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Do You Suffer from PERS?!?!?
In a recent talk – Home Schooling to Rock the World – I mentioned some symptoms that a person may be suffering from ‘post-Enlightenment reduction syndrome,’ (PERS) or ‘flattening’. This is the atrophy of one’s analogic sense – a reduction in the metaphoric dimension of human being. The problem is a disconnect in the person’s capacity to relate concrete and abstract reality. Its source is the cultural vacuum caused by man’s attempt to believe there is no God. Man without a context for being (In Him I live and move and have being) is like an astronaut untethered from the space ship – dying for lack of a life-supporting atmosphere.
Of course this is a great over-simplification of an enormously complex problem. My hope was to point out to Christians that they, too, may (and probably do) have PERS to some degree. Here are a few ‘flatitudes’ – indicators of a flattened metaphoric dimension, or analogic sense. Each one has an opposite ‘floatitude’ – another way people avoid the tension and turbulence of the territory of freedom.
Sadly, people with far-advance PERS won’t be easily able to recognize these symptoms in themselves. But if we can all get honest about the ways we are compromised by and “conformed to the pattern of this world,” we can grow better able to rescue the perishing together, imho. That’s the world-rocking I’m talking about!!
Since I placed the Flatitudes and Floatitudes in juxtaposition, I can’t seem to recreate that formatting here. Read the PDF and then….
The last paragraph:
I imagine you get the idea: we Catholics have access to and support to move freely in the vast territory of human freedom. ‘We’ can usually see when ‘they’ move from freedom to ‘license,’ but are less aware when we ourselves have moved from ‘free’ toward ‘tame’ under the pressure of PERS. I believe that, if ever we become fully, abundantly free, the enormity of our joy, the magnanimity of our giving, the certainty of our faith, and the expressivity of our love would communicate Christ to the world!
Naturally, I’d love your thoughts on this. Sadly, one of the huge losses due to PERS is the lack of responsivity to ideas…sigh…
Link to the whole talk on YouTube, here.
Thanks to a friend who lets the Spirit move her, I now own a volume of Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry. I’m enjoying lots of lovely morsels from In Praise of Mortality, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. Rilke wrote these Sonnets to Orpheus after the First World War left him bereft of words. He was paralyzed by the horror and destruction, but turned a corner in the effort to reconcile it with his vocation. As he saw it, a poet is called to praise, to “grasp and give shape to” his world, to name the world in gratitude for the goodness shining through it.
Here, the mythological Orpheus, prefiguring Christ in a form of preparatio evangelium, overcomes the darkness with the gift of his own life, and with his song. These sonnets, like the psalms, bear, through the art of poetry the tensions of real life in a dark but hope-filled world. Rilke’s joy in and union with Creation gave me a sense of his return to hope through the naming of the world that is poesis. “Tell me, Orpheus, what offering can I make to you, who taught the creatures how to listen?” Clearly, the appropriate offering for God’s gift of Creation is gratitude.
Speaking of a galloping horse, Rilke tells Orpheus “He embraced the distances as if he could sing them, as if your songs were completed in him.” Of forest animals he says, “…it was not fear or cunning that made them be so quiet, but the desire to listen.” Of an apple he writes, “…this sweetness which first condensed itself so that, in the tasting, it may burst forth and be known in all its meanings…” What a beautiful refusal to let an apple become an empty mental construct, or an impotent label. For Rilke, creation is actively calling to us – a super-Reality, and not an inert stage set for a meaningless play.
It’s impossible to do justice to poetry with excerpted lines, though I have many juicy favorites in this book. Since we are, ourselves, accosted in this day by the darkness that threatened to overwhelm this poet, I’ll give just one of his poems, whole, so you can sense the beauty of the rest.
“Only he who lifts his lyre
in the Underworld as well
may come back
to praising, endlessly.
Only he who has eaten
the food of the dead
will make music so clear
that even the softest tone is heard.
Though the reflection in the pool
often ripples away,
take the image within you.
Only in the double realm
do our voices carry
all they can say.”
(IX in Part One of Sonnets to Orpheus, in In Praise of Mortality.)
I hope that you who weekly eat the food of the dead, the Eucharist of the risen Christ, will take his image with you in the pool that is your interior being. There, His voice will carry, and through you be carried into the world. He is the double realm in whom we may live, move, and have being, and He has overcome death so that we may be free to praise Him endlessly. The heart of Christ, seen through Rilke’s reflections on Orpheus, “is a winepress destined to break, that makes for us an eternal wine.”
There’s so much more to love in this little volume, but go find your own, or make friends with someone who will think of you in dusty bookstores.
I mention the placenta so often, I had to post this image!
Here, also, are links to every one of my posts that mentions placenta!
In case you didn’t get it, this photo is of…drumroll, please…a placenta!
“The truth is that when people are…really wild with freedom and invention, they always must, and they always do, create institutions.” G. K. Chesterton
I love this quote, and include it in the first Manifest (news and literary journal of Epiphany…a liberative arts university), because the question came up at a faculty meeting.
“Epiphany had hardly existed an hour before new institutions were springing up on the campus: Epiphany Press, the Blessed Order of Elizabeths, Incipe – a foundation dedicated to the beginning of good works, Euphonium – Epiphany’s chorale, and Manifest – its news and literary journal.” For myself, this story had hardly existed a week before I created the Joy Foundation. What I saw through fiction helped me to understand why free men always create institutions. [Read more…]