The Contemplative and the Toyota

A couple of weeks ago, a wonderful coincidence struck me as I reviewed two articles for our site hours apart on the same day: Robert Hickson’s Complacent Sentries and the Sloth of Roaming Unrest and Gary Potter’s Glittering Images. The two articles were by men with very different styles, who can argue quite vociferously with one another, as real men with intelligence are wont to do. They were writing respectively about the works of a man (James Burnham) and a woman (Camille Paglia) who come from two different ideological universes. Yet, one idea was common to both in the articles mentioned. Robert Hickson cited Joseph Pieper speaking of “learning to see again” (Pieper’s words were used to emphasize a point made by Burnham); while Gary Potter quoted Camille Paglia saying, “We must relearn how to see.”

I took the lesson to heart while traveling recently to a city known for its great art and lovely Catholic churches. My goal was to focus on fewer things in the brief time I was allowed, but to consider them with greater relish. Each piece of art that I came across, each church building I entered, and the various interior appointments of the buildings, etc., would be considered with a more contemplative gaze, avoiding the kind of sensory gluttony that has made us lose our ability really to see things, as these authors so truly claim. At a certain point, I felt that I had accomplished my goal. I was slowly musing over the exteriors of Churches, the details of art pieces in them, and doing so with restraint and relish. It was pleasant, especially during Lent, when other kinds of comforts are diminished.

Exiting one of my destinations, I congratulated myself for becoming more able to see, as Gary and Robert have encouraged.

Then, suddenly, I realized that a car was about to hit me — for I was crossing the street at the time.

The wise will see in this a parable. But if you ponder it deeply, please watch where you are going.

I was not hit by the car, for which I am grateful to the God of all providence, who mercifully humbles us with Toyotas.