The Glory of the Human Mind

As an antidote to the bleakness of “Nothingness” and in tribute to the glory that is the human mind, I refer you to three old posts of mine: “Flow,” “The Purpose-Driven Life,” and “In Praise of Solitude.”

And I also refer you to every great artist, writer, and thinker, from Socrates and Shakespeare to Newton and Einstein to Bach and Dvorak to Nabakov and Nagel.

A particular mind may be evanescent, but the beauty, wisdom, and knowledge that is produced by the best minds is priceless. The sum total of beauty, wisdom, and knowledge that is available to us — though too often ignored and derided — is overwhelming. No one can possibly absorb and understand all of it, which means that no one must waste his time on mindless intellectual and artistic dreck.

That so much time is wasted on dreck — often whole lifetimes — is a greater tragedy than the inevitable death of any particular artist, writer, or thinker. Equally tragic is the rejection of civilizing traditions, which are also sublime products of the human mind. Thus:

I hate modern art that swaps form for dead sharks; and modern music that exchanges harmony for noise…. I hate religious leaders who think that God is found “in the spaces” and that worship is therapy. I hate our pornographic culture, our tasteless battery foods, and our TV that treats adults like children and children like adults. I hate our obsession with irony, as if a shrug of the shoulders is cleverer than serious inquiry. I hate the death of chivalry, manners and the doffed hats. I hate our promotion of sex over romance – today’s Brief Encounters are very different things. I hate the eradication of guilt and shame, very useful concepts that hold us back from indulgence. (Tim Stanley, “Conservatives: Don’t Despair of Our Corrupt, Decadent Age. Write about It,” The Telegraph, August 2, 2013)

Life needn’t be like that. When all else fails us, we can take refuge in our own minds, where beauty dwells — if we have cultivated our minds so that beauty thrives there.

The potentiality of the human mind allows us to be more — much more — than the “most robots” of New Atheism. Thank God for that.