Volume > Issue > Letters to the Editor: November 1986

Letters to the Editor: November 1986

Nouwen’s Honesty

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

Berkeley, California

Ed. Note: The NOR has no com­puters.

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