Charlie's Blog: It Shouldn't Shock You--Keeping Your Cool in a Messed Up World


It Shouldn't Shock You--Keeping Your Cool in a Messed Up World

I'm Christian, indeed Roman Catholic, so I don't expect history to be anything but a long defeat with glimpses of final victory.

A win is a nice thing when it happens. It is even better when winning becomes a regular thing. But this usually happens in sports or chess. It doesn't happen often in life. Life is mostly a string of defeats for those who labor and fight for good. In the broad panorama of human history, barbarity and evil have been the norm with the relative civility and humanity of Western Civilization being a rare thing. Even then, Christendom has been surrounded by enemies from without and betrayed by enemies within.

All of these depressing facts point back to the ultimate fact. The world is a fallen place. The atheists would argue that the world never fell from anywhere but ascended from the beasts. Human beings are merely clever monkeys who are only slightly better than the less evolved primates. But if this were the case, why would we even care or lament the inhumanity we see so often? The reality is that we all have some concept of the good and the knowledge that we don't measure up to that good. This is the Fall.

We all know good and evil, and we have all chosen evil at some point in our lives. We can choose to do good, but this remains imperfect. The simple fact is that people let us down on a regular basis, and we let others and ourselves down as well. We live in a messed up world filled with messed up people including ourselves.

The answer seems to be a demand to cleanse the world of all that is messed up. The story of the Flood in Genesis is about this impulse and idea. If we could just remove the bad people from the world, it would stop being messed up. Yet, the story ends with Noah naked and drunk and mocked by his own son. The lesson is that the battleground of good versus evil is within the heart and soul of each human being. Reforming institutions or slaughtering the bad people will never change this.

Can the world be fixed? The answer is no. This is the dream of libertarians and Marxists. Utopia can never be. This is why conservatism though unpopular always wins in the end. Conservatism is reality, and the reality is that we live in a messed up world. The best we can achieve is a world that is a little less messed up.

God can fix the world, and He will. But that is in the future. For now, the world remains messed up. It remains this way because people must be saved from this world before its final destruction. All of our efforts in this life are preparation for this coming destruction and rebirth. We are to save our own souls and the souls of all the ones who will listen and obey. In short, our aim is not victory but endurance.

At some point in the inferno, you stop trying to save the structure, and you turn to trying to save yourself and your loved ones. We are at that point in the world. We have always been there. Eden is closed for business.

Yet, people are shocked when they read the news and discover a new terrorist attack, a new sex scandal, a corrupt politician, or some clergyman failing to live up to his professed vows. Why does this shock us? Why do we lose our cool in a world we know is already messed up?

Nothing in this world should ever shock us. One time, I was shocked when I was told that someone had stolen large sums of money. The shock came because I naively believed this person to have honesty and integrity. Looking back, I realize I had no basis whatsoever for this belief. The man was a liar to me and an adulterer. He merely added con artist and thief to his resume of sordidness. He wasn't a good man so much as I wanted to believe that he was a good man.

There is nothing wrong in wanting to believe that people are good. But there is a lack of prudence in this regard. We should want people to be good, but we should never believe that they are good. I want people to not be thieves, but I always lock up my belongings. Basically, you can never go wrong expecting the worst of people. It is depressing but sobering and sometimes delightful when people occasionally fail to live down to your low expectations of them.

Having the dark view of human nature is how you keep from being shocked and losing your cool in a messed up world. You are surrounded by sinners, and you are a sinner, too. This defensive pessimism is what keeps your heart from being broken and your faith from being shattered.

Optimism and faith are good things, but they are only good when they are placed in the right and proper things. People fail, but God never fails. God will come through in the end. God wins. Life is one long defeat. Then, there is victory won by Christ. Have faith in nothing but Jesus Christ. Cling to Him and endure. We can't win, but we can be on the winning side.

Life is not futile. At the end of each day, you should ask yourself if you still believe in God. People will let you down. You will let yourself down. But do you believe that God will let you down? As long as you still believe, you can put that day in the win column. And if you believe on your final day of life, you have triumphed. We can't save the world, but if we endure, we have the share in saving ourselves. You just want to come through to the other side. This final perseverance comes from God's grace working in you.

No one moves into a burning house. Yet, this is what people do when they try and make a home out of this world and a Heaven out of Hell. We are pouring water on the fire while these fools pump the gasoline. It is a lost cause except for the ones we bring out of the fire.

How do you keep your cool in a messed up world? Accept the fact that this world is fallen. Realize that people are corrupted by concupiscence and original sin. Believe God wins in the end. And trust that God's grace will enable you to persevere until that end. Then, avail yourself of that grace through prayer and the sacraments.