L’abri Marginalia (4)

  • The Cultural Myth of Love: Our culture believes a myth about love that it is possible to find the perfect person, so we quickly tire of mere good people and relentlessly pursue an idea of perfection that does not exist. The stories are culture has told us about love have taught us to follow our gut, and our gut is not easily pleased (or very good at being content for long).  Attaining romantic feelings of love become the highest good in a relationship, but, as Lewis said, “Love becomes a demon the moment it becomes a God.” Or, as Rob Gordon said more bluntly in the wonderful film, High Fidelity, “I have been following my gut since I was 14 years old, and, frankly speaking, I have come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.” This pursuit of the ever-receding goal of that perfect person leads to heartache and eventually a deep cynicism toward love and relationships. David Richter takes it one step further, “Combine our culture’s cynicism with the postmodern idea of the fluidity of the self (the idea we can change ourselves at any point) and it makes for extreme lack of commitment.” This is the landscape of romantic love that we find ourselves in. The Bible makes people realistic, however. It leaves no room for the belief that there is another human out there who is perfect in every way, who will never let us down, with whom we will experience no problems. It makes us dive in to the mess of life and enter the real problems in hope of the belief that it is on the far side of that mess that there is true love and true community. It gives us strength and succor when the pain of love is too much, for it gives us something to hang our identity on other than finite, frail, fickle humans. It tells us a story of love that is about sacrifice and patience and endurance, not mere feelings of love, nor a fantasy of love unbroken by the fall. There is nothing unbroken in this world, but neither is there nothing that cannot be mended. Christianity bids us enter the mess of one anothers lives and let the wonderful work of the mending begin.
  • The Hard Part of Believing: “The hard things about Christianity are not the hard things, but the simple things that take a moment to understand and a lifetime to believe deeply enough for it to become true of you.”
  • The Gift Economy: A gift can be a powerful thing. Gift can create gratitude. A gift is not acquired through any act of the receivers will. In this sense, even creation is a gift. Creation is superfluous – it did not come to us because we were owed it or we bought it. It is simply a lavish gift of God. A gift creates indebtedness. A gift creates a bond of attachment, which has reciprocation at its heart. This can be uncomfortable – it can feels though we are losing our freedom – but it is not necessarily a bad thing. This is contrasted with a market economy, where everything is bought and sold. In a market economy you leave each transaction at equilibrium and everyone remains free. This indebtedness leads to the next consequence of the gift economy, it creates community. Gifts abolish boundaries and create unifying bonds. These gift communities cannot function without a real community, and no there can be no real community without a real circulation of gifts in the community. Gifts create motion. Gifts have to keep moving within a community or they become commodities. Gifts can be like the manna from heaven – if you keep them, they perish. Turning gifts into commodities distorts the very nature of the gift economy. When one person uses a gift up they pass it one and the transformative motion of the gift continues. Gifts create increase. When we participate in the gift economy we are sometimes left with the holes of the gift’s absence, this is a commitment to it’s increase. A gift is like a seed that you have to scatter into the ground for it to grow. If you hoard the gifts, the wither and die. Think of a tithe – a tithe is a loss for you, but an increase for the kingdom of God. In God’s gift economy there is always enough for tomorrow, so we operate with hope and also with disinterest because we believe in the power of the gift and of God.
  • Laughter: There are many kinds of laughter and many kinds of smiles. Personally, my favorite kind is laughter in a group when you are not supposed to be laughing. There is something contagious and irrestistible about it, especially when people start to notice. At that point they can have one of two reactions: 1. become annoyed and shake their heads or hush you or 2. join in the laughter themselves. In my opinion the latter option is one of the great graces of the world…
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