Changing Rules

Today’s tech and social norms aren’t what they were in my youth. It’s exciting. Or bewildering. Or unstable. Or dynamic. or any of a myriad other options.

Change happens, even if I don’t approve. What matters is making good choices. More about that later.

These are the ‘Good Old Days’

I’ll indulge in nostalgia. Occasionally. Parts of my past are nice places to visit. But I wouldn’t like living there.

Taking a stroll down memory lane lets me revisit the best times, places, people and experiences. It’s a ‘best-of’ selection.

I certainly don’t yearn for the days before social media, smart appliances, and online search software.

Maybe it’s hereditary.

Or an attitude that’s been in the family for several generations.

One of my ancestors, Arba Zeri Campbell, was the first man in his part of Illinois to have a telephone. I’ve been told that he waited quite a while before a neighbor got one, too.

Folks don’t always use today’s tech wisely. I don’t blame the tech. I remember folks bewailing newfangled gadgets like the telephone and television.

Simpler times and the ‘good old days’ weren’t.

Nostalgia is fine, within reason. But I don’t miss epidemics of days gone by: polio, cholera, and otherwise. (October 22, 2017; August 11, 2017; July 21, 2017)

They still happen, but are more avoidable now. Or should be. And that’s another topic.

Isaiah, Uriah Heep and Living in the Future

I’ve been living in ‘the future’ for quite a while now. It’s nowhere near as nifty or bleak as some imagined.

I like it, on the whole.

Today’s tech makes doing just about anything easier.

That’s good when we’re doing something that makes sense. When we’re not, it’s not the tech’s fault. Folks, some of us, were misusing technology long before the Web.

I ran into venom-spitting Christians in my youth, and still do. ‘Christian’ radio’s screwball version of faith sent me on a search that led me to become a Catholic. Eventually. Along the way I met vehemently non-Christian folks with similar attitudes.

That was in the 1960s. I’m pretty sure we don’t have more folks spouting nonsense today. Or fewer. Not by much, either way. They’re easier to find now, thanks to information tech.

My guess is that folks like Holy Willie and Uriah Heep pop up in every era. One’s real, the other isn’t, and that’s yet another topic. (January 8, 2018; October 23, 2016)

Pillars of rectitude oozing “malignant virtue” most likely infest everyone’s circle of friends, family, and neighbors. Except for hermits, and that’s yet again another topic.

I’m not sure who coined the phrase “malignant virtue.” It goes back at least to the 1860s:

“There are times, Charles, when even the unimaginative decency of my brother and the malignant virtue of his wife appear to me admirable.”
(Lord Peter Wimsey, in “Murder Must Advertise,” Dorothy L. Sayers (1933))

“…counting every thing which the most malignant virtue could shrink from, I have culled eighty lines. Eighty lines out of nine thousand!…”
(“The Good Gray Poet. A Vindication,” William Douglas O’Connor (1866))

The attitude is ancient. So are misbehaving VIPs. Ordinary folks who misbehave and claim virtue aren’t particularly prominent in the Bible. I’m not sure why. I found both in Isaiah:

“Your princes are rebels and comrades of thieves; Each one of them loves a bribe and looks for gifts. The fatherless they do not defend, the widow’s plea does not reach them.”
(Isaiah 1:23)

“The Lord said: Since this people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, And fear of me has become mere precept of human teaching….”
(Isiah 29:13)

‘Fear of God’ isn’t being scared of the Almighty. It’s more like respect. (March 26, 2017)

‘That Still Small Voice….’

I could compose screeds against “…scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of faith….” (May 7, 2017)

Or denounce wackadoo environmentalists. Or folks whose chief offense is liking music I don’t. That last might be hard to find. As one of my kids said, ‘your opinion doesn’t count, Dad. You like everything.‘ She had a point. As usual.

There’s no shortage of offensive attitudes and beliefs, now or in any age. I might enjoy impersonating an incensed Old Testament prophet. While the performance lasted. But my heart wouldn’t be in it.

Besides, I’ve got my particular judgment to think of. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 10211022)

My rap sheet is long enough without adding to the list.

Ignoring trouble isn’t an option either. Not a good one.

Deciding whether my actions are good or bad is a good idea. Preferably before I do them. Choosing depends on having some notion of what “good” and “bad” are.

We all start with what Jiminy Cricket called ‘that still small voice nobody listens to.’

Deciding to ignore it is an option. I can’t recommend it. (Catechism, 17901791)

So is sliding through life without adding to the starter pack. I wouldn’t say that’s wrong, but can’t say it’s the best choice.

Avoiding chances to learn more, choosing ignorance or substitutes for an informed conscience? That’s a bad idea. (Catechism, 17761794)

One of the cardinal virtues is justice, so part of my job is noticing what other folks do. That’s the easy part. Deciding whether actions are good or bad gets tricky. So does deciding how to respond. (Catechism, 17761804, 19051917, 24012449)

Developing good judgment is nearly the opposite of being judgmental. Justice is important. So is mercy. (Catechism, 1805, 1807, 1829, 1861, 19912011, 2478)

The idea is hating the sin and loving the sinner. Judging persons is God’s jurisdiction. (Catechism, 1861)

The basics are simple.

