Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Against the Current Stream

The great temptation in this country, is to define who we are by what we do.  It happens in every arena of endeavor.  "I'm a writer.  I'm a runner. I'm a dancer. I'm a lawyer...." But those are activities we opt to embrace, we choose to do. We are kind or we are cruel. We are generous or we are stingy.  We are loving or we are not.  Who we are, is not what we do, that is merely the means by which we reveal who we are.  Who we are, gets revealed by how we treat others, and what we hold to be non negotiable values of infinite worth.

What we hold precious, indicates where our hearts lie.  What we can ignore, reveals where our hearts aren't.  So the question becomes, what should we ignore, and what should we not?  What is important, and what while interesting or even challenging, isn't.

The internet can make it seem one must become Mad Eye Moody about everything everywhere, and indeed, it's purpose is to feed you a constant stream of rot-gut designed to convince you, never before have so many been so ignorant about so much in such a short time.  I assure anyone reading this, most of us are very ignorant about many things, and we are ignorant about so much, so much of the time, it's par for the course with all who came before the internet throughout history.

These days, that ignorance is better preserved.  We can tweet, blog and status update about it to thousands of followers equally lacking self-awareness about their own blind spots.   We repeat rumors, we repeat spin, we delve and revel with dark joy over incidents which echo our sympathies, or which reveal the wrongness of those who do not.  Everything is either proof and vindication, or falsness and calumity, and no where is there any room for the more complex reality that is reality, because the goal is always to pick a side and buttress it, or pick a side and destroy it. If we want a better reality than this cycle of churning through policies and people, we're going to have to do something other than feed it.

We will have to 1) recognize truth exists 2) it is messy and complex, and 3) will not necessarily fully champion a political ideology or agenda or destroy a political ideology or agenda. Truth will necessarily involve encountering other people as they are, messy, unscripted, and having a story that does not fit a party line, but which nevertheless, should be heard.  If politics could fix the human heart, choosing Barabas would have been just dandy.   If social policy could cure our hearts of their darkness, utopia should have arrived by now.

Who we are will always boil down to how we treat those with whom we do not share sympathies.  If we treat the opposing side with dignity because they exist, we value the dignity of every human person over agreement with a given ideology. If we hold a faith as long as it does not challenge our lifestyles or comfort zones, we value the lifestyles and comfort zones more than the faith or being challenged.  If we fight because we believe the other side to be evil, and use that belief to justify acting in unjust ways, we cease to fight evil, we do not value justice.   With the internet, what we can stomach is becoming only what we need not challenge.  We are becoming a nation of islands, who do not want to disturbed by any other islands or their opinions, but if we are going to live in a society, we're going to have to break through and pierce those willed bubbles and allow our own to be pierced, and love our neighbors.

 I think the crosses of this age will be recognizing, we have up to now been luke warm.  We've told ourselves, it was good enough to give partial allegiance, but not whole, because that would involve giving up everything.   I worry a lot of us will be tempted to go away sad.

It is not an easy thing to stand against all tides which crash against the soul, and to not be eroded in the process, but as Chesterton said, "a dead thing must go with the flow, only a living thing can swim against the current." I would add, only a solid thing, anchored on something bigger than itself can stand against the flow of everything else.  I think, Catholics, if they are to be Catholics, will be spending a lot of time swimming against the popular current, or at the very least, standing as it flows by.   I think, we will have to be both and, swimming against the tide, and standing firm.

No comments:

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!