My Latest for Inside Catholic

27 05 2009


And other notes

First of all, if you haven’t read my latest essay for Inside Catholic, you can do it by clicking here.

My main goal in life, at least on an intellectual level, is to cease thinking in shibboleths. I say this because in the essay above, I had to try to steer clear of them, with limited success. For example, I really did not want to use the term, “incarnational”, for reasons I have outlined before. In too many circumstances, we let the words speak us, empty words, hollow words. Perhaps it is my Nietzschean adolecence haunting me, but people like to take refuge in such phrases, uttering them and mentally walking away, as if not wanting to be contaminated by the error of their interlocutor. That is why in a lot of ways, I hesitate to write pieces like the one above. But I still think at times that I have “something to say”, and often I have to speak the “language of the herd”. Of course, I know that there are certain points where we must accept such slogans since they say best what we cannot adequately say.

My real problem is that I personally have always felt very constricted by these rules of Catholic intellectual etiquette. What always bothers me is that we take for granted things that we should by no means take for granted. We begin to form cliques, we speak in our own little lingo, and we see people outside of the circle we draw around ourselves as not only being wrong in opinion, but wrong in their personhood. In a world where the transcendent impersonal is gone, the only real means to undermine another’s opinion is to question the authenticity of his experience. He didn’t make an honest mistake. Rather, there is something pathologically wrong with him.

For me, that is where a mind filled with slogans leads. It is a place where the mind cannot see its close-mindedness anymore since it mistakes all of its subjective experiences and preferences for absolute truth. How many times have I seen certain people speak of how open and tolerant they are, yet in the very same breath use nomenclature for their interlocutors where they have already played the role of judge, jury, and executioner? For that reason, I often prefer the discourse of the “fundamentalist”; the person who could care less about the subjective authenticity of your experience if you are still wrong. There, at least, I feel there is less two-sidedness, less of a tendency to undermine your interlocutor’s intellectual integrity which often manifests itself in a game similar to the playground exchange of “I know you are, but what am I?”

And that is why I tend to focus on small things, insignificant things, and things people tend to overlook. If you want to start understanding big things, you must start with small ones. You must be able to see the fingerprints of God in them before you can really understand history, the cosmos, and eternity.



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