In order to get the people to offer up their young to the Gods of War, democratically-elected leaders find it necessary to make promises about war: it will end the rule of despots, protect innocent lives, enforce treaties, free captives, end looming threats from weapons of mass destruction, insure national sovereignty. Mostly, those things are not true.
Our dystopias are pretty tame compared to the dystopias of the imagination. But we still need them, these visions of the Inferno, these liaisons dangereuses of the heart. Because they drive us towards the light, towards the good, towards the possible, towards the future.
Things are not getting worse, Armageddon is not just around the corner and the world is not about to get really, really, horrible. We need new lenses to see the facts of life: things are not perfect, not by a long shot, but they are better than they have ever been. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Tell them to get new lenses.
The images of the American Gods project the opposite of what the prophets (Jesus included) urged: doing justice, loving mercy, walking humbly. But they are our Gods, and we will go down to the dust singing their praise.
There are now two prevailing sets of ideas pushing against each other in the Nation of the Idea, two narratives competing for the American soul. Unless we come to understand why each side feels aggrieved by the other, unless we are willing to approach the enemies in our own household with honesty, humility and compassion, the American idea will not endure.
Real apologies require real change by the offending party. And they don't include disclaimers. We haven’t changed the way we treat the Native People of this continent, and so we have nullified the apology. I’m sure the Standing Rock Sioux and all the other Native People were not surprised, considering how long they've known us. It’s who we are, we who apologize through the clenched teeth of war-making.
Seven years ago, she was homeless, addicted and lost. But she found one of those programs that is so out of fashion these days, and they helped her get sober and get a job. It’s not a great job: she starts her workday at 5:00 AM, makes the minimum wage, and she works really hard. There’s no extra money, and her idea of a great day is sitting at home, curled up on the couch, reading.
The convenient thing about religious afterlives is that no one can prove whether or not they exist, since you have to die to find out. So, in spite of the weird little cults like the one I grew up in, or the Transhumanist Church of Eternal Life (which is of course, in Florida, the universal epicenter of old, dying people and weirdness itself), eternal life is entirely subjective. Unless you’re a jellyfish.
Without apostasy, Christianity would never have had a St. Paul, who was an apostate Jew. Without heresy, Christianity never would have had a Martin Luther, a John Calvin or a Michael Servetus.
We think dirt is something to get rid of, to wash off, and to be honest, to be a little ashamed of having on our hands. We call this place we live “Earth,” with not a trace of irony. But we forget what earth is. It’s just dirt. God’s own dirt. And we don’t work it at all.