So recently I was having a bit of anxiety about something purely beyond my control and before I could come up with a good scripture verse to pull myself back to the present moment I thought of a scene from Star Wars Rogue One (if you’re surprised by that you don’t read this blog regularly enough).
The particular scene is where a rather monk-ish person who used to guard a temple has to walk across a very dangerous battlefield in order to complete a crucial part of a mission. The person is totally blind in the eyes but very brave and as he walks onto the field in the midst of heavy enemy fire he repeats the line that has become his trademark phrase during the entire movie “I’m one with the force the force is with me.”
Now I don’t believe in the force, just to clarify, it is something that exists purely as part of the Star Wars universe to me.
But I have something better than the force on my side. As a Christian, I’m one with God, and God is with me.
Being one with God is not to be confused with being equal to God in any way. The following scripture verse from John recording the words of Jesus should help clarify what I mean:
I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one,I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me (17 John 20-23).
Yet as I reflected on this simple truth I realized that I often forget in the midst of the vast (and ever increasingly consolidated) powers of earth that God’s presence has power and that His will reigns supreme and everlasting no matter what the opposition to it may be.
In truth, I effectively walk around with a force much greater than the force, but the question I couldn’t shake from my mind was: “why don’t I act like it?”
I get accused of being highly idealistic quite a lot.
It’s a fair accusation as I am highly idealistic. Due to my strong belief in Heaven, when I look at the world I live in I see ideals half realized. I see people longing to be loved and who I believe will be loved far beyond what they can imagine and well beyond what they deserve; because I believe them to be created by God who is love. I see purpose, promise and adventure behind what strikes others as common or even repulsive in its poverty.
But today I wanted to discuss a different sort of idealism, the political idealism that always sweeps around the presidential election season. Regardless of your personal politics, the quest for a political savior to single-handedly solve all the world’s problems by November the following year drives.me.crazy. Not only does social media make the process even more obnoxious, but the waves of idealism are too much even for me.
For starters, I can’t stand the “It’s Time for a Woman” President similar to last year’s “It’s Time for an African American” President. Would it be a cool and historic thing to have that happen? Most certainly. But do you know what I think it’s time for? Something cool, retro, and that the world hasn’t seen for decades and certainly not in my lifetime: a good president.
In my limited experience, American politics is a cross between a joke and a bad dream you can’t wake up from.
But it’s not just the establishment’s fault. Networks wouldn’t insist on showing those “debates” on T.V. if no one watched them. I never know who is more ambiguous, the voters or the politicians themselves. Most I encounter claim to want change but never talk about what sort of change or how to attain it. Instead, they all seem to prefer falling in love with the flowery rhetoric that requires no actual commitment because it’s easier than agreeing on an acceptable standard to determine what would constitute acceptable results/progress for any sort of change in the first place. Politicians can’t be held accountable if the people themselves give them nothing tangible to accomplish. Politicians won’t offer anything tangible because true change, true action, would risk alienating certain members of their voter base as it is impossible to please everyone.
If this weren’t true to some degree than Donald Trump would have zero appeal to voters as a candidate. While his idea to build a wall to keep immigrants may well be the worst, most un-American thing I’ve ever heard it is something tangible. Walls are either built or they are not. He doesn’t waste voters time talking about how walls are nice, or how walls work for some people but not others and how we need to respect all people’s opinions on walls.
And Trump is a frightening prospect because I don’t see any love or respect for anything other than himself and selfish men do not make good leaders. Neither do selfish women, in the spirit of equality.
But on the opposite end of the spectrum, the true inspiration behind this post was that so many on Twitter today were “feeling the Bern” and promoting him as a moral candidate by virtue of his pushing for a moral economy.
This is exactly the type of feel good rhetoric that makes me sad to be a millennial because we fall for it like the idiotic rats following the pied piper to their death because they were so enamored with his song. (That’s just one of my standard corny metaphors used to illustrate my point I do not mean to imply that Bernie Sanders would kill any millennials). “Feelin the Bern” is the perfect example of how everybody gets so caught up in their ideals, such as the vague notions of love and connectivity he promotes in his speaking engagements, that they lose touch with reality. He may have an eloquent message but I would rather be sold an honest truth than a pleasing lie. Because in spite of what the current culture would have you believe you can’t mandate morals. You can’t make a moral economy by forcing vaguely ethical requirements on corporations. The truth that no one wants to discuss is that you make a moral economy by making moral men and women and the unpopularity of this truth, I would argue, is directly tied to the fact that this job cannot be done by the state. And the reason that the state cannot do this is because it adheres to Enlightenment principals of liberty and a government neutral in matters of religion. However, the interesting result of that concept is that government tries to promote a morally good action divorced from a larger moral framework, and it ends up looking a lot like the cartoon below:
And it never works. Ideals are never realized and people become cynical because politics constantly promises more than it can deliver, and in my opinion that’s why all political people ever do is talk in varying degrees of hope and condescension.
