Monday, February 29, 2016

The Lie of Deliberate Obstruction

Occasionally in our prayers and reflections, we human beings can suddenly get a sense of clarity, and we realise that we have been lied to. Thus has happened to me a few times and I  have tried to blog the results. Given that we should always be seeking the truth, indeed our family motto is veritas omnia vincit, I do intend to record these moments of clarity as they occur. We are being lied to, but not necessarily by other folk. Thus here begin reflections on The Lie.

You know the sort of situation. You turn onto a single lane road, only to see another car coming towards you. Someone has to back up.

Or you're in a hurry at the bank, and you're behind the little old lady who has decided to take out £100 in 10 pence pieces and the clerk is counting every wretched one.

All too often, we blame the other driver, or the old lady, or the bank clerk for our inconvenience as if they were acting with the express purpose of inconveniencing us, or at least blaming them for their selfish behaviour. Have we really thought about what is actually going on here?

One might say that everyone is naturally selfish. That's not quite true. Everyone is naturally looking out for their own ends and both society and religious practice can help train us to look out for others. Wilfully being self-serving is true selfishness having its expression in Lust, Avarice, and Gluttony. The old lady may need those 10p pieces to feed an antiquated gas meter that her stingy landlord hasn't bothered to replace. The bank clerk may be driven by professional courtesy to ensure that the old lady isn't diddled out of a single coin. The other driver may be just visiting his mother. Or they may all just be out to ruin your day. Which is most likely?

The real thing to blame is the timing. Human beings interact chaotically. Simple social rules and conventions create complex and colourful behaviour, allowing us to express ourselves and live our lives. But the complexity of living mean that we do get in each others' ways albeit for the most part unwittingly and ignorantly. Indeed, we can be at our most obstructive to others when we are actually trying to help.

We have to see the clear thing here. Unless we actually have the information in front of us, we can assume nothing about the other's motives or intentions. Any obstruction is most likely to be bad timing more than anything else.

This does mean that we have to learn to relinquish the illusion that things are deliberately out to get in our way. This illusion is born of another illusion which is more pernicious, namely the illusion that we can control every aspect of our lives. If we live with others, then the Divine mandate to love one another as ourselves compels us not just to allow those obstacles but to rejoice in them as an aspect of our and the other's shared humanity in the sight of God.

Of course, we ought not seek to obstruct others deliberately, but perhaps we should cut ourselves a little slack when we do.

There is nothing to blame here save our own propensity to be impatient and intolerant. Yet we must recognise that while our patience and tolerance are limited, God's is not.

Let us see the Lie of Deliberate Obstruction for what it is, and seek to see in others not an obstacle but an ikon of God's love.

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