I have been writing a post for the past month that I kept on writing, deleting, and re-writing. It was going to be about racism, marxism, Christianity, freedom, all that stuff. Then I realized that there are many people out there with (relatively) huge platforms that are already expressing my opinions on the matter, and with much more eloquence and prudence than I can muster right now.
The news has made me a hot little potato. I feel like I wake up angry and go to bed anxious most nights, and very rarely from personal life matters. It just seems like everything sucks, but no one can agree on why it sucks and how to change it. In fact, ways i can think of to make it suck less would be used as evidence for many other people on how it’s sucking more.
What to write during such a time as this?
I have only one tiny positive thing to say or recommend during times like these.
Look people in the eyes
That’s right. The only bright spots I’ve had recently in the public domain have been when I’ve made eye contact with some stranger and shared a laugh about something. I had an appointment the other day and the attendant woman cracked me up with a raunchy story, and then I bonded with the front desk lady over how long higher-education degrees take and was able to give her a word of encouragement. These little brief flashes of positive human interaction bolstered my spirits and helped me have a little less deep disgust and dislike for the general population. ( keepin it real!)
I’m sure this will come across very naive and over-simplistic to many, but if it impacts one person then that’s good enough for me. If you are currently depressed/anxious/angry/all the bad things right now, I highly recommend limiting yourself to consuming any and all news (including “news” from social media friends) to 1-2x a week, and try to stop seeing all people as disgusting potential carriers of disease and look them straight in the retina. And I don’t know, maybe try to be kind or something.
We are all being squeezed right now. The harder you’re squeezed, the more of what’s deep inside you comes out in your words and action. That’s why we’re seeing a lot of fear, violence, hostility – it’s not new, it was there all along. Just hidden. But let’s try to be optimistic and assume that there’s some admirable, great qualities deep inside people, too. Especially if you carry the spirit of Jesus within you, may the light and hope that’s inside you come out!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why exactly I’m a Christian.* And I don’t mean I’ve been thinking about why “one” in the general sense would be a Christian, I mean why I have the faith. So, I’m not going to present a hole-proof outline of all the philosophical or historical arguments for Christianity. Those are important, but when it comes down to it… my reasons for believing are rather idiosyncratic, with a smidge of touchy-feely. But hey! I betcha if you had to break down specifically why you loved your bae specifically, you would get pretty touch-feely, too. So cool it!
Anyway, a large part of why I believe is the character of some of the people that I know who believe. Not all of them are perfect, and to be sure some of the people who I know are Christian – whether nominally or “for realz” is beyond me – are not particularly encouraging to my faith.
*But* there are some people who I just can’t not believe when I think about them.
1) They are smart. They can use logic. They aren’t overwhelmed by complexity. They can understand and consider the merits of opposing views even if they ultimately reject them.
2) They are wise. They use their resources appropriately, without crossing over into (paradoxically) self-aggrandizing asceticism. They frequently have and facilitate conversations that lead to reconciliation, instead of stubbornly and foolishly escalating every conflict that comes their way.
3) They are kind and joyful. When they smile at me, their eyes reflect the warmth straight from their lil’ cinnamon bun hearts. I always feel encouraged and more energetic after I talk to them.
4) They are good. I feel like “good” can be seen as a weak word, but it’s absolutely perfect for these people. It’s unassuming, yet solid.. and true. The output of their lives is just … good. Or put in negative terms, the output of their lives is NOT bad.
5) Their families thrive. I don’t know if I can emphasize this enough. There are so many people who are super impressive in various ways, yet the people who are closest to them – who are most affected by the day-to-day decisions of their lives – are miserable train wrecks.** But these people’s families are – although far from perfect – functional, balanced, healthy.
There’s probably more, but my attention span is wavering, and I’m the one writing all of this! My point is, all the 5 points above coalesce into a loveliness that makes me… long. Yes, long! I want to be like them. Not in a jealous, creeper way, but in a hopeful way. Seeing them live this way — inspite of our world being an absolute shoot-hole sometimes — is very bolstering. And lo and behold, what drives this sort of behavior? Well, they would say their faith in Jesus.
Now, I’m sure there are also some Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, etc. who are also admirable. So here we get into an phrase that is used ad nauseam in academic circles – neccesary but not sufficient. Good character is necessary, but not sufficient, for me to be open to hearing their world view. Does admiring someone’s character mean that I have to accept their entire worldview? No, I s’pose not. But it does mean that I will at least be open to listening to and considering their worldview, and find out what’s driving their amazingness. THEN I will also look into things like logical consistency, historicity, etc.
On the flip side, if someone is living a life that seems out of control, toxic, and damaging to the people around them, I don’t particularly care to hear their spiritual or theological musings. I may listen respectfully for a few minutes, but at the end of the day I’m kinda like, “It’s nice to know which underlying worldview makes you a jerk.” That may sound kinda harsh, but… amiright?!
Why I wanted to write about this is two-fold. One, it’s convicting. Am I living a life that is attractive to people, that they would even want to hear what I believe? Or are they thinking, “Yah ok, let me know when your Jesus helps you not be a self-absorbed a-hole.” Two, it’s clarifying. With all the worldviews and opinions being thrown around, sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed with which one(s) is/are true. My advice is to “clear the field” of ideas*** by focusing on the beliefs and claims of people that you actually admire and want to emulate. TRUST ME, there are so few that this will free your time considerably.
Alrighty! Go find yourselves people worth ‘mirin’! And Holy Spirit, help us be people worth ‘mirin’!
— EDITORIAL NOTES —
*It would be a lot easier for me if I wasn’t. Neuroscientists are not exactly impressed by Christianity. Also, dating would be much smoother. #sacrifices
**Not that everyone should be held responsible for all the actions of their children, spouses, close family members, etc., but if practically everyone close to you is in a state of chaotic self-destruction, that’s should be a huge, blinky-light sign that there is some sort of toxicity in your interactions. Conversely, if practically everyone close to you is flourishing like strong, well-nourished alabaster trees, it’s a perty good indication that you are creating environments that enable people to be their best.
***Remember I’m talking about general worldview / theological / spiritual beliefs and opinions. Obvs, someone with terrible character is quite capable of having brilliant insights into how brain networks interact to support memory, how isolationism affected the U.S. economy, etc., and their ideas on these sort of subjects may be worth considering. even if you want to punch them in the face afterward.