I’ve always been quite a literary snob. Although I realize that every pop cultural figure, ranging from Joan Collins’s sister Jackie to Suzanne Sommers, and people from the casts of television shows like “Friends”, thinks he’s a writer, I inevitably restrict my reading material to the works of people like Dostoyevsky and Jane Austen, Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy, and all the other highbrow literary figures. Were I ever confronted with a literary fairy, who could give me the ability to become either an obscure novelist, whose work would be admired and studied by a small cult following for generations yet to come, or a popular paperback author whose works could provide immediate enjoyment to millions in the short term, I should choose to be a serious author. There’s nothing wrong with writing harmless fluff with no literary merit. I’ve simply always admired important literature and wished that I were capable of writing something truly profound and noteworthy. I don’t like having to be bothered with keeping up with trends, though several trends, throughout the past few generations, have most certainly caught my attention quite favorably. Great literature, like all the other disciplines in the humanities department, deals with human nature and a good author has to have the ability to have a lot of insight into history, psychology, philosophy and all other disciplines. If I were ever lucky enough to be a serious writer, I should make sure I should steer clear of all liberal ideas. Story telling is extremely important and the conservative voice has to be heard. That’s why I’ve always liked both music and literature. Politics, history, economics and other disciplines have their place in society but people tend to be more prone toward accepting ideas by way of the narrative approach rather than didactic. I should think that maybe I could be a serious intelligent alternative to the kind of pablum that comes from writers like J. K. Rowling. Even if my work would be admired and studied by only few people, as the object of a cult following, I should be quite happy with that, as long as I could write exceptionally good literature. That would be especially appropriate for someone like me, considering that I’ve always been quite a distinctive character who can be counted on to appeal only to people with seriously offbeat tastes and ideas anyway. I’ve always enjoyed Emily Dickinson’s idea, that one should “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” Symbolism, an important ingredient in all literature, plays quite an exceptionally large role in my world. Since I’ve never felt particularly comfortable in the company of strangers, I should have to be the kind of writer who would remain aloof from his readership. Frequent interviews and constant attention would be quite a burden for me to have to contend with. If anyone is interested in finding out about the other worlds that come from my imagination, though, he’d better most certainly beware of all the twists and turns they contain. Some of them can be awfully seriously disturbing.
The von Hildebrands, along with Sartre and de Beauvoir, were having a leisurely walk, and a rousing debate. “God wants us to live by faith and reason”, argued the orthodox Catholic von Hildebrands. “There’s no god, just radical freedom and despair”, replied their existentialist friends. People from St. John of the Cross to Dostoyevsky have reminded us that what one is, he sees in others and in life in general. The two couples were so far apart, while standing side by side. They continuously befuddled each other, Dietrich and Alice, Jean Paul and Simone.
I’ve always been quite obsessively smitten with theology and philosophy. I don’t think the von Hildebrands were ever friends with Sartre and De Beauvoir but they were contemporaries. Alice von Hildebrand is the only one who’s still alive.
The one piece of advice I wish I could have gotten long ago is that a control freak of any kind-liberal or otherwise-simply can’t possibly be expected to listen to the voice of reason. My experience over the course of my lifetime tells me that when someone is bound and determined to use someone he generally tends to build up an entire way of life around exactly that very thing. Liberals classify everything they want as tolerance and everything they don’t want as intolerance. Over the past many years I’ve noticed that many nasty characters I’ve known tend to defend the most obscenely deranged ideas by referring to them as the common sense approach to things. Anything that deviates from what they want is lacking in common sense. I have absolutely no idea whatsoever how either common sense or tolerance could possibly have gotten such a good reputation because my experience tells me that each is a deceptive form of manipulation. Sometimes I think I’m the only one who’s ever noticed it but according to everything I’ve seen, anyone who sets out to make the world (family, classroom, workplace etc.) a better place, instead of merely trying to be a good person in his own individual life will invariably be the nastiest and most manipulative of characters. That kind of individual reminds me of what Father Zosima referred to in Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov”. He’s the kind of a character who is the greatest possible lover of mankind in general but he bitterly despises the specific individual who’s right in front of him. Phony pride, mankind’s ultimate curse, is never going to go away. As far as I’m concerned, common sense and tolerance represent the absolute epitome of phony pride and it’s too bad no one explained those kinds of things to me when I was young. Each of them is a venomous tine of the same serpent’s tongue.
