Monday, September 15, 2008

The End of the Matter

Recently, I was reading through Thomas Carlyle’s brilliant biographical notes on the life and work of Oliver Cromwell when I stumbled across a refreshing insight. According to Carlyle, most serious attempts at social, political, or theological analysis in the modern era are dreary and repetitive affairs of ill-informed “shot-rubbish” and “dry-as-dust” inanities. Instead of throwing the light of understanding on an issue, they are little more than:

“Confusion piled on confusion to the utmost horizon’s edge: obscure, in the lurid twilight as of the shadow of death; trackless without index, without finger-post, or mark of any human foregoer; where your human footstep, if you are still human, echoes bodeful through the gaunt solitude, peopled only by somnambulant pedants, dilettantes, and doleful creatures by phantasms, errors, inconceivabilities, by nightmares, pasteboard norroys, griffins, wiverns, and chimeras dire. There, all vanquished, overwhelmed under such waste lumber-mountains, the wreck and dead ashes of some unbelieving generations, does the truth lie hidden from us.”

In other words, most works of modern analysis are merely the restatement of the obvious, the scandalous, or the insidious. They are negative and mundane simply because tomes of criticism are far easier to churn out than quartos of positive prediction or of constructive hope.

Carlyle’s telling indictment of such “droning melancholy skepticisms” and “dismal torpedo narratives” reminded me that perhaps the most important thing that I could ever say about Planned Parenthood was actually as yet unsaid. It struck me that there was little need for another rehearsal of pro-abortion woes or even another anthem of pro-life resolves. Instead, it seemed to me that the need of the moment is for a clear-eyed pronouncement of ultimate outcomes.

Though I had already come to the end of the matter, I had hardly come to what matters in the end.

The fact is, bad ideas don’t last. Though they seem to regularly torment the human experience across the span of history, their tenure at any one given time is actually quite short-lived. That may be the most important fact for us to grasp about Planned Parenthood—or any of the other modern malignancies that blithely distress this poor fallen world in which we live. But it is a fact that is all too easy to forget in the heat of controversy.