There have been various studies done on particular calamitous events to see how people responded to the crises, like in the sinking of the Titanic, and it seems that there are generally three categories people fall into. But in reflection of the series of terrifying current events I would like to add a fourth.
It seems that the main reactions to a disaster are: to panic, to ignore the problem, or to react reasonably to actually find possible alternatives to the situation. I would like to add - an absorbing fascination with the horrible details.
In our culture today we are faced with a nearly constant flow of calamitous events in the form of wild shooting sprees, bombings, natural disasters, international instability and an overwhelming debt which has done a great deal to punch holes in the fabric of our future. All these events, reported on regularly through every media source available from main stream media to face-book and blogs, has made sure that hardly anyone is unaware of the current reality of pain and suffering all around our land. Most of us are not in the middle of the immediate situation, we are mere by-standers watching with horror events which we can do little to change. Yet, if we pull back from the t.v., computer, or radio we can get a larger picture…in fact we can come to the rather obvious conclusion that we are all on board this particularly troubled ship in turbulent waters.
So what can we do about it? Well, if we act like the majority of disaster victims of old, we can do one of two things; we can panic and run around blindly fearing for our lives seeing danger in every shadow…afraid to go out in public and terrified of every stranger or we can ignore the problem and pretend that this is just one more terrible event in a world full of terrible events and its nothing to get worked up about. And I would add my other possibility – we can become obsessed with watching the details with horrified fascination…kind of like the guy on the sinking ship who keeps shouting out with the precision of a court reporter..hey, the water is over my feet now, over my knees, over my chest….
But rather than go back and catalogue the recent string of shootings and now the advent of bombings I suggest we pull back…not from our sympathy and sincere concern for those who have suffered so terribly for it is in that very concern that we make any reflection meaningful…but rather we pull back long enough to get a view of what is actually happening here. We need to ask the question, why? Why are kids taking up guns and shooting their families? Why are disgruntled young people blasting away in a movie theaters, in schools…in any place? Why are there so many young suicide victims in a world of abundance?
If I was to take a look at our culture in a broad way – say I was an alien from outer space and just happened to stop in for a look-see…I might notice some general trends. One, we are an affluent world materially speaking…certainly over flowing with more material wealth than in any age of humanity gone by. We are also a very connected society…we have communication resources never dreamed of in the past and thus we live in a very small world - in a manner of speaking. Yet despite all this abundance and all this connectedness we have results which look very much like they spring, not from abundance or connectedness, but from the desolation of utter poverty and the isolation of terrible loneliness.
We do have abundance, our alien friends would probably affirm this about us. We have stuff…lots and lots of stuff…but do we have our own minds? Do we know our own souls? As I have said in earlier blogs…I have to wonder about our society’s loss of creative spirit. Have we lost the ability to become more than owners of stuff and managers of our technological accomplishments? Have our things become our masters and are we sacrificing our best selves to our tools? When I think of a medieval poet or painter I realize that someone like Michaelangelo spent much of his life with the bare necessities. But yet he was one of the most “alive” men that ever lived. He thought and pondered and he created fantastic beauty in a variety of venues; painting and sculpture for public, religious and private use…because he had it in him to respond to that inner call. He BECAME more than he was because he developed the artistry of his human soul. How many of us have been intimidated by our technological assistants to think that anything we create by hand is no good…amateurish and thus worthless. But can a machine, can any technological tool, respond with empathy? Can they ponder their existence? Can they strive to perfect their souls? Can they love? Can they desire God? I submit that despite our outward wealth we are a very impoverished society and we see it in our children. We shall be known by our fruit. Our young people are disabled by never having what matters most….the command to go out and be fruitful. They don’t need to BE anything…other than the owner and arbitrary user of tools that can do the business of sustaining our livelihood better than we can. Frankly, I wonder if our alien friends would shake their heads at us and wonder if we have lost ourselves in our mountains of wealth.
Secondly, when I look at the mass murderers of recent days I see isolated souls…not because no one cared for them…but because they did not care. The recent media silence about the abortion doctor who killed the babies he delivered (and all the horror there-in) and the repercussions of a furious society which said that he should never have done what he did and that we should notice these things…is anemic when we look at the fact that we have been slaughtering our babies for over forty years….in the womb…out of the womb…now we are just seeing kids take the next step and slaughtering who ever happens to be in their way. After all, the abortion industry is built on the notion that what I perceive as my need is more important than an innocent life. The isolation of not being able to feel the pain of a baby being poisoned, burned or torn apart seems to bear directly on the reality of a society which is murdering itself…because some people do not care about others. They do not know the command…Love as I loved you. They do not know or believe in self-sacrifice or offering up personal pleasure for the good of another because they have been taught in schools and movies, games and toys that self preservation, self fulfilment is everything.
So, we continue being fascinated by the horrors which occur on an almost daily basis. And the only question we seem to ask is: “What next?” Yet we are ON THIS SHIP and by cataloguing the horrors, by noticing the terrifying details, by being paralyzed by fear, by driving ourselves into insensible distraction…we do nothing to float the boat. We look at the boat and we feel the water around out ankles and we cry out but we know we are too small…to weak…and completely unprepared to right this ship. Yet there is One who can. But He does not make us slaves with no will. He gives us our daily choice along with our daily bread. What will we do to bring life back to the living and hope back to the despairing?
May we turn back to the God who made us with love to become alive and to know, love and serve each other as we prepare for the ultimate voyage…one our alien friends might even want to take…to that Homeland where we are truly connected to Life and Joy. But first…we must right the ship.