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Friday, August 15, 2014

The Screaming Mimi

I think we all have (those of us here reading a 'blog' on the internet, that is), at one point or another, gotten into heated exchange with someone on the internet.  Recently, I got involved in a discussion, and it became pretty obvious that the participants were more into indulging their feelings than actually engaging the issue at hand.
Having better things to do than tilting windmills, I left the thread.  I have had to teach myself to walk away from fruitless activities despite whatever my feelings tell me.  Sure, I know I could win (ah, the simply joys of over-self-confidence), but why expend the energy? 
Why do we argue and fight over politics and social matters?  Have any of these internet debates changed anything?
Yes and no.
If we are arguing about changing others, then we are really barking up the wrong tree.  Changing other people's minds is always a bad idea.  Just in case you are wondering why I would say that, let me ask you this:
Do you like commercials?  They are out there to change your mind and sell you on a product.
You don't like them, just as much as you don't like being bossed around, particularly by someone who is annoyed with you and has a 38-foot-long list of your past sins and inadequacies.  These harangues are enough to drive you to drink... or, in most cases, just dig your heels in further.
Manipulating others is always a stupid idea.
Of course, as will so much in the Post-modernist era, you can change the word 'commercial' to 'education,' and you have the latest fad in control-words.  You need to be 'educated,' which means you need me to boss you around.  Here, let me help you.
The principles of both Christianity and addiction recovery both rest on the simple idea that the only person I can change is myself.  Even when I am being wronged, the problem starts and ends with me.  After all, my misery is my misery.  If I am being made miserable, who's fault is that.
Someone else, of course! 
Sure, you can come up with a million examples of people who cannot escape those who harm them, but the question isn't really about being harmed or not, but what you do with that harm.  Does it make you better, or more broken?  If you say the latter, then the spiritual path is about turning that brokenness over to God and being changed and perfected.
You'll never achieve inner peace so long as it is dependent on other human beings.  Or, even cats.  It does not work that way.
We in the Western world have 'educated' the @#$%& out of ourselves, and to what end?  We are still miserable... and spoiled rotten.  Worse yet, we think we are smarter than everyone else, because we have such awesome forms of manipulation, like 'marketing' and 'education.'
I think the reason we fight so much these days is that we are so bombarded with 'marketing' and 'education' that we can barely hold onto our beliefs for a short time before someone comes and says, "Here, now it is time to believe this!"
That's why I feel sorry for students these days, who have to go to class after class with professors who feel it is absolutely necessary that students agree with everything they believe, and either dump their own ideas or get graded down.  pretty soon, all you have is either an irrational clinging to whatever ideas one has or a form of cynical relativism that makes your utterly logic-proof.
It is like Velcro: it wears out the more you attach things and then pull them apart.  If you keep bombarding people with new opinions and ideas, then pull them off and attach more, pretty soon the connection gets looser and looser.  So, eventually, things just fall off... or you turn to duct tape.
I think the Screaming Mimi I encountered had a bad case of ductaepitis.  What she wasn't able to process was that she will never get anywhere in life demanding other people change.  So, she had to resort to schoolyard taunts and insults.  I almost wanted to say, "Hey, lady, I've been called worse.  Could you please work a bit harder?"  But, I didn't want to further embarrass my friend for having lousy companions.  That includes me.
Since we no longer believe anything, we believe everything, or nothing at all.  Our rage comes with our own fears that we might actually have bound ourselves up to the wrong ideas, and so we protect them with fire rather than logic.
Thus, we miss the big picture: the only thing I can change is myself.
If I want people to treat me different, then I have to do a few things.  First, I have to see what it is that people are reacting to in me, and see if I have the ability to change it.  In order to do that, I have to drop my fear and anger over the other and see the world with his eyes.  Sure, he may be crazy, but few people are totally mad.  Ask yourself what it is that this person is reacting to.  Then ask yourself it is worth holding onto it and getting static for it.
I'll give you a case in point: I had a parishioner who was an ex-felon who had really turned his life around.  He was on the straight-and-narrow... but the police were constantly pulling him over and harassing him.
My advice: tuck your shirt in, grow your hair out, and stop dressing like a gang member.  I told him that as long as he dressed that way, he was going to get in trouble.  There wasn't anything he could do about his gang tattoos, but his appearance was under his control.  We live in an era with more than just togas... he has a choice about how to dress.
(NB - As a guy who wears a cassock, I really don't want to hear about how hard it is to dress in a way where people might make fun of you.)
To help him out, I went with him to the police station to intercede.  What happened next was astonishing: the policeman pointed out that he was, right there, wearing clothes that matched the colors of his old gang, and he was driving their 'vehicle of choice.'
Long story short- a month went by, and he came to church with a big smile on his face... no problems with the police!  Why?  because he was humble enough to sell the car and change his clothes.  Suddenly, the police didn't even recognize him anymore!
He was living the principles of the program, and it paid off.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely 
happy with Him forever in the next.
I think all of us, including my friend the Screaming Mimi, would feel a lot better if we took this to heart, rather than all the anger and strife of the world.

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