When we look at our world today, we see things from our own perspective, we judge things from our own experience, and we condemn based on our own subjective point of view. None of us are immune from these actions, and not a person living or who has ever lived, save one, has ever been able to resist the temptation of seeking a moral high-ground, but instead achieved their own hilltop of self-importance. A place where we believed we were better, or a place where we thought we would do a better job than the person who seemingly caught our ire. This isn’t to say, we were ever walking around looking to condemn and punish, instead, harmlessly we walked around and criticize those who don’t fit into a mold we have lovingly crafted out of our misguided sense of purpose and importance.
Context, everything must be placed into an order, in a context which we can properly understand the events. If I just started talking about jelly dripping on a table, you might be able to surmise what I was speaking about, but if you fast forward a couple of millennia, and audience reading my words, may not have the single notion of what jelly was. Without placing a context of jelly dripping from my sandwich I was eating, I risk placing an improper determination of events in the hands of someone forming an opinion. Often times, we see people misidentify historical events because they neither properly studied the event, or they’re mistaken due to an ignorance of context.
I know I could be walking on slippery slope here, but what my point is trying to painfully extricate is truth is somewhere in the mix, and although we don’t see events in our day as someone did yesterday, it shouldn’t necessarily make them wrong in our eyes. Instead, we should see the flaws which exist in all people. Thomas Jefferson was once quoted in saying “slavery is like holding a wolf by the ears”. What is so clearly obvious is, no one wants to hold that wolf by the ears, but in standard fashion of decision making no one wants to let go of the wolf, for what is assuredly negative results. He was right, we inevitably faced a war which would define the very nature of American government, and would set in motion a paradigm of freedom worth fighting for.
Placing what we see and do is sometimes a matter of life and death, if it creates in us an urgency to see what is right, and what is true in our lives. It also creates in us, a matter of importance in the lives we affect by our determination of decision. As a father, I am painfully aware of the decisions I’ve made in the past, but as I made the decisions, I was focused on how they affected me, and how I was going to deal with the consequences. I wasn’t at all worried about the long-term effects of how my decisions would cause turmoil among those who love me, I didn’t bother to understand anything past where I was at and what I was going to do next. If there is anything my poor decision-making ability taught me, it was this. I can see people making similar decisions to myself, and yet, I’m not angry, but encouraged to show them and teach them where I went wrong, and possibly my experiences can give them a contextual perspective, which will allow a positive outcome. I can only pray, if I hope to make a change in my life and the lives of others.
Ok, so where am I going with all this context? Constantly, when I turn on the news affiliate, I see stories of events which happened years ago, in some cases decades, and what I’m most alarmed about is the need to find a villain in everything we do today. The need to condemn someone who did something, which decades ago may have been considered a poor choice, but with today’s lens of judgment, those very people (unable to defend themselves) are run through the mud. The issues with civil war era statues or even statues depicting a person, who when researched wasn’t a saint. I’ve even read about statues of saints being defaced because of their association to the Catholic Church and the subsequent child abuse scandal. The common understanding is a guilt by association tactic, which includes the ideology of perfection in representation for those people we don’t agree or like. In other words, if we like the person immortalized in a statue, then we can keep it up, but if we don’t like the person, we will generalize their life into compartments of ideology, and if they don’t pass the muster of perfection then we can destroy their statue and subsequently any legacy. From a purely ideological standpoint those who don’t fit the proper lens of today have unknowingly cast their names into the fire. However, there is one major flaw with this logic, people must be judged based upon the context of when they lived, when they achieved their famous stature or infamous stature. To deny this concept of context is to relegate the people who stood in judgement at the time as insignificant. Since most of these people are long gone from our current times, one aspect still remains, subjectivity. If we subjectively choose to see truth as our own interpretation, and we fail to recognize people as fixtures of their times, then we risk facing the same judgement either before or after our time.
There is also a fractured hypocrisy designed not only to suit the needs of the hypocritical, but also to enact revenge on those who dispute the claims. Take for instance the clear understanding of due process in the U.S. This process places importance on the accused, to indicate an atmosphere of innocence, until by fact of proof evidence has been shown to allow twelve individuals a chance to vote on the guilt of the assumed innocent person. Furthermore, the guilt must be a unanimous verdict, or the innocence is left intact. From a legal standpoint this is necessary, failing to present proper evidence, even at a penalty of technical superiority, is needed to ensure we never send an innocent person to jail. In recent times, with the introduction of DNA evidence, we’ve seen the exoneration of many individuals who were wrongly convicted by eye witness testimony. They’ve resided in a cell, not much larger than a common bathroom for decades. Their injustice has caused us to be more fervent about the seeking of justice, but when we do this without those timeless objective measures, we set ourselves up for failure. We’ve indicated, truth isn’t so much a concern, however our ambition to get our way has now become paramount to succeeding in our goals. This is dysfunctional for the perpetuation of a society, or the propagation of truth as a matter of foundation for a society’s growth. When this has occurred, the lens we look through has become marred with our desires and not the unwavering truth.
