Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Great Transofrmations

I was reading an article on the G20 – but for what I have to say it could have been about almost anything – when I was hit by a reference to the "great transformations of the Nineties". Mind me, nothing conspicuous about it, it was just that it stirred in me an unfavorable recollection.

To speak about the accelerated transformation of present day society is a common place of our times.

Hard to die. Nobody noticing that we have been saying that since I don't know when, so marking our society with an unchanging character.

I must say, as student of cultural anthropology, that I didn't draw from it a lesson of relativism. I did learn from it to relativise myself as man of my time; but this was rather a stimulus to look for constants in human affairs, and discover how, in spite of all seeming evidence to the contrary, men have not changed in their nature. Save of course for the change brought by divine grace through Jesus Christ: a change, though, that non tollit sed perficit naturam.

The unfavorable stir in my memory provoked by that article, brought back to the surface the "wind of the Sixties", of which I spoke some time ago. We were really convinced that a new era was dawning. Unfortunately we find traces of the cultural mood of that time also in the Second Vatican Council: in what now appears to me its soft spot, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in today's world Gaudium and spes.

There I read: "Humanity lives today a new period of her history, characterized by profound and quick changes that are progressively extended to the whole universe" (GS n° 4).

Did they, the Council fathers, really believe that?



James H said...

That is such a good point. No dounbt the 20th Century gave a new dawn. But it appears every generation thinks they are in some epic age that World Changing.

Maria said...

I agree with James, and with you. Every generation thinks they are on the edge of something new and wonderful. I think Harry Truman said something to the effect of "the only thing you don't know is the history you haven't read." However, materially the world has changed, and I do think these changes have and will continue to profoundly affect the world. I think since the advent of technology and communication, the post-Babel world if you will, we have been coming closer and closer together. And coming up with better ways to destroy each other (we're getting really good at that). But I think the advances are merging our cultures, our languages, our traditions, and sometimes it seems like we end up with the most mediocre common denominator. But - I agree with you - Anno Domini has truly meant something for the evolution of mankind in and of itself, not just the external material world, but who we ARE. I guess another question is, did this happen throughout the Old Testament and Christ was the culmination? Or was it really only first and last Christ who brought this to our world?

Humbly Presumptuous said...

To Maria.

I am the first to be aware of the great changes brought about since the 16th Century by a progressive acceleration on a planetary scale of communcations. But that's precisely it: a question of scale, in which the same issues as ever represent themselves. Therefore, to be aware of the constants is the only way to have an intelligence of our time, so to be able to act responsibly.

About the other question. I am convinced that divine Providence rules the whole of human history, but also that God made his rule especially felt in the history of the people of Israel, culminating in Christ. Without the Old Testament, Christ makes no sense. That's why the hebraic books were made their own by Christians in the Bible.


Maria said...

I guess I also see any advance in transportation/communication - even in the time of the Romans and their chariots, or the Huns and their elephants, as being part of the acceleration.

But, yeah, when I think of it, the Old Testament is mostly filled with warnings to the Israelites with what will happen if they don't get their act together. 16 c. plus, it's all about how wonderful things are just around the corner.

"the thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains." - Paul Simon

Humbly Presumptuous said...

To Maria

hope is based on recollection, which engerders faith, the certainty of having been unconditionally loved. Hence the thought you quote from Paul Simon is well grounded. We can have "great expectations"... obiviiously, if we get our act together (what this means, is another story).

Maria said...

you are absolutely right.

Lazy Disciple said...

Dear James, HP and Maria,

First, let me say that I am really thrilled to see the conversation the HP's post has stirred.

It strikes me, perhaps in light of our Holy Father's magnificent reflections on Christian hope this weekend, that the focal point is there, i.e. in hope, the spes of Gaudium et spes.

In the book I have recently finished, and will soon present to the public for discussion, I make some reference to, and use of, an old Christian idea that goes in English under the name of eschatological tension.

The eschaton is the last thing, the final unfolding: it might be adequately rendered (with adequate preface) by the Latin, resolutio.

It is the Christian hope in the happy eternity that awaits us beyond history - and this last is not merely the passage of time, nor is it the turning of events - it is, I mean to say, that which await us when all our changing is done, and we come to rest with God - but God has already rested, on the seventh day, and we are made in His image, after His likeness.

St. Augustine says we are made for Him, which means, to rest in Him - and our heart is restless until it rests...

In other words, eschatological tension arises when we experience the world as at once good, and not yet good enough.

I will have more outside the com-box, in a post.