A headline reads “Witty, Irreverent Photos That Satirize Family Life”. You can be an “Irreverent Gentleman”, drink irreverent beer or wine, and read irreverent magazines. Some of the most popular books and blogs about parenting and fatherhood boast about their irreverence. And, of course, no self-respecting comedian or entertainer can have a successful career without that badge of honor, labeled Irreverent.
According to the Collins English Dictionary, to be irreverent is to be “without due respect or veneration; disrespectful; flippant”, while Merriam-Webster notes that one who is irreverent lacks “proper respect or seriousness.”
The key words here seem to be due and proper respect. Few of us would likely want to raise disrespectful and flippant children, and Plato advised us to “let parents bequeath to their children not riches, but the spirit of reverence.”
However, irreverence is the fashion du jour and if you want to be cool these days it pays to be irreverent. We (and our children) see this every day on TV, in the music we listen to, and often in our interactions with others.
How many of your favorite entertainers are characterized by reverence?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines reverence as “showing great respect and admiration” and it is often associated with the word honor, another term now out of fashion.
Of course, this hasn’t always been true and some individuals and groups still respect reverence: churches and religious groups come to mind, and the final quality noted in the Boy Scout Law, for example, states: A Scout is Reverent.
There’s definitely a place for irreverence but a little reverence might go a long way to improve our civil discourse, to help us be more compassionate to each other, and to be “suddenly overwhelmed” like Thomas Merton wrote, “with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.”
I also love this from Henry David Thoreau: “Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”
“He walked with love and reverence.” It sounds like a good epitaph for a tombstone.
This path might not lead you to a guest spot on one of the late night talk shows and you might not appear on the cover of People magazine or Entertainment Weekly but there’s more to life than the pursuit of fifteen minutes of fame … and, well, there are other magazines in the world.