Christainity, Philosophy, Politics

the messiah came; we were just too busy looking at our cell phones

Jesus’ second coming filled my thoughts as a young child. In my apocalyptic vision, Jesus descended from heaven, trumpets sounded, and saved persons were raptured into heaven. On Earth there would be years of torment for those who weren’t Christians, and after seven years, Jesus would come back again (third coming?) to see if anyone would believe in him now. God would then separate and send those destined for heaven or hell. Eternity began then. My eschatological version represented a dispensationalism worldview. I held onto this view for too long.

As a youngster, some mornings I would wake up, open my eyes, stay in bed and think that the rapture had taken my family, leaving me to fend for myself. Moreover, I believed that Jesus was going to come back when everyone least expected it. So I would constantly think about the Second Coming in hopes that Jesus wouldn’t have the chance to come back. This paradox comforted me.

second coming

Nowadays, I rarely think about the second coming or any kind of end of the world type scenario. Franz Kafka, in Paradoxes and Parables, defines my current paradox quite well: The Messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary; he will come only on the day after his arrival; he will come, not on the last day, but on the very last day.

Jacques Derrida focused some of his later writings to the idea of the messianic. Derrida speaking, in the beginning of the documentary Derridasays

“In general, I try to distinguish between what one calls the future and the “l’avenir”. The future is that which –tomorrow, later, next century — will be. There’s a future which is predictable, programmed, scheduled, foreseeable. But there is a future, l’avenir (to come) which refers to someone who comes, whose arrival is totally unexpected. For me, that is the real future. That which is totally unpredictable. The Other who comes without my being able to anticipate their arrival. So if there is a real future beyond this other known future, it’s l’avenir in that it’s the coming of the Other when I am completely unable to foresee their arrival.

The unpredictable future, that which changes and transforms everything, begins with coming of the Other. Governments, afraid of the Other, want to domesticate the Other making our future predictable. Hence, we have created a society of little children who don’t grow up. We don’t have to cook, our music comes in an instant, we can work at home, and we can order anything and receive it the next day. No sense of struggle or appreciation is necessary.

Struggle gives life meaning; consuming demeans and desensitizes us from existence. On this point of struggle, Hegel thought that it was important that nations go to war. He wrote, “War is not to be regarded as an absolute evil…by its agency as I have remarked elsewhere the ethical health of the peoples is preserved in their indifference to the stabilization of finite institutions; just as the blowing of the winds preserves the sea from the foulness which would be the result of a long calm, so also corruption in nations would be the result of prolonged, let alone ‘perpetual’ peace.”  The perpetual peace is a reference to a pamphlet Kant wrote, saying that peace is the highest political good. At this point, I agree with Hegel, not that war is necessary, but that some rumblings need to happen in a nation.

Our contemporary wars are not the same as Hegel would have understood it. Our weapons have advanced so they no longer need someone to operate them. If war in the past confronted the Real in humanity, then today war has dehumanized us to the point of extinction. Our checks and balances in the US have not been effective in years. The NSA, JSOC, or the military or prison-industrial complex won’t allow the Other to exist. Watch Dirty Wars to find out more disturbing information.

If Jesus were to come from the heavens, the US government would know about it a week in advance and murder him midair.

We must otherize the Other to open us up to new possibilities. It’s a call to vulnerability, not stupidity; struggling for a meaningful existence rather than idly letting life pass by, etc.

The Derridian prayer seems most appropriate here: Come, Oh Divine Other, come.

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Philosophy

safety does not equal freedom

Music moves, propels, and speaks to the emotions of the listener. The sounds of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros has grasped my heart as of late. They are a ragamuffin group, full of old heads, hippies, and crust punks and their musical genre could be labeled as 70’s folk rock with lyrics speaking of a spiritual and existential journey. A song that has particularly resonated with me is “Man on Fire.” Sitting aside the androcentrism within the lyrics, this song speaks in a way that relates to common ideas held in light of Independence Day. Edward Sharpe sings,

“Everybody want safety
Everybody want comfort
Everybody want certain
Everybody but me”

The first three lines speak of the shared narrative in the US: safety, comfort and certainty. We want safety from people who do not like us. We want to be comforted in the life that we lead. In addition, we desire certainty with our motives, ideologies and lifestyles, knowing that we are not doing anything wrong. And these three things remain: safety, comfort and certainty. The greatest of these is safety.

Since we live in a post 9/11 world, safety has become a major concern for all Americans. We fear the Other like never before. A recent story shows our overeagerness/worrisomeness to keep safety a top priority. JFK airport evacuated everyone and canceled two flights because a metal detector was not plugged in. Safety concerns us more than anything. This has been a theme since the existence of our country.

The national anthem’s lyrics involve a battle in which the primitive US military conquered the Other through violence. Thus our anthem is not about unifying the people of the US because of our humanity or our beautiful landscape (Although there is some debate between the Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful for a national anthem. One more war-like and the other lending fire to our civic religion’s burn pile.) It is the anxiety of the Other, our selfish concerns with safety, and the common narrative that we tell ourselves that has created a festishized culture of people looking for safety through other venues, such as an obsession with entertainment and celebrities.

Comfort also invaded and dominates US culture. This is accomplished through the comfort that we find in technology. We have an excess of technological gadgets that have overcome our culture. There are devices that have entirely no meaning, or that we as a culture created a meaning once these objects were commodified A good example of this are computer tablets, they function as a large touch screen phone without the ability to call people. Originally, they seemed meaningless, yet since then they have grown in popularity and function as a “green” magazine reader, a video camera, etc.

We have slept in our comfort as a nation and cannot imagine what it means not to be privileged. (This is not to say that there are not people in the US who have not felt the weight of oppression, since there are many groups have, especially those native to the land.) German poet Rainer Maria Rilke longed for people of privilege to feel uneasy about the ways in which they were living. Early in his writing career, he poetically wrote, “All of you undisturbed cities, haven’t you ever longed for the Enemy?” Rilke stressed that sometimes being uncomfortable helps one to value life more and its fleeting. This is similar to the Hegelian notion that countries should go to war with one another because “the ethical health of the peoples is preserved in their indifference to the stabilization of finite institutions,” and that “corruption in nations would be the result of prolonged, let alone ‘perpetual’ peace”(Philosophy of the Right para. 324).

Eruptions of existential crises are necessary to change the historical course and redirect culture, country, and people. The event of 9/11 created this for the US. It made the US seem venerable and we made the rest of the world know that we will not be so. Hence, the problem is that we in the US live in “perpetual peace” having safety and security. The US must change. Another tragedy does not need to happen for us to change our course away from safety and security. Instead, something should be able to occur from the bottom-up and help to change our narrative into something more compassionate and communal, rather than individualized and certain. Independence Day must take on a new tone, not of conquering, but of kinship.

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