22 diciembre 2010

with pathos, this time! (a letter to Rebekkah)

Author's note to textual eavesdroppers: Rebekkah needed a letter written to her because compassion is a given, a hallmark, an essential in both her occupational and religious professions, and yet is only sporadically visible in her life. So, let us begin. You are welcome to come along, if you're one of those interesting individuals who likes to read people give it to themselves...

Dear Rebekkah,

Compassion, to feel/suffer with, is not just observing someone in pain or in a hard time. You know that. You might protest that to will feelings and to co-suffer is a bit hard and certainly not your spiritual gift or leadership strength, so let...er... us try to break this down for you. Baby steps, shall we?

Compassion starts with seeing the difference between where someone is and where that person "should" be. After "seeing" the discrepancy, compassion moves to indignation with the status quo. Compassion mature is a rebellion against inertia. It is recognizing that reality left alone is bad. Fully conceived, compassion is a decision to stop and alter the normal flow of events.

Compassion on the multitudes because they are like sheep without a shepherd, and they should be sheep with the Shepherd.
Compassion on the foodless, fasting multitude following Christ because they should lie down in green pastures and have the Lord break their fast.
Compassion from the king toward the debtor servant because a man and his family should not be sold for something so easily forgiveable as money...

Compassion starts with objective reality processed mentally, not necessarily affectively, you'll be relieved to hear. Emotions are kind of a byproduct of the observation/ analysis process. And actually, before the data-taking comes the vision of how reality "should" be. You're an idealist. You like that sort of thing.

Compassion for prostitutes on the streets because... they should be at home being faithful wives and loving mothers.
Compassion for exploited, vampy, hyper-sexual teenage girls because... they should be protected and pure, full of life and light and fullness of joy.
Compassion on those mocked because... we're all mockable, and we all should have a break - permission to be human.
Compassion on the friendless because... no one should be alone in such a weary world.
Compassion on the lost because... they should be Christian! Such things that make for their salvation...! They were invented-- this world was invented!-- for them to be Christian.
Compassion on the child who constantly misbehaves because... he should not be perpetually exposed to shame. He should know the happiness of being good.

Makes sense, yes? Now, let us discuss the friends and enemies of compassion.

the friends and enemies of compassion:

You cannot have compassion without ideals. It needs (as your Abolition of Man-y fact/opinion lesson plans put it) "value language." Shoulds and oughts, betters and bests, good and right are indispensible. The first thing to do is to learn to think "should" without qualifying your statement. To have compassion, you must also kill your insufferable fatalism [obviously, i've imitating my boy chesterton. that adjective could have easily been "bloody" or worse...] and believe that reality can be different than what is. Not only different, but better.

Consequently, cynics will consistantly NOT display compassion because they have grown accustomed to the bad, expect the worst, and find "better" improbable.

To show compassion requires not only ideals but also courage. Thusly, cowards will not show compassion because compassion involves risks, opposition, and possible disapproval.

Compassion worth showing needs good philosophy, true religion, and all the right "shoulds". Self-pitiers cannot be compassionate because they have a bad "should": If they have to suffer, so should others. The self-righteous skimp on compassion (and it's mother, gratitude) because good is calculated as a reward rather than a gift. The selfish lack compassion because they see goodness like a pie that if shared will leave them with less.

The ignorant cannot conceive of compassion because they do not understand the magnitude of the difference between the way things are and the way things should be.

The lazy will not display compassion because the law of inertia demands action by an outside force, and they have no force.

Yes, those lazy, ignorant, self-pitying, selfish, etc. uncompassionate them!
Alright! So we still have not resolved how to move you, Rebekkah, from bicentennial waves of compassion to a more consistant sort of Christ-likeness, although we have isolated some possible factors in the retardation of said process...

ahh. Christ-likeness. Being like Christ. Selah.

Does He have anything to do with it? Do we get to drag Jesus into the discussion? So glad you asked...

Let us forget you for a moment and remember why Christians traditionally cannot get over Him:

...because not only does He have compassion on the pitiable leper, the sad prostitute, the adulterous woman, the hungry multitude, but He has compassion on

the cynical,
the cowardly,
the self-pitying,
the self-righteous,
the selfish,
the lazy,
the uncompassionate!

in short...
on those of us humans who are

(and, oh, Rebekkah. if we as Christians and you as an inhabitant of this earth do not adequately portray that, may both God and the world forgive us... because our sin is worse than we thought.)

Freely you have received; freely give.

