Thursday Evenings in Epiphany
Epiphanies from the Book of Ecclesiastes
and Roger Scruton’s The Soul of the World.
Thursday evenings in the season of Epiphany, beginning January 8.
This past year, Roger Scruton wrote a much reviewed and equally praised book in which he argued that “to be fully alive—and to understand what we are—is to acknowledge the reality of sacred things.” Instead of trying to engage in the ever popular and wholly fruitless debates about God and religion, he chose to offer an extended series of reflections on “why a sense of the sacred is essential to human—and what the final loss of the sacred would mean.”
In many ways, both subtle and garish, the sacred is under attack in our society. It is often assumed to be irrelevant now—a vestigial relic of an earlier age, before the discovery of the dominance of knowledge. In our time of Big Data, the sacred is also simply being overwhelmed by the profusion of sheer information. We have little time or interest in discerning the sacred when every day we face a rush of responsibilities and diverting entertainments. God and the sacred can seem infinitely distant. Scruton, however, describes our world very differently. He suggests that “the highest forms of human experience and expression tell the story of our religious need... [which] endows the world with a soul” and allows us to find a place within it that is truly home. In truth and at best, wisdom transforms knowledge.
Several thousand years ago, a similar enterprise was engaged by the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes. It is a short but studied examination of the nature of our world and life, by one who wishes to take an objective perspective. It is a book that is some ways seems resolutely secular and free from dogmatic assumptions; but in compelling ways, the trace of God, the infinite, and the sacred can’t be dismissed. The book describes living somewhere between the resignation of earth alone and the dream of heaven. It doesn’t argue for or against God, but opens a space where wisdom can’t be ignored.
For the weeks of Epiphany (January 8 – February 12), we will be reading texts from both books, ancient and modern, to better realize the importance of wisdom in our lives and in our world, where so much that troubles us seems to originate from having lost any sense at all of the sacred.