Truth or Fairy Dust?

fairy dust

 I feel blessed sometimes to meet people who, through the force of their character and convictions, command my respect and admiration. What stands out about them is their determination to be governed and defined by a reverence for truth. 

 What I've noticed, in particular, is their characteristic stance or posture towards truth. Which is that they take a position of humility under the truth. 

 Their first impulse is to learn, not to argue. They seem always to be listening. 

 When they do speak, they continue to listen. Speaking and listening aren’t mutually exclusive. They never go on and on, but pause to check on whether understanding has been reached. If not, they are quiet. 

 They do not stand over the truth, as somehow above itNor do they stand against truth, as those who squirm and struggle to subvert or avoid it. 

 They don’t suppress truth, as St Paul described, when men who 'plainly know what is true' - (as all men do) - regardless, hold it down. (Romans 1:18-15)

 Which is to say that the men St. Paul has in mind are bent on preventing the possible eruption of truth into their awareness. To ensure that never happens, they hold the truth at bay, so as not to feel its threatening and disrupting effect on conscience. 

 These are men who are either indifferent or hostile towards truth. They appear to have been sprinkled with some kind of fairy dust, the nature of which can be a kind of naive, facile, and ungrounded, hopefulness.

 Having been sprayed with this fairy dust, they give the appearance of being somewhat slippery. They appear always to be slip sliding away from truth. Even their bodies squirm when truth gets too close. Their speech is garbled, misty, and vague, since theirs is an untethered consciousness.

 They don’t stand with the calm, poise and dignity of someone whose life is the embodiment of a clean and clear conscience.

 Spiritually uncentered, they are always off to who knows where? - some yellow brick road - but not towards truth.

 Thus their presence is an absence. The missing dimension is a relationship with truth.

 It's hard to get any clarity - which is the point of the lives they are leading - to avoid a confrontation with truth, as best as they can. They are here, there and everywhere. And thus very hard to pin down. 

 Again, the well practiced elusiveness is their point - to keep truth at a safe distance in order not to be affected by it.

 It is exceedingly hard and exhausting to get any sense out of them. "You’ve got me" one of them recently acknowledged: "I live in a fog.”

 Here was a moment of truth, when someone appearing to be stoned much the time, woke up for a moment.   

 During the Battle of Britain, (July the 10th, to October, 1940) three young American journalists, Edward R. Murrow, Whitelaw Reid, and Ben Roberton travelled to England to cover the Blitz of London by the Nazis. They set off as somewhat innocent and naive human beings.

 They were then shocked into the full force of reality, as the bombs fell and and London was set on fire. In that zone of horror, they became aware of what perhaps many of us don’t want to acknowledge, which is the presence in the world of the demonic force of absolute evil, unleashed at the time by the Nazis upon the British people.

 When I watched Finest Hour recently (an incomparably good film) I was astonished by the presence of one of these journalists, Whitelaw Reid, interviewed in 1999, an elderly gentleman, who looked back upon his experience as a 26 year old, delivering daily reports from London as the bombs fell.

 This old man impressed me with his radiant conviction, clarity and, - what was especially refreshing - a tremendous sense of humour.  

 Upon seeing the atrocity of London burning, Whitelaw had come to the  conviction - this graduate in Sociology from Yale University that - “Hitler was an evil that had to be eliminated.” 

 Whitelaw's contribution against Hitler was then to write articles and to give talks in the United States on the theme that there are worse things than war.

 What’s worse than going to war is to do nothing against tyranny, in this case, to allow Great Britain to collapse, when America had the resources to turn the tide against the Nazis.

 Whitelaw Reid therefore argued against the isolationists and urged the Americans to join the fight against evil.

 Whitelaw and the other journalists were then receiving an education in the truth of things - the full range of the truth of reality, including its dimension of savagery, as expressed by the Nazis.

 Which is how it goes. Character and conviction is something forged in the firey furnace of experience. It's not a given. It’s not automatic. Its possible development seems always to take a crisis or catastrophe of some kind. It seems always to involve suffering.  

 As the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, asked recently concerning the formation of the soul and character of Sir Winston Churchill. "In what smithies did they forge that razor mind and iron will?” What the hammer? What the chain? In what furnace was his brain?” 

 It’s a great question to ask: 'In what furnace is your brain being shaped? What firey furnace is forming you?'

 The second of the three journalists to wake up into truth was Ben Robertson who, "in the company of his friend, Edward R. Murrow - on a high bluff in Dover, experienced a revelation."

