The once unimaginable not only becomes imaginable, but it is reality in a humanity flush with cascading technological advancements, individualized social experimentation, and national policies that continually shift so as to be dislodged from their foundational underpinnings. It is not unreasonable then to ask the question: “What does it mean to be human?” Even in regard to this, the most basic of questions, we will resort to definitions based on labels, choices, goals, how we communicate, possessions, titles, and so on, for an answer. None of which tells us much of anything except for where we stand in the whirlwind that is modernity. It is a matter of perspective.
We have been reared, trained so to speak, to desire consumption and security. Consume to live. Live to consume. Security to consume. So that we may live. To consume. To live. And be secure. And we read into “consume” the right to choose anything for ourselves. Anything at all. And must there always be an agenda? So therein provides the foundation of sand for motivation, and motivation is what animates the soul, and brings action to the body. This is made all the more terrible when we realize that we are creatures of mixed motivations. The potentiality of choices is made incarnate by the action of the body enlivened by the soul. If we were to be cut off from the messages that have formed us, the natural reaction would be to feel insecure, perhaps even lost, and seek the refuge of the familiar, with possessions and toys, and protected by a fortress of definitions.
Do we not need, to be human, the ability to be something beyond this construct? How is this possible? We are formed continually until death by everything that surrounds us. We are in communion with this world from creation, good and bad. There can be real value in developing ourselves through the mediation of creativity – ours or of others – that has the ability to touch the heart, the soul. At one time I may have scoffed at notions that Art and Beauty can save the world. If transformation of mankind comes from replicated movement of individuals, however, then acts of individuals freeing themselves from the programming of societal forces can result in real and meaningful change. This alone is insufficient. Art and Beauty devoid of action will transform thinking and nothing more.
We should not be naive. An attempted escape from the cycle of ingrained self-interested motivation is not a real destination – it is a process. It is to seek to learn how to live in the City – the Glory of the Creator “in the redeemed and universal union.” Writing in the Dublin Review in October 1941, Charles Williams describes “The Redeemed City”: “The Holy Ghost moves us to be, by every means to which we are called, the Images of Christ, the types of the Original, in or out of the flesh. It is the intercourse of those free images which is the union of the City. The name of the City is Union; the operation of the Infamy is by outrage on that union. The process of that union is by the method of free exchange.” We must accept certain outrages upon the union – that is the nature of this world. But, “[t]he feast of Christ the King is also the feast of Christ the City. The principle of the City, and the gates of it, are the nature of Christ as the Holy Ghost exhibits it and inducts us into it; it is the doctrine that no man live to himself or indeed from himself. This is the doctrine common to nature and grace. The doctrine is universal, we are forbidden to exclude anyone from the union (even ourselves). How could we if we are to live in the City? “[T]he Infamy proceeds to exclude, and then, so far as it can, to enslave or to annihilate.” But we do exclude. “It may be observed at work in ourselves every day anywhere; for it is that which rejects in us a universal humility, a courtesy of carriage towards facts other than ourselves, a recognition of the creation even when that creation appears to us displeasing.” We exclude, and sometimes with a vengeance. Yes, with a vengeance even though judgement is denied to us.
[T]he only judgement we are allowed to pronounce is pardon. …. Pardon in its proper nature is not a single but a mutual thing. There can be few relationships of any depth in which there is not some outrage to forgive…. To retain or remit a grudge is the choice between the Infamy and the City; it is the choice between the willingness to exclude another and the willingness to include another. Pardon as a disposition of the soul is a necessity—so long as the soul does not make too much of the business of forgiving.
The City is exchange, forgiveness and pardon, co-inherence with others, manifested through motivated, incarnate acts. Citing the Apostles’ Creed:
“[T]he Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins, the Resurrection of the Body, and the Life everlasting”. They are the qualities of the renewed perfection of union—interchange, interchange redeeming even the denial of itself, the glory of the holy flesh by which so much was known, the infinite power in all the glory. The glory is the thing happening; it is not, though in our talk we seem to make it so and can only believe in it so, an accident of the thing happening. The glory of God is in facts. The almost incredible nature of things is that there is no fact which is not in His glory. This is the great inclusion which makes the City.
We were meant to live in the City. Today, this day, I want to consider Infamy – outrages on the union—our union; and ponder entrance into the City, the one we were meant to inhabit.
Rdr. Timothy, a sinner.