The Countermarch

Returning to Earth

What lies at the root of the abstractionism that I discussed last month, which afflicts the modern world like a mania, especially here in the United States?  Walker Percy dubbed the phenomenon angelism, by which he did not mean that those who exhibit it have evolved to a state of moral purity but that we have individually and collectively cut ourselves loose mentally from the ties that bind us to the world and the people around us.  And yet (for reasons that should be obvious) we have not been able, through such abstraction, to overcome the limitations that are inherent in human life and the material world.  Stymied by our inability to overcome those limitations, we have come increasingly to despise the world and our place in it.  And so our response is not to become more human but less so, as Percy’s Dr. Tom More put it so clearly in Love in the Ruins almost 50 years ago:

For the world is broken, sundered, busted down the middle, self ripped from self and man pasted back together as mythical monster, half angel, half beast, but no man.  Even now I can diagnose and shall one day cure: cure the new plague, the modern Black Death, the current hermaphroditism of the spirit, namely: More’s syndrome, or: chronic angelism-bestialism that rives soul from body and sets...

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