Sunday, November 30, 2014
"You are going to hell!" (We are already there)
Downtown on Friday, not to shop—we never set foot in a store—but to take a family visit to the David Bowie exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Quite enjoyable, and I marveled how Bowie, always a master at manipulating his image, managed to celebrate every aspect of his life, raise public awareness of his music, promote his new album, and no doubt pocket considerable cash in the bargain, all by cleaning out his closets.
The new album promotion aspect did give me pause. One display said it "provoked a phenomenal response"—I suppose you could argue general indifference and light snickering represented a new phenomenon in Bowie's long career, but it seemed more press agentry and less museum curation. That said, we all liked the show well enough.
Afterward, we crossed Michigan Avenue to go to lunch. RL was full to the rafters, so we called an audible and headed to Flaco Taco across the street.
On the way back, we encountered this knot of religious fanatics.
"You are a sinner!" one shouted at us as I hotfooted by.
"Every chance I get," I muttered under my breath, as we crossed Michigan.
It says something—something good, I hope, though I'm not sure—about our tolerance, as a society, that zealots can drag their medieval belief systems out into public, use them to berate random passerby, inflict annoyance, or at least inconvenience, and then go home feeling smug, certain they've done the Lord's work.
Though it hardly seems fair. It isn't as if the secular society shows up in their backyards, condemning their children, urging them to abandon their beliefs, to drink and fornicate and commit any of the wide range of activities that they consider sin, which is basically anything beyond praying and working and mowing the lawn, and not even that on Sundays.
Then I realized—and I hate to bat for their team, but it's true—that that is exactly what happens. Free-to-be-you-and-me liberal consumer capitalism certainly radiates its values across the landscape, through a spectrum of finely crafted, technologically advanced forms of communications: movies, TV, video games, songs, and on and on. You can't avoid it.
In that light, can you really begrudge the losing side, the remnant who haven't yet been crushed under the steamroller of progress, to show up on a street corner with their low tech signs and megaphones, to hector pedestrians? Have the sympathy for them that they would never extend toward us. Sure they're impassioned and angry. Because it hurts to be wrong, and to believe something idiotic: I'm convinced that, somewhere, in their hearts, they must know this, which is what makes them so generally unpleasant, shrill and insistent. If they were actually nestled under God's wing, they'd be more content. Which is why they need to create converts, as a away to reassure themselves, to shore up their shaky position. They can't calm down, can't pause to think, because doing so, they'd realize how crazed it all is, their imaginary, vengeful God peeking down your pants to see if you make the cut into eternal bliss, sending you to hell for dancing. They've wasted their lives peering through their keyhole of a worldview and their only redemption now is to browbeat a few credulous stragglers into following them over the cliff and wasting their lives too. Blessed are we who realize it, and enjoy the divine gift of being able to hotfoot past. Bad enough to pass them in the street; imagine being them, and have pity, and forgive.