Men Without Chests 2nd Part, The Abolition of Men Bookclub

Some of us are writing about The Abolition of Men, the second part of the first essay. You can read Cindy's post and other links HERE.
Last week as we camped in our backyard, I could give the book a first full reading that won't be the last.

Lewis defines the Tao like this,

The Chinese also speak of a great thing (the greatest thing) called the Tao. It is the reality beyond all predicates, the abyss that was before the Creator Himself. It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road. It is the Way in which the universe goes on, the Way in which things everlastingly emerge, stilly and tranquilly, into space and time. It is also the Way which every man should tread in imitation of that cosmic and supercosmic progression, conforming all activities to that great exemplar.17 

I disagree with his view of the Tao as something that precedes and supersedes God, if that is what he is saying, but I won't spend time here on the disagreement because I do coincide with him in that there is a 'Tao' as he calls it. To me the Tao doesn't precede but emanates from the divine nature of God Himself and as such it can be traced to all cultures and religions. It has always been present because God is present in all men and all cultures at all times, even if we fail to acknowledge Him or we wrongly attribute this right order and its absolute values resting in it to some other god.

Apart from defining the Tao, in this second part of the essay Lewis talks about some of what we read before in Poetic Knowledge. Values, emotions, sentiments, that pre-scientific knowledge, or precisely poetic knowledge, all that has to do with our 'chest', is not by default irrational or subjective just because it can't be reduced to 'ratio', as many contend it is. Like the authors of the Green Book, who reduce value statements to our own feelings about things, disregarding that things, by their nature, are meant to arise just feelings, and thus not all feelings are the same 'valid'. This notion is linked to the absolute of a moral order that embeds us, bigger than us, that is why we can safely make value assertions and recognize when the heart is in agreement with the head or not (as when Lewis admits to be 'wrong' for not 'enjoying the company of little children'. I liked his metaphor of the men of enlarged heads that appear to be intellectuals but only because their chests and rest of the body is atrophied.

Some of what Cindy comments in her posts reminded me strongly of an incident in a mercadillo, sort of a farmer's market, in my old neighborhood in Madrid. Legal and illegal selling takes place at once. Those who legally sell their produce and products, have to pay fees and taxes, those who sell in the black market, carry a bag on their shoulders, place a couple of products on the floor and when police comes closer, someone who is watching yells and run, and as long as you have a black plastic bag over your shoulder, they can't touch you. So there I was, in the middle of screams but not only from the sellers, but from the population yelling and insulting the policemen that had just caught some of the sellers of movie copies, and who were running after another person. A mom close to me telling her young daughter, 'you see', 'those two policemen, charging against those poor people trying to make a living', 'confiscating the movies that for sure they'll keep for themselves'. While people complain on an on about how bad the economy is, and I'm talking about 6 years ago, they will take the part of those who they believe are poor, weak, destitute, and insult and yell, and I even feared for the two policemen, outnumbered by an angry mob who was blocking them from reaching the men who were one minute before they arrived, making a hole in the same protesters pockets and damaging the country's economy.

In the same line I recently read a great article at Imprimis about the immigrant laws in Arizona. Those in federal government jumped in outrage when they heard that officials and police could ask a person to prove legal status on the premises of a reasonable suspicion that they were here illegally, and claimed injustice, racism, discrimination! Their heads may be impeding them from even reminding them they have chests. Those two words are apparently for many not much more than terms used in romance novels, where the protagonist may 'have the feeling' that her husband is having an affair. Reasonable suspicion, as the writer of the Imprimis article explains in the legal (and rational) context, and as Lewis may claim to a man with a chest, is something far from a chance to unleash his presumed fascist instincts. Policemen can, should be, and many are, professionally and emotionally qualified men since they have been professionally and emotionally TRAINED to simply do their best by doing a service to the state of Arizona and its citizens.

I could go on an on with more personal examples. But I am not sure if I should, for I'm good at debunking my neighbor and not so good at seeing the huge planks to be debunked in my own thinking. Actually, I'm a bit proud of getting better at this, I admit, for two days ago, when I was about to send a comment to a person who had debunked something very dear to me in a very clumsy way, I told my husband if I should hit send or not, he said I could, but then I told him, 'no, she is not inside the Tao. I have tried this before, and she only comes back with a patch up type of answer, or a distracting reply.' After all, I rather spend time analyzing the Tao constructively with those inside, for the purpose of it is to teach and learn, but that only can happen if you belong in it. I have very little hope for these postmodern people, even less for the ones who don't even realize the moving sand they chose to build their ideas and life. For now, I pray, vote, and take care of my family the best I can. Maybe one day I can write as Cindy who already has two sons who are giving so much to our country!

6 opinion(s):

Cindy said...

Your post reminds me of an experience my son had as an officer. A boy of a certain race was hit by a car while running across the street. My son was first on the scene and sat in the road Literally holding the boy's head together while waiting for help. It was a gruesome scene. The other members of the boy's race in that neighborhood stood beside my son, who was in no position to defend himself if they got violent, spewing insults at him for being a policeman.

Silvia said...

I guess those men have been conditioned to have an emotional response of hate, not merited at all by the circumstances which righfully merit compassion and respect.

Brandy @ Afterthoughts said...

So much to think about here!

Deciding to use the word Tao made me a little uncomfortable as well, as I agree that NOTHING precedes the Creator, for He is infinite. But I do get Lewis' point, which is that we moderns are a peculiar people, believing something that is unique to our time, for the various ancient cultures all held these truths in common. But yes, these things come forth from the character of God, rather than preceding Him. It reminds me of Wisdom, who says that she was "with Him in the beginning."

Silvia said...

Despite of the 'disagreement', it's great to read his ideas and the book. And you are right. I know he wants to point to all cultures holding these truths in common, but if he places the origin of these truths somewhere outside God, isn't he missing the point?
It's sort of when men say that we have evolved from one same thing since we present similarities. And we can rightfully say we are similar because we have the same creator.
I wonder why he shied away from saying God (which is called other names in other cultures) is the reason for these truths. He also says something like he is a theist but he is not arguing as one. But you know, we, believers, have that problem all the time. I stopped commenting in certain blog, because I was told my comment was 'religious'. Since now science is equal to everything accepted that leaves God out of the equation, I can't explain that saying that is also admitting that others speak from the religion of 'atheism'.
It extends your time in the ring, but it also is an act of 'treason' to me, ha ha ha. But believe me, I admire so much the rest of the book that I'm not here to raise a case against CS Lewis at all. On the contrary. We'd be better off if many more read him.

Cindy said...

I also agree about the Tao and it was more of an issue for me the first time I read the essay and couldn't quite get my mind around it but afterwards I just sort of made it mean what I wanted it to mean, not antithetical to what Lewis was saying.

Willa said...

Add me to the number of people who were a bit disconcerted by Lewis's use of the "Tao" to explain his thoughts on a law or path that goes beyond ourselves. I take him not to be promoting Chinese religion or philosophy (since I know he doesn't in his other work) but to be trying to point out an old thing in a newer way (to Westerners at any rate).

Camping in your backyard -- I used to do that when a child! Getting too cold here now, but a great idea for next summer!


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