Sunday, September 16, 2007

Living in a Skewed Society

Whether this passage is particularly profound, or whether it merely seems so to me because it applies so neatly to a situation I have observed lately, I cannot tell. Either way, for your delectation:

All things being equal, the simple-minded and the very intelligent men are the most easily unbalanced. A simple intellect cannot handle complex and subtle ideas because it is unable to resolve seeming contraries and make subtle distinc­tions. There are quite a few simple people in the world. For their own happiness, sanity and sanctity, they should lead simple, peaceful, ordered lives according to truths authorita­tively given them by others. The Catholic Church has always guarded the simple, and the near-simple. She has protected them when she could from religious controversy (while the wise could debate about such matters publicly), from reading harmful books, and even from the mental and moral tangles of Hollywood. When she made a society the simple were mostly on the land, close to animals and fields, folk music and dancing, and their guardian the Church. Even today the mildly demented among them can occasionally find sanctuary working in peace, silence, and simplicity for a monastery or convent.

Heaven help the simple today! The schools want them to make up their own minds about the gravest problems of life and eternity. The newspapers and radio invite them to con­sider matters too difficult for international statesmen to set­tle. Everyone has to have an opinion about everything, whether or not it is within his province or competence.

The very intelligent have a different problem, peculiar to societies like ours. Intelligence drives the mind to the discov­ery of basic principles, to correlating, comparing, weighing, testing. A philosophical genius could easily go mad in Harvard or Yale, where every professor consciously or unconsciously contradicts his colleagues, to say nothing of the internal inconsistencies in his own theories. In a world devoid of fundamental certainties, and even implicitly denying the pos­sibility of discovering truth, its best brains are tempted to blow themselves out. When high intellectual quality is com­bined, as it often soon is, with escape via the sense pleasures, the hazards are even greater. Again it is the Church which could have saved them, and would have in another age. The mind driven to distraction by Nietzsche and Hegel would have found rest, joy and adventure in the certainty of the Faith and the lucidity of the Summa Theologiae.

-from Mrs Carol Robinson's My Life with Thomas Aquinas.