All licit pleasures can lead us to God. All licit pleasures can prepare us to enjoy the eternal presence of God. That is what pleasure is for: to teach us, to form us, to remind us of what we once knew before our forefather Adam brought darkness and distance and forgetfulness between us and our creator. It is perverse to try to prolong pleasure past its purpose. It is profound to try to submerge ourselves in the source of all pleasure.
As wave after wave of bizarre news rolls in from the White House, some Americans may be tempted to think, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” But that’s not so. The Trump presidency is actually one long string of tired ideas we’ve heard a million times.
But here’s the catch: tired ideas are somewhat more startling when someone actually acts on them.
You remember that scene in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where the ship picks up a passenger. and they discover that he’s come from the island where dreams come true. At first, the sailors can’t believe their luck, expecting to find loved ones alive again, or to be reunited with old flames.
Not so fast.
“Fools!” said the man, stamping his foot with rage. “That is the sort of talk that brought me here, and I’d better have been drowned or never born. Do you hear what I say? This is where dreams — dreams, do you understand — come to life, come real. Not daydreams: dreams.”
There was about half a minute’s silence and then, with a great clatter of armour, the whole crew were tumbling down the main hatch as quick as they could and flinging themselves on the oars to row as they had never rowed before; and Drinian was swinging round the tiller, and they boatswain was giving out the quickest stroke that had ever been heard at sea. For it had taken everyone just that half-minute to remember certain dreams they had had–dreams that make you afraid of going to sleep again–and to realize what it would mean to land on a country where dreams come true.
The voyage of the ship of state in 2017 comes to mind; only it’s the Island Where Commencement Addresses Come True. You’ve been to one or two of these snoozers in your lifetime, right? Your head droops, your tongue begins to loll out of your mouth as you hear the speaker drone on and on through platitude after platitude.
Well, say what you will about 2017, it hasn’t been boring. Here’s a few clichés that wake you right up when they come to life and start picking out new drapes for the Oval Office:
You can be anything you want to be if you believe in yourself. You can become head of the Department of Education even if you know less about the inside of a classroom than your average hornet could pick up before it got squashed by the janitor. You can get an appointment to almost any cabinet post, and the only qualification you’ll need is that you are completely untainted by experience with or knowledge of your post.
Don’t let other people tell you what to believe, as long as you hold your truth in your heart. Although it’s probably not wise to claim Your Truth was just a slip of the tongue when you you have already told the world Your Truth three separate times.
Don’t let anything divert you from pursuing your passion. Not marriage, not consent, not bodily autonomy. Just grab.
Never let anyone else define you or put artificial boundaries on what you can achieve. Separation of powers, schmeparation of powers. States’ right, schmates rights. Limited government . . . well, you get the schmidea.
Don’t sit back and let your friends shape the future. Be the change you (for some ungodly inexplicable reason) wish to see in the world.
But do lean on your friends. Lean hard.
Reject being limited by labels. People want to call you “pro-life,” that’s fine. You’ll take their vote. But you’ll go ahead and gleefully reject child refugees, gut legal protections for kids with special needs, openly mock the disabled, enthusiastically promote torture, and yank health insurance from the poor, including children and pregnant women. And test out your awesome new military powers by killing an 8-year-old American girl. Let them label you “pro-life!” You’re bigger than any label.
Reach for the stars. Or the Vatican. Or Russia. Or . . . just hang around in your bathrobe watching TV and leafing through drape fabric swatches.
No matter what they take from you, they can’t take away your dignity. Nothing from nothing leaves nothing, updated several times daily.
What interests me is how eager so many people were to believe that the sick, twisted, evil of California just got a little sicker, more twisted, and even eviller. There is a very fine line between drawing back in horror and swooping in with glee, and thousands of outraged readers, bloggers, pundits, and shock jocks vaulted right over that line.
Why? Because evil isn’t content with prowling around like a ravening lion, looking to devour this and that. It wants us to sit on the sidelines and cheer it on, munching popcorn as we enjoy the spectacle.
Whether you call it a defect in our understanding of tragedy, or a defect in our understanding of comedy, it amounts to the same thing, because a society that avoids tragedy is a society that does not understand comedy — and so it has no idea when to laugh and when to cry.
For the older kids, in 7th, 8th, 10th, and 11th grades, I give up. Wait, no, that’s not what I meant to say out loud. What I meant to say is that we haven’t found either EDGE or LifeTeen to be a good match for our family, and every time I try to read something aloud to the kids, or do a pre-packaged curriculum with them, something happens to capsize the whole endeavor. It’s some combination of the kids being in three different schools, and me and my husband working four different jobs, and the kids having this dumb idea about having social lives, and me falling into a prenatal coma around 6:00 every night, that just makes it difficult to keep up with the diligent inquiry into beginner’s theology that I always imagined enjoying in the soft quiet of evening with my older kids. And no, we can’t do anything in the car. I don’t want to explain why. We just can’t.
Wow. Many, many thanks to Garard Nadal for posting this incredibly pro-life short film from Unilever:
I do not know what Unilever’s Project Sunlight is about, but man, the clip is lovely, and will do much good. A great companion, as a matter of fact, to this comic illustrating a quote from C.S. Lewis, who died fifty years ago today. (Thanks to Jason Bach for sharing the comic on Facebook!)
Hope doesn’t mean you know nothing will go wrong. As Lewis says:
The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.