Friday, May 11, 2007

Comfort in silence

Non interludus

Among the English Roman Catholics portrayed in David Lodge's 1980 novel How Far Can You Go? [published in the U.S. as Souls and Bodies] is Austin Brierley, a parish priest on a sabbatical to take a degree in psychology:
The books in [his] rucksack were paperbacks on sociology, psychology, philosophy, sexuality, comparative religion. Austin felt that he had a lot of reading to catch up on—too much. His head was a buzzing hive of awakened but directionless ideas. There was Freud who said that we must acknowledge our own repressed desires, and Jung who said we must recognize our archetypal patterning, and Marx who said we must join the class struggle and Marshall McLuhan who said we must watch more television. There was Sartre who said that man was absurd though free and Skinner who said that man was a bundle of conditioned reflexes and Chomsky who said he was a sentence-generating organism and Wilhelm Reich who said he was an orgasm-having organism. Each book that Austin read seemed to him totally persuasive at the time, but they couldn't all be right. And which were most easily reconcilable with faith in God? For that matter, what was God? Kant said he was the essential presupposition of moral action, Bishop Robinson said he was the ground of our being, and Teilhard de Chardin said he was the Omega Point. Wittgenstein said, whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent—an aphorism in which Austin Brierley found great comfort.

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