(Sunrise over the Broadwater, near my home)
Early morning. A coffee cup stands before me. I'm in an expansive, live and let live, mind frame.
It seems the more I learn, the less I know. I guess I'm on a journey, . . . I suppose. Looking to make sense of things that don't make sense; trying to touch bedrock in a patch of quicksand; to establish my bearings in a world that has more puzzle than plan for me.
I used to be addicted to digital news media; especially to the reader feedback comments they invite. I have even been known to contribute a few myself. The battle of ideas fought on a sea of high drama. It's all there! At least, that's what I used to tell myself.
I see the whole enterprise differently now. If you're lucky, you come across a dash of grace, a smidgeon of empathy, or a worthwhile insight in reader comments here or there, but they're few, and nearly submerged in a swamp of abuse, derision, ignorance, tribalism and prejudice.
Don't leap to any conclusion! I am not taking a partisan stance. Right wing, left wing, conservative, progressive, anarchist, or whatever: There are few of any persuasion whose commentary rises above the smug, the ugly, the patronising, or the fatuous. (If you're a contributor and you feel slighted, well what would I know?).
I'll admit I have become quite disillusioned by politics and politicians. I no longer trust that many know what they're doing or have solid principles to guide them. The cynicism with which politics is done disgusts me, and the level of self interest I see frightens me. There, I've declared a possible conflict of interest on this topic!
There's got to be a better way for political ideas to be shared and contested. There's got to be a better way to approach life, I'm less and less interested in what divides us. I am more and more interested in building bridges. Continuing to dash ourselves against walls of ignorance and prejudice is just stupid. It is also futile.
With all this in mind I watched a webinar presented by Richard Rohr (Center for Action and Contemplation) yesterday. He is a person who, while I don't always embrace everything he says, has some insights. One yesterday resonated clearly. It goes something like this:
Human history is chock full of 'them and us' attitudes. Humans naturally team up together against those they see as outsiders. This gives them a sense of identity and security, but it also brings with it inevitable cycles of conflict, violence, and destruction. According to Fr Richard (a Franciscan priest) there is a way to break these cycles. We must stop creating 'outsiders'.
Is our tendency to mistrust outsiders and separate ourselves from them stronger than our preparedness to trust and include them? If I could overcome this tendency, what would happen? I fear I know the answer, and fear even more that I might be part of the problem.
It's all very good for me to say what I have just said, but its implications are radical and they scare me. Removing barriers and including outsiders would leave us at the mercy of their intentions. Do I really want to invite all who want to come to enter my country whether or not they can contribute or share my values? Do I really want to give out my address to all and sundry and leave the house key in the door? Do I really want to love strangers unconditionally as I love myself?
Where have I heard that before? Love others as you love yourself. Father Rohr says, 'why not?'. As you break down the barriers and look at others differently, you stop caring about yourself so much. Love is what it's all about he says, and I suspect he is right.
All well and good to love without limit, but in a world where the 'others' almost certainly will not love me back (at least not straight away anyway) that seems to demand self sacrifice; and almost certainly self destruction.
That was and is the way of Jesus. I understand that. What I have only recently begun to understand is how radical and scary the way of Jesus really is.
So, live and let live? Certainly! Work on dismantling the 'them and us' barriers? Yes, I see why I must do that.
Walking across the divide with open arms and defences down? That would leave me open to the opportunism of others who don't understand that love is the only way. It would ultimately cost me my life, as it did Jesus. I don't think I'm brave enough to follow through.
So where does that leave me on this beautiful winter morning? The more I learn, the less I know. That's a hard thing for me to accept.
1. a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.
2. a self-contradictory and false proposition.
3. any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature.
4. an opinion or statement contrary to commonly accepted opinion.