Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ron Dart's Spiders and Bees - Foreword by William Christian

Foreword to George Grant: Spiders and Bees by Ron Dart

The image of Ron Dart that stands out most strongly in my mind is a tall, lanky, dark-haired man on a snow-covered peak in the pristine wilderness of the interior of British Columbia. There is, in him, some-thing of Rousseau’s solitary wanderer. Although he’s innately social and seems to have friends of all sorts and conditions everywhere in the country, I think that he’s probably most truly himself when he’s alone with his thoughts. Because thoughts he has aplenty. He has published over twenty books. He produced one of the most innovative and imaginative literary magazines in the country. And although he ponders deeply on the wisdom of the past, that doesn’t prevent him from spreading his ideas by blogging in the present. He’s both a Renaissance man and a web 2.0 man at the same time.

Another image I have of Dart is the poet, sitting at my dining room table with my wife and me, talking with great affection, sensitivity and knowledge about many of Canada’s great poets from coast to coast. Some of them, like Milton Acorn, are well-known. Others are not. But Dart has a deep knowledge of their writings.

George Grant and Hinduism: Contemplative Probes by Ron Dart

Christianity seems in a certain way closer to Hinduism than it does to its fellow religions that arose in the Middle East.
George Grant, George Grant in Conversation (1995) p. 176

In talking about a philosophical response, are we not supposed to have agreed upon understanding as to what philosophy is? And certainly one should not try to take advantage of the fact that there is no definition of philosophy on which all are agreed.   
John Arapura Modernity and Responsibility: Essays for George Grant (1983) p. 52       

The recent book, Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics (2006), probed Grant’s deeper theological roots, but in the doing of this, Grant’s interest and affinity with the Orient and Hinduism was missed and ignored. This is a serious lack and weakness in an otherwise needed and necessary commentary on Grant.  

Grant saw himself as standing within the ‘Hindu wing of Christianity’, and, as mentioned above, he thought the contemplative and mystical core of Christianity made it ‘closer to Hinduism’ than to either the Jewish or Islamic traditions.

What did Grant mean by the statements mentioned above, and why was he, as a Canadian, at the forefront of probing greater contemplative depths in the Christian Tradition, and, by doing so, opening up new trails for interfaith dialogue?

Was Grant a 'genteel anti-Semistist?' [excerpt from Grant in Process]

Again in response to Alan Mendelson, was Grant a genteel anti-Semitist? It depends on what we mean with that broad brush label. Here he speaks for himself in this interview in Larry Schmidt (ed.), "George Grant in Process," 1978 (102-3).  

QUESTION: You often speak about your dependence on the traditions of Athens and Jerusalem. Obviously the tradition of Athens, and of Plato in particular, is present in everything you say. But what is less obvious is what you incorporate from the tradition of Jerusalem. I can see the New Testament there -- but I wonder to what extent the Old Testament, the so-called Hebrew Bible, and the whole Hebraic background of Christian faith, is of vital importance in your thought?

GRANT: "Let me say first that I do not like talking in public these days of the differences between Judaism and Christianity. I don't think any political good is served by talking of such differences, because it would be taken in the bases and most vulgar way. But that does not mean there aren't grave intellectual differences between Christianity and Judaism. Clearly, for myself, I'm on the side of Christianity that is farthest away from Judaism, and nearest to the account of Christianity that is close to Hinduism in its philosophic expression. I would accept what Clement of Alexandria said: some were led to the Gospel by the Old Testament, many were led by Greek philosophy.

Friday, March 26, 2010

George Grant's "Lament for a Nation: the Defeat of Canadian Nationalism" - Review by Ron Dart

"Lament for a Nation should be respected as a masterpiece of political meditation."
Peter Emberley 

"Masterpiece is not a word to use lightly, but Lament for a Nation merits it."
William Christian
It is forty years this year (1965-2005) since George Grant’s Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism took wings and left the press. It is most appropriate, therefore, to reflect on this timely text and meditate on its perennial relevance for Canadian thought and political life.
There is no doubt that Lament for a Nation is a compact and succinct masterpiece. It says much in a few pages. It is very much a tract for the times. Alex Colville, the well known Canadian painter, called Lament for a Nation, a political novel. When this missive was published, the arguments in it awoke and stirred many in the New Left and Counter Culture in Canada to fight for what Grant seemed to think was passing away. Lament for a Nation has appealed to many audiences for many different reasons, but the truths in it are as relevant today in an age of globalization and an 9-11 imperial world as they were in 1965.
What, then, are the ideas and arguments in Lament for a Nation, and what can they still speak and say to us?

The Christian Platonism of Simone Weil and Exiles from Nowhere: Reviews by Brad Jersak

Book Reviews by Brad Jersak

E. Jane Doering and Eric O. Springsted, The Christian Platonism of Simone Weil (Notre Dame: UND Press, 2004.

Alan Mendelson, Exiles from Nowhere: The Jews and the Canadian Elite (Montreal: Robin Brass Studio, 2008).

In reviewing these two scholarly gems, I read them from a particular perspective. I am at the fledgling stage of George P. Grant research, with a special interest in enucleating the animating core of his life as a contemplative theologian and Canadian ‘prophet.’ One cannot hope to understand Grant’s work as a philosopher, political scientist and activist apart from the context of his Weilian Christian Platonism, for in his spiritual journey out of the dark cave of modernity (think Plato), Simone Weil was truly his ‘Diotima.’[1] Further, Grant’s emergence as one of Canada’s preeminent thinkers must be understood in light of his progressivist liberal pedigree. From that point of view, a book of essays on Weil’s Christian Platonism and a history that situates him among Canada’s intellectual elite are must-reads.