Sunday, February 7, 2016

THE NARROWING OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN




Maximizing our humanity requires us to use all of our faculties, integrating sensual awareness and experience with rationality and wisdom. This means that we cannot reject any of our faculties. If we reject our eyes, we will stumble. If we reject our ears, we will not be able to socialize. If we reject our minds, we will not be able to make wise decisions.

However, rejecting rationality and, with it, moral certainty, mindlessness has become acceptable. The evidence of this is all around us. Mindfulness training requires us to close down our minds and only to observe without making moral judgments.

I just read an appealing advertisement for a new meetup group:

·       "From the time we’re just out of diapers we’re charged by our parents, our peers, our lovers, ourselves, with the task of maintaining certainty, and if we don’t feel certainty, of manufacturing it. Tonight’s going to be different—tonight we’ll ask all who come to drop the certainty and gather around a comfortable white sofa with a glass of wine and a sense of curiosity. What brings you joy? What keeps you up at night? How’s your heart? What do you love, and what would you like to be different? What do you want to share, or hear from your brothers?"

Understandably, wisdom and certainty are demanding, while experience and feelings are just what they are (or however we want to interpret them), and, without making judgments about them, they are all acceptable.

Admittedly, this might prove comfortable for the short run. More importantly, this trend reflects a narrowing and a dangerous cultural trend. We feel uncomfortable about judgment, more specifically, about being criticized. Even more, we cannot endure criticism. It attacks the very basis who we are as people - our value and personhood.

In fact, we feel so threatened by criticism, many have gone so far as to deny freewill. After all, if we lack freewill, we couldn't have done otherwise and, therefore, bear no guilt.

Ironically, to defend ourselves against criticism and guilt, we demean who we are as humans. Consequently, we see ourselves as wet machines – not very edifying.

Well, if we are merely machines that cannot do otherwise, why then should we try to oppose our desires to steal and cheat? The only rationale that then remains to oppose our selfish instincts is the fear of getting caught, but fear alone is often not enough. Consequently, lying, stealing, and cheating have become so prevalent that no one trusts our institutions. Can we survive such cynicism?

What is the answer? How are we to bear our moral failures and accept criticism? Simply through confidence that when we confess our sins and failures to our Savior, He forgives and cleanses us completely! And when we come to live according to His opinions, we gradually lose our fear of the opinions and criticisms of others. Instead of people-pleasers, we are liberated to become God-pleaser. It's beats being a wet machine.

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