Dressing an Old Story in Today’s Clothes

by | Jul 6, 2022 | Formation, Reflections

The West Side Story of 2021 is the second feature-length adaptation of the 1957 musical of the same name. West Side Story is based directly on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare based his play (1594) on a story written some 29 years earlier.

A good story reflects some reality even if it is told in different clothes.

The story of today’s polarization over abortion echoes a story told around 500 years before Christ. It is the story of group of blind persons arguing about their experience … and certitudes about what they each touch.

An ancient story – limitations of one’s experience

A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: “We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable”. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it.

In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said “This being is like a thick snake”. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said, “elephant is a wall”. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.

Over the centuries the story has had different endings.

In some versions, the blind men discover their disagreements, suspect the others to be not telling the truth, and come to blows.

In other versions, they stop talking, start listening and collaborate to “see” the full elephant. Sometimes when a sighted man enters the parable and describes the entire elephant from various perspectives, the blind men then learn that they were all partially correct and partially wrong.

One’s subjective experience can be true. But it may not be the totality of truth.

Reactions to the overthrow of Roe vs. Wade

Over the years I have read probably hundreds of articles on abortion. They include articles coming from perspectives

  • Theological
  • Philosophical
  • Medical
  • Sociological
  • Psychological
  • Historical
  • Legal

As I recall their versions of the issues and approaches to abortion, it strikes me how the vast majority of these focused almost exclusively on their lens.

To me, it looks like that ancient story is still being retold with various twists depending on the lens being used.

One can be right and still miss important aspects of the reality we call abortion.

For nearly 50 years, pro-life supporters have been fighting to overturn the flawed decision of Roe vs. Wade. However, many are wrestling with possible flaws in the recent decision and implications for creating a comprehensive “culture of life”.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, seems to identify what both decisions need to understand.

“The first thing for us is to redouble the effort to change minds and hearts”

Pope Francis and the gifts of “wisdom” and “understanding”

I have recently written of Pope Francis’ understanding of the Gifts of the Spirit – wisdom, and understanding.

Wisdom is to see all of the things God sees.

Understanding speaks of how much of the picture we see and understand.

Pope Francis’ Prayer

“And this is a great gift, a great gift for which we all must ask and ask together: Give us, Lord, the gift of understanding.  

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk