If a recent article where Emma Watson, star of the blockbuster Harry Potter film franchise, is any indication, it appears that popular culture is in the throes of another mangling of both the English language and the true nature of humankind.
Sounds a little hyperbolic to suggest a young lady, a not-so-young almost-30 now, who made her fame and fortune playing a girl wizard, can actually have an impact on the way popular culture looks at human relations, but in a world where someone would likely be fired from any number of jobs for reading verbatim from the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” all popular culture bets are off.
Watson, upon her fast approaching 30th birthday, felt compelled to publicly comment on her marital status, or lack thereof. Instead of resorting to such an antiquated notion as referring to herself as “single,” she proclaimed to one and all that she is happily “self-partnered.” Making up new words for old things reminded me of another actress who also felt compelled to tell the general public, though I do not believe anyone was asking, that her divorce from her husband wasn’t a divorce, but rather a “conscious uncoupling.” Maybe from now on we should refer to bank robbers as “under-authorized withdrawers.”
Or maybe Emma Watson was just being flippant and I’m making something out of nothing, but even if that were the case, I would wager the deed to my ant farm that many people who absorb what celebrities say in the manner others consider scripture are taking these words seriously. And why wouldn’t they?
More people (young and old alike) are self-identifying as “nones” and as the stampedes out of the Church continue, people will still have the need to connect with something. If God is not enough, then they will have to settle for themselves.
This spiritual narcissism can take other forms as well. Remember, when people turn their backs on belief in God, the problem, as Chesterton warned, is not that they believe in nothing but that they will believe in anything. Others have filled the void by “marrying” buildings and oak trees in formal ceremonies.
Granted, these examples may just be some form of guerilla theater, but there remains an underlying and unsettling message in all this narcissism. For Watson, though, she has chosen to believe in herself. To a certain extent, that is a good thing. But like all good things, too much of any of it is detrimental.
Regarding Scripture, it is no great leap to connect the dots of the ruminations of a popular culture figure in this century with last Sunday’s Gospel reading. The Sadducees were trying to trick Jesus with that ridiculous hypothetical situation of what’s what and who’s who in relation to the relations of a widow who had been widowed seven times in consecutive fashion by seven brothers. The Lord could have ignored that trick question and instead suggested the opening of an investigation by CSI Judea, to find out why all these young men came to untimely ends.
Alas, Jesus chooses not to follow my advice, but instead takes on those pesky Sadducees with the teaching that in heaven we are as angels. We learn that in heaven there is only one partnership that matters; there is only one coupling we all should strive to attain. It’s the same partnership God has been trying to secure for his creatures from the time of Genesis to today, if only his creatures would cooperate.
So that is our goal. To become spiritually partnered with him, whether we are married or single in this world. Do we have to be comfortable in our own skin, which what I hope was Watson’s message? Yes. But whether we are single or married, without that ultimate partnership with God, we will be forever lacking something, regardless of how “woke” or in tune with nature we may think we are.
And in the end, though as Jesus teaches us, our relationships in heaven will not be the same as they are on Earth, we still have the promise that we may join our loved ones and all the saints that have gone before us in the ultimate joint venture partnership.