I have chosen the blessing (or curse) of receiving and sending lots of e-mails. I have not warmed to the banter that seems to prevail in Facebook, and I will probably never be a part of the 144-character Twitter culture. I like handwritten letters, which are essentially extinct. Open and rational conversation amongst people with differing points of view, who actually respect and listen to other points of view, has essentially vanished, at least in my observation.
With all the means of communication at our disposal, that very abundant means of communication has made for a dangerous time for us in the U.S. We have more ways to communicate less.
Today, we have the right (and the opportunity) to pick and choose from a menu of beliefs, and to then isolate ourselves within that particular belief. We do not bother with other points of view. We strategize to make our point of view dominant. Of course, the opposing side is similarly engaged. Never do the ‘sides’ meet, facing the opportunity (risk) of having to defend their point of view, or listen to that of the opposition.
In the process of isolating ourselves into small clusters of beliefs, we are killing ourselves as a nation.
No question, simple Belief is comforting: one does not have to be bothered with differing points of view. I believe. So should you.
Ten years or so ago I had glancing but very direct contact with Belief:
My then-brother-in-law owned a small house with small payments in a small city. His mother lived with him, paying him small rent, till she died. Along the way he became convinced that riches lay at the end of the Minnesota lottery and an array of other get-rich-quick schemes. He believed that he would win the lottery or some sweepstakes, and he continued to believe right up until his house was foreclosed, and the lock changed on his front door. He was hospitalized at the time, and it fell to me, the only survivor in the family, to deal with the mess.
He died in 2007, essentially destitute, still believing…
So, my relative was an idiot, you say?
He damaged himself, no doubt; but only himself. He never married, no children, nobody but himself suffered from his fantasy.
But there are endless “believers” in this or that, who insulate themselves from reality by simply refusing to acknowledge its potential existence.
Even more of a problem are the institutional leadership fantasies that have been killing us for many years. I’ll cite the most recent and, to me, a most interesting one:
A week ago, I was at Catholic Mass in the Cathedral in Bismarck, ND and saw a little bullet in the church bulletin. “Religious Liberty Restoration Amendment. Have you had an opportunity to sign a petition to restore legal protection for religious freedom? If not, we have petitions at the parish office. The office is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM.”
It was a bit odd that said petition was not available in the vestibule. At home I looked it up on the Internet, as you can. It is a ND initiative. Being Catholic, it didn’t take a practiced reading to know what they are about. Two ND Bishops were the lead signers. The intent very, very clearly is to guarantee religious liberty to people who do not wish to abide by certain laws or beliefs with which they do not agree. It is easy to fill in the blanks on this, but I won’t. The petition is a cynical attempt to implement a particular religious belief, by public referendum.
The next night, at a motel in rural ND, I saw a potential unintended consequence if this initiative were to succeed: some TV show was talking about a Church whose “Blessed Sacrament” is Cannabis. I guess if the amendment passes, that church can come up to ND.
The next Sunday, I was a church in a rural ND town, and the church bulletin was talking about the proposed amendment: “…petitions signatures are being gathered from Catholics across the state of North Dakota…at [the local church over]…several weeks…only five individuals have signed the petition….” Apparently the ground swell is not that great, but once again, this attempt to covertly market a minority’s beliefs as mandate is an example of a mind-set that is quietly killing our nation.