Friday, September 28, 2018

The Entertainment of Demonic Destruction

It's easy to destroy things, takes almost no effort at all. Take marriage for instance. It requires enormous effort, daily sacrifice, and constant vigilance to preserve a marriage and even more to make it flourish. To destroy it takes almost nothing at all. A good reputation is painstakingly built, but can be obliterated in a moment. Building a strong community takes genius, virtue, obedience, and sacrifice. It happens gradually over long periods of time. It takes time to build trust and to strengthen bonds. To destroy a community takes nothing at all. 

Where I presently live, there is a lot of development occurring. Buildings are constantly under construction, and I pass by them every day. Usually, I am more annoyed by the inconvenience that they cause (traffic, noise etc) than I am amazed by the amount of effort and coordination it takes for something to be built. When I take the effort to look at these enormous structures, it's incredible to imagine that months ago, there was only a big hole in the ground. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, day by day, these monuments of human ingenuity arose. 

We get used to them being built. We pass them with hardly any notice at all. But imagine if they were burning down. If they were burning down--even if it were the middle of the night--we'd leave our home to watch the excitement. Helicopters would fly overhead to report the news that a fire was destroying this building. Not to be morose, but we are somewhat entertained when we watch something burn down. It holds our attention. It's entertaining and requires no effort. 

We are living in the age of destruction. We are entertained by the obliteration of persons and institutions. We are becoming incapable of building because we are becoming incapable of effort. How many books have you read in the past month? How many tweets have you read? When was the last time you wrote something substantial? Compare that to how many texts, tweets, and posts that you make. Social media is the smart bomb of personal and institutional destruction. It takes almost no effort at all to humiliate, attack, or calumniate someone. The destructive tweet garners far more "likes" than the thoughtful work. That's because positive things take time to write, to ponder, and to absorb. It takes time to build things. It takes little to destroy them. Attached to the destruction of institutions and of persons is a sinister pleasure, a grotesque satisfaction that mimics the arsonist's satisfaction in seeing a building burn. It's demonic.

Building something is far more difficult. It requires the cooperation of others, is always subject to changing conditions, and involves mistakes. It is never perfect. It is often a mixture of good and bad. It causes traffic jams and it provides a home. It employs some workers and it makes other workers late for work. Building is slow, gradual, and requires patience. Destruction is fast, immediate, and entertaining. Building requires the cooperation and ingenuity of a community. Destruction requires only a madman and a match.

The sick pleasure of destruction leads to a thirst for further destruction. It leads to the destruction of the person himself. St. Paul once warned the Galatians, "But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another" (Gal 5:15). On the contrary, those who do the work of building, build one another up. They encourage one another toward holiness. It's the work of a lifetime, not an instant. It draws one into a beauty and goodness that sustains and strengthens. It draws one into a life that bears good fruit. The parables of Jesus often speak about those things that take time, planting, sowing, reaping, traveling, journeying, building, waiting, etc. They involve patience with weeds, wandering sheep, and bad sons. 

The big institutions are burning these days. There's enough blame to go around. The question for me and for all of us is what are we going to do about it? It seems like the answer is not big. It's small. It's like a mustard seed. For me, it's being faithful to the little community of which I am part. It's in living the life of the BU Catholic Center community. In this small community, people pray, come to Mass, feed the poor, live friendships, go to confession, and love one another. It's in being faithful to the slow, gradual, building up of a community that something beautiful is lived and emerges. It's preaching the truth with clarity and charity. It is growing daily in virtue and repenting from sin. Friendship takes time. Community takes time. Holiness takes time.  If you've ever lived in such a community, you've experienced the mystery of the hundredfold. You realize that you and those with you are being taken up by something beyond yourself; you are being carried by grace. If you've ever been part of such a community, you know that it is True. You know that it corresponds to the deepest desires of the human heart. You know that such a community makes you more human. 

Destruction is for the lazy. Destruction is for those who no longer pray. Destruction is for those who are trying to fill the void present in their own life by destroying what is good, and beautiful, and true. Destruction is demonic. It would be a mistake to read this and see it as addressing the "other." It is addressing me. It is addressing you. It is addressing all of us because the Destroyer attempts to seduce everyone into his web of destruction.

"The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (JN 10:10). Let us follow the Good Shepherd and not the thief. 


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