Father Joseph V. Corpora, CSC | December 14, 2017
For several years now I’ve said that the older I get, the better I look in gray. At first, people chuckle. But I’m very serious about it. I used to worry this meant I was moving to a position where nothing mattered. The truth is quite the opposite: Everything matters, and that’s why things look more gray than black or white.
Let me explain. God is involved in every detail of our life, so everything matters. And if everything matters, then things will necessarily be messy. A messy life means a gray life, not a black and white one.
I keep running across things people say and write that speak to this grayness I see. In a passage about the life of St. Augustine in his excellent New York Times bestseller, The Road to Character, columnist David Brooks quotes Reformed theologian Lewis Smedes: “Our inner lives are not partitioned like day and night, with pure light on one side of us and darkness on the other. Mostly, our souls are shadowed places; we live at the border where our dark sides block our light and throw a shadow over our interior places. . . . We cannot always tell where our light ends and our shadow begins or where our shadow ends and our darkness begins.”
A student in Dillon Hall, where I happily live, writes a quote on his dry-erase board every day. Recently he shared this thought, attributed to Nikola Tesla: “Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.” So interesting.
Both quotes suggest that life is more gray than black or white. If we are honest about our lives, we see how they are a mixture of day and night, of light and darkness, of virtues and failings, often inextricably bound together. As with a difficult surgery, it may be almost impossible to take something out without damaging something else. Often surgeons opt not to remove a tumor because the danger of damaging something good is so great that it’s better to leave it alone.