Monday, February 19, 2007

The Last Men: Peter Pans

By the same token, the traditional division of a man's public and private lives has been largely reversed in our time. In the 1860s, Newman gave the world a history of his religious opinions, but kept his libidinal appetites to himself. In a college classroom today, both student and professor could more easily discuss their sexual habits than their relationship to Christ. In this too there's a juvenile aspect to the shame and a juvenile aspect to the self-display. The same churchmen who will countenance worship segregated on the basis of homosexual attraction will deplore kneeling at communion as "divisive"; to the mind of a thirteen-year-old, as we know, even someone else's devoutness can be excruciating. What is remarkable is how swift and complete the inversion has been. Perhaps only in certain parts of the military and certain parts of the contemplative monastic life will we yet find models of human dignity in which adulthood holds itself accountable to its own past -- adulthood, that's to say, according to which a man is esteemed for subordinating that which results in his own fun to that which results in the objective good of others.

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