“Google Nose” Smells Funny and Familiar: A Sun Blemish

“Google Nose” Smells Funny and Familiar: A Sun Blemish March 31, 2013

People got offended by Google’s choice to feature a sketch of Cesar Chavez today, Easter Sunday. I have very little to say that First Things editor, Matthew Schmitz, didn’t cover in his excellent and timely blog post, “Why It’s Fitting to Remember Cesar Chavez on Easter Sunday.”

Those who remain unconvinced, should read “The Passion of Cesar Chavez,” published in Crisis Magazine almost a year ago.

The lesson is this: if there is an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel, then doing otherwise is, well, doing otherwise.

Today, almost surely unwittingly, a giant corporation that reaches millions if not billions of people around the world everyday, featured the picture of a faithful Catholic labor activist on its entry page. For Catholics to turn that into something diametrically opposed to the message of Easter is to fail, and fail miserably, at the New Evangelization. This is antithetical to good news that Christ is risen, conveyed through the Catholic intellect and imagination.


Then there is this: Google Nose.

Google says, “Take a wiff: the Google Aromabase – 15M+ scentibytes.”

Scentibytes? Yep. You guessed it. It’s fake. And funny. And a day early, too.

April Fools!

Things like this require a double-measured attitude: the critical edge to not look naive; the quick wit to laugh and get in on the joke. Google Nose is a temperamental litmus test for those who consider themselves workers in the vineyard of the New Evangelization — especially in new media.

Sadly, too many devout and pious Catholics have lost their ability to exact serious and analytic critique and/or to find levity and humor that is not specifically tailored to their niche within the Catholic bubble.

There seems to be an addiction to infectious junk ideology — something like TV dinners for how to think and feel — that pervades the comment boxes, message boards, Facebook walls, television and radio, blah, blah, blah.

We cannot talk about marriage with our heads on or our hearts beating. Both sides choose math signs and sentimental anecdotes and demonize each other, while pointing out that the other side is acting crazy — and, of course, they are. Those doing the serious work of either understanding the argument or seeing the human element are quarantined and quickly become just as bitter and counterproductive as the others. Like me.

I would sing a litany here, but you already know what I’m talking about. The addiction was alive and well today in the Chavez hullabaloo. The addiction is present in the Pope Francis liturgical foot fetishes. The addiction is alive and well in the silence that these posts evoke from the people who might add to the conversation and the noise that usually seeps in from nuts and crazies and trolls (no offense to my many non-nutty commenters) and the replies I post that shut things down even further. Look at what I did to Molly, on Good Friday!

Why do you even read this? Why put yourself through these unstable tirades and questions? Who am I to write at you? And who are you? Do I know you? Why are we here? And what happened to my afternoon siesta?

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, but I do know this: the addiction is so bad that everything today has to be qualified, allegiances have to declared in advanced and good faith must be drawn and quartered and inspected like a stool sample; we live our lives in the shadow of the same media markets that we consume like cannibals. Incest. Only friendship, and sometimes family, offers relief or succor. The addiction is so bad that I’m breaking my word to not to sing a litany of dirty laundry because I cannot help myself and I think we still need to be reminded that this is not the way things have to be and that we will never build anything if we don’t demolish this idolatrous discourse that preys on our hearts and our minds and leaves us open to nothing better than Raymond-forgoodnesssakesSamdon’tsaythatonEasterSunday-Arroyo — or worse.

This is everywhere I go: Church, academia, Cabelas, coffee-shops, everywhere. But I don’t mind it everywhere. The only place where it really gets to me is within the Church.

One reason I’m Catholic (that I didn’t mention before) is because I was born here and I’ve been here all my life. I cannot, for the life of me, find a way out. Even when I try to run, I run home. I do not merely feel Catholic or identify using that ecclesial nomenclature: I am such that without the Church I cease to be at all. I am within the flux of the Church, ontologically.

Truth be told, I identify more with the East. I had an intellectual conversion to Orthodoxy a few years ago, but I will not leave Rome because there is no such option and free will is treacherous. I am thoroughly Western, Latin, and Roman — through freedom and fate. Even suicide would be an insufficient escape. I am a Roman Catholic, for better and worse, and I will struggle here and rant and rave and type till I find myself elsewhere.

Elsewhere? “Master, to whom shall we go?”

Don’t you see? We stand at the edge of the abyss, facing absolutely nothing, and everything left behind is excrement. Things that we’ve already tried and defecated and know better than to try again. This is why Easter and Google and Chavez and these straw-man projections of myself get under my fingernails and make them dance on my keyboard, reaching out for redemption.

The key is to jump. To take on the abyssal and die and live.

This is Resurrection. We will never be the same. We will be more brave and prudent, less prudish and more humble, everything will change.

But the moments pass and Good Friday is a year away again.

In the meantime, I have a very small and insufficient tool that helps me from eating my own shit: philosophy.

That may sound lame or overly intellectual, but I hope to explain it more in the months to come. I think I can share what little of what I’ve gathered together. Plus, the more I’ve tried to share it, the more clear it has become to me.

When we come full circle, perhaps the greatest virtue of Schmitz’s Chavez article today was the ability to think well and without the fog of ideological addiction.

Thinking won’t save us or make things better, all things considered, but it might give us a preliminary ability to stop whining about our treacherously comfortable predicaments and reach out to those who might save us.

As an educator, writer, musician, father, and husband, this is all I’ve really got, except the love and grace of God: a sun blemish.





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