Friday, January 20, 2012

On Paula Deen, Newt Gingrich and Our Inevitable Hour

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
This week, I introduced my juniors to 18th century poet Thomas Gray and his "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." This week, too, the news is full of gossip about TV cooking personality Paula Deen hiding her diabetes to the public until she had a corporate endorsement for diabetes medication and about presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's extraordinarily messy personal life.

Gray wrote his elegy after the death of a dear friend, Richard West, and his poem is a lament for the common man for those of us who do not earn fame or fortune in this world. Gray points out that even the celebrities (he references Oliver Cromwell and John Milton) meet the same fate as the ordinary peasants buried in the churchyard.

And so really, what is our latest round of celebrity-bashing about? I have never watched Paula Deen's cooking shows and I've never had any affection for Mr. Gingrich. But I too can fall prey to idealizing other humans. It seems to me that to spend so much time, ink, angst and judgement on ordinary mortals and is a colossal waste of the time with which we have been gifted. If we didn't spend so much energy building people into idols, I don't think we would have the moral outrage to spare when these folks inevitably fall short of ideal.

Gray's poem reminds us we all will meet, "our inevitable hour." Here's to turning down media cacophony.

As writer John Janaro writes in a review of  "The Religious Sense" by the late Monsignor Luigi Giussani:  

"We are beggars in front of our own destiny because the Infinite One for whom our hearts have been made is always beyond the things of this world that point toward Him but do not allow us to extract His fullness from them by our own power."


  1. Ah, you found that essay online (I know one place where it is). I later worked that into a chapter in a book I published some years ago called THE CREATED PERSON AND THE MYSTERY OF GOD.

    I think celebrity worship and celebrity disappointment are a distraction from or an attempt to replace some deep need of the human spirit. We lack people among us, in our communities and in the culture at large, whose lives are "authoritative"--who are exemplars of what it means to be human, to be heroic and great.

  2. @John: As usual, you are making my point much better than I did!
    Is that particular book of yours still in print? I did link to your article; I will highlight it so you can see. (derned blogger template design)

  3. You make an excellent point Allison. Do we really need to know all the minutiae we are exposed to. Probably not. Will it matter in my life. Nope.
    BTW - I love Paula Deen's show and have made a number of her recipes.

    1. It is very seductive, this news/gossip. But as John points out, it is just a distraction. I have another gf who really likes Paula Deen and her recipes - as an occasional treat. I am just not a person who watches cooking shows really. I wish her health.