I was doing one of my favorite DC things… waiting in line for coffee and a croissant. As my scarf slipped, a university student noticed my collar. He asked if I was a priest from Georgetown. The mistake was understandable, but as a proud graduate of GWU and it’s Newman Center, his words fell hard on my ears. There’s not much love lost between DC’s two big schools of international affairs. …but, I digress. The student and I had a pleasant conversation waiting for our lattes. He said that he was studying journalism, but had a real passion for the new Social Justice major at GU, and was considering a related graduate degree.
How wonderful this young man’s ambition to help others, to improve our world. How quintessentially Washington!
“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” -President Kennedy
It was also apropos of the season of “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” A cynic might ask… “Is a better world really possible?”
A partial answer lies proof of the existence of God “from desire.” (Here, I’m drawing not only from the proof itself, but from Father Robert Barron’s 11/19/14 reflection on it). In a nutshell: An innate or natural desire indicates the reality of the thing desired. We get hungry because food exists and we need it. The argument hinges on our desire being innate, not psychologically contrived. I cannot have an innate hunger for dinosaur meat since I have no experience of dinosaurs… I can contrive that it might be interesting to taste T-Rex but that’s all it is, a contrivance. Likewise I can suppose that Zambian food might be interesting, but never having experienced it, I can’t say that I desire it.
All people, especially the most in need among us, desire a better life. We’ve experienced hints and inklings of it. From time to time, history has even proven it possible. St. John Paul II called it “a nostalgia for original beauty.” The desire and reality of a better life is so real that it drives some to crime, others to cross deserts on foot in search of a better life. It drives us to work hard to give our kids a better life than we had. At its height the desire and reality of a better world can drive men to total self-gift (think Abe Lincoln or Gandhi).
Any student majoring in social justice… anyone with a concern for neighbor really, has a long hard fight in front of him. It’s important to keep an inner place where we can regularly recollect the reality of the good we’re fighting for. Pop-psychology calls this a “happy place.” Origen said, “There should be in us a kind of spiritual paradise where God can walk and be our sole ruler with his Christ.” I call it my inner cathedral. Insofar as innate desires testify to the reality of the good we seek, we can hold on to those desires and keep them as part of that inner place, where we’re recharged to fight the good fight ahead. One more way of seeing desire through eyes of faith.