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Do You Suffer from PERS?!?!?
In a recent talk – Home Schooling to Rock the World – I mentioned some symptoms that a person may be suffering from ‘post-Enlightenment reduction syndrome,’ (PERS) or ‘flattening’. This is the atrophy of one’s analogic sense – a reduction in the metaphoric dimension of human being. The problem is a disconnect in the person’s capacity to relate concrete and abstract reality. Its source is the cultural vacuum caused by man’s attempt to believe there is no God. Man without a context for being (In Him I live and move and have being) is like an astronaut untethered from the space ship – dying for lack of a life-supporting atmosphere.
Of course this is a great over-simplification of an enormously complex problem. My hope was to point out to Christians that they, too, may (and probably do) have PERS to some degree. Here are a few ‘flatitudes’ – indicators of a flattened metaphoric dimension, or analogic sense. Each one has an opposite ‘floatitude’ – another way people avoid the tension and turbulence of the territory of freedom.
Sadly, people with far-advance PERS won’t be easily able to recognize these symptoms in themselves. But if we can all get honest about the ways we are compromised by and “conformed to the pattern of this world,” we can grow better able to rescue the perishing together, imho. That’s the world-rocking I’m talking about!!
Since I placed the Flatitudes and Floatitudes in juxtaposition, I can’t seem to recreate that formatting here. Read the PDF and then….
The last paragraph:
I imagine you get the idea: we Catholics have access to and support to move freely in the vast territory of human freedom. ‘We’ can usually see when ‘they’ move from freedom to ‘license,’ but are less aware when we ourselves have moved from ‘free’ toward ‘tame’ under the pressure of PERS. I believe that, if ever we become fully, abundantly free, the enormity of our joy, the magnanimity of our giving, the certainty of our faith, and the expressivity of our love would communicate Christ to the world!
Naturally, I’d love your thoughts on this. Sadly, one of the huge losses due to PERS is the lack of responsivity to ideas…sigh…
Click here or on the image above for the whole series.
…it is difficult for poets to remain acceptable or contented party men; they ask too many questions.
Dorothy Sayers, in the Introduction to her translation of Dante’s Purgatorio
I just feel it would be a shame to let all these questions just disappear. I wish everyone in the archdiocese would give the Bishop their own answers. If we have 100,000 people (I have no idea how many Catholics in the Archdiocese of KCK), I bet we’d have a hard time getting 100 people to respond. In other words, there’s really no danger in asking questions, because so few people will even answer. And the upside is that you discover the nth % who do respond. They are likely to be willing to do other hard things.
Plus, even a few answers to good questions is better than 1000 answers to lame questions. And, yes, I’m asserting that the questions asked in the Bishop’s listening meeting were lame. Their focus was on eliciting pats on the back for the Bishop, who definitely deserves many, many pats on the back. My point is not that any positive feedback was wrong, as there is so much to be glad for in our archdiocese, but that much helpful feedback was omitted from the process due to what I believe is an unnecessary avoidance of tension. If we cannot be comfortable among ourselves, as Catholics, voicing things that are hard to say, how in the world will we learn to say hard things to the world that is dying for lack of those truths??
I’m sure the archdiocese and the world will go on without my input, and I really do believe that God is at work here. I do not so much despair of some good being done as remain sad for the much more that might be done if we could all communicate with more honesty and effectiveness. I am tired of being told I am ahead of my time. Christ has come, so the time for Christians is now.
Once more, and in conclusion, I would like to reassure everyone who sees a post like this and worries about me (Is she angry? No. Is she dissenting? Absolutely not. Is she disrespectful? Not a bit of it. Is she upset? Nope.). I am fine, happy, content, respectful, orthodox, cheerful, and confident that I’ve done all I need to do in response to the questions I was asked, and those I was not asked. Meanwhile, I will, if you don’t mind, remain sad, because Fr. Giussani taught us that sadness is the opposite of despair. Because I do hope, I hope for better communication and visioning in our archdiocese.
May God bless and keep Archbishop Naumann, and make His face shine upon him, and give him peace.
