When I was googling images of Steve Biko for one my posts this week, I came across the haunting image of his corpse – his battered face after dying from torture.
I thought of his own words then – his words about bestowing on our society the gift of a human face.
I’ve been thinking about this concept for the whole week now. What does it mean for a society to have a human face, and what do we mean by the concept of some ideal, abstract human face?
And how does this connect with how Biko’s face came to be in death – bloodied and desecrated after he died naked in the back of a truck?
One of the great philosophers of our time, Roger Scruton, has looked at the same issue, in a series of lectures he gave entitled ‘The Face of God’ at St Andrew’s in Scotland in 2010.
The main point he makes is that as human beings, with consciousness and choice and intention, we find ourselves most fully in relationships not only with other people, but also with the world.
To give two examples, we build restaurants to eat together with other people; and we go on walks in mountains and on beaches. And both things make us feel more human.
His conclusion follows some abstract logic but is not impossible to grasp: the world has a human face – a face which looks upon us. And this is God’s presence in the world. Continue reading
Every society, every group, naturally creates an outsider. It’s how the group stays together.
Think about the last time you gossiped with a crowd. By pointing out somebody’s else’s flaws, didn’t it give you a sense of belonging?
Almost every ancient tribe or city was founded on some kind of murder.
Thebes had Oedipus; Rome’s monarchy had Remus – its empire had Julius Caesar; post Civil-War America had Lincoln; the Zulus Shaka; the first thing Cain does after killing Abel is start a city.
The Ancient Israelites literally came together every year by killing a scapegoat. One goat was sacrificed at the altar; the other sent into the desert, carrying everybody’s sins.
I teach quite a bit of Shakespearean tragedy, and it is notable how the whole point of tragedy is the audience finding some comfort, or catharsis, in the downfall of a single tragic hero.
What does this mean? Continue reading
Nor is he competitive. Rather he is Pure Being, the I AM. That which without nothing would exist.
René Girard has already appeared on this blog, in connection with the business ideas of Peter Thiel, and his strange strategy of avoiding competition. In this video below, Robert Barron, just after the death of Girard, explains just why Girard may be one of the most significant thinkers of the last century. Continue reading
I have been overwhelmed by the response to yesterday’s post. I don’t think we realise how we all go through the same experiences and fight the same battles.
I think that’s the reason we like those novels and films concerning survivors of shipwrecks and the like. When the survivors emerge on the beach, they realise they now have a bond, they owe each other a loyalty. In the words of Jack Shepherd, the main character of ‘Lost’ (the chief inspiration for which was Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”), either they live together or they will die alone.
This resonates with us because in fact we are, in our real lives, survivors of a cosmic shipwreck. We know, deep in our bones, that something has gone wrong with this world. We all fight a war. And so we have a certain loyalty to each other: to be sympathetic, to tell our stories, to have patience.
Getting so many responses this morning to my previous post reminded me of some of the reading I have been doing to prepare for a series of lessons I am about to give to my high school students. Continue reading
This post is my attempt to make sense of my life over the past few years. One fateful night in Gauteng four years ago would change me forever by casting a shadow over how I view the world. Yet in that shadow, I have found great meaning.
One of my favourite films of all time is The Thin Red Line. (Check out the trailer at the end of this post.)
It is about war, obviously. But it goes deeper than simply recounting World War II heroics, in the manner of Saving Private Ryan. (Both films would be nominated for Best Picture Oscars in 1999, and both would lose to Shakespeare in Love.)
Instead, the film meditates on the relationship between the soul, good and evil, and one’s friends and enemies.
Why is there even the possibility of war in the first place? Continue reading
Peter Thiel is an interesting guy.
He was one of the founders of PayPal, the first ‘angel investor’ of Facebook, and he has recently been in the news for two things: Giving a speech endorsing Trump, and funding Hulk Hogan’s major law suit against Gawker as revenge for invading his privacy and discussing his homosexual orientation.
On top of this, he is currently throwing money at ways of discovering biological immortality, and he also pays young entrepreneurs not to go to university (which he believes is a scam).
This makes him an intriguing, if not somewhat sinister public figure!
But I find him interesting for three separate reasons. Continue reading