Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Making History

We hear a lot about making history in the Olympics. I guess in sports in general. The media reach for strong language and they often talk about history. Nobody is really making history. Sure sports events can be remembered for a long time. I remember very clearly some big sports moments from my childhood. I starting thinking and there are too many to count. But historical means more than memorable. Historical means that people who were not event born when it happened will care about it. Will they really? How many sports events that happened before you were born do you care about? I can't think of many. You need to ride the emotional roller coaster between hope and despair and have the big moment either realize those hopes or crush them. It is a personal thing and therefore not an historical thing.

Then there is politics. How many things are called historical that are not? Every election is seen that way. Pretty much every major piece of legislation. Many meetings of world leaders are described as historical. Again you have to go back to before you were born. What political events that happened before you were born do you think of as a big deal? There were the world wars, the depression, not much else. Politics tends to flow one way and then flow the other. We think liberalism is dead when Reagan wins and then think conservatism is dead when Clinton wins. But it is a completely unhistorical ebb and flow of political currents.

So what matters? What is historical? To a large extent it is hard to tell. I would say ideologies matter more than events. Changes in the way people think about the world and think about the human person last much longer and have deeper impacts then any single event. Those things are rarely called historical and are often completely missed by the news media. Often they see a piece of it. They report on a shift in thinking about homosexuality but they report on it as an isolated thing and like the right answer has always been obvious and inevitable. The truth is it is part of a larger ideological change that the media can't see because they are caught up in the current as much as anyone.

They say God is outside of time. When you become Catholic you get a bit of that. You start to see all of human history. You see the the culture of the day. Where it fights against God and where it celebrates God. You can analyze it because the church gives you a fixed point of reference. You don't get swept up in the changes in the same way. Chesterton talked about the Catholic church being the only alternative to the degrading slavery of being a child of your time. You can still celebrate the highs and mourn the lows. It is just that you know they are not what make history. God makes history. The real story is whether we cooperate with Him or fight Him.

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