Wednesday 3 November 2021

The Struggle to Remain Rooted in Reality

Yesterday I reserved myself a spot in a friend's car almost 3 weeks in advance of the Una Voce Scotland AGM, as the friend noted. On the one hand, I seemed very organised. On the other hand, it was just more parsimony, for I had just looked up the train fares to Cleland and didn't like them. 

One of the reasons I enjoyed studying the thought of Bernard Lonergan so much was that Fr. Lonergan was so interested in reality: if you can know reality, how you can know reality, and why people tend to avoid grasping reality, which Fr. Lonergan called "the flight from understanding." Occasionally, during my studies, someone who knew Fr. Lonergan personally or who had heard unpleasant gossip would comment ironically on Bernie falling short of his own standards. However, this only suggests to me why Fr. Lonergan would be so interested in reality in the first place, or so aware of the human tendency to flee it. After all, my mother used to tell me that I was not rooted in reality, and after much archaeological introspection, I know this to be true. 

An atheist materialist would inevitably suggest that practising Catholics, let alone traditionalist Catholics, are not rooted in reality because we do our utmost (or say we do our utmost) to be rooted in the God the atheist materialist does not believe exists. (I once corresponded with an atheist materialist whose answer to everything was "Evolution", leading me to surmise that Evolution was his god.) However, a number of realists (and critical realists, as Lonerganians call themselves) are convinced that God is the Realest of the Real. Descartes, the apostle of doubt, believed firmly in God and insisted that he was a "devout and orthodox Catholic" in the words of this blog I have just checked. 

The trouble with God, when you are trying to make plans based on budgets and timetables, is that He makes plans without slavish reference to your notes. This can be very good--like when, for example, your husband gets an unexpected tax return from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs--and it can be very annoying, like when the boiler conks out. 

That said, it is in the nature of  boilers to conk out, so I am suddenly grateful that we have been paying £9.50 a month in insurance to the gas company. 

Thinking this through, I see that if God is the Realest of the Real, then remaining rooted in reality means leaving space for the unforeseen decisions of God, while trusting that He knows best, of course. And of course I do not mean that God will contradict Himself,  an idea a certain somebody in Italy seems to be pushing, but that we need to leave room for things that we simply can't understand, like a brain tumour found in children (on the mercifully rare occasions it is) being found in your middle-aged husband. 

It is, by the way, in the nature of men to conk out also, which is why most married men with children or dependent spouses need life insurance, and why even the traddiest of trad families should ensure that their marriage-minded daughters have been taught a trade or focus on a saleable specialty at university. (Exceptions, of course, for the financially independent.)

Because human beings have a tendency to flee from understanding unpleasant or difficult realities, like the length of time it will take your plastic disposable razor to decompose or that experts estimated in1990 that 2 billion of them end up in U.S. landfills every year, we need to practise standing still and facing reality head-on.

We also need to encourage each other, which is why I will now disgust Polish Pretend Son by boasting that I have not bought a plastic disposable razor in years. (Polish Pretend Son once voiced an interest in bohemian activities, so I sent him to my most bohemian pal, who invited him to the bohemian theatrical performance of a bohemian woman with bohemian underarm hair. He was dead shocked. Possibly he only wanted the address of a good Czech restaurant.) I have not been divorced or bankrupted or expelled from society for my lack of plastic disposables, so take heart. *   

One way to practise remaining rooted in reality and facing unpleasant truths head on is by practising a cherished language on a native speaker brave enough to tell you afterwards how many mistakes you made. This is also, by the way, pertains to the definition of humility: knowing the reality of who you are and what your capabilities and limitations are. I have had to learn not to hate myself for forgetting how to actually speak Polish upon arriving in Poland, and I have had to learn not to feel embarrassed by explaining that I don't actually need native-like fluency in Italian to do the linguistic tasks I need to do. 

Thus, being rooted in reality is not optimism or pessimism but attention to the truth. And the truth is that I'm now late for work, so talk to you later.  

*Although I would literally take up arms (or pay lawyers) to fight for the right to personal property, I do hope we all become dirty hippies in future, at least insofar as plastic bathroom and kitchen disposables are concerned. 

UPDATE: A better photo to illustrate. 

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