Tuesday, June 01, 2004

A Letter to Americans

Dear Reader,
If you are a human being (and I have every reason to believe you are), then you have concerns about today's world. I am no different than you, and we are not alone. This simple fact unites all of human history. The world has always troubled its observers. The problem stems from the relative nature of human perspective. Our position within any given social class shapes our perspective of the world around us. There are countless human perspectives on the world we see. We can assume that the number of human observers on Earth will climb to twelve billion by the tear 2030. Right now, we stand at six billion plus, and this number increases every few seconds. In America, we haven't even begun to truly address the risks of overpopulation, environmental degradation, and excessive consumerism in a world with finite material resources. America isn't the wealthiest country in the world per capita, but we do maintain control of the majority of world resources. Our President proclaims the ideals of Christianity and democracy through a media loudspeaker that can now reach the eyes and ears of the poorest child in Africa. How do we, when we claim to be a sovereign nation of good, appear to that child? Should we even be concerned?

I am a Christian, and an American. If you were to ask me, I would tell you openly about my faith. If you were to ask me, I would tell you about my love for the ideal that rests in the promise of America. I am also a human being, but to be more specific, I am a human animal. The ideals of my existence are constantly compromised by the forces of my human behavior. I want security, and I'll do what it takes to maintain it. I want food, and I'll do what it takes to eat. I want a family, and I'll take the necessary steps to build one. But, as a Christian, I feel something inside me yearning to understand more about the human condition. That is why God sent Christ, isn't it? Of course, I'm presupposing that you, the reader, are a Christian. If you're not, then please forgive me for my bias. I merely want to suggest to you that all of us, regardless of our religious or political perspective, have missed the point.

All empires collapse with time. They usually end with the fatigue of war. Any analysis of history reveals patterns in the birth, growth, and death of any society. You should understand this, because it has everything to do with our future as Americans, as Christians, and as human beings. Everything in this physical world will come to an end at some point in time. Where does that leave us concerning the ideals of our time?

There is beauty in our world. Beauty is measured broadly on a scale that has, not ugliness, but ambiguity as a counter balance. The world we live in is a hostile one.. Threats of insecurity and danger lie along all of life's paths. As a reaction, we form communities, establish economies, and outline law in order to maintain environmental stability. But human culture also produces art, the creative experience. To simplify the term, we learn to communicate the higher themes of life: order, symmetry, asymmetry, form, and motion. Minds commune in ways that can only be explained through the experience of observing art. We are all, as human beings, looking for more meaning to life. We faithfully hope for greater things against the ferocity of a careless world.

As a Christian, I believe that all things are a fragmented reflection of God's creation. I believe that we, as glimmers of God, are lost in a turbulent sea of ambiguity. I believe that God gave us Christ, a perfect example of how to bring hope to a troubled world. But what does hope mean? Is it the hope for worldly security, or is it something greater than that? As a human being, looking for truth and witnessing the beauty and horrors of God's creation, I choose to walk the ontological path of Christianity. Through the lens of Christ, I see beauty worth praising, and love worth giving. I understand hope through the experience of knowing that all of this is good. All things can be forgiven. I'm faced with the fact that the world needs healing, and that people need hope. When the mirror is placed in front of my face, do I like what I see? Truth is, I don't know... I'm afraid to look.

Maybe I'm not really a Christian after all. The aspects of my life that reflect the life of Christ are few. Yes, I do think that I might end up in heaven at some point in time, but I can't really imagine what that means. The only thing I can be assured of is that I am alive right now. The art and music in my home remind me that there are others who feel the same way. We all desire to experience more than what our surroundings have to offer. This truth rests in the hearts of all human beings. This truth frees us from our animal nature. This truth is a catalyst for the emergence of art, religion, science, communication, and economics in society. But human behavior ensures that we maintain environmental stability. Our ideals are compromised by a hostile climate. We choose to use violence to defend against violence. We've invented the strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction. Whole nations in Africa are on the verge of collapse due to the AIDS epidemic. But this is nothing new to our world. We've always had war, and disease. Cultures blossom into empires and painfully collapse into the equilibrium of a cold and dangerous existence. We, right now, as Americans, as Christians, as human beings, are subject to the same laws of entropy. We will soon be gone. Ask yourself this. Have we missed the point? Imagine a mirror to your face. What do you believe in?

I have been ashamed of American politics. The path of peace is one devoted to peace at all costs, no matter the insecurities or dangers of the political process. Peace is an act of faith, like love. It is not realized until it is fervently pursued. The war on terrorism is a euphemism for a war between cultural classes where both sides are blind. Both sides struggle in a fight that is both right and wrong. As we walk this path, we will further compromise our American and Christian ideals. The cycle of violence will perpetuate itself. September 11 is proof of this. None of our past wars, fought in the name of peace, actually established peace. There are those who say that violence is the only way, but they are ignorant. The achievements of modern technology prove that when the human mind tackles a problem, anything can be possible.

We live in virtual times. We build emotional relationships with our favorite celebrities, athletes, and politicians through a device that allows us to selectively receive information encoded upon modulated light. I have a television relationship with the Simpsons. I've also been glued to the news lately. I've composed my perception of reality with information received through a commercialized media. Fact is vague, and propaganda is the truest definition for what most of our beliefs are built upon. This is why we have all failed to see the point. You see, the point, of ALL things in human ideology, is that we are always reaching for greater truths. This is the function of religion. This is the function of art and science. This is the function of politics, and economics, and international diplomacy.

We live on a fragile planet where human suffering out weighs human success. We convince ourselves that we know the correct path, but right now, we act out of animal instinct. We are wrong. If we fail to see new perspectives, we will die, not as humans, not as Christians, not as Americans, but as animals... and that is the point.

What is the purpose of your life?

Gabe Chance April 9, 2003


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