Earlier posts suggested that God loves us and has filled the world with proof of that and then I suggested that the reason we don’t see that is because every last one of us wants to not have a boss.
Still, on what I called the “golden road” or what CS Lewis called the “Tao” we all see the positive qualities of what we think of as “virtues”: compassion, care, mutual concern, love, care for the poor, honoring our parents, etc. We can see the positive qualities even if we don’t want to always agree with them. This is where we are today, actually. We acknowledge these qualities – shared by nearly all religious and philosophical traditions – as good. But we only see them as one choice among many. Especially when it comes to issues of “private concern” such as in the bedroom we tend to think we can each make up our own rules.
Curiously, we then insist that our rules match the Golden Road. I am loving others by having with as many folks as I want. I am caring for the poor by changing the laws so that they can’t live on my street. I am honoring my parents by changing the financial structure so that their savings are without value. I am helping the environment by shifting responsibility for my petroleum consumption onto the third world so that it only hurts poor folks I never have to meet. I know that plastic is hurting basically every part of the world, but I like my disposable contact lenses: bifocals make me look so old.
We do this all the time and here’s where I will mention something that most folks agree with but never in the first person: this deviation from the Golden Road is called sin. I don’t mean in the sense of this specific act or that little peccadillo is a sin. I mean the deviation itself. We are schooled by our legal system to think of “sin” as a series of discrete actions that are each a negative point against us. Instead, sin is this departure itself. If the golden road laid all over the world results in steps toward God, departure from the golden road, from the Tao, is to move in the other direction. Some of us make those choices – in fact, most of us make those choices – to move in the other direction all the time. One choice leads to another choice, and the further we move from the Tao the harder it is to get back.
I said this is never in the first person. We find it very easy in the Third Person to discuss sin. They are breaking the law. They here are usually our political opponents. We are also good at what I call the Second Person Abstract. Although we would (nearly) never say “You, sir, are a sinner…” but we find it easy to say to a TV or on a radio, “You suck!” We can also say this at a distance as at a political rally, etc.
Can you see this sin in the first person? You really need to. We’ll not be able to get any further in this proclamation if you can’t see it.
- Do you find yourself acting in a selfish way when you didn’t want to?
- Do you find yourself unable to be as loving as you really feel you should be?
- If you are aware of the ways in which you are unjustly treated can you see, also, the ways in which you unjustly treat others?
- If you are aware of the ways in which you are gracefully moving through the world, can you honestly see the ways in which you fail to do so?
- Can you see the ways in which you confuse “love” with “self-interest”?
If you can find resonance in these questions, you’re self-aware enough to move forward. If not, perhaps you can continue reading, but learning this may not make sense at this time. It is not my goal to teach the fullness of Catholicism here, but only to proclaim the need for it, the open joy of it.
There are enough commonalities in all religions to find what I have called the “Golden Road” or the “Tao” as C S Lewis named it. There are also enough departures from this Tao that it is important to ask Why? I’ve offered the idea that we all are individualists; and also that it is far easier to see this in others, but some of us see this departure in ourselves as well. The next question is what to do with this knowledge?
We shall return to this. But this essay – our ability to see the departure – is the most important so far. It’s the “mother” from which all else descends, really. For as adults we know failure in the first person long before we are aware of it in others. What we do with this knowledge can decide if we ever grow up at all. This is not a moral question: a person may be aware of his departures from the Tao without any moral judgments. I can be proud of my choices to depart from the general consensus even when I am aware of them. All that we need at this point is the awareness of that departure, but I will ask one thing: if someone else’s departure can be enough to spark a protest or an “F-bomb” to be lobbed towards various mediae, then why are not your departures the same?