Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A Canticle for Leibowitz

Hidden on the NRO page among the discouraging and apocalyptic messages is Thomas Hibbs’ fine appreciation of a neglected gem of a novel, Walter Miller’s A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ. The genuine end of the world won’t be some nuclear catastrophe but the total forgetfulness of the wisdom embedded in a cultural tradition. And one sign that our tradition is already fragmented, if not forgotten, is our misguided view that, in the name of the truth, we must choose either science or religion. Miller’s novel inspired in several obvious and deep ways the two-part space odyssey that concludes Walker Percy’s LOST IN THE COSMOS.

Discussions - 4 Comments

Yep, great book. Anyone who thinks about it for 5 minutes knows that you aren’t going to "get rid of" religion, at least so long as 1) death and 2) doubts about the future dog Man’s existence. At its bedrock, religion is all about feeling secure.

I think it’s our yearning for truth & love, and the incompleteness of our souls that is only filled by the Other.

I remember a dinner table conversation from my youth, maybe 1960. I was actually under the table, listening and hoping no one would notice and send me to bed. Above, the adults were debating the effect of television on culture. My dad was insisting that TV would carry the cultural tradition. His point was that the wisdom of the ages could be preserved by TV and inculcated into children through the choices their parents made of what played in the living room every evening. This was what he did and naturally, all parents would do that. Another gentleman at the table predicted what has actually happened.

My dad was wrong about a lot of things, like the withering away of state and his certainty that, within his lifetime, science would have proved that God does not exist and that religion is nothing but a cultural phenomenon; God was a phantom of man’s mind. He is eighty this year and I wonder if he is not holding out till his science triumphs. My conversion was a terrible blow to him, and he didn’t speak to me for several years.

I can not help but believe, and do not know why I must. God is inescapable, unignorable, much more real to me than you guys who are only words on a screen to me. How can I believe in any of you, unknown and distant? God is accessible anywhere I am. I only find you through a computer, and when I walk away, you are gone. Tony, I did not even know I had a soul till He touched it and made it live.

Yet, Peter, you told me to read Lost and I am. I just wish Percy didn’t make me squirm so.

Canticle for Leibowitz.... I read that back in high school. I can’t say I remember much of it, but I recall liking it. I need to pick that up again. Maybe I’ll check out Percy, too.

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