Saving Private Anselm

Let us always bear in mind the sacred Rule of the Corporate Brainstorm (SRCB):
“There are no stupid ideas, only stupid people.”

The Situation

Prove This!

Our friend King Kong said the type of argument Anselm used can not prove the existence of God. In fact, he proved it could not prove the existence of God. Proofs of the unprovability of proofs only begin to hint at how hard it is to read Kant. But we suffer here at The God Project Dot Net so that you, dear lurker, can enjoy your weekend.

Unless you are in Minneapolis. Last night we went to our prom-themed corporate holiday party, complete with balloons, boutonnieres and a band that’s supposedly blowing up. Coolness abounds; the band sounds like the Ramones. Everything sounds like something else to me, as everyone looks like someone, only younger, which can mean only one thing: I am over forty. (Random aside: Kant was over fifty when he started writing what we still read today.)

So I’m at this pseudo-prom surrounded by dancing Scandinavians and I’m wondering how I got to be here, after 20 years in the Center of the Known World. And POP!: I realize my angle on living is Anselmian. Listen to this, over the band:

“I do not seek to understand in order to have faith but I have faith in order to understand. For I believe even this: I shall not understand unless I have faith.”

This is Anselm’s infamous Credo: “Faith seeking understanding,” also in the “Proslogion.” It’s not a Fundie-type statement: he’s just saying he (1) makes a commitment, (2) proceeds, and (3) understands all the nit-picky details later, if ever.

Isn’t this incredibly human? Isn’t Anselm just Keeping It Real? Why am I in Minneapolis, after all? My wife did the P.T. Barnum hard-sell for years, true, but it came down to a day when I thought: “Let’s do this.” Rational? Not in a way that would impress King Kong. It was a leap into the mystic void based on little more than a feeling, part-reason, and faith in our little family’s nuclear adaptability.

And now that I’m writing out loud, seems to me like exactly those decisions based on cold, hard reason that have turned out to bite me in the balloon. I mention one: my rational goal, for so many years, was to own an apartment in Manhattan. Sound thinking. The height of rationality, right? I got one. Want to buy it from me? Please?

Anselm said: “It is quite possible to think of something whose nonexistence cannot be thought of.” Tell that to an atheist. But the truth is, Anselm himself did such a thing: thought of something whose nonexistence cannot be thought of. Had an undeniable conviction of Truth based on some hard evidence … and something else.

What? Augustine has a similar experience in “The Confessions.” We’ll get there, little gorillas. We’ll get there together.



4 responses to “Saving Private Anselm

  1. This is a hell of an essay! Oddly enough, last night I spent the fourth quarter of a basketball game in which I was supposed to be playing locked into a wild, no holds barred St. Anselm conversation. I’ve always thought the ontological proof of God idea was a bit weird. It could easily be the ontological proof of dragons. Or yetis. However, that whole bit about having faith in order understand is a damn powerful idea. That one strikes me as being a pretty cool way to conduct one’s life.

    On a side note, my wife and I spend the summers up in Minnesota and did consider moving there for a long while. Heck of a place. We had our wedding in St. Paul and I was treated to the sight of dancing Scandanvians. The Beer Barrell Polka is a memory I will not soon forget.

  2. Thanks KS – yeah, I’ve been enjoying thinking about Anselm and what he really meant – how he (a very smart man) could have been so excited, so convinced by a “proof” that seems so obviously flawed (as Gaunilo pointed out) … I’ve always felt like there’s something there I’m missing. Minnesota is an interesting place; my wife certainly loves it here. I’m on the fence, but we’ve agreed to defer judgment for a year. By the way, at my last job I flew down to Atlanta every week from NYC. Our client was Delta, though, so I never went into Atlanta – just the glorious Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

  3. And a lovely airport it is.

  4. indeed – a gem

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