22 August 2017

A Fixers' Utopia: Some Thoughts on Our Modern Ministry of Love

I swear. Sometimes I think I envy those folks who see all the really vital things in life - the most basic, elementarily necessary things - as being in essence, well, simple. And straightforward. And pure. Or even innocent.

Take charitable love, for instance. What could be more simple and pure? or more protective of innocence? What could be more constitutive of Real Life, lived well and usefully, than that Will by which I desire the fullest, most complete happiness of someone else, as only God can know and make it? Especially seeing that it is God, after all, who does the actual knowing and making, not me. How could anything so straightforward possibly get confusing, or convoluted?

Then again - as we're perhaps discovering more and more today - maybe it can get more messy, and ought to. At least if love wants to keep on growing, and becoming bigger, more productive, more global in scale. Not to mention more truly challenging of the human, and not merely the Divine, inputs and other factors involved. No progress without adversity, as they say; no adversity without the old departure from Eden. Which in turn can take us deep into all sorts of unexpected places, and even unexpectedly ugly places, to put the matter politely. The question then becomes, Are we manful enough to take a stand and fight - if necessary all by ourselves - once we get there?

Certainly by now, to all recent appearances, the fight seems well underway. If not well on its way to the proverbial Next Level. As I understand it, this is an Age that believes passionately in Love. But here's the catch. What we've been discovering is that there can be no hard, effectual love (as opposed to the soft sentimental kind) without truth. And there can be no abiding truth without hatred of untruth. And sometimes even hatred of the holders of untruth - I mean, if that's what True Love of Truth should end up requiring. Which in turn, as one might imagine, can only mean unprecedented opportunities for serious love to grow, evolve, become more efficient and productive - or even re-educating - by all sorts of globally dynamic leaps and bounds. Though sadly, it is true, not without a few unintendedly brutal, albeit necessary results.

Witness, e.g., the many classes of global refugees, whose freedom and dignity have been under assault in their home countries, and whose pain can only assuaged, in some cases, by the freedom of spontaneous sexual assault upon women in their host countries. Or take, more generally, the many growing, and growingly militant, categories of oppressed people, whose suffering can only be remedied by the counter-oppression of other categories of people. In short (and assuming I read it correctly), our modern Hard And Effectual Love is fast becoming a most vehemently, if not vengefully righteous thing: the sort of discussion to which you might want to bring a few blackjacks, helmets, steel boots or baseball bats - not to mention cars and other high-powered weapons - the better to silence or otherwise intimidate the unrighteousness of your opponent. But either way make no mistake: this modern love thing is already grown into a mighty complicated business. At least compared to where we started.

And so  I continue to be fascinated with the immense strides being made by charitable, unselfish love in our times. Neither do I mean chiefly the more familiar (if not clich├ęd) brands of charity being performed by organizations. I mean even more so love as coming from a single individual, or as exchanged between individuals. Or even clusters of them. Such people as married and cohabiting couples. Or parents and children.* Even (or especially?, as I suggested earlier) between and among groups of highly agitated political idealists.

*Some definition may be in order here: By charity I understand That apart from which all other loves - erotic, romantic, familial, affinitive - have no life at all; have nothing, indeed, to distinguish them from the merest self-interest, except so far as It is present.

The progress of love. Or surely, at all events, of what we modern humans think is charitable love? Which, when you (not only think but) pray and ruminate on it, may be exactly the problem.

The problem is whether we mere humans really can know what charity is, or is like,  from the inside - as opposed to knowing it merely externally and observationally. It seems, for example, all but second nature for many of us to think of charity as a procedure we can freely fine-tune, according to our latest knowledge and expertise; or as an operation we must rigorously oversee, in which the operatives can be fired at will. What is much harder to imagine is the kind of love that can be more fruitfully compared to a plant, of which the one indispensable soil is God. A plant which can in fact, by the mercy of Divine Grace Incarnate, be each one of us; and may even embody the secret yearning of all of us. Indeed, I suspect it is only as we get more and more of our Maker inside of us, that we begin to know love more than externally, by being enclosed and sealed, within the garden, as it were, of the one Mind that truly loves.

No small proviso, one must admit. All the same, I doubt that even the blithest disregard of it has ever stopped the most dedicated secularist from giving love his best shot. That is, I doubt that such a constraint has ever deterred someone who didn't believe in God, or who saw Him merely as coach, or clockmaker, or jihadic commander-in-chief - or chief enemy - from trying to love "on his own," to the best of his ability. And even from the bottom of his heart. Humans have always found good, compelling humanitarian reasons for believing that God is more or less unreal; or that He is the enemy of our moral growth; or that He has indeed taken us so far, but must be now got out of the way - nay, He's begging us to get Him out of the way! - so that we can at last progress even farther on our own.

Meanwhile, as for whether these latter, go-it-alone kinds of love are the ones most often at the forefront of our global modern life, who knows? All I know for sure is this: I keep on being amazed, as I said in par. 5, by the extraordinary progress caritas is making today, under the ever-encroaching conditions and demands of our 21st-century world. The way it continues to mutate, and permutate, and produce all sorts of wildly unexpected, if not downright unintended results. The way nowadays, for instance, many of us love (some might call it suffocate, but never mind) our pets, our children, even, I'm told, not a few of our employees - one might easily get the idea that real love simply can't function apart from the most hovering, hectoring kinds of fixing, interference, micromanagement.* As if it were some grievous sin - or at best a gross negligence - ever to let anyone or anything be, or be itself, or worst of all, be happy being itself ("Not when it can be IMPROVED, buster!"). As if, indeed, there was nothing God-made that couldn't be improved continually by our taking thought, and so adding to its stature at least an inch or two. So that even our ostensibly most generous loves risk becoming - the busier we make them, the more worriedly invested we become in them - a kind of tyranny.

*I'm aware that, even nowadays, there continue to be all sorts of less caring, less conscientious pet-owners, parents and employers; I'm talking about the other kind.

 Of course we didn't intend them to become tyrannical. In any case, why should it matter? The important thing is that we stick to our principle, our agenda, our ideology. To hell with where it takes us.

And naturally it goes without saying: If the way I choose to love is one that gives me great worry or even anguish, is it asking so much that the creature receiving it should partake of some of the cost involved, as well as the benefit?

Still in all, I can't help wondering if it was always like that. Seems to me I remember a time when people knew how to care, and even expend themselves, for others without overwhelming them with the fact, and making them more or less miserable. Or was sacrificial love always this fretting, nagging, complaining, self-dramatizing thing?

Anyhow, as I've said before in many places, ours is a busy dynamic Age. One of great ferment, unrest, turmoil, creativity. Again, no creation without destruction. And so I have one more thing that continues to amaze me. It's the way a great many of our commentators, mediacrats, pundits, bloggers, agitators, prognosticators, and countless other "fixers," profess to be shocked - shocked, they tell you - at certain of the many things busily fermenting in America over the past several years. And in particular, all the many garden and other varieties of political hate, and still more often contempt, that keep boiling over. On Right (isn't that where the trouble always begins?), on Left, on pretty much everywhere in between. As if, really, all the good busy loving people - Hillaries, McCains, Soroses, Merkels, Musks, Kochs, etc - had been just going along minding their own business. And they being the real creators of our time, there could hardly be an era more innocently undeserving of such viciousness than the Early Twenty-first Century.

But what if, in fact, the whole process is following the most direct and express logic, from Alexandria to Charlottesville to Barcelona? Suppose our hyper-vicious politics is, I mean, a wholly natural consequence (if not a wholly owned subsidiary) of our busy modern fixing, micromanaging loves - as inflicted on everyone from our most "helpless" animals and children, to our most immiserated immigrants and refugees. To say nothing of - at least if we are to believe ISIS et al - an apparently surging number of infidels. AKA Muslims In Name Only (MINOs).

In short, if you love something, don't ever let it go. Kill it if necessary, terrorize it as the opportunity presents itself, but by all means don't . . .

Conversely, what's the point of loving anything that can't - or, worst of all, refuses - to be fixed?

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