Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Love as Greater than Ideology: The Fullness of a Real Social Revolution

Hello readers,

If anyone wants my new slogan for the new year, the title of this entry I find very fitting. If I have a New Year's Resolution (which I really don't because I think every day should be at least some exercise in self-reflection and improvement) than this would be it. To spend everyday loving others regardless of their ideology. Now some people may have read my posts and feel that I do an unfair amount of bashing of conservative religious principles in my posts. I will admit in the past I have been very hard on conservative religious principles because of my bad experience with this kind of religion and my interactions with certain people. However, what I am coming to realize more and more is that the problem of ideology and hurting people because of difference is not just a conservative problem, though conservatism is a powerful social example of an ideologically driven dividing of people. So I want to extend this apology, and then explore more about how ideology is a problem for many people.

In relationships, the most basic form of ideology is seen in the clique. A clique is a group of people who come together who have common interests and beliefs. However, a clique is also defined by the closed-off nature of the group. In other words, cliques are ideologically driven groups of people. Now whether the ideology is theater, dance, athletics, drama, or faith-based, these groups can become closed off to others. There are two main possibilities (and a mix of the two) that enable cliques to be formed. First, the structure of a system can divide individuals from each other, and second, individuals in a group choose to divide themselves from everyone else. The structure can divide individuals because it can favor certain cliques over others because of skills that are seen as more valuable to society. People in entertainment cliques (athletics, dance, etc.) have this temptation because of how highly our religion and society value entertainment. Also, individuals in certain cliques can choose to divide themselves from others because they don't like the attitudes or values of a particular group of people. This happens in most cliques, because people can come together around a common enemy easier. These cliques are also encouraged by society, because when people are divided, people do not experience the Other, and thus have a much smaller focal point to grow. Also, when people are divided, they are easier to control. Of course, this is more of a correlation of the effects of individualism than anything conspiratorial.

The reason people form ideological cliques is because it has a lot of benefits. Most particularly the clique is comfortable. People are gathered together with others who will affirm their worldview and stand together against other people who are not like them. It is also how we are taught to make friends, we must find people who share our values and connect with them, as they will affirm our values and then we will create a better world. But there's one severe problem with this methodology, particularly enlightened my postmodern thought. No two people think alike. This precise problem is exactly why cliques fall apart and for the most part do not withstand the test of time, as interests change even the people in the clique have subtle differences that divide the clique from each other as difference was never talked about or discussed. This ideological method of building friendships also creates a meta-narrative problem. In a world of cliques, where everyone feels their ideology has the best narrative to fix all religious, societal, and existential problems, there is continual competition for people to have the best meta-narrative, and thus the best ideology. When in reality, the only way to have the best meta-narrative, is to be willing to lose your overarching story and privilege the other, because it is in this way that we connect to others, and have a real connection.

To speak in strictly religious terms for a moment, the Catholic Church has a major problem of ideology right now, and it affects the majority of people involved with the Church. The "liberals" hate the "conservatives" and the "traditional Catholics" think the "progressives" are driving the Church to hell. In reality, this back and forth just submits itself to the same problems the American two-party political system does. Both sides complain about the other, when in all reality both sides are really working together and are not as different as one might think. They only appear different in order to preserve the status quo which is in place. The Catholic Church is similar in many ways, because the problems which are at the forefront are not dealt with because we spend so much of our time building a new ritual narrative that will deprogram bad religion and program what we see as the true religion. There is very little sense of unity in diversity, and a good portion of that is because of their demarcating line of faith. When faith is defined by obedience to sexual teaching and authority, it creates an identity which is not dynamic. The problem with an identity that's not dynamic is that a) it is inconsistent with our experience as human persons, because human persons change and develop because of personal, societal, and interactive influences. In other words, human identity is dynamic in itself, so to proclaim a demarcating line of faith that's not dynamic is inconsistent with how humans build identity in anything. (It's also the same problem that results in the clique). b) an nondynamic identity is inconsistent with its own theology, particularly Trinitarian theology. If the Catholic Church believes in the Trinity, then having a nondynamic demarcating line of faith is a horrible disconnect from the Revelation of God in the Trinity. Good relationships require a dynamism as people change over time. The Trinity as three relating persons who have unity (e.g. one God) then model what it means to have a relationship that develops and grows over time, but yet remains the same, remains a relationship whole in itself, yet constantly growing (or more strictly put, constantly being more revealed through the events of history.)

Now that we have seen the problems of ideology, we can think about solutions. The major solution is that in relationships we need something else besides ideology. Ideology is one of the major problems in relationships as it feeds into human fears about the other. We as people need to be able to transcend our differences and spend time truly engaging the experience of others whom we encounter. In other words, we need a sense of dynamic relationship to replace our ideologically driven sense of friendship. Namely, we need love. We need the fullest love of the other to replace our ideologically-driven ideas of friendship and connectivity.

Where do we find this fullest love in the American context? The Catholic Church. As many problems as the Catholic Church has, it is the only real solution to engaging the problems of an ideologically driven community building. The weakness of Protestantism is that is can splinter among itself because of differences in the community. Protestantism overvalues diversity in the sense that it struggles to find ways of connecting people who think differently. This temptation is increased when people can start a new congregation because of differences in thought. Other religions might be more beneficial in other parts of the world, but the amount of influence Christianity has in America cannot be understated and thus it becomes a necessary part of a solution. Now the Catholic Church has issues to creating an environment of fullest love. In particular, the recent drive toward unity and discrediting diversity is extremely dangerous. This is what drives Catholicism to follow a similar path to our Protestant brothers and sisters. Our solution... we, Catholics in particular, but this invitation also goes to people of good will that want real social change, need to stand up and fight the authority that tries to overvalue unity. Our unity can only exist to serve the diverse needs of our neighbors. If our unity is not doing that, then we become the greatest failing and greatest cause of division and discord in society. And I talk about Catholicism, because I have hope for what the Church can do in the future to promote a deeper love among people. Sad to say, I don't have much hope for much of the Protestant world because of how easily it splinters and how most Protestantism becomes too entrenched in political affairs. (e.g. the Westboro Baptist Church being against homosexuality and using that as a political platform to protest the military, and the Amish as being separatist from society as they fear what technology and convenience does to the person to isolate them from community. Even if both of these groups have valid points or something to add to a conversation, their tactics of separation increase the difficulty for people to participate in a real conversation for changing society as they are distancing themselves from society.)

I give Catholics a lot of responsibility in writing these words. It's our time to make change. It's our time to let love be stronger than ideology. We have the resources to do this in our mystical and Patristic traditions, particularly looking at later works of mystical theology which see grace in all sorts of interactions with the world (cf Rahner's Spirit in the World, etc), and at Patristic Theology which sought to teach Catholicism in a world filled with Roman and Greek influence, and it incorporated a lot of Greek and Roman concepts to make Catholicism intelligible. (Also, it's the same reason why we have some of the problems we do now, as Revelation has shown us problems with Greek and Roman ways of thinking and we have not adapted to the issues presented by dualistic and Gnostic influences in Catholicism.) We can bring the people together if our faith brings us to a place where love is greater than ideology. Until we do this, we will never bring any sense of peace to our broken world, but we will only continue to participate in it.

To begin this change, we have to engage people's real needs and daily lives. We have to be the people who really ask how others are doing. We have to ask if others are satisfied with their lives and push those close to us to be all they can be. Part of engaging in dynamic relationships is to encounter the other in the daily context of life and letting needs come forth as they are. There are days when people will need touch, and there are days when people will need others to keep a distance so they can reflect. The realness of dynamic relationships is that we need to be open to what others need, and trust that others will come to meet our needs and be open to us as well. Building a community that can do that will open the potential for much needed change to happen, as people will see the experience of the other through their symbols, and be challenged by her experience. If people respond authentically to this challenge and meeting the other's needs, then and only then, will we overcome structures which seek to divide people from each other.


Monday, November 28, 2011

The Beginning of an End: Armageddon

"I summon Armageddon Knight. Do you wish to negate the summon?"

Armageddon Knight has the power to throw more darkness to the board. It is this power which enables the growth of a plague that can affect all things. Armageddon is also an end, but as the movie Armageddon teaches us, it's not an instantaneous end. Armageddon is also perspectival. What some people view as an end, some people see as a means to new life, or not an end at all. Armageddon usually refers to an end of all things, but in life there are moments where dramatic ends create a sense of Armageddon. There are also knights of Armageddon who fight to bring a particular end, or new beginning to others.