Ideally I should like to think that I’ve always been quite the good natured sort of a perfect gentleman. Unfortunately, though, I seem to have quite a significant problem with anger and resentment when someone has hurt me very badly. Although I find it very easy to acknowledge my obligation to forgive, life in practice, unfortunately has never made it even the least bit easy for me to do so. I’ve been hurt significantly frequently, and significantly deeply, over the course of my lifetime by exactly the very same people whom I should have every right to trust more than anyone. That kind of complete betrayal is supremely difficult for me to accept. Throughout my life, I’ve been known as quite supremely good natured. That’s very easy when only entirely lightweight matters are involved. When, however, someone deals me entirely too profound a blow, the sparks really start to fly. I get sick and tired of all the platitudes people are constantly throwing around about how lack of forgiveness hurts me more than it hurts exactly the very characters I so bitterly resent, and I also get disgusted with all the accusations of my supposed hypocrisy. Although I can understand that there’s a certain element of truth to those claims, they’re still a bunch of brain dead platitudes. Everyone knows that resentment, or lack of forgiveness, is based entirely upon phony pride. Mankind has always been prone toward this problem since the third chapter of the book of Genesis, and it’s how Lucifer became Satan in the first place. My tendency toward holding a grudge is quite intense. It’s sort of like when someone gets hurt physically and the aftermath of his injury, in the form of bruises, scars, or some diminished capacity, drives him to frustration. The problem with injury of an emotional nature is analogous to that. Dostoyevsky, in his novel, “The Possessed”, rightly points out that “No one recognizes his own stink”. I’ve always bitterly despised liberalism for, among other things, its pronounced determination to foment a sense of bitterness, resentment and entitlement among women, minorities, the sexually dysfunctional and other darlings of the left, over all the real and imagined affronts to which they claim to have been subjected. I do the same thing, though, when I allow my unforgiving side to overtake me. It’s evil when somebody else takes that approach to things. By definition, therefore, it simply must be equally evil when I do exactly the very same thing.
I realize that I tend to grate on people’s nerves with perhaps entirely too much complaining about liberalism but I honestly think it’s the source of all of mankind’s troubles precisely because its roots are all in phony pride. I once knew a monsignor, in the Scranton Diocese, who frequently said that after his having been to several meetings for people who were afflicted with compulsions or addictions, he could never help noticing that everyone looked down his nose at other people for their problems. The alcoholics bragged that at least they weren’t on drugs, the violent people expected to be congratulated because they weren’t compulsive shoppers. Each of us has an innate tendency to assume that someone else’s vices are worse than his. At his very worst, when phony pride is really out of control, each of us tends to fancy himself as a toppler of the supposed high and mighty. Exactly when was the last time anyone managed to get through an entire day without an entirely bottomless pit of references to someone’s supposed hypocrisy. Proponents of leftist ideology always claim to be supposedly trying to make the world a better place. One thing I’ve noticed about anyone who claims to be acting in everyone’s supposed best interest, whether he strives for the perfect family, workplace or any other aberration of the common good, is that someone like that always ends up objectifying specific individuals, and treating each person as if he’s nothing more than a mere means to a desired ultimate end. It’s like when Father Zosima, in Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov”, admitted that the more dearly he loved mankind in general, the more disgusted he was at his neighbor’s each and every flaw. Anytime someone claims to be striving for some supposed Great Society, instead of trying to be a better individual, he always does it by way of deciding upon how much others must change. Besides that, he invariably considers himself about the rules and immune to all negative criticism. That’s why I don’t like to get entirely too enthused about a collective identity. If someone wants to be good to his family, people at work, or any other group, that’s entirely commendable. Western culture has always placed a great emphasis on the common good. The problem, though, is that so many of us, under those circumstances, tend to strive for the greatest good for the greatest number of people, and for a reputation for being good, rather than the reality of goodness. It’s precisely that mentality that leads to an enjoyment of someone else’s being exposed as a hypocrite. Scandal always comes from phony pride. Since the third chapter of the book of Genesis, each of us has always been forced to fight a never ending battle against the need to expose the real and imagined flaws of others while simultaneously demanding the right to a good reputation. Each of us should wise up and try to change himself instead of pretending to make the world a better place.
