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The Two Americas

The sophisticated entertainment of Branson, Missouri

In 1922 (95 years ago), GK Chesterton visited America and wrote that while the people of the American Mid-West grew their own food they did not grow their own culture.  They had their own agriculture, but not their own artistic culture.

“Their culture comes from the great cities; and that is where all the evil comes from,” he said.

Now, of course, this statement of Chesterton’s contains more than a touch of hyperbole.  Rural America is no more Eden than the slums of Detroit.  All the evil does not come from cities.  Eric Hoffer, in fact, used to write about how every innovation came from the city, and every provincial suspicion of an innovation came from the country.

But Chesterton, though exaggerating, was right.  And he was right about what we know to be true today, almost a hundred years later.  There are two Americas.  One is rural and voted for Trump.  The other is metropolitan and voted for Hillary.  (In other words, plenty to blame on both sides, but a radical split nonetheless.)

And these two Americas have two very different tastes in entertainment.  As I wrote a while back in the St. Austin Review about Branson, Missouri (which features entertainment for country bumpkins rather thank city slickers) …

There you’ll find the other America, the older culture, the culture of Families – which is to say the culture of kids. In Branson you’ll find mini-golf, all-you-can-eat buffets, and country music stage shows … Sure, there’s plenty of tacky souvenir shops, and you might find a motel or two shaped like Noah’s Ark, but it’s the other culture. It’s a culture that is what it is because it appeals to adults who live with and travel with children.

Metropolitan culture, by contrast, appeals not in an unsophisticated way to families with kids, but in a faux sophisticated way to the deliberately sterile – singles, gays and the voluntarily childless.

That’s the cause of the great divide in this country.  Generally speaking, if you have kids and care about their future, you will think one way and value certain things.  If you don’t have kids, if you don’t ever intend to have kids, or if you grudgingly have as few kids as possible, you will think another way and value other things.

And, it turns out, I am bi!

That’s right, readers.  I am bi!  I am bi-cultural.  I know these two cultures quite well.  I make my living performing my own comedy shows in rural wineries all over the mid-west.  And though our shows aren’t really kid-friendly, they are unsophisticated and fun: they are not the culture from the cities.  But I was raised in a city and in a suburb, for the most part.  I was raised a metropolitan.  I was as cynical and atheistic and as self-indulgent as they come.  And it wasn’t my Christian conversion that first began to change me and to help me appreciate the rural culture that I used to look down upon.

It was having kids.

In fact, having kids was the key to happiness in my life.  Before Colin and Kerry were born, I was entirely, supremely, naturally, wholly, completely, utterly, and obtusely selfish.  I was transcendentally selfish.  I was infinitely, eternally and ubiquitously selfish.  I was selfish as a matter of course.  I was selfish by choice.  I was selfish without the deliberation of choice.  I was simply (and completely) selfish.  In fact, I was (you might say) selfish.  Perhaps all single guys in their 20’s are selfish, but I was more selfish than most.  Even after I got married I was selfish.  (My wife would tell you I’m still selfish).

But babies – smelly, messy babies – they have a way of changing you.  Especially if you have to change them (their diapers, I mean).

(A picture of a smelly, messy baby)

Once you have babies, you learn two things …

 

  • Life is chaotic and you are no longer in control of anything any more.
and
  • There are suddenly creatures in your life that you would die for, without a moment’s hesitation.
And, therefore (thus and ergo), it’s not about you.  
St. Paul, quite simply, puts it this way, addressing both the Corinthians and all Christians, then and now …

No one should seek his own good, but the good of others.  (1 Cor. 10:24)

And then there’s the odd fact that, as they grow older, these babies look up to you.  To you, of all people!  Here you are, a walking idiot, and these trusting and innocent souls think the world of you.  (Ha!  The joke’s on them!)
It is a very humbling experience and, with any luck, it teaches you the great lesson of life: that life is all about love and failurebecause you can’t be a father without daily failure, and you can’t be a husband without a wife pointing that failure out to you.  Love and failure: in other words, the cross.
The great split that runs down our nation and right down the middle of our souls is the split between the part of us that has been “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20), admitting that we are defeated, with all joy and life coming as a gift from without; and the part of us that says that we are sufficient unto ourselves and our artificial reality supreme and self contained: that we are the superman, deified, petit-gods, ever victorious on our own isolated terms.
And so, dear reader, if you’re down in the dumps, get married, make some babies, go to Branson and play some mini-golf.
And give glory to God in the process.

Song of exiles: A reflection on the new York city draft riots of 1863

Hear, O Africa, cradle of humanity’s first dreaming, the cry of your oppressed children rises high above the ocean’s crest. Hear the whip crack, splitting the skin baked brown in your fire-stoked sun. Hear the clank of the shackles, the first time they close around free flesh and bone. Does not all humanity now find itself chained?

They will beat us out of us, with the languages that flowed off the tongue like the great river of home. Oh, how it flows on in dreams, like the cricket’s ageless serenade, like the heart’s rupture at the pounding of the drums. Are we never to stand upon the ground as anything other cattle, yoked to a master’s plow?

All will bleed white, white foam and white heat, white cotton, cruelly soft on the stalks, and angry faces whiter than Hell’s rage as they rip your name away from you. Well, let them try to take it; there will be another day. They must bleed the heart white before they can scrape it away, and in the end your slavish name will be scraped from your shallow grave. For the generations live on; the dream lives on.

Run, run, run like that river that gave life to your village, run like the gazelles and the antelope, with flame-pricked amber eyes, that know what it is to breathe freedom through their nostrils, and see the world run wild. Oh, run, run like the zebra whose stripes never change, run till hooves unearth the sun-baked clay. Let your feet never forget what it is to feel free earth beneath them. Run like the wind whispering old stories of a tribal past through the jungle trees.

Listen to the spirit-rent music of a free-born exile, who will never forget the urge to dance to the rhythm which no chains can restrain. Sing the song of freedom or death, and listen in the night, listen for the drums. The warrior’s red dawning comes amidst the jungle-red pride of lions. Lift your children high, towards the Mother Moon, the Father Sun, speak their names to the sky and the Creator of Man’s worth. Crimson claws are growing, for all suns that sink must rise again…

Hear, Erin gra mo chroi, island of the starved soul’s yearning, the cry of your children driven to the fern by the silver sword and the golden torch, gleaming in a northern lake’s smoke-stained waters. Hear the keening of your daughter as your sons face Cromwell’s slaughter. Let the prayer beads torn away from you forever mark Christ-wounded palms. Hear the whip’s tongue lash out tauntingly upon the back of pilgrims in Patrick’s Purgatory. Does not all humanity find itself purgated?

They scourged us out of us, with the language that lilted like sad song on our lips, wilder than the ocean gale’s lament. The waves roll on in dreams, to Tir na nog, the island of eternity, and no hunger can touch the heart, pulsing to the rhythm and break of the drums. The Celt’s cry rises deep from the throat, for you cannot own the land; the land must own you.

They struck you down, flesh from the bones they tore, and the bones of broth they robbed from you, and the naked tongue was parched, with the screams of those cut down around the Celtic cross. The blood ran in streams down your four green fields of sorrow and strife, and the grey geese fled the fray with the moonbeams burning off their wings. They run liquid like the rivers of the silver trout of wisdom, over which hang the golden apples of the sun and the silver apples of the moon.

Fight, fight that they may look at your warrior painted eyes and see the suffering that made you strong. Let them hear how God made you mad, and how man broke your hearts so many times, you hardly had any hearts left, and all your wars were merry, and all your songs were sad. Listen to the wind that shakes the barley, and the pipe skirling down by the glenside, and the bodhran beating like the martyrs’ hearts, for you must raise your children with dignity, to wear the green of God’s apostle to the Isle of saints. Let them glory in the knotted circle of eternal time, for all things taken, must be restored…

And now we let our eyes, crusted by the callousness of cruelty, gave upon the scenes of New York. Oh, God, we will fight the battle against each other, for we cannot see past our own prejudice? Have we learned nothing from the generations that screamed at us and beat us down, as we stood against the wind? Did the troubled waters we crossed, the floating coffins that brought us both here, in our term, turn us into the beasts they made us out to be? Oh, what, for the gnawing at our bellies, have we become?

This place, they said it was the land of the free. And yet…is it truly so? The dream is our nightmare, and the lights of their cities blinds us, and the depths of their dirt turn our souls to lifeless clay. Dark skin, fair skin, are we not used, each in our own turn, for the benefit of others who sit enthroned, with the drink of mint or claret, rich and running in their hands, wrapped hard around the cold glass? Cold, cold as the core of their eyes. And we are all grown hot in the blood, empty in the stomachs, and cold in the hearts. We will rob and beat and steal…we will do anything to stay alive, and rise up.

Christ, what are we now but the demon ghosts of a shattered morality? Is this not the ultimate victory for the oppressors? That we have followed their examples? Oh, God, have we not beat ourselves out of ourselves upon the irons of hatred, broiled over the coals of desperation? We are deaf to the orphan’s cry, if they are not our orphans; we are blind to the old man’s wounds, if he is not our father or our grandfather. We form for ourselves a clan, to keep ourselves safe, at the expense of our neighbor. Have we not dug the arrow out of our own flesh, merely to pierce it into that of another?

Are they laughing, laughing like hyenas in this jungle of slums and dirty laundry and no need to apply? Those who beat us down must be laughing, laughing like all of hell. Oh, sweet Jesus, what have we become? Everything is running red, red and raw like the blisters of so many shattered memories? The sting of the black thorn in the Mountains of Mourne and the wild brush in Africa’s wild tundra?

Once upon a time, we could all sing, and God, were the drum beats that beckoned us so very different, were our heart beats not pounding in unison, when the languages they tore from us rolled off our tongues, and we begged the clouds to red and send down the rain? Did we not beg, beg in our own ways, to be freed from the curse they laid upon us? Did we not simply want those things that make us human, the chance for honest work, to fill our children’s bellies, to not be cast out, split apart, torn away from hearth and home, and all that made us what we are, down to the blessed root of us?

Have you not learned, O America? When our blood boiled, and blood was freshly shed, it was hate and fear and the workings of tailored tongues that twisted our minds and sucked out the blood of our hearts. We could not see the image of God alive in those dark eyes, nor hear the drums anymore, that should have reminded us that we were brothers in purification through all. All we heard were the rantings of those who would have us fight, struggle for the top rail, just to make it through, one against the other.

We are all slaves in a city of sweat, cast in a cauldron of the great and the grand. For out upon the fields, by Christ, we are dying, and bleeding out upon Pennsylvania’s soil, beneath the emerald flag, and we fight other poor boys used to digging in southern sod, raised to see rights in terms of taking the rights of others, though they have so very few themselves. But are our tongues so very different, we do not know what it is to thirst, both for water and the Spirit? No, no, they tell us, we cannot see ourselves in the other. But we are branded, all of us, by colors and contrasts, and the summer heat is melting us like wax in the seal of those who rule. Does that not unite us if nothing else?

Freedom, they say…that is what they say this fight is about. But we have learned, freedom bleeds you dry, and can you ever hope to claim it, if it bleeds you dry of love?      Oh, put a clean heart in us, lost in the midst of our miseries, in our tangled trails of tears! We want to live, to work, to pray; we want the freedom they promised, and which they now throw back in our faces. Work it though with us; do not cast us away. For if you, you will cast yourself away.

But perhaps it is always the song of the exile that is the freest sound of all. For do we not bring a part of our native shores with us? Yes, we bring the best and the worst of us, but we also bring hope. And if we can see our way clear, as the river cuts through our villages, perhaps our song will become one. And it will be a song that makes all hearts one, and makes all eyes see kinship in the eyes of others. Ebony as the womb-like African sky, or emerald as the fern’s fierce flowering, can we not find the soul of them, the song of them? My God, my God, murdered on the tree…oh, let it be so.

Saints vs Smart Alecks

When the Sadducees ask Jesus about marriage and the resurrection (Luke 20:27-40), they are not asking the question in good faith.  They are being smart alecks.  They are trying to trip Him up.  “So there’s a resurrection, huh?  Well what about a woman who is widowed seven times, whose wife will she be in the resurrection, huh?  Answer us that!”

This very same question could be asked in a genuine way, by a genuine seeker, a true student, asked in humility.  Our Lord’s answer is difficult and mystical, probably for the same reason He spoke in parables, so that those who were approaching Him in bad faith would be stymied.

… but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:  That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. (Mark 4:10-12)

Do we then, approach God, or approach anything in life, especially learning, with a know-it-all “eristic” attitude of pride and combativeness, or with the humility that will open our eyes and ears so that even parables and the mysteries of the resurrection may perhaps reveal their secrets to us?

In a similar way, the prideful suitors of Portia in The Merchant of Venice are flummoxed by their own characters, undone by their own wrong approach.

O these deliberate fools! When they do choose,

They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.

We can see this also in humor.  There is the comic who goes for the cheap laugh or the situation comedy that revels in mean sarcasm and vulgarity, in annoying double entendres and in something that, while it may make some people guffaw, does not bring the disarming and delightful insight that something truly funny brings us to.

Therefore St. Paul can condemn “eutrepelia” as being a form of irritating jocularity that always aims to please and to produce a superficial and crass looseness with the world, while others (including Aristotle) can point to eutrepelia as a virtue, a mean between “boorishness and buffoonery”.  The difference is in the spirit with which one approaches humor, or even good-naturedness.  Are we pleasant so as to be men-pleasers and close the sale?  Or are we pleasant because of our joy in the Providence of God?

How many of our bad moods are the result of taking ourselves too seriously?  How many of our good moods are mere masks to curry favor with others?  Do we argue in order to win, or in order to approach the truth or lead others to the truth?  Do we josh around to bring the conversation down, or because the cosmos is, in one sense, tremendously funny and God wants us to get the joke?

Comments on StAR, 7.2 March-April 2017

Comments on StAR, 7.2 March-April 2017

Wounded BeautySuffering and the Arts

By Peter Milward SJ

 

To Joe Pearce,

 

Once again I don’t know how you manage it, but you always find something new and surprising for each issue of StAR.  Yes, there is indeed beauty in the Crucifixion – as St Paul says, “We know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified” – combined of course with belief in the Resurrection.  As Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens discovers, “Nothing brings me all things.” 

 

Still, I have two general points of criticism, referring to two big gaps in the issue as a whole.  First, there is the problem of evil as presented in the OT, and notably in the Book of Job, as well as the Prophecy of Jeremiah, “Why do sinners’ ways prosper?” – as also notably echoed in one of Hopkins’ “terrible sonnets”.  There the divine answer comes to Job out of the whirlwind, as God poses unanswerable questions to Job.  Where was Job in the beginning of the world – and where were those who take scandal from the many instances of innocent suffering in human experience?  None of them were in existence, and so how can they answer such a question?  Anyhow, as God implies, how insignificant is the problem of evil in contrast to the significance of being – as he goes on to point out in all the animal creation, in which he takes special delight. 

 

The second gap I can’t help noticing from my Shakespearian viewpoint.  After all, where does Shakespeare deal with this problem more impressively than in King Lear, which is for this reason the greatest play not only in Shakespeare’s but also in world drama? What is so impressive about it is the way it leads up to two endings, one indescribably joyful in the reunion of father and daughter, Lear and Cordelia, at the end of Act IV, and the other unutterably sorrowful in the death of Cordelia and the coming of Lear on stage with his dead daughter, at the end of Act V.  And what is no less impressive about these two endings is that the one reveals the Christian mystery of the Resurrection and the other, the Christian mystery of the Passion, culminating in a reproduction of the Pieta (with the sexes of grieving parent and dead child reversed). 

 

It even seems to me that a whole issue of StAR might well be devoted to the mystery ofKing Lear, especially in view of its Biblical overtones, which would be recognized by contemporary audiences whether Catholic or Protestant, while looking to the religious situation of the age when the Catholic recusants were suffering under the insufferable and enduring the unendurable persecution orchestrated by the Cecils, father and son.

As for the particular articles in this issue, I note that at least Stephen Shivone is ready to consider “Shakespeare’s Lear on the heath”, and to ask why Shakespeare presents “the blinding of Gloucester on the stage”, which is for him so “obscene”.  Only, without pausing to deal with these two problems, he recognizes “the beauty that ‘bears it out even to the edge of doom’, in Shakespeare’s moving formulation” – without reflecting how this formulation fits in with the context of Sonnet 116.  Otherwise, this is indeed a fine article, though rather excessively devoted to the writings of Flannery O’Connor. 

 

Then, I much appreciated John Beaumont’s “Note on the Problem of Evil”, as underlining what I have had to say about the two main gaps in this issue, while emphasizing the two important points proposed, one by Germain Grisez, that Jesus himself “is the real Christian response to suffering”, and the other by Ralph McInerny, “One ought to start with the problem of good. Why do so many good things happen to us?”

 

As for Matthew Akers’ article on Owen Barfield, I felt what a pity it was that he wasn’t allowed to “discuss Catholicism in Shakespeare’s plays” but had to devote his time and energy to the mundane details of law.  Yet when he returned to literature he remained too much under the shadow of CS Lewis, who had no time for Shakespeare.

 

Next, what a fine poem you have included from my good friend Desmond Egan on Saint Romero, with “such beauty” in this “saint of the suffering” and even “the doubting”, while sitting “with all who are in darkness”, thereby paradoxically showing us “how to live”. Yet another poem I very much appreciated was that by K. D. Bush, on the “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter”, with the lovely refrain, “And I learned from my mother that Our Lady dresses in Blue”, followed by the ending rhyme, “And still my soul yearns deeply for you.”

 

As for Mary Ordos’ article on Dostoevsky, she seems to provide the keynote to the whole issue with the words of that Russian saint, “Beauty will save the world.”  What, we may ask, does he or she mean by such an unexpected statement?  It is, needless to say, as implied on the cover of this issue, the beauty of Christ crucified, in whom, as she says, “suffering”, though “a kind of ugliness, becomes paradoxically the source of greatest beauty”.  It also echoes the Russian tradition of “Holy Fools”, who may be traced back to St Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.  (I also have a book on The Way of the Fool.)

 

What a fine article, too, was that by Ronald Buttarazzi on “Michelangelo’s Rejected Stone”, with the personal application to us readers, “We are all like that rejected piece of rock until we let God find us abandoned and alone.”  Then in the outcome we may realize, with T. S. Eliot, that “the blows, the disappointments, the rejections… were simply following a master plan” – I mean with reference to Eliot’s suggestion (which he never followed up) of a “pattern in Shakespeare’s carpet” (on which I have another book).

 

Sadly, I haven’t had the opportunity of seeing Hamilton or meeting Joe Scheidler, whose great crusade – in the teeth of all opposition – has been to “protect babies from the great sacrament of the anti-church, abortion”, to the refrain of my favorite Psalm 42, about the deer panting for streams of water.  I also love his picture with Kevin and Ann.

 

Again, what a pity it was that in his words on “Transcending Adversity” Donald DeMarco – with due allowance for his emphasis on music – failed to put in a word for Friar Laurence and the unnamed Duke Senior on “adversity’s sweet milk philosophy”, which comes to the dramatist straight out of A Kempis’ Imitation of Christ.

 

Again sadly, the one book by CS Lewis – and I may claim to have read almost all of them – I could never appreciate was his Grief Observed.  I have found it too maudlin – with my apologies for the pun on Magdalen College.

 

Also sadly, in spite of my annual devotion to Handel’s “Messiah”, I have never attended a concert on Bach’s “Saint Matthew Passion”.

 

Yet another admission of sadness has to do with James Joyce, whose writings I confess I have never read, though I have dipped with a degree of incomprehension into Ulysses. Yet one thing that has impressed me in the book review by Mike Aquilina is the kindred spirit identified by Fr Colum Power in Joyce with the founder of Opus Dei Josemaria Escriba.  After all, there seems to be all the difference in the world between the Society of Jesus, under whose shadow Joyce was brought up and whose influence remained with him till the end, and Opus Dei, who have notoriously provided Dan Brown (rather than the Jesuits) with the villains of his Da Vinci Code.

 

Yet another book review which has deeply impressed me is that on Pierre Manent’s view of Radical Secularism and the Islamic Challenge.  To my mind it is alarming the way the Western world with its post- or rather anti-Christianity is even welcoming the many Muslim refugees pouring into the declining lands of the EU, without undertaking the necessary discernment.  After all, there is a difference between Christian refugees, whose coming to Western nations has contributed to their rich diversity, and the Muslims, whose religious and social customs prevent them from mixing with local populations.  Now it looks as if the post-Christian West is about to be taken over by the Muslim East.

 

Finally, I have to put in a word of grateful astonishment at finding a book of my own, that on Mary, reviewed, and that so favorably, by Clara Sarrocco.  To tell you the truth, though I shouldn’t say so, I think so highly of this book that I undertook to send a copy to the Vatican, for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and he kindly responded with a book of his own duly autographed by him.  (I also note that the kind reviewer is a specialist on my former teacher at Oxford, C. S. Lewis, and I venture to hope that she has read my other book on A Challenge to CS Lewis, published in 1995 by the Associated University Presses in New Jersey.).

The Future Perfection

I have often been troubled by proclaiming that I believe in “one holy Catholic and apostolic Church” which is far from holy here and now.  One holy Church?  Where?  Holy?  How?  Yes, there are some saints I know who are alive and breathing, but the Church as a whole is far from holy.  I myself am far from holy.

Even more disturbing, when St. Paul asks, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:2) he’s asking a great question, because by our baptisms, we Christians are all dead to sin, and yet we all continue to live in it.

This has long bothered me, this view of what should be contrasted with the realization of what is.

But yesterday I read one of Bl. John Henry Newman’s Parochial and Plain Sermons that addressed this.

Although he did not use this quotation from St. Paul, it is a quotation that illustrates the point Newman makes.

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. (1 Cor. 5:7)

In other words, you are unleavened bread (not infected with the leaven of insincerity and duplicity, but direct and uninfected, straightforward and uncorrupted), and therefore remove the leaven that is in you.  You are pure, therefore become pure.

But … if we are unleavened, why do we need to become unleavened?  If we are unleavened, why are we puffed up with all this risen dough?  If the Church is holy, why is it filled with sinners?  If “it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me”, then why am I still the same old selfish idiot I was before my baptism or my conversion?

Newman responds thus …

 

  • First, Our Lord tells us that “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Mat. 24:14)  The Gospel is preached, in one sense, as a witness against the nations, who will, in many ways, reject it.  Thus, the lack of faith and fidelity to Christ that we see around us ’twas ever thus.  Sanctification is not a social program but a mystery, and many, even many in the Church, don’t have time for this mystery.
  • But second, and more importantly, Scripture describes what God does from His point of view, from the point of view of the perfected end.  From the Divine perspective, God “hardens Pharaoh’s heart”, but from the human perspective, Pharaoh digs in his heels of his own free will until he reaps the fruit of his stubbornness – a heart of stone.  “Scripture more commonly speaks of the Divine design and substantial work, than of the measure of fulfillment which it receives at this time or that,” Newman writes.  God sees outside of time, His works whole and complete.  We see from within a process, fumbling about in our slow participation in God’s grace.  St. Paul, writing from the Divine perspective, tells his churches that they have “been quickened in Christ” (Eph. 2:5), Christ presenting Himself a “glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Eph. 5:27) – saying these sorts of things all the while he is upbraiding his churches for their sins and venality (“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? … After starting in the Spirit, are you now finishing in the flesh?” – Gal. 3:1-3), and at times even saying both things at once, “Your are pure, so make yourself pure” (“get rid of the leaven, since you are already unleavened”).  And therefore, the “elect” and “predestined” are simply those who cooperate with God’s grace, viewed by Him and described by Scripture from the eternal, and not the temporal, point of view: seen as perfect, and not in process.  They are described as “predestined” from the view of their final end; while they themselves, in time, are stumbling and rising again along their imperfect way.
  • Some of us satiric types, especially those poets among us, are pained by how short we fall from the elusive Kingdom that sometimes shows itself among us.  It is this vision of the Kingdom and of the true Church that tantalizes us.  We are granted rare visions of the Kingdom – of the Church as she will be, the spotless bride joined with the Bridegroom at the end of time, a vision of the Church as she actually is, in one sense, as she is in a reality that we strive to participate in.  We often don’t know what to make of such visions: to rejoice in them or to despair at how far off they seem.  But Newman says we are given these as “pledges” – “a pledge of God’s purpose, a witness of man’s depravity”.  In other words, when we see what could be, what should be, and in a way, what already is, albeit outside of time and outside of this world, we are given both a foretaste of heaven and a testimony to man’s depravity and of our own sinful nature, seeing both the light and the dark, the darkness (in a sense) made visible by the light.  For we are to look, we sinners, not merely at the glorious face of God, but at the contemptuous face of man who continues to turn from Him.