Here and After

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Horowitz has put the pseudo-transcendence of a purpose immanent in history completely behind him so completely that he can now write about it calmly and without rancor. His masters are now Marcus Aurelius, the stoic Roman emperor, whom he likes to quote, and Dostoyevsky, who was among the first to grasp the significance of the perverted religious longings of the revolutionary intelligentsia, and the hell on earth to which they would inevitably lead. But the temptations of ideology are always present: Dostoyevsky, so aware of the dangers of the revolutionary intelligentsia, himself subscribed in entries in A Writer’s Diary to an ideology at least as absurd: that of Slavophile millenarianism. It is wrong to oppose one ideology with another, but it is by no means easy to escape the trap of doing so.

If neither formal religious belief nor secular religions like Marxism gives meaning to Horowitz’s life, what does? In large measure, it is his work: a lifetime spent in the crucible of political thought and struggle, first on the left, and then, over the last quarter century or so, as a devout conservative. It is vain to suppose, of course, that any human achievement, even the highest, could possibly be of a duration that would entitle it to the word “eternal.” No literary fame, for example, has so far lasted longer than 3,000 years—not even the blinking of the universe’s eyelid. But we humans must live on a human scale and measure things accordingly. The journalist, while he writes his latest article, thinks it of the greatest significance, though he knows perfectly well that it will be forgotten the day after tomorrow, if indeed it is read or noticed at all. Often I have thought to myself, as I write articles, “If only I can be spared until I have finished it,” though I am aware that even I will have forgotten its content by the week after next.

Significance and importance, however, are not natural qualities found inhering in objects or events. Only the appraising mind can impart such meaning. That is why, in my view, the neurosciences are doomed to failure, at least in their more ambitious claims. A mysterious metaphysical realm exists beyond the reach of even the most sophisticated of scanners, even if we cannot specify exactly where that realm is or how it came to be. The physiologist Moleschott, in the nineteenth century, declared that the brain secreted thought like the liver secreted bile; those neuroscientists who tell us that we are about to empty life of its mystery will come to seem as ridiculous, as absurdly presumptuous, as Moleschott seems to us now.

Horowitz tackles these problems in an indirect and gentle fashion. When he talks of the meaning that his work gives to his life, he is not saying to all his readers “Go and do likewise,” because it is clearly not given to everyone to do so (and thank goodness—a world composed of only one kind of person would be unbearable). The satisfaction of work is not, or at least should not be, proportional to the amount of notice it receives in the world. Perhaps the worst effect of celebrity culture is that it makes fame the measure of all things, and thus devalues or renders impossible not only satisfaction from useful but unglamorous labour, but precisely the kinds of pleasures and deep consolations that are to be had from walking a dog.

David Horowitz’s book is a small but important contribution to the revival of the art of dying well, an art from which most of us, both the living and the dying, would benefit. And to die well, we must know first what we have lived for.

Theodore Dalrymple, a physician, is a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

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  • mrbean

    We are but one of a multitude of forlorn creatures existing for brief moments of time in a chaotic universe and we shall all come and will go as though we had never been. Ultimately we are all dead men, and our hopes for an afterlife may or may not be a fantasy. No one knows.

    • Vivi Andersen

      Then be-live in an afterlife.

      If there is none – You will never know.

      So be-live and be happy in this life !

  • Amused

    How sad , for to in the latter days of ones life ,conclude that all meaning boils down to …….politics , political ideology , and the search for meaning and redemption therein . The search for these is borne of guilt , and frought with futility .Whether one be an atheist or deist , to be unaware of the intangibles in life , but for only "walking a dog " is truly tragic . Although I have found great companionship in , and grieved the loss of a dog , it only accentuates the fact that this is but one of the many intangible things in a lifes experience . It merely scratches the surface . In these things there are no politics nor ideologies Unfortunately the existence of , or non-existence of G_D will never be proven beyond the minds of the holders of each view .The great irony of course , is that most human behavior is based on one or the other , regardless of whether we care to admit or not .

    • mrbean

      The intangibles of life? Sounds like so much babble squawk. The power of discrimination that distinguishes us from animals is available to human beings only by rational thought. The power of discrimination… the power of forgiveness… the free will… the determination to just to know, to succeed in life… all speak of the intangible portion of the Cosmos that has been made available to mankind through rational thought! Carl Sagan once said, the Cosmos is all that ever was, is, and ever will be.

