All experience is an arc to build upon.

Henry James, in The Education of Henry James

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Some time ago I read a report from one of the nation’s leading foundations that had reviewed the state of the legal community and they made a remarkably insightful observation, it was this: lawyers had great difficulty integrating the human experience while living it.

I knew that valid and critically important observation was true not just of lawyers but people in an exclusionary secular culture and I realized this profoundly significant corollary: without familiarity with religious narrative which has spanned 2000 and more years and contains truths about the human being and mortal existence, one cannot experience the experience of being a human being.

Stripped of the wisdom of religious narrative, one simply experiences less of life than is present and available to us.

I give you two examples.

First, I attended a presentation at the South Bend Jewish Community Center in which a lawyer and former counsel in the Israeli Defense Force confessed at the end of his presentation that he could not understand how it was that Americans and the U.S. government could not understand the existential threat that Israel faces even when the voices and acts of their adversaries are quite clear in saying this: Israel and the Jewish people will be annihilated.

My response to him put him on his heels.  I said: “We have a language set problem.  Jews live their religious narrative and understand life from that perspective.  Americans no longer life their companion religious narrative. Your legitimate experience is no longer our experience.”

I give you another example.

I recently had a conversation with two younger, but experienced, lawyers about a problem they were handling for a friend of mine.  The lawyers could not get handle on the human dynamic and consequently how to proceed.

It took be about 20 minutes to explain in one coherent package the actions, relationships, motivation and character of the parties involved, apply the law that governed to access the courthouse door and solve the problem.

The difference between them and me was not intellect, it was experience. Their training and life did not include a sufficient human narrative.  They could not see the pieces or make sense of the story and its parts.

That is who we are now and in a dangerous world  and that is a very significant deficit, a deadly deficit.

Humanism and secularism limit the experience of human experience.  The many problems and failures all around, in personal and public life, are explained largely by the loss of experience, and hence of age-old wisdom.

Think you might need what religion offers?  If you balk at an affirmative answer, I say: good luck.

… the blind men approached him … he touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done to you according to your faith.”

Mt 9: 28, 29

Shalom.

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