A world holding its breath

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Today the world is holding its breath, waiting in helpless silence as we’ve done many times before.

Last year we published a reflection following news of the terror in Brussels, Belgium. Today the darkness that clouds our hearts and minds comes from the madness of a two little boys playing with nuclear toys. (See “North Korea hits back at Trump ahead of Day of the Sun“.)

Nuclear-explosionNot since Hiroshima and Nagasaki has a nuclear bomb been used, but, today, Holy Saturday, the people of Japan are living in the memory of that holocaust, holding their breath as the bellicose standoff between Kim Jong-un and the man who promises to take care of him plunges them again under the nuclear cloud of post-traumatic stress of 1945, their peculiar Friday and Holy Saturday.

On Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter, we experience the silence of nothingness.

The sounds of hammers, taunts, and screams, and the sight of three dead men very different in life but equal now in death leave us face-to-face with all that is cruel, hopeless, meaningless – the darkness of despair.

This Holy Saturday the world is on full alert. Dread and fear spread. We who live in the aftermath of the latest terror in Brussels experience Holy Saturday – the day between Good Friday and Easter, knowing that only a resurrection can redeem a Good Friday world. – Views from the Edge, Holy Saturday, 2016

One short year ago on Holy Saturday the world knew of one little boy playing with nuclear toys. This year there are two. And the Easter story of the empty tomb remains either a fanciful illusion or the good news of a deeper reality beneath the silence: the descent from the cross by a Word greater than every reason for dark despair.

Pontormo, Jacopo da, 1494-1556. Descent from the Cross,

Descent from the Cross – Jacopo da Pontormo (1494-1556)

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Holy Saturday, April 15, 2017.

 

Washington’s Provocation of North Korea

Washington’s Playbook to Provoke North Korea came to our attention this morning in a comment on yesterday’s Views from the Edge post “Little Boys with Toys” from a highly respected historian.

Sometimes the COMMENTS move in directions that deserve wider attention. This is one of those times. Below are 1) the comment, 2) Views from the Edge’s reply, and 3) an invitation to weigh in on the discussion.

1) The COMMENT:

As much as I agree with thoughts just posted about Kim Jong Un I think they need to be tempered by an understanding of the origin of North Korea’s behavior. Imagine a country 1/2 the size of Minnesota, N. Korea, with its 30 million people. Could Mn. feed 30 mill. people in its northern half where ag land is limited by forests and rock as N. Korea has to try and do? Not likely.

Then we have to consider the fact that in 1945 Henry Cabot Lodge was the US diplomat that unilaterally made the 38th parallel the border for the US interest in decapitating the nation of Korea to prevent it from going communist. How would we feel if an outside force turned the US into 2 countries to weaken us a nation.

At the time N. Korea has just seen the US drop 2 atomic bombs a few hundred miles away on Japan. The US then proceeds to bomb every building in N. Korea during the Korean War. Literally the US made the decision to bomb N. Korea back into the stone age. Again this done to a country that is geographically half the size of Minnesota. Why do we wonder about the behavior of the leaders of a country that has been treated this way by us. Me thinks Washington “doth protest too loudly”.

If we as a nation were willing to do what we did to N. Korea 67 yrs. ago why would we think the present US bellicose attitude is anything more than propaganda to perpetuate the neutralization of N. Korea as a force that might interfere with our interest to dominate Southeast Asia.

An understanding of geo-strategic theory we inherited from the British after WW II is instructive in understanding the hidden history of N. Korea. It is necessary to read Halford MacKinder, the 1890s British father of geo- strategic theory, to understand the Pentagon’s morally bankrupt approach to N. Korea.

2) The REPLY

I couldn’t agree more with the geo-political analysis of the sordid history that has isolated this small nation. As the old saying goes, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there’s nobody out to get you.” They have many reasons to hate the U.S. A nation half the size of Minnesota with 30M people devastated by the Korean “Conflict” has ever reason to fear the most powerful nation on the face of the Earth. We (the U.S.A.) have not honored the terms of the treaties with N. Korea. They have no reason to trust.

