Last week I arrived early for Case-Based Learning so that I could sit in the empty seminar room and quietly study. I found a Muslim classmate already in the room, seated on the other side of the small table. I greeted her and we chatted briefly before we both resumed the never-ending task of studying. Before long, another classmate joined us. She is a "none," but very politically conservative. She is the prototypical virtuous pagan, so we agree on many things and I like her a lot. She sat down next to me amiably.
Shortly thereafter, a third classmate came in. He identifies himself as a Christian, but does not do anything that would give him that title. He is the prototypical post-Christian apathete. He sat on my other side, because we've been in a few classes together.
Somehow, the virtuous pagan and the apathetic post-Christian got into a discussion of what makes good movies good. She said that it was virtue in the characters; he said it was the CGI, the action, and the entertainment. It was an incredible conversation because it reflected two different world-views. I felt like I was watching Apathy and Virtue in a Greek play.
"300 was about truth, goodness, and beauty. It's even reflected in the lines...." Virtue insisted. She'd already made the point about Pride and Prejudice.
"Are you kidding? It was about a bunch of ripped guys goring each other with awesome CGI," Apathy said. While he didn't say exactly the same thing about Austen, it was close. Because Virtue is a very choleric person, the conversation escalated.
"I'm not upset," Virtue countered evenly but strongly. "I'm passionate. This is what passion looks like."
"Whatever." Then, after a pause:
"We can't be friends," Virtue said shortly to Apathy. "We're classmates, I'll be nice to you, but we can never be friends."
This knocked the wind out of me! A Catholic could never say that; although I might not like people, I can never move away from them, especially if they're in great need of the truth. Forgetting that she was not a Catholic, acting on the one-of-seven-children instinct, and victim of the I-am-trying-to-study-guys-please reflex, I said to Apathy:
"No," Virtue said to me firmly. "I'm not."
I became decidedly uncomfortable. Luckily, more classmates began to trickle in at this point, and the play was ended deus ex machina.
The conversation has given me a lot of food for thought. Three of them:
- Probably, I should hold my tongue next time two world-views clash. I'm less likely to be singed and I'll be more polite.
- More seriously now: my classmates captured two world-views, both of them pagan. The post-Christian apathy is far from Christ's burning desire for the Baptism of the Cross. And the virtue of the pagan who desires excellence for her soul and the political sphere but cuts off those with wrong-headed ideas is far from Christ's love for us "while we are yet sinners."
- How other-wordly and amazing true Charity is! By it, we love other souls like our own, so that our desire that they be saved is just like our own hunger for heaven. This is beyond Aristotle's highest form of friendship, and we are to have this for every human person, by the grace of God. I'd forgotten how unknown this is to the natural order. Wow!
- It's interesting that the Catholic got involved in the pagan discussion and the Muslim did not. I don't want to read too much into this, because my Muslim classmate may not have known the other two well, or may have just been trying to study. But I have noticed that the desire to battle errors and fine-tune the truth is had to a unique degree in the Catholic Church. Glad I'm in it.