Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Dress as Epistemological Symbol

Evangelists are educators. Converts are evangelists. That's pretty self-evident to someone who actually chooses the Faith for reasons other than marriage, friends, music or political preferences. I became Catholic because I was convinced it was the truth - it was the Church that carried on Christ's teaching, that embodied His power (somehow), and that was historically linked to Him. Since I didn't really get the sacraments and the idea of grace at the time, it was the first and third factors that meant the most to me as a seventeen-year-old.

As for the first, it wasn't that the Church had the truth of God bound up in handy and assimilable creedal statements (sure it did, but that wasn't so important to me) as much as it was the right philosophical school for knowledge of God. It's one things to look at the truth, it's quite something more to understand it and have it transform you. I still believe this and live my life accordingly. Thus, I am always a little cynical when I hear someone implying that all the Church's problems would be solved with good catechesis. Sure, that'd help, but not do more than help.

The problem is, someone like me will always be frustrated by what I would call 'Socrates' Problem.' The fact is, nobody but Socrates really cares about the truth like Socrates does. (I fell in love with philosophy via Plato, and so that's why I call it this.) No one will love the truth as deeply, consider it more imperative for action, consider it less a simple matter (ever consider it exhaustible).

Politics is all about thought-control today. It wasn't always this way. It used to be about money, simply. There were times when it was simply about pedigree. There were times when it used to be simply about martial valor. ISIS is living in the past by trying to return it to martial valor. Sure, they have more valor than Obama, but so too do most soccer moms.

You can't read an article without noticing that it's all about perception and control of ideas. The ultimate victory of Wynne and her ilk is to change education to favor her kind of ideology. In the US they fight over how American history is taught.

Even in the Church we obsess over education. I don't have a problem with this per se. What I have a problem with is the totalitarian framework we have adopted from secular society (who in turn got it from the Marxists, who in turn got it from the Enlightenment). Globalism, totalism, programs, policies. This mindset is not only an assault on communities, families and the individual, it is an assault on the Holy Spirit, who likes to work in the hearts of individuals.

Adopting this mindset is a knee-jerk reaction to the enemies of the Faith who think this way, both the secular ones and the heterodox ones.

Everyone thinks big and that is hubris in a nutshell.

"Let's get NFP taught in every parish."

"Let's get the Baltimore Catechism in every home."

"Let's have a statement on x, y, or z."

I started reading a book on the Ressourcement Movement last night and they thought this way too: "Let's return to the sources, everyone..." All my theological heroes of the 20th century were Ressourcement people, but they had their flaws too: there was almost an inevitability in its fulfillment in Vatican II's universalism. Thus, they deserved to be blamed for it bad effects too. Ratzinger, DeLubac, etc, discovered this a bit too late and they tried to reverse things, but it was too late for sober second thought.

We moderns don't have the humility for this.

So, here's what I'm saying: the Victorines are good enough for you; Augustine is good enough to me; Aquinas for him; Maximus for her; Newman, Faustina, Bonaventure, Theology of the Body, Ignatius, Carmel, ... all wonderful smatterings. None to the exclusion of the rest.

It is the ultimate sign of hubris, silliness, immaturity to reduce the mystery of life to one set formula. The Bible is very long for this reason. There are so many saints worth imitating for this reason. Butlers counts thousands.

Bear in mind, O you reducers of mystery, that I have forgotten more than you know of the Faith. I would take you model and multiply it by a hundred others, your private revelation and show it up fifty times.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

How wonderful there is!

Why did I call this post "The Dress as Epistemological Symbol"? I found in the last few days' obsession with that stupid picture of the dress a sad commentary on the depths of the modern person's thinking.


  1. I want people to say "I'm not sure " more often. People are so convinced that their opinion is the truth that they stop wanting to learn. So this is the problem with current society that people hear the "truth " through the media and never want to question anything. The acceptance of God necessitates humility and humility then is the spark that drives the desire to learn about something greater than the self. Modern day society creates opinionated, intellectually lazy, self centered individuals. As we bow down to modern day gurus and pundits in a whole host of topics from global warming to gluten free to anti vax and pro vax to security and terrorism we lose ourselves. I for one will try to say "I'm not sure" more often. I am convinced it will bring me closer to God. BTW the dress is white and gold... maybe.

  2. Brilliant piece. Thank you.

    One question/comment: understandably, people might join the Church and put themselves under Her discipline 'to have a sure foothold on the mind of God'. With that in mind however, how and when can we accommodate such notions as God not being confined to Catholic creedal statements, or the contemplating about God within and beyond doctrinal teaching, or the layperson's role in the development of doctrine, or, if necessary, the breaking of discipline in response to some hypothetical recognition of breach of truth by an authority figure within the Church? What I mean to say is that some times, I feel that I would personally have a difficult time deciding the extent to which I ought to entrust myself to a teaching authority versus relying on my own reason or conscience (I know that ideally, one should freely directly himself or herself to that authority, but when already there, it seems to me that there could occasionally arise an uncertainty about whether a teaching authority's recognition of the Truth is more genuine than one's own). Any thoughts?

  3. *how my comment directly relates to the article: aren't creeds and teachings reductions of the mystery or life, of the mystery of God, in some sense? And if they are, to what extent can we trust our personal reasoning to further commune with God without straying away from the truth (even if we might recognize the truth otherwise, at a given moment)?

  4. **or mistakenly recognize a falsehood for truth, at a given moment.