic get the point. In all these and other ways, the enemy wages war on the possibility of our living authentically human lives, a fortiori living lives redeemed by becoming conformed to God-made-man. It is too late for the enemy to undo the Redemption, but not too late for him to destroy the possibility of there being anything left to redeem.


Anonymous said...

I have read the hypothesis that the protracted period of the Napoleonic wars shook the population's faith. Despair set in: "Why is this lasting so long?" Faith returned during the long period of peace, only to be shaken by WWI and then WWII, and the results. I note it was the US "Greatest Generation" which first embraced the divorce culture, the Rat Pack values (the first widely accepted draft of the "asteroid" in NA, as Hilary once called it), etc.

However, there are also a lot of holes in that hypothesis. Basically, with life and history, we can't untangle the symptoms and the causes, they are so intertwined.


Gary said...

Anonymous said:
"...the loss of attention span through assaults on silence, recollection, and solitude"

Television, with scores of channels
Cell phones/texting

Where is the time, or energy, for prayer and recollection?