Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Philosophy of Nothingness

I happened to catch celebrated economist Amitai Etzioni's latest piece, Spent, a call to reject consumerism as a way to extract ourselves from the current economic malaise. In his very first paragraph he perceptively derides the "regulation is the answer" pap, and concludes with this:

"What is needed instead is something far more sweeping: for people to internalize a different sense of how one ought to behave, and act on it because they believe it is right."

Right away it is easy to see he is a product of the World System, even a sworn operative doing its bidding, spouting about World ways to solve World problems. However eloquent he is, and he is that at some points, no one will ever be able to do anything he thinks they should do because it is missing the most critical part.

Etzioni is a wholly devout World guy because he does what all World people do all the time. He appeals to what philosopher Immanuel Kant referred to as the "categorial imperative," the idea that we should do what is right simply because we should do what is right. My question is this:

So what?

Why should I do what is right because I believe it is right? What if I believe it is right but it is a lie? And why should I do what is right if I know in the end nothing will come of it? These myopic materialists blab and blab and blab about what we all should be doing--hey, don't get me wrong! We should be doing a lot of very good things! Some of which Etzioni mentions! Being unselfish. Thinking about things beyond ourselves. Considering those around you when you make decisions. Awesome. Really--not being facetious here. Awesome stuff.

But again, here's the question I have that very few people ask. Remember the question?

So what?

The World answer to that question whatever it is will always result in a lie so pervasive that the economy looks as crappy as it does. That lie:

"Hey, I'm doing good!"

Many people even acknowledge the truth of their predicament as they're out there doing good:

"I'm doing all this work even though I have no idea why I'm doing this, and I can see no fulfillment in the end from any of this."

This is why all of Mr. Etzioni's blithering--and I do not necessarily single out Mr. Etzioni because every World inhabitant does this--is utterly, completely, abjectly pointless. It is such because it has no end-game in sight. The only end-game is the One from Whom it is all held together in the first place.

He is Jesus Christ.

What gets me is that Jesus Christ isn't in the picture at all because His image and persona and even words have been so co-opted by World operatives, particularly ecclesiastical ones, that He never enters the conversation. In fact, Etzioni mentioned something very interesting, the idea of "megalogues." These are those major discussions large groups of people, indeed whole nations have about important things.

We should be having more megalogues, really really important ones, so people can banter about things they are told the believe are really important--and they might be. But the end-game is only more blabbing. In fact I'd venture to say if anyone suggested any kind of closure to a vibrant "megalogue" he'd be summarily ostracized by the tolerance police.

I'd like to go a bit further and suggest that beyond megalogues there are metalogues, sort of overarching conversations made up of megalogues. I'd also like to further suggest that there are only two metalogues. Yes, only two.

There is the World metalogue and the Kingdom metalogue.

The World metalogue is the one Etzioni and every World inhabitant are in. Most, if not all, are set in motion by World operatives whose job it is to direct the metalogue stage. All this banging about of these ideas results in no lasting meaningful resolution at all, but it definitely comprises a lot of emotional and spiritual violence. I will add that appearing in this metalogue are thousands and thousands of Jesuses, each one used to buttress someone's mildly novel ideas in a megalogue.

The Kingdom metalogue is the one in which Jesus speaks, The Jesus, and people who desire truth and grace and joy and authenticity listen and then act on those words. It is the only metalogue in which true genuine charitable agape is expressed, and as such people can see the end-game: eternity with the One Who Loves with His Very Life.

The World metalogue is only about working hard to have nothing, which Etzioni speaks about throughout his piece. He even moralizes constantly about which things we should settle for, and which things reflect too much acquisitiveness. This is a classic characteristic of Catholicist thinking: be in some form of privation for privation's sake. What an awful existence, and while Jesus does say we should not be selfish, He never says we cannot enjoy the fruits of what He made us to be able to produce.

The Kingdom metalogue is about trusting in Christ who has everything, and, hey, just as the very best friend one could have, wants us to enjoy it all.

Funny, Etzioni does mention the transcendent nature of what's really meaningful, but stops at Chinese water-coloring. Don't get me wrong, I like Chinese water-coloring, I really do.

But, come on.

Which would you rather be with?

A painting, or the Lord of Heaven and Earth?