A Few Pointed Observations on Vagueness

I’ve been dealing with a challenging situation for the last two weeks, so I have not been posting.  Now  we appear to be past that, but I’ve got a major creative project that I hope to finish by Ash Wednesday, so I’m going to keep this post brief – then I plan on bugging my readers with frequent posts and videos and even podcasts during Lent!

I will be your penance, dear reader!

Meanwhile, a few observations … with bullet points (my favorite).


  • What is all this excitement about lack of boundaries?  Certainly we must take in refugees, but why is it that liberals don’t recognize the basic function of borders and boundaries, not only physical boundaries, but intangible ones?  We live in a world without form, without definition.  Ask someone to define something and you are called judgmental and bigoted.  But the easiest way to be victimized in this world is to blur the edges.  For instance we sinners often tell ourselves things like the following …
    • I won’t look at porn, but these pictures of naked ladies or this lurid story won’t count as porn – why be so judgmental?
    • I won’t have another drink, but I can open the bottle, smell it, taste it, even have a few sips, can’t I?  You wouldn’t call that “having another drink” – unless you were some sort of intransigent bigot!
    • If you cheat on your wife with someone you love, that’s not really “cheating” is it?  I mean, love has to win, doesn’t it?  And pretty much every good feeling is love, and how dare you try to define what love actually is!  Bigot!
    • My god, your god, his god, her god … who cares?  God is beyond definition!
  • One of the great tools of heresies in the past (especially during the first seven or so centuries of Church history) has been using words in a deliberately ambiguous way, so that Party A can say, “I have a dog” and mean a four legged animal that barks, and Party B can say, “I have a dog” and mean a four legged animal that meows.  Both parties can be happy because each party can use the same word in a way that suits them, subjectively.  And in such “fifty shades of intellectual gray”, we can all get along – and get exactly what we want, which is a rose by any other name.  Lack of definition is the great tool of the devil, and the engine that propels the Irrational.  And if our age is anything, it is the Age of the Irrational.
  • The good that John Senior and others did with the Integrated Humanities Program at Kansas University all those years ago continues to bear fruit.  If you meet the former disciples of the program, you can see that education in the True, the Beautiful and the Good can be a life-changing experience and will lead students to God … and to joy.
  • With that in mind, the art of any good education is education toward Form – toward a recognition of where one things ends and another begins: an awareness of boundaries.  This is especially true in Moral Education and in recognizing the built-in limitations of our relationships.  (Or, as Chesterton said, “Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.”)  Try to make a friend (or a job or a creative endeavor) something other than what it is and you will be miserable.  Actors learn this lesson again and again.  An acting gig is a great blessing, but it is just an acting gig: it is not the salvation of our souls, our big break, the chance finally to be loved, the thing that will make us permanently happy.  Maturity is, in many ways, simply recognizing the boundaries that are built in to the moral and physical universe and making the requisite sacrifices to live by them.
  • One paragraph from a sermon by Bl. John Henry Newman is worth twenty volumes of theology by Hans Urs von Balthasar (and I like von Balthasar).  Why?  Because Newman knows the simple truth.  Neither knowledge of God nor love of Him means anything without the painful daily self-sacrifices that cooperate with His grace to conform us to His image.
  • Don’t waste your money on a turkey sandwich if it’s that awful processed deli half-water turkey.  The only real turkey is real turkey, sliced from a cooked bird.  Otherwise, just get a hamburger.  At least a hamburger is real beef – or real horse-meat – but at least it’s real something.
Kevin O'Brien
Kevin O'Brien is the founder and artistic director of the Theater of the Word Incorporated, which tours the world evangelizing through drama. He and his actors appear on several EWTN television programs, with video clips featured on O'Brien's website, www.stgenesius.net. Kevin teaches many online classes for Homeschool Connections and writes a regular column for the St. Austin Review. His autobiography, A Bad Actor's Guide to the Meaning of Life, will be published soon by ACS Press.

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  1. Oh, how lovely to have you back, Kevin!