However, I want to be more real in what I'm referring to. A Catholic Armageddon has started for a lot of people with the implementation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal on Sunday. Many people who were on the fence or on the borders of the Church will make their way out of the Church because of the egregious process and translation of the Missal text. After sex abuse, abuses of authority, and a hierarchy that consistently proves that it does not really care about the people it serves, many people have had it with their faith. The New Missal Translation is the straw that broke the camel's back so to say for many people. We are in danger of losing a majority of the young adult Church but also many people who are currently in the Church.

Some people see the New Missal translation as a revival of traditional values that promote more reverence. But at what cost, yes, we may promote more reverence through certain words and gestures. However, promoting reverence by telling people they are sinful, and that God is almighty over and over again is not the best way to go about this. Reverence through fear is not the same as reverence through love. And people know the difference. People know the difference between people imposing an image of God as a judge and being shown an image of God as a loving person with whom people are supposed to have a relationship. Since we are not being given an image of God as loving in the New Translation itself (or loving only inasmuch as we are repentent people who realize their place), many people will find other more fulfilling and life-giving spiritual outlets.

But this doesn't have to be an end for everyone. This doesn't have to be a straw that breaks the entire back of having a faith, even a Catholic faith. We know the values the Gospel promotes in social justice and concern. We know the love God has for people, even those with whom God disagrees. Our challenge in these times is to be that love, even in the midst of deep spiritual struggle, especially as our Mass becomes more distant and obscure from the belief in God which we have. But we can fight back, we fight back by the love we show and being knowledgeable about that love. Our experience of love and relationship is something that can never be taken away from us. Only by coming together can we fight the mentality of the Church authorities now. Also, only by coming together, can we really find the life God wants for us. The New Roman Missal is Armageddon for some, but not for us.

Armageddon Knight brings darkness to the field, but from that darkness comes new life. May our coming together bring new life, as it becomes more clear that our new missal will not. Please God may it be so.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Social Revolution Part 4: Fulfillment

Hello Readers,

Now, talking about fulfillment might lead one to believe that this is going to be a very individualistic post. However, the idea of fulfillment is extremely important if we're going to talk about transforming society. Also, fulfillment is something that can give life to the community or destroy it based on how one interprets what it means to be fulfilled. Therefore, we have to build a definition of fulfillment that keeps in mind the common good of the community while meeting individual people's legitimate needs.

To start building a definition of fulfillment, we need to engage the longing of people. An easy way to think about longing is to look at what people complain about most. Lounging about my environment the most common things I hear people complain about are about work, or about other people that are different/are causing problems. Therefore, this anecdotal example shows two enemies to having fulfillment in one's life: difference and stress. While there are many other problems to finding fulfillment, I want to focus on these two pieces to narrow our focus to something common in different populations.

Stress hinders fulfillment because it hinders people's ability to do the things they really enjoy. Some workload is because of the job itself, because every job has deadlines and things to meet so that productivity can occur. However, there is also stress people experience working from simply not enjoying the work they are doing. Since money and the economy is important to survival, people need to work to make their ends meet. Therefore, some people are in jobs that do not fulfill them. This leads to anxieties and lost hopes as people do not fulfill dreams they once had. These build as depressants and many people cope in different ways. When people do work they find unfulfilling, work loses its integration with the rest of people's lives, and as such, work is always seen as a burden, and everything else that goes on is more fun.

In some sense, this explains the life of a college student for many of them. College students work all week on homework, classes, student employment, activities, and stuff, and by Friday, students are exhausted. In the life of a student, this not a 9-5 task either. Classes & activities and stuff can go from 8am-midnight or later when thinking about homework. By Friday, students want care and anything else besides work, so they resort to various escapist activities from real life. Of course a similar model applies to people working dead end jobs. People work their jobs and then go home to do anything else (drink, do drugs, play D & D, etc.) However, this lack of integration cannot sustain people forever because it is built in a reality that is not real.

To continue to have a separation between pleasureable work and pleasureable play makes people feel broken from themselves. Work needs to get done, but we should do our best to be in positions where we can enjoy the work we do and feel like it serves the world in some way. If we can be drawn to deeper relationship and more connectivity with ourselves and others, then we can find more fulfillment in work, which in itself, leads to less stress.

The second thing that I want to discuss about hindrances to fulfillment is about difference. When we are in different situations, where there is a lot of change, or simply an existence different than what we are used to, it causes stress. A fear of difference can hinder fulfillment because it keeps people from trying all the crazy things they never dreamed of trying. Also, this fear of difference and standing out is engrained in our societal norms on many levels. Structures, organizations, and people in power all like the status quo, no matter how much suffering it may do to the majority of people. In these models, the elite also try to find ways to justify the status quo in saying that it serves a majority of the people, that these differences we perceive are inherent in nature and as such our societal/religious structures are appropriate for our world. And while I want to retain religious and civil structure as it is another means to serve the common good, we need to enable people to stand on their own and serve the common good and be themselves.

It's important to be oneself as one will never be happy unless she is herself. And if this means she feels the need to speak or act against important structural issues or problems in society, then she should speak and be enabled to speak. While we might not agree with everyone's formulas for making the world a better place, we need to enable people to be different so everyone can use his different gifts/charisms to serve the world. A fear of difference keeps us from each other and keeps us from being fulfilled, so the solution is to gradually build one's characters as one that accepts difference. How we start to accept difference is to realize that we are all different ourselves, and as such, "I" should act like a different person. Without standing on our two feet, we will never inspire the change we want to see in society, and we will not be able to lead others to find more fulfillment.

So where do we start? We have to start by asking the questions that inspire people to think about why they are doing what they are doing, and are people being fulfilled by what they are doing? The Why Do You Do What You Do campaign is an example of an organized campaign that is provoking some thought. To be really revolutionary, and really inspire change, as individuals, we need to do this for the people around us. Anyone, anywhere, can be a guide by listening and being willing to meet the other where she is at. We can ask the hard questions, and wait for the answers. Our mutual journeying as a people requires that we seek the betterment of the other, because we are responsible for the other that we perceive in our being-present-in-the-world. (Yes, I'm borrowing this idea from Heidegger. :) ). Part of being responsible for the other is helping the other be truly fulfilled and being a sacramental sign of that fulfillment, through various forms of love and care.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Social Revolution Part 3: On Gratitude

Hello readers,

Today there is a simple message which has many potential facets, but in the end stems down to one thing. Our society will only change if we are all more grateful from the gifts we receive from others (human and nonhuman.) Gratitude is defined as appreciating and being thankful for the gifts of the other.

The reason gratitude is necessary for change is because gratitude makes us more aware of our mutual relationship with all things. Thus, gratitude is a necessity for solidarity. Without gratitude, we are unable to connect to others on the deepest level as people remain at the level of appearances.

A deep level of connection with others though is really hard. Two main things hinder gratitude: fear, and our place of status. We're afraid of being grateful because it means three things: a) we can lose the gifts others give us, b) we can fear having responsibility for the other by building a desire to care, and c) we may not like the gift the other gives us. Also, we risk our status by being grateful, because our titles and labels for ourselves go away in relationships where we seek gratitude. What remains in these relationships is a mutual gift sharing between the people invovled in a particular relationship.

Finally, tips for building gratitude in relationships. First, get into activities where role reversal is encouraged. The idea here is to be in relationships where there is a mutual exchange of experience and there is not one person who is the teacher and one person who is the learner. (Note: this is a temptation in a lot of my relationships). Second, we have to learn to appreciate the gifts distant and different others can give to our experience for them being themselves. This will enable us to open up to others and help us love God and neighbor because we engage others where they are at.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Devil's Plot: How to Infest a Structure and Take the People

Note: While the ideas in this piece are my own, the style I'm utilizing is borrowed from C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters.

Outline: Step 1, Take advantage of external circumstances.

Seraphi: Incubus, come here.
Incubus: ehh... what is now Seraphi?
Seraphi: You have a new assignment, you need to work to destroy the church and bring all their souls to me, including the soul of the church.
Incubus: But Seraphi, that's hard, I don't like this idea. Can't I just take one soul and make it extra pure and dark, and dead for you?
Seraphi: No, no, no, it's the right time, you destroy the whole structure of the earthly church from within, (of course we can never actually deal with the eschatological church, but that's a battle for Satan to deal with.)
Incubus: Why is this the right time?
Seraphi: Because there's a sex abuse crisis going on in the church, and we can attack the souls of people in the church, and then that will corrupt the people outside the church, and at the same time we can attack the people outside the church with different demons as well.
Incubus: And you want me to attack the structure right?
Seraphi: Yep, attacking the structure, and the hierarchs of the structure is something you can do very well, plus since sex is part (not all, but of course she won't know that until she sees the situation) of the problem, it's perfectly appropriate that an Incubus attacks. (hehehe)
Incubus: Alright then, off I go, to deal with an attack on a structure at the right time.

