Comparing contrasting perspectives

Father Eugene Hemrick



In German, the word "gegensatz" indicates an opposing point of view. How might this translate?

Undoubtedly, we live in a blessed progressive age. Take, for example, modern medical achievements that create better human life and health. Many also enjoy greater peace of mind due to increased protections and dependable insurance programs.

Our life is richer thanks to accomplishing tasks with less labor and time. Faster cars and planes have compressed time. Sociology and psychology now treat tensions in greater depth.

Most people agree we live in a world of awesome progress. There is, however, an opposing point of view.

It is true medical science has enhanced our life. But as helpful as it is, do we have a will to health? Do we wholeheartedly embrace the discipline needed to cultivate good eating habits and health practices?

How willing are we to study and use the best means for ensuring our health? Do we overly depend on medical science to the neglect of employing our own ingenuity in staying well?

It is true we can travel from one place to another faster. But do we really gain time and greater leisure, or are we more rushed and busier?

It is true we have well-planned insurance programs and security. But could it be that our independence, healthy confidence and readiness for whatever might come are minimized? Do we rely on others to protect us to the neglect of devising imaginative ways of looking out for ourselves?

The word "gegensatz" prompts us to look at opposing points of view and whether they strengthen or weaken our character, freedom, self-reliance and responsibility. "Gegensatz" also seeks ways to make opposing perspectives come together.

How, for example, do we respect health-enhancing medicines without losing our power to control them? How do we control the anxiety caused by speeding through life? How do we control the paranoia that often accompanies being overly security-minded?

The COVID-19 pandemic gives us a good opportunity to reevaluate cultural values considered to mark progress. True progress is achieved when we avoid taking one step forward and two steps backward, and when we make the effort to connect opposing points of view.

Father Eugene Hemrick writes for the Catholic News Service column "The Human Side."