In the Eye of the Beholder

There was a time, not so long ago, when one received a happy helping of self-loathing upon entering into a department store. This effect was induced in the shopper by the displays set all around, like so many holy reminders of what one was not: you are not fit; you are not well groomed; you are not joyful (where’s your smile like that supermodel’s?); and so forth, until the marketing scheme achieved its mission, and you walked out with a pair of shoes or shirt you didn’t need so as to feel a little less worthless.  

But, as of late, I’ve noticed a trend change in the marketing scheme, much to my dismay. Perhaps you’ve noticed, too? It is the trend now in at least a few stores I have had the misfortune of stepping into to display, not Aphrodite incarnate, in light and harmonious form, borne aloft by sea mist to bring you a bottle of perfume. No, no, that just won’t do. What we are met with now is a woman nearly as round as tall, in skin-tight denim one fears is about to burst at the seams, and usually accompanied by her equally fat friends, and hanging out (who knows why) on some street corner or other urban setting.  

Now say what you like for the former, that it demoralizes woman, makes them despair of their true form or their woman-within or whatever, that it’s consumerist and promotes superficial beauty, but I say (if I may) that the former marketing approach is more in line with Christian morality, nay, that it is actually a holy and good thing altogether, and that the latter marketing ploy is evil, birthed from Hell, a stratagem of Satan himself to damn souls, if not to an eternity, at least to a natural life of misery, moral destitution, and hypertension. 

You see, whereas before the stores made you look up to some ideal beauty or image or idol of glamor, now you are encouraged to look no further than your own fat waist line. Though the former was coercive in its method, sneakily insinuating that you need that pink blouse to look good, the latter is so ugly, fat and lazy as almost to discourage purchasing anything at all—who would want to buy a pair of jeans if it made you look like that?!. One is perhaps inclined to believe that the new advertisement is not so much a marketing device as a piece of propaganda, a machine for mind control and manipulation of the social and psychological order, a way, in a word, to fashion a new proletariat for the new world order. Maybe, but I overstep my thesis by implying as much.

But the effect the new method does have without a doubt is that you have room to grow in your sin as you do in your pants. You need not self-loath anymore. That’s so 90s, with SlimFast and workout VHSs. Eat, drink, and be as heavy as a mini cow. Your kind is accepted here. The effect induced from this new method in the shopper is quite the reverse of the old, at least for the immoral shopper. She is happy with herself, either because the stores finally carry her size, or because she is pleased she’s not so fat as all that, and secretly is well-pleased with her own superiorly smaller shape. In other words, the new method makes one either gluttonous, slothful, or proud, all of which are deadly sins. 

What is true in the realm of clothing stores is also true in the area of doctrine, which preceded it, just as the soul precedes the body. Just as aesthetic relativism is sweeping the marketplace today, calling fat fashionable, so in the early 1900s, moral relativism was sweeping Europe and America—no doubt the machinations of Freemasonry, though with Enlightenment origins, if not ancient and more evil ones, like Lucifer. This new relativism would change the way people thought about God, the World, and the Self, reducing truth to a subjective experience instead of an objective thing “out there” beyond one’s own conception or opinion. But it is not my object to retell the story of philosophical relativism here, but to point out how the philosophical assumptions and reprogramming by the literati and intellectual elite of the 20th century have changed the way your mother or father or any other family member or friend thinks. 

In an unhappy instance of this, I was recently in correspondence with one I thought of goodwill who wanted to be a Catholic, but soon afterward decided against it, and instead wanted to become a schismatic. I was heavy hearted upon hearing this, and suggested this person read some G.K. Chesterton, particularly his works touching upon conversion to the Catholic Church.  Chesterton, who converted late in life, noted that, “To become a Catholic is not to leave off thinking, but to learn how to think.” He was well-acquainted with the moral relativists of his day, and did verbal battle with them often. The solution to the problem of relativism, as is implied by the quote above, was to become Catholic, to give some ground and solidity to one’s convictions about God, the World, and the Self; to ground one’s thought, not on one’s own limited experience, but on the collective experience of Tradition and the Faith, or the Thing, as Chesterton lovingly refers to it. That is why one only starts to think when one becomes a Catholic, because otherwise one’s thought begins from false starting points, be it materialism (all is matter), like so many scientists do, or relativism, like everyone else does who is outside the Church. And that is just where my correspondent began, in relativism, which is why he ended in error and outside the Church and inside a sect. 

In order to have some kind of success in restoring the Church, in the sense of increasing its numbers by ushering people into the Ark of Salvation before Judgment Day, we Catholics must first recognize that people do not think anymore, they merely mix or group things together. To think is to begin with a fact, and from that fact, to connect it to another term by something in common between them both. But this is not what relativists do. They are contented with just placing things side by side, and letting the proximity of each to each replace the act of conviction, of asserting this is that. Thus, coming back to my unhappy correspondent, liturgy and valid orders were mixed up with or grouped together with Christ’s Church. And so, although the individual did not say valid orders or liturgy was the Church, the mixing together of the terms (but not connecting them!) was sufficient to convince my correspondent that the sect to which he hoped to belong was the Church. Had he stopped to give thought to the subject, connecting one fact with another fact by some middle fact between them, he wouldn’t have blundered so badly. 

I do not think it is too late for him, nor indeed anyone, to convert, especially during this holy season of Lent, when so many graces fill the air, as it were by prayers, alms, and penances offered up like sweet incense to Heaven. But I do insist that one must have a basic grasp of thought, of the right use of the intellective faculty, in order to be converted to Christ. True, Faith is first, then understanding. But there is required of us all the act of the intellect to recognize the true religion, the true Church, and then to submit to Her in obedience of Faith. Teaching others this human skill of thought is key in the battle for souls. Otherwise we few who fight for the salvation of our neighbor shadowbox figments of the imagination, and all our attempts at evangelization end in frustration and failure.