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Friday, February 3, 2012

A Carefully Cultivated Hollowness

When you see something wrong, are you more likely to act without thinking or think without acting? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, p.1372).

My first response to this question is in the line of self-justification.  In too many areas of society we are carefully taught to tolerate wrongdoing and to turn a blind eye towards it.  It seems especially in my own country this is so.  Even though I personally hate and detest the suffering, addictions, and insensitivity alcoholic beverages inflict, I am grossly intolerant if I should ever mention this in a polite, indulgent society.  In other words, I have steady, daily practice in thinking without acting all in the name of tolerance and liberty.  I opt for the bland response rather than one based on conviction.

The second thing this brings to mind is my own failure to be intolerant of wrongdoing when my own self-interest is at stake.  Once I was an employee of an air conditioning company.  Some new owners of the company were stunningly unethical.  One afternoon in the alley behind our shop I discovered that one of our vans had its back windows smashed and was obviously the victim of burglary.  I immediately went inside and told the owners.  They looked at one another, smiled, and said it was staged in order to collect insurance.  I regret to say I did not report this, or at least did not immediately leave the company in disgust.  I knew which side my bread was buttered on and this allowed for the shameful tolerance of wrongdoing.  This attitude is pervasive on a larger scale.  Since I am a democrat, I tolerate indefensible beliefs and lawmaking regarding abortion in order to affirm the remaining areas in which I am in agreement with the party.  Obviously my “larger considerations” mean nothing to thousands of murdered children.

Certainly, the time is long overdue for me to err on the side of action—to act without thinking when thinking is in reality quite the opposite.  Rather than vividly imaging the realities of alcohol, tobacco, insurance fraud, and abortion; I intentionally turn my mind’s eye away and carefully cultivate a phony blandness.  This has not been my sole response to evil.  But it occurs frequently enough to render all feelings of prideful rectitude sourced within the cultivated province of a carefully selective memory.  This brings to mind the words of T.S. Eliot:

    We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats' feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar
    Shape without form, shade without colour,
    Paralysed force, gesture without motion….

    (from: “The Hollow Men”)

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