Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Had a pretty profound conversation with my kids about freedom yesterday. I was pointing out when you have a large citizenry focused on keeping the social contracts, you can have freedom. You can have access to everything because people agree not to abuse those things. People agree to handle the trouble makers in their communities. They get help for the mentally unstable, they report the dangerous, they watch each other's back, all for the sake of keeping their freedoms. The problem is, that explanation is too utilitarian. We aren't people who just do things because we want X. Children do that. Children comply for the sake of not getting grounded. We have to be more than that. We have to employ love, all the time. All the time. We have to have the "bigger picture" in focus. We have to be focused outwardly most of the time. We have to learn that being offended by something isn't the same as needing to squash that thing. We have to know what actually threatens freedom and what actually needs love and relationship to be corrected. And we have to be willing to be wrong sometimes. Even when we feel justified. Even when we feel right.
These are hard things. Wisdom is probably won through realizing that pursuing truth is more important than being right. It seems we have this problem in our day and age. We each are so convinced we are right, that correcting one another becomes the most important thing. Perhaps growing up in a big family beat this out of me. Don't get me wrong, I'm as obnoxiously opinionated as most Americans. But I definitely care more about my relationships than I do about convincing everyone that I am correct. I've got friends who still slip up and say "retarded" about things. I let it go. I do! Not because I don't love Mariana, and not because it doesn't feel really bad to hear it. I let it go because what they are trying to communicate is more important to me than them using the right words. I let poor grammar go, misspellings (especially my own!), and slang that bothers me. Sometimes I revisit things with people I think would find my thoughts interesting or worth considering. Sometimes I move on. Why? Because there was a time when I thought the word "retarded" could be appropriately used, not as an insult, but as a purposeful way of describing something as being slowed down. However, through relationships in the disability community, I realized that as much as I love rich language, people are my favorite creatures. It wasn't worth hanging on to a word if it meant turning the people I love into people who must put up with my personal word crusade. And yes, I realize that this can turn in to a tyranny of sorts. Comedians feel it all the time when they try to use satire and the entire point they were mocking is lost because someone decides that the word "rape" is off limits even in context. I'm no fan of trigger warnings. But these are ideas best discussed by a fire pit with friends, or on a plane with an interested stranger. They aren't best posted as facts on Facebook, as some kind of invitation to a word duel. People are not moved best by swords, but by relationships.
As I write this, I am grieving both personally and as a member of a community that watched another horror unfold on the news. I have too many emotions to figure out all the right answers and I praise God for the presence of mind to have at least that much awareness. I am sick of hearing about gun control because I believe that mental health is our biggest national crisis. I don't even like guns. I wonder if my opinion is even correct. I'm mad people are tweeting that prayers are meaningless. I'm frustrated that the fact that people are saying horrible things about other human beings as though the vitriol helps. Are we a nation of narcissists as it seems, or am I consuming too much social media so it appears that way? I also have children, who are, by nature, very self involved. I also find both major presidential candidates sickeningly self righteous. Of course, this is not new, but it sure feels more disgusting than ever. More than my questions, I find the answers are found in my relationships, my willingness to forgive, to apologize and to cherish those people who could very well be taken from my life in a single act of just living life, and in the hope that each day I get to choose how I treat the people who are in my life. No one can kill that choice, nor will I be terrorized out of making it. Not today.