 There all around him, "The Battle of Britain was raging; reporters were diving, time to time, for the spurious protection of a hay stack, as overhead, British fighter planes battled German bombers bent on destroying England."

 Ben wrote in response: "I lost my sense of personal fear because I saw that what happened to me did not matter. We counted as individuals only as we took our place in the procession of history. It was not we who counted, it was what we stood for. And I knew for what I was standing - I was for freedom.”

 From Ben there was no talk of his rights and entitlements, and of what society owed him. Instead he thought only of what duty required of him.

"It was as simple as that,” said Ben. "I realized the good that often can come from death. We were where we were and we had what we had because of a whole line of our people who had been willing to die."

 "I understood Valley Forge and Gettysburg at Dover, and I found it lifted a tremendous weight off your spirit to find yourself willing to give up your life, if you have to.”

 "I discovered Saint Mathew’s meaning about losing a life to find it.” (Clemson University) 

 Each of these young journalists were mugged by reality and changed their views accordingly.

 They arrived, I would say, at a vision of the human condition, of human nature, as involving the clear discernment of two opposing tendencies within every human being.

 Which is that we human beings have, on the one hand, the potential to be far worse than can be comfortably contemplated - that is, in other words, that we are capable of levels of depravity and acts of horror, beyond comprehension. 

 And yet, on the other hand - at the same time - what must always be taken into account is the potential that each of us has, to be greater than has been thought humanly possible.

 We are all capable, according to this view of human nature, of becoming  everlasting horrors, or everlasting splendours. 

 Our potential to move in one or the other of these directions is enormous.

 And therefore, our destiny depends entirely on whether we take the high road or the low one, whatever our circumstances.

 The truth about human nature being expressed here is to take fully into account both man’s potential for wickedness and his potential for sainthood

 It is just this kind of vision of human nature that is either downplayed or dismissed by new-age liberal optimism, expressive of a shapeless, unfastened, and murky attitude.

 It’s a prevalent and spreading poisonous subjectivism that does not wish to see the starkness of reality and the hard choices that are required of each of us.

 For the new-age liberal optimists - for this crowd - we’re either in, or approaching some kind of age of Aquarius. The new age is about to dawn. It's just around the corner. Several more giant circle chants with the Dalai Lama and we’ll be almost there.

 'Isn’t everything just getting better everywhere!' one of these wide-eyed wonders will exclaim. It’s a demonstration of a dime-store optimism.

 I think when I hear this kind of statement: 'Wow, you’ve overdosed on your medication again. Maybe cut it down a little!' 

 For these, there is no sense of evil, only the idea that we should always be hopeful - living in a blurry-eyed, Pollyannish fairy land. 

 The effect of this shallow wishfulness, is to muddle the mind, as Malcolm Muggeridge observed years ago on the staff of the Manchester Guardian newspaper. (based in Moscow, 1932)

 He worked with many such disordered minds at the Guardian who gave abundant evidence of having been amply, liberally, sprinkled with fairy dust.

 Muggeridge then felt the pressure to write within the confines of their particular vision of reality: “We were required to end anything we wrote on a hopeful note, because liberalism is a hopeful creed.

 "And so, however appalling and black the situation that we described, we would always conclude with some sentence like: “It is greatly to be hoped that moderate men of all shades of opinion will draw together, and that wiser councils may yet prevail." 

 Confesses Muggeridge: "How many times I gave expression to such jejune hopes!" - (such useless, childish, empty phrases.)  

 In those days, Muggeridge watched with increasing dismay, the “extraordinary performance of the liberal intelligentsia, who, in those days, flocked to Moscow like pilgrims to Mecca." 

 "And they were one and all utterly delighted and excited by what they saw there. Clergymen walked serenely and happily through the anti-god museums, politicians claimed that no system of society could possibly be more equitable and just, lawyers admired Soviet justice, and economists praised the Soviet economy.” 

 These dazed human beings, including the playwright, George Bernard Shaw, were all too willing to believe every lie presented to them by their hero, Joseph Stalin. 

 “How could this be?” Muggeridge asked. "How could this extraordinary credulity exist in the minds of people who were adulated by one and all as maestros of discernment and judgment?”  

 The explanation was the refusal of so many of them to see truth because of their predisposition never to see darkness and evil, especially if it conflicted with their utopian fantasies. 

 These were minds not at all enlightened, but were rather frightfully normal, which is always the problem, says British writer, Colin Wison.

 If you’re living a normal life, according to Wilson, you’re probably a completely deluded human being. 

 Why? Because on a daily basis, your habit is frequently to spray yourself with the fairy dust of naive and facile hopes. It’s your dreamy optimism that blinds you to truth.

