Imagine, by analogy, a virtuoso pianist at the peak of her career who looks out at the culture around her and realizes that appreciation for classical music is rapidly fading. She senses a crisis: if things continue, there will soon be no audiences, no careers in music, and no future great performances. She considers the situation so dire that she decides to step away from her instrument, if only for a time, in order to defend classical music nationwide. She gives speeches about composers in grade schools across the country, lobbies Congress for increased support for the arts, and solicits wealthy donors to sponsor classical-music instruction. Her work is noble, but it consumes her; and the crisis is so severe that her task is never done. Thus, she never fully returns to the life of music she enjoyed before. Now, when she has time to play, which is rare, she’s a shadow of her former self. Practice sessions find her distracted. Her music suffers as a result of her effort to save music.
The battle to save music is not itself the practice of music. The two activities are worlds apart. One is an instrumental good, the other intrinsic; one is never complete, the other complete in itself. This paradox occurs across domains: The battle to preserve a space for Christian worship in an increasingly secular society is not itself Christian worship. The defence of the liberal arts is not the liberal arts. And the war to save our political union from our enemies is not itself political union.
A pretty heavy article that makes a few great points about nihilism, politics, friendships, and meaning.
My only quibble is that the article makes an unnecessary leap about not being able to be complete without a relationship with God, but hey, maybe the longer I live and partake in intrinsic activities, those experiences will help change my opinion about why we’re here and what set this world into motion.