Step 2, Make religious structure overvalue one thing and ignore the greater part of the common good.

Incubus: Seraphi!!! What are you thinking giving me this assignment? This problem has nothing to do with sex at all. All the people are complaining about power and stuff in the structure, and the priests that are having sex and doing stuff like this to children don't care about the sex either. They are getting away with the situation because they can. How am I supposed to make this worse? :(
Seraphi: Incubus, you're so impatient!! Don't you see that sex is the key to making this worse, even though the problem is not sex in itself.
Incubus: How do I make this worse? I mean look at the people, they already hate the Church and are having avid protests against teaching and authority.
Seraphi: You realize how insignificant of a problem this is in the long run don't you. (Especially because the Almighty has weird ways of engaging salvation, for as much as the Church talks about the Almighty being the only way, the Almighty has certainly taken a lot of souls in unexpected ways.) The real problem is when the structure and faith itself emanates evil and counteracts its own work. People disagreeing with the hierarchy really is a non-issue for me. Some of these people are more dangerous as they heal the brokenness of others and make the Almighty, church, and religion a safehaven. What really causes brokenness is if we can cause a hyper-reaction to something in culture, in this case the sex abuse crisis. (Of course the situation is really more complicated than just this simple hyper-reaction, but she can't really know that yet, she has to let experience hit her in the face. More importantly, the range of factors for any issue is infinite, but the souls of the people fighting really aren't important and for the most part aren't that dark to where I can allure them into darkness. The hierarchs, The hierarchs are more important right now.
Incubus: So basically, you want sex to be the hyper-reaction.
Seraphi: Hehehe, yes, yes, if sex is the hyper-reaction in the Church it will cause more issues of power (especially since we can convince the hierarchs to ignore the mystical connection in sexual practice that binds people together. Yes, people can screw up sex and hurt each other, but this bonding thing even outside of "marriage" connects people and communities, and then the Almighty comes and I can't deal with it all. That stupid line, "Where two or three are gathered, there am I in their midst (Mt)" sadly that's true even in sexual practice. The Almighty comes and connects people together with an opening of hearts. That's the key to a complete takeover of souls is to make people not connect with each other in any real way... Hooking up only does so much to corrupt the participants invovled because there's still that desire for real connectivity, and it only corrupts for so long too.)
Incubus: Seraphi, are you in your own head again?
Seraphi: Shut up Incubus, I'm plotting. But yes, use sex as a means to cause a hyper-reaction and work to build a message of faith that destroys community building. If we can do that, we're well on our way to capturing many people and making them wallow in our darkness.
Incubus: But how do I do that?
Seraphi: Make something about sex the perceived.... ah ha, yes connect all forms of sexual practice (in and out of marriage) connected to abortion in some way. If you can do that you demonize connectivity and this "unitive" end of marriage. Demonizing connectivity on a physical level will destroy it on deeper levels too. We can use this to disconnect the people and harm the common good.
Incubus: Seraphi has all the best ideas! :) Hehehehe We'll win
Seraphi: (ehh your enthusiasm is sickening, especially because satan hasn't found a way to deal with the eschatological church, all we can really deal with is the problems of the earthly church, and we've been doing this since the beginning of time. hmm...)

Step 3, Distract people with a non-issue, yet have authority abuse their power to shove something down a person's throat harming the common good more

