Believe in Nothing, Fall for Anything

I’m writing this on the first day of the Triduum, that three-day climax of Lent and Holy Week that immediately precedes the celebration of the Resurrection at Easter.
Nowadays you won’t see or read much about these things in the ordinary course of your life.  The supermarkets will be open for most of the weekend, except perhaps (as a sole remaining token of respect) on Good Friday itself.  In many places it’s the start of the footie season.  Here in Tasmania our unusually long, dry and warm summer is scarcely over, sports ovals are full of players, mountains are thick with hikers, and everybody’s enjoying the sun.
Fair enough too.  There’s nothing wrong with any of that: we are right to enjoy the good and happy things of this world.  Indeed it’s a grace to be able to do so and it would be ungrateful not to.  But our society is diminished by its blindness to those elements of our existence that are not immediately tactile or at least visible.  Many of us live as if such things don’t even exist, or at least we choose to ignore them because the allure of present ‘reality’ is too charming. 
It’s interesting to note, however, that even the most materialistic of people ascribe value to immaterial things.  Unless you’re a successful pop singer or nightclub performer there’s not much money in music and no practical value, but we love it nonetheless, most of us quite passionately.  Paintings and sculptures usually have no intrinsic value — unless, like Mr Fabergé’s eggs, they’re made of solid gold. 
The greatest of these intangible treasures is Love itself, that force or virtue or power or whatever we call it, that according to Dante ‘moves the sun and all the other stars’.  Inexplicable by human thought (though many materialists have attempted, dismally, to explain it) it is nevertheless the most powerful thing in the universe. 
Most of us today manage to persuade ourselves, though, that love has nothing to do with God.  We have no need of that delusional hypothesis.  It’s too difficult to accept the obligations that that kind of belief could impose on us, so we drift on enjoying the good things that life offers and explaining away the bad by any means other than the sad but unavoidable truth that human beings are deeply flawed and defective.  That a society that denies its religious dimension cannot endure and is exposed, as Dawson understood, to every kind of crazy self-deception and tyranny. 
Here in the southern hemisphere there is some reason for additional gloom: we’re about to drift into autumn and the cold days are coming soon.  Not for us the consolation of approaching spring and the quickening of new life that cheers the spirits of those who live north of the Equator.  But I wish all our readers, north or south, whether believers or not, a heightened apprehension of the sovereign power of Love as we celebrate Easter.

David Daintree is the director of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies

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