Greetings to All in ST’s Kaffeeklatsch! (Incidentally, the chai masala is quite good here, too.)
At our last get-together, we looked at a couple of “outside-in” frameworks that might encourage people – especially the chronically electronically-tethered and alienated – to actually start living from the “inside-out”. As we discovered, in an earlier conversation, both Margot Anand’s distillation of tantric thought and practice (for Western workshops) and C. S. Lewis’s framework of cross-epochal, cross-cultural values make an assumption that doesn’t necessarily hold true today: That each and all of us have some sense of a Higher Power (be it God or gravity) at work in us and in the world.
Further conversation here since then has highlighted for yours truly how desensitized we’ve become to what binds us together as human beings – and how ultra-sensitive we’ve become to that which individualizes, separates, and ultimately isolates us from others and ourselves. We’re bombarded with examples of acrimonious political theater 24/7, with the recent addition of possibly-choreographed performance art masquerading as environmental concern. It seems like a great deal of “sound and fury, signifying nothing”, but…We may want to investigate the silences hidden in between. Like the children “Ignorance” and “Want” hidden beneath the robes of Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol, the wraith enfolded in the cacophony is: “Secularization”.
This is, most assuredly, a word that has variances of meaning, depending on the user. Let me give you my thoughts on it, shared last evening in conversation with another member of our gathering. For me, at this moment in time: “Secularization” is a faith all its own; for an atomized, fragmented, personal-identity driven society. Now that the other “f-word” of the title has been introduced, let’s explore this somewhat surprising belief-system a bit further.
Materialism can be a subset of secularization; so can certain kinds of sociopolitical activism. As well, an unbalanced consumerism; or a dogmatic adherence to scientific findings as facts – in the face of perhaps contrary evidence – aptly called “scientism” can be thought of as ‘denominations’ under this umbrella. Incidentally, my conversant last evening made a very helpful observation. She said, “[Agnosticism] is the stance of true science. “True scientists are never afraid to say: ‘I don’t know.’”
An area of secularization that has increasingly concerned me both professionally and personally encompasses: Life and/or person-hood denying activities (abortion, infanticide, government-sanctioned/mandated euthanasia, suicide) can be viewed as pseudo-sacraments by secularists because they emphasize the ‘autonomy’ of the woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant/want to give birth, as well as the lack of ‘usefulness’ or ‘productivity’ of folks with disabilities, chromosomal abnormalities, consequences of aging, or terminal illnesses. Or the ‘autonomy’ – yet again, that word is invoked like a benediction – of someone who sees no way out of an overwhelming situation (or no meaning in his/her life).
In the face of this daunting monolith, Dr. Viktor Frankl, MD [1905-1997], neuropsychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, offers a candle in the darkness we seem to perceive now:
“[B]eing human is being always directed, and pointing, to something or someone other than oneself: to a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter, a cause to serve, or a person to love. Only to the extent that someone is living out this self-transcendence of human existence, is he truly human or does he become his true self. He becomes so, not by concerning himself with his self’s actualization, but by forgetting himself, and giving himself, overlooking himself and focusing outward.” (The Unheard Cry for Meaning, 1978; Simon and Schuster, Kindle Edition)
As well, our gracious host in several comments, on a couple of posts here, counsels confronting this with an honest acknowledgment of one’s own inadequacy before God twinned with the healthy humility that is willing to “rend your hearts, not your garments” [Joel 2:13] while donning “the armor of God” [Ephesians 6:13-17]. Not forgetting, of course, to “put on love” [Colossians 3:14] as a mantle for our words and actions, as we go out one day at a time, one moment at a time to encounter one person at a time. Incidentally, this weekend’s gospel reading for my faith community, is from Luke 17:5-10; it reminds the disciples – and us – that mustard-seed faith nourishes love and hope that can move mountains (and change hearts) which then can help reclaim a society and/or a nation. Amen?
Until next time,
Peace! Chaps, Out.