Incubus: Seraphi!!! Argh! It was working so well. I got the hierarchs to care only about sexual practice and spreading that faith, connect everything in sexual teaching to not having an abortion, bringing this practice to the younger people, which harmed their vulnerability and relationships which was a fun effect, but now they're all bitching and complaining about Mass and translations, and abuses of authority. Waaaa!!! :'(
Seraphi: Incubus, you're insolent and you never stop. Don't you see how good this situation is for our purposes?
Incubus: Does Seraphi have another idea? :)
Seraphi: Of course I do, but step 1 of this idea is you have to prevent people from binding together against this new Mass translation.
Incubus: So, basically make them feel like there's nothing they can do and they're alone?
Seraphi: haha, you're actually learning, good work. But we can do a lot more with this plan. We can use this translation to make people believe all of their relationships will be like this one. In other words, if we can promote an irresponsible use of authority and overblow this problem, then we can extrapolate and cause people to lose hope in all their relationships.
Incubus: But isn't an irrresponsible use of authority something people actually should care about because bad leadership harms the common good. People seem to have this natural instinct to fight against bad leadership when possible.
Seraphi: Yes, but we can make people think all of their relationships are tyranny, including their relationship with the Almighty, simply based on how the hierarchs are acting. If the hierarchs shove something down people's throats (like a bad Mass translation, and yes this is God awful but we might as well use it for chaos), then people see this as symbolic of all of their relationships, because they are supposed to trust the clergy in their opinion. Since we've seen with the sex abuse crisis and now this Mass translation that they can't we're making the people lost in themselves. As long as we prevent the lights from speaking and building bridges, then our plan will be successful.
Incubus: You come up with all the best ideas Seraphi :).
Seraphi: (Hehehee, this is working perfectly. I'm so glad I thought of all these ideas, granted I've just borrowed them from the history of demons in different crises, like the Reformation for example, but so much of religious, salvation, and demonic history stems from power and sex. The worst part is, I still have yet to really deal with sex as a major demonic component. The hierarchs are the only real thing I've come up with to deal with this component because their talking against sex and touch and deep relationships leaves people alone and prevents the "where two or three are gathered")
Incubus: You're always stuck in your head Seraphi, you need to spend more time with me, and we can be wicked and spread misery together, isn't that what being together is all about for us demons. Spreading mischief and mayhem and creating a bad sense of adventure.

Step 4, Keep up the issues of sexuality and the new Mass translation as issues which cause people to look away from the common good, instead of at it. Subtle but important.

Seraphi: Incubus, I see you've come back, how's things on the surface.
Incubus: Seraphi, we have a problem, there are people starting to look toward the common good and build community and responding to our plan to make the hierarchs care only about sex and authority.
Seraphi: The Almighty! Of course the Almighty figured out what I was doing. (I guess this is part of that stupid eschatological Church thing with Jesus and the Spirit and whatnot.) Alright, for now we have to keep these issues of sexuality and the new Mass translation as signs of isolation up in certain sectors. We need to influence the hierarchs voices to be louder, more annoying, and more about dividing the community between lay and cleric. The more division the better, this will buy us more time.
Incubus: okay, so more time, but how do we get people to look away from the common good, these lights seem to be doing a good job of awakening people to the common good.
Seraphi: We have to discourage the lights by isolating them more, make them seem like pariahs, and invoke more demonic presence on them. If you can do that, the crowds will think they are crazy, and then we can attack the isolated people. But for you, first things first, we have to keep attacking the hierarchs and create a stronger defensive reaction. Pro-life = anti-abortion was a very effective mentality and we need to keep attacking here. We can overlook some of the younger people now, we have a few years before they see what's going on (stupid postmodern Europeans being so open to God and making sense. Caring and sharing and gift, argh!!! All these things strengthen relationships and open people to others, and these young people get this so well and) Incubus what is it?
Incubus: Seraphi, we have to attack now, there's more stronger light coming our way and we're in danger.
Seraphi: We both have to escape the base and get to the surface and become wolves in sheep's clothing.
Incubus: What do you mean?
Seraphi: We have to look exactly like the structure to continue our infiltration. Hurry before the lights radiate us as well as our base, make your armies invisible and prepare for the next stage of stealth attack. (All this time, we fought so hard to prevent relationship buildling. All the sex, all the authority, all the anti-abortion campaigning, it was all to prevent people from coming together so that we could take them from a place of despair. All I wanted was despair and death so people might have a chance to come here, we have to ignore the stupid Almighty and forgiveness and that kind of thing, but we had a chance to take out everything, argh!!!!!))


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Social Revolution Part 2: Gossip, Building Up, and Solidarity

Hello Readers,

In order for the world to change, we have to understand the importance of gossip and how much it contributes to a breakdown of society. To do this, we have to engage how societies are built on shame, how gossip binds cliques of people together, and finally how gossip gives us a hated other to build ourselves up. These three things though they feel good in the group setting do not contribute to an overall solidarity that embraces love of neighbor even those neighbors who are distant in any way (age, experience, etc). The end goal of this reflection is to engage the possibility of using language to build up the community and spread good rumors about people, and favorable parts of people's appearance (defined as the symbolic representation of the unseen self, and has physical, mental, and spiritual components.)

