Bad things are going down all over God’s disintegrating creation. Police shootings, racist politicians, violent oil companies, suffering refugees, melting icecaps, hostile walls, disappearing animals, oppressed minorities—it’s dizzying, and it collapses down on my flame.
Have you noticed, though? The dark tactics of the ‘principalities and powers’ have changed. In one age, not too long ago, the tactic seemed to be concealment: to hide the enormous amounts of suffering, and to keep us all naive to the woes of the world, so that we might mind our own business, and might focus on things like personal growth, and spirituality. It was only a handful of weekends ago that we could easily convince ourselves: the world isn’t so bad.
But now the tactic seems to be the opposite. The switch has been flipped, the valve has turned. Every citizen has now been issued a megaphone, and they shout, all day and all night, a never-ending litany of terrible woes. They’re all ‘raising awareness’ and strong-arming us for support and allegiance. It’s like being surrounded by a gang of possessed gargoyles, with the red eyes and foggy snot, and they encroach upon me with their superhuman psionic powers, tugging on my psyche like diabolic vacuums. We’re shocked, offended, enraged, at all hours of the day, and it soon becomes difficult to convince ourselves: the world isn’t anything but bad.
The ‘bad news’’ is immediate and constant. And that’s what’s so devious about the tactic. It exhausts our empathy, fatigues our compassion, and overwhelms our critical thinking, until some fragile point when our hearts callous and we give in to apathy. I mean, it’s so tempting, isn’t it? I’m just one person, and the woe is so great, so why even try? Oh, and virtuous things, like learning self-control, fighting the urge to take vengeance, resisting gluttony, and learning reconciliation, float way up above the surface—they seem so irrelevant, don’t they, when we’re this deep in the echo chamber of the world’s atrocities?
I’m only responsible for myself, of course. I’m not responsible for the world. But this leads to a nauseating conflict: How do I stay loyal to my responsibility to myself without becoming simply self-centered? After all, a big part of personal wholeness has to do with contributing to the wholeness of others. But to what extent? And, perhaps, if I devoted myself to the development of my own virtue, maybe that would be, in the long run, the most other-oriented thing I could do. Or maybe it would just lead to more self-centeredness and self-righteousness.
And it’s tough for me because I’m the guy with the clown shoes who wants to relieve the terror with laughter. I’m the guy who wants to examine the logic of the empire to unveil the absurdity underneath. I’m the guy who chases down the monstrous roaring in the distance to expose the feebleness and harmlessness of the actual ‘beast.’
But right now none of it is funny, and all the monsters are real.
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