Or call it a testament to how much abject trash fills my content channels every day. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, television, you name it - all have a unique way of curating the ridiculous and casting it as worthwhile. Avoiding it is possible in the same way the American Ninja Warrior course is possible. And for someone who still needs to stay in the know, the mental and organizational contortions and feats of will required to find the good stuff are no less challenging than the physical obstacle course.
Sure, every so often a piece of news will pique my interest, but it is usually buried quickly under a mountain of distractions, or just...life. And maybe, if it isn't impactful enough to survive life's next ebb, it really isn't worth writing about anyway.
I met Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., just once. It was two years ago, about this time. Our boss had arranged for a group of us to spend a few minutes with him, to gain from his perspective on this place we talk about every day in our nine-to-five. I read Fr. Ted's autobiography a couple months prior. I'm glad I did, because it added a significant layer of context to the words he spoke to us. He didn't say anything completely surprising. He mostly spoke about his beloved University, and its place in the world, and what needed our collective attention in the future. But hearing Fr. Ted say these things gave me the overwhelming sense that I was now able to chronologize chicken and egg. This man, who for 35 years was Notre Dame, had set a course for the University that was still being followed. So to hear him speak of these things was to hear something delivered from its point of origin, not tradition.
At the end of the meeting, we received a blessing from Fr. Ted. The moment was a significant one, and even this son of an evangelical minister was moved. We spent a few brief minutes in his office, though far less time than any of us wanted. And we went on our way.
News of Fr. Ted's passing wasn't surprising, per se, but it came down heaviest on those in the Notre Dame community who knew him best and worked with him closely. And on the former students who had the immense privilege of attending during his time as president. As happens, anecdotes and reflections began pouring in when the news of his passing broke - first in the form of pre-packaged obits from outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post, then from individuals who had cherished memories of the man and his work.
Some of the stories are so well-told that we risk overlooking their significance. Like when Fr. Ted was invited to a rally in Chicago held by Martin Luther King - the same event to which the archbishop and mayor had declined their invitations. Fr. Ted looked at his watch, and asked, "What time?" Then he drove from South Bend to attend.
Or the fact that it was Fr. Hesburgh who opened Notre Dame to co-education in 1972. At a mass at the Grotto, Fr. Ted famously looked up to the statue of Mary on the Golden Dome, and said, "Mary...I'm sorry it took us almost 140 years, to bring your daughters to your University."
Other stories are less well-known, but no less impactful for those who lived them. Like the student who talked about coming back to campus at 3 AM, after a night at the bars with some classmates, and Fr. Hesburgh "jumping" from the bushes outside the Morris Inn to chat with them.
Fr. Ted's passing received its share of press, to be sure, but if you read about it at all, it was likely that you sifted it out from amongst the chaff populating the Internet that day.
The web that day was frantically searching for a multimillion-dollar dress a starlet had worn to the Oscars. Then it was furiously debating the color of another dress. Then it moved on to an outpouring in response to the death of another famous individual, Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek fame.
I don't decry the remembrance of Nimoy and his place in television history. And heaven knows I appreciate a good distraction. But these events, juxtaposed with the news of Fr. Ted's death, served as a poignant reminder of what's important.
The contrast couldn't be clearer. Amid the photos of Nimoy dressed in ridiculous costumes, one outlet sought to extol his work on behalf of women...whom he photographed in the nude. You would be hard pressed to find much in the way of charitable service. Nimoy's legacy is a photo shoot; Hesburgh's is co-education. While one offers the scripted line, "Live long and prosper," the other says that he, "hoped to live and die a priest. Nothing more. But nothing less, either." Sure, Nimoy never claimed to be a Hesburgh. But it's worth remembering that so few ever could aspire that high in the first place.
The passing of Fr. Ted reminds us that so much is unimportant in our world. His death brings us back to this realization because it causes us to pause and consider his life's work to advance the work of justice on so many topics of critical social and moral importance. When the brilliance of his enduring light is held against the momentary and dim flashes of popular whim, Fr. Hesburgh only stands brighter, larger, and more significant. So does his work and the values he championed. To me, Fr. Hesburgh made a final, enduring statement in his death that very few ever communicate in the entirety of their lives. It's worth remembering. It's even worth writing about.
You feel me?