“What is a malaise? you ask.  The Malaise is the pain of loss.  The world is lost to you, the world and the people in it, and there remains only you and the world …”

Walker Percy, in The Moviegoer

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I often wonder if there is any public commentator who “reads” people, events and the time we live in with any degree of depth or insight.

I ask myself too frequently: Does anyone see and can anyone explain what we are looking at or living in, identify the experience of this time, tell us if time and experience has an equal, or a common nexus with another time, or all time?

For those who wonder why these questions might arise I say: each year we live and experience Christmastide – a time whose nature is eternal to individuals and nations worldwide.  Each year we enter a time with timeless emotional and spiritual content, a time when a truth of human existence is freely and lovingly offered.

That said, is it not helpful to have some depth of understanding about what we see, who we are and what we are living at any given moment?  Does not good art and literature and faith narrative give us this?

But what of public commentary?

What do our elected leaders tell us of ourselves and our time?

I give you one image I carry: President Obama shuffling tippy-toe off the Presidential Marine helicopter alone, always alone.  I add I rarely see him with his children and wife, or with longtime friends.  He looks acutely alone.

This image brings to mind Percy’s description of Binx Bolling, the main character in Percy’s novel The Moviegoer.  

Binx was “alone in a crowd.”  He quartered himself in movies.  He was a watcher, not a doer.  A man comfortable with “the little way.”  He dared not firsthand experience.  He did not join nor lead.

Barack Obama reminds me of Binx Bolling: alone, distant by choice, without close friends, one who observes more than experiences.

Mr. Obama has preferred “the pen” of Executive Orders to the personal of legislating.  In his health care efforts, he was a top-down force at a distance; he dictated.  His voice: that of an isolate, of a singular “I know best” lecturer, a scold, one devoid of warmth and ease with others.

Critics saw Binx as representative of a sickness in American society.  One wonders what Mr. Obama conveys.  But alas, there is not much depth to public commentary.

“the … character of despair is precisely this: it is unaware of being despair … ” For all his philosophizing, Bolling is finally unaware of what ails him, unable to name his despair as despair … what he says is less important than what he fails to say. (Emphasis added.)

Paul Elie, in The Life You Save May Be Your Own

We seem to miss sufficient discourse on who is what, and who we are and what is our experience.

Christ and Christmastide gives us identity and location in time and space that exceeds all that is mortal.  Thank God, we can stand beyond Binx Bolling.

Shalom.

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