October 12, 2008

"In the waste of waters...."

Charlene and I were at a social event yesterday, with a crowd of what might be described as greying long-hairs and hippie-types of our "Baby-Boomer" generation. (And, I hasten to add, as nice a group of folks as you might hope to meet. Pleasant to be around.) But it made me think about various things that are happening around us.

One is that there were no young people among the invitees. I thought of Mark Steyn: "The future belongs to those who show up for it." I also had to contrast this with our situation in our parish (Perhaps atypical, being Dominican.) Charlene and I are dealing with young people all the time. The place is crawling with them. Good-looking, thoughtful, challenging kids. Just talking with them makes us stretch, and they are not shy about teaching us things.

This is especially interesting in our R.C.I.A, which I help out with. (R.C.I.A is Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, which is how one becomes a Catholic. See note below.) The help I provide is very minor, but just hanging around is, to me, like hanging around the lab where some world-shaking series of experiments is being run. Utterly fascinating. We have young people and old, all races and backgrounds. And most of them seem, in one way or another, to be groping for a way out of the self-worshipping traps that my generation so conspicuously flooded the world with. [Charlene adds, "They are groping for Truth." Of course, we are the original firm.]

(I hasten to add that I think that the 60's were a sort of "perfect storm" of trends that have been developing for centuries, and that things would have worked out much the same even without the grotesqueries of my youth. I'm not the sort of conservative who blames it all on the 60's!)

Newman, 1877: :...my apprehensions are not new but above 50 years standing. I have all that time thought that a time of widespread infidelity was coming, and through all those years the waters have in fact been rising as a deluge. I look for the time, after my life, when only the tops of the mountains will be seen like islands in the waste of waters...."

Anyway, back to groping for Truth. My first intellectual "mentor" was Peter Drucker. And one of the things he always emphasized was the supreme importance of asking the right questions. Of figuring out what question it is that you are actually asking. Part of what intrigues me about our R.C.I.A. groups are the many people who, though they are by my standards muddled and shockingly ignorant, are groping towards exactly the right question. It fills me with awe. And fear. I think of the old saying, "God watches over drunken sailors and lost children."

Another thing that struck me about the crowd we were in yesterday was that it was pretty much all white. C and I are so used to a multi-racial multi-ethnic milieu that we feel odd and a bit out of place in that sort of monoculture. Yet it's a likely bet that they were all Obama supporters, and if he loses they will be calling Republicans like us racists!

It made me think of yesterday's post...

Shannon Love: ...I think that politics on the Left has become a social process, i.e., a means of group identification and self-validation. Leftists care less about the triumph of ideas and far more about the triumph of a group of people with which they ego-identify. They need their ego-identity candidate to win so that they can feel good about themselves. The character and policies of the actual candidate does not matter...

I suspect that yesterday we were among the original type about whom that was written. I can just imagine the bland assumption that "everyone" is voting for Obama, coupled with bland ignorance of and indifference to the queasy-making things in his actual record. Perhaps I'm wrong---hope so.

To me "searching for Truth" is not something like hiking up in the Himalayas to pose questions to a bearded swami. It's more like the California Gold Rush, which was (in reality, not the cartoon version) a matter of men doing gritty back-breaking endless work, in sun and rain, in pursuit of the tiny elusive flecks of pure gold. And this is particularly a Catholic approach. The Church is always busy writing documents in painstakingly parsed Latin, defining the truths of the faith more completely than before. (Latin is used partly because it is a dead language and so the meaning of words does not change.) The core truths of faith are mysteries---we can't possibly really understand God---that's silly. But we have been given by God some things anyone can understand, and those we Catholics like to bite on, like people used to bite gold coins.

And this gold-panning for truth is something I think we should be doing all the time, because you never know where in daily life gold may appear. That's what really infuriates me about the Obama supporters I know; their utter indifference to the gnarly tactile details of truth-seeking. (I almost wish they were the dedicated socialists some people claim they are---at least they would have a "truth" to be dedicated to.)


EXPLANATORY NOTE: R.C.I.A., Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, appears externally as a series of once-a-week classes over six months. (Alas, in many parishes insipidly taught. There are only a limited number of Dominicans.) It starts about September, and ends at the Easter Vigil, when you may, if you chose, be Baptized (if you are not already) and Confirmed in the Catholic Church.) But it is really less about gaining knowledge (important as that is) than about conversion. Conversion means, literally, "turning around." Catholics believe in "continuous conversion," not the one-swoop "I'm saved" moment of the Evangelicals.

So R.C.I.A. is the start of the conversion process, which goes on life-long. We Christians are always noticing that we have somehow got going in the wrong direction yet again, oops, and turning ourselves around for the thousandth time. And conversion comes from hearing. Cor ad cor loquitor---"heart speaks to heart." As St Thomas put it: Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur, Sed audito solo tuto creditur... Which, poetically translated, is "Taste and touch and feeling, to discern Thee fail, Faith that comes from hearing, pierces through the veil." (Yes, it is not "scientific." We are in a different realm, with different rules. Be adventurous, try something peculiar.)

Posted by John Weidner at October 12, 2008 4:25 PM
Weblog by John Weidner