If there’s been one constant in my life, it’s been progress. Some would say “change” but I would firmly say progress. I make New Years Resolutions, write in my journal, and enjoy blogging much for the ability to see where I’ve come from and where I’m going. It’s just one of the reasons that I’ve turned to the field of organizational psychology – I want to believe that there is such a thing as progress and a chance to cultivate and steward people and resources for the benefit of humanity and the world – and it’s possible to do this not just on an individual level, but a systematic level.
But, oh friends, I watched with growing sadness this whole Chick-Fil-A thing – the “he said, she said” inaccuracy, the memes, the clarifications, the anger, the articles, the blog posts. I thought: “The internet is a vile thing that should never have been created. It’s nothing but field of people blindly throwing stones at anyone who walks by them and has the wrong number on their back.” I’m glad that the Olympics seemed to jog people out of their vitriol, since even the campaign couldn’t seem to manage it. I came very close to losing my ability to see progress at all.
Amidst all the hubbub I faced a growing realization that I’m old. I’m grown up. Somehow, somewhere I lost my youthful belief that life is getting better all the time. I mean the grand scale life, not the personal day to day. (Some people are going to have rotten lives. I know.)
I used to console myself with thoughts of technology’s benefit, women’s equality, and the standards of living. Now my mind quickly to counterbalances these things with worries about increasing polarization (of politics, religion, wealth), dwindling spirituality, deepening ecological crisis, and the loneliness of lost community.
I really did somehow still believe, was it only last year, or was it the year before?, that if we could all just sit down and talk about this, put ourselves into each others shoes and minds, we’d end up not agreeing, but at least respecting one another. Some little part of me thought perhaps the internet was this meeting of people in one place.
I don’t think that anymore.
I don’t think in any way that we should give up searching out other people’s perspectives and opinions, but I’m sure the internet is not the place to do it. Not properly. The internet is still just a tool, and it’s not able to stand in for a craftsman wielding the tool properly. It’s nothing for person to person discussion.
I was walking through this with my husband while we were on vacation, discussing my opinions that the world is stagnating. For every success in some area such as less overall racism, there’s another new area which seems to pop up as a problem, like the wealth divide. I told him, I think I’m about to give up hope.
He told me gently about a theology professor of his who reminded the students that despair is a sin. We recalled that passage in pretty familiar Biblical chapter 1 Corinthians 13 “Now these three remain, faith hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” Hope might not be the greatest, but it’s one of the three that remain to us.
I also have been re-reading The Chosen by Chaim Potok, which is about, among many things, differences of opinion (albeit on a personal scale), and the wise words of one character’s father have been in my head.
“Honest differences of opinion should never be permitted to destroy a friendship.”
So, I have decided I will not despair, I will hope, and I will listen.