The Phenomenon of Man, by Pierre Teilard de Chardin

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  1. Just finished reading this classic book. I have often wondered why it has such an almost cult-like following, and I can now say that it is not from lucidity of writing nor from importance/novelty of ideas, since it has little to no discernible amount of either.

    While reading it, I kept thinking of that great line from the Netflix show, “The Good Place,” when Michael, who can read the entirety of the world’s literature in about an hour, is sitting down with Chidi talking about Chidi’s life work, a very long and convoluted book manuscript on moral philosophy:

    – Chidi: Aren’t there some parts worth salvaging?

    – Michael: Honestly, man, I don’t even know. I mean that thing is unreadable. I literally learned what headaches were because that thing gave me a headache.

    Teilhard’s is one of the abstruse books I have ever read. Worse, unlike some other unnecessarily abstruse writing, which, given enough time and energy to dissect and distill the complexity, has nuggets of gold to validate the struggle, in Teilhard’s case by contrast, most every time I struggled to find the nugget, dissected and understood a complex passage, all I found was tautology, or other nonsense.

    It was not entirely without value, however. He does have something valuable to say about love, for example, when he talks about its role in what he calls the Omega: that

    – love “dies in contact with the impersonal and the anonymous.” So true.

    His description of the radial energy versus tangential energy, is mildly interesting, but so poorly articulated that there is really no telling what he means.

    See more comments on books and my reading lists at https://stevenclarkcunningham.net/other/ or https://stevenclarkcunningham.net/religion/.

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