- - Friday, October 7, 2011

A POINT IN TIME: THE SEARCH FOR REDEMPTION IN THIS LIFE AND THE NEXT
By David Horowitz
Regnery Publishing, $24.95 130 pages

Life matters. No matter if you believe in or doubt eternity in any form, your existence in time and space, forgotten as it will inevitably be, makes weird sense. David Horowitz makes the point lyrically, almost poetically, in his “A Point in Time: The Search for Redemption in This Life and the Next.” It is a compact 130-page), one-night read, sure to be reread by fans of his best-selling autobiography “Radical Son” about his coming of age in politics, and more recent polemical volumes.

“A Point in Time” is a profound commentary on the quest for finding “meaning” in life, even as it occurred 1,800 years ago to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic, in his “Meditations.” Mr. Horowitz rediscovered this title in his mid-60s. He finds it strangely in tune with today’s existential questions about life and death. The ancients had a handle on these, such Aurelius‘ comment for the ages: “Be not troubled, for all things are according to nature and in a little while you will be no one and nowhere.”

Stoics such as the Roman Aurelius, who wrote in Greek, had a grip on reality - transitory as it was - along with a tranquil sense of fatalism. “A Stoic reflects the past is already gone and the future yet to come; consequently, neither is yours to lose,” observes Mr. Horowitz.

“It does not really matter, therefore, how much time you have left or how little, since all that can be taken from you is the moment before you,” writes Mr. Horowitz, who is now 72 years old and afflicted now by heart and diabetes conditions. None of that Dylan Thomas stuff, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” for this Stoic.

Another central figure in Mr. Horowitz’s marvelous little book is Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. A radical, like Mr. Horowitz early on, Dostoevsky in the 1840s became an “unrelenting critic of the romance” of worldwide socialism - i.e., trying vainly to make the world more perfect, sacrificing personal freedoms, and property rights (and millions of lives, as it turned out). Or perhaps better stated, to obtain by force the elusive goal of egalitarian social justice.

Post-radical “Dostoevsky was shunned by progressives,” Mr. Horowitz writes, “as a ‘social reactionary,’ an enemy of the future,” which was to be collectivist in radicals’ eyes. That was the environment in which Mr. Horowitz himself was raised. He became a fire-breathing radical and an editor of Ramparts, a far-left magazine. Finally, aided by maturity and by rereading the sublime Russian author of “The Brothers Karamazov” and “Crime and Punishment,” he saw the light, or as he states it, was “no longer blinded by the Utopian light.”

Unlike Aurelius, deeply religious Dostoevsky believed in higher things. The Russian asked himself “whether a human life is possible” if existence had no meaning. His answer was that it was not. Period. “Neither a man nor a nation can live without a ‘higher idea,’ ” Dostoevsky put into the words of Ivan K., then adding perspicaciously: “There is only once such idea on this earth, that of an immortal human soul. All other ‘higher ideas’ by which men live, flow from that.”

From “The Brothers Karamazov” Mr. Horowitz recites Dostoevsky’s parable “The Grand Inquisitor.” Christ upon his return to earth is arrested as “the worst of heretics.” In an attempt to “bring universal happiness of man,” the Church - read, government - through its Inquisitor, promises something Jesus does not; namely, “bread and earthly happiness,” a nod to collectivism.

With a sardonic wink, the Inquisitor in this fable says the public “will prefer it to a divinity who would set them free.” One is reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s pithy adage about trading freedom for personal security, and losing both.

Dostoevsky’s [Grand] Inquisitor is the spokesman for all the tyrannies that have existed from the beginning of time and that have oppressed mankind in the name of progress,” notes Mr. Horowitz.

“The earthly paradise that mortals create is not the kingdom of freedom but the totalitarian state,” he concludes in this marvelous little book. It will be read and reread long after its author shuffles off this mortal coil, perhaps after walking his Chihuahuas Jake and Lucy in advance of his daily writing regimen. This is a profound book, well worth reading to reflect on and enjoy the lessons in life it gives.

• Gary L. Larson is a retired magazine editor in Minnesota and frequent online columnist at The American Thinker.