These two-part posts are kinda fun.
Anyway, I jumped in with the Cloud of Unknowing and the Book of Privy Counseling (they’re combined for this edition) yesterday. I haven’t hit the actual text yet; just a few pages into the introduction. Don’t you hate that? You go to read a classic text and you have to wade through a 100-page introduction on it that can sort of frame how you view the whole book. This is one of the reasons I had a hard time getting anywhere in The Iliad (at least it was the first reason that came up). Some blowhard scholar feels the need to give some long-winded explanation of the entire book and make you see it through his eyes. Now, for some, an introduction doesn’t do much to their own view, but some of us have trouble shaking what the intro had to say about the book.
However, this one’s not too bad. It’s not super long, and I haven’t finished it yet only because the last two days have been pretty busy. I’m really interested in this book, and it’s actually due in part to the introduction. My old, decrepit copy is edited and introduced by a man named William Johnston (a Jesuit theologian based at Sophia University at Tokyo who, apparently, worked on another edition with famous comparative religion author Huston Smith), who helps the reader understand the book not only from a solid, Christian perspective, but also from Zen Buddhists. This book came out at a time when there was a great merging of Eastern and Western mysticism. People, looking to find God outside the confines of a dry, hypocritical church, turned to the East to find enlightenment, then returned to the west to find it in their own history. As a result, the Cloud of Unknowing became very popular for its apophatic theology and seeming connection to Zen Buddhist’s doctrine of self-annihilation. Johnston does remain predominately Christian in his interpretation, but seeing the Buddhist side helps to understand matters in a new light.
One final note on the book: Johnston places on the first page a note from the unknown author of the book. The author compels readers to read carefully and thoroughly, that his book is not for the hypercritical or the moderately curious, but for those compelled to read it out of love for God. In reading the first page, I realized that I was holding something written by a man who sought to fully lose himself in God, and find his entire being within the Almighty. I hope that, in reading this, I take it seriously, and carefully study everything the author has also taken great care to write.
As for On the Campaign Trail, I haven’t gotten very much further in the book itself. Thompson did make an interesting comment, though, regarding the disaffected youth vote and the two-party system.
There are only two ways you can make it in politics today: One is to come in like a mean dinosaur, with a high powered machine that scares the shit out of your entrenched opposition (like Daley or Nixon)…and the other is top tap into the massive, frustrated energies of a mainly young, disillusioned electorate that has long abandoned the idea that we all have a duty to vote. This is like being told you have a duty to buy a new car, but you have to choose immediately between a Ford and a Chevy.
It’s sad to see that this disillusionment hasn’t changed in the 40 years since Thompson wrote On The Campaign Trail, but Thompson points out the obvious reason: lack of choice. Sure, there’s two candidates, but it’s strange to me that they sound so alike (note my sarcasm here). All the same, the perpetuation of the current political game continues on in this election year, and its hard for me to muster up any desire to even think about voting. I’m an independent, so the primaries are out for me in May, but when November rolls around, unless someone actually comes around looking to change the game, I don’t think I’ll be voting. To me, it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario. I can vote in the election come November, and support a horribly broken system which produces no fruit, or I could not, and be labelled as “unpatriotic” and “apathetic” by anyone who reads this blog.
Forgive me if I sound jaded, but this makes me care even less about who’s President: I am a Christian, and, in my life, the laws of Scripture will always supersede those of man. You can tell me I hate America (I don’t). You can say I should just go live somewhere where they don’t have the rights we do (honestly, if I had the means and could do some good there, I would), but this will always ring true for me: no matter who is President, my King already reigns over him, and nothing the President does, no power he wields, is without divine appointment.
See you Monday.