Turn your heartache right into joy, she’s a girl, and you’re a boy. Well get it together, make it real nice, You ain’t gonna need anymore advice.
It has been some long time since I wrote prose on this blog; but something has been bothering me and it seemed the time was full. I should be the first one to point out that the moment you find yourself bothered by something is the least appropriate time to write about it. In my defense, or as a confession, I can only say that I rarely take my own advice.
This blog is titled Nothing Hypothetical because I oppose hypotheticals. There are aspects of various disciplines where hypotheticals or conjectures serve a useful purpose. In math and other symbolic logical systems both inductive reasoning and proof by contradiction require hypothetical assumptions. One might even say that while one performs various dance or martial arts training there is a hypothetical or imagined partner or opponent.
What I mean is that I refuse to accept hypothetical constructs as a simulation of reality which requires alterations to life that reality as I have known it would not otherwise suggest. While I enjoy a good bit of entertainment and even write fictional stories, these are always and ever fantastic, imaginary and not meant to bear on the more fundamental questions of life.
I do not go in for fashionable theories which explain phenomena that I have not experienced, nor do I feel the need at this stage in my life to turn in my apologetics anonymous (AA) card, fall off the wagon and get back into the faith vs science or my faith vs your faith debates.
I want to live in what I know and in the trustworthy testimony of my neighbors.
What shall replace this idolatry of ideas, this slavery to hypotheticals and wish-dreams? Persons and most importantly persons in communion.
A long time ago, I considered writing an essay entitled something like, “The Fork in the Road: Three Paths Ahead” discussing the three basic choices which have been presented to human kind since the dawn of time. When the world isn’t what you want you can either accept it (stoicism), try to change it (activism) or attempt to escape (hedonism). This is obviously a thought exercise to explore these different responses and as such it is over simplified.
However, since it was my chief aim to strike at the activists anyway, I’ll draw on my previous thinking to offer up something today.
The root of all activism is pride. Activists, particularly altruistic ones who believe they have sacrificed all but their lives for their cause, will not at first understand this accusation; but it is fundamentally sound. The activist believes not only that the world is not what it should be (of course, Christianity and most any other thoughtful consideration of life would agree) but that they know how it should be and on the basis of their knowledge they are going to change the world.
Perhaps we should take the case of something less extreme. We need not talk about the failure of modernism or the records of history littered with the lost causes of tyrants and schemes of foolish philosophers. Let us take the case of a well-meaning person who seeks to organize a charity function to feed some local homeless. A noble endeavor that will benefit both those in distress and those who are brought together to give generously from their hearts.
But you see such an event requires logistical realities. Volunteers are needed. Speeches will need to be written. A committee must form to discuss the possible ways which these funds might be used. What happens when the volunteers show up late? Or when one of the big donors indicates that he wants the event to be named for him and he be allowed to give a long presentation that amounts to an advertisement for his construction company? Or what if the committee becomes deadlocked on whether meals, vocational training or drug treatment is the best use of the money.
We find that a noble endeavor becomes suddenly corrupted and corrupting to those involved. And if our well-meaning citizen who launched this project decides to bully everyone into cleaning up their involvement for the greater good, what then shall become of his heart?
The impulse to do good can be salvific. But if the pursuit of the good requires others to be subverted for your purpose the impulse leads to destruction. We cannot achieve our grand plan without the objectification of others. We must reduce them from persons to resources. If we think of them as persons freely loved then our effectiveness in the pursuit of our goals is at risk.
We make up all manner of excuses. Beware sentenses that contain categorical imperatives! But we must do this or we cannot have that. These are the words of autocrats to those they see as their subjects.
There was a study, a sort of ethical test given at a theological school. The students were divided into two groups. One group was told they were to give a sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan and the other group was asked to pick any topic of their choosing. These two groups were divided again and one-half of each group was given a tight deadline and the other half a leisurely schedule. When each of the students crossed the campus to the hall where they were supposed to give a sermon they encountered in their path someone who was apparently hurt and having trouble breathing. Surprisingly (perhaps upon reflection not so surprisingly) those that had time stopped and those that were under the clock did not regardless of the very material they were concentrating on that ethically and morally grips with this very event.
Activists are hurried theological students. They are pressed for time. It must be done now, the matter addressed quickly, a resolution instituted, the wrong-righted, and the matter dealt with by all hands on deck. They constantly excuse the chaos and suffering they leave in their wake by the self-deception that the project goal is the greater good. There is no greater good. There is only the good and the good of man is the business of being good. Not mankind, but that man, a particular man, your neighbor.
Love your neighbor as yourself, the rest is commentary. Right?
What were these students thinking? The study did not go so far as to investigate that. Perhaps they were not thinking anything. Perhaps this is mere myopia; they didn’t even notice the presence of one in need. Or perhaps they thought to themselves, “I need a good grade in this course, because I need to graduate with honors, because I need to get a good job offer at a church where I can serve God.” Of course, they missed the opportunities every day that God has given them for service. But they aren’t interested in God’s plans for their service. They have their plans on how they want to serve the God of their own making.
I have heard endlessly from friends, relatives, church members and clergy question and agonize over whether some major life choice is God’s will or not. But they always mean, “will God let me do this my way,” or “will God make this work out the way I want.” God does actually have a will for our lives and we obscure it with this self-righteous facade.
Thank you God our Father in Heaven for your most holy gift to modern man, interruptions.
If we as modern men have any hope it is that God will call us to our senses by interrupting us into submission. I pray he interrupts us at work and at school, at home and in the middle of Church with crying babies if need be. May He interrupt our prayer time, our meals, and our vacations with the kids. If He must blow out our tires on the highway of life to save us from ourselves, then I say, if we ever needed the Lord before, we sure do need Him now.
But there I go prescribing my own solution to the problems I see in life. Forgive me, a sinner.