The Personalist Project

Last night we drove to the airport to pick up our son-in-law, who was flying in after a semester in Rome. Jules had offered to go alone, but I knew I wouldn't sleep before they got home safely anyway. Plus, I'm always looking for chances to spend more time conversing with my favorite person, my life's companion.

When Thomas texted to say he'd landed safely, Jules used Siri to reply out loud: "Text Thomas: 'I'm in the cellphone waiting lot.'"

It bugged me a little that he said "I" rather than "Mom and I." It felt to me like a (no doubt completely inadvertent!) relic of the kind of patriarchy feminists rightly protest—the kind wherein women don't fully count as present. "A large crowd was gathered: 2 thousand, not counting women and children." It also occurred to me that it might be jarring for Thomas to discover unexpectedly that I was there too. It meant he wouldn't have that time alone with Jules, plus he'd have to sit in the back squished between two carseats. Better to give him a little advanced notice of the real state of affairs.

But it was so small a point it felt petty to mention it, so I didn't, until Jules noticed that his Siri had been in Dutch mode, so that the message had come out hopelessly garbled. He would have to re-send it. At that point I said, "Maybe you could say 'mom and I' this time." 

He said, smiling, "Did you feel annihilated? I sort of did it on purpose. I was thinking it would be a nice surprise for Thomas. He'd come out thinking it was only me, and then find out you were here too, which is of course much nicer for him."

Sensitivity to slights is part of my subjective makeup. So is a negative self-image.

Love for me is part of Jules' subjective makeup. He lives from the assumption that other people, too, must really enjoy my company.

The difference made for two practically opposite meanings of the same objective event.

It was good for me to learn what he was really thinking, and good to be reminded of how easily we human beings misunderstand and misjudge one another.

Comments (13)

Rhett Segall

#1, May 3, 2017 7:11pm

Thanks for the lovely sharing, Katie.  But doesn't holy  scripture itself say (or is this what you referred to?) regarding the miracle of the  loaves and fishes: "Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children." (Matthew 14:21) Wish I had a smiley face!

Katie van Schaijik

#2, May 3, 2017 9:15pm

Yes, that's just the reference I had in mind, though I didn't bother to look it up for the exact number. (Thank you!)

Ancient Jewish life and culture were plainly patriarchal. Jesus challenges them on the point in various places.

Sam Roeble

#3, May 4, 2017 12:53pm

Is the argument against collective language taking masculine gender?  Spanish still treats groups of men and women as having a collective masculine gender, i.e. "hijos" to represent sons and daughters in a family, etc. The Gospel in this case doesn't reflect Jewish culture, it is more reflective of Greek language with an extra explanation in there from St. Matthew to indicate that the language doesn't capture the extent of the people present.

Katie van Schaijik

#4, May 4, 2017 12:55pm

My beef is against the kind of patriarchy in which women are subordinated to men. There's no question that ancient Jewish culture involved patriarchy of that kind. 

Sam Roeble

#5, May 4, 2017 12:59pm

True, but in this case St. Matthew is including men and women--an indication that, as you said, Jesus' teaching is efficacious and is in fact clarifying the language limitations of the day. 

Katie van Schaijik

#6, May 4, 2017 1:02pm

Sam, my point is that it's not merely a language limitation, but a bad cultural habit. Women were counted less than men. That was the reality at the time. Jesus' teaching and witness challenged the status quo. The Church has been developing its understanding and practice on the question ever since. 

Sam Roeble

#7, May 4, 2017 1:14pm


Katie van Schaijik wrote:

Sam, my point is that it's not merely a language limitation

 Yet, the language limitation is there, and must be understood as collective.  Take for example Pope Francis' Spanish use of the word "Padres" for 'parents' in his Amoris Laetitia  "Si los padres son como los fundamentos de la casa, los hijos son como las «piedras vivas» de la familia (cf. 1 P 2,5)." (AL, paragraph 14). 

Sam Roeble

#8, May 4, 2017 1:20pm

Padre needs no explanation in that It means father. Elsewhere in AL Francis refers to the Padres sinodales (Paragraph 1) or Synod Fathers.  Yet the Spanish word Padre comes originally from the Latin: Pater, as in Paterfamilias.  At this point with a Romance language, the native tongue of the Holy Father, it would be impossible to insist on more clarification for collective language when it is understood as such in context

Katie van Schaijik

#9, May 4, 2017 1:25pm

Do you see me somehow insisting on clarification of language?

Kate Whittaker Cousino

#10, May 4, 2017 1:26pm

I love that Jules knew what was bothering you, and I especially love his confidence that your presence would be a wonderful happy surprise!

Sam Roeble

#11, May 4, 2017 1:27pm

Where do you side with new translations of the Scripture: more collective language or masculine plural?

Katie van Schaijik

#12, May 4, 2017 1:30pm

Thanks, Kate. Me too!

Sam Roeble

#13, May 4, 2017 1:42pm

Forgive me folks: I got too caught up in the Scripture passage referred to in the comments.  Thanks, especially to Rhett for the Chapter & verse, in order to shed new light of the Greek for me!  I'll pay more attention to the posts next time and less to the comments, my fault.

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