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Men Should Be Saints and Culture Should Be Saintly

In my confused, impetuous and misspent youth I believed, with the arrogance of ignorance, that I knew the answers to all the most important questions in life. The world’s problems could be solved politically and economically. All that was needed were the right policies, and the right government to put the policies into practice. It was all so simple. All so easy. The biggest problem was convincing the older people how simple it all was. It was a pity, in fact, that old people were so stupid. Such were the thoughts of my thoughtless youth.

And as for culture, who cared about culture anyway? At best it was fun, like listening to the latest rock band, or watching one’s favorite football team; at worst it was a needless distraction from the real issues, which were political and economic. And religion? What a waste of time that was. Religion was utterly irrelevant. It had no connection to the real world or the real issues.

How wrong I was. How wrong and how lost.

There was one older person in my youth whom I took seriously, largely, I’m sure, because his prejudices reflected mine. He was not, in fact, very old. He was in his thirties. But as a teenager “old” begins at 25! He was something of a mentor and I remember that he would often begin a discussion with an insistence that we “define our terms.” If we were discussing capitalism, or communism, or free trade, or the free market, or private property, he would always begin by asking me to define what I meant by these things. He would also ask probing questions such as whether private enterprise and free enterprise are the same thing. Although I was sometimes irritated by this somewhat stolid approach to debate, I realize now that he was teaching me how to think. He was taking me, slowly but surely, from mere derivatives, such as politics and economics, to an appreciation of the important things, such as philosophy and, eventually, theology. As such, I remain very much in his debt, intellectually speaking.

I would like to take my former mentor’s approach to our discussion of culture. What is culture? What isn’t culture? As a word it is too lightly used and too often abused. As a living thing it is too often taken for granted and all too often not fully appreciated for what it is. It is, therefore, time that we looked at culture with a clarity of vision that is often absent. In short, it is time to define our terms.

Read more at National Catholic Register 

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