Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What's the Topic Today?

Recently, we had some friends over for dinner and as we are like-minded and obsessed with the same topics, we readily got onto those.  Later, I heard from one person who was not pleased with the usual Catholic conservative cant. He found it was not an environment that would have made sense to a person who was not part of the in-crowd.

Now I'm not interested in dictating what is discussed at a party (in fact, it reminds me of the contrast between the political wrangling at the dinner table in Joyce's "The Dead" and the real issue for Gabriel), and while I felt defensive about our issues, I recall a similar experience during the time of the uproar over Obama being invited to speak at the Notre Dame commencement.  I was out to dinner with a crowd that was not Catholic and who could not comprehend the rancor.  In fact, a year later, no one knew or cared who the next year's commencement speaker at Notre Dame was. 

I was involved with Catholic electronic communications from before the time the internet was open, when we exchanged files and discussion over a BBS network via phone lines (1987-).  We typed and shared encyclicals and papal addresses before there was a vatican.va.  It was exciting, and I love the fact that everyone now waits for that next encyclical to get posted.  Before, people rarely talked about encyclicals.  If you wandered into a Catholic bookstore, you might pick one up, as one selection among hundreds of choices.  There is much to be said about all this instant and important information. And I respect causes and those who dedicate their lives to them.  Those of us who want to judge events can't avoid writing about health care reform, stem-cell research, a mega-mosque at Grand Zero.  If anything, we need more nuance, not less.  Still, it can seem truncated, these viral Catholic threads that spiral through cyberspace, which are incomprehensible to most people because they lack the context that would allow them to be heard. 

A few weeks ago, I read about a bishop of Lyons, France who went to the site of the destruction of gypsy camps, to advocate for his people.  It was a great story and of course some told it.  I think of Suzanne's striking piece about the sports events at the Meeting, which included the rigor of "a bicycle race that begins in Rimini and includes a pass through the Republic of San Marino, a triathlon (as well as a mini triathlon for kids), basketball and fencing (and even rugby) tournaments, and a 6 Km race", which shows a passion for life that anyone can appreciate.  

I hope not to discourage anyone, or myself, from engaging in the public square.  But maybe it just takes a wider, freer eye to recognize something new to express instead of just rolling into our own small circles.

2 comments:

Joseph Orrino said...

This is very true. I often tune out those who repeat themselves ad nauseum and make the same points to different circumstances and arguments. The lack of nuance and context makes them (and me, when I do this) uninteresting. If I tune them out because I'm sure I know what they will say, I can only imagine that those who don't share the same Catholic world-view are even more inclined to turn their attention elsewhere. Those who are a part of the "viral Catholic threads" may one day say something new, but I won't be listening!

VP said...

The dinner party and the viral Catholic threads seem quite different to me. Of course, hospitality requires that one does not shut out a guest who is there. To limit conversation for the sake of an outsider who is not there might also close a haven of fellowship for those who live and work among those of other views.

When we write and share information online, we are either simply entertaining ourselves - a pastime - or we hope to be part of the New Evangelization of our culture. The latter does call for more openness and variety of topic.