Talk of how others should fix something, how others should change, how others should stop being ignorant in their love of Trump… In short, talk of how the world would be a better place if it was full of people more like themselves.
And I can’t stand it because this pride blinds to the only thing that has ever changed the world for the better: love. Yet this change they truly seek is not going to be dramatic, global, sweeping, or entertaining. It’s not going to have a bumper sticker or a benefit or a stage of any kind because none of those things have the power to change people’s hearts, which is the only way to make the world a better place.
What changes people’s hearts is when they say no to the world. No to the temptation to say something awful about their neighbors, no to crappy television, no to the temptation to pride and superiority, and yes to those brave and wild moments when they go out on a limb and actually love their neighbor even though it might be the opposite of what they feel like doing.
And my belief in this simple observation comes from the fact that I am a lifelong Catholic and was in a secular service sorority and, unlike vague political mandates, I have seen this method work time and time again. It is arguably the prime reason I am religious but not at all political because politics tells me to trust the power of the state whereas religion tells me to trust the power of God, and only one of those things has ever had the power to change my heart and open it up past my selfish nature to see in blazing color the needs of others. This may not have changed the entire world but it certainly changed mine and maybe my tiny corner of Pittsburgh is better because of it.
So now if I look remarkably calm in spite of the political mess we seem inevitably headed towards you can know it is because I’m not disappointed or even that surprised because I don’t believe in saviors.
So, as you perhaps gleaned from the picture above, I am not a fan of trite inspirational quotes.
I read a lot and I have to confess that there are certain articles and authors I have read that were recommended to me and have substantial readerships- and the writing is absolute garbage.
The style that gets to me the most is the one embodied in those cheesy lifestyle quotes like the one crossed out above. Media that glosses over life and makes it seem like the purpose of life is nothing more than to create a never ending series of enviable Instagram photos. And we measure success by this glossy materialism. Because “successful” people are the ones who manage to convince us that they live like that full time and graciously agree to share their “secret” as they spread their message “if you were just awesome like me you too could be awesome!” And people just eat this up like, “YES! This man is brilliant how shall we thank him for sharing his wisdom?” I mean, I can feel myself tearing up over that piece of profundity as I write.
But in all seriousness, to illustrate my point better I recently came across this delightful article about a man who made twenty-five million before he turned thirty. One of those internet start-up whiz kids from the sound of it. He has a very fancy, visually fetching promotion claiming to share his success story, but do you know what he doesn’t tell you? How he actually made his money or what his company actually does. Instead, he opts to offer advice that’s “transferable” to your life and your business. Gems like, “character is what makes a leader worth following.”
And he’s going to make even more millions from the millions he gets by encouraging the masses to become millionaires too!
And then he’ll humbly tell us that money and success isn’t the most important thing…
I suppose it’s a nice gimmick if you can get it, but this cycle drives me crazy.
I went through the cycle a lot as I was learning to blog because there really isn’t a secret to success, but everyone tries to market like they have it and can get you 100,000 readers overnight. It’s like they’re afraid of honesty, admitting that much of success is a matter of chance and nothing teaches quite like experience. And, while I’m happy this guy achieved his goals, I need a more substantial role model to meet my goals because they far exceed the world of business.
I guess what I’m saying is I suppose it bothers me because I’m a Christian and I’m used to ancient wisdom, not just empty phrases featuring feel good “life-pro” tips or shallow tales of successful businessmen who all look the same, but a genuine, life-altering worldview that gets perpetually more beautiful the more I discover it. And when I hear these watered down sugar shots of happy sunshine and instant success (like literary Red Bull) I can’t help but roll my eyes a little, because it’s like opting to stand ankle deep in the kiddie pool when you could be swimming in the ocean (or at least the adult pool with the diving board if you don’t like saltwater and sand.)
Maybe my lousy metaphors don’t do anything for you, but you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say there’s nothing quite like the real thing and these flashy imitations are a waste of your time. So don’t live, laugh, love. Live the life abundant, a life that comprises each moment of time and spans through all eternity. And live each moment well.