Delight Springs

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hope for the flowers

Our annual Spring Lyceum featured Ron Aronson, author of We:Reviving Social Hope and 
Living Without God: New Directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, and the Undecided
Aronson proposes contemporary answers to *Immanuel Kant’s three great questions: What can I know? What ought I to do? What can I hope? Grounded in the sense that we are deeply dependent and interconnected beings who are rooted in the universe, nature, history, society, and the global economy, Living Without God explores the experience and issues of 21st-century secularists, especially in America. Reflecting on such perplexing questions as why we are grateful for life’s gifts, who or what is responsible for inequalities, and how to live in the face of aging and dying... Grds
I asked him about the intersection of secularism and social hope. He said the connection was very clear: we are on our own, help is not on the way, hope is ours for the making. Yes we can.

Night before last, John Lachs delivered this year's Berry Lecture at Vanderbilt: "Death and Self-Importance." Same premise, tone a little less hopeful. 
"Sad as it may sound to say it, probability favors the view that death is final. Our delights are like the joys of the butterfly that hovered over a flower for a precious minute a thousand years ago. And then it is over in a moment of grace.
Of course we can hope for more..."
On Earth Day, "the world’s largest secular holiday," we can and we must, to do less is to surrender to misanthropy and despair. Make Earth great again!

Lachs prefaced his talk by remarking on the lovely flowers near the Divinity School on Vandy's campus, and on the delight he ("on all fours") and we can take in their fleeting loveliness. If my talk seems too dark, he said, "remember the flowers."

And that's what Robert Frost said.
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year... (A Prayer in Spring)
But I'm still thinking far away too, as Cassini plunges, with hope for the flowers and all who delight in them. And all who follow. Speaking with my former student at the reception last night about our now-common joy of raising precocious children (and feeling envious of his time now spent in the daily company of a smart seven-year old, and nostalgic for mine long gone), I was reminded of Michael Chabon's plea for hope both near and far away.
If you don’t believe in the Future, unreservedly and dreamingly... then I don’t see how you can have children. If you have children, I don’t see how you can fail to do everything in your power to ensure that... they, and their grandchildren, and their grandchildren’s grandchildren, will inherit a world whose perfection can never be accomplished by creatures whose imagination for perfecting it is limitless and free.
"The really vital question for us all" is still, for me, full of hope. “We can fly! “We can become butterflies! “There’s nothing at the top and it doesn’t matter!” Hope for the Flowers

Happy birthday *Immanuel Kant. “Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe [...] the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.”

7 am/6:06, 55/65/48, 7:25, rain

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