A young city boy on his first camping trip awoke his father at dawn and said, as he gazed out of his tent, “Look, Dad, the sun is rising just like on TV.”
Our present generation, of which we are privileged to be a laggard part, does not find it easy to distinguish actuality from artifice. In the background is a reluctance to acknowledge that an impression of reality is not the same as reality itself. This is symptomatic of what Pope Benedict XVI called the “dictatorship of relativism.”By that he meant the notion absorbed by people bereft of logic, that what one wants something to be, comes to be simply by the wanting.
This has immediate and desultory influence on moral conduct. So, like the little boy who thought that the real sun looked like the cartoon sun on television (or, like the nice woman who told me that the altar flowers were so lovely that she thought they were artificial) people may reject the concrete facts of nature and posture that their desires are legitimate just because they are desired. A lurid example of this is the redefinition of marriage to make that organic and divine institution nothing more than a fantasy of one’s arrested emotional development, the product of a plebiscite, and the opinion of judges in solemn robes. Polls and parliaments are willing tyrants when the mob consents to be tyrannized by their opinions and decrees.
G.K. Chesterton gently slapped his readers back to reality from egoistic comas when he wrote in his A Short History of England: “To have the right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.” So when someone says, “I am free to do what I want with my body,” you may be impelled by charity and justice to reply that he is indeed so free, but if he defies the law of gravity, the pavement quickly will be of a different opinion, and if he says there is no difference between a man and a woman, two shades named Adam and Eve will rise up with mocking smiles.
Those who have long sipped the intoxicating nectar of false perception may hesitate to draw a line between desire and dogma, fabrication and fact. If reality is nothing more than the visible costume of an impression, impressive tyrants will orchestrate that fantasy from their balconies, with rhetoric to mold malleable minds. The long legacy of demagoguery attests that weak points persuade people if the points are shouted loudly enough to overwhelm reason. Opinion polls shout, and network “talking heads” shout, and Internet pundits shout, but then there is a “still small voice” that does not fade away: the long and logical echo of “Fiat Lux” uttered by the real Creator of the real universe.