Letters to the Editor: November 1986
Every time I was about to rebel at what seemed like Henri J.M. Nouwen’s over-introspection (in the first installment of his diary, Sept.), he dropped in an astute insight or an uncomfortably honest admission of weakness. The introspection seemed to become a strength because he remains focused on God.
At the same time, his struggles with prayer, with spiritual dryness, and with the petty and immature “reassured” me — because I know I, myself, will have to be putting up with such problems for a long time to come.
Also, I enjoyed his comments on Harvard — especially in light of the orgy of media attention on its recent anniversary.
Markus Alan Davies
Norman Lear’s Surprise
It is surprising to see Norman Lear’s thoughts published in a little Catholic journal (NOR, Sept.). This is the big time — the real American capitalist movers and shakers on display.
But then you read the article. Lo and behold, Lear asks what we Catholics ask: concern for the long run, for the children, for the next generations, and along with that the risking of oneself (and in the capitalist idiom, giving “patient capital” to that risk) so as to go on and do something beyond the immediate. The immediacy of the bottom line (the last quarterly profits) is the immediacy of instant gratification in all pursuits of life. The end result of quicker and quicker achievements in less and less time is no time at all, and robotic stultification results. Witness the programs on TV. Witness quick sex and goodbye. Witness no time to raise a child.
Lear talks about computers as metaphor — but he doesn’t go far enough. Every computerized institution I have worked for or dealt with shows one overriding reality: People throw off their humanity onto the computer, and can no longer do anything on their own authority. They can’t trouble-shoot, they can’t attend to the person standing before them without the computer’s say-so, they lose the ability to think, even the ability to say “yes” or “no.” They have given up their very souls to the esoteric device that rules their working lives.
Lear is talking about the fear of long-term risk-taking in big-league money markets, but the danger isn’t Japan. The danger is that we are becoming a nation of robots, incapable not only of risking capital, but of risking a smile. Robots are soulless people. Satan wins.
Thomas W. Case
Graduate Theological Union
Ed. Note: The NOR has no computers.
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