Tag Archives: news

Man denies his own continuity.

I’m still in the middle of Jacque Ellul’s great work, The Technological Society, which is really helpful in understanding the way our modern world works. When Ellul talks about technique he does not mean merely the physical machinery or medicine or digital technology, but more importantly, the manner in which so much of our life is managed according to systems and measurements; our activities are prompted and organized according to the primary value of efficiency. Here he explains it himself: “Technique” 

Not bothered by the fact that I haven’t finished that book (or his Humiliation of the Word, which I also loved), I began to listen to another one by the author: Propaganda. Propaganda is just one facet of the technological society. Ellul’s books are so thought-provoking and full of insights, it’s hard for me to pick a few of the best paragraphs to share. But here is one, which I broke up into smaller parts for ease of reading:

“To the extent that propaganda is based on current news, it cannot permit time for thought or reflection. A man caught up in the news must remain on the surface of the event; he is carried along in the current, and can at no time take a respite to judge and appreciate; he can never stop to reflect. There is never any awareness — of himself, of his condition, of his society — for the man who lives by current events.

“Such a man never stops to investigate any one point, any more than he will tie together a series of news events. We already have mentioned man’s inability to consider several facts or events simultaneously and to make a synthesis of them in order to face or to oppose them. One thought drives away another; old facts are chased by new ones. Under these conditions there can be no thought. And, in fact, modern man does not think about current problems; he feels them. He reacts, but he does not understand them any more than he takes responsibility for them. He is even less capable of spotting any inconsistency between successive facts; man’s capacity to forget is unlimited. This is one of the most important and useful points for the propagandist, who can always be sure that a particular propaganda theme, statement, or event will be forgotten within a few weeks.

“Moreover, there is a spontaneous defensive reaction in the individual against an excess of information and — to the extent that he clings (unconsciously) to the unity of his own person — against inconsistencies. The best defense here is to forget the preceding event. In so doing, man denies his own continuity; to the same extent that he lives on the surface of events and makes today’s events his life by obliterating yesterday’s news, he refuses to see the contradictions in his own life and condemns himself to a life of successive moments, discontinuous and fragmented.”

-Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 1965

Image is from the website of the International Jacques Ellul Society.

We may as well go patiently on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ON LOOKING UP BY CHANCE AT THE CONSTELLATIONS

You’ll wait a long, long time for anything much
To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud
And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.
The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,
Nor strike out fire from each other, nor crash out loud.
The planets seem to interfere in their curves,
But nothing ever happens, no harm is done.
We may as well go patiently on with our life,
And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun
For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.
It is true the longest drouth will end in rain,
The longest peace in China will end in strife.
Still it wouldn’t reward the watcher to stay awake
In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break
On his particular time and personal sight.
That calm seems certainly safe to last tonight.

Robert Frost, West-Running Brook, 1928

I read Frost’s poem on this blog: First Known When Lost, where it was posted this week along with a couple of others that may be seen as following a theme. Stephen Pentz leads off his article with the reminder that  “… the feeling that the world is going to Hell in a hand-basket is a timeless feature of human nature.”

Then he leads the reader to make a distinction between the world and the World. I have been thinking lately about Mary Oliver’s poem “Messenger,” which is about this, and I’d say “Landscape” as well.

The details of our given “work assignments” are unique to each of us; we need to look to God for light and strength to do the essential spiritual work, which will help us to be ready for any more public tasks that come our way. Pentz’s last line sums it up pretty well:

“Life is ever a matter of attention and gratitude, don’t you think?”

From the disaster zone…

Smoke thickened after I took this photo and is worse today.

I live in the area where high winds whipped up 60 different fires in a few hours early Monday (yesterday) morning. My neighborhood was on alert to evacuate, but that never became necessary. In this part of Northern California just north of San Francisco Bay, scores of my friends are among the 20,000 people who have been evacuated, and the homes of at least two families dear to me have burned to the ground.

Many hundreds of structures were destroyed yesterday, but fires are still burning and uncontained and it’s impossible to know at this point what the full extent of the damage will be, or how many lives will have been lost. Though we are all in shock at the speed and extent of this destruction all around us, everyone I know is thankful for the love and support, and continued existence, of their friends and family. I wanted you all to know that I am okay.

The story of the universe.

From Father Stephen Freeman:

The public narrative (news and history) is like watching actors in a play. However, the actors have stumbled into the notion that the play is reality. They react to each other and the narrative within the play, but the reality off-stage (which is the rest of the whole world) is nowhere in sight. We might easily conclude that the entire idea of a public narrative is absurd (and it is, largely).

But people are story-tellers. If you ask, “What’s happening?” the answer will take some sort of story form.  Apparently, God is a story-teller as well. In St. John’s gospel we read:

“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18)

The Latin translation of this verse says that the only-begotten Son “narrates” Him (enarravit). And this is precisely the case. The Christian claim is that Christ Himself is the story of the universe. He is the author and the protagonist. He is the meaning of the true story. Every sub-story (my life and yours) gains its meaning and purpose from the greater story of which they are a part.

Read the whole article here: World Story – The News and the Good News

Myrrhbearing women at the tomb
Myrrhbearing women at the tomb