Fine & private

It is not possible to know very much about a person, except after time when one has parted from him, and through the “medium” of love. And here, unless the love is genuine, and not a mere sentimental extravagance, one cannot “see” another person, only some of his minor sins. To know oneself, under these conditions, is also very difficult, and impossible for many, I am convinced — today, but probably yesterday, too. There are too many distractions, and no attempt can be made to establish the privacy that a “free man” ought to establish. In particular, his every morning, awaking to his alarm clock, is an entry into public life. It must shake him away from the self that was sleeping. For public life is not limited to politics, it happens everywhere that one may go, “outside.”

At the end of summer I journeyed to the Far East (of Ontario), and years after being removed from family life myself, was surrounded by the family life of others. It was marvellous: the various generations congregated, in the old grand-parent home, in an atmosphere that was spacious and graceful. The long weekend of “Labour Day”; a time of potentially genuine leisure, between then and now; between any then, and any now.

It was an environment few “moderns” can experience today, because most of us come from broken and childless families (or else we have children who are essentially orphans: the most public life that is possible). Our society overall is badly broken by our autonomous arrangements, that ruthlessly enforce an interface with public life. Few can ever find a place to hide.

An extended family is almost a requirement, for privacy. It is needed to escape from the commercial life of “a job,” with “holidays” that match it: another form of work (called “fun”), with deadlines. A person may be alone, but this is not the same as private, for he is flotsam, bobbing in the polluted sea of popular culture, shifting upon the dirty tides of passing trends. He has no religion to anchor him, that was formed in a family; it is rare when a person discovers his own. Removed, both from family and God, our typical contemporary has no place where he can meet himself, and “talk.”

It is the private, and hidden, life I am considering: a life “within.” But this does not mean a life inside one’s noisome ego. For apart from family, and in a restricted sense, even from God, a person has a soul which cannot be abandoned. (The ‘modern’ is cut off from family and God, yet even he has a soul to return to. Parted from God, we can only return to God.)

It is a “fine and private” place, “inside the inside” as it were. Let us sound the retreat.