Have you ever heard someone say a song or Scripture is “ministering” to them? I had that experience yesterday:
Like everyone else, people active in progressive politics consciously desire health and happiness in their work, and strive to achieve their mission while enjoying the fruits of health, love, pride, and joy. At a less conscious level, our normal desires for health are at war with less healthy beliefs and fears that we’re not really supposed to have good things or take care of ourselves.
This conflict is extremely common. Our hope is at war with our fear, our optimism with our pessimism, and our aspirations with our cynicism. We consciously seek the light but unconsciously default to a belief in the darkness.
One of the fundamental discoveries gained from studying child development is that children regard the reality in which they find themselves as equivalent to what is supposed to be. In our childhood minds, minds not yet steeped in left-brain adult reasoning and the rational logic of cause-and-effect, we experience our emotional and social worlds as the way things are supposed to be. If our families are unhappy, stressed, dysfunctional, or neglectful, we don’t think: “Boy, are they screwed up! I’m sure glad I’m happy and safe and not part of that culture!” Instead, by osmosis, the awesome authority of our parents and families to define reality and morality leads us to take their story, the one unfolding around us, as the only real story, despite what is said or consciously intended.
This universal fact of psychology has an extremely important consequence. When we violate, reject, or otherwise leave behind the unspoken norms and patterns governing our family lives, we feel conflict. Sometimes it takes the form of guilt; other times, anxiety. Both tend to operate behind our backs, affecting our choices and behavior in ways that are not conscious. For example, maybe your parents aspired to provide you with a better life than they had. And you have always been consciously determined to do just that. But when you separate from people to whom you are attached, and on whom you’ve been dependent for survival, your healthy conscious intentions have to contend with what it means to reject or surpass them.
This article isn’t just for progressive activists: this is a condition that afflicts everyone except — maybe — the One Percent. This is what the New Thought people are talking about when they tell you to visualize, to “name and claim it,” when they tell you that “all you have to do is want it.”
It’s more complicated than that — and at the same time, it’s simpler than that.
One of the conceptions of magic that’s floating around is that you should be able to do it all with one magical word and a
bulge flash of your eyes. I have a sneaking suspicion that that kind of manifestation appears only in fairy tales and dreams. Almost everybody, when they try to do in waking life, in one leap, exhausts themselves and ends up having to white-knuckle it.
It’s much easier to do it incrementally — step-by-step. Begin where you are, where this article begins: with one little improvement in your situation that you can believe in. Don’t just say you deserve a living wage, sufficient food, sufficient rest, strength, joy in your work. Do whatever it takes, perform whatever thought experiments you require, to prove it to yourself.
Now, I may be straying afield from the original intent of this article. But I believe all the greatest hopes and all the greatest movements began in just this way. In our country, in the 1950s and ’60s, the great hopes of Martin Luther King and all his allies were expressed by high school and college kids at drugstore lunch counters. Yes, there was sacrifice; yes, there were martyrs; but whether in the political struggles of the present, or the world-spanning evangelism of old, it was never meant that everybody should be a martyr. Nor was it ever meant it every martyr should be a martyr every day.
God gave us the gifts of music, laughter and bad puns for a reason.
I thought of this good old, weary song while I was reading this article, and I am still not sure how they are connected.