I am a cynical person. I have had some incredibly lofty and wonderful ideology, and my goal is that I can get back on that horse, as it were, in spite of being sadder and wiser. It's a fight, though, and right now I would have to say that I'm a recovering cynic. This experience of service has been difficult not only in discovering more about me, but in dealing with knowledge. I have talked about the beauty of individual people in several blogs, and no blog entry would capture the beauty and wonder (despite the flaws) of any person, least of all those who have been closer to me, and certainly not by any stretch of the imagination she who has been closest during this experience. However, I somehow find myself in a paradoxical situation: as my love for individuals grows, my view of humanity somehow diminishes. I think (but haven't gotten it into my heart) that this view comes from a misattribution.
You know, I also paradoxically think of myself as a great person and a really lousy person. I'm in the process of searching for equilibrium, and this journey was a blessing from God to show me how desperately I need it. In all my complaining about society, I fear that I've been hesitant to venture into it. Heck, I haven't even registered to vote! It's easy to be the unregistered naysayer withdrawn from the world, talking about being a responsible voter and the ridiculousness that is the contradictory stances either US political party holds as their own. And there's always a truth in what naysayers and even hypocrites have to say...but man alive, I have to wonder how I sleep at night, sometimes.
I went to the National Catholic Prayer breakfast in 2009. I was probably more arrogant and cynical then. I heard the introductory speaker speak on Christians as cretins or viewed as idiots, counterproductive, etc. for their views. It was smart, it was intelligent, and it informed the American citizen that being a Christian means opting for what people who take easier or more immediately pleasurable routes might consider incomprehensible. Then, the keynote speaker, a bishop emeritus spoke. I recognized his name as being one who was very much anti-abortion, so I prepared myself. Don't get me wrong, I am NOT a fan of abortion and have some very, VERY strong views, but I also take issue with the current conservative view that makes it a single-issue ticket. I won't get into them here, but let it suffice to say that if for no other reason, it makes politics very, very boring and predictable. I had this bias going into his speech. I was probably the only one in the auditorium with this sentiment. Had I heard this speech by myself, had His Excellency been addressing me alone, I might have had a very different reaction to his speech. Instead, I was immediately turned off by what I perceived as mindless yes-men applauding to every other sentence. I am impatient; I wanted him to get to the point. It's hard when people break out into applause every half-minute. His speech, predictably, though very fairly, talked about being responsible Christians and citizens, and how having the courage to speak to one's representatives in order to ensure that one is in fact being represented is important, especially regarding the values of life. He arrived to a point about politicians wanting to avoid getting implicated in something that might (heaven forbid) jeopardize their spot as a politician or make their voice unheard, how sometimes they'll talk about wanting to save that voice and that pull for another cause that is also important and in line with the Christian faith. Now, when a politician needs to be called out and, well, grow the courage to be a discordant voice of truth amidst a throng of common trend and self-deception, I support that. In fact, sometimes a person needs to really weigh how much the cause they want to support is the cause that they need to support. The bishop's words were not incorrect, uninspired, or anything of that nature. HOWEVER, somebody interpreted what he said in a very different way...or at least I thought so. A woman at the table next to me (I will avoid description because I do neither of us charity by judging her down to her jewelry) sneered, "Social Justice," as he arrived at this portion. I feel I'm justified in my interpreting her sneer to pertain to the subject at hand, citing a specific example of what other causes a representative might wish to support instead of the taboo "abortion" dilemma. This...sent me over the edge.
Thinking that one law or Supreme Court ruling will eliminate the problem or change the culture is simplistic. To me, it is the very idea of social justice that has the ability to change the culture and make legislation more feasible and more effective. If we look at low-income families and the poverty of finances and education (both in general and regarding sexual education...which is distinct from talking about different sexual positions and contraceptives), and look at how to remedy those problems, well, that's a bit more holistic. Much more difficult, granted, but addresses the root of the problem. In the end, though, what experience has shown to me as the "liberal" idea that legislation and more government initiative solving everything isn't the answer, either. As long as the man next door doesn't care for his neighbor, as long as a man lacks the conviction that he needs to give a crap about another, the letter of the law is ineffective. The spirit is what brings that perfection. That's my soapbox. The reason I bring it up is because I had little faith that humanity could really pull it off. With that woman's sneer, I wondered if the people proclaiming themselves as Christian from either side could ever bring themselves to see the sense in some portion of the other side, because neither side has got what it takes to bring about the kind of peace that Jesus preached if they go it alone. Of course, there's the fact that we'd still be Christians, and many people aren't and don't share those views, and...well, there you go.
I meet so many people. So many really, really, good people. Some of them take the time to think and be awake, some of them don't. Even with those who don't, I have a really hard time seeing how the cogs of society crunch and grind and go in so many directions I don't want to go down, that I know beyond any shadow of doubt are ways to certain...well...unconsciousness.
It's hard to fight that cynicism, that discouragement, that temptation to give up hope and give into impatience and despair, in the midst of a giant cloud of black. There's a certain guy who would always call me naïve for my views. A part of him was right, because eventually I let my own broken heart make me condemn and judge everybody in sight and see the world as a place incapable of goodness and change, or a place unlikely of it happening...and instead of fighting my best anyway, I let myself become bitter. Becoming bitter is easy. Being judgmental and arrogant and sanctimonious is very easy (Exhibit A: this post). The title has "quixotic" in it...but perhaps that's not quite right. "Quixotic" means overly idealistic and impractical. I think that this experience has helped me take what was originally me--idealistic, hopeful, uncompromising in stuff that counted--and took out the naiveté. I had had my heart broken...and it was rebuilt here, and I've been shown without minced words what the world is like, and what it's like to try to live seeing the world as it is while aiming to make it as close to "as it should be" as possible. I'm sure it will happen again, and harder, and I hope that I'll be ready for it. Only way to do that is to learn to trust. Here we go. Still.