There is a noisy chaos that surrounds most of us these days. It batters us into gutless submission and slavery to thoughts and deeds that do not reflect our human genius and do not require our unique gifts, our innate potential for goodness, or the resources of our souls. Instead it touches something grim within us, something sinister and hostile.
We have lost our common dignity. We no longer know the power of silence and restraint. We live our lives without an inner volume control. We live in loud, rude behavior, disregarding the space, the presence and the specialness of others.
I am so weary of the meanness of our politics, of the belittling of the Office of the President, of the selfish arrogance of our politicians. I am tired of their ineptness, their frivolous disregard for their work. I deplore how smug they have become, how isolated they are from the real problems and the real people of our nation.
I am appalled by the shallowness of our religious institutions, by the trite and primitive superstitious drivel that is offered to people seeking faith. Christianity in particular has barely any visible or theological resemblance to its historic roots in the life and teachings of Christ. The Church dabbles in silly gimmicks and clumsy entertainment, in angry politics and strategies for building personal wealth.
What can any of that do to change our world for the better or cause us to express love’s power or make us capable of achieving a higher good?
It is all so empty and useless.
Money has corrupted us.
Money has invaded our Houses of Congress and our courts and robbed all of us of the grandeur and intelligence and imagination of our democracy.
Money has breached the walls of our churches and left them the enemies of the good, profaning every sacred symbol—Cross and Dove and Bible—leaving them barren of meaning, irrelevant and sterile.
Money has captured the heart of our society. It has not empowered us to greatness or expanded our generosity or enabled our capacity for compassion; instead it has left us shamefully pathological, bitter and cruel, ruthless and manipulative and stingy.
The homeless are considered a scourge and hated. The disabled can’t compete in our insane atmosphere of aggressiveness and so are ignored. The lonely are seen as losers and left to themselves. The elderly are offensive in a culture of youth and sex and our obsession with body image.
What we have left is a society driven by greed, a society dumbed down by materialism and a silly superficial vision of riches, a society spiritually empty and operating solely on the fuel of loathsome urges.
In the movie, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a tiny girl named Hushpuppy takes us on a journey of wonder and horror in her fictional but so realistic world called the Bathtub, a place of squalor and despair on the other side of the New Orleans levees.
There Hushpuppy lives with her cruel, dying father. Her mother is already dead. The people in the Bathtub have resigned themselves to their appalling helplessness against a coming deluge of water and the powers of those on the other side of the levees.
It is a world of wretchedness, and its misery is a microcosm of our larger nation in its current mood of estrangement and discontent and aimlessness.
The small hero Hushpuppy, however, refuses to sink both literally and emotionally. Her indomitable spirit is a force for those things we all need whatever our age—courage, determination, defiance, and fearlessness.
“The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right,” says Hushpuppy. And so she adores nature, and listens to the animals, and seeks wisdom in whatever beauty she can find.
At one point she and a few friends venture out into the water and climb aboard a passing small barge. The captain, a grizzled man, offers her some boxed fried chicken. He keeps all the wrappers of these lunches, he says, in order to be “cohesive.” Hushpuppy pauses a moment to look at all the wrappers neatly stacked together in a pile. She says, “I want to be cohesive.”
This child models the spirit we all need in these difficult times. Back inside the Bathtub she seeks meaning in the midst of the rubbish around her. “I see,” she says, “that I am a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right.”
What a beautiful understanding of cohesiveness. What an example of the living it takes to survive in times of so much chaos.
© 2012 Timothy Moody