While the beautiful stack of new books lies forlornly in boxes near my bed, and half a dozen partially read books that I mean to finish soon, darn it, are piled nearby, next to the cool maps I bought and have yet to assemble a frame for, and I’m showing up early and leaving work late to try to keep a couple of our dear customers happy, and I’m leading a reading group down at church, and helping out with 2 other groups, and teaching history to teenagers, the draft blog post heap ain’t a gettin’ any less heapy. So I’ll try to capture a stray thought:
Fr. Michael Ossorgin, may he rest in peace, was a chain-smoking Russian orthodox priest and a beautiful man, who taught at St. John’s where I had the honor of attending one of his seminar classes. He used to say, as the punchline to many of his comments: “I am not the most important thing that has ever happened to me!” Then he would lean back, as sort of impish smile on his face, take a drag and look at you with red-rimmed eyes. He was a great man, a fact I only appreciated much too late.
I think maybe he was on to something.
Catholic*: I am not the most important thing that has happened to me:
Post Modern: I am the most important thing that has happened to me. I may be the only thing that has happened to me.
Catholic: Getting my own way isn’t very important. Finding my calling and doing good is important.
Post Modern: What else is there beside getting my own way? Besides, my own way is good by definition.
Catholic: The things that happen to me, from birth to death, are adventures to be embraced. I am but one rather unimportant player in those adventures.
Post Modern: The things that happen to me are either well-deserved blessings I had every right to expect, or manifest injustices the world owes it to me to fix. It’s all about me.
Catholic: I don’t get to choose the people I need to love any more than I get to choose my parents or city and century of birth. The important thing is that I must love them.
Post Modern: Nobody is telling me who I must love, or like, or even respect. Insofar as I was born in a place and among people I don’t like, I have been treated unjustly.
Catholic: More often than not, I don’t get to have what I want, which is OK, because I need to learn to want the good.
Post Modern: Getting to have what I want is what life is all about. My wanting it makes it a good thing to want.
Catholic: I will die someday. I hope to embrace my death. My life is not for me. My death is not for me.
Post Modern: Death is a horrible injustice, acceptable only when it seems to me alone to be a better alternative than going on living. In any event, death is to be kept as far away from me as possible for as long as possible.
Catholic: If I get to have friends, a spouse, children and loving relatives, as well as a job, a home, and any luxuries such as free time, those things are unmerited, and I am blessed to have them.
Post Modern: My life is my life. I don’t owe anything to my friends, spouse, children, and relatives that I don’t want to give them. I deserve every good thing I get.
And so on. Of course, nobody is this good nor this misguided – but I think this captures the essence of the differences. If not, hey, it’s just a stray thought that wandered into my brain when I was supposed to be doing something else.
*In this case, there in no differences between the views of Catholics and our Orthodox brothers, so forgive me if I just use ‘Catholic’ to describe this particular world view.