Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Sacrament or sentiment?

Yes, folks, it's the "Week of the Pope" here at A Better Nation, brought to you by ACME Wafers & Wine, with their special stupifying agents. Yes, the Week of the Pope And Other Idols & Very Retro Religious Rites, where we continue to delve into the deep, dark mysteries of shallow piety and humankind's confused and downright confounded quest to achieve some sense of self-importance and personal ecstacy. Our own lives, which we work to make conventional and in some ways anonymous, must be rather boring. We still seem to crave demigods of the silver screen and the silver-lined heavens. Madonna and the pope, J Lo and Martha, what a country, what a world.

Neither the bible nor Jesus [see my "Resurrecting Jesus" post the Monday after Easter] were much for idolatry, and some conservative followers still show admirable disdain for idolizing objects and even people as having heavenly powers. But isn't this a blitz of idolatry? It seems many are wanting to associate more with the pope's fame than with his political and spiritual views. (Personally, I appreciated his papal disgust with capital punishment and war, political hypocricy and runaway capitalism, and I am glad he had some say in helping bring democracy and human rights to various pockets of humanity here and there. But I still think he was in so many ways an advocate of regressive values, especially for science and for women - and thus for rational thought and for "human" rights, which must necessarily give women equal rights, even if our roles in most cultures are not equal - that is a different story.)

Yes, it's true, we humans are essentially (and it seems inescapably) irrational creatures. We'd like to think that most of what we do is based on reason or sense or even common sense, but alas, common sense is not common and never has been.

That's why philosophy seems so rarified and detached from "life as we know it." Philosophy intends to place complicated structures on life and human existence, combinations of relative perspective and objective reason. Few people get into that line of work, and most of the others don't even consider it work, much less real work. Nope, even closer to us common folk, philosophy and the wisdom reason requires are considered rather obsolete and even dilletantish obscurities.

We think we're planning ahead. We think we're getting our ducks in a row. Then some desire takes over, and we buy something we can't afford or have an extramarital affair. The big things in life are irrational. They're not carefully thought out. They're the objects of our innermost and interminable desires.

But the question of The Week is: should we continue to encourage, celebrate and even glorify the irrational? Why not let the irrational be without all this fawning attention and instead raise up to pillars on high our wisest mortals, our wisest leaders, our most virtuous souls? Maybe it has to do with how easily faked out we are. So many of us are so gullible, so drawn to, so swayed by the rituals and passions and petty, goofy ecstacies of others. Principle and virtue just aren't as easy or as accessible as all this circus, induced as it is by our fears of guilt and death.


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