Saturday, April 14, 2007

Socrates drank hemlock

As a teenager I had great faith in reason, and whatever faith I may have been born with was no doubt strengthened by my youthful reading of Plato's dialogues. I believed that if a person presented a logical argument for something, then everyone who could understand it was bound to accept it. I eventually realized, however, that such rationality failed many more times than it succeeded. People just wouldn't be bound by logic. And in time I remembered that Socrates ended up drinking hemlock.

But now it seems to me consistent with the paradox of freedom tucked inside the Seminal Nut of Being that logic doesn't rule the affairs of the universe any more than it rules the affairs of humankind. Miracles (expressions of God's freedom?) demonstrate its misrule in the one, and human freedom its misrule in the other.

We're heard of the possibility that if humans are utterly free to act (that is, without correction from God) then everything is permitted. But even more fundamental, now, it seems that everything is required: not only the svelte grace of the gazelle, but also the gazelle's glazed eye as the lion takes it down for dinner; not only the perfectly born baby, but also the still birth; not only the hero's recognition in public adulation and fable, but also the innocent man's execution for another man's crime; and on and on, world without end.

In the droll English film I watched last night ("Keeping Mum"1), the Reverend Walter Goodfellow, Vicar of the Parish of Little Wollop, sums it up in his opening address at an Anglican convention:
Isaiah, Chapter 55, Verse 8:
My ways are not your ways.
And I think what He basically means by that is:
I'm mysterious, folks. Live with it!
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  1. Released in 2005, directed by Niall Johnson, with Rowan Atkinson as Rev. Goodfellow, Kristin Scott Thomas as his wife, Maggie Smith as Grace Hawkins, and Patrick Swayze as Lance.

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