Tuesday, April 30, 2013
From a while back:
Notre Dame's provost, Nathan Hatch, delivered this (I thought) moving and provocative <a href="talk" _mce_href="http://www.nd.edu/~ndethics/archives/hatch.shtml">talk">http://www.nd.edu/~ndethics/archives/hatch.shtml">talk </a>after the opening Mass at the University this year. Hatch's remarks built on observations by David Brooks and C.S. Lewis (!) to remind the students that:
<blockquote>Your identity does not derive from how successful you are. All of us, from the top of the class to the bottom, derive our tremendous worth because God, our creator, knows our name, calls us sons and daughters, and takes joy in our own unique gifts. Who you are does not rest on a fickle ability to write brilliantly, to solve the experiment correctly, or climb the organizational ladder.
My second word of advice is this: living in a pressure cooker of achievement, how do we view our neighbors. Our reactions are often twofold, to envy those who seem more gifted and to look past people who seem ordinary. In his recent book on envy, Joseph Epstein notes that envy runs high in the world of art and intellect. “How little it takes to make one academic sick with envy over the pathetically small advantages won by another: the better office, the slightly lighter teaching load, the fickle evaluation of students.”
What is the answer to resenting those who break the curve and ignoring others who seem uninteresting? In his essay, The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis asks us to attend to a proper theology of the human person. He challenges us with the awesome reality of the human person, bearers of the very image of God. “There are no ordinary people,” he concludes. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization––these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, exploit. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself,” he continues, “your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”
In this academic community, during the coming year, may all of our work be leavened by this reality: Neither you nor your neighbor is an ordinary person. </blockquote>
I've always loved Lewis's "The Weight of Glory." In my view, the observations that "there are no ordinary people" and that, indeed, "your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses" are beautiful -- and jurisprudentially significant.