Dispatches from Here (an infinite do-loop) (Help?!)

Posted: 14 August 2013 in Faith and Life

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?

(St James writing about 2000 years ago to an apparently fractious community. A community that sounds a lot like Here)

We all live Here now.

All of us.

“Here” is conflict, and I don’t mean the “constructive” kind—the iron against iron type that hones us and makes us more able to cut through the challenges of our world. No, I mean the child-throwing-a-temper-tantrum-because-I-can’t-get-what-I-want-NOW kind. St James goes on to answer his rhetorical question: the source is your own childish selfishness—you all want your own way.”

I said to my wife: “Everything I am associated with is coated with a thick layer of anger, hostility, finger pointing, personal attacks and… (I stopped because she was giving me one of those looks that I thought (wrongly) was like: “Here we go again with your whining.”)

“What am I doing wrong? Is it me? Am I causing this?”

And she looked at me and asked simply “you too?” and told me something she had learned from a reality-TV cooking show (who knew?!!)

It seems there is a “series” that there is a particular cooking show that has Australian, New Zealand and US “iterations”. Same show set in three different locales. A kind of weekly “cook off” is how I understand it. In the New Zealand and Australian versions the judges play a mentoring role and the contestants engage in cooperative problem solving. I guess there is still a “winner” but the drama comes from experiencing creative powers unleashed. In the US version the judges denigrate, hector and shame the contestants and the latter spew venom and wish death upon the competition (one contestant actually said she “hated” another one and wished her dead). Here, apparently, the drama comes from seeing who most effectively dehumanizes the other.

Here.

Here…

We trade in fear and our currency is hyperbole, ad hominem attacks, exaggeration and deception, boasts of expertise—the coinage of demons according to Stringfellow*.

I sat with someone just yesterday who knows of my passions. He sought to purchase my fear with an exaggeration. When I demurred he upped the offer with hyperbole and then tried to seal the deal with a dehumanizing attack.

Later, I met a friend with whom I work on local issues. He invested in my angst with deception and demoralization.

I left both encounters feeling weak from the realization that the shelves of our markets are bare save for the gaily packaged and always available fear. “But what will we eat?”, I thought to myself. How long can a one-commodity economy last?

Here…

We have no colors, only black and white. Ours is a binary existence in a Manichean corner of the metaverse. There can only always be just two paths and they are, and must be, diametrically opposed. And one must be evil (in an ultimate way) and one must be good (in an ultimate way). I wonder sometimes if the binary code that underlies everything we tap out on our phones and computers and pads has somehow infected our blood and made us all zeros and ones: incapable of yielding nuance any more.

In the local blogosphere, in the meetings I attend, in the organizations I help lead our choices are always reduced to two and “mine” is right and “yours” is wrong. But not only that… Because yours is wrong, you are wrong, and because you are wrong, you are the source of all that is holding us back from being right, and that makes you evil and you must be removed so that right can prevail and… you see where this goes. We have our rhetorical gas chambers on the edge of town and to them we ritually send one another.  Warming our righteous hands by the fires we feed.

I was in a meeting just last night in which the dualism on display made the room feel like the two dimensional planet in A Wrinkle in Time. And I felt ironed out as we methodically (and by now, predictably) sacrificed our mutual humanity on the altar of RightWrong (A powerful two-headed deity that continuously devours its own heads only to have them regrow. A deity that has claimed our allegiance in these parts).

And

Here…

We are all gods—all omniscient. We have power to know—to know(!) without any apparent doubt—the thoughts and motives of the hearts of our co-citizens. And in the courtroom of my individual consciousness I am not only prosecutor and judge but I also present all the evidence that I alone have gathered to the jury of myself. And I declare you guilty of acting as you do because of the blackness in your being. And it must be so because I have declared it so—because you are evil (because I am right—see above).

I started counting this week—in the things I read, in the conversations I listen to—I started counting until I lost count, the number of times someone attributed causality to a behavior of another. “She is doing that because she is beholden to X. He wrote that because he wants to line his own pockets. They just want power. He just wants to punish me. They do that because that’s the way liberals/conservatives think about things. She is doing that to prove she can win…”

And I am in awe. I mean, I can barely tease out the complex and competing motives of my own dark heart—even if I think real hard. But somehow Here we have the power to cut through the bone and marrow and get down to the essence of the reason (always just one reason—it can only be one and it must not be shaded gray—it must be black (see above)) that so-and-so did such-and-such.

And so I am stuck out Here.

The fear, the 0/1 “flatness”, and the exhaustion that comes from being that all knowing god is making it hard to get out of Here (I just, really, want to get the fuck out of Here). Less like a claw that entraps or a chain that binds Here is more like the clinging stink of that anaerobic organic matter that gathers at the bottom of the irrigation canals in the fields nearby.

Just to be clear, this is a cry for help.

This is a voice from ∞.

This is a dispatch from The Dark Tower where time is only ever a wheel…

*An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land

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Comments
  1. Sometime the most liberating and honest thing I can say to myself and others is “I don’t know”.

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