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About "new normals"

Discussion in 'Christian Philosophy & Ethics' started by dms1972, Apr 6, 2020.

  1. dms1972

    dms1972 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Well this phrase keeps coming up here and there and indeed it has come up in regard to the Coronavirus and the lockdowns. Though its not the first I have heard people talk about a "new normal".

    It reminded me of a interesting passage in CS Lewis's That Hideous Strength, in which one of the protagonists Mark Studdock has been taken to the objective room at Belbury - he is being put through an initiation for entry into the innermost circle of its elite planners.

    The objective room was a strange place but yet not totally strange or weird, and in many respects it was like an ordinary committee room, all the same Mark begins to notice peculiar aspects including the proportions of the room itself, and other unusual things like spots on the ceiling and spots on a table in the room. Its like these oddities are provoking him to figure them out, either to count the spots on the ceiling or find some regularity in them or find a correspondence between the ones on the ceiling and the ones on the table, - such that he has to keep checking himself from puzzling over them. There are also pictures on the walls, some surrealist, some religious (but some alteration has been made to them), but as he examines them there is something about them too he cannot put is finger on but which he finds tends to wither his mind the more he looks at them. So he turns from them.

    What I want to mention about all this is that in this strange environment an idea comes to Mark which is the idea of the Straight or the Normal. Here is a couple of short excerpts from the book:

    "But after an hour or so this long, high coffin of a room began to produce on Mark an effect which his instructor had probably not anticipated. There was no return of the attack which he had suffered last night in the cell. Whether because he had already survived that attack, or because the imminence of death had drawn the tooth of his lifelong desire for the esoteric, or because he had (in a fashion) called very urgently for help, the built and painted perversity of this room had the effect of making him aware, as he had never been aware before, of this room's opposite. As the desert first teaches men to love water, or as absence first reveals affection, there rose up against this background of the sour and the crooked some kind of vision of the sweet and the straight. Something else - something he vaguely called the 'Normal' apparently existed. He had never thought about it before. But there it was - solid, massive, with a shape of its own, almost like something you could touch, or eat, or fall in love with. It was all mixed up with Jane and fried eggs and soap and the sunlight, and the rooks cawing at Cure Hardy and the thought that, somewhere outside, daylight was going on at that moment. He was not thinking in moral terms at all; or else (what is much the same thing) he was having his first deeply moral experience. He was choosing a side: the Normal. "All that", as he called it, was what he chose. If the scientific point of view led away from 'all that', then be damned to the scientific point of view! The vehemence of hi choice almost took his breath away; he had not had such a sensation before. For the moment he hardly cared if Frost and Wither killed him."

    ***

    "And day by day, as the process went on, that idea of the Straight or the Normal which had occurred to him during his first visit to this room, grew stronger and more solid in his mind till it had become a kind of mountain. He had never before known what an Idea meant: he had always thought till now that they were things inside one's own head. But now, when his head was continually attacked and often completely filled with the clinging corruption of the training, this Idea towered up above him - something which obviously existed quite independently of himself and had hard rock surfaces which would not give, surfaces he could cling to."

    Later in his training or initiation, Mark (who by the way we are told in the story has never been a believer in christianity, unlike his wife Jane who was for a time in childhood) is taken back to the objective room and on the floor is laid an almost life size crucifix, "a work of art in the Spanish tradition, ghastly and realistic" He is instructed by Frost to trample on it and insult it other ways.

    "Mark himself was surprised at the emotions he was undergoing. He did not regard the image with anything at all like a religious feeling. Most emphatically it did not belong to that idea of the Straight or Normal or Wholesome which had, for the last few days, been his support against what he now knew of the innermost circle at Belbury. The horrible vigour of its realism was indeed, in its own way as remote from that Idea as anything else in the room. That was one source of his reluctance. To insult even a carved image of such agony seemed an abominable act. But it was not the only source. With the introduction of this Christian symbol the whole situation had somehow altered. The thing was becoming incalcuable. His simple antithesis of the Normal and the Diseased had obviously failed to take something into account. Why was the crucifix there? Why were more than half the poison-pictures religious? He had a sense of new parties to the conflict - potential allies and enemies which he had not suspected before. "If I take a step in any direction," he thought, "I may step over a precipice." A donkey-like determination to plant hoofs and stay still at all costs arose in his mind."

    Frost presses him to make haste and continue with the exercises. Mark is almost overcome because he is used to obeying Frost's quiet commands. He begins to look at the crucifix in a new way and though still no believer in christianity he doesn't doubt the man called Jesus lived and had been executed by the Belbury of that time.

