Grasping for the Wind

Harper Collins/Zondervan

John Whitehead

Central Theme
The search for meaning in the 20th century has been shaped, influenced and doomed by ideas originating in the Enlightenment.

Culture reflects the prevailing ideas of a generation. Since the Enlightenment, those ideas have often been hostile to Christian thought and more than ever are accurately described by the writer of Ecclesiastes, ‘I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.’ This is a sweeping overview of the idea generators like Voltaire, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Kant, and the impact of their ideas on artists like Beethoven, Byron, William Blake, Oscar Wilde, Rimbaud, etc. Whitehead moves then to Nietzsche, Darwin, Freud, and Marx, showing how their ideas have worked their way into a narcissistic popular culture though art, literature and film. The book effectively illustrates that we are entering the new millennium with bankrupt ideas from the previous millennium. It is very strong on analysis without attempting to provide strategic remedies.

Beliefs num
–The predominant driving ideas since the enlightenment have been anti-Christian.
–These are actually old, recycled, yet ultimately destructive, ideas that pose as new, fresh, liberating ideas.
–Those ideas have worked their way into popular culture through the arts and personalities of each succeeding generation.
–These ideas are now at the heart of the cultural disintegration we are witnessing.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–Why are humans attracted to ideas that are sometimes obviously destructive?
–If ‘organized religion’ has created opportunities for its critics, how can organized religion be part of the solution?
–Is art always fueled by ideas or do artists sometimes originate ideological change?
–Given a culture deteriorating due to it’s embrace of inferior and untrue ideas, how can we rebuild society around truth?

Provocative Quotes byline
–Life imitates art far more than art imitates life
==Oscar Wilde
–I am degrading myself as much as possible. Why? I want to be a poet, and I am working to make myself a seer — It is a question of reaching the unknown by the derangement of all the senses.
==Arthur Rimbaud
–I am an anti-Christ, I am an antichrist.
==John Lydon, Sex Pistols
–Light came in as a flood and all was clear. Not only had I got rid of theology and the supernatural, but I found the truth of evolution.
==Andrew Carnegie, in discovering Darwinism
–The secret stimulus of the French free thinkers from Voltaire to August Comte was not to remain behind the Christian ideal — but to outbid it if possible.
== Nietzsche
–I stand in no awe whatever of the Almighty. If we were ever to meet I should have no more reproaches to make to Him than He could make to me. I would ask why He hadn’t endowed me with better intellectual equipment, and He couldn’t complain that I have failed to make the best use of my so-called freedom.
–There was a presence in the room that couldn’t have been anybody but Jesus — I truly had a born again experience, if you want to call it that — Jesus put his hand on me. It was a physical thing. I felt it. I felt it all over me. I felt my whole body tremble. The glory of the Lord knocked me down and picked me up.
==Bob Dylan
–I believe everything the Bible says.
==Dylan, 1991
–It will not be by water, but by fire the next time. It is written.
==Dylan, when asked about the Apocalypse, 1991
–We now live in an age in which science is a court from which there is no appeal. And the issue this time around, at the end of the twentieth century, is not the evolution of the species — but the nature of our own precious inner selves.
==Tom Wolfe
–The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and political fabric of America — we have learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives, which have no confidence or purpose.
==President Jimmy Carter, 1979
–We have a highly complex civilization which requires an equally complex social structure and political authority — yet against that the goal should be to destroy all authority, so man in his natural goodness may emerge — this Utopian view is a dangerous fallacy [all such efforts] eventually fall into the hands of thugs — The weaknesses [don’t stem] from an improperly structured society — The fault is in the very imperfect nature of man himself.
==Stanley Kubrick, on the message of Clockwork Orange
–We don’t have a great war in our generation, or a great depression, but we do, we have a great war of the spirit. We have a great revolution against the culture. The great depression in our lives. We have a spiritual depression.
==Tyler Darden, in Fight Club
–What you have to consider is the possibility that god doesn’t like you. Could be, God hates us. This is not the worst thing that could happen.
==Tyler Darden, in Fight Club
–An exhaustive investigation would uncover a great number of influences [that have produced the modern state], but the gradual decay of religion would stand somewhere near the head of the list — public life is thoroughly secularized. The separation of church and state, nowadays interpreted as prohibiting any public recognition of religion at all, is more deeply entrenched in America than anywhere else. Religion has been relegated to the sidelines of public debate.
==Christopher Lasch, historian
–To know nothing of what happened before you were born is to remain ever a child.
–Serious believers, agnostics and atheists now have the same enemy; the humdrum nihilism of everyday life in much of Western Society.
==Michael Harrington, author, atheist

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