Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Broad Minded Turnips

Somewhat apropos of my post earlier this week on On Being and Nothingness, David Mills opines at First Things on those constantly searching for something without knowing what they are really looking for at all and probably not really wanting to find it anyway:

If you don't find something, you are not searching, and you are not thinking. As G. K. Chesterton said in the last chapter of his early book Heretics, "If there be such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions, into more and more dogmas. The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty."

Derek, Chesterton would have said, is not the ideal man the Unitarian-Universalist flyer assumes he is, because Derek isn’t getting anywhere. Man, Chesterton writes, is "an animal that makes dogmas"--—a creature who, intellectually, gets somewhere.
As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human.

When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined skepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.
In the searching/questioning/looking/determining-your-own-truth religion, the searcher never quite catches up with the Truth, though she runs surprisingly slowly for the man she knows truly wants her for his own. The Man Who Questions is not chasing Truth but running here and there as he feels inclined, and he is careful never to get anywhere in particular.