Lincoln and Kierkegaard: Why Not?

Ad Se Ipsum

   Leo Strauss, late of the University of Chicago, as mentioned in my previous post, was the Liberal critic of Liberal politics/thought when Liberalism mattered, as Liberalism must come to matter again.  Neo-Cons, like myself, are ersatz Liberals, believing that the Socialism practiced on the American Middle Class for the Lower Classes but not on the Upper Class, which holds the vast portion of resources, must be funded by someone other than the Working Class only. This is Liberalism, no matter how we deny the word when used to ourselves. We want the Working Class to have what it needs, always, and the Lower Class to have what it needs, but not to perpetuate its sad estate, which is sadness and strife. If the Working Class is not fed, clothed and educated, if the Lower Class is not mutated into something  other, the government might as well be said to be totalitarian, for its majority cannot live as it wants.

   Mr. Strauss would have agreed, if only for the sake of producing an educated Warrior Class, believing, as he did, that American military might must be used around the world repeatedly, for Americans were the force for right and good in the world. Americans were the voice of democracy, over against totalitarianism. Fascist governments were inherently evil, in that they denied man what he wanted inwardly and did not have naturally.

   Kierkegaard wrote that humanity was always demanding whatever freedom was just beyond it. Humans already had freedom of thought but then want freedom of speech, to make his thoughts known. If man had religious freedom, it follows, his fellows must also have freedom from religion, which they could not have except individually, which was the same way their compatriot had his religion.

   Strauss, and his progeny, who ruled Washington as late as the early 21st century, scorned the extreme relativism of the Liberal thought. Relativism is despair, Strauss held, because relativism finally dismisses the real.

   To see the core issue, ask yourself, what do you hold to be real? Before you answer, and as you think, decide to forego in your definition of the word real, which is itself only a word, any use of these words: actual, substantial (and all its kin subs) or material. You are left with the life of the mind. In the mind-life, humanity must have freedoms. Someone must fight for these freedoms, if history is any guide, for, while history will usually correct to the more generous, there is always someone in history who wants generosity to wait, at least until he has his day.

   So, historically, we are left with Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, our most deeply intellectual President and Kierkegaard, our most despairing philosopher/theologian. Lincoln gained a bullet in his brain for his deep, hopeless thought. He used American military might, buttressed by canny political consensus building, planting a seed here and another there, nourishing the seed that put forth a useful plant. His virtues were many, among them individualism as leadership of the collective. The greatest of our presidents could not be called less or other than a Liberal; irreligious, individualistic, isolated in his own mind. You can read a library about Mr. Lincoln’s pathos, his depression and his loneliness. Not enough is written about his massive intellect and his political genius, which was then and is now, the ability to see beyond the bend in the road.

   I have selected Mr. Lincoln, then, and Mr. Kierkegaard along with Mr. Strauss to explain this generation to itself. What is thought to be real today is nothing of the sort but only a sort unto itself. We are perfectly fitting what Mr. Strauss would have thought the illogical end of his criticism of Liberalism, which is, then Liberalism in and to itself.

   “In the cool of the day,” the Old Book of Beginnings implies, “God came walking.”

   God, walking? God, walking, to have conversation with Man? God, sensing the loneliness of Man, made him a contentious Woman, knowing Man would never be happy with God alone, no matter the perfection of his surroundings. Naked Man, alone with God in the happiest of places, still needed a contentious woman to help him find, or want to find, the sacrament. The most religious moment of human existence was the Fall. The sacrament of the apple has focused the mind of Man since that fateful moment. The Fall was not inevitable or fortuitous but it was the natural end of the primary non-sacramental act, marriage. Religion springs from the Fall, so religion can never be, nor never not be, the celebration of the Human condition. Our religion is the nagging contention of the Woman demanding Her companion find the better self.

   Or, so, Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Kierkegaard might have thought, if they had thought about it at all. Mr. Lincoln thought his argumentative marriage to a woman very much his equal in thought and politic was the divine stroke of the pen that wrote his story. Kierkegaard broke off his one love engagement, so he never knew the sacramental life of marriage. His works seem a bit unreal but, remember, we banished actuality and the material from our definition of the real. I still hold he understood the sacrament of the Fall well enough to advise this generation, which seems to see Kierkegaard’s view of reality as a viable explanation of the real.

   So, I have selected Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Kierkegaard to explain the real to this generation. In so doing I hope to explain this generation to itself. I do not do this thinking that this younger generation is exceptional, or particularly special. In fact, this generation seems prone to doing little of real value and is most likely to suffer as a result. Suffering brings forth beauty as surely as sure as Phalaris had a bull. Suffering may then be as admirable in its result as any fruit of the Fall but, as Mr. Strauss would tell us, it ought not to be one’s goal. Certainly, suffering brought about by sloth should not be our goal. God might have to make another Woman to stir this generation to the sacramental action it ought to take to make the world a better place. Laziness is not a school of thought but the seeming laziness of this generation may be no more than their confusion about what is authoritative. They have been fed a steady diet of relativism so long they may have lost sight of their own soul, while not actually losing the soul itself. Naturally, they are miserable, for they have no authority to live by and thus requite their empty soul.

   Then, readers, reflect on this thought from Jesus about what is real, which, like reality itself, is mostly expressible in the language of the religious. Jesus understood the Fall very well. The Fall brought Him from Heaven and doomed His earthly life. Before the Fall Man had worship without religion. The sign of the End Times, long portended, is that Humankind will once again have worship without religion. Since the Fall Humankind has had religion that mostly hopes for worship. Despairing of contemporary religion, which does not seem to be aware of the real, so blinded is it by the pragmatic, Humankind has neglected worship as the sacramental act that helps us define the real.  That is, our very real difficulty in defining the word real without recourse to the words like actual, substantial or material, is the direct result of our loss of worship in the Fall.

   Jesus is recorded as having said:

   “No man, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and decide the cost of the tower, to see if he has the resources to build it, lest he, upon setting out to build the tower and finding he has not the cost of it, he become a source of derision and scorn by those who walk by and see a hole half dug where a tower ought to be.”

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