Standing on My Head Does Hurt

…But it's worth it to get the most insightful perspective.

[This reflection was originally posted on 2/28/08. Since it bears on the election and since I've been distracted of late by the election process, I'll offer it again. Peace and all good. --Tausign]

G.K. Chesterton noted of my beloved St. Francis; "He who has seen the vision of his city [nation] upside-down, has seen it the right way up." It's the ordinary vision of live (i.e. the worldly way) that lacks imagination. And it's the gospel way of life, with its foolish imaginary ideals, that holds the greatest hope.

As we contemplate the upcoming electoral process the focus of national attention will be upon the candidates. I take the election process as solemn duty with utmost seriousness: but with no illusion. For the cause of change that most people seek is not in the leadership; at least not in a democratic nation such as ours. No, the true cause of change is in the electorate; for there lays the problem and the solution.

The general population is apt to think that we are 'victims' of our own political process: never feeling satisfied with the outcome and rarely being united, unless some large common foe forces us, through fear, to band together. For the most part we view the problems that must be addressed as other than our own: personal problems, faults, miscalculations, or misdeeds of others. The corollary of this is that the interests that must be defended are usually our own: in fact these interests are often in opposition to the interests of others.

This is the stark reality: and it is quite upside-down.

At another blog the topic of late is; what qualities are necessary to define a good candidate? This is an important consideration for sure, but as much as I disdain cynical thinking, I nevertheless commented with this skeptical remark:

"A fearful people will get a tyrant to protect them. An avaricious people will get a salesman to provide what they simply must have. A people unwilling to feed themselves will get someone to feed them. But a nation of people who are not afraid; are not greedy; and are willing to provide for themselves and perhaps a neighbor to boot...well they might call forth a person of humility."

Why should we look for and expect qualities in a candidate that are not manifestly sought after in a personal way by the electorate as a whole? Seriously, if you think the culture is in decline and decay and the vast majority has lost their senses on vital matters: then how can we reasonably expect a political solution? The best possible outcome would be for the 'right thinking' few to somehow pull an upset, and force by some 'set of rules', others to fall in line. That's just upside-down thinking.

And this is why so many default to seeing the whole process as a subjugation of a true majority of 'right thinking' citizens somehow being overpowered by nefarious entities: the manipulating media; profit hungry corporations; evil special interests, (the list is endless). They 'thwart' the 'right thinkers'. All manner of theories arise (with some half truths thrown in for veracity) which explain how our power is exorcised from our hands. Have you noticed that these groups are always made up of 'them'…and never of 'us'?

This is why the gospel never speaks of a political solution to the woes that we endure. My political theory is thus: The political process merely reveals the state of conversion of a nation. A virtuous nation will call forth a virtuous leader. When we fight and win the conversion battle (beginning with ourselves), then we won't need the political savior…we won't cry out for Barabbas to lead our cause. As important as the political battle is; it pales in comparison to the battle for conversion of the nation. The priority must be correct.

My greatest hopes and endeavors are focused not so much on the nation, but on the Kingdom within the nation. My battle is from the inside-out (my own conversion first and by extension others around me). Many, (surely not enough) have been praying and fasting, and will continue to so for our upside-down nation. We've begged God through his Holy Mother to shower graces upon us. Now we need to incorporate the graces. The solution is nothing less than a life of enduring penance as Our Lady has told us, repeatedly.

If the Christian community in particular continues to take a secular approach and avoid penance, then we are in for the longest of long pulls. As I remarked in in a post some time ago:

"Contemporary opinion of the practice [doing penance] is often seen as unnecessary and ludicrous; outdated and old fashioned; even backward and harmful. Yet, when the practice of 'doing penance' is put into actual usage, it quickly loses its absurdity and induces a sense of wisdom and good judgment."

To borrow a metaphor from an earlier reflection: Penance must precede great moral change as surely as a needle must precede the thread. Abortion, war, pornography, torture, poverty, drugs and a very long list of evils will simply not diminish unless and until a much larger conversion of hearts takes place. Some tipping point must be achieved. To imagine a world of less evil without great conversion is ludicrous. So if we imagine that we can push threads through fabric with our bare hands (for that is what relying on the political process alone entails) we are fooling ourselves. Penance is the indispensable means to both pierce the fabric (our hearts) and pull through the threads of our desire for change. "Let us begin anew, for as yet we have done nothing" (St. Francis of Assisi).


Kyle R. Cupp said...

I've long thought the primary solution to most of our political, social, and cultural problems is good education in the intellectual, moral, and physical virtues.

While I do think there are manipulators in the media and in power, their hold on the public would be much less if the public were, as you say, virtuous. Even if the public knew that virtue was something to aspire to, we'd be in better shape.

Jenny said...

An individual conversion of heart is the necessary prerequisite to the conversion of a nation... this post really stirred something in me.

Tausign said...

Kyle: Your solution is necessary yet insuficient. What's needed additionally is penance as the 'praxis': defined as 'the practical side and application of something, as opposed to its theory'.

Manipulators yes, even malefactors are present and always will be. But moreoften in a free society people become trapped in connivings because of their own weaknesses such as lust, greed, hunger for power and secutity, etc. When people purify or detach themselves from such longings they also fall from the grasp of the malefactors.

Jenny: Small stirrings of the spirit are all I ever hope for.

Madeline said...

Well, tausign, this is a thought provoking post and certainly true. If the nation converts, our leaders will be virtuous. You are right! May I suggest the Confraternity of Penitents as a way for people to incorporate penance in their lives, among others who are trying to do the same.

God bless you!

Anonymous said...

Great post. There is definitely a correlation between a people's moral character (or lack thereof) and the social, economic, and political condition of their country. I pray and offer penances very frequently for the conversion of all Americans. And try to work out my own in fear and trembling, as St. Paul said!

Happy St. Francis' day, btw! :)