One of the questions Zizoulas tackles sounds odd to a layman, but to philosophers it's no small inquiry: what is a person? We can dispense with biologOne of the questions Zizoulas tackles sounds odd to a layman, but to philosophers it's no small inquiry: what is a person? We can dispense with biological answers: a person is a being born to people, is homo sapiens, etc., because the question is not: what is a human? or even: what is an individual? The question regards uniqueness: what makes you a unique person, as opposed to, say, the 9,487,756,321st human to be birthed since the dawn of man?
Zizoulas ties his answer to communion--we are unique humans insofar as we are in intimate relationship with other beings. I am no longer human number 9,487,756,321 when I become a son, a husband, a father, a friend. Of course everyone is automatically someone's child, if nothing else, so surely that would settle the silly question, but if you have no place in your heart for your parents, for siblings, for spouse, children, friends, then while you may have biological or social ties, you are not in relationship with them. If you do not love others more than yourself, in other words, you are nothing more than human number 9,487,756,321.
The connection to communion in the Orthodox faith, then, is a recognition of the relationships within the Trinity. Each Being of the Trinity reverences and adores the other, and they invite us to be part of their communion. Our being is tied up in our embrace of the Trinitarian God, our destruction, as unique beings, is brought about when we reject this invitation. Zizoulas traces the implications of this understanding to various topics: why the Orthodox liturgy has the structure it has, our understanding of the authority of bishops, the nature of baptism, and so on, which is probably uninteresting to the non-Orthodox (though it does offer, indirectly, criticisms of non-Orthodox traditions), but which to the Orthodox can be eye-opening. "So THAT'S why we do it that way." Overall a thought-inspiring book....more
Shtenyngart has a wonderful eye for detail, and memorable means of describing characters. He also cares about big trends--the implosion of his nativeShtenyngart has a wonderful eye for detail, and memorable means of describing characters. He also cares about big trends--the implosion of his native Russia and her former satellites, the vapid commercialization of the West and the destruction of tradition this entails, the concomitant commercialization of personal relationships, the pervasive alienation of person from person. The challenge is not letting gimlet eye and historical survey swamp your plot. He leaves his protagonist stuck in the woods at a border between two countries at the end of the novel, which makes perfect sense as a metaphor for all the themes he's explored in the preceding pages. It's artistically just right, I suppose, but unsatisfying to this reader, at least....more
The West won't be extinguished precisely this way, nor will it know when its days are over, for the demagogues and semi-literates who rule it will imaThe West won't be extinguished precisely this way, nor will it know when its days are over, for the demagogues and semi-literates who rule it will imagine its greatest days are still ahead even as the lights go out, but I suspect its demise won't be too far afield from what Raspail describes. Don't bother reading if you're offended by terms like "the West," you'll only be scandalized by a writer who apparently did not give one whit whether he maintained his good standing in the Acceptable Opinions Club....more
We are yanking free the anchors, worrying loose the cables, and where once this was effected with radical fervor, it's now a consequence of indolence,We are yanking free the anchors, worrying loose the cables, and where once this was effected with radical fervor, it's now a consequence of indolence, of decay, of corruption. Our politics are dominated by preeners who speak as utopians and govern as apparatchiks. Our news is brought to us by people who understand little of what they attempt to relate. Our children are instructed by dullards. Our churches continue to splinter, our civil bonds disintegrate, and a near-majority of adults choose either to murder their children in the womb or abandon them at birth.
Russell Kirk can help us understand why the institutions we no longer value are important. He does little to explain how they might be regained when they are shattered, and when a majority of the populace neither understands, values, nor even longs for them. Perhaps this is because when he wrote, there still seemed hope of restoring reason and order to the U.S., perhaps even England. What he didn't anticipate is that the political and business leaders who rushed to the banner of conservatism in his time would be unworthy, and ultimately prove themselves venal, ignorant, and self-seeking.
"In every period," Kirk writes, "some will endeavor to pull down the permanent things, and others will defend them manfully." Even without the pulling of our nation's cold-souled bureaucrats and administrators, the permanent things have begun to collapse under their own weight. Who will build them again? That's the question now....more