The phrase Yada yada has been around for a long time, with varied origins proposed, but the phrase’s popularity was re-ignited by a 1997 episode of the Seinfeld sitcom. The double use of yadda implies a shorthand way of fast-forwarding boring or expected parts of life or speech. It is literally the equivalent of et cetera or blah blah.
For example, a student might tell her absent classmate, “The professor did his usual lecture on the scientific method, yada yada, and then she cancelled class early.” The implication is that the yada yada part is the usual, mundane, unimportant, and/or redundant stuff already experienced by the parties involved. The idea is that such parts are so predictable that repeating them is a waste of time since people could figure out what was implied anyway.
Part of the irony and attempt at humor was that one party thought that Yada yada was appropriate, practical, and self-explanatory in a given context and the other party was only further confused by the phrase. Rather than save everyone a lot of thought, the phrase only threw the confused party into a sea of unanswered questions and unsure assumptions. A life immersed only in the secular can often be a paradox of such ironic tragedy in the midst of patronizing presumption. Such a life is pulled between satisfying flimsy and changing societal conventions and trying to grasp effective and fulfilling self-perceptions. We are often pulled between satisfying others and ourselves by a society that idolizes popularity and self at the same time. Like the townspeople pretending that the naked Emperor is wearing clothes, we are often too obsessed with looking right to do what is truly right.
Yada Yada Catholics
I am fairly certain that this might be the first use of Yada yada to describe Catholics, so embrace my pioneering spirit. As I see it, many of us might be tempted to fast-forward, assume, practicalize, and short-hand our Faith. Why would we do this? Perhaps, whether we admit it or not, we have allowed our Faith, or at least our perception and experience of it, to grow stale, mundane, predictable, and even boring. We have lost the transcendent power and meaning of our beliefs and practices to the point where we now see the practice of our faith as nothing more than commercials we want to fast-forward through on the DVR of our lives. This tragedy explains parents missing mass with their kids in order to take them to swim meets and soccer games. It explains folks treating the most Blessed Sacrament as nothing more than a weekly white cookie. It explains hordes of Catholics too ignorant about what their Faith is about to explain much less defend it.
The Five Culprits of Catholic Yada Yada
I believe that there are many reasons for Catholic Yada yada, but the five main ones are, in no particular order: 1) Ignorance 2) Distraction 3) Arrogance 4) Defiance and 5) Distance.
Thanks to a diluted and sometimes distorted religious education system, many Catholics have been raised increasingly ignorant of core Catholic beliefs and the relative importance and centrality of those beliefs. Many Catholics, for example, do not know, understand, or care about the Divine Presence.
Secondly, modern society embodies so many distractions, from technology to twisted values, that many Catholics are easily confused and readily blend truth with subjective whim and myth. Third and fourth, current social values promote and foment rampant personal arrogance and defiance against any absolute moral code. Morality is what each person defines as morality. Anyone who even attempts to guide others toward ethical behavior is labeled an intolerant and divisive threat to society. It is troubling that increasing numbers of Catholics stubbornly and cluelessly latch unto distorted, warped, and very subjective interpretations and applications of their Faith.
We see scores of Catholics encouraged and convinced that attending a wedding between two divorced Catholics without annulments is acceptable to “maintain the peace” and exhibit “love and acceptance”. Finally, all of these things and more cause many Catholics to grow distant from their faith. Their beliefs become nothing more than distant relatives they admit to being related to but barely know. All too often, many Catholics become Peter at the fire warming himself while Christ, their Faith, is interrogated. We too may deny Christ many times through our words, actions, and omissions merely to avoid trouble and criticism.
The Surprising Meaning of Yada and Its Implications
The most surprising part of my preparation for this piece was the discovery that a single Yada is a Hebraic word meaning a knowing dedication and sharing often based on love, mercy, and justice which is often referenced in the Old Testament. The obvious question is how can such a beautiful and positive word suddenly become so negative and dismissive when doubled? I think that the answer may lie in the idea that we often take what is most important for granted out of convenience, impatience, and a warped search for what I will call external novelty.
The process by which this terrible thing happens might begin with expecting core, profound, and central ideas to continually inspire and radiate their own wonder. Rather than embracing our responsibility to cultivate and refresh the wonder of the most transcendent, we tend to sit back and expect the transcendent to entertain and inspire us. It is almost as if we have come to equate greatness with the innate ability to generate greatness without any effort or participation on our part. A fantastic health speaker may provide us with a wonderful diet and exercise strategies, but our health will not improve unless we take, apply, and make those ideas work in our lives. Similarly, we are the hands of Christ in this world, not merely his audience eating popcorn and waiting for the next miracle or magic trick.
We tend to exhibit the obnoxious trio of lazy impatience leading to an obsession with finding the most convenient path to anything. In our rush to get to the next great thing which is often not that great at all, we tend to overlook the very greatness right under our noses. Ultimately, we seek external novelty, automatically assuming that new is better and new must come from outside of what is presently before us. In this context, the Hebraic Yada’s power and beauty are dismissed when we lump all of the Yadas in our lives into a convenient pile while impatiently looking elsewhere for the freshness and wonder we already have before us if we only care to look. Many Catholics, for example, are too distracted with the cares of the day to truly consider the majesty of the Divine Presence. Similarly, many folks go the bathroom exactly during the elevation of the Eucharist at the Offertory. Lastly, how many Catholics truly consider that we are just as present at the Last Supper, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord as the Apostles were when we attend mass? For far too many Catholics, the Holy Mass has conveniently become a weekly social ritual.
One Yada is Enough
Given what we know about the meanings of Yada as opposed to Yada yada, we can perhaps conclude that one Yada is more than enough when it comes to our Faith. We must see our Faith as a knowing dedication to Christ and sharing of that dedication with others in love, mercy, and justice. That view, however, invites us to continually seek the internal novelty of ways by which we may practice and apply such dedication, sharing, love, mercy, and justice. The answer does not lie in the society and world around us, to believe so would imply that the value of our Faith is dependent upon this world and its values. Rather, the beauty and power of our faith are to be found within the Faith itself and our ability to discover, extract, and apply what we find to a needy world. We cannot be lazy observers of our own Faith merely waiting to be entertained while continually handcuffing our beliefs to the whimsical chains of this world. Rather, it is our duty, mission, and purpose to draw out from our Faith the necessary tools to both glorify God and bring Christ to everyone we meet.
One Yada is enough because one Yada tells us all we need to know and use to follow Christ. Once we let this world convince us that it has the prescription to improve our Faith, we will become Yada yada Catholics who think that convenience, entertainment, external novelty, and compromise will ever bring us closer to our Faith much less to Christ. The internal novelty of our Faith is simply its transcendent ability to provide us with new insights and applications through Christ and his example. By necessity, any external novelty will be subject to the superficial and distorted values of this world. Ultimately, when it comes to the Yada in our Faith, less is more!
2019 Gabriel Garnica