Monday 31 October 2011

In contrast with the Total Perspective Vortex...


Contrast modern man

with ancient man.


From Psalm 8:

O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength ...

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? ...

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.


For the modern hedonic atheist nihilist - to look at the Universe is to feel insignificance, despair, meaninglessness...

But the uncorrupted man sees the heavens as the work of God, is overwhelmed by gratitude, delight, amazement - is moved to praise and worship.



Anonymous said...

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,
The proper study of mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between, in doubt to act or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little or too much; ...

Meanwhile opinion gilds with varying rays
Those painted clouds that beautify our days;
Each want of happiness by Hope supplied,
And each vacuity of sense by Pride:
These build as fast as Knowledge can destroy;
In Folly's cup still laughs the bubble joy;
One prospect lost, another still we gain,
And not a vanity is giv'n in vain:
Ev'n mean Self-love becomes, by force divine,
The scale to measure other's wants by thine.
See! and confess one comfort still must rise;
'Tis this, Though Man's a fool, yet God is wise.

I prefer Alexander Pope to the Psalmists. (I suppose there was more than one Psalmist, but I'm open to correction on that.

Bruce Charlton said...

@pg - sorry, I don't like Pope: he seems a fake poet to me, and a shallow thinker. As a result I have read almost none of him, and so could well be wrong!

HenryOrientJnr said...

Dear me, I am not only a nihilist, but apparently not a very good one according to you Bruce:

"For the modern hedonic atheist nihilist - to look at the Universe is to feel insignificance, despair, meaninglessness..."

I look at the stars at night and experience exhilaration over the vastness of the universe and the wonder of its origin. If I had a canned theory ("God waved his magic wand...") it would not seem nearly to amazing.

Everybody is quoting poetry these days so I will add some Whitman:

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the
themes thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.

Also: Finally downloaded "Thought Prison". I got a Kindle app on my new HTC Sensation dual-core cell phone (such things amuse the likes of me) and am reading it now.

PatrickH said...

Henry, the modern universe is far too vast for the human mind to have any reaction proportionate to it, not awe, not fear, not stupefaction. I would argue the quantitative vastness of the universe produces a reaction of indifference in most people. A hundred million light-years here, a hundred million there, pretty soon you're talking quite some distance. Things beyond a certain size cease to be 'vast' because they lose all connection to human experience.

By contrast, the medieval universe was large enough to feel big to its inhabitants but not so large as to escape any sense of its size relative to human experience. CS Lewis talks about this brilliantly in his (I believe) last book: The Discarded Image. A really extraordinary work, one of his finest.

Gabe said...

"If I had a canned theory ("God waved his magic wand...")"

That would be funny if I were a fool.

"it would not seem nearly to amazing."

How odd! You imagine the creation of the Universe to be less amazing then the random, meaningless, nothingness that somehow spawned our pointless, random, meaningless, nothingness of an existance.

All I can say to that is Thank God I became a Theist!

HenryOrientJnr said...

@Gabe: Bruce is the one who thinks it is all meaningless, not me. To me, meaning evolves along with the universe. We won't find out what it was all about until it is finished.

@PatrickH: I am a lover of C.S. Lewis (and Tolkien) but I haven't read Discarded Image yet. I will give it a try. Naturally, as an atheist, I think Lewis was ultimately wrong, but he is always entertaining and thought-provoking. I take the MacPhee perspective in reverse on Lewis: In error, but on the side of the angels.