Depth in the Shallows

Month: February, 2016

Building The Self When Others Seek to Destroy

Deepening in the Shallows of Persecution

The life and diaries of Etty Hillesum

In the face of bodily dissolution by Nazi killers, Dutch-Jewish thinker, writer, and mystic, Etty Hillesum, sought unification with the Divine.  Hillesum faced death by living life.  Not merely by continuing to breathe, but by living a life fully alive. She fiercely refused to be defined by those who sought her death. She demonstrated that even in the midst of confinement and death, the spirit is truly free.

“This morning I cycled along the Station Quay enjoying the broad sweep of the sky at the edge of the city and breathing unrationed air. And everywhere signs barring Jews from the paths and the open country. But above the one narrow path still left to us stretches the sky, intact. They can’t do anything to us, they really can’t. They can harass us, they can rob us of our material goods, of our freedom of movement, but we ourselves forfeit our greatest assets by our misguided compliance. By our feelings of being persecuted, humiliated, and oppressed. By our own hatred. By our swagger, which hides our fear. We may of course be sad and depressed by what has been done to us; that is only human and understandable. However: our greatest injury is one we inflict upon ourselves. I find life beautiful, and I feel free. The sky within me is as wide as the one stretching above my head. I believe in God and I believe in man, and I say so without embarrassment. Life is hard, but that is not a bad thing. If one starts by taking one’s own importance seriously, the rest follows. It is not morbid individualism to work on oneself. True peace will come only when every individual finds peace within himself…”

The Truth Of Myth

The Lie of Material Progress

Mythopoeia by J.R.R. Tolkien

You’ve seen The Lord of the Rings. Maybe you even read the books. But Tolkien, devout Catholic, philologist, and author of The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin, and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, was foremost a defender of the Truth. For him, the Truth inhered in the mystical, not the material. He fought in WWI and lived through the devastation of the Somme.  Witness to the logical end of material progress for man in the regress of war, he turned to the Truth in the Myth of Man. Mythopoeia is his response to those who claim myths are lies. Truth is not limited to fact. And rarely is it synonymous with fact. After all, someone who asserts a fact often invites only argument as to what constitutes the fact.  But Truth, objective and eternal, is assented to on a deeper level than fact. And so we have Jesus offering parables to give us Truth that is beyond time and place. Eternal Truth. Tolkien spent his life giving us True Myths. Mythopoeia is a spirited defense of his life work.

“I will not walk with your progressive apes,
erect and sapient. Before them gapes
the dark abyss to which their progress tends
if by God’s mercy progress ever ends,
and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
unfruitful course with changing of a name.”

A Piece That Should Disturb

An Unsettling Peace

Disturbing the Peace by Vaclav Havel

We are of an age that talks more about peace than lives in it.  Vaclav Havel, poet, playwright, essayist, dissident anti-communist, and eventual president of the Czech Republic, knew this intimately.  For decades, he lived and worked under the tyranny of communism, the utopian lie that lingers in our politics today.  The promise persists that all our needs can be met by the State.  But the truth lies beneath in the cost to our humanity.  Millions murdered, freedom forfeited, and spirits crushed. Sounds great doesn’t it?   Reading Havel reminds us that in making ourselves the center of the universe, we lose our Center.

“As soon as man began considering himself the source of the highest meaning in the world and the measure of everything, the world began to lose its human dimension, and man began to lose control of it.”

The Noise Of Death

The Disquieting Reality of Life

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

We live most days in denial of death. This is as it should be.  We cannot attend to life if we dwell on death.  It remains for all of us the ultimate reality. No illusion can distort it, no lie can destroy it.  It is coming.  But it should not haunt us. Rather it should impel us to live more fully, to remain humble, for nothing we do, nothing we build, nothing we create will last. Erich Maria Remarque, a German soldier in WWI and subsequent novelist, understood the fragility of life in the face of death.  It is a reminder that if we do not take the reality of death lightly, we will not take ourselves so seriously.  Put that on your Facebook page.

“We are little flames poorly sheltered by frail walls against the storm of dissolution and madness, in which we flicker and sometimes go out.”


A Novel Crisis


The Crisis of Modernity by Agosto Del Noce

I can hear the groans. Who is this guy and why do we care? It is because you do not know him that you need to learn.  But then again, that might be a novel new approach for you in your life.

Del Noce was an Italian philosopher and political thinker during the twentieth century. His works are largely untranslated and hard to find. The Crisis of Modernity was recently translated and is available at libraries and online.  Del Noce was concerned with, among other things, our modern age’s confusion of authority and power. The roots of which, if not understood by world leaders, will strangle our civilization.  It is dense and difficult but it offers great rewards beyond novelty.

“The only possible conclusion was that ‘novelty’ is a synonym of regression rather than progress.”

The Silence Of Max Picard


The World of Silence by Max Picard

Don’t know who Max Picard is? Chances are you are not alone.  Perhaps it is time you joined his company. Max Picard was a German-Swiss theologian and philosopher who wrote books such as Hitler in Our Selves, The Flight from God, and Man and Language.  But it is The World of Silence that makes the most noise. The reason? Simple. We need more, not less, silence.

“In the modern world the individual no longer faces silence, no longer faces the community, but faces only the universal noise.  The individual stands between noise and silence.  He is isolated from noise and isolated from silence. He is forlorn.”

Drowning In The Shallows

You might be shallow.  Or you may have spent too much time wading in the shallows. You may not have depth because you are not in deep.

In this blog I aim to restore some people to depth.  If you spend time gorging on the minnows of social media, celebrity gossip, and reality shows about fake people, stop by this blog for some of the greatest minds, some of the deepest subjects, and some of the biggest questions. I will offer brief, and at times funny, commentary along with a famous quote and the source.

And maybe, just maybe, you might skip that rerun of Little Women L.A. or the soap opera of sports and go a bit deeper into something above you. Something that challenges you, changes you, or transforms you. Or just makes you smarter, wiser, or better. Or maybe it will keep you from arriving at the end of your life, the star of your own social media show, having lived life but missed the point.

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