Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What is Really Worth Living For?


Any claim about God and the great merciful events of His incarnation and redemption become very difficult to propose in a social milieu that exalts subjectivism and personal relativism regarding the meaning of things. Realism is the presupposition for Christianity. A realist attitude affects in a very basic way how we approach questions in life and evaluate things.

Realism looks at a thing according to every aspect that it “evinces.” Realism seeks constantly for and attends to the evidence that the thing itself presents regarding the things own inherent significance and value. A realist does not, therefore, bend the evidence manifested by things and situations within the circumstances of life in order to support his ideology or his subjective desires. He does not ignore pieces of evidence that contradict his pre-established view or wish about how something ought to be.

Because he is interested in the objective truth that is indicated and manifested by things, he is willing to follow these indications, to discover new truths, to have his vision of reality increased and deepened. And because he is obedient to the truth, he will embrace the truth that is thus manifested to him even if it seems inconvenient or makes demands upon him. He will not try to rationalize, explain away, or ignore anything that is made clear to him by the evidence. He will embrace the conclusion that follows naturally from the evidence rather than exaggerating the importance of unessential points that perhaps remain obscure in order to have a pretext for evading this conclusion.

Many people might still agree today that the realist attitude described above represents the ideal for how a human being ought to live his daily life. Nevertheless, it is singularly difficult for many people today, especially in the affluent West, to be genuinely realistic in their attitude in front of anything that might require them to change their way of behaving.

Certainly it is always difficult for frail human nature to accept the challenge of personal (i.e. moral) maturity. The realistic attitude about man is richly aware of the fact that man is a sinner, and that his personal resources are fragile and in need of both internal and external supports. The problem today, however, is made much more acute by the fact that people today are systematically mis-educated in the relativist, subject-centered attitude and in the pride and rationalization that go with it.

We are taught and are surrounded by a culture that constantly impresses upon us the idea that our human fragility is actually strength, our foolishness is wisdom, our instinctual whims are genuine judgments regarding what is good. Moreover, this attitude reigns almost without opposition in the highest realms of human perception, namely the realms of ontology and religion, where man must grapple with the most fundamental truths about the world and about his own personality.

Nevertheless, some aspects of the attitude of realism remain alive in any person who possesses any measure of sanity. Human beings by nature are so “attuned” to reality that even the subjectivist attitude cannot assert itself as a social proposal by appealing to raw selfishness. Rather, it inevitably seeks to justify itself theoretically--in other words, to say, “it is objectively true (i.e. it is proper to the objective reality of how man’s intellect and will operate) that man determine for himself the meaning of things.”

This implies that there is at least one thing that man does not determine for himself, namely, his alleged power to determine the ultimate significance of everything for himself. This power is universal; it is the “right” of every man, and indeed a “given” of human existence. Thus even the relativist, self-centered view of life is led inexorably to give some objective account of the nature of the human person.

It is inevitable that human beings, whether they admit it or not, will affirm at least something to be real, to be an objective meaning and value for which it is worth living. The question, then, cannot be escaped: "What gives meaning to our lives? What is really worth living for?"

1 comment:

JohnL said...

Thank you John for your thoughtful article which I am in full agreement. What our Western culture fails to see that the more it pursues the 'relativist' approach to human relations and dealings the greater the social hole we are digging for ourselves. In many ways the period of 20s and 30s was very similar, except the middle and lower classes with all their human faults still had a 'realistic' appreciation of moral values.