Everything we do has something driving it. Whether it’s sensible or not, even the most minuscule actions are an outworking of internal chemical, emotional, and spiritual reactions. Whenever I am at my parents house in Oregon, I open the fridge several times per hour, which makes sense when you realized that the last time I lived there was as a teenager. The metabolism has changed, the habits have not. Eventually, I realize that I’ve already persistence of desire, it turns out, will not make Twinkies appear out of thin air.
It’s silly, but also sad. My refrigerator liturgy isn’t just bad memory. In fact it becomes painfully obvious around the fifth or sixth time that I’m either bored out of my mind or lonely and looking for some sort of soul comfort.
“Why?” can be a depressing inquiry for anyone interested in maintaining a ‘positive self-image’ in and of themselves. But it is, I think, one of few questions leads to who I was created to be. Some might call it confession. I call it admitting the way things are, telling it like it is, a daily turning myself in.
But seeing something in ourselves can be difficult if not at times near impossible. As much as we like to tout self-awareness in our culture, we are horrible at seeing our own dysfunction while easily finding it all over those around us. It’s easy to point the finger at brokenness we don’t have and just as easy to miss or even justify our own dysfunction in others as a way of patting our ego. Desperate Housewives comes to mind.
An ancient and current philosopher put it best, "Why do you point fingers at specks of sawdust in your frenemies eye when you have a 2x4 in your own?" (My paraphrase).
The words cut. They aren’t just for 1st century Jews. Jesus spoke to a cultural context, but he also spoke to humans whom are, even within our respective cultures, a worn variation on a theme.
And the blindness isn’t only on the individual level. There is much that we as a nation can and do miss. As C.S. Lewis put it (If you’re skimming, I’ll put the highlights in bold):
"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books...Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"...None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them."
"Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction."
I need external sources of truth to hone (if not entirely alter) my internal vision.
I need people like, Louis C.K. who ran me through the grinder this weekend. I'll unpack it on Wednesday, but in the meantime here's the clip.
Warning: Some late night broadcast TV level swearing.