On Truth and Despair

“If there is no Christ, then I should be a Muslim; if there is no God, then I should be a Buddhist; if there is no enlightenment, then I should be an American surburbanite, for normality is the final despair.”

One can live a normal life. One can seek simply to survive, perhaps even to be happy, but survival and happiness are mediocre achievements. No doubt for those who are truly at risk of death or who truly suffer deprivation, they are worthy goals, but for the American suburbanite they are acquiescence to hopelessness. For at the very least, one might hope for a calmness and wholeness of mind that is not dependent on common wealth and suburban security. And this greater wholeness is the greater hope.

Yet this, too, is a peculiarly weak hope, ironically selfish and indulgent. Yes, take your mindfulness and your centering and be at peace, at peace with yourself. These trends of the middle-class self-satisfied are only an extension of self-satisfaction, a spiritual narcissism added to American economic narcissism. Yet one might hope that there is a greater glory than myself, however enlightened I might fancy myself to be. And that greater glory is a greater hope.

But the greater the theology of might and glory, the greater the distance between God and the soul. “Allahu Akbar,” there is none greater than God, and as a consequence there is no going to God from finitude, let alone from sin. But suppose that instead of the climb to God, God should descend to us. Suppose that, instead of sin rising to perfection, perfection should take on the ugliness of sin. Of course these suppositions do not prove truth, but if they are true, then there is a greater hope. And if they are not, then so begins┬áthe descent into American despair.

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