Sunday, November 19, 2017

Michael Novak's "God of Ordinary Things"

A great quote from Michael Novak, from C.R. Pakaluk's thoughtful reflections on co-teaching with him
"My God is a God of ordinary things, of routine, of the grind and jading of everyday life -- of a simple cigar, of a grain of sand, of boredom and tedium and hard work as well as moments of rapture. One way I test politicians, theoreticians, poets, activists, philosophers, and friends is by how alert they are to the mysteries of the ordinary. The . . . quest for “ecstasy,” “revelation,” “faith”, and “transparency” gives me a certain fear of those abstractions in whose name concrete, complex human organisms are so often crushed." [The Myth of Romantic Love and Other Essays] -- Michael Novak

It reminds me of when Novak circa 1976 as a fiery young liberal idealist wrote:

". . . the hollowness of so much of American life; the vacant eyes watching television and drinking beer; the tired eyes of the men on the commuter train; the efficient eyes of the professor and manager, the sincere eyes of the television politician. Americans . . . do not know who they are, only what they are useful for; they are bored and apathetic because they are manipulated; they are violent because they secretly resent the lies they are forced to live. Unable to live with themselves, Americans level the earth, build and destroy, attempt to master matter and space and human history. Americans play God." ['A Theology for Radical Politics' 1969]

And later, in 1982, writing in The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, excoriated himself for his youthful presumptuousness:

That this was a superficial, unfair, and ideological description of real Americans became clear to me when I looked more closely at my neighbors and companions, and less at literary conventions.

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