    "And that, as he suddenly saw, explained why this image, though not itself an image of the Straight or Normal, was yet in opposition to crooked Belbury. It was a picture of what happened when the Straight met the Crooked, a picture of what the Crooked did to the Straight - what it would do to him if he remained straight. It was, in a more emphatic sense than he had yet understood, a cross."

    Well i was thinking and would like others input, and not just from CS Lewis, but if you want to mention any other authors on this. We have life in this world which is fallen and it has its struggles - digging a garden takes efforts and sweat. But how does that norm compare with life in Jesus' Kingdom? And what of these 'new norms' they cannot become permanent, but how do we cope spiritually in the meantime? I spend a good deal of time alone anyway, living by myself.

    But its seems at times like there are some who would attempt if they could to establish a new scientific norm in society, but if Lewis's That Hideous Strength is anything to go by that will not succeed, at least not for long.

    Of course depending on ones reading of the Bible and interpretation of the End Times, one might think all believing christians will be taken away by a rapture and then a something like a fully technically planned society would be established under Antichrist, until Jesus Christ returns with the Armies of Heaven to vanquish the Devil, the AntiChrist and False Prophet once and for all.

    In Lewis's story, Ransom and the remnant of Logres would not likely have been raptured they'd have been exterminated as pests (though have gone to glory) if Belbury had not been defeated by Heavenly Powers. Thus Ransom thought so in the story when he said: "Don't be cast down Margaret. If they kill Cecil, we shall none of us be let live many hours after him. It will be a shorter separation than you could have hoped for in the course of Nature."

    Was it Burn's who said "The best laid plans o' mice and men often go awry." Well in That Hideous Strength, Belbury's plans very much go awry!

    So that is some interesting stuff from Lewis, with a few musings of my own.

    You are welcome to if you wish to add your own thoughts on any of the above.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2020
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  2. SkyWriting

    SkyWriting The Librarian Supporter

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    Are you seeking a publisher?
     
  3. dms1972

    dms1972 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Not as such, most of my post is quotes from a CS Lewis novel, inbetween which I just summarised some portions of his narrative and added a few musings of my own to them for purpose of a forum discussion. :)
     
  4. Amittai

    Amittai monitor evaluator

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    I've read that the rapture will be hours or at most days before Jesus returns.

    I've also read that Mrs MacDonald didn't herself hold to the misinterpretation attributed to her by Darby's supporters or opponents.

    Children have a strong sense of the unity of metaphysics, epistemology, logic, aesthetics and ethics - whether something squares - until it gets drubbed out of them, then they become "pliable".

    I think there is an element of wishful thinking in the works of the "Inklings".
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2020
  5. ap_Earwood

    ap_Earwood I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day...

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    We are being conditioned to accept the antichrist. "New Normal", just means change what you believe because society says it's right now. Accept gay marriage, it's the new normal. Accept prostitution, it's the new normal. Accept 9 month abortion, it's the new normal.

    Accept the mark of the beast, it's the new normal.

    We are being conditioned, that's all it is. Stay strong and pray you reject the mark, and the sin.
     
  6. dms1972

    dms1972 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I would agree with your comment about children they may not be able to articulate this unity in detail, and some 'adults' may laugh at the utterances of a child, but more often its the grown-ups that are muddle headed.

    Can you say what you mean by "wishful thinking" and which if any of the inklings in particular? Do you mean just the fantasy, fairy-tale genre in which they write, rather than say a more this-worldly story of good versus evil. Or are you meaning something else?

    As a work of science-fiction That Hideous Strength doesn't actually (sorry for spoilers) depict the final conflict between good and evil, though up to a certain part of the story its certainly not clear which side will win out. One can find fault with Lewis's characters - he is more interested though in the Psychomachia of his protagonists - the antagonists do tend to be one-dimensional in personality mainly I think because Lewis depicts them as almost embodiments of their respective philosophies. We cannot judge a novel for not being something or the sort of story it wasn't intended to be.

    Its not your typical apocalyptic end times fiction which tries to build a narrative about characters left-behind after the Rapture. Lewis was not a dispensationalist. I have my own thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses of Lewis's novel, but would be interested to hear your thoughts on what you mean by an element of wishful thinking?
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2020
  7. Amittai

    Amittai monitor evaluator

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    Lewis thought what he called Zoroastrianism was the next best thing to Christianity (was it in Merest Christianity?). This is not a judgment on the Parsees by the way.

