This week’s article comes from special guest Adam Mosley. Adam runs a blog called Tweaking Optimism where he writes about the interplay between psychology, philosophy, and religion. I cannot recommend his work enough – if you like God Jots, you will really like Tweaking Optimism.
Human In A World Of Stone
We live in an increasingly careless age. We are striving at every point to become numb to ourselves and everyone around us. People are urged continuously to become less caring, compassionate, and empathetic. I think this shift has to do with the advent of the internet and the technological revolution.
If we so choose, we can not only read but watch one tragedy after another. I can scroll on Facebook and consume an infinite torrent of other people’s pain and suffering all in an afternoon.
Overexposure to anything leads to a certain level of desensitization. Once you become desensitized as our generation has, you need more and more stimulation to feel. So as a result, we may feel nothing for the homeless person on the street, but if that homeless person is beaten and disfigured, we may begin to feel something for him.
A minor tragedy will not spur us to compassion and caring. It takes something genuinely awful, but even then, there is not always a guarantee that anyone of us will leap at the chance to help.
Our indifference is one of the most regressive and unattractive things about our society. An indifferent society is in a lot of ways worse than a hateful one. As at least in a hateful society, you still maintain the capacity for feeling. Where in an indifferent one, the people become like grey lifeless zombies. Feelings, even negative feelings, are always preferable to non-feelings.
I do understand why we have become desensitized. It is a natural development given the current state of our world. Very few people could maintain their compassion in light of our ability to consume tragedy endlessly. The desensitizing worked to develop a defense mechanism because caring is hard and frequently causes the person who cares a great deal of pain. Indifference builds a protective shell around the individual, allowing them the ultimate defense against the worst pains of the heart. It is a great short-term solution, but we will be worse for the transaction in the long run. A great quote from The Four Loves by C.S Lewis comes to mind:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
In a world full of careless and indifferent people, we should strive to be loving and vulnerable. Do not willingly become stone; It is an inhumane fate. At every turn and every chance, regardless of your feelings, be compassionate. Bend your knee and help the lowly. Yes, you are opening yourself up to be hurt, but do it regardless. To choose the other path, to become unhurtable, unfeeling, and uncaring, is to suffer another kind of death, the death of your humanity.
To be vulnerable is to be human. In a world of stone, strive to be human.