I have just finished this book by Rose Wilder Lane that I have mentioned in a few recent posts. I almost can't begin to find the words to talk about what reading this book has stirred up in my heart. One image that comes to mind is how Giussani says sometimes one needs to get a crane to lift an obstacle out of one's path. This book has been a crane lifting an obstacle of murky understanding of the nature of humanity out of my path. I really, really want to hear from other Catholics, especially other followers of CL, who read this book to analyze it together, and really rip it apart. Because if I am just sentimentally drawn to an interesting book, I want to be disabused of false notions of its value.
This book, written in 1943, is historical and political in nature, and yet for me it illuminates theology and a spiritual understanding of what a human being is. It talks consistently of the freedom of men, of humankind (no, she didn't say "humankind" in 1943, she said men), and yet there is no discussion of spiritual freedom in Christ. She is speaking of human freedom as lived on this earth. I see, because of my spiritual perspective, a goldmine of understanding that is left unstated, perhaps even unmeant, under her words. No matter, as far as I'm concerned.
This passage sums up for me a great deal of the book, and also speaks powerfully to my own history:
Human energy works to supply human needs and satisfy human desires, only when, and where, and precisely to the extent that men know they are free (p. 224).Here is something of her discussion of God:
Abraham said that none of these [vindictive pagan gods, like the Greeks'] exist. He said that God is One Creator-and-Judge.
God is The Right, he said; Rightness creates the universe and judges men's acts. (As water judges a swimmer rightness in swimming, God judges rightness in living.) But God does not control any man, Abraham said: a man controls himself, he is free to do good or evil in the sight of God (p. 74).
This is clearly omitting any realization of God as Love, or God as Redeemer. The plan of salvation as revealed in Jesus Christ is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the book. Rather, the effort is to delineate the nature of the true God vis a vis pagan gods who are thought to magically control people's lives, or hold them to some prescribed service or role in life.
This longer passage is from the opening pages:
The control of human energy is individual control. An individual's desire to achieve some aim is the stimulus that generates human energy. The individual controls that energy.I go to the trouble of quoting these passages in order to point out that, even though she clearly is not starting her discourse from a fullness of revelation, neither is she contradicting revelation.
He always controls it in accordance with her personal view of the desirable, the good.
In other words: Every person acts on a basis of his religious faith....
Consciousness itself is an act of faith. No one can prove that he exists. No evidence of the senses, and no effort of logic, can demonstrate the existence of the element that everyone means when he says "I." I simply know that I exist.
In the same way, by faith, everyone knows that a standard of values exists. You can not know that you are cold, without having a standard of temperature. You can not like or dislike, or want or not want, anything, without having a standard of good. You can not generate energy to act, without desiring something that (to you) is good. You can not think, without faith that you exist and faith that a standard of value, a God, exists in the universe.
Of course millions do not believe... But it is impossible not to believe in God. The human mind will not work without a standard of value.
Anyone who imagines that he has no religious basis of thought and action is merely using another name for his god (xiii-xiv).
But perhaps the real value of this book for me, which apparently was written during a time when Lane was in the process of solidifying her Libertarian political beliefs, is this emphasis on freedom being that for which human beings were created, and that which calls them forth to act with the full human potential. When writing about the experiment of American government, barely 150 years old at the time, she does not gloss over the difficulties. She knows humans are not able to create a utopia. And yet, she sees the undebatable good that comes from human energies being freed to act, through a weak government and citizens' knowledge of their freedom. She also, writing in the midst of World War II, points out that those who try to crush human freedoms will do so using the very inventions produced by free men.
It is this realistic view of humanity that has really shaken me awake. In my younger days, I embraced (or was embraced by!) a severe passivity and sense of powerlessness. I have gradually experienced freedom as I have walked with Christ, which of necessity entails living in reality. I learned, for example, that when I needed a job, Jesus was not going to go fill out applications for me. I have also discovered, for example in marrying, that as I vow my life to Christ, I actually become freer. So for me, my knowledge of freedom absolutely is rooted in my experience of Christ. Lane speaks movingly in one passage of the religious faith of the American pioneers. Once in danger of arrest for meeting for worship or reading Scripture, in the frontier they did so without hindrance, but with deep gratitude for this freedom, and even gratitude to fight with each other to believe what they wanted. This resonates with me even as a Catholic, first because 25% of my ancestors were these type of folk, and because in another way it reminds me of the gratitude I have for my own conversion, and the freedom God has given me to love Him in His Church. Most of all, though, even though I know I am one limited person, I have a fuller realization that I am capable of acts, especially when done collectively as an expression of true unity, not coercion, that can alter the course of universe, the course of history, where God meets man. This does a complete, utter, total drop kick to the "stinkin' thinkin'" that has plagued me almost from day one.
I could probably ramble on about different aspects of this book for quite some time, and perhaps I shall. Tomorrow, however, it goes back to its home in the library (in Oklahoma, from whence it had to be special ordered for me!)