Blessed are the contrarians, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. But they must be very, very careful in these “Interesting Times,” in the Chinese sense. Unless you think that “May you live in interesting times” after all is a blessing and not a curse, or better still the first of three curses of increasing degrees of severity, the other two being “May the government be aware of you,” and “May you find what you are looking for.” But in this case you had better not read this book—and you can’t say I didn’t warn you!
Let’s start from the beginning, which can only be the title of this book, with the first question: Who or what is a contrarian? Well, that is not an easy question to answer. The fact is that there are many kinds of contrarians. Way too many to come up with a description that fits them all.
Broadly speaking, however, contrarians are those who go against the current (as the dictionary states), who take opposing stands from the majority: in the stock markets they buy when others sell and vice-versa; in religious matters, if they are Christians, they continue to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, in spite of the Zeitgeist, and if they are not they have the utmost respect for what Christianity is all about and for its contribution to civilization. In matters of culture, education and lifestyles, they are “old-fashioned” while the rest of the world seems to be hell bent on transmuting order into chaos.
Philosophically speaking, there are two main types of contrarians: thinkers who are marginal and unconventional during their own life time, but posthumously become very popular and trendy, and those who “thought different” in their lifetime, to quote Steve Jobs, and their works still continue to go against the mainstream in the present time. Friedrich Nietzsche, for instance, belongs to the first category, whilst Montaigne belongs to the second—that of the truest and the most representative contrarians, in my own personal (and perhaps questionable) opinion. And that’s where I shall start from, as you will see.
This book is a kind of diary of a journey through our time—politics, culture, lifestyles, worldviews, etc.—and back home again, where “home” stands for a sense of belonging to something stronger than the spirit of our times. In other words what this book represents is a sort of explanation—though not a systematic one—of why I disagree with certain mainstream views in several domains. And this from a conservative and Christian point of view, that is to say the perspectives that come under severe attack from secular and progressive ideologies, the over-influential schools of thought of our time.
I have selected for this volume some of the articles posted on my blog over the last few years, those most suitable for this traditional mode of communication. The “diary” entries are not arranged in any chronological order, but in accordance to subject pertinence. This was done to make it easier for the reader to surf through the book. After all, as Albert Einstein once said, time is only an illusion—though sometimes an interesting one!
Targeted Age Group:: 16+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
There is no specific reason why I wrote Blessed Are the Contrarians, nor was there ever even any decision to write it. In fact, as the subtitle reads, my book is a Diary of a Journey Through Interesting Times. I mean, I didn’t originally want to write a book, I just came to the decision of writing a blog, that is an online diary, or a daily pulpit, or whatever you want to call it. The book is just a side-effect, so to speak, of the original purpose of creating and maintaining a blog.
As a matter of fact, I have collected in this volume some of the pieces which I have posted on my blog over the last few years, namely the most suitable to this traditional mode of communication. As a result, Blessed Are the Contrarians is a kind of diary of a journey through our time (politics, culture, lifestyles, worldviews, etc.). And, I would add, back home again, where home stands for a sense of belonging to something stronger than the spirit of our times. In other words what this book is all about is explaining—though not in a systematic way—why I disagree with mainstream views in several areas. And this from a conservative and Christian point of view, that is to say the perspectives which, in turn, come under severe attacks from secular and progressive ideologies, namely the most influential schools of thought of our time.
To conclude, the question: What inspired you to write this book? should be changed to: What inspired you to create a blog? And the answer is: Simply because I had to. Because everyone is called to witness to what they have seen and heard, and to what they believe in.
A Silence “Inhabited” by God
Thomas Merton once wrote: “We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have—for their usefulness.” We tend to apply the same scheme of reasoning to God Himself: If God exists, people often argue, then He must busy Himself, otherwise He is a false god. We cannot accept the silence of God, as much as we cannot accept the silence tout court. People perceive it as an uncomfortable and awkward break in conversation, so they instinctively insist on filling the silence, and this because nowadays we perceive silence as an absence, as an emptiness. We cannot conceive silence as meaningful, and even less as one “inhabited” by Someone: a silence “inhabited” by God. This is, in my opinion, part of the problem with our culture and way of life today.
Mother Teresa once said: “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” The contemplative experience teaches the discipline of silence as an exclusion of any noise and unnecessary chat, which profane those precious spaces of silence. The true wise man—as a Camaldolese monk, Father Franco, once told me—speaks few words and his “words” are often “silence” at the same time. His words spring from a deep meditation. True silence keeps us away from narrow-mindness. The word is a great thing, but it is not what is greatest: if word is silver, as the old proverb goes, silence is gold. He who aims at the higher levels of spiritual life needs silence as much as he needs his daily bread and rest for his body.
“In the attitude of silence—said Mahatma Gandhi—the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.” May the rest of the Summer be a time of renewal and, as far as possible, of silence, for me and for you, my good readers.
August 18, 2009
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