I recently found myself thinking once again about a quote from Calvin Miller's Book, The Singer, in which he writes,
"Humanity is fickle. They may dress for a morning coronation and never feel the need to change clothes to attend an execution in the afternoon. So Triumphal Sundays and Good Fridays always fit comfortably into the same April week."
This week I have been reflecting on how "comfortably" dissonant events seem to find resting places along side of each other. We took a day off of work to celebrate and remember how the voices of people who once spoke at self-sacrificial cost in a way that opened doors to those who had found them tightly shut before. On the heels of that celebration, voices of people spoke once again, but this time motivated more by frustrated self-interest and concern -- not so much over what others needed and did not have, but over what they feared they themselves might lose.
Just a few days before, in response to the devastation brought about by the earthquake in Haiti, huge numbers of people, for the most part with little rhetoric about how people bring trouble upon themselves, found they had resources to share that might bring much needed health care and disaster relief to those who had no resources, and who struggled to survive amid a mounting death toll. Yea for this! In other news, there seemed to be great reluctance of the part of many to consider any on-going additional costs that would likely result in many other unnecessary losses being prevented all-together. Here I am less likely to find it within myself to cheer.
Life is complicated. There are many sides to many issues. Yet, I find myself wondering during weeks like this about where that place is at which odd ironies transition from something less hippocratic into something more hypocritic. Having grown up in the midst of, and in trying to minister to, a generation of people who struggle with tendencies to want to turn away from the dissonance with a sense of futility, this week as served as somewhat of a model as to why this kind of ambivalence persists. What is more curious, and frankly a bit perplexing, is the way in which many seem to have accommodated to the tension, almost as if the sound of fingernails on the chalkboard has somehow become the background music for a way of life - while richer tones and melodies slip out of range. I don't want to develop a taste for that genre of music. Some things may, in the end, actually turn out to have been far less complicated that we imagined.
There is, however a Tune that continues to play in the midst of the others, and with which they often compete -- one which still can be heard when we pause and listen for it. The sense of some of the lyrics are captured, at least in part, by these words from Mother Theresa (reported to have been cared into the wall of her home for children in Calcutta):
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives,
Be kind anyway
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you,
Be honest and frank anyway
What you spend years building someone could destroy overnight
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous
Be happy anyway
The good you do today, people may forget tomorrow
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough
Give the world the best you have anyway.
During those weeks when the irony is most pronounced, these have been among the more helpful lyrics that allow the light to shine on the way forward.