Friday, September 04, 2009

The wind of the sixties

It is hard to understand what happened in the sixth decade of last century, inside and outside the Church.

It was undoubtedly a cultural revolution. But why?

We were all swept away by a wave of optimism, which soon turned into bitter disappointment.

Speaking of the Church: Vatican II, instead of the hoped for renewal of Spirit, uniting all Christians in charity, opened the door to the spirit of disunion of a house torn inside by strife.

Outside of the Church, the catchword of the time, "make love not war", came to mean a liberation of sexuality which turned love into a private war.

Of course I exaggerate. But one thing is sure. Publically, we are not able to say any more why a man should love a woman, and vice versa. Our democratic ideology has declared man and woman equal, so that anybody can love anybody, their respective sex making no difference.

By the way, also in San Paul we can find a statement of this tenor, where all differences disappear, and there is no man and woman. But it is only so because they are equal… in Christ: i.e., in the capability of overcoming their limits by the reciprocal gift of life. Which is fecund of new life, thanks to their difference.

That's it: a scientist friend of mine pointed out for me that only there is life in nature where there is difference. Whoever has some notion of physics knows this as the second law of thermodynamics. The beauty of it, is that in such a description of the order of things we can recognize a prescription of how to keep things in order… among ourselves. All bodily differences, of sex and age, become meaningful for our participation in life.

Here you have the sense of natural law, destroyed in the abstract affirmation of all people's equality, indifferent to the things of the body.

Eric Voegelin (mentioned with a long quotation by Lazy Disciple in a previous post) branded all the evil of our time "Gnosticism". I can follow his lead, and recall that one of the main marks of Gnosticism (a religious movement of the early Christian centuries antagonistic to orthodox Christianity) was precisely the demeaning of the body. To which it could be objected that it is right the opposite of what we do, because we don't demean the body, but rather exalt it. But are we sure that that is what we really do? No, I don't think so. The body we appreciate is that, so to speak, of fitness, of fashion and sports magazines. So that all that makes unfit can be a good reason to keep from birth or to accelerate death.

Usually our time is accused of materialism. I'd like to try a different qualification: it not so much materialism that plagues us, but superspiritualism, non identification with one's own body, as way of prticipating to the body politic. It just remains as a kind of biological property, one feels free of using as he pleases.

Superspiritualism was the wind that swept the Sixties.

To say so can help perhaps to understand how come Vatican II had such an unexpected aftermath.


Lazy Disciple said...

Dear Humbly,

You write, "Publically [sic], we are not able to say any more why a man should love a woman. Our democratic ideology has declared man and woman equal, so that anybody can love anybody, their respective sex making no difference."

In our conversations, we are able to use, without further explanation, the language of equality in the context of the Sixties and the apotheosis of Modernity.

This is because we know of and are on guard against the tendency to understand "equality" as "sameness".

The strange thing here is that our decision as a society to recognize that certain physical differences are juridically irrelevant, e.g. that having the primary genitalia on the inside is not an impediment to full participation in the political life of the community, is predicated on an understanding of the ontological equality of males and females, an equality that is rooted in the rational nature they share as human beings.

To say, on the other hand, that men and women are equal, and to mean by this that they are the same, so that a woman might, e.g. marry a woman, or a man another man, is only possible to the extent that we as a society have committed ourselves to the idea that physical differences are merely accidental (in the technical sense, I hope it is clear). This commitment, however, will ultimately cut us off from the idea of human nature, and so in a very specific way: it entails the position of human positive law above our rational capacity to grasp, with howsoever much difficulty, the essence of things - it vacates our claim to be able intelligently to penetrate the order of being.

In short, the problem is not with the notion of equality, as such: it is with the equation of equality with sameness.


Humbly Presumptuous said...

Of course. But I didn't want to go into such sophisticated words differenciations as that between "equality" and "sameness", but show the danger lying in the very use of "equal".