“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” - May 20, 2013

We certainly have a remarkable President, a man who refuses to make decisions but must have his way! For those of you who blanch at an argument with an excluded middle, this may be an affront. How can a person have his own way if he doesn’t establish what his own way is? I think the most likely answer that overcomes the excluded middle is that there are ways to transmit a desire that is a consummate decision without either the words or the written proof of a decision.

Leaders of all sort, from corporate to king, have long been able to convey their desires without the inconvenience and, perhaps, embarrassment of spelling it out. After King Henry II showed his disdain for the Church by elevating his friend and drinking-and-whoring buddy Thomas Becket to the chair of Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket had the temerity to evolve into taking his religious calling seriously. Henry said (out loud to himself) in the hearing of his henchmen, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” The henchmen then stormed Canterbury Cathedral, where Becket was praying, and murdered him at the altar.

Corruption is not typically taught the way algebra is, with graphs and blackboards and textbooks. It is hinted at, sometimes with nothing more than a raised eyebrow, and those who refuse to understand soon find themselves on the streets, looking for work. It has been this way from time immemorial, and will be this way until the world ends, whether with a bang or a whimper.

Men dissemble this way to cover their tracks and give them outlets for any result. Only God is wholly to the point. I am writing this on Pentecost day, a time that not only was the birth of the Church, not only the coming of the Holy Spirit, but also the turnaround of the story of the Tower of Babel. Instead of words bringing confusion and chaos among brothers, they redefined brothers as those who understand beyond words.

Words without the knowledge of the meaning are empty signs, lost on any audience. It is like expecting spell-check to make you into an editor. But having knowledge of meaning is itself insufficient if the person has bad faith. In the end, it is truth alone that is the hallmark of communication.

There will always be sycophants, hangers-on, henchmen, toadies, and flatterers, ready and willing to rid the king of a turbulent priest. The greatness of our humanity is that there are also turbulent priests, often willing to be martyrs for us.

My wife, Laila, and I went on our longest vacation in America in decades in early May, visiting the incredible canyon area of Utah and upper Arizona. I will return to write about that trip next week.