Ever since the third chapter of the book of Genesis, man has been blaming others for his troubles. When God confronted Adam and Eve upon their having committed the Original Sin, Adam blamed both God and Eve, and she blamed a talking snake. Throughout mankind’s history this story has been incessantly reenacted. Life is about both self determination and the power of fate. To separate the two would be a false dichotomy. Jean Paul Sartre, the twentieth century existentialist philosopher, put forth the claim that existence precedes essence. According to his line of thought, each individual first comes into existence and then determines his specific essence. This view presupposes that volition is all. Someone of this mindset takes it for granted that if someone of one sex wants to be a member of the opposite sex, change is permissible. Life, by this standard, is a bottomless pit of limitless options. Theoretical existentialism demands a concomitant sense of responsibility, claiming that no one may blame anyone or anything else, other than himself, for his circumstances. Our current cultural climate shares with this worldview the idea that all is possible and permissible. In practice though, no one is willing to be held accountable for his actions. Women, minorities, the sexually dysfunctional, among others, are told that every problem they face has discrimination as its inevitable source. This is reflected by Garcin’s line, toward the end of Sartre’s “No Exit”: “Hell is other people”. In Dostoyevsky’s “The Possessed”, one of the characters reminds us that no one ever recognizes his own stink. In his “The Brothers Karamazov”, one of his characters puts forth the the claim that suicide is the ultimate apotheosis. Materialistic determinism, inspired by Karl Marx, claims that all is beyond anyone’s control. According to this understanding of life, everything is dictated by environment and genetics. Marx’s and Sartre’s worldviews are both intrinsically atheistic. Many people claim to refer to conscience in order to defend their decisions. Unless a conscience is carefully formed though, according to certain objective norms, such a claim is entirely meaningless. As far as I can see, each individual’s fate is determined by many different variables, only some of which are within his control. Each of us should react to his own behavior, and that of others, with as rightly ordered a combination of justice and mercy as possible. Each of us is a combination of aptitude, which he can’t control, and behavior, which he can control. All sorts of other variables, including financial concerns and the cooperation of others, must also be taken into consideration. Western culture’s theological and philosophical vocabulary is filled with all sorts of references to mortal and venial sin, objective and subjective guilt, vincible and invincible ignorance. These distinctions exist precisely because of all the variables that come into play in each individual’s life. The laws that govern morality are exactly the same as those that govern destiny. In each case, only things that are objectively morally permissible may be done. The individual’s capacity to understand must be taken into account. Other people’s participation must be considered. Environment makes a difference. In the end, though, each of us is accountable for what happens in his own life. All possible legitimate care must be exercised in order to affect the best of possible outcomes and to avoid assigning blame to some convenient scapegoat. Text, context and subtext must work together at all times in order to get things done the right way. Any extremist position, that puts too much emphasis on either the power of fate, or the control asserted by the individual, will lead to trouble.
I’ve always liked to consider myself quite an easygoing fellow. In my high school yearbook people both gave me credit for having been so good natured and complained of my having been too much of a pushover. It would make me happy to know that to this very day I’m still exceptionally flexible and good natured. It’s always been very easy for me to be that way when the question that’s being dealt with is as easy as an argument over round or square pizza. Unfortunately life’s problems aren’t usually that simple. I’ve always enjoyed peace and quite to the point of bitterly resenting any kind of people or circumstances I may have to deal with where things are entirely too loud. I’ve really been known to lose my temper in an environment where excessive noise becomes a problem and I can become quite aggressive about it. I honestly believe that no one should have to bother with such an intrusion and I’m quite especially tough on anyone who isn’t careful with his cell phone. That’s one of the areas where I not only show absolutely no mercy whatsoever but I even push things entirely too far, punishing the Scylla of excessive volume with the Charybdis of quite a display of nastiness. Another area in which I can be inordinately tough is whenever there’s any debate about anything relative to the culture war. As everyone knows I’ve always been quite the arch-conservative. I tend never to budge even slightly in my dealings with liberals. The questions that are dealt with in any debate of this nature are literally about life and death, freedom and control. This also ties in with my resentment of being treated unfairly in general. If I see I’m being pushed into a corner, and expected to accept insulting treatment, or to be begrudged my rightful due, I get quite infuriated. You can call it affirmative action if you want to. It’s still reverse discrimination. I see the spurious arguments and revisionist history the liberals expect us to put up with as analogous to what any manipulator does. A major part of the problem with liberals is that they barge into every move people make and leave nothing alone. Everything from language to food is considered within the purview of their obsessions. My excessively stubborn streak is a part of my life in which I have quite a lot of growing up yet to do. Having read “The Living Flame of Love” by St. John of the Cross, and Dostoyevsky’s “The Possessed” a few times over the years I should suppose by now I can recognize that the problems that get me crazy in my dealings with other people are the things I most frequently can be most guilty of.