Look no further.
Are you looking for a graduation gift for some young Catholic you know? A birthday present? A present for a twenty-something entering the Church or who is thinking of conversion?
Look no further.
Though I have not posted for a while, I am still reading Will Durant. The last four days have brought some other obligations—writing for money rather than for the blog—but I have continued to pick up Durant nearly every day for half an hour or so. I have traveled through Durant’s history of the Jews during the Middle Ages and the Age of the Byzantium Empire, and am now in the heart of European feudalism.
How did everybody get so angry over the last fifty to sixty years? Why the rage?
Compared to our antecessors of sixty, seventy, and eighty years ago, most of us are living the dream. We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world; if in need, we get financial assistance from government and social agencies; we are building bigger homes for smaller families; we drive safer cars; we own devices for communication and entertainment undreamed of in 1950; we receive health care unimaginable to our great-grandparents, we eat foods from around the world; we still have the freedom to make something of ourselves if we choose to do so.
So why are so many of us so ticked off so much of the time?
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe most ordinary Americans lead contented lives. Maybe my impression of anger stems from the people I read online, columnists, protesters, purported victims, who fulminate, explode, screech, whine, and throw tantrums.
Every morning, I visit four or five sites online to acquire the news of the day, the opinions of favorite commentators, and any ideas that might spark an article of my own. For twenty minutes or so, I make my rounds, my first cup of coffee at hand and dawn winking at the small window above my desk.
Before I begin my own writing, however, I often turn to one essayist for inspiration: David Warren.
In William Barrett’s novel The Shape of Illusion, those who view an obscure Renaissance painting of Christ being marched to His crucifixion are horrified to see their own faces among the mob howling for His condemnation and death.
It’s been years since I read Barrett’s book, but the question he raises remains: Would most of us, thrust back in time without our current knowledge of the past, stand on the side of the virtuous?
When we reflect on history, we imagine ourselves as the “good guys,” standing with those who wept for Christ, who died opposing Adolf Hitler, who merited the Gulag for offending Joseph Stalin, who as Southerners abandoned family and native land to fight against slavery in the Civil War.
We like to believe we would stand “on the right side of history.”
A young man I know, father of three and a practicing Roman Catholic, works at a tech company where his best friend is a practicing Muslim. Given the animus in our society toward Islam, a mistrust exacerbated by various acts of Islamic terror around the world and by perceived wrongs done to Muslims by the West, this friendship may seem strange, but it works because of a doctrine many Americans preach but fewer practice: toleration. Both men follow their own path of faith, tolerate that of the other, and enjoy being friends.
In The Age of Faith, volume IV of The Story of Civilization, Will Durant’s take on Mohammed and Islam is both instructive and amusing, sometimes hilariously so.
Long ago in college, I took a course in which we learned some history of the early days of Islam. In another class, we read the Koran, and I have read it once since then, with little impact on either occasion. After 9/11, I read several books having to do with present-day Islam, the damage done, now irreversible, to Europe by its misguided policies of immigration, the ongoing wars and chaos in Afghanistan, Syria, and other places around the world.
To my Protestant, Jewish, agnostic, and atheist friends: here is how it works.
First, when a Catholic pope speaks infallibly, he does so in a very special way. If the pope says that Popeye’s serves tastier fried chicken than KFC, he may be right or wrong, but he is not speaking infallibly. Here from Catholic Answers is a succinct explanation of how infallibility works:
(Apologies to the cartoonist and the site on which I found this cartoon. I downloaded it several days ago and now can no longer remember where it came from,)
Judge not, that you may not be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye? Matthew 7:1-3
Ah, yes, the self-righteous.
A month ago, I posted an article on this website titled “The Why of What and How: Purpose In Our Lives.” Inspired by a line from Nietzsche—“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”—the piece stressed the importance of attempting to ask and answer deep questions of ourselves, particularly why we think and act as we do.
Several days after posting that article, I asked myself, “So, hotshot, what is your why?”