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Monday, April 21, 2014

The Broken Identity

I hope everyone had a joyous Pascha!
As for me, I am still recovery from a 'near death experience' after someone spilled olive oil on the wood floor of the altar (particularly around the steps at the deacon's door) and then thought that wiping it into a circle with a paper towel was an appropriate response.  While I did not utterly fall, I twisted my knee trying not to and that had its own joys.  As if my arthritis wasn't enough.
So, I got a wonderful opportunity to fence with my mind through the remaining hours of Holy Week and Pascha.  Forgiveness takes a while, and is a lot harder when you bear a constant reminder of the sin against you... and never received an apology from the culprit.  Well, forgiveness is not about whether the other person wants to repent, but about not having to be dominated by anger.
I'm still working on that, but I'd say it has gotten much better.
In the midst of Holy Week, I was invited to a conference set to discuss youth and drug abuse.  There is no way I can attend on such short notice, especially during  this season, but I did write down my thoughts and sent them on to the organizers.  Perhaps I will post them here if they don't end up using it, but since this topic often comes up, I'd like to say a few words.
While the power of modern substances, and the ease in which our technology enables behavioral addictions to take hold, the real problem of modern addiction is not in the substance or behavior, but in the self.  Man lives with a broken identity.
What I mean by this is that nothing about our identity is fixed or certain.  At one time, we were born into a world where the moment of our birth largely established our 'fate.'  It determined what you would wear, who you would marry, what kind of food you eat, your employment, your religion... life was not really about making those choices.  Those were all left to 'fate' or the 'Will of God.'
Now, even our very gender is subject to change.  We modify our environment and our bodies.  Diseases that once automatically killed, or wounds that did so, are now open to 'possibilities.'  We make millions of micro-decisions about our lives that humanity really has never had to make before.
And, like the age old problem of too many choices, we are overloaded.  Human life is a whole series of entangled decisions with un intended consequences, all with the nagging sense that if I make the wrong decision, I may or may not be able to back it out.  Further, the decisions I do make and am certain about are not necessarily enduring.  We lack permanency in our identities.
The more educated we are, the worst it gets because this society places the locus of change on 'education.'  Listen to how we talk about problems: if people were just more educated, they would make better decisions.  We 'need to educate' people so that they will be better.  So, we educate the @#$%& out of people, pounding them with facts and, more often, platitudes, and they just keep getting crazier.
It is not working the way we planned.  Why?
Because having facts and being able to use them are two different things.  It is like the guy who spends thousands of dollars on a garage full of tools, but has to call a handyman to fix a leaking sink.  Owning the tool doth not a craftsman make.  I am evidence of that.
But, when these facts are presented to get us to change who we are, now comes a question: what else is wrong with me?  What else must be fixed?
This is when people have breakdowns and often profound changes of character.  Such questions force us to question everything.
Now, imagine doing that over and over again.  What does that do to you?
It makes you into a ball of dough.  Nothing is real, because someone is going to come and tell you in a little while that you need to change again in order to be a 'responsible citizen' or a 'good person.'  Sure, some of these messages are good, but what is the net effect of changing people over and over again?
Eventually, they give up.  Or, they turn to a distraction from their nagging doubts and overwhelming fears.  This is when the disease of the passions begins to take hold and blossom forth in what we call 'addiction.'

1 comment:

  1. And that's just the social being. The ever-changing nature of our economic reality is another actor in the loss of self.