12 September 2012

Diagnosing our fears

Besides sweating away several gallons of fluid during the Issac power outage, I spent some time re-reading William Barrett's Irrational Man.  

May I suggest that faithful Catholics do the same?  (At least parts one and two)


Barrett traces the roots of the West's existential crisis and identifies nihilism* as the source of our deepest personal and cultural anxieties.  B.O.'s 2008 campaign directly addressed these anxieties with an appeal to superficial Hope & Change.  And we bought it.  Well, most of us did anyway.

I'm not suggesting that you read Barrett as a matter of political science but as a plausible diagnosis of what's happening to us as a freedom-loving nation and God-fearing culture.

Many of the political developments in the last half-century arose out of our collective fear of personal annihilation (physical and spiritual), a need for security now that we've sequestered God away from the public square.  The academy's assault on the intelligibility of truth and the rise of the National Security Nanny State push us further and further along the road to serfdom.

I'm not suggesting that philosophical existentialism gives us a solution to our cultural anxieties.  Far from it.  Historically, existentialism served as a diagnostic tool not a treatment regime.  

The only well-documented treatment for the crippling fear of nothingness is God.  While the Nanny State has always failed--will always fail--God does not and cannot fail. 

*Existential nihilism is the philosophical theory that life has no intrinsic meaning or value. With respect to the universe, existential nihilism posits that a single human or even the entire human species is insignificant, without purpose and unlikely to change in the totality of existence. According to the theory, each individual is an isolated being "thrown" into the universe, barred from knowing "why", yet compelled to invent meaning.  The inherent meaninglessness of life is largely explored in the philosophical school of existentialism, where one can potentially create his or her own subjective "meaning" or "purpose". Of all types of nihilism, existential nihilism gets the most literary and philosophical attention. 

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