Monday, August 27, 2012
I found this modern "desert father" about seven or eight years ago. He just keeps on pushing me to love and to understand and to grow. Enjoy! Jon
“How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you! How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you! I would like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence. You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand what sanctity is. I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and yet I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms.
No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, though not completely. And besides, where would I go? Would I establish another? I would not be able to establish it without the same faults, for they are the same faults I carry in me. And if I did establish another, it would be my Church, not the Church of Christ. I am old enough to know that I am no better than anyone else. …)
The Church has the power to make me holy but it is made up, from the first to the last, only of sinners. And what sinners! It has the omnipotent and invincible power to renew the Miracle of the Eucharist, but is made up of men who are stumbling in the dark, who fight every day against the temptation of losing their faith. It brings a message of pure transparency but it is incarnated in slime, such is the substance of the world. It speaks of the sweetness of its Master, of its non-violence, but there was a time in history when it sent out its armies to disembowel the infidels and torture the heretics. It proclaims the message of evangelical poverty, and yet it does nothing but look for money and alliances with the powerful.
Those who dream of something different from this are wasting their time and have to rethink it all. And this proves that they do not understand humanity. Because this is humanity, made visible by the Church, with all its flaws and its invincible courage, with the Faith that Christ has given it and with the love that Christ showers on it.
When I was young, I did not understand why Jesus chose Peter as his successor, the first Pope, even though he abandoned Him. Now I am no longer surprised and I understand that by founding his church on the tomb of a traitor(…)He was warning each of us to remain humble, by making us aware of our fragility. (…)
And what are bricks worth anyway? What matters is the promise of Christ, what matters is the cement that unites the bricks, which is the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit is capable of building the church with such poorly moulded bricks as are we.
And that is where the mystery lies. This mixture of good and bad, of greatness and misery, of holiness and sin that makes up the church…this in reality am I .(…)
The deep bond between God and His Church, is an intimate part of each one of us. (…)To each of us God says, as he says to his Church, “And I will betroth you to me forever” (Hosea 2,21). But at the same time he reminds us of reality: 'Your lewdness is like rust. I have tried to remove it in vain. There is so much that not even a flame will take it away' (Ezechiel 24, 12).
But then there is even something more beautiful. The Holy Spirit who is Love, sees us as holy, immaculate, beautiful under our guises of thieves and adulterers. (…) It’s as if evil cannot touch the deepest part of mankind.
He re-establishes our virginity no matter how many times we have prostituted our bodies, spirits and hearts. In this, God is truly God, the only one who can ‘make everything new again’. It is not so important that He will renew heaven and earth. What is most important is that He will renew our hearts. This is Christ’s work. This is the divine Spirit of the Church.”
― Carlo Carretto
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Neil Postman was one of those writers/educators that I ran into at the right time…at just the time I needed some influencing. I didn’t run into him literally; I ran into him literarily—I found his books: Amusing Ourselves to Death, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, The End of Education, and others. I was a young grad student at U of L…passionate to be a good teacher, a life-changing teacher. Postman gave me a lot to think about. I didn’t buy everything he was selling, but I bought enough to know that he and I were kindred spirits in a way—we were going to question everything.
In March 1998, Postman presented “Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change” at a conference in Colorado. I wasn’t there…but I was with him all the way. Even though he penned and voiced these words some 14 years ago, we need to hear them again. Below, I’ve pulled out his five main ideas, in his own words. At the end, there is a link to the full text of his presentation…in case you want to go deeper, in case you want to enjoy his delightful examples and anecdotes. Here are the Five Things in Postman's own words:
First,…all technological change is a trade-off. I like to call it a Faustian bargain. Technology giveth and technology taketh away. This means that for every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage. The disadvantage may exceed in importance the advantage, or the advantage may well be worth the cost. …Idea Number One, then, is that culture always pays a price for technology.
Second,…the advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population. This means that every new technology benefits some and harms others. There are even some who are not affected at all. …That there are always winners and losers in technological change is the second idea.
Third,…embedded in every technology there is a powerful idea, sometimes two or three powerful ideas. These ideas are often hidden from our view because they are of a somewhat abstract nature. But this should not be taken to mean that they do not have practical consequences. …The third idea, then, is that every technology has a philosophy which is given expression in how the technology makes people use their minds, in what it makes us do with our bodies, in how it codifies the world, in which of our senses it amplifies, in which of our emotional and intellectual tendencies it disregards.
Fourth,…technological change is not additive; it is ecological. I can explain this best by an analogy. What happens if we place a drop of red dye into a beaker of clear water? Do we have clear water plus a spot of red dye? Obviously not. We have a new coloration to every molecule of water. That is what I mean by ecological change. A new medium does not add something; it changes everything.
Fifth, …media tend to become mythic. I use this word in the sense in which it was used by the French literary critic, Roland Barthes. He used the word "myth" to refer to a common tendency to think of our technological creations as if they were God-given, as if they were a part of the natural order of things. …What I am saying is that our enthusiasm for technology can turn into a form of idolatry and our belief in its beneficence can be a false absolute. The best way to view technology is as a strange intruder, to remember that technology is not part of God’s plan but a product of human creativity and hubris, and that its capacity for good or evil rests entirely on human awareness of what it does for us and to us.
And Postman’s closing words: “Our unspoken slogan has been "technology über alles," and we have been willing to shape our lives to fit the requirements of technology, not the requirements of culture. This is a form of stupidity, especially in an age of vast technological change. We need to proceed with our eyes wide open so that we many use technology rather than be used by it.”
I wonder about our world as we rush forward with new technological advances without even thinking to ask, “What will be the results?” “What could be some consequences?” It came home to me just yesterday as I sat in a doctor’s office. In one corner, there were the three children fighting over their mom’s smart phone. Then, there was the child in her mother’s lap beside me was watching a show on the TV about the effect of TV on children. The reporter on the tele was saying that children under age 12 should not have televisions in their bedrooms. The six-year-old girl looked up at her mom and whispered, “She’s stupid…isn’t that dumb?” And they both just smiled….
(revised Oct. 16, 2019)
(For Postman’s entire lecture, go to: https://web.cs.ucdavis.edu/~rogaway/classes/188/materials/postman.pdf)
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
I’m reading Carlo Carretto again (Letters from the Desert), an intimate work that follows Carretto’s feet and mind into the desert of North Africa.
He had been very active in the Church for many years, and quite suddenly he hears God call him to leave it all behind in his homeland of Italy and follow God into the desert.
At one point towards the beginning of the book, he is contemplating his earnest, dedicated labors and activity in the church back home, his practice of running “continually from one project to another, from one meeting to another, from one city to another”. While involved in all of that, he had been operating on a worldview that went something like this: God created the world and then stepped aside to rest; Christ founded the Church and then disappeared in to heaven to let the Church save the world. Carretto says he imagined that his frenzied life and work were somehow part of the column that was holding everything up and everything together.
I drew back suddenly, as though to fee myself from this weight. What had happened? Everything remained in its place, motionless. Not a movement, not a sound. After twenty-five years I had realized that nothing was burdening on my shoulders and that the column was my own creation—sham, unreal, the product of my own imagination and my vanity.
I had walked, run, spoken, organized, worked, in the belief that I was supporting something; and in reality I had been holding up absolutely nothing.
The weight of the world was all on Christ Crucified. I was nothing, absolutely nothing.
What amazing relief…to know that it does not depend on me. May I never again be suckered into the “sham, unreal…product of my own imagination and vanity.”
(All quotations taken from: Carretto, Carlos. “You are Nothing.” Letters from the Desert. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002.)