Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Worship of Superficiality

In a recent TV commercial the Mad Ave people tried to catch the viewer's attention with this sentence: "If you have nothing important to say,
what's the use of talking?" If we were to follow this advice we would dutifully fulfill an old Chinese observation: "If we spoke only about those things in which we are expert, the world would be filled with a deep and respectful silence." What an uncharacteristic American society that would be! To many contemporary citizens such a suggestion is not only un American but ridiculous.

Americans love to stand around the office water cooler and give personal insights about everything ranging from how to solve the present woeful economic crisis to why Justin Bieber is a little cad. These articulations, not necessarily coming from wide knowledge, are usually said, however, with great vigor and confidence. And preferably one raises one's voice underscoring the accuracy of wild statements. The implication is, of course, that anyone who does not see the Talker's point is a high grade moron and clearly disposable. But fortunately It is one of the joys of America that everyone, especially dinosaurs like me, has the right of free expression and opinion yet balance, good sense, facts and sensitivity would be such a welcome addition.

However for the most part, the Talker need not know back ground spit about that which he opines. But only that his observations fit his own personal way of life because in America we learn that everyone is equal and that it is unseemly to place any restraint on anyone's opinion or lifestyle. Everyone thinks he is right and he should not be restrained. Certainly not by restraint of facts or reasonable understanding. Heaven forbid! Head line knowledge from the Times or the Village Voice is all that is needed. Or maybe the sound bites of Chris Matthews or even Bill Maher. The popular mode is to be followed. One must be "with it" and cool. Join the herd or suffer the consequences of irrelevancy. Tragically, huge numbers of us obediently follow the party line, whatever it might be, and nod our heads like little bopkins and fall into line lest we be categorized as " irrelevant."

American society, filled with superficial discourse, is often woefully lacking in critical thinking and logic. We are loaded from top level society to the peon with a huge contaminant of juvenile values (Fortunately, not always since we do have significant numbers of mature adult thinkers). We usually leap to conclusions but rarely struggle through premises. To suggest that perhaps the Talker is speaking out of his own subjective impulse and not out of reality would invite the arched eyebrow and the disapproving glance.

The notion that there might be a Truth "out there" Which is beyond any human control and Which exists of Its own self is apparently beyond much of modern capacity! I am told that everything is relative and "it all depends." I wonder if the alleged intellectual protestations are highly correlated with a sincere love and interest in the noblest level of human aspiration or, as I personally suspect, we are witnessing a colossal, almost demonic tsunami Rationalization. Am I cynical when I point out that in back of much of the talk of Tolerance and freedom and choice is sheer selfishness? Questionable behavior is the dynamic here, not heroic and noble thinking the articulation of which becomes a cover for the less noble.

While talking about something of which one knows little or nothing is a common human experience, it seems to me that lately grandiose blathering is surfacing more and more blatantly when discussion focuses on the Catholic Church. It is almost laughable when some guy with beer on his breath and heaven knows what on his mind, goes into snapshot analyses of Catholic theology. The recent election of the new Pope offered huge opportunities for clueless observations. Apart from the usuaI loopy charges that the Pope is the Anti-Christ, I heard and read many ominous rumblings about the need for the Church to get into the 21st century—let priests marry! Make women priests! Accept abortion! Accept same sex marriage! Say that homosexual acting out is not fornication! Accept embryonic stem cell research! Give control to the laity! Otherwise, they say, Catholicism is history. There is hardly any reference to the nature and symmetry of our Faith. Or its theological history and survival through many ages of assault, persecution and corruption of many of its adherents. Or the Promise of the Divine Founder that the Church would never succumb even to the gates of "hell." What does Catholicism really mean and really teach? Why is there such heavy almost exclusive secular emphasis on the need to meet modern human urges which are usually sexual? Where is the focus on the Divine? It seems again that it is a question of Catechesis. Some people, e.g. many cradle Catholics, don't really know their own Faith. Perhaps, they never saw the Beauty of Catholicism but only some weird tale told by manipulative and ignorant adults.

I hear very little of what the Faith means in its essence. That it was founded by God Himself in Jesus and is the Way to eternal happiness and Salvation but which the dissidents saw as a Fairy Tale. I hear of the oodles of Catholics who have left the Faith, many of whom never ever understood their own Religion. I would have left it too if their concept of Catholicism were true. I hear much of the foibles, i.e. sins, of Popes and priests and brutal nuns and stuff for nightmares! If it were all true, and much of it is questionable and even dishonest (in the sense that it is presented as the core of the Catholic history and teaching), it would be truly horrendous and would certainly call for desertion and rejection! But it is largely fictional and even where true, often reprehensibly distorted. To say that these attacks are skewed would be to use classic understatement.

How often I have told college undergrads that if I held their concept of God, I would be an atheist also. Their 'God' was certainly not mine but truly worthy of rejection. It was "funny" (?) to hear the new students brimming with what they called "rebellion" almost instantly becoming obedient sheep adopting the herd mentality of the bubble society of undergraduate liberal education.

Call it superficiality. Call it ignorance. Call it stiff necked or bigoted. The hard factor with which to struggle is that of Truth. Pilate asked the truly relevant question. What is it? Can one find it? Does what one thinks make truth? If, as Catholics say "God is Truth", logic alone could Thunder that Truth is unchangeable as God is unchangeable. Customs change. Styles change. Attitudes change. Mores change. But God and the things of God are unchangeable. It is naïve to believe that someday God will decree that abortion is OK since so many people want it and practice it. Or same sex marriage. Or theft. Or calumny. Or anything decreed by Him as Toeva or abominable. Regardless who so sins, Pope or peasant, it is evil and is un-Truth. Pope Benedict XVI constantly noted that the true evil of our time is Moral Relativism and as such indicated that the Church of Christ is the Power that differentiates between that which can change and that which cannot. ow tiredHHTtrh

The tiresome, anemic challenge of "Meat on Friday" and word changes in the updated Liturgy is emblematic of the superficiality of the age and an illustration of the title of this essay. The difference is cosmic but for those who cannot see the obvious, the unchanging and loving God of all reveals the Truth through His own Church. The gratitude of the Catholic is seen in the tumultuous joy of the thousands gathered before St. Peter's when it was announced "Habemus Papam" We have a Pope! We have leadership which is linked to the Divine Christ Himself. We have Truth.

Such a view is inimical to modern thought which prefers the Water cooler with its moral relativity to the Loggia which proclaims absolute Truth. Too bad we are so superficial when we have profound truth on a platter!