We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Katy Lied

Cause célèbre. Much heat. Little light. I have not come to praise Bruce Jenner. But neither have I come to bury him. I pronounce him 'symptom' and -- please, call me Herr Doktor -- I seek only to diagnose.

I am no rube. I know life is complicated. I know that the script, as written, is a little hackneyed, with some of the central characters lacking all depth. I also believe what people say: there are many, many things outside the control of the individual. Among those things are most probably what people are prone to call 'gender identity' and 'sexual orientation'. The question is: what follows, if anything, from that fact?

In our culture, blind affirmation.

Whether I'm right or whether I'm wrong
Whether I find a place in this world or never belong
I've gotta be me, I've gotta be me
What else can I be but what I am?

I have another suggestion.

Following Kant, whatever impels us to act in a certain way is, strictly speaking, nonmoral. It is neither moral nor immoral. But, consequently, it is also not-us: it is part of heteronomy, or other-determination. Yet, as a factum brutum, it is also of absolutely no interest to us. What is of interest is what we can control.

What can we control? Not much. But although exceedingly narrow in scope, this is of the greatest interest to us. Call it autonomy (self-determination) or free will or what you like. It is this -- and only this -- that has the possibility of being moral. You cannot control the hand you have been dealt but that hardly renders you completely powerless: there is still space to manoeuver.

We can wish things -- and, perhaps, the world itself -- to be other than they are. We can imagine how much more good we could have done if only .... But here we err grievously (although quite humanly). It is not a question of degree but of whether or not. Have we, despite our innate incapacities, tried to do good? Yes or no? No ifs, ands, or buts.

In Christianity, one cannot earn one's salvation. All one can earn is damnation. By not trying, by not lifting the proverbial finger. Once we acknowledge our powerlessness, our utter dependence, we can accept the freely given gift. That was not earned. There is no trading with God and we can never render him justice. All we can do is try to pay the debt that can never be made good. This is called piety.

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