A lab-coated investigator places a box on a table before each participant, in turn. “What is in the box? Say whatever you think,” he says, to each one, alone. One person answers “Apples,” because the box says “APPLES” in red block letters. Another notices a word scribbled in marker on a label at one end and says, “Wine Glasses”. A third peeks into the box through a small hole in its side and says “Nothing in there.” Subject #4 lifts, shakes and smells the box, looks into all the torn places and holes, and says, “Clove-studded oranges.” Mr. 5 says, “I have no idea,” and when pressed to say whatever he thinks, laughs and says “I give up. A bomb?”
Finally, #6 answers. “Could be a hamster – there’s an air hole. Might be books, walnuts, tools – anything! How ‘bout a whole series of smaller boxes? Let’s see…there’s air in there, and dirt, probably. If it’s photographs you could say the box is full of memories. Depending on the books in there, that box might ‘contain’ India, or another planet, or a fairy world. What if it’s some high-tech gizmo…then it contains the work of dozens of scientists, years of research, rare earth. Wow! Should I go on??”
#1 used language decoding skill – relying on the accuracy of the label.
#2 did also, but took in a bit more information, held both labels in mind, and made a judgment.
#3 got his senses more fully involved, but didn’t realize the limitation he unconsciously accepted.
#4 used more sensory information, and gave the one correct answer.
#5 used his freedom to resist constraints instead of to play the game.
#6 answered as a child, or a poet might, because the question itself stimulated his imagination. He, following instructions to report “whatever he thought,” tried to report all the mental events triggered by the suggestion, “What might be in a box?”
I offer this scenario by way of explaining why I find it difficult to give short answers to interesting questions.
Case in point: our archbishop recently convened a ‘listening meeting’ to gather input for his ten—year planning process. I would never have presumed to offer any opinions about his management of the archdiocese, or his vision for it, but….he asked. And I began to consider the questions he asked. (What is the archdiocese doing well? What should be our main priorities? What should the archdiocese look like ten years from now?)
The first thing I noticed was that there were huge foundational gaps in my knowledge about the archdiocese. If I were going to picture it ten years along, I’d have to understand its current state better. A list of questions I’d like to ask developed from those gaps. Then, in my imaginary leap to “What would you say if the Archbishop was interested in your thoughts?” I discovered a wealth of material that didn’t quite fit into the three-question, one-paragraph format I’d been offered. Hence, a list of questions I wish he had asked.
Finally, set loose to create my own vision of our archdiocese, ten years older and wiser, I came up with lots of ideas. I had no idea what to do with all this outside-the-box response, and considered just keeping it to myself to save trouble for Self and the Bish’. But, it was all there, and such things, in my experience, do not go away. They beg to be at least typed and file away so as to free mental space for other work. And when I considered tucking those lists away and going on with my life, I really wished I could do it! (After all, when one knows one’s response is likely to be of little use to the recipient, to be a pain in his neck, or to be considered ridiculous and childish, one prefers to crawl under a rock with it!) But then, there’s that nagging sense that you are what you are, and God made you that way, and if nobody else answers in this way, it might be even more important that you do, and if everybody takes his response and files it the Archbishop will get nothing in the way of feedback at all.
So, a quick cover letter of explanation (“I’m a good girl, I am! This is not a challenge, or a rebellion, or a demand, or a joke, but a real offering.”), enclose the three lists, and I’m done. I won’t write out my answers to the questions I wish he had asked unless he expresses some desire to see them. Sigh…. By now, though, the Q’s had provoked A’s – one thing leads to another, and so now I’m actually interested in what my answers are, whether he is or not.
Enter: Blog. Here’s the entire series:
This is where I make room for my own thoughts, where I ‘essay,’ or try out my ideas. So, this is where I’ll post my responses, in case anyone is interested. Here’s a pdf of the Q’s and anyone is welcome to give your own A’s – to your pals, to me, to the Archbishop. If I were really leading an archdiocese, I’d want everyone’s responses. I might have to get help reading and sifting out main streams of thought, but I’d want the input. If he doesn’t (and I can’t imagine he’d have time for all this!), it’s all the same to me. This has been a good thinking exercise for me, so I’m happy. Nothing is wasted in God’s economy. Watch this space for my Q’s and A’s in the weeks to come. Consider writing up your own responses, and do suggest Q’s you wish the Archbishop had asked us.
I’m placing a contact form here, in case you, or the Archbishop, would like to get in touch about this Research Project of mine.