Letter to the Future. VII - Life Outside the Clouds

http://youcanruninternational.com/news/affirming-our-stance-on-homosexuality.html http://minnesotaindependent.com/58393/gop-linked-punk-rock-ministry-says-executing-gays-is-moral

Thursday 3 June 2010

Life Outside the Clouds

To Future,
I'm curious to know which clouds of euphoria, generated in my world, have persisted into yours. On my mind today, and my screen, is a man by the name of Bradlee Dean. His organization, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, has made a name for itself touring U.S. high schools, talking to kids about the pitfalls of an increasingly lawless nation.
Put another way, their "talking" tours might be considered pulpiteering; in their minds the pitfalls of this country include "the gay movement [as] part of a sexual revolution that has stripped sexuality of all moral significance for an entire generation;" and the lawless nature of modern America, which amounts to a country no longer knelt in fealty before the immaculate wedding of our Constitution to Christ himself.

I know better, but I want badly to believe that the rhetoric pasted on their site isn't absorbed by hundreds of thousands of Minnesotan AM 1280 listeners. My first reaction is to gather all the rationally-desloate, self-contradicting, unbearably unoriginal (to say nothing of archaic) nuggets from their June 3 letter to Minnesotans and lay down as argumentitively destructive a rebutal as I can manage. That may still come. But what occurs to me secondarily, and probably more importantly, is beyond the nonsense of their claims, maybe in orbit around those claims. Why stupid ideas come about is not such an interesting question. We're all all too familiar with the moments of error and misunderstanding that terrorize our minds. Those moments likely never will be abolished. And I think that's fine. No, more interestingly, those ideas do not always slink away in the embarrassment of forgivable folly; they often persist and, remarkably, they procreate.

Future, let us begin with this: that an idea has gathered momentum, that its architects, prophets, or precepts boast some measure of charisma or their personal narratives some appreciable substance, earns that idea nothing in merit more than the legacy of cheap success. If an idea presents itself shrouded in mystery, urgency, superiority or is otherwise made opaque by its apparent nobility, then the substantive poverty of the idea can survive assaults from logic and love, compassion and clarity. The survival of bad ideas, which include propositions of hatred and self-exaltation, insistances that one's security is indelibly linked to the modification of another's personhood, the illusion that accident of birth confers natural hierarchy upon its subjects, frequently requires a cloud of euphoria to be utilized by their proponents.  Convictions of the sort espoused by Bradlee Dean and Co. cannot withstand an unedited view of the world.  The wide angle of human perspective must be clipped early on and remain constricted, or violent ideas born out of narrow prejudice suffer the truths which accompany varied human experience and die. The cloud which insulates their thinking must be maintained and encouraged, for once punctured, invaded by an external truth, its either confused or waved away altogether.

My question to you was which of these clouds have withstood the time between you and me. I read the literature published by individuals like Bradlee Dean and can sense the density of their euphoria. They do not know the pace or trajectory of the currents they're floating in but they're not alone in the river and the encouragement they receive from their company deafens them to warnings from shore. Surely, I have my own current; I have to keep this in mind. At the same time, I know I was once engulfed in a cloud not totally dissimilar to theirs.

My time as a participant in religion granted me invaluable lessons and irreplacable relationship. But I also teetered on the cusp of particular blindness. My faith continuously sat me down at an emtional feast. I was invited to banquet, and to share my story and indulge the darker recesses of my own narrative with the light of this reaffirming company. Like those around me, I picked from a multitude of dishes. Whether my appetite favored elation or empathy, desperation or prophecy there was a plate to be sampled. In truth, it was never fully manufactured experience and often it was as authentic a communion as people can have, and beautiful at that. To me, this suggests that religion does not have to falsify its practitioners or inflate their realities. In our proud fellowship, though, we need to remain outwardly attentive. Of relationship's most enduring treasures is shared experience, and shared experience allows us - as people - to contribute to community, likely humanity's greatest attribute. But shared experience also naturally constructs borders, between those in common and those not. Such a beautiful thing as shared experience seems to affirm all of its own conditions as good and right. To travel with someone else to a new place foster's relationship around shared experience. And this is good. But it can produce resentment toward others, people who can't or don't understand. The goodness, even profundity, of communion tempts a person to believe that the resentment is also good, right, even enlightened. And the clouds billow higher.

Bad ideas, then, seem to spawn from what may have started as genuine communion, precious shared experience, that failed to continue to glance outward with a spirit of inclusion. To sit at that banquet and consume emotional affirmation at will may very well feel right, a righteousness divinely imbued, but without care it will add to an upwelling of euphoria which blinds and eventually injures. Bradlee Dean's liturgy is not original. The interpretation of his gospel as testimony and not bigotry originated before him. It came to him from elsehwere, and he has adorned it with decorations of his own. But it surives because it is proliferated in a euphoria notorious for its impregnability. Its a tough cloud to name; its certainly not as general as Religion or even Christianity. But it possesses immense momentum and only rarely penetrable walls. Whatever euphoric clouds exist for you, my suggestion is the same. Susceptibility to these blinding fogs is not spared for any people, and the presence of such a fog does not inherently negate the worth of the ideas within. But only in such a shelter can the defamation of others achieve legitimacy and evolve into sacriment; so be wary of what clouds are wafting about in your world and value your sight enough that you wave away the condensation of exceptionalist language. The dignity of your freedom is measured by the dignity it allows your neighbor. So, mindfully, be well, live free.

- Erik in the past

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