Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Think, think, thinkety-think...

Some years ago now, a good friend and good priest told me, "Hilary, you just think too damn much." He was right. But I can't stop. And what I think about most is what is wrong with the world. Just what the hell is wrong with it, anyway? And how come, even though I think I've more or less figured it out, can't I leave it alone?

So, it's January 1st, a "holiday" that I usually don't like. And I'm liking it even less here. This is my fourth, and one of the things I like about it the least is the habit the Italians have of setting off firecrackers in the streets, randomly, all through the Natale season. For those of us who spend a lot of time immersed in our thoughts, sudden, loud and unexpected noises originating from six feet away, can be a very unpleasant experience. One of those jumping-out-of-your-skin, heart-pounding, leaping-for-cover kinds. (And the poor cat is ready to have an aneurism.) I lived five years in the mean streets of strictly gun-controlled Toronto and eleven years in beautiful, bucolic, peaceluvgroovy East Vancouver, and my reflexes are well trained to react a certain way to any sudden, unexpected and very loud, sharp bang.

Of course, one can't help, when one is not too busy and has spent the last couple of weeks eating a lot of turkey and drinking more wine than usual, but think Thoughts about Life at this time of year. The internet is full of it, of course, so it's doubly difficult for us internet addicts to avoid. One of the many reasons I'd like Catholicism to take over the world and all its cultures, is that we would be spared the annual pagan festival of deadly-dull introspection and (gawdhelpus) political synopses. We would all still be talking about the Miracle of the Incarnation and partying it up, going to late night Masses and goofing off with the kids.

Next year, as soon as Boxing Day Bloat is over and I can move again, I'm going to go up north somewhere, maybe Germany again, and visit Winter for the remainder of the holiday. Shovel some snow.

Anyway, what's wrong with the world? I just dug this out of an old piece I did last year for the Remnant:
Cancer and depression have in common the tendency to bring on bouts of introspection, the drifting of the mind to large and unanswerable questions. What is life, my life in particular, actually for? If it were to end this year, or next month or tomorrow, what would it all have been about?

Catholics love these kinds of questions, we rub our hands gleefully when we hear them, and we love to imagine that we have the answers. Why, it's easy. Right here in the catechism, Lesson First, "On the end of man". Question 6 gives us the smug response to all the Existentialists' agonies: "Q. Why did God make you? A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next." You can almost hear the little click as the Catholic snaps his book smartly shut in the Existentialist's face and goes on to wonder what to have for lunch.

Is it any wonder all the world hates us? I certainly do.

For the last ten years or so it has been my job to pose and smugly to answer those large questions at the heart of the Culture Wars, but recently I have also found the quick little Catholic catechismic answers too easy and too trite. How much more then do we imagine that the World, never even having heard of the catechism, is aching for a good answer? How can we be surprised, now that the Church has fallen silent, that the World is ready to give up?

Its teenage Angst and Existentialism period has failed to give an answer; how can we blame the fallen World for turning to impure thoughts of nihilism? The terrifying mass mental illness we abstract as the Culture of Death is really the depressive's reaction to his failure to answer the First Question (or Question 6). When that depressive starts giving up he gives off signals, signs of a dangerous turn of thought. Since World War I, the World has abandoned the search for meaning and is now asking a much more dangerous question, "How many people ought there to be?"



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