Friday, June 30, 2006

The Gray Lands vs Absolute Paradise

I'm striped with a thin--but undeniable--authoritarian streak. I like rules. I like conformity to rules.

Perhaps it's from all that Catholic schooling. Perhaps it was from having parents who issued very clear decrees of acceptable and non-acceptable behavior.

Perhaps it's in my DNA.

We are what we are in terms of how much we need to know and how many guidelines we prefer to have.

Granted, I love mystery and the ineffable in many areas--when it comes to the nature of God, when it comes to the vastness of love, when it comes to the wonders of the universe, in fiction and poetry, in a well-made film, in a painting.

Not in the area of morality.

I like clear delineations: of black and white, of right and wrong, of virtue and vice, of good and evil. I like for the rules to be clear, posted, and have weight and enforcement.

I figure this is why I'm no libertarian. I'm anti-totalitarian, so I'm a champion of republics. It's a line I walk all the time: my desire for clarity about proper conduct and mechanisms to enforce it, and my desire to let myself and others choose their right path.

(That tension is frustrating, but it forces me to examine myself and my world constantly, which is good for the soul and my brain.)

The zebra is lovely to me. If it were all blurry, I'd probably be less impressed.

Perhaps this is why the Old Testament bothers me, but a lot less than it does many others. I understand judgment for sin. Disobey and die. Disobey and get sick. Disobey and lose the land. Disobey and be enslaved. Obey and be blessed. Obey and your crops prosper. Obey and your children thrive. Obey and you own your own land and the Lord smites your enemies.

I also understand that many of the more troublesome parts are man's inhumanity or--more attractive to my creative mind--elements in a Grand Poem, where metaphors rule, sometimes at the expense of privileges to groups of the disenfranchised.

Living with the paradoxes of multi-dimensional reality, the paradoxes inherent in dwelling inside this cosmos seeded with knowledge of The Perfect while mired in the sticky mud of mortality and original sin--living in this environment forces one to accept some unflattering shades of gray.

I know that. I don't like that.

I look great in black, great in white. I look very sallow and icky in gray.

I came across a poem by Robert Frazier today, and these lines stopped me cold:

always there is this unquenched desire
a raw thirst for precision for absolutes

That is me.

(Or, if you have an unquenched desire for grammatical precision: That is I.)

I like knowing precisely, absolutely, what it is I should do and what it is you should do in every circumstance.

Life ain't like that.

God gives some very good guidelines and rules and commands, but they aren't absolutely, precisely exhaustive. If they were, Torah scholars and Christian theologians would not have been pondering, debating, commentary writing, council holding, decree pronouncing, and heretic hunting for the last three millenia.

Some things God lets us figure out in community and with wisdom and with maturity and with grace and with love.

Of course, what breaks my heart--or fires up my temper--is when what is clear-cut is roughened, when what is not really debatable is twisted and warped with sophisticated but deceptive argumentation. The blacks and the whites forced to become the color of ashes or of the dead.

One thing I look forward to daily---DAILY!--is to come into that glory-defined moment when I see Him and He sees me, and His mind suffuses mine seamlessly, and all the gray is bleached by his beauty and truth, and turns to white.


Bonnie Calhoun said...

Okay...I'll agree with you! The one thing I look forward to daily, besides the promptings of the no more rain!

Apologia_Christi said...

Like yourself, I also go through this constant tension with the desire for perfection, yet coping with the give and take of those moments where fog tends to distort the boundaries of moral and ethical living.

The post was great, except after reading I kept laughing at your mention of zebra's:

"The zebra is lovely to me. If it were all blurry, I'd probably be less impressed."

Witty, honest, and comical all that the same time. Good post!