Archive for the ‘Booking Passage’ Tag

Do Black Patent-Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?

Last night I went to sleep reading Company, a Jesuit magazine.  In the current issue of Company, Martin McHugh quotes Mark Twain about the use of language, teaching the use of the right word.  He never mentioned how much youth hate to look up the meaning of a word.  He never mentions the wrestling match youth have in the search for meaning at all.

Moved by hunger and appetites.  It was what got us out of bed in the morning.  We are all moved by hunger and appetite each day.  I was moved out of bed, mostly to work, sometimes to play.

Moved by ideology. Ideology was the wrestling match since the twentieth century.  Presidents and presidential candidates got caught up in it.  Popes did too.  It was a result of a focus on law and order.  Orthodoxy.  Rules.  The conservatives have ruled the era for those who have come of age.  And youth for the most part eventually rebelled over too much rigidity.  My view of the generation in their twenties in the United States was that there was a palpable sense of rebellion.  These kids had been walked to the bus stop all of their lives.  Their parents had attended all of their soccer games.  Life had never been like that for kids before.  There was some underlying desire for revenge, an expression of grievance over too much attention which was seen by adults as only a reflection of love.  And the world had never seen so many voluntary body piercings, tattoos, markings, on so many people. 

 Of the rigid, the pope is seen as the most stiff.  Orthodoxy.  Rules.  Papal duties were all about rigidity for all ages.  And consistency.  Rigidity and consistency for all ages. 

 The Jesuits focus on the young.  They are thought of, at least by this graduate of a Jesuit university, as less rigid.  They do not really preach, at least in the fire and brimstone sense.  Their job is to teach, and primarily to teach the young to know God.  Moved by ideology?  Their tip is to look for God in all things.  It is more than a blessing when you started to connect God to your everyday life.  In one sense it fulfills that Michigan poet’s definition of poetry as connecting what seems unconnected.  (Thomas Lynch is a also a mortician whose book, Booking Passage, looks for the Irish in all things and is my book selection of the decade if you are an Irish-American.)   

Moved by ideology?  I am currently reading The Years of Extermination by Saul Friedlander, the middle book of his trilogy.    He discusses “the centrality of ideological-cultural factors in moving of Nazi policies.”  He talked about the period from the end of the 19th Century to after World War I as the age of ideology.  The world was in upheaval that eventually would involve every home in the world.  The period involved the identity of women and women’s rights and women suffrage.  The period involved communism and liberalism.  The period involved education.  And in this, Friedlander writes, liberalism was caught between the Bolshevism of Russia, communism in the rest of the world, and the revolutionary right in Italy and in Germany.  Identified with liberalism and the revolutionary brand of socialism, targeted, instigators, carriers, Jews became the scapegoat as representatives of world views.  Friedlander’s thesis was that the battle over ideology between the left and right was not just restricted to Germany and Italy.  

 The age of ideology never really took a vacation.  Most visible through the ongoing war of Islamic fundamentalism with the secular world, which filled the void when the ideology of communism seemed to burn out, historians will continue to write of the age of ideology and its affects on humanity. Ironically, McHugh quotes Mark Twain in Company, “Get your facts first and then you can distort them.”   In what also could have been a comment on ideology, McHugh quotes Mark Twain one final time:  “I was born modest.  Not all over.  But in spots.”  Twain might have been commenting on the political campaigns of the past 28 years. 

 In reading Company, I read an article about being moved on a pilgrimage.  The current issue of Company, fall 2008, includes a story by Briana Colton about her World Youth Day experience in Australia, in search of clarity and perspective in her life.  Ms. Colton was a graduate from Marquette University three years before and hers was the struggle of all 25-year olds, of “becoming” after all this formation.  What to do after “becoming”?  There will be a syllabus for a class offered next semester, featuring the John R. Powers’ coming of age story novel, The Unoriginal Sinner and the Ice-cream God.  (Powers’ more popular book, Do Black Patent-Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?, reflected an era for American Catholics educated in parochial schools, when both all politics as well as all religion was local.  I am not sure many people like Briana Colton identified with that in the changing Catholic world.  Yet the search for God in all things, in all lives, never changed.) Ms. Colton described what I always thought of as the mundane things in a day.  She walked, she listened, she sang in the course of her days in Sydney.  At the end of the trip, she reflected and she prayed.  Ms. Colton did not figure out in a matter of days, or so she says, who she was or who God wanted her to be.  But she did discover the importance of her Catholicism and experiencing the Eucharist (going to Mass) in the ongoing formation process of her life.  In a sense she seems to still be moved by hunger, looking for her own passion about life, to experience more things Catholic. 

 If I was the writer of a Gospel, and I am named after a Gospel writer, I would have included a directive from God to His son.  “You have nothing else to do.  Go change the world.” 

His request does not seem much different from the directive that applies in the life of any 22-year old after completing their education.  The trouble was coming to the understanding that the change would be through what looked to be some fairly mundane things in everyday life.  


The invisible wrestling match of youth, in the search for meaning in all, beyond ideology, was daily.  Moved by God…Out of bed…In the fairly mundane things…the search for whom God wanted us to be, in search of the next chapter of the New Testament. 

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