How blessed is the marriage of Criticism and Thanksgiving! Come, let us celebrate the feast, which is our inheritance. The world – its death and malice, its life and goodwill – is placed into our hands. Let us eat with thanksgiving the food which has been given to us.
The intellectual life is often one of exhaustion because it is a life of awareness. The intellectual is aware of many painful and pleasurable things: the joy of giving and receiving, the sadness of the world’s hunger, the tacit communion of quiet aloneness and the facile din of the busy workday. Most of all, however, the intellectual is aware of the world’s own dullness: its inability to see itself, to criticize and give thanks for all that is.
The intellectual learns from an early age that criticism and criticism alone is the way to interact with the past. She is not permitted to see the ancients with a critical eye of doxology that gazes with heavy joy upon the truths and falsehoods of her forebears. She must not only discern the problems of the old, she must disdain it and disentangle herself from this embarrassing legacy. This is one extreme.
The other extreme is the unmitigated acceptance of her ancestors, gazing with the uncritical eye that sees only what it desires to see. This, too, is blindness and is born of trust in a false image of the world, just as a critical eye sans doxology sees only its own haughty reflection and not the world itself.
The medium is the message. Her body bears the message of the ancients and she must be careful to faithfully hand down what is good, giving thanks for the good and mourning the bad. If she perpetually turns to the ancients with a disdainful eye, she will have nothing but disdain to offer her descendants. Until she has let the imperfect ancients inhabit her own imperfect body, she cannot hope to bear good news, for she can speak only of the world’s deformities.
How blessed is the scholar who sings a doxology! Come, let us celebrate the world, which is our inheritance. The world – its death and malice, its life and goodwill – is placed into our hands. Let us live with thanksgiving the life which has been given to us.