Human vision receptors respond to the visible light portion of the electromagnetic spectrum; wave lengths array along that spectrum from longer than tall buildings to as infinitesimal as the span of the nuclei of atoms. Our visible spectrum is a tiny segment that falls between the longer length infrared and the shorter ultraviolet. Our slice’s wavelength is somewhat smaller than the diameter of most cells. Some species (like bees to find nectar) see more deeply into the ultraviolet range; some like pit vipers see into the infrared to help hunt warm blooded prey. I would suggest that the limited range of our human vision is an apt metaphor. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
Our view of the political spectrum from my perspective is extremely narrow. Human government ranges from enormous and ubiquitous to non-existent: from terrible tyranny to mere anarchy. In our current view we’ve not only limited the discussion to what is currently in vogue, but slid our republic, our representative democracy a notch or two to the left. The far left of the entire spectrum is tyranny, the far right is anarchy. The ‘large government’ versus ‘small government’ discussion is significant. Government’s intrusion into our lives is an important debate, however if we misplace our markers along the spectrum, we miss some important points. The common wisdom that a republic resides comfortably between the socialist left and the dictatorships of the right is erroneous. One of the victories of the left in the semantics of public discourse on the nature of government is this misplacement. As in many dialogues, the definer of the terms makes it difficult for the other side of the pro/con divide.
Those on the right of representative democracy are not Nazis, as is often charged. Nazis reside to the left. In fact the very word “Nazi” derives from “Nationalsozialist” from the “Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartie” or National Socialist German Worker’s Party. Adolph Hitler was a big government guy; his moral opponents were democratic and religious. His most bitter enemy on the despotic end of the government spectrum was also of the left – the communists of Josef Stalin. Both Stalin and Hitler murdered millions of innocents in the name of the ‘greater good’ of their twisted veins of human created utopia. For the communists, the shibboleth was the ascendancy of ‘the people’ (as in ‘power to the people’) and lip service towards radical egalitarianism. Of course, the redistribution of wealth must be ruthlessly enforced with overwhelming governmental power overseen by elite masters, who with diabolic genius propagandize their self justification. For the Nazis, the distinguishing feature of their brand of tyranny was racial supremacy and nationalism. Their stated ends were very different; their methods and results remarkably similar.
Another limited, tunnel vision of human life occurs in the realm of the supernatural world within our ‘visible’ spectrum. Guy Crouchback, the Catholic protagonist in Evelyn Waugh’s Second World War trilogy, in his cups one night expresses it well to his Army Anglican chaplain in “Men at Arms”: “Do you agree that the Supernatural Order is not something added to the Natural Order, like music or painting, to make everyday life more tolerable? It is everyday life. The supernatural is real; what we call “real” is a mere shadow, a passing fancy.” Like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, we attribute reality to the shadows projected on the wall and miss the light behind them.
George Weigel, the noted scholar and biographer of John Paul II, depicts a world without God, without a life beyond the limitations of our finite human flesh, as a world hermetically sealed without windows or doors. The search for that light, that opening and light behind the perceived reality, I would suggest, is the most critical search of our lives. In fact all else dims to the nothingness we face (and would become) absent this light.
St. Augustine: “Nos fecisti ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te: You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you”. Again, Augustine writes: “Therefore, do not seek to understand in order to believe, rather believe that thou may understand.” All of us, gentle and good friends, face one inevitability. This life will pass, or rather this phase of our lives will pass. Our health will fail, age will defeat us, and our work will remain undone. The only question worth asking is “Quo vadis?” Where are you going?
Sam to Frodo in “Lord of the Rings”, “I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?”