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A Canticle for Leibowitz - Essay Example

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Walter Miller’s novel A Canticle for Leibowitz explores the spiritual and political occurrences that unfold over many centuries…
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A Canticle for Leibowitz

While Miller’s text presents a compelling narrative, it is perhaps most relevant in terms of the metaphorical critique it holds for contemporary life and the potentials of future existence. This response essay considers many of these elements and meditates on potential solutions to some of the most pressing challenges. There are a number of considerations related to Miller’s notion that religious inspiration can create a culture-saving alternative community. One first considers the nature of religious inspiration. In the text what largely appears to have occurred is that religion has rejected the location of what it once readily embraced – namely simplification. In these regards, one considers the church’s position in the Medieval Period as readily embracing a rejection of knowledge for more faith based modes of understanding; these modes of understanding created institutions that largely rejected scientific inquiry, particularly when it conflicted with religious doctrine. In this sense the nature of ‘religious inspiration’ would be recognized as actually rejecting knowledge. Still, in the Medieval period through the Renaissance and even into the contemporary world religion has operated to stringently retain its own culture in the face of scientific and ethical challenges from the outside world. It seems the notion of ‘religious inspiration’ as a culture-saving operation is perhaps best exemplified in the university system. In these regards, to a large extent the university system and the professors working therein constitute a culture that is partly in opposition to pervading trends of society. That is, the university system embraces concepts and values that reject the simple pursuit of profit for the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. This is slightly a religious concept as, at least in Western society, the fundamental driving impact of change and development are profit incentives. Ultimately, then this attests to the nature of religious inspiration as a culture-saving entity. One considers whether Americans are tempted towards oversimplification. Particularly in regards to the aforementioned university establishment there is the consideration that much of mainstream society is opposed to intellectualism. Rather than holding intellectuals or scientists in ultimate esteem, society more readily embraces athletes or popular entertainers. Within mainstream media television programs, films, and popular novels project a culture that rejects intellectualism and positions intelligence or knowledge as counter to natural living. Newspapers and television news oftentimes are targeted towards the lowest common denominator. The cumulative recognition of these trends is that American society largely tempts its citizens towards oversimplification. Within the text the nuclear weapons engineer that founds the monastic order to preserve knowledge is later carved in a statue with a wry smile. To an extent this can be viewed as a metaphor on society as entirely ironic. That is, we all act like we know what we’re doing, but none of us really have any idea. To an extent it appears that this notion is correct in that much of what is termed functioning in society is based on the blind embrace of pervading cultural standards that the majority of us do not understand. Still, one considers that existentialism positions meaning as a personal choice. In these regards, there is self-reflexivity and authenticity in the way that humans go about living their lives. The question of meaning and understanding is related to questions of control and directing natural forces. The text asks, “Who will govern the use of power to control natural ... Read More
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