Reflection by Wyoming Catholic College Senior Thomas Raab
Remember the Real and Be a Saint
The world has forgotten something of vital importance. It has forgotten reality. Man was made to be fully alive and to really live in a real world that really is real. The endless distraction of the totally artificial and the virtual, with their flashing lights and promises of pleasure, have made man forget. There was once a world in which our not too distant grandfather’s lived: a world altogether ancient, mysterious, wonderful, and above all, unapologetically real. That world still exists, but it exists outside the narrow frame of our technology. It is a world neither screen-deep nor mundane, but enchanting. Our fathers lived better than we do because they were closer to the soil. This enchanted world still exists, but we have forgotten how to touch it because we have stopped trying. In order to save the remnant of this secular age, we must remember the real and be saints.
The whole world exists as reality and as sign simultaneously. God gave it a depth and richness that can enrich man if only he touch it. The artificial, however, can give nothing back to man that can enrich him, because all it has is what man has already given it. Reality, however, has been given to man as a gift that fills him while at the same time convicting him that it is not the end but points to a more perfect state. Nature, with its mountains, trees and stars, raises man’s eyes and mind upwards to that eternal place. I would remind the reader that sin entered the world when man decided he could be God. Reality, the objective world, whispers to man that he is not. Hence I readily make the striking claim that if every man sat outside more, alone, in silence, under a vast starry night, perhaps while smoking a pipe, there would be less vice in the world.
The wilderness is a shockingly real place that can fill man with something other than himself. The reality of death, suffering and powers beyond our control may just be shocking enough to beat the sentimental relativistic atheism out of man. A man cannot give what he does not have. As long as man remains trapped in his artificial surroundings, he will be stuck in a perpetual cycle of trying to fill himself with himself and only being left empty. It is an endless hell of trying to lift himself by his bootstraps and only getting angry because he hasn’t succeeded at all and now his back is sore.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that all knowledge begins in the senses and that this beginning of knowledge, which he calls the poetic mode, is the most certain.The poetic mode occurs in two ways: the gymnastic (raw sensible contact with nature) and music (song, poetry, story, etc). If all we bring in through our senses (internal and external) is the artificial, then we are formed without an inherent conviction of natural law, a sense of right and wrong, or a sense of God. In more modern times we have tricked ourselves into believing that the mind is the only part of man that is really educated. We have forgotten what our forefathers held as true, that the whole person must be educated, starting with the senses. The way to educate the senses is to habitually put them in contact with the real. Then hearts will be filled with that which points to God and heaven. God is a poet because gave man the gymnastic and musical modes through which to touch His enchanted cosmos: creation and Scripture. He designed man in such a way that he must touch the real in order to touch sanctity.
In order to love God, we must first love the things He has made. Live a more real life; a more rustic life. Sing more of the good old songs that are grounded in the real and in virtue and the truths of human nature and the divine. The restoration of humanity and of culture will only occur if man remembers that he is a real being like the rocks and the trees, not an artificial and arbitrary one like the computer you’re probably reading this on. Go out and gaze at the stars. Go sing an Irish folk song or find someone to teach you. Cut out as much screen time and artificiality as your state in life allows you to. In the evening, don’t watch the latest Netflix show. Go on a long walk by the river in silence amidst the cool night air. Turn off the radio and learn to play an instrument. Stop wasting your time on facebook and read Plato. These will do more for your wisdom and sensibility than any amount of modern technology will.
We become like that which we sense. Like produces like. Fill your life with the real, with the beautiful, the good and the true. If we make it a habit of living in and sensing the real, which points to God, divinity and eternity will be more apparent to us who have been made blind. The chapel will no longer be empty, as T.S. Eliot writes, but we will sense God there again, not because He was gone, but because we were.