It is so interesting how the world transcends the sum of my own experiences. The recognition of the extreme egoist. Precisely what I have in mind here is how I used to part of a world, am no longer, and yet that world continues on despite me. The world of Anglicanism continued on despite Newman - kinda; in the case of such a significant departure, it is possible to ask for a qualified 'despite.'
I converted half of my lifetime ago. I am almost 36 and I joined the Church at 17.5. What was the most significant transition in my life affected a world not a whit. That world is quite like it was, or rather, that world became what it was to become, and my missed participation in it was not a factor one need not delay over. Did the world of MTV, Al Gore, Apple Computers, and Lady Gaga notice a change in Colin Kerr? Did the more proximate world of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia? Did the more proximate world of my old high school? Not a whit in any of these cases. The world doesn't miss me, I don't miss it, and yet both it and I still exist.
Do I still understand it as I once did? In some ways I understand it better than I did - since Divine Revelation reveals things to people who meditate on it that not even the world can know about itself. And in some ways I do not understand it as I once did. I really don't know what's going on in the world of popular culture: music, politics, television. Yes, I know a handful of the songs and shows that have come out and political events that have occurred over the last decade, but I don't know them as one sharing their general spiritual thrust. How do I know this? Because that world follows certain intrinsic laws that generate intrinsically predictable outcomes. For instance, why are certain musical acts successful at certain times rather than at others? Not because of their objective superiority. In fact, the music of the Beatles (or the Monkeys) is of a very low quality, objectively speaking, compared to, say, U2, or even Dr. Dre (or for whomever he acts as front man). Why was the Matrix so good, but its sequels so terrible? (For contrast between box office receipts and criticism see Wikipedia on it.) Did Brittany Spears become an objectively worse performer with time? I don't think so. The same secular laws that vaulted her to the top, cast her down when she failed to abide by them. But what are these laws - I don't know. I likely would be able to discern them if I lived in the same world, sharing its values. I don't mean that it abides by the natural law. The natural law is God's law in nature; their law is more equivalent to what Augustine meant by the 'city of man', or the libido concupiscentiae, or what Paul and John the Evangelist meant by 'the world.'
It's good that I don't exactly know what's going on in the world, but is it therefore bad to pay attention to the news, i.e., to current events? What about sports and celebrity news? According to Thomas a Kempis, to all of them, yes; according to St. Francis de Sales, not totally. But they were writing for different audiences, of course. I suppose a great deal of the answer would have to do with the motivation of the one studying them. My whole point has to do with apologetics. The more one looks to Christ, does not he that much less behold the world? But for apologetical effectiveness one needn't become capable of running MTV or the Liberal Party of Canada, just able to see how these entities effect one's ability to hear Christ. Their is a great difference between the world and 'the world.' Now, for young people entering into religious life (I've read a great recent article of the Nashville Dominicans Sisters - all prayers for them) it is likely time to turn your back on the world in a radical way - and depending on your order, for a time, or even for ever. For someone like me who sees his ministry communicating the Gospel to the world, I cannot do so to be effective, but I must erect some barriers between it and me if I would be able to have any grace left with which to do this work of Christ.
It's a funny thing to spend most of your time oscillating between the 5th and the 13th centuries, and to lose track of the 21st. God speaks to this one as much as He ever did to those.