Of course, I’m sure we can take any five news stories today, and find instances where the reporter or news anchor colored a story with divisive language or leading supposition. We see stories, when taken as an objective stance fail to corroborate anything the reporter suggests, which leads to the conclusion, the reporter is now no longer objective and believing what they write about should be approached with caution. Some reporters have sunk low enough to introducing conspiracy theories woven from fantastic circumstances in order to make believable what would be unbelievable when objectively reported. These theories then presume to make accusations about whole groups and their efficacy towards each and every one of us. The most common and yet disturbing claim is about the policing agencies and a systemic racial bias. In some countries this is a very real problem, and in others, this is a ludicrous statement proven false by the copious amounts of statistics. However, this is where the real lesson is learned, our ability to learn in an environment which accepts laziness as currency.
Here is what I mean. Most people have an ability for thought and opinion which creates an ability for comprehension on a deeper level those topics of concern. This deeper level of thought will eventually reach a conclusion based on the limits of knowledge in a single mind. Without research or the inclination to find source material to back one’s conclusion, the opinion is based solely on suppositional matters. So, I think everyone is a racist, but I have no proof either way. Most of the foundational knowledge we have comes from media, anecdotes, or limited exposure to facts. Though, most people never do an in-depth study of the topics they insist on giving their opinions about. This can be considered sufficient when speaking about general topics like which cultural food is from where, or perhaps which style of furniture suits your house best. Opinion is really all which is needed for these topics. When we begin to need more facts and statistical proof, many people shy away from the work needed, and attempt to walk a high-wire of logic to assist them in their perfunctory analysis. Their logic is consistent of someone who must use their own experiences to form the path, and this is the lens they choose to look through. This is a dysfunctional method of critical thinking, and usually leads to logical fallacies skirting the edge of insanity at times.
So, we can all agree slavery is awful and is an affront to any human being no matter the times. Though many societies who have condemned slavery today, were once profiteers of the slave trade. They made money on the backs of a person all the while the person enslaved lived a life of anonymity. We will never know who most of the slaves doomed to a life of hopeless and meaningless abuse, but even to this day we can see their contributions to the world (e.g. Great Pyramids of Giza). However, if we look back at yesterday with the lens of today, and condemn the world for their immoral acts, what have we gained? Do we stand upon a moral high ground and judge them for being imperfect? Are we arrogant enough to quizzically pronounce ourselves to be less immoral? Have we gained a measure of context by condemning those who acted without the perspective of today?
The problem we run into when we look through our lens of today is subjectivity. We think because we live relatively good lives that we are doing good and being good. However, if the people from the past were to examine our lives, in every detail, they may just be equally put out at the immoral paths we take. We are a sign of our times, we do what culture dictates, even if we don’t want to admit it. We walk away from God’s love at every twist and turn of our lives and then blame someone else when our lives don’t work the way we wish they would. We look to right the wrongs of the past, without realizing the wrongs of today, as if this focus on punishing the people who did wrong generations ago would somehow justify today. If this weren’t enough, we stand on a hill made of sand, to look down upon those who came before us, with superficial acknowledgement to their struggles and sacrifices along the way.
The lens of today is a dangerous tool to look through, it is an arrogant tool to look through when judging others. It presumes an atmosphere of rightness, while all along it creates subjective apathy and misconstrued ideologies focused on the destruction of fact and the creation of myth. The myth of what didn’t really happen is the storyboard of Hollywood, events which once occurred are enough to tell a story about, but not good enough to entertain. Subsequently people watch movies and determine the movies to be a sufficient source of history. People look for the magnanimous dramatic event, the fireworks to show them true drama, but fail to recognize the drama in the subdued.
Life has never been about a big show, its purpose has been in the journey we travel. Life has always been a matter of course, one which is presented to us day by day, and in our course we see the drama unfold in the most beautiful ways. As a father, I see events unfold in most dramatic of ways with my kids, but what I want them to focus on is not the drama, but the journey past the explosion. The journey past the emotional firestorm they are so attracted to, and then to think through everything they see, and search for the objective answer which is certainly waiting for them to discover.
None of us really has the answer to everything, and none of us has the ability to be right all the time. However, our lack of knowledge on everything and our inability to predict the future demands an unwavering and unflinching measure, a truth. The lens of today, without the objective truth, is nothing more than an aperture of dysfunction. When we let in the dysfunction, by accepting subjective ideologies, or demanding a selfish ambition be realized, we risk the lamentation of the next generations. When we go into this world, we must be willing to understand and consider with compassion the situations of those we come in contact with. An understanding which dictates a removal of anger and replacement of inquisitive desire to know and appreciate, regardless of what we see, helps us remove the lens altogether. This is what is truly needed, to put the lens down and accept people for who they are and not what they do, no matter their disposition towards yourself. Willing the good of the other because they are other, isn’t just a catchy phrase or platitude. It should be the very way of life as we approach all peoples.
Much like when we put on a pair of glasses either prescription or shaded, we find the view is altered in one way or another, the lens of truth and love requires just our ability to see without an aid. God has given to us the very ability to see, we need to trust and begin using this vision. Put the lens down, seek the truth, understand before pushing your own way, and above all else love each and every person you find in your path, because without this love, we devolve into the roughhewn equivalent of a realized hate. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!