Sunday, September 8, 2013
Recently I attended a panel discussion about whether or not women can "have it all." This conversation is happening all around us right now (here is a very heartening contribution if you're interested). A little over three years ago I chose to leave an excellent job at a very prestigious university in order to stay home with my then nine-month-old son. I have never regretted that choice, but there have been times when I have missed the daily experience of engaging conversation with groups of other adults who are interested in topics related to faith and culture. I am blessed to have a brilliant and thoughtful husband, inspiring and wonderful friends, and an ever-challenging and stimulating book club; but I always want more. As an undergraduate, I created my own major, which I called "Catholic Studies." Later, I taught apologetics at a Catholic high school. Now that I no longer spend my days in an academic environment, I still want more: more hours, more detail, more depth. I realize that for me, "having it all" means raising my own kids and keeping at least a toe in the door of academic discussion. Little else gives me greater joy than discussing doctrine and the arts from the perspective of the Catholic Tradition with anyone who wants to.
One of the panelists at the event I attended said that she had wondered if she should continue pursuing her PhD when, after her son was born, she felt a strong pull towards staying home with him. A wise mentor told her that the value of earning those extra letters added to her name would be that people would be much more likely to listen to her if she ever had anything to say. That was about 20 years ago. Now, thanks to the internet, things have changed. What matters most is whether or not the writing is interesting. "Yes...people LOVE interesting writing!" proclaimed Elaine Benes on Seinfeld. So that's the challenge I lay before myself: don't go back to school for a PhD. It will add too much stress on your family now that you husband is also finishing up a PhD and your children are still so small. Just have an outlet. Just write something interesting.
The first thing I'd like to do is explain the title and the background image I'm using for this blog. The photo was taken in the Lateran Basilica in Rome just a moment after a tall, handsome, intelligent friend of mine had explained the typological schema in the iconography of the church. He told me how the Old Testament mosaics lined up wit the New Testament paintings and how both were linked to the statues of the Apostles situated below. My soul was stirring with wonder as I dashed around with him, soaking in all of the beauty & truth, faith & reason that I had never known existed in the Church in which I had been born and raised. He was moved by my heart, I was moved by his mind. This was our "vision at Ostia" moment. The photo captures the very same beam of light that shone on us in the instant when I realized that he and I would have a phenomenal life together. I know this sounds a little "double-rainbow"-esque; but this photograph has always represented the first time I came to see that truth, goodness, and beauty are all one thing--one Person--and so everything in the world that shares in those attributes also shares in the Paschal Mystery. Mad Men is a good show. A great show. Therefore, I believe that it reflects God in some ways, and can lead us back to Him. Wittingly or not, Matthew Weiner has let God shine through him. That's the kind of thing I want to discuss here. I am quite aware that other people are doing this right now and I have every intention of linking those fantastic articles as I stumble across them (great example). I'm just dying to weigh in when and where I can. And I want you to challenge me with your questions and comments.
The title "Through a Glass Brightly" comes from an essay by the same name that I wrote a few years ago about Hans Urs von Balthasar's theology of transparency. The soul is like a pane of glass through which God's light shines either brightly, dimly, or not at all, depending on how much of our selves we have allowed to be transformed so that He may shine through us. C.S. Lewis explains this perfectly in "The New Men", the last chapter of Mere Christianity, which I had all of my senior students read. I want to argue that art acts in the same way. It is the creation of man, therefore sub-creation, as Tolkien called it his essay "On Fairy Stories"; and a work of art is a crowning achievement of human culture insofar as it shares in the likeness of God and His Art. The more true, beautiful, and good it is, the more it acts as a conduit of His grace. So you will see me argue that thing likes Breaking Bad and Mumford & Sons can give one an authentic spiritual experience. A Catholic one, even. My students used to laugh at me when I'd say things like, "The Crucible is SO CATHOLIC." But I am lifted up to God as I take in that show, that band, and that play. The point of this blog is to share in that experience with you.
"For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12). Between the darkness of concupiscence and the clarity of Beatific Vision, we can spend our time learning to see ourselves, our neighbors, and all art ever more brightly. Domine ut videam.
Thank you so much for spending this time with me!
First topic: The Great Gatsby and Brideshead Revisited.