Monday, February 29, 2016
The Terror of the Cute
I notice among some folk that there is an apparently strange reaction to things that are cute. We can be presented with a playful puppy or kitten, or be given a baby to hold who just smiles and smiles at us. It is as we get overwhelmed by the happy feelings that these wonderful things that a certain negativity arises in us. We suddenly want the cuteness or beauty to end. We seek to push it away, even crush it, destroy it. Somehow we just cannot cope with this wonderful thing. Cuteness hurts.
Yet, this is actually very normal, if rather unwelcome or disturbing. It seems we have a limit to the sheer joy that we can feel before it becomes too difficult to endure. We see this in St Peter's reaction to Our Lord. The sheer greatness of God, even as a human being is too much for us that, like St Peter, we say "away from me, Lord, for I am a sinner." We are so used to the sin in our lives, the darkness of the World and the blind indifference of the universe to the needs of its inhabitants, that we cannot cope with the beauty with which we are all created.
Cute things come with the label, "please take care of me". The purity and innocence they convey shows up in us the filth and wretchedness within our own selves giving us the the dreadful realisation that, actually, we cannot take care of them. Yet, the cuteness is insistent to the extent that the vision of ourselves causes the feelings of affection to cloy and corrupt. We know that we cannot adequately meet their demands, and so try to obliterate the demand that cuteness infallibly makes.
To recognise that our love and ability to take care of lovely things is limited is always a shock. Yet it points to the fact that we need taking care of too. We need help and kindness and warmth if we are to function. We too bear a label that says "please take care of me". Although we may not present the same cuteness as a kitten or baby, we still have it. God beholds us as being adorable. That's the terrible fact and it is unavoidable. We are loved and cannot fail to be loved.
Worms might never get the same press as kittens, but God rejoices in creating them. Even more does He rejoice in us so much as to send His Son, Our Lord, to burst the prison of our own making. And that's the scandal.
We seek to be in control. We seek always to meet the challenge that is thrown at us. We seek to repel the invader and protect all that is vulnerable and all that we cherish. We try to possess the cute things in life and give them unwavering and absolute nurture. The fact is that we can't and it hurts us.
Dealing with these feelings and fears is the work of humility. It can only be done with God's help. We have to learn to walk away from cute things with a spirit of thankfulness to God and recognition of our inability to provide what He alone can provide.
Kittens and babies grow up and become their own selves. We can only do our best for them in the love of God.