Thursday, December 27, 2012

After Christmas

On the night before Christmas Eve we went to see “The Hobbit”—the first of the three new movies set in Middle Earth. The movie was enjoyable, quite different from the book (even when following the book’s plot); but it the previews strike a different note.

I wrote in the last blog that God, the fundamental principle creating reality as we know it, is personal and loving. In the Christmas Eve Mass I saw again the true nature of our world—good, loving, greater than any weakness or failure within myself.

The previews to “The Hobbit” pictured another Reality than this. I don’t know movies well enough to remember what was previewed, but there was at least one common theme. In several of them, the world in some way or other was about to change or had changed—apocalyptically. The underlying nature of reality was revealed, and it was evil, chaotic, dangerous. The only hope for the protagonists lay deep within themselves, to somehow combat the chaos around them and forge a precarious existence.

It is an old theme—as old as the slaying of Tiamat by Marduk in the Ancient Near Eastern story from Babylon. Chaos is the fundamental reality, and life is always under threat.

We see the theme radically contradicted in Genesis, as the Spirit of God moves upon the face of the Deep. The Creator who is deeper than chaotic reality speaks into Chaos and brings order and peace and life.

So what? Do such things matter? I think so.

We have just endured unspeakable tragedy during the Christmas Season, senseless shootings in a school and at a burning house. Some might want to draw connections between the perceived moral decay of our country and the events of the past month. Such connections may or may not exist. Those who deny them “protest too much” (in Shakespeare’s well-known phrase). Those who espouse them seem to think they can see deeper into reality than anyone can see.

No such connection can be demonstrated; but the cultural milieu in which events occur is one source for those events. No, we do not find the significance of the themes of hope and despair in such perceived connections.

Rather I look at the way that I—or anyone else—might act based on my view of reality. If I believe that the fundamental nature of reality is chaotic and dangerous, and if I believe that the only real hope lies in my own ingenuity and effort, then I will not do many other things that are constructive in building society. I will not trust government, for example: I can trust only myself. I will assume that anyone who not representing me directly is working against me. Conspiracy theories and mistrust of others are natural responses. These responses are destructive of life in any healthy society.

If, on the other hand, I believe that the fundamental nature of reality is good and loving, then I will live in a quite different way. I will treat others as though they may be good, reserving suspicion and mistrust for those who earn it. I will act on the basis that good will always triumph in the long run. Evil never wins; Good always wins. Therefore I can dare to be good.

Further, if the fundamental nature of reality is good and loving, then I choose to be good and loving. Pessimistic and suspicious though I am by my own nature, I choose to live by the deeper reality that broke through with the trumpets and organ and timpani on Christmas Eve.

The difference between these two fundamental outlooks on reality matters a great deal. I invite others to join me in hope, whatever the surface of your reality looks like.

No comments: