One of the joys of taking a sabbatical (of sorts) is the change in routine it provides. A most pleasant change in my life has been decreasing the amount of AM talk radio chatter I listen to. Instead of this chatter, I've been reading more. Currently I'm reading St. Therese's Story of a Soul and William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Talk about an odd couple.
Power or Love?
What I've gleaned so far from Therese is an overarching idea (as simple as it is counter-cultural): success doesn't mean very much. As a public school teacher who became immensely bored by both the utilitarian praxis of the "educrats" and mindless slogans such as "every child can succeed," Therese's life is of great interest. She accomplished nothing that changed history, nor was she was responsible for a technological innovation that made life easier; rather, she simply made her entire life an offering to Christ's merciful love. She had one insight and ran with it. Now, she's a Doctor of the Church and her life is a compelling answer to the title of a book by Wendell Berry -- What are People for? Her life indicates that what ultimately matters is love, not the gods of power and success or blood and iron.
I've read many books on the Second World War. I even took a course entitled Nazi Germany (the professor was such an expert on the subject that it was no mere academic exercise -- his mannerisms while lecturing mirrored those of Adolf Hitler, which was at once hilarious and eery). But it is reading Shirer's book at this time in our history that I've been truly chilled by Hitler.
As I listen to AM radio (right and left, chocolate and vanilla), I see little corporals running through trench-works; I smell stale beer and acrid cigarette smoke in a beer hall; I hear the thud and scrape of heavy boots on cobblestone streets. Perhaps I have an overactive imagination.
What is not imaginary is the delusions of ideology. Not simply the delusions of a particular ideology (be it national socialism or communism), but the fact that ideology is never able to admit its inadequacies. In The Religious Sense, Luigi Giussani notes that ideology takes an aspect of reality and makes it "into an absolute" (p. 95). Herein lies both the appeal of AM radio and its reductionism, which could be fatal to the republic if it were taken seriously.