Another Post from Canaan Suitt:
How can one man understand his culture? How can he grasp the mindset, the understanding, the errors of his age? Are we fitted to the times in which we are born? Do we encompass in ourselves, as a microcosm, the spirit of our times, even so that we can understand the errors of it and express the solution? Can a man do this? Or, if encompassing the spirit of the age, are we blinded by it? If culture is the sum total of shared beliefs and values of a society, and society is the aggregate of people that coheres under an ordered community, can one part of that society, by which we mean one man, comprehend the whole? And comprehending it, can he venture outside of that culture, look upon it externally and make judgments of it? Can what a man thinks or feels about the culture accord with the state of his culture – or is it merely a false projection?
It seems to me there exists a sense of restlessness abroad. It seems there exists an intense desire for rest and solidarity even in the undeniable realization of unstoppable change. It seems the call for meaning still pulls the heart and arouses the hopes of man. It seems man cannot, will not, accept the bricking of the window; he cries against it with ferocity that chills the heart. The struggles of men – for meaning, for solidarity, for coherence – are played out in their greatest pomp and grandeur on the World Stage, by which we mean the culture and governance of the times. The struggle and search is not personal only, but communal. Together we grope, together we struggle, together we attempt to find meaning and together we erect safeguards and institutions for the preservation of what we hold dear – not just the search itself but what we find. Yet the story of history reiterates a basic fact, that whatever men find together and however men protect it, all systems eventually collapse – and the march continues, inexorably onward. “No rest; no stay,” as Churchill tersely put it.
I may conclude that it is possible for one part of the aggregate of society and culture to tune with the broader culture – to divine the spirit of the age by realization that culture is but an extension of basic, fundamental realities of the state of the individual parts that comprise the aggregate. As a man struggles, so does a society; as a man changes, so does culture; as the life of a man seems hectic and inexplicable, so too does the course of society seem chaotic; as man desires peace, so too does society strive for that end; as men succeed and as they fail, so too does society and culture, and those successes and failures mark the annals of history. It is in this light that the furrowed brow of David becomes clear and meaningful–in the face of such uncertain struggle even the most heroic may falter.
It becomes not the politician, then, who can save the times from its error, for the problem runs deeper than and is portrayed in the outworking of government. It is not the media that can transform culture and expunge its error, for it but expresses the culture. It is instead the thinker – lonely, solitary, yet anchored in the pursuit of truth, and, what is cause for hope, perhaps truth itself. As President Kennedy eloquently stated in his panegyric to Robert Frost, “The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state. The great artist is thus a solitary figure. He has… a lover’s quarrel with the world. In pursuing his perceptions of reality, he must often sail against the currents of his time. This is not a popular role… In retrospect, we see how the artist’s fidelity has strengthened the fiber of our national life.” It is from a solid foundation alone that rescue can be given to those rocked to and fro by a tempestuous sea.
President Woodrow Wilson once wrote, “I think one would go crazy if he did not believe in Providence. It would be a maze without a clue. Unless there were some supreme guidance we would despair of the results of human counsel.” I go further and state my belief in a kingdom that transcends international turmoil, in which the individual and the society may find citizenship that is eternal–the very consummative rest all nations grope towards. I believe the message of Christianity is the truth. I believe it is the solid foundation from which all solitary thinkers engaged in a quarrel with their world can cast the line. It is the Gospel that saves men, that answers the despair of humanity and gives rest to the groping journeyer. With fiery hope I affirm the saying that “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” The angst, the error, the eventual passing away of culture and governments is the most moving demonstration of humanity’s brokenness – humanity’s fundamental problem is displayed on the World Stage. Even so, I am “Grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire,” (Hebrews 12:28-9).