So you try to be a disciple of Christ... pues, start taking notes.
Observe (worship), analyze (worship), imitate (worship) His compassions on us.

according to Him,

We should not be orphans, but sons of God. We should not perish but live forever. We should not be enemies of God, but friends. We should not be aliens but family. We should not be hopeless, but expectant. We should not be Godless, but full of Him. We should not be lost, but found. We should not be sitting in squalor waving filthy rags, but bowing, singing, feasting in robes of righteousness. We should not feed on slops, but eat at the table God Himself has laid for us.

We should not be profane, but sacred.
Not liars, but prophets.
Not guilty, but innocent.
Not abandoned, but adopted.
Not despairing, but of great cheer.
Not insane, but of a sound mind.
Not oppressed, but seated in the heavenlies with Christ.
Not strangers, but citizens.

...and certainly not cynical, cowered, self-pitying, self-righteous, selfish, lazy, hard-hearted ingrates.

...but hope-giving, triumphant, compassion-showing, God-thanking, self-forgetting, all-things-to-all-people imitators of Christ who make many rich.

You know, Christians. Not mere mortals, but little Christs.

He is an idealist. He might have some suggestions for treating your compassion-deficiency disease...

Very sincerely yours,
Miss H.

04 diciembre 2010

thoughts after THE HIDING PLACE

thought one: from comments on this article

“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren,
boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous,
intoxicating. Therefore, ‘imaginative literature' is either boring or immoral
(or a mixture of both). It only escapes from this alternative if in some way it
passes over to the side of reality through the power of art - and only genius
can do that.”

~ simone weil, on literature and morality

[man, i wish i had that quote back my freshman year when my engl. prof was telling me about the innuendos in Rossetti's poems... makes me think of manalive, so very un-believable, but with much truth.]

thought two: the day after watching The Hiding Place, against my will.

i don't like suffering. like, really not one of my favorite themes, though i seek to be a Christian. it's one of those "difficult sayings" for me. i have a very superstitious dislike of writing or thinking much about these things. i was reluctant to watch the film because, well, i knew what it was about.

later, i was glad to have watched the movie. it is the most subversive thing. so true. very Christian. so opposite of the values of any other film we could have watched... the heroines were in their fifties. they were husbandless and happy. "you two talk all the time about love... i bet you've never even had a man!" they were not beautiful, especially in prison. their family really was righteous. their subversive activity came from devotion, not adrenaline. they were not cool, but they were unconcerned. good and evil were clear cut, but right and wrong (ethics) were not. it was not an easy film, but the movie was worth the tears.

it was very thought provoking, especially regarding theodicy, but i do not feel i have the right to opine on the issue. maybe after i've suffered...

thought three: on ugliness, modernity, and femininity in the movie

on these, i might opine a bit.

i was struck by the ugliness of the concentration camps. that seems so very superficial. but it was all rusted metal and squares and gray and brown and cold... and that was part of the problem. the inmates were constantly dehumanized, and the ugliness was as much a part of that process as anything.

the modernness of it all. the trains and boxcars and intercoms and roll call. the forties really weren't that long ago. the women... how liberated! to be able to be guards in a prison: that is equality! but the equality was to be as equally brutal as men, when my gender's... what to call it.... "sentimentality" is, i believe, a means of grace in a brutal world. it was disconcerting how unlike women both the guards and the prisoners were, even in skirts. they fought for clothes and bunks. they hurled racist slurs at one another. they pushed machinery and sorted metal. they whipped. they stole. they hated. they bribed. when "German whores" come to the camp, the women in the barracks yelled that there was no room for them. none were given the liberty to be women because to be woman is not a category on an identity card. it is to be human, particularly, personally, not as a subdivision of the animal kingdom.

to keep their sanity, or maybe just because prisoners must do something, some read the Bible. some prayed. but one also explained art techniques, and others discussed intricacies of a certain score of music. they argued over ingredients in a cake recipe. an otherwise hardened ex-midwife stole vitamins to care for the unborn baby of one prisoner. their acts of femininity were acts of humanity and the most rebellious thing they could do under the circumstances.

the unborn child of one of the prisoners was dangerous. if the administration had known, she would immediately have been sent to "experimental." (babies and mothers as fodder for experiments. this is modernity, folks. never would have been possible in those deep, dark middle ages.) for her to bring the baby to life would require an intervention from God and a hiding? a protection? from all the evil opposing the child's existence.

last thought:
children and are intolerable to satan becuase the birth and life of every child declares the existence of a good God. in a beautiful, selfish, ravaged world, children are the most beautiful and "otherworldly" thing we know. atheism seems plausible where there is no beauty and no children. thusly, satan would love the whole world to be ugly and adult. beauty and children are God's domain.