Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Remembering Solzhenitsyn

I've thinking about Solzhenitsyn on and off since I read of his death a few days ago. Anyone who so annoyed Western intellectuals must have spoken some uncomfortable truths, I thought. I read his 1978 address to Harvard and could see how it would have upset people. Much of it also reads as archaic now that socialism and communism have fallen. All the same, I couldn't help but agree with his stance on secular humanism (he refers to it as humanism divorced from God). I think he may fall a little hard on the anti-materialist side (I believe God did make the incarnate things of the earth for people to enjoy and nobody I know of wants people to suffer want) but I agree that we can take materialism as the source of happiness to an extreme level. What do you think?

Here's a quote:

If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot [be] unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President's performance be reduced to the question of how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.

It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless in front of the trials of our times.

Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man's life and society's activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?

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