Thursday, October 24, 2013

Essay on Christian Light

It's insane that it's a platitude that our world has gone insane. Gone from where, we are tempted to ask? Was it really that much better in the middle ages, where Europe was a collection of robber-barons holding the majority of the population hostage, where the Middle East was a collection of warlords holding the majority of the population hostage, where Japan was a collection of robber-barons holding the majority of the population hostage?

Of course the world has never been a picnic, but to restate something at which Marx aimed, there is a definite psychological peace which occurs when one starts a process, sees that process through, and reaps the benefits of that process. Gardeners are some of the most peace-filled people I know. Writers seem to be the longest-lived. To take a world, robber-barons aside, in which the majority of the population was involved in the processes of creating their world and sustaining the community around them and to shatter it into a world whose tendency is toward isolation, a world philosophically, physiologically and metaphysically dedicated to chopping us into discrete units--even pairs are discrete units, when they are separated from a larger community--and then heaping such responsibility on the shoulders of those single units as would stagger a Starship Enterprise: what else can this be but insanity?

Until the Revolution, until the spirit which was given to us two thousand years ago reasserts itself and the first peace comes, we are seemingly stuck with this world. The Christian, then, as any human, has a choice. When the world's tendency is to instill instincts in us toward selfishness, toward treating certain other human beings (sales clerks, wait staff, prostitutes, anyone who disagrees with us theologically, philosophically, politically, or who is engaged in acting out an ideology we despise) as though they are less valuable or simply not valuable, we can choose to go along, limp our limbs and float in this river of insanity, give in to the tendency to hate those we serve or who are serving us, to treat them as a means to an end. Or. Or we can fight the tendency: we can fight the urge to treat the person giving us attitude while he takes our fast food order as if he is a malfunctioning cog in a machine. We can resist the urge to feel and act as though the staff of a retail store exists only as a sort of active furniture to make our lives more convenient, the urge when we are the staff to assume that a customer has a superiority complex, or, if they do, we can resist the very strong urge to make them suffer for it.

Put positively, we can choose to flood our surroundings with light. We can choose to beam a ray of sunlight into every situation, to be unflaggingly kind and polite (which, done correctly, is simply a synonym of kindness), in the face of any given situation.

Certainly you don't have to be a Christian to make this choice. But there is no better motivation for making such choices than our secret knowledge which is no secret, that the reason that there is anything rather than nothing, the very act of existence itself, did the most loving thing possible on our behalf. The reason that there are rainbows and deliciousness and love, the very thing from which all of these good things emanate, became one of us sad broken little people and then, in the face of all possibility, died so that we don't have to.

Try this, the next time you're standing in a fast food line, your break is running out, the people in front of you are not only slow but snotty, and when you finally get to order the cashier not only has an attitude but gets your order wrong and acts like it's your fault. Think, The reason that there is anything rather than nothing, the very reason there is being, incarnated and died on behalf of each one of these people. Try it even if you don't believe it. See what happens.

Of course, you will fail. I fail all the damn time. But when you do, the solution is simple: remember that that reason for being, the one that loves all those annoying, insane, horrid people, loves you too.

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