The Right Not to Know: Advice from Solzhenitsen - Lin Wilder
The right not to know
Since I’m an admirer of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, I’ve used excerpts from his speeches and books, for articles about his riveting observations. Many of his comments feel relevent, almost urgently so, although they were penned decades ago. This one: the right not to know, is another of the Russian’s remarks that seems to leap off the page and into our living rooms.
In 1978, former Soviet political prisoner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn gave a speech at Harvard University entitled, “A World Split Apart,” in which he spoke about individual and social fragmentation. In his assessment, a significant cause of individual fragmentation is the spurious idea that “everyone is entitled to know everything.” In reality, Solzhenitsyn remarked, “People also have the right not to know, and it is a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk.” [italics mine.]
I’d not read the address, A World Split Apart, before. I’ve embedded it here because the ten typed pages contain a wealth of provocative and challenging material.
The Russian author opens his speech with these words;
“Harvard’s motto is “VERITAS.” Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it. This is the source of much discord. Also, truth seldom is sweet; it is almost invariably bitter. A measure of truth is included in my speech today, but I offer it as a friend, not as an adversary.”
Solzhenitsen proceeds to provide a ‘measure of truth’ about our western world in general and America specifically. Explaining, as he does so, the dangerous lure of socialism to western intellectuals and the young alike. But that subject was dealt with elsewhere.
After reading through the Russian writer’s remarks a couple of times, l decided that his observations are accurate.
His statement below provides a case in point.
A decline in courage
“A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, in each government, in each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elites, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society. There are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.”
Yes and no.
Of course we’ve seen the notion of American citizenship devolve to rights without corollary obligations. The effects of our country’s plunge into atheistic humanism are frightenly apparent in our cities, schools and government. Our leaders appear incapable of anything but spewing nonsense or dealing with real problems. The mouth-dropping persistence of drought in the face of supernatural flooding belies reason. The list is endless and growing.
But a “decline of courage” isn’t a characteristic unique to the west or even to the ‘enlightment.’
It began in the Garden.
When neither Adam nor Eve was capable of honestly answering their Creator’s “Why would you do such a thing?” Satan’s instilled shame and distrust of God haunts each phase of history, all nations and each human soul.
Even when Baptism erases Satan’s destruction in us, we must do battle daily, sometimes hourly to “be perfect as Our Father in Heaven is perfect.” But examples of civic courage which defy our sinful souls and the craven narrative do exist: In those who are filled with what St. Augustine calls, holy desire.
The Justice Department’s use of the FACE act to indict protesters against abortion rocked the ProLife world. However, Mark Houk‘s acquittal by a Philadelphia jury has attained national notoriety—even in the secular media. Houk plans to return to the sidewalk next Wednesday when 40 Days for Life Begins. Along with thousands of Americans who abhor the evils against the sanctity of life being perpetrated by American public policy.
A televison celebrity, Jonathan Rhoumie, spoke of the “Jesus Revolution” at the March for Life a couple of weeks ago. Can Solzhenitsen’s trenchant remarks serve as catalyst and fuel for those of us fully deployed in the Jesus revolution?
St. Augustine declares that, “The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when he comes you may see and be utterly satisfied.”
The Mission of Divine Mercy supplies a daily meditation for our consideration.
Raise Your Gaze:
Raise your eyes to God.
Remember that His ways, and His plans, and His Actions,
ARE NOT LIKE THOSE OF THE WORLD.
NOR LIKE WHAT YOUR REASON WOULD IMAGINE THEM TO BE.
God’s Ways, Plans and Actions are
INFINITE AND FULL OF MERCY AND JUSTICE.
AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, THEY ARE INFINITELY GREATER THAN THE PLANS OF THE ENEMY.
For this reason, it is good to stop frequently and
LOOK UP AT HEAVEN.
Raise your gaze from the rottenness of this world, And try to see as God sees.
Try to think as He thinks.
But HOW are you supposed to see as He sees,
or think as He thinks?
BY FIRST BRINGING IT ALL TO HIM.
Everything that you see, that you hear, that you feel,
that causes you terror, fear, anguish, despair, sadness, doubts—
bring it all to the Father.
Bring it to Him,
SO THAT TOGETHER, YOU CAN LOOK AT ALL OF IT.
Let Him give you His LIGHT, so that He can teach you how HE sees it,
and how you must truly see it.
So that you regain HOPE,
So that your FAITH is strengthened,
So that you begin to RECOGNIZE HIM more and more,
And so that you become more and more ABANDONED to His love.
Perhaps more than ever before it is necessary to stop seeing with the eyes of the world,
And instead see with the EYES OF ETERNITY.
RAISE YOUR GAZE.
LOOK UP TO THE FATHER WHO LOVES YOU.
WHO WANTS TO ENCOURAGE YOU.
WHO WANTS TO HELP YOU SEE.