The current cultural moment – if you scratch the ol’ noggin for 10 seconds I bet you’ll locate it – has made me think about hubris. And compromise. But mainly hubris.
We humans really do cling to the idea that we can ramp up the brainpower and the muscle and the research and eventually, with enough grit and grind, conquer all. The deluge of campaign ads piped into my living room has piled a mile-high heap of promises at my feet. Promises that we know will not, could not, be kept.
And how these politco types keep a straight face while they talk about themselves with such grand gestures and adjectives, I’ll never comprehend. I imagine myself in one of those interviews or filming a commercial – and I imagine Miska standing to the side, eyebrows raised, hands on her hips and giving me that Seriously? look. One glance from her, and I’d break into laughter, toss the mic and say, “Yeah, just kidding.” One state politician, one I’m likely to vote for, has a commercial so self-congratulatory, you’d think he was the reincarnation of both Mother Theresa and Winston Churchill wrapped into one sublime human being.
What have we done to ourselves?
And with this hubris goes the notion that we are all right, and they are all wrong (whoever we and they happen to be). We no longer listen, that most crucial human posture. We score points. We push others into a corner. We say things we couldn’t possibly actually mean, if heads were cool.
If only the wider culture could pay more attention to the Church, where we model such an alternative way…
(awkward pause, as we let the sarcasm linger)
My grandfather, who had firm convictions and at times owned the label fundamentalist, told me several times, “Winn, always remember – compromise is not a bad word. There’s always extremes, and usually if you pay attention, you’ll find the truth somewhere in the middle.” Of course, this posture requires patience and thoughtfulness and a commitment to honor other people – and to discover the best version of their stories and their beliefs. This posture requires humility and eschews hubris.
John Climacus, a medieval mystic, said: “Where there is no humility, all things rot.” I’m sad to say that a stench too often fills the air. I contribute to it, I know; and I want to stop.