I should God and my neighbor, and see everyone as my neighbor. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 10:2537; Catechism, 1706, 1776, 1825, 18491851, 1955)

Remembering those simple principles and acting like they matter? That’s hard.

Dealing With Difference

Behaving myself is a good idea, but my job doesn’t end there.

I’m part of a society, like everyone else. Benefits are part of the package. So are duties. One of which is paying attention to what others need. How I respond depends on what’s needed, and what I can do. (Catechism, 18781885, 19281942, 2199, 22382243)

In a society where justice and mercy were perfectly balanced and love abounded — we haven’t managed that yet. But we keep trying. I see our efforts as a good thing.

As I see it, one of the tricky parts is dealing with differences. And recognizing our equality. That’ll take explaining.

Every one of us is ‘equal.’ We all have a share of humanity’s “transcendent dignity.” But we’re not all alike. We’re not supposed to be. (Catechism, 1929, 1937)

That should be a good thing. (Catechism, 19341938, 2334)

Some efforts to make a good society turned out better than others.

It took Napoleon to sort out the French Revolution’s mess. I don’t know what historians will make of assorted 20th century debacles. (November 19, 2017; November 10, 2017; November 6, 2016)

America’s experiment started a few years before the French one.

We’ve survived a major internal war since then and eventually corrected some problems. I like being an American, mostly. But we don’t have a perfect society today.

If I thought we lived in a Golden Age before 1965, 1954, 1933, or that 1848 ruined everything, I’d be trying to drag us back.

If I thought today’s America was perfect, I’d be striving to uphold the status quo.

It’s not. It’s never been.

Like I keep saying, there’s not much I can do to change America. Much less the world.

But I can suggest that we can do better. And that working with all people of good will makes sense.

Reflecting Love

There’s no idyllic era in our past, or anyone else’s. Nobody’s perfect now. That leaves one direction: forward.

It won’t be easy. Particularly since even folks who think change is needed don’t all agree on details.

And some apparently simply don’t like change. They’re not all Christian curmudgeons. Or Catholics yearning for yesteryear.

Despite how some Catholics act, our faith isn’t all about grimly clinging to antique habits.

And it sure isn’t about imposing one culture on everyone. That includes how we worship. The sacraments are universal. How we celebrate them reflects our many cultures. (Catechism, 12001206)

There isn’t one ‘correct’ culture. Or political system. We can eat with or without forks. Our leaders can be queens, emperors, presidents or whatever.

What matters is having rules that respect the “legitimate good of the communities” and “fundamental rights of persons.” (Catechism, 24, 814, 1901, 1957)

That hasn’t changed, and won’t. The idea of universal and unchanging natural law was ancient when St. Thomas Aquinas discussed it. Rules we use to get along keep changing as our circumstances change. (Catechism, 19521960)

Loving God and neighbors, and seeing everyone as a neighbor: that’ll always be important.

Our rules are good or bad to the extent that they reflect that love. That’s what the Catholic view of social justice is about. (Catechism, 19281942)

And that’s — still another topic:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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10 Responses to Changing Rules

  1. James Martello Jr says:

    “Our rules” must always, always, because fully in agreement with Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, meaning the constant teaching of the Christian Faith. Where we see rupture, there we see error.

  2. Yes, technology is a good thing to be embraced. But now we have people inventing things we don’t even need.More technological things that can go wrong. For example for years we wound the windows in our cars up and down by hand. Then we had electric windows. No problems there. Then we had side mirrors you fold in so no one knocks or scratch them. The latest I have seen are mirrors which automatically and electrically fold in by themselves, and door handles which also fold into the car door. Too much technology, I think. Especially if it goes wrong and you can’t enter your car.

    God bless.

    • – – – or can’t get the car out of the garage because our garage door opener won’t work. It’s not a problem for family members over a certain height: but the manual release handle was placed with “average” people in mind. 🙂

      Folks do learn, though, I think. We had many more power outages when I was young. And today we’ve got a nifty new home decor item: Fancy electronic displays blinking “12:00.” That’s progress. Sort of.

  3. irishbrigid says:

    Missing word: “One of those is paying attention what others need.”

    The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

  4. azdenn says:

    The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.
    ~ Isaac Asimov

    • Asimov, and others, have a point. It’s easy to see, in the last couple centuries, serious lag times in adjusting to new tech.

      On the other hand, there’s been a lot of change, very fast, since 1800. More and faster than anything since, maybe, someone started working the bugs out of agriculture, 8 to 10 millennia back.

      My frustration level is set pretty low, so I often feel that way. But I’ve noticed that we **do** learn. (shameless self-promotion: I talked about that in May. Also links to what I think may be a way out of the empire-collapse-rebuild cycle we’ve been in since Sargon’s day.

  5. azdenn says:

    I pondered forwarding this to a branch of my family which has transitioned to Catholicism. Then thought better of it. I’m sorta enjoying the separation from family contact since shuttering my frakkedUpbook.

    • I don’t know enough to have an informed opinion – – – but I see your point. Points, actually. I have some family contact through Facebook – which is largely tranquil. Thanks in large part, I suspect, to my marrying into a rather reasonable family.

Thanks for taking time to comment!