Thursday, February 07, 2008

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/7/08

We are able to answer the question, 'Why have we no great men?' We have no great men chiefly because we are always looking for them. We are connoisseurs of greatness, and connoisseurs can never be great; we are fastidious -- that is, we are small. When Diogenes went about with a lantern looking for an honest man, I am afraid he had very little time to be honest himself. And when anybody goes about on his hands and knees looking for a great man to worship, he is making sure that one man at any rate shall not be great. Now the error of Diogenes is evident. The error of Diogenes lay in the fact that he omitted to notice that every man is both an honest man and a dishonest man. Diogenes looked for his honest man inside every crypt and cavern, but he never thought of looking inside the thief. And that is where the Founder of Christianity found the honest man; He found him on a gibbet and promised him Paradise. Just as Christianity looked for the honest man inside the thief, democracy looked for the wise man inside the fool. It encouraged the fool to be wise. We can call this thing sometimes optimism, sometimes equality; the nearest name for it is encouragement. It had its exaggerations -- failure to understand original sin, notions that education would make all men good, the childlike yet pedantic philosophies of human perfectibility. But the whole was full of faith in the infinity of human souls, which is in itself not only Christian but orthodox; and this we have lost amid the limitations of pessimistic science. Christianity said that any man could be a saint if he chose; democracy, that every man could be a citizen if he chose. The note of the last few decades in art and ethics has been that a man is stamped with an irrevocable psychology and is cramped for perpetuity in the prison of his skull. It was a world that expects everything and everybody. It was a world that encouraged anybody to be anything. And in England and literature its living expression was Dickens.
-- G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens
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Come, Lord my God, come and instruct my heart where and how to search for you, where and how to find you. Where shall I look for you, Lord, if you are absent and not here? And if you are everywhere, why are you not visible to me? But of course, your dwelling is in light inaccessible. Then where is this light inaccessible, and how can I approach it? Who will guide me and conduct me into it so that I may see you? And then, by what signs, by what visible form shall I know you? I have never seen you, I do not know what you look like, Lord my God. What is this exile of yours to do in a far-off land, O most high God, what is he to do? Banished far from your presence and distressed by his love for you, what shall your servant do? With burning desire he strives to see you, and your face is very far from him. He longs to come to you, and your dwelling is inaccessible. He wishes to find you and has no idea where you live. He wants to search for you and he does not know your face.

O Lord, you are my Lord and my God, and I have never seen you. You have made me and remade me and bestowed on me all the good that I possess, and still I do not know you. In a word, I was created to see you, and I have not yet done what I was created to do.
-- Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion 1: Opera Omnia, ed. Schmitt, Secovii 1938, I, 97-100.

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