To start, we have to examine how societies are built on shame, both religious and political. Shame is a component of society because all societies have mores. Shame occurs when people are judgmental toward others who do not meet certain mores. For example, if someone does not follow a certain rule, such as not mowing your lawn in your boxers on a Thursday, then society will punish the person mowing the lawn by words, shunning, etc. It's important to note that shame while it can happen for laws, it moreso happens because people are different and do not follow unwritten rules of conduct. Examples would include someone who does not fit in a specific gender role set by society. Shame; therefore, is an important part of society for many people, because it tries to build and keep a status quo. However, shame cannot have a part in love, because it does not let people appear and be a mutual interface with each other in a communal experience.

Part of shame is gossip. Societies of people that have a status quo gossip about others who are not in their status quo. If I sit down on a bus and am not talking to anyone, most often I hear some form of gossip. For people in a society (read community), gossip is almost natural, because we either have to talk about the heretics and how they are destroying the world, or we have to talk about that weird stalker kid who looks creepy and might like me. We talk about the other so as to distance ourselves from the other. The other is the hated other who becomes the scapegoat for the clique to build themselves up. In this way, gossip builds community in a clique sense because common people that have a common status quo can spread bad rumors about people not in their clique. However, this is problematic as we don't learn from the other, and are not challenged by the other, if the other is not embraced in our arms, and loved like God loves all. The reason we need a larger community is because cliques break down, once the common theme of gossip is gone, and the community pleasure received from gossip is gone, these cliques break down unless something else happens to expand a friendship. In other words, the clique does not allow for an embrace of the unknown, and without the embrace of the unknown we can never truly love anyone, because we will only love their appearance as it is given before us.

So we see the problem before us. A clique and a status quo form because people like the appearance of a certain way of society and do not want to embrace the unknown. The opposite of this behavior is to have an openness to the other and seek to build up people and work to have solidarity with them. When we build up the other we are praising their appearance for the joy it brings us and the community. Positive talk of people's appearance is a good thing because it embraces a symbolic representation of an unknown and lets it flourish. For example, when we praise someone who has a strong appearance in caring or leadership, we're praising not just that role that a particular self/person (self keeps the mysterious quality I'm looking for in talking about this topic.) has in my life, but how that appearance extends into other relationships. In this way, praise offers gratitude to the other and elevates the other to inspire more service and love. Praise also puts us in solidarity with others because we are elevating others and embracing the unknown self. This allows our love of others to grow and helps us to grow past the clique and embrace real community as we can only love the unknown, otherwise we become too attached to appearances and our love becomes idolatrous and narcissistic.

In closing, we have to nuance our vision a little bit. There are people that do real harm to the common good, and to protect others from real danger is something we are morally obligated to do. But we have to discern the difference between real harm and existential discomfort. (Of course, these are not mutually exclusive necessarily but there is a difference between someone being weird and someone raping people.) Also, there are people that drive us crazy. Everyone has pet peeves and issues with others. We have to allow for outlets with close friends to help us engage people who drive us crazy. There's a difference between talking to a confidant about people driving you crazy and spreading rumors amongst a whole group of people where there is no expectation of silence. These things being said, our goal in solidarity should be to continue to grow more patient and more loving in the mutual interfacing we experience consistently with the world. When we love more and build up more, I think we'll find that less things drive us crazy, especially as we understand and gain solidarity with the people around us and far away...


Monday, September 19, 2011

"The Well and the Gravestone" by the Vespers

"Here lies the heart of me. Buried with an unmarked gravestone. No name just the dates you lived and died and now I want it back.
Always fighting but never seeing the way. Teach me how not to be afraid. (counter-melody: teach me to love again, to love again).
Take me down and let me see, the well that's full of bravery, and baptise me so I'll be free, to do the things I fear.
Always fighting but never seeing the way. Teach me how not to be afraid (counter-melody, teach me to love again, to love again).
Hiding in a filthy hole with a battered, bruised and blistered soul, we will laugh the day I'm whole and I'll finally see why I used to cry. Ooh ooh ooh ooh, ahhh, ahhh, ahhh
Always fighting but never seeing the way. Teach me how not to be afraid. Always fighting but never seeing the way. Teach me how not to be afraid. Once again, once again."

Heart break and loss is something that existentially shakes all people. However, some of the grace in heart break is that it has the potential to liberate people from fear. There is a need for grace in order to find strength to love again. When hearts break and people lose hope, there is a temptation for despair. This song is a great message to keep fighting and embrace the future hope that can come forth in times of suffering. This is a short meditation but I want the song to speak for itself.