Saturday, August 1, 2015

This Perfect World

Have you ever had the task of having to break absolutely terrible news to another person?  News like a loved one has died, or that someone only has a short time to live?  Several times, in my law enforcement career I have had the very unfortunate duty of performing the dreaded death notification.  There have been few moments in my life more awkward than knocking on the door of some complete stranger who is having a perfectly normal day, knowing I am about to destroy their world with the news I'm going to share.  They don't even realize yet they are already having perhaps the worst day of their life.  To watch the kind smile melt away from their face as they lock eyes with you and begin to realize that something is terribly wrong.  You can almost see them begin to brace themselves for something awful as you open your mouth and the words seem to crawl out.  Their reaction to what is being said seems delayed as they try to process such monumentally impactful information.  Then it hits.  The melt down.  That moment when all the air is sucked out of the room and absolutely nothing else matters as the most pure, raw, and human of emotions come pouring out.  That moment when it doesn't matter who is around, it doesn't matter what we look like, who we are, or where we are from, nothing really matters.  For those not directly emotionally invested in the situation it is extremely awkward to sit and watch someone completely break down.  The immediate temptation is to try to quell the situation.  To begin to console and tell them it will be okay.  All the while knowing it won't be "okay."  It will be "okay" that you lost your daughter, it will be "okay" that you husband will never come home again, it will be "okay?"  Really?  It will be "okay?"  No it won't.  You may eventually move on, you may come to terms with something like this, but it will never be "okay."  I've learned that the temptation to say such thinks comes much more from my discomfort of the situation rather than theirs.  As people, I don't think we realize how used to being fake we have become.  And in these moments when we experience 100 percent pure, unrestrained, humanity, our immediate reaction is to try to cram it all back into the bottle from whence it came as quickly as possible.  Nothing will make us feel more like a fraud than being around something that is completely genuine.  And few things are more genuine than a grieving person.  Time and time again I hear from people who have suffered the loss of loved ones that after the funeral, everyone disappears and goes back to their regular lives, fully expecting the same for them.  After a week or two they feel they are expected to have "gotten over it" or "moved on."  When our lives are upset, we tend to want to race back to the way things were as quickly a possible, and we seem to want that for other people as well.  

What is it?  What is it about being completely real that scares us?  Why do we ask people how they are doing when honestly, unless the answer is "good" we really don't want to hear about it?  Everything about the human existence is really about being fake isn't it?  We hide our emotions, we hide our bodies, as I already mentioned, plastic surgery is one of the biggest industries around.  We prim and prep, we literally spend billions of dollars on making ourselves look different than we do while people across the world are starving and struggling to survive.  Somewhere along the line, perception became much more important than truth.  We became more infatuated with what people think about us than who we really are.  The truth is that I'm 50, but I want people to think I'm 40, the truth is that I weigh 140 pounds but I want to wear clothing that makes it look like I weigh 120.  The truth is I'm balding but I put on a wig so people think I have hair.  On and on it goes.

There is something so symbolic about the idea that man and woman were created naked.  They were created as they were, with nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be fake about.  They were truly and completely transparent.  Yet in today's world, one of the most humiliating things you could do to another person would be to strip them naked in public.  It's viewed an dehumanizing.  Isn't that interesting?  It's dehumanizing to reveal someones true humanity?  Isn't it ironic that uncovering the very body God created us to have is dehumanizing or obscene?
What I find interesting about the physical world that we live in is that it seems to constantly be calling us to be real.  We have a tendency to look around this Earth and see it as flawed.  We see the existence of things like earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes as attributes of a broken world.  Things like cancer and disease are all signs that our realm is far from perfect.  But is it really?  After all, for something to be perfect is really more dependent on the task or the objective than it is the item itself is it not?  If I'm trying to knit a sweater and someone hands me a hammer I might say the hammer is completely flawed.  But is it flawed, or is it just not the right thing for the job I have in mind?  When we say the world isn't perfect, why is that?  What is the standard we have in mind when we declare this world to be imperfect?  Personally, I would wager to say that most people have happiness in mind when they make that claim.  Imagine how much happier we would be if these negative aspects of life didn't exist.  Imagine how wonderful it would be if nobody got sick, if there was no suffering, etc.  And if God's purpose in creating the world in which we dwell was for us to be happy, then I think its pretty safe to say He failed, as there is plenty of suffering out there.  One of the biggest gripes about this world isn't even that there is suffering.  It's actually that there is suffering among the good and the innocent.  Few people have a problem with the evil suffering.  In fact, most of us kind of like the idea.  But imagine a world where only the bad people's houses got washed away in floods, only the evil got sick, only the cruel had accidents all the while the good prospered.  What might that world look like?  I would imagine in a world like that there would not exist evil people.  Once everyone put together that only the evil suffered, you would have to be an idiot to continue to live a bad life.  You would literally have the entire world manipulating us away from being evil.   Everyone would be good because the world would force it from us.  Then, once everyone was good, nothing bad would ever happen any more.  Paradise right?  A perfect world. The only thing is, nobody would be real.  People would only act the way they do because they were made to by a very coercive reality.
But we don't live in that type of place.  We live in a world where bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.  We live in a world were sometime the evil prosper and the righteous suffer.  Its a random world where the outcomes don't always align with positive inputs.  Its a flawed world right?  Unless of course happiness wasn't what God had in mind when He made this place.  What if God made this place not to make us happy but to make us real?
In a world that rewards everyone for being good and punishes everyone for being bad, we never get to see who is really good or bad.  But what of a random world?  A world where one is not always rewarded for their charity or punished for their infidelity, what then?  It is when we live in a world where sometimes the innocent suffer, sometimes the wicked thrive, sometimes the good succeed and sometimes they fail, a world where it rains evenly on the righteous and the unrighteous, that we are more likely to  see who people REALLY are.  We can know the good man is truly good because the world does not always reward him for it, we can know the evil man is evil as likewise the world doesn't always punish.  What if authenticity was God's goal when He made this beautifully unpredictable world, this world that seems to constantly be trying to extract and coax our true selves out into the light?  If that was God's desire .....then perhaps this is a perfect world.