“One of the things that specifies modern culture…and distinguishes it from the traditional cultures of the world, is the effort to buffer this encounter [with reality]. Modern culture is largely a conspiracy to protect us from the real. Though it has opened up horizons in all sorts of ways that would have been utterly inconceivable to the pre-modern world, it does so only under controlled conditions. We do not at all deny the delight we take in our senses–in fact, we indulge them–but we try as far as possible to isolate these experiences, to make them mere sensations and precisely not gateways to the real. The ideal, perhaps aimed at asymptotically, is ‘virtual reality,’ having the sensation without any contact with the real at all, and so without genuine involvement or responsibility for implications. …
“For the most part, we do not feel the weight of the givenness of the nature of things. We live in a world increasingly mediated by technology, by the contrivances of human artifice, which tends to set the terms for what things mean to us and how we experience and interpret them even when we are not directly occupied with a particular device. … The terms of technology and social media have come to prevail to such an extent that we, as a culture, are always just a hair’s breadth away from despair regarding the intrinsic reality of the world ‘out there’ beyond the steady flow of appearances delivered directly to our consciousness. What I mean by this despair is not just the abstract skepticism that we play at in Intro to Philosophy classes, which strikes the average person as absurd and extravagant. Instead, I mean something far more pervasive, and for that reason less immediately present to consciousness: a certain ‘lightness of being’ that affects all of us… I would like to suggest that there is a profound connection between the impoverished state of our conception of beauty [as merely in the eye of the beholder] and our despair over the density of the world in its natural givenness, so that a recovery of beauty in its rich, ontological significance can help us restore our rootedness in the ‘real world.'”
— David C. Schindler, “Love and the Postmodern Predicament: Rediscovering the Real in Beauty, Goodness, and Truth,” 2, 32-33.
I wrote the following reflection a week or two before reading the above quotations, but reading them reminded me of what I had written, and moved to me want to share it.
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The human heart is like a garden
in need of cultivation;
the mind, the affections, and the will
open radically to truth, beauty, goodness.
For these we have been made and fashioned,
like a puzzle-piece seeking to be fitted in the whole,
not in a kind of anonymity submerging the person,
but expanding the heart to the dimensions of the real.
And what…what really is real?
Not the narrowness of a world to our own liking,
self-fashioned to be in our control,
the loneliness of a self closed in upon itself.
But neither is this self false and narrow in its being,
however narrow, in ignorance, sin, and selfishness it may be,
for it has been created for greatness, for nobility,
and bears such greatness as a burning flame within.
Truth lies in the openness of the heart to reality
which envelops us ceaselessly on every side,
in the communication of being with being,
sensitive to the Being upholding and present in all.
Indeed, the Truth is Goodness,
the tenderness of mutual self-communication
between one and another, heart and heart,
and devotion to the preciousness of every thing.
Truth and Goodness, also, are Beauty,
radiant with harmony, proportion, clarity,
manifesting in transparency the inner form,
which, striking the heart, wounds it with love and longing
—and in this wound alone brings it true health.
This holy “trinity” of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth
is like an arrow piercing the soul with radiant life,
tearing open what was closed in sin and fear,
and drawing the heart out in an exodus of love.
More, indeed, it is than this alone,
for this trinity of Being, shining in everything,
is indeed but a single Thing, in the end,
and a single Thing in the beginning (and all between).
For Being is, in the last analysis, simply Love.
It is the Gift of mutual communication
and the Communion of Persons in intimacy,
in enduring, eternal, and self-giving embrace.
To open the heart to Truth, therefore,
so good, so beautiful, filling one with wonder,
is to recognize, like a little child,
that all is a pure and freely given gift
—and therefore it is nothing but Love.
Ah…it is the Lover and Beloved, together,
Father and Son, one, in the kiss of their Spirit,
loving us from the fullness of their eternal life,
and giving themselves to us in utter generosity.
And they give themselves thus so that we,
responding and giving ourselves in love in return,
may enter into this divine communication, this union,
of the one, eternal, indivisible Trinity.