 Thus to live a normal, every-day existence, according to Wilson, ensures that you don’t understand anything that matters, for as Wilson put it, "everyday consiousness is a liar.”

 "There is,” explains Wilson, "a standard of values external to everyday consciousness.” An ordinary, everyday, normal level of awareness fails to discern this standard of values.

 Hence the need always to go beyond the limited, normal mind into a state of awareness that sees both the light and the darkness, the goodness and the evil - a level of sharpened awareness that sees and grasps what the ordinary mind is apt to miss.

 Thus if you are living the normal life, expressed in other words, means usually that you have succeeded in resigning yourself to common place aspirations, which in time, inevitably results in a dim-eyed and undiscerning existence.

 This state of blinding normalcy is well described by T.S. Eliot’s character, the psychiatrist, Reilly, in The Cocktail Party, where the practice of most humanoids is described as a blinding toleration of each other.

 Consequently, as life is lived, for instance, by a couple in a state of humdrum expectations, they can expect to become, after a while: "Two people who know they do not understand each other, breeding children whom they do not understand and who will never understand them." 

 The play's central character, Celia, has lost any interest in what is normal, which distinguishes her from most everyone else at the cocktail party. 

 Profoundly disturbed with normal concerns and perceptions, she tells the psychiatrist, Reilly, that she's looking for so much more.

 Celica tells Reilly: "You see, I think I really had a vision of something, though I don't know what it is. I don't want to forget it, I want to live with it. I could do without everything, Put up with anything, if I might cherish it.

 Celia was searching for a higher life. A deeper and clearer level of awarenessA loftier visionShe could no longer stand to exist in Plato's Cave as her primary habitation.

 And so it was that in contrast to Celia’s search for clear vision, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, (prior to the Battle of Britain) himself thoroughly showered in fairy dust, (pictured below) "travelled to negotiate with Hitler at Munich in the hope that by surrendering Cech democracy to Nazi Germany that the dictactor could be appeased." (Russell A. Berman,The Psychology of Appeasement)

 History has been instructive in showing clearly that Chamberlain was an undiscerning fool, blinded by a dreamy optimism that was completely unrelated to what was actually going on. He did not see Hitler for what he was, “an evil that had to be eradicated." 

 Indeed, after the Prime Minister's departure, Hitler had a good laugh at how easily Chamberlain had been suckered.

 Winston Churchill, on the other hand, had always discerned the menace that Hitler was and would be, having had his brain formed through the kind of firey furnace of personal transformation that Chamberlain had all his life avoided.

 It is, therefore, as I’ve been saying - how it goes. Some enter that firey furnace of transformation and emerge able to see what others cannot. They see the heights and depths of the human condition. They are painfully aware of possible extremities and do not seek to smooth or cover over the stark reality of what is, at any given time.

 Others do not make that journey and thus remain blind.

 In every generation, some see and some do not. 

 The conclusion reached by the journalist seer, Malcolm Muggeridge, is that the clearest seeing and understanding, has never come from the “liberal dream in any of its manifestations.” Only lies. Only fantasy. Never reality.

 But on the other hand, says Muggeridge, there are the testimonies to the truth coming from the experiences of the prisoners of the Russian communist gulags. These human beings, who had lost their freedom - who had lost everything, and who had seen evil in the ferocity of its full blown manifestation, directed the attention of the world to deeper and clearer levels of seeing and understanding. Their illumined eyes were, said Muggeridge, like green shoots that break through the enclosures of cement - the various enclosures of totalitarianism. 

 These human beings would not be fooled again by a Stalin, or Lenin, or by the spin on the news from newspapers full of lies. 

 Will we, however, be fooled? Are we any different from the masses of people in the 1930’s who refused to see the truth until it was finally so fully in their faces that it could no longer be denied?

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Love Theme (From "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso," Daniel Hope)


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to make them hate us?” Another response to Muslim violence was “We marginalize the Muslims and prevent them from becoming a

part of our society”, or, “Muslims are discriminated against, that’s why they behave as they do.” These, attempts at explanations for

violent behavior, and many other hand-wringing excuses given for Muslim actions, are efforts to take the blame for the Muslim’s

  Not long ago liberals were wondering aloud, “what have we done

to make them hate us?” Another response to Muslim violence was “We marginalize the Muslims and prevent them from becoming a

part of our society”, or, “Muslims are discriminated against, that’s why they behave as they do.” These, attempts at explanations for

violent behavior, and many other hand-wringing excuses given for Muslim actions, are efforts to take the blame for the Muslim’s