Over breakfast we were discussing the long term effects of the coronavirus and observed that because of our affluence and control we have been living in a false Disneyland kind of existence. For many in America life was a perpetual playtime. We enjoyed an existence that was more comfortable and affordable than any previous generation. With technological control, worldwide travel, the best foods and wines from around the world and entertainment at our fingertips, we could have it all and we expected to have it all.
As one person commented, “The average middle class American takes for granted a standard of living that would make even the most decadent Roman emperor blush.”
Suddenly we are not in control. An invisible virus has knocked the whole thing sideways. How long will it take before the reality sets in? What will it take, for example, for the doltish college students enjoying their annual orgy in Florida to sober up? How long will it take before we all realize not only that we have a genuine crisis on our hands, but realize the deeper truths that life is not a perpetual playtime, that Disneyland is not real and there is something called suffering, pain and death waiting at the door?
But we have controlled all those things too. With our wonderful medical technological advances we seem to have taken control of our bodies too. We were eradicating diseases. Antibiotics solved huge problems. There seemed to be a magic pill for everything. Dr Frankensteins used surgery to lift our glum faces, our sagging butts and boobs and every part of our body could be modified. We went so far as to say, “You don’t want to be a man anymore?”Don’t worry. Dr Frankenstein can fix it. Take these pills have an operation and we’ll make you a lady. You don’t like being a lady? Take these pills, have this operation and we’ll make you a man!”
Sickness, it seemed, was dealt with. We could cure everybody and when death finally did come it was with hushed whispers in a pleasant hospice with total pain control until you quietly went to sleep. Then we didn’t even have a funeral Mass. We tried to ignore the grief. We quickly cremated the Uncle George’s body, scattered the ashes at his favorite fishing hole and had a “celebration of his life” in a banal church with a bland minister uttering shallow words of make believe theology.
Perhaps now some of the fakery will stop.
C.S.Lewis wrote, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Maybe, just maybe we will have a wake up call. Maybe we will learn to take life more seriously and prepare for the worst as well as hoping for the best.
Can we do this? Today I am not feeling optimistic. I am not optimistic because to hear such a wake up call one must have at least some very minimal resources of understanding and conscience. To become aware of the reality of life and death and the serious need to repent and orient ourselves towards eternity one must have some sense of good and evil, some idea of the afterlife and judgement, some concept that actions have consequences and decisions have outcomes. This very basic philosophical and theological understanding of the world has been worm eaten by relativism and materialism.
Instead, like panicked rats in a sinking ship the crowds are running about in a frenzy. Having built their house upon the sandy beaches of Florida, they’re surprised when the storm comes to find it collapsing.
To hear God–even when he uses a megaphone–requires that a person have some idea that there is a God and that he might speak to us. To hear the call to repentance and conversion of life one must have those concepts in one’s life, education and culture–otherwise it is a foreign language. Those who do not have the concept of such things in their lives would not even know how to look up the definition of such words.
Now we see where the dictatorship of relativism has brought us–in a world where nothing is true, suddenly there are things that are true. Very true. Sickness and suffering and death are true. One of the chapters in my book The Quest for the Creed is called “I Scream Therefore I AM” You can read it here. This chapter addresses the problem of pain and brings home the fact that this is real, and pain is not only God’s megaphone. It is the surest guarantee that I am real, and if I am real then I am alive and I have choices. Real choices.
May God have mercy on us. May St Joseph and St Therese intercede for us and may God help all those who are working so hard to get us through the present crisis.