The historian’s eye brings all of this front and center, and serves to remind us that we in the U.S. are constantly conditioned by propaganda and misinformation campaigns from the highest sources.

Even so, I can’t help but see the same father-son relationship in N. Korea that we saw in George Herbert Walker Bush and his son George W. who sought to finish (and outdo!) his father’s “manly” work. In both cases a sense of the numinous is shrunk to the size of the father and the nation that once worshiped him. Or…so I think 🙂

3) YOUR thoughts on the matter?

Little Boys with Toys

(Previously published commentary on North Korean leader with more attractive title) 🙂

Rudolph Otto’s idea of the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, the source of holy dread and attraction that sends shudders down the human spine, rises to the fore as North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong Un plays with the possibility of nuclear holocaust.

It’s one thing to play with toys. It’s something else when the toys are nuclear bombs and missiles.

In The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational, Rudolph Otto examines what he called the “numen,” the non-rational mystery that evokes feelings at once terrifying and sublime regarding our human condition.

“Otto on the Numinous” provides a concise introduction by an unidentified City University of New York English professor.

In The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational, Rudolph Otto identifies and explores the non-rational mystery behind religion and the religious experience (“non-rational” should not be confused with “irrational”); he called this mystery, which is the basic element in all religions, the numinous. He uses the related word “numen” to refer to deity or God.

Forced, necessarily, to use familiar words, like “dread” and “majesty,” Otto insists that he is using them in a special sense; to emphasize this fact, he sometimes uses Latin or Greek words for key concepts. This fact is crucial to understanding Otto. Our feeling of the numinous and responses to the numinous are not ordinary ones intensified; they are unique (I use this word in its original meaning of “one of a kind, the only one”) or sui generis (meaning “in a class by itself”). For example, fear does not become dread in response to the numinous; rather, we cease to feel ordinary fear and move into an entirely different feeling, a dread that is aroused by intimations of the numinous or the actual experience of the numinous.

The word “absolute” is used in its metaphysical sense of “existing without relation to any other being; self-existent; self-sufficing” (OED); its adjectival form, “absolutely,” is used with the same meaning.”

The fact that North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong Un is threatening the world with nuclear holocaust does what World War I did to many theologians who had presumed that history is on a course of inevitable progress.

It is not.

The power of death is enticing, a sin to which Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the bomb, later confessed. The human will to power becomes evil when real soldiers, real nuclear bombs, and real missiles, and real threats of destruction are mistaken for childhood toys or computer games where human folly can be erased by hitting a delete button.

We are all children inside, for both good and ill.

Looking at the young North Korean leader, psychiatrists might see an Oedipus complex, the son outdoing the father at the game of nuclear threat, the boy who played with matches and determined that if his father was afraid to light the fuse, he would step out from his father’s shadow onto the stage of world power in a way the world would never forget.

But deeper and more encompassing than any Freudian analysis is Rudolph Otto’s mysterium tremendum et fascinans.

The philosophical-theological debates about Modernism and Post-Modernism are interesting. They deserve our attention. But neither Modernism’s rationalism nor Post-Modernism’s deconstructionism is equipped to address the most basic reality which encompassing the human condition: the mysterium tremendum et fascinans and the horror of its daemonic distortion in the shrinking of it by the human will to power.

Whenever we take the ultimate trembling and fascination of the self into our own hands, the world is put at risk. In the world of the ancients and the pre-historical world of our evolutionary ancestors the consequences were limited to a neighbor’s skull broken with a club. In the advanced species that has progressed from those primitive origins, we have fallen in love with our own toys of destruction, the technical achievements and manufactured mysteries that are deadly surrogates for the mysterium tremendum et fascinans that sends shudders down the spine in terror and in joy before what is Real.

Our time is perilously close to mass suicide. Unless and until we get it straight that I/we are not the Center of the universe, the likes of Kim Jong Un – and his mirror opposites but like-minded opponents on this side of the Pacific – will hold us hostage to the evil that lurks in human goodness.

