Two from First Things

3 11 2010

I don’t really understand essays like this. Marriage to a certain extent has always been something you entered when you were prosperous enough to do so. And people have always been sleeping around prior to marriage. In some places, it was mandatory lest you marry someone who could not have children. Bastards and single parenthood were also more common than some people concede. Perhaps it would be better for culture warriors to “preach to the reality” rather than come up with technocratic reasons as to why the reality is so disordered. Human life has always been disordered.

I also don’t know what David B. Hart is smoking, but I wish someone would hook me up with his dealer. I think I have been thinking of this issue recently, and while I sympathize with Hart’s longing to see nymphs and fairies, I have to say that such things are not of our world. Do they exist? Perhaps that is the wrong question to ask. In general, I think modern people have a very different sense of natural reality than those particularly in rural and agrarian societies. Going back into the folklore of both my and my wife’s families (both rural, Catholic cultures) there were such things as the feux follets that wandered the roads at night, the spirits of the unsettled dead. There were duendes, the souls in Purgatory, and people with mysterious healing powers. But one has to ask: did these things exist because of a certain power of suggestion, or did they exist in their own right, and does such a question add or subtract from their power over human consciousness?

In Catholic unofficial religious thought, things only have power if you believe in them. Even Our Lord in the Gospels could not work many miracles where there was little belief. Perhaps the epistemological insight of the Gospel is that the human mind doesn’t know its own strength. Maybe the modern skeptical exercise of asking, “yes, but is it real?”, while useful, misses the point. The reality is often in the asking of the question; the power often lies in belief and not in the object of belief itself.