Sunday, December 16, 2018

Why bother?

There are some for whom evangelism of any measure or purpose is an utter affliction, this in spite of the strength or universality of the intended communication. The bible - notwithstanding its poetic use of metaphor - seldom fails to makes its point. This does not however imply that the cloak of design is entirely without uncertainty.  Take for example the expression from Matthew 7:6.

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs,
neither cast ye your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them under their feet,
and turn again and rend you.

The dominant reading is that the verse is not an attack on any particular group (nor intended as code for preference of Jews over Gentiles) but rather a continuation of the theme of God and Mammon begun at Matthew 6:24 and that the verse is an attack on wasteful spending. We should put all of our resources to God, as everything is like dogs and pigs compared to Him.  It has also been proposed that the verse might be to balance the other verses, that non-judgmentalism can only go so far and that there are some who should be excluded. The verse can be read as a reasonable limit on evangelism.  If an individual is not open to what is being touted or advanced, leave and find a more receptive audience. While no one should judge severely, there is a point at which any reasonable person will realize that those they are dealing with are dogs and swine. It might also be said that the pearl is not helpful. Our efforts to correct and control others by pouring out our good intentions may ultimately yield anger, resentment and attack by the audience. This turns the analogy into one that exposes one's self-superiority in thinking others need the unbidden advice.

Fulfilling today what has become my mundane custom of bicycling and lounging by the sea, it barely seems either necessary or appropriate that I should cultivate a tiresome examination of this biblical message. It is however illustrative of the survival of my mostly private contemplation of life and the people with whom I associate. It would not be the first time I have mistaken the ambitions of others by falsely comparing them to my own. This is admittedly a double-edged sword since there is naturally no presumption of propriety on either side. That admission alone is nonetheless useful because it reminds me that my ability to interpret the conduct of others is risky at best.  Yet I derive advantage from the analysis in that it equally promotes a legitimate response to a conundrum by the dismissive process rather than any other. That is, if indeed we cannot fathom the complexity of another's mind, it isn't completely illogical to abandon the pursuit. I like that the conclusion can be reached without insistence upon a binary resolution.

This seeming ambivalence nurtures as well what I sometimes feel is a shameful declension into the unfettered pleasure of living.  Several of my former colleagues continue to qualify themselves by employment. They are doing things, being productive - perhaps even improving their mental capacity or at the very least sustaining it. I have pondered this matter at some length. Whatever the correct analysis, I am convinced I haven't the wherewithal to practice law; nor do I actively entertain anything else bordering on the public exhibition of either acuity or performance. I'm cooked!  But this doesn't mean I have relented in my scrutiny and dissection of life's eternal stumpers. It actually spirits my keenness of thought to know that nothing turns upon my peroration.  The work of my day thus insinuates my petty indulgences quite comfortably. It is not complacency which rewards me; rather it is unadulterated enquiry, a provocation with no material end.

I can think of a better dissolution than retiring with one's book and bottle. Neither is assured to provide anything of either tangible or particularly compelling result but at least the degeneration is less obvious.  Besides there is a certain dignity in combining old age with remorseless and harmless indulgences like watching the sun set, listening to the crashing waves and contemplating a plate of raw vegetables and cold fish for dinner.

“Mrs Ramsay sat silent. She was glad, Lily thought, to rest in silence, uncommunicative; to rest in the extreme obscurity of human relationships. Who knows what we are, what we feel? Who knows even at the moment of intimacy, This is knowledge? Aren’t things spoilt then, Mrs Ramsay may have asked (it seemed to have happened so often, this silence by her side) by saying them? Aren’t we more expressive thus? The moment at least seemed extraordinarily fertile. She rammed a little hole in the sand and covered it up, by way of burying in it the perfection of the moment. It was like a drop of silver in which one dipped and illumined the darkness of the past.” 

 Excerpt From: Woolf, Virginia. “To The Lighthouse.”

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