Progress isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The ancient shudder of the creature – the human cry for help in the face of chaos and the heart’s leap toward what is greater than the self or our social constructs – unmasks every illusion of grandeur in a world increasingly put at risk by little boys with toys.

P.S. Just as this piece was in final editing, Dennis Aubrey published “Mysterium Tremendum” on Via Lucis Photography.

Kim Jong Un and the Numinous

Rudolph Otto’s idea of the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, the source of holy dread and attraction that sends shudders down the human spine, rises to the fore as North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong Un plays with the possibility of nuclear holocaust.

It’s one thing to play with toys. It’s something else when the toys are nuclear bombs and missiles.

In The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational, Rudolph Otto examines what he called the “numen,” the non-rational mystery that evokes feelings at once terrifying and sublime regarding our human condition.

“Otto on the Numinous” provides a concise introduction by an unidentified City University of New York English professor.

In The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational, Rudolph Otto identifies and explores the non-rational mystery behind religion and the religious experience (“non-rational” should not be confused with “irrational”); he called this mystery, which is the basic element in all religions, the numinous. He uses the related word “numen” to refer to deity or God.

Forced, necessarily, to use familiar words, like “dread” and “majesty,” Otto insists that he is using them in a special sense; to emphasize this fact, he sometimes uses Latin or Greek words for key concepts. This fact is crucial to understanding Otto. Our feeling of the numinous and responses to the numinous are not ordinary ones intensified; they are unique (I use this word in its original meaning of “one of a kind, the only one”) or sui generis (meaning “in a class by itself”). For example, fear does not become dread in response to the numinous; rather, we cease to feel ordinary fear and move into an entirely different feeling, a dread that is aroused by intimations of the numinous or the actual experience of the numinous.

The word “absolute” is used in its metaphysical sense of “existing without relation to any other being; self-existent; self-sufficing” (OED); its adjectival form, “absolutely,” is used with the same meaning.”

The fact that North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong Un is threatening the world with nuclear holocaust does what World War I did to many theologians who had presumed that history is on a course of inevitable progress.

It is not.

The power of death is enticing, a sin to which Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the bomb, later confessed. The human will to power becomes evil when real soldiers, real nuclear bombs, and real missiles, and real threats of destruction are mistaken for childhood toys or computer games where human folly can be erased by hitting a delete button.

We are all children inside, for both good and ill.

Looking at the young North Korean leader, psychiatrists might see an Oedipus complex, the son outdoing the father at the game of nuclear threat, the boy who played with matches and determined that if his father was afraid to light the fuse, he would step out from his father’s shadow onto the stage of world power in a way the world would never forget.

But deeper and more encompassing than any Freudian analysis is Rudolph Otto’s mysterium tremendum et fascinans.

The philosophical-theological debates about Modernism and Post-Modernism are interesting. They deserve our attention. But neither Modernism’s rationalism nor Post-Modernism’s deconstructionism is equipped to address the most basic reality which encompassing the human condition: the mysterium tremendum et fascinans and the horror of its daemonic distortion in the shrinking of it by the human will to power.

Whenever we take the ultimate trembling and fascination of the self into our own hands, the world is put at risk. In the world of the ancients and the pre-historical world of our evolutionary ancestors the consequences were limited to a neighbor’s skull broken with a club. In the advanced species that has progressed from those primitive origins, we have fallen in love with our own toys of destruction, the technical achievements and manufactured mysteries that are deadly surrogates for the mysterium tremendum et fascinans that sends shudders down the spine in terror and in joy before what is Real.

Our time is perilously close to mass suicide. Unless and until we get it straight that I/we are not the Center of the universe, the likes of Kim Jong Un – and his mirror opposite but like-minded opponents on this side of the Pacific – will hold us hostage to the evil that lurks in human goodness.

Progress isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The ancient shudder of the creature – the human cry for help in the face of chaos and the heart’s leap toward what is greater than the self or our social constructs – unmasks every illusion of grandeur in a world increasingly put at risk by little boys with toys.

P.S. Just as this piece was in final editing, Dennis Aubrey published “Mysterium Tremendum” on Via Lucis Photography.