The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour.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."