July 17, 2016
We Catholics are in the odd position of being counter-cultural. Catholicism is the foundation of western culture, but now that the world in which live is rejecting the culture of its ancestors, we Catholics are, or at least should be, something different. I can never quite understand why we think we have to offer the current non-culture more of the same. There is an interesting study of contemporary music. It makes the point that current popular music has a far less complex structure than music of even a few years ago.
The non-culture of the current era communicates by means of text, Twitter, Facebook, etc. which limits the numbers of ideas that can be communicated simply for technological reasons. I have no idea whether or not this will ultimately make us smarter or dumber. It is however taking the place of face-to-face communication. The word person derives from the Latin word for face. Perhaps to forget the face is to lose the person. Faces are beautiful – every face as every mother knows.
Was it Dostoevsky who said the world will be saved by beauty? There is nothing beautiful about the new technology of communication as far as I can tell. It is useful, but I can’t think of it as beautiful. So much is communicated in the human smile, in the frown, the eyes, the tilt of the head. The human face is beautiful, even when it seems at first not to be. The grimace of laughter has its own unique beauty. All these disappear in the cold light of the display screen on a smart phone or computer. “The facts, mam, just the facts.”
The world has become ugly. The violence perpetrated in the name of religion, of race of political power is ugly. The secularization of the culture has created a whole new opportunity for ugliness by making sex a kind of industry of empty pleasure and self-expression. The means by which life is given, about which poets have sung and artist have painted as long as human beings have made art of any kind, has been made a way to defy nature, to defy God, a way to shake our fist at heaven.
It has made a curse, slavery to passion of the “…one blessing not lost by the sin of Adam, nor washed away in the waters of the flood.” It is impolite to say that divorce, and certain practices I would rather not mention are not good things. We might offend if we point out, not that the emperor is naked, but that the emperor’s clothes are ugly, even filthy. Heaven forfend lest we offend! Beauty is everything. God saw the world and it was good. We see the world and say, “I don’t like it. I want it done my way.” And what do we offer the future? We offer an accommodation with ugliness. Young people get enough ugly in the world. It’s time to start offering them something better.
A critic said once said that the Church, in her struggle to maintain traditional morality, “is out of step with the times.”
Well, hurrah for the Church! The times stink.