Exploring the Social Imagination

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Living in the Flesh... what does that mean for the Social Imagination?

What does living in the flesh mean? It means living in the world, everything in the world that has to do with engaging our fleshy senses. We should live according to the spirit in the flesh. In every man/woman's life there comes the situation as C.S. Lewis points in which he/she finds themselves having to make a choice and he/she knows in a moment - right from wrong and they know the 'right' option to choose. A man is not an animal; because, an animal would simply respond to what suits him/her needs in the moment and move on. Animal choices work like that because they are simple programs. There is no right or wrong choice for them in their natural state. If they are hungry, they get food by whatever means. Man is able to discern from advantages in the flesh and desire advantages which are unseen. Advantages such as joy which is unseen. It means that in man is the feeling that he/she ought to help/rescue/share. As Lewis writes in 'Mere Christianity' there is a 'third thing' which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help and suppress the impulse to run or take. Lewis also says that inside man there is a  knowing when to take up what he calls the first thing 'desire' for self gratification, and when not to and when to run 'the second thing' and when not to. What is that governs these options/things? The third thing - the spirit in man- his God given spirit.

Lewis recognizes like I do (as a sociologist) that there are things we learn from parents and teachers - Rule of Decent Behavior. But even in saying that, whose 'decent' are we taking about. In order to compare our 'decent' from someone else's we would have to acknowledge that there is a  model. Again, whose model. Some argue that it is what works for people in a place. That can be true but then no model is created out of that as in any place what works there does not create a universal or absolute model to make comparisons. Yet, somewhere in man there is an idea of what is decent and what is not. We would have to be taking a bird's eye 'fleshy' view in that case... the case that allows us to arrive at what is decent in one place and decent in another. But, by doing so, we fail as what is fleshy for me is not for you and hence no model or absolute truth can come out of that. However, the spirit - the third thing, because it is also inside and yet something greater than the first aspects of man's desires, made known to him/her as it is in him/her, does allow for and move man into 'third thing' application as in 'ought to do'. It is the spirit that discerns as Lewis said. The knowing when to reject fleshly desires and reject fear - run, in accepting the unseen advantage in doing what 'ought to be done'. This we see played out in American films all the time- the hero... the impulse desire (third thing) to save Private Ryan; that is not living in the flesh but in the spirit - what I may call the true 'social imagination'.

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