True it is we have seen better days,
And have with holy bell been knolled to church,
And sat at good men’s feasts, and wiped our eyes
Of drops that sacred pity hath engendered.”
– As You Like It, William Shakespeare
This incredible quote, a jewel among many jewels in Dr. Anthony Esolen’s book Out of the Ashes, is in many ways an encapsulation of what we have lost in our culture. There is something about a life in communion, a life with the church building at its center, a life of common feasting and weeping from compunction, that many of us only dream about now.
Instead, we live in concrete wastelands of fragmented isolation while our village communities crumble around us. We eat bad food made by the hands of people we don’t know. When was the last time we had an experience of “sacred pity” that causes grown men to weep? We have no time for anything, certainly not the creation of beautiful things, but not even for meaningful relationships, not even within our families.
And our schools have become factories churning out mindless drones. And our colleges are more interested in safe spaces than in the pursuit of goodness and truth. But all this is also in a world that is increasing pulling itself out of the usual sources of suffering and pain. Poverty, lack of food, wars and violence–they are all on the downturn, in spite of what we hear on the news.
And yet, we have never been so anxious or so devoid of compunction, of a sense of abiding in beauty. And if we don’t have experiences of the beautiful everyday in our own lives, how can we hope to strive toward the source of that beauty, Christ Himself?
Enough Hand-wringing, already…
Ok, fine. Enough complaining about how bad things are. Let’s do something about it. As I’ve argued before, the only way we can do this now, in the wasteland of Disneyfied postmodernism, is to create a new culture. Not look for it only in the past. Not dream about an idealized and impossible future. After all, as Fr. Stephen Freeman reminded us only a few days ago, though history may be a long defeat, the victory is already being prepared here and now.
This is how we’re going to start. A few days ago, Benedict and Maria Sheehan and I met (virtually) with Bobby Maddex to talk about the Artefact Institute. Enough looking for good culture. It’s time to create it. Come and create it with us: