Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pellas Apollo and Paper Dolls

As I write these words, I sit at the desk of my new job: copy boy. I join the generations of proud copy boys whose noble feet have moved our civilization forward since the invention of the Gutenburg Press. I’m afraid that it is their skill and effort that will fuel our civilization till the Apocalypse recounted by that first printed tome: the Gutenburg Bible.

Sitting here in this room, meditating on these topics of respectful work and working revelation, a rather flippant thought comes to me. It has haunted me for some time yet I have never put down into writing. It first popped into my head thanks to Dunder Mifflin and The Office, it was confirmed by St. John of the Cross during my time in the Monastery and, as I sit stationed surrounded by stationary, it occurs to me that there might indeed be an omen in this strange situation. Is it possible that we worship paper? Have we have enshrined it in the way the ancient worshipped the wheat in worshipping Baal, or exulted mere sex in the shrines of Venus? If what man worships is essentially what he spends the most time with, than the Philistine worshiped the field, the Roman worshiped power and lust, and we worship these things indirectly through paper. And not just paper. I include media of any sort under this umbrella: TV, radio, internet etc. But our worship is of an insane sort.. While it is true that men can be tempted to live by bread alone, or that they can be convinced that fertility is necessary for the progress of civilization, it is our own backward 21st century that would insist that life is dependant on print and media. Imagine telling a solemn Philistine, who’s spent his whole life laboring under the delusion that he should worship the god that brings nourishment through food, that all his years have been wasted. Reaping is nothing, we would tell him, in comparison to a reem of 8x11 canary paper. See the proud Roman centurion. Try telling him that his greed for wealth and women, born of the desire for food and children, are really second to the need for Facebook. Our idols are not wood and stone, but paper dolls.

If there are any regular readers of my bloggings, (and I do thank you for your loyalty) they might have realized that I like this exercise of contrasting contemporary culture with the ancients, especially the ancient pagan. I do this because I believe that we live in an era of Neo-Paganism (which should not strike you as a surprising concept) and because I believe that we are far worse off than the original pagans (which should be an unsettling concept). Now, I’m not so backwards so as to assume that things were best under Caesar and Pilate, or that they were perfect in the days of Leopold or Leo. I do not idealize the past. There was famine. There were needless wars and petty politicians. There were sinners and saints, but at least they were sane. I use this admittedly extravagant metaphor about the cult of copy-paper to point out a strange and bewildering fact about contemporary life. We are indeed wanton and wasteful, but not in the way our forefathers were. They might have treated the field with a certain amount of idolatry and women as if they were waste, but we moderns have outdone them in according waste-paper with respect and relish. We’ll spend the same time and energy indulging in media, be it printed or electronic, that an honest heathen spent in wandering in the fields and frolicking in the city.

Even our concept of labor is tainted by this petrifaction of communication. Across this country, we claim that ‘doing work’ consists of moving paper across desks. Our business men and women don lavish garb to perform this exercise. I am not criticizing those men and women. I have great love and admiration for many of them. I know that they suffer a great deal of stress and make great sacrifices so as to distribute information and keep the wheels of commerce moving. My question is not with their skills or service, but with their product. Or, as GKC would say, I wonder whether or not there search for goods is really a search for the Good. Were the apocalypse (Zombie, Nuclear, Terrorist or otherwise) to happen tomorrow, there would be few ‘usable goods’ left after all the paper had burned. More tragic still, there would be fewer people with enough practical knowledge and common sense left to know what to do with a fruitful field or a pregnant woman. People of this age complain of feeling disconnected with reality and my immediate thought is that they are quite right. They have placed a veil between themselves and the fruits of creation. It is an irony of fate that the veil if made of paper or, better yet, of a computer screen.

Reality is indeed all around us, but it doesn’t flash or bang or come in a cool font. Our Benevolent Father has given us a glorious gift. Sometimes, we choose to revel in the wrapping paper instead savoring in the quietude of His beatitude. And, in the silence of this creation, He is trying to speak to us. When this silence gets awkward (like in a copy room at 9:00am), I feel as if He is on the verge of saying some important thing.

No comments: