Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Laborem Solis sive Eclipsis Moralis: Sine Traditio

THE SQUELCHING OF THE NATURAL LAW affects not only individuals, but it shows itself in social ways, some of which Budziszewski identifies in his book What We Can't Not Know. Modernly, there has been a philosophical rejection of any objective morality, to the point that it has become habitual, impulsive, almost a second nature. Social mores are passed down through traditions, and traditions have an important role in unifying a people, in educating them into systems supportive of the moral life, and in preparing them for critical thinking with respect to moral problems. They can work for both good and ill depending upon whether the tradition supports, or detracts from, the natural law.

The contemporaneous West has rejected any normative, objective moral order, and traditions supportive of that natural moral order have been intentionally squelched, to the point where any traditional support has been erased, or at least atrophied. We have developed a sort of tradition of traditionlessness. Following in the wake of this the tradition of traditionlessness is a deracination, a rootlessness, in modern man.

The "Traditio Legis"
Christ Handing Down the Law to His Apostles

This rootlessness arises from, and contributes to, a variety of cultural and social factors. It is sort of like a dog chasing its own tail. A large part of society's rootlessness can be placed upon an intentional suppression of traditions, principally motivated by liberal (and false) notions of freedom of thought or (what may be the same thing) an animus against Western, specifically Christian, values in our academia and intelligentsia. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul admonishes the Christian flock to "stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." (2 Thess. 2:15) Our modern academics and thinkers by and large spurn such Pauline advice.

Our society has not stood fast. That is not always the fault of the common people. Too often, this traditionlessness has been imposed from the top down, by an educational or health care system adjusting to dictats from the U.S. Supreme Court or ukases from federal and state bureaucrats. Some of it unquestionably arises from competitors to the traditional source of culture--the family--for example, television and popular music, media which are governed more by profit and by marketing than by cultural value. So the anti-virgin ("like a virgin") Madonna replaced the real virgin: La Madonna (O Virgo virginum!). Some of it may also be attributable to fast-paced modern ways of life which are corrosive of traditional cultures.

Budziszewski defines tradition as a "shared way of life which molds the mind, character, and imagination of those who practice it, for better or for worse." Tradition is "a sort of apprenticeship in living, with all of the previous generations as masters, and includes not only ways of doing things, but ways of raising questions about things that matter." In the name of multiculturalism, in the name of political correctness, in an oversensitivity to minority cultures, in the desire to rid the society of its vestiges of Judaeo-Christian traditions, or the desire to rid oneself of the "shackles," the supposed mortmain, of "Dead White European Males," our leaders and our educators have opted for a traditionlessness, which is really nothing other than replacing one tradition with another. Traditionlessness is "not the absence of tradition so much as a particular, unsound sort of tradition which does not recognize itself as tradition, disbelieves whatever it does recognize as a tradition, and is traditionally smug about its disbelief." Budziszewski (2003), 162. Traditionlessness occurs when when we prohibit the handing down of things by prohibitions, and so the creche or the Ten Commandments are banished from public spaces, from courthouses and from Wal-Marts. Culture abhors a vacuum, so we replace signs with simulacra, and so the rich depthness of Christmas is replaced with artificial superficiality of Kwanzaa. Merry Christmas becomes banal Happy Holidays. Traditionlessness occurs when the organic fabric of a culture is replaced with a quiltwork, a pastiche of different cultures, which ultimately is the demise of any culture.
Traditionlessness munches its own stump
or turns to nothing all it squats upon.
Tradition turning out tradition into
the immiserated world unspell us quite.*
Simon Jarvis identifies the social effects of traditionlessness. It lives off of its moral and intellectual capital, munching its own stump, sort of like Saturn devouring his children. Its result is not growth, but defecation of nothingness. It immiserates, make us poor, and has led to a way of living which is unspelled, which is to say disenchanted, the product of the Entzauberung of a secular frame of reference as Max Weber labelled it.

The loss is great, particularly in the West where, by and large, the tradition was based upon the truths of Christianity and the Gospel: Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. By dismantling our heritage, by banning it from the formation of our youth, we have dumbed ourselves through a sort of intellectual self-flagellation:
In general, a person who has been raised in a sound tradition is far better prepared to change his mind, should his beliefs prove faulty in some particular respect, than a person who has been raised "to make up his own mind" about them. While the former has at least acquired some equipment--the habit of taking important things seriously, and a body of inherited reflections about what some of these things are--the latter is weighed down with different baggage: the habit of not taking important things seriously, and the habit of considering the way things really are as less important than what he thinks of them at the moment.
Budziszewski (2003), 163.

The loss of a sound tradition is a great loss because it is more difficult to build than to tear down. It is easier to suppress the Latin mass than to re-institute it after a generation or two of Mass in the vulgar tongue. It is easier to destroy families by loosening the chains that bind a man and wife than it is to try to re-habitualize people to the notion that marriage is a permanent union. Downhill is always easier. The descent to hell is easy. It is climbing uphill that is laborious. As we have noted in prior postings:
Facilis descensus Averno;
noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis;
sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,
hoc opus, hic labor est.
(Virgil, Aeneid, VI.124 ff.)

How to retrieve the tradition? This is a difficult question to answer. An impediment to an invigoration of sound tradition is our way of life. The disruption of the family, the first school of our children, is a significant inhibitor to proper inculturation.

The vigor of sound traditions requires a way of life in which generations live in close proximity and have discourse with each other. It requires that people in general live in communities in which they know each other and can hold each other accountable. It requires that in relations among the various cultural institutions--parents, schools, government and so forth--the agents higher on the totem pole regard themselves merely as servants of the lower, and not as their masters or competitors.

Budziszewski(2003), 163. Generations have dismantled. It will take generations to remantle.

*Simon Jarvis, The Unconditional: A Lyric (London: Barque, 2005), 32-33.

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