      • Amused

        Intangibles mr.Bean , although by my observation are far above you and your damaged character , these things are called Love , Empathy ,Compassion , the ability to give love , and the fullfilled desire to recieve love .So yes , I guess they are indeed "babble-squawk " to a person of your character . Carl Sagan ? And is that statement supposed to be profound ? Why dont you get Scotty to beam you up Mr.Bean , you would do well in an alternate universe .

  • tarleton

    David is an apostate from the secular religion of class and will never be forgiven by his former comrades
    The human mind craves order and meaning in life and will not suffer a vacume of ''nothingness'' …you could say that it is ''hardwired'' to believe in a God , regardless if God ever existed …the atheistic 20 th C is a fine example of what happens when traditional religions are undermined by science and are replaced by secular ones ….Lenin , trotsky , Mau and Pol Pot were all religious ''true believers'' in secular form …religious psychopaths to be exact

  • sononthe_beach

    Too maudlin, David. Look at it this way, you and I and everyone are going to croak and there is nothing we can do about it. Plan ahead, have a goal, and live it up as best you can.

    • Amused

      that's right , no one gets out of this alive .

  • Randy CA

    You may forget the contents of this article in a week, but there are parts and points that will stay with me for a long time.

  • evy

    For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:..Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish [from] the way…Blessed [are] all they that put their trust in him…. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man…For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts…For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God [did] from his. ..For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart… all things [are] naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out….Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

  • Amused

    The argument for a brain that is hardwired by evolution to a belief in G_D ,is just as futile as arguments for and against the existence of G_D. It cannot be proven .No one knows the true mechanism of the synapses taking place in the brain .Just like the Universe , which we can make attempts to describe , derive physical laws and even make a few predictionas based on observation , we still have absolutely no idea of HOW the Universe came into being , WHY it came into being , WHERE it came from or Where it is going .So too the e xistence of G_D , or the existence of an afterlife .Matter cannot be destroyed buty only transformed , something that leaves alot of room for debate .
    So to attempt to extract some meaning to or value of a life lived , from politics practiced or ideologies held or expressed is just plain foolish . In addition, to boil it all down to walking a dog …even more so .This is not atheism but nihilism I bear no animus to those who holdfsuch views….they have my pity , for I do not envy anyone who lives their life in such a manner . But of course , they are free to do so .

  • S. Petersen

    I'm shocked by this info about David H. I had assumed that he was an observant Jew. There's little of less use than a secular Jew–you might as well be a gentile and a modernist-materialist one at that. If Israel doesn't have a destiny in respect to God and to eternity, what greater right has it than, say, Iran to survive? Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper who love thy walls. Criminy–to whom is David praying? What's he want? To be remembered for 5 generations? 10? I'm shocked, shocked …

  • http://DebRollin@yahoo.com Asher

    I am very sorry to hear of David’s illnesses. I just want to say that it is not how we die that matters but how we live…Did we help our fellow man, and how did we treat humanity. Did we live our lives peacefully and honorably…David has certainly been an advocator for Freedom, honesty, and Fairness…..I don’t push my faith on people, however, there is no peace like the peace that comes from believing in Jesus, the Water of Life, The Alpha and the Omega, The Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. John 1: 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the World to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

  • Amused

    lol ….you know a tree by its fruit ….and by seeing some of the fruit HERE ,that brings many a thing into question , regarding the tree .

  • Lightning Jack

    IMHO:

    Everything a person owns is in fact merely a loan, he may use it, cherish it, but he must know that he may have to return it at any moment.

    A persons death is not something G-d leaves to chance. if one has any awareness of G-d's reality whatsoever, then he understands that such a drastic event as dying cannot be a matter of chance.

    Actually, the irony is that everyone is a believer. Even those who have no faith are believers. For "to believe" means to accept and acknowledge something that cannot be known, and there are things in this world which cannot be known, or can be known only partially.

    Human reason is not the only criterion for deciding whether something exist or not. Can we accept somethings existence not because we can prove it absolutely, but because it is very plausible, and indeed evident, beyond denial? Reason may indeed go far to make the existence of G-d plausible and highly probable, but It is extremely improbable that G-d does not exist.

    People who deny G-d's existence say they do not believe, but their formula is simply wrong. They actually do believe: they believe in the non-existence of G-d. And just as I believe in His existence and try to make this plausible and highly probable, virtually evident, so too must the person who believes in the Creators non-existence. He too must find ways to support his unbelief with ironclad arguments.

    He must explain the origin and organization of the world. He too must find causes for the origin and survival of his own people. He cannot evade the task, or declare that science will eventually explain all this. If he does, then he merely has shown that, in his own way, he too is a believer.