I’d ask each of you to ask the question: What is our world and culture doing to me? Is it making me more human or less human?
I recently watched the excellent and possibly most aggressive film Ingmar Bergman ever directed. It’s called SHAME. Even though the setting is an imagined Civil War it is a reflection of his thoughts and feelings about WWII and the Vietnam War. It is one of the better anti-war films because it graphically shows what happens to “third parties” in a conflict (i.e. not the principal players) On the Criterion Collection edition DVD there is an interview with Bergman’s muse at-the-time, Liv Ullman. She recounts what Bergman said at the time:
“He said, ‘What we have to be aware of for ourselves is coldness, indifference, looking down at other people, lack of contact with other people….'”
I love that quote and I think it is a perfect thing for us to meditate on in these times in which we live, where there is rapidly rising partisanship, greater ideological divides and an onslaught of excessive blame, cruel judgement, harsh criticism, hatred, lies and extremism in every format (even advertisements – I’m thinking of a weed killer commercial where a woman shouts “Kill em ALL”). And when extremism is presented as humorous or justified as mocking and we laugh – we add to the problem and become insensitive. We need to THINK and think critically about what we consume in media and advertisements. It’s easy to get caught up in all the reporting about this and that twitter feud but as we do we also become more emotionally trapped by that. We begin to choose sides. We are blind to the fact about how that is slowly stripping away our humanity. We cease to see people, who disagree with us, as human. We desire to see them treated as the animals we perceive in their reported and confessed behavior. It’s the old trap: An eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth…… Before you know we become the animals ourselves.
So how do we rise above? And even though I don’t identify as Christian anymore – I’ve always loved Jesus Christ and am amazed that religious people (especially in America), who seek positions of power in their religion and in politics, fail to see that what they seek is what killed their Savior to begin with. It was not the Jews (as a race) who killed Christ it was religion and politics. Politics because of Roman leadership that refused to get involved and handed Christ over to the religious leaders; it was then religious moral high-mindedness, protectionism and fear that finished the job. Both politicians and religious leaders wanted to maintain control of the people and how did they do that? They killed love.
So back to my question how do we rise above it? First we need to come down to earth. How do we stop ourselves from becoming the thing we hate? I think the answer lies in Bergman’s quote. We need to remain warm in our observations of others and realize that those in the news, twitter, facebook, youtube or whatever other outlet that allows their dehumanizing hate to be vomited out into the world, are still human. Human in spite of the latest outrage. We NEED to find a way to see them as human beings that are worth saving. We need to reach out to hear them, understand them and meet them part way. If we criticize them and ridicule them, judge them, shame them and embarrass them we do nothing to win them over. We only become more like them and when we realize that – then shame sets in and we are filled with shame and self-loathing. Lost in a cycle we can see no way out of. It takes someone to step outside the self-perpetuating cycle and say, “Wait…. I’m sorry, while I disagree with what you are saying or how your are expressing it I’d like to hear more about why you feel that way and see if there’s a way we can work through it together.” And when they say something you disagree with ask them, “Why do you think that will work or how will that help the situation?” There is NOT one way to do things.
That sets the stage for dialog – it’s the beginning of change. We cease to be lost in the coldness of our own defenses. When we stop the polemicizing and start listening to other peoples stores we cease to be trapped by the indifference we feel toward others. We stop looking down on others and take steps to heal the contact, the bond between us that makes us uniquely human. We stop defining the other person as “them” or “the other”. We also need to stop being offended by criticism. Remember offense is something you take = it’s not given to you. Accept criticism and respond lovingly and appropriately. And if you give criticism and the other person is offended you can be the salve, the healing balm with a simple “I’m sorry, I did not mean to offend I was just trying to express what I feel. Why does that offend you?”
So are you tired of the “ball of confusion” that perpetuates modern society?
If you are, I dare you seek out difference and find a way to meet it and meet with it. You can rise above it all. WE can rise above it all. When we help others rise up – especially those who are different with different ideologies, beliefs, moral centers, values ….. when we help others we help ourselves. I dare you. Will you dare? You might be surprised who will come along.
STAY HUMAN – “All I want to do is stay human with you…..”
It’s not going to happen unless we (you and I) make it happen.
BE THE CHANGE
BLACK AS NIGHT “I believe in the good things coming…”
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