    The thesis must not be rejected that Jewish writers (one of our sources) were sometimes swopping round people names as a rhetoric device. (Plato also reversed Athens and Lydia in his Atlantis stories, according to Peter James.) If you wanted to criticise Persian policies under Persian rule, you probably had to blame it on the Assyrians who indeed had been particularly bad a few centuries earlier.

    The Narnia stories work wonderfully well on the level of fairy stories with excellent morals. I couldn't get on with Tolkien as the books seemed "overproduced" even in printed form.

    I think futurological moral warnings are all of great value though. I'm probably introducing a red herring by extending the reference of the thread to the Inklings or Lewis's other oeuvre.
     
  8. dms1972

    dms1972 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I understand Lewis wrote his Narnia books fairly quickly, and only did a small amount of re-writing on each. Tolkien done a great deal of re-writing of his stories - I think the element of rewriting was important to him, indeed a key part of what he called 'sub-creation' - maybe that is why they seem "overproduced" in comparison with the Narnia stories. They are obviously much more involved stories in many respects and he wanted to use Middle Earth tales as a setting for the Middle Earthian languages he had invented. I would guess that is why a lot of re-writing was required. Narnia doesn't have its own languages.
     
  9. Amittai

    Amittai monitor evaluator

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    I had read THS a long while ago but for some reason not taken it in. There's obviously a lot in it about the conjunction between metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, logic & epistemology (which I from infancy have instinctively felt closely related).

    The vital question is indeed, how do we live now?

    I was indeed a wishful thinker, myself.
     
  10. Jok

    Jok Active Member

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    I’m getting sick & tired of hearing the Orwellian term! Why aren’t they saying The Temporary Normal instead?
     
  11. dms1972

    dms1972 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    You know what I was thinking when I read your comments in your first post you said children know when things square. Well I thought of the Spielberg Film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Now i have watched this a few times - and the different versions also, but its been a few years. For a while I was thinking is there some subtext in this and what is it? Well near the start when the toys in the kid's room power up in the middle of the night - the recordplayer comes on and sings "Now look with care for the shape of a square..."

    Of course I see some themes in this film that crop up in other Spielberg productions - like the idealisation of childhood and innocence. In the film Barry's mother is (I think rightly terrified) by the UFO phenomena when it first occurs, but her child who is about six isn't phased or scared at all - "come in through the door!" he says at one point to the alien visitors whose lights and strobes are beaming through the blinds and down the chimney!! That is a rather idealised view of childhood innocence - would many children be like that at six, I always wondered?

    I think there is certainly an element of wishful thinking in that film.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2020
  12. dms1972

    dms1972 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I agree - in some respects things simply are not normal in several countries right now, and it shouldn't be termed a new normal. But we have to with God's help put up with it for now. The goal should be for things to get back to normal again. I think that is were the Lewisian idea of the Normal is helpful - even in the midst of an abnormal even if largely accepted state of affairs there is something solid that could be termed normal - I still hear birds singing if I stand on my doorstep for instance.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2020
  13. Amittai

    Amittai monitor evaluator

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    The word "square" can have "connotations" ;) I just mean it in its five or six plain meanings (verb and noun).

    No that fake sentiment projected onto the child is something of the sort that I even sense before I go to see a film, I always know if it's going to be "like that". I've learned the hard way about irrational intensity. Children never start out irrational or even become irrational (essentially). Sensitivity to dimensions, when natural, isn't irrational. The most difficult relationships have the rational trying to keep safe behind them. Genuine Holy Spirit gifts are never irrational either.

    Those few children with ultra low key experience of "paranormal" have never reported it remotely like that. And were always somehow wary.

    The Psammead suspends belief in a small part but otherwise proceeds rationally. And a book isn't intense. A sibling was reading it in OUR garden. And Alice is hilarious and multi-multi-dimensional AND is a dream anyway. And is a book again. I remember my unicorn novel phase. At the school desk. Me mate sitting next to me. Teacher in front. Life IS normal.

    Virtual idiots can keep their virtual. Immersive can stay under.

    Lewis must be relatively sound compared to all that. I sensed his attempts at comprehensive theology is less solid than his view of issues that he puts into his other various books: I value for example the various Screwtapes. (Os Guinness' excellent Gravedigger Files is the counterpart looking at the church communally.)

    Hegel's ultra atheistic idealism and fixation with inexorable pincer movements has harmed the entire world immeasurably. (He's not just saying he doesn't think there's a god.)

    Imagination is my faculty and I possess my faculties, ever better, ongoingly.
     
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