I’ve found that contemporary psychology enrages me with its simplistic ideas of human life, and also its emptiness.  In the cosmology that’s behind psychology, there is no reason for anyone to be here or do anything.  We are driven by the results of the Big Bang, billions of years ago, which eventually produced life, which eventually produced human beings, and so on.  But me? I’m an accident – a result therefore a victim.

Well, if I’m only a result of past causes, then I’m just a victim of those past causes.  There is no deeper meaning behind things that gives me a reason to be here.

James Hillman

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Psychotherapist, teacher and writer Jim Hillman bravely challenges the thinking in his profession and in our time. Well read and thoughtful, he looks deeply and sees the “holes” in our game.

In the above quote he speaks of a fundamental proposition we face today in Western culture: knowing why we are here, a ground of meaning that leads each to recognize their purpose in being, gives each direction – a staying power in the face of suffering, misfortune and life’s inevitable challenges.

To those who lack a faith narrative, or those who reject faith narrative – there is no particular reason to “be here.” Consumption does not explain our need to be.  Nor does appearance, nor power or status.

Wonder why the young are suicidal?  Meaning.  It has been (in a significant measure) drained from the culture.

People are not easily given to determine their own purpose.  To attempt to invent a meaning and person is like trying to create your own conception, fertilize your own egg.

Hillman’s view is a classical view – that we are souls, and each has a soul in which there is a calling, an inborn meaning and identity, and it is our task in life to realize our call, our identity and live out its imperative.

This is thinking that has been echoed throughout time but muted in the modern age.  Now muted we are lost, self-injuring, chaotic, sick.  We are far from the words of the Bhagavita-Gita, Svetavatara Upanishad, Socrates, Cicero, Seneca, Origen, Aquinas, Newman, Emerson, Berdyaev, Dawson, Maritain, et al.

Without meaning we are ill-equipped to face the inevitable challenges to life itself – the challenges that have us ask: Will I fight to live? Will I die to live or for others that they might live?

Brings to mind the memorable lines of novelist Cormac McCarthy in No Country for Old Men in which the narrator, Texas Sheriff Ed Tom Ball, thinks of the men he knew who held his job and did it well and the utterly incomprehensible violence he now faced doing their job.  Says Ed Tom:

The crime you see now, its hard to even take its measure.  It’s not that I’m afraid of it.  I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job … But I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand … A man would have to put his soul at hazard.  He would have to say , okay, I’ll be part of this world.

If you wonder about us now, and the West and you cannot understand our reticence, think about the soul, purpose, meaning, Ed Tom, Creation, the Judeo-Christian narrative, Christ, the history of the West, your birth.

Shalom.

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