For our sake, we need to look beyond our sight, listen beyond the sounds.
Dec. 8, 2010
There really isn’t very much to inspire confidence these days. The recession won’t quit, the country is moving toward bankruptcy, and our political system has lost its equilibrium with too much check and not enough balance.
A system designed in the 18th century to limit the power of kings now seems likely to cripple efforts to right the ship of state. The evils of concentrated power are being replaced by the evils of diffuse power – rendering us incapable of tackling today’s serious problems.
It’s time to renew one’s faith, not in the haphazard vagaries of human institutions but in things more ephemeral that offer greater promise of constancy and fulfillment. In times like this I’m reminded of that old song, “Is That All There Is?”
Is life just a bad joke, with human beings stumbling from one crisis to the next? Yesterday’s achievement is tomorrow’s failure and today’s reform is next year’s mistake. Good becomes bad and bad becomes good as values are flipped like pancakes on a griddle.
Nothing holds. The spool is constantly unraveling, life is a gigantic carnival, the earth a spinning carousel, and we’re all along for the ride At times it’s the fun house, at others a chamber of horrors. We delude ourselves into thinking we’re in control – strong enough and smart enough to manage it all.
Some argue that this is it and the sooner we face that reality, the better off we will be. They want to replace the God illusion with something they consider more substantial. Science, not faith, will one day explain the universe and mankind’s place in it as we slowly evolve into superhumans or perhaps into lesser gods.
Creation, the universe, and life all have a scientific explanation, they assert. Our faith should be in science, the new theology that will eventually answer all our questions, eliminate disease, extend life, and transform the flaws now so evident in human behavior.
I find that the only thing more preposterous than a belief in God is a denial of the existence of God. How do you explain it all without eventually getting back to the uncaused cause? Where did that first stuff –whatever it was – come from? What’s behind the laws of nature and science and man? Are truth, love, and justice only evolutionary byproducts?
We are so consumed with self, there is little time for reflection. What we have, how we look, what we wear, where we go, and what time is it are today’s prevailing questions. When a person is self-centered, there is little room for anyone else.
Least of all do we want God coming in and upsetting our image and cramping our style. We lead shallow self-absorbed lives; we are incapable of acknowledging that the beauty and goodness that exist even in the most unlikely places are reflections of something beyond our capacity to understand.
Instead, too often we prefer to see only what can be seen through the eyes and to hear only what our ears pick up. To identify things of true importance, we must look beyond our sight and listen beyond the sounds.
That’s becoming harder to do with all of the gadgets we have created to entertain, distract, and distort. One can live a lifetime without ever having to confront the profound.
Oh what pathetic creatures we are when in denial we place our trust in humankind! As Macbeth observed, we are actors in “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
If you value faith, place it wisely. It is the manifestation of hope and, if misapplied, can harm the soul. The choice for me is pretty simple; I need something to hang onto.
With all its obscurity, I find belief in God far more comprehensible than Macbeth’s “nothing.” It is a rampart that withstands the persistent assaults of the world’s “sound and fury.”
James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.