Archive for January, 2014
There are moments in life that all people reach where homage is paid to Murphy and we realize the fit has hit the shan. These times are unavoidable and although circumstances may be different, the idea of human frailty is so ingrained in humanity it will probably be found in the genome mapping one day. Whether or not the circumstances are our fault, bad things happen to everyone. Whether we attribute them to random chance, Darwinism, a maniacal deity, or a mischievous embodiment of destiny, they happen to everyone. When they happen, we reach out to those around us for help.
A popular response in modern Christendom to seeing someone in these types of circumstances is to tell them “I will pray for you”. This statement of good intention is meant to offer emotional support and provide hope. Admittedly, it is problematic. There are several factors that determine its value. Will the person actually pray? It is easy to feel for someone when they are in pain but too often Christians will say this and not do it. Simply put, this is repugnant. If you say it, do it. If we do pray then, are we praying for what we should? If we are just throwing it into our prayers as an afterthought and telling God to “fix it”, maybe we should reconsider what we are doing. If we are presenting the idea that prayer is something that brings attention to God about something he missed, we are misleading people and devaluing God. There is a huge responsibility people are taking on when they say this; if we do a poor job we are responsible to God for that.
With that said, I wonder about other things I hear when these circumstances occur. A popular counter from outside of modern Christendom is to offer positive thoughts and energy. Ok, I get it that our PC world is avoiding the concept of prayer and some people would truly not appreciate being told or even asking for prayer. I respect that. But what is the value of positive thoughts and energy? What does that even look like? A person sits in their home and thinks about positive things and a person in trouble at the same time? I get the idea that positive outlook and lessoned stress on a person who is ill is healing in many ways. I get offering to help that by not loading stress on them and helping remove stress from them. But how does that relate to “sending positive thoughts”? “Hey, I just sent a thought mail of a picture of a puppy”. I am not trying to be overly sarcastic, but saying this because we feel helpless is worthless and misleading. How does positive energy work? What does that do for a person? We are concerned that mentioning prayer and God is bad but we feel that bringing up the concept of a universal tank of positive energy that we can psychically link to and make deposits for others makes sense? Isn’t that how Tinker Bell was saved in Peter Pan?
When I pray for a person, I am connecting with the creator of the universe and specifically asking him to change the physical nature of the universe for somebody else’s well being. I am telling him I care enough about of the person who I am praying for to want God to intervene and I am doing the best I can possibly do for that person by doing this. It is a very real action. If a person does not believe in that or want that, I respect it but that does not change the reality of what I am doing. Offering someone positive thoughts does nothing regardless of the intentions of the person.
How is stating something that makes no sense better than telling a person you care enough about them to offer them hope. If a Hindu offered to pray from me I would not be offended. I do not believe that Vishnu will fix the problem but I understand that that person was offering the best they could for my bad circumstances. If we are unwilling to accept or offer prayers due to person beliefs, we are telling the people who offer them or need them we care more about our sensibilities than their concerns.
Regardless of personal beliefs, positive energy is like offering a person who is bleeding a happy word rather than a band aid.
I was in a Del Taco several years ago and saw an elderly woman at the counter ordering food. As I got in line I overheard the conversation with the clerk. There was something the clerk had missed in the order and the elderly woman was going over the order again however she was becoming very frustrated because of the mistake. The clerk repeated the order back and the woman stopped her abruptly at the missed item and said “No, I wanted two burritos and four tacos. Don’t argue with me. I have been ordering Mexican food since before you were born!”
This somewhat comical statement brought out a sad notion in our world today. There is a not so subtle intrinsic belief that “We are right and everything else is wrong”. Our justification of this stems from a philosophically flawed argument that truth in and of itself is a variable. If we can redefine truth, we will always have truth on our side. This provides the ability for even opposing views to both be seen as right. The flaw is simple; one cannot equal two no matter how much we wish it so. At some level there needs to be absolute truth to act as the baseline. Rather than risk the chance of being called wrong by comparison to that baseline, many people choose to accept the argument without addressing the flaw. This breeds the larger problem of feeling we are right and thereby continues the birthing process to an even larger danger for the world. That danger is “Entitlement”.
I have the right! I am empowered. I am strong! I am able to make my own decisions! These phrases sound similar to those coming from a four year old at bedtime as well those coming from some four year college campuses. Even if we are right, empowered, strong, and capable, we are not inherently entitled. The ability to do something does not give us the right to do it, especially when it is regarding something that is truly a privilege. But that is not what society teaches. As we crawled from the primordial ooze we somehow pulled ourselves up and caused our own evolution and are better for it, we came out of the cave and foraged through the muck of responsibilities and reached a self centered conclusion that somehow privilege is actually a right.
On New Year’s Eve, a lesser known actress became a better known actress. Natasha Leggero made a poorly chosen comment stemming from a poorly worded Campbell’s Spaghettios add via Twitter. Campbell’s add appeared to make light of the invasion of Pearl Harbor. They responded with an apology almost immediately. Leggero’s comment made fun of the veterans of that day and their age. It was in extremely poor taste, poorly timed, and something that was very disrespectful to the veterans that survived that day. Since that comment her celebrity status has increased mainly due to the amount of hateful responses. I read through several responses on a website and they ranged from death threats to pornographic projection mostly centered on vulgar statements about her lack of intelligence. Her view is that she was entitled to make the comment. The responders view is that they are entitled to their hate speak. The reality is that they are both wrong and both filled with the fallacy of entitlement.
There is a moral grey line in comedy that sits between acceptable and offensive. Comedians push the limits of that regularly to gain fans. The morality of it cannot be defined here but the question of whether it is a privilege or a right can be. Legally we may have the right to say something but do we morally have that right? Does it make it okay just because we declare ourselves entitled? Where is the line between right and responsibility? Is it acceptable to offend or hurt others so we can feel better about ourselves or for that matter make money just because our current understanding of the first amendment says it is legal? Her comment was intended to be funny. It was not and it came across as mean spirited. It would be similar to joking about a lung cancer patient having problems breathing. The responses to it however were horrific. People were alluding to her death and desires to rape her. They were offended or hurt by her comments so they felt entitled to offend and hurt her. Where is the reality check here? Have we raised the level of entitlement so high that a person with a computer and an internet access now has the right to profess ideas that should never be thought because they were able to sign on? Where does it end?
If people go through their lives absorbing the problems around them and not finding true resolution, there will always be a time where they are fed up and feel entitled to their moment. It may manifest itself in disrespectful comments to a psychologically damaged internet posts in response or even to a woman screaming about ordering tacos. If we do not realize that life is a privilege and not a right, and that we are responsible for our choices, and that the only way to fix bad ones is to actually fix the problem and not the blame, we will never find peace. Settling for approximations of peace and holding tight to our legal rights is a good way to a bad end.