Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Why People Are Nervous

Today it seems as though language had been robbed of its forgetfulness: every word is present somewhere in the general noise of words around us. In the general noise of words everything emerges for a moment, only to disappear again. Everything is there at the same time and yet not there at all.

There is no longer any present immediacy of the word and therefore no forgetting. Forgetting is no longer done by man directly but proceeds outside his control in the general noise of words jostling one with another.

But that is not a forgetting at all, but merely a disappearing. And so there is no forgiving either in the world today; since now one can never get rid of a word or a thing, it is always bound to turn up again somewhere. And it is also a fact that one never really has a word or a thing today—and that is why people are so nervous.
Max Picard, The World of Silence

Reflection -  I have been working my way through this wonderful book, and periodically have shared some of its nuggets on this blog. This one in particular seems almost eerily prophetic—Max Picard invents the Internet! There are so many choice phrases here that almost exactly describe the world of information today: ‘Everything is there at the same time and yet not there at all… the general noise of words jostling one with another... now one can never get rid of a word or a thing, it is always bound to turn up again somewhere… that is why people are so nervous.’

Well, yes. And almost cliché to say these things nowadays, but this book was written in 1948. To be both constantly engulfed in words and yet at the same time never have them, to be both incapable of forgetting (and hence forgiving) since the Internet is forever, and yet at the same time incapable of remembering, since the rush of words continually races past us (not forgotten, but disappearing)—this is Internet culture, 2015.

And it is unacceptable. Inhuman, and hence incapable of aiding us to be made divine by God’s grace. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us—language is meant to serve its divine purpose always in the end of communion of persons, always towards becoming ‘flesh’ and making our flesh, our concrete experience of life, a communion of love.

Language as a ceaseless flow of binary information across a flat screen is the anti-Incarnation. Language as a roar of verbiage, a clamor and clash of agendas, a fighting for a slight fleeting flicker of attention from the mob, ultimately language as click-bait in the service of generating advertising revenue—this is a perversion of what it is to be. Language is degraded from a quest for truth and understanding ordered towards communion and love to being, essentially, a sales pitch.

In this time of the Synod on the Family, I am concerned to see that roar of language, that clamor and clash and base sophistry of marketing and sales being used to ‘talk about’ (well, sort of) that which is truly a sacred matter, a holy thing. Both the realities of sex, marriage, and family life, but also the reality of the human person made in God’s image, broken by sin but redeemed in Christ—this is the true subject matter of the Synod.

There is a real profanation of the holy, a desecration of God’s image, when the inchoate howl of Internet chatter and punditry engulfs these conversations. I am not talking about the Synod itself—the Pope has decided we need a synod to talk about these things, and I am praying for that synod and doing my best to follow its actual deliberations.

It is the constant blah-blah-blah, the hand wringing, the claxon sounding, the sounding of the alarum against ‘those horrible modernists’ or ‘those horrible traditionalists’, against Kasper or Erdo, Marx or Sarah, the calls to action, the ‘deep concerns and confusion’ of this writer or that writer, the apocalyptic fears on that website or the triumphalist yells on another—all of this is more than divisive and distasteful.

It is sacrilegious. Yes, strong language and so forth. I don’t care. Language is debased and in that debasing of language, actual human beings are damaged, the path of salvation in Christ is obscured, the way of truth and love in the world is made hard to find and ultimately souls beloved of God are made to stumble and fall from that way. And that is scandal, in the exact sense of the word.

So there is a Synod going on. Let us pray for it. Let us address ourselves to our own call to live faithfully the mysteries of family, love, and human sexuality according to our own vocations. And let us otherwise be still and silent. I will not be blogging about the Synod, for the reasons given in this blog post, nor will I be taking any interest in the commentary on same in the media, social or otherwise. And I encourage you to do the same.


  1. AMEN AMEN AND AMEN AGAIN!!! Thank you. I couldn't agree more.

  2. Words... Mere words!... WORD... One Word... Word of God... God of Love... Caritas


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