Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Long Loneliness (167-181)

The title of this section is "Peasant of the Pavements."

I thought once or twice while reading this section about long gaps in some scriptural passages, particularly the histories. Moses flees after slaying the Egyptian and forward to an older and wiser man confronted with the burning bush.

How often people have wondered about those gaps, longed, perhaps, for some arcane bit of lost knowledge that might help explain the transition.

Yet more information rarely does the trick.

This section of Day's work often felt slow to me, and I had trouble sharing her enthusiasm for the particular details that stayed in her memory. Perhaps this is partially why I have difficulty with devotional literature. There is still a straining, from youth, after the significant, that makes one want to gloss over the daily, the mundane, and in doing so to chafe against those who do not. Even in the scripture, there are passages that are intensely descriptive of a moment--the Psalms come to mind--that I've always had trouble reading. Perhaps as I get older, I will come to appreciate those forms of expression that linger over the moment more.

Day and her friend talk of a calling to make a society in which it is easier for men to be good. I chafed, too, against this message. Is it ever easier to be good? I think there is a misunderstanding of human nature there--but an argument could be made, I guess. Certainly the New Testament teaching on the rich and poor--saying it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to inherit the kingdom--might be read to mean there are all sorts of varied difficulties than different segments of society have. Emotionally I certainly FEEL like it is harder to be good when I have less power or control or money, but experentially, I haven't known that to be the case.

So maybe I'm struggling to understand Day's conception of the social justice strain of the gospel and to reconcile it with my own experience and beliefs. I recently finished Helen Prejean's Dead Man Walking, and there was a strain of social justice there--voluntary poverty (material and spiritual)--that while no easier to practice, made sense to me and was (key point) recognizable. Perhaps I'm a Gen-X cynic who thinks the prospect of changing society on an institutional level is just impossible and hence those who advocate it are naive...but, then, changing one human heart is impossible too, so perhaps the same God who can inspire one soul to pray for another against nearly impossible odds can equally insipre one soul to work against a sea of impossible odds to effect large changes in institutions, not in the belief that they will be permanent, but in the hopes that they will be good.

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