Lord Of Ravaged Lands

Our lives are spent along a continuum between order and chaos [1]. This continuum at times can be very calm and orderly, like the American Gothic painting, with the gentle and consistent rhythms of life from day to day and week to week and moon to moon and year to year and so on that provide a beat to the melodies and harmonies that our lives form in relationship with others. As human beings, even our creations have a place of their own along that continuum of their own. A song, or a story, depend on having a particular type of flow. We begin our works at the beginning, even if it is not really entirely at the beginning, usually [2], and there is a development and a rising action that usually builds to some sort of climax, at which point there is a falling action towards a conclusion, as a general rule. The same general pattern usually applies in our lives—we are born and grow up, we have a lot of drama and effort and achievement from our teens through early adulthood, we reach some kind of peak in middle age, and then age and decay take their inevitable effect on us. The same is even true in something as prosaic as an essay, especially if one follows one or another model of the five paragraph essay with its introduction, body, and conclusion [3]. Throughout the course of time, whether in the small segments that make up an essay or a piece of music or the larger pieces that make up our lives, or the even larger chunks of time that make up families and civilizations, we are starting and stopping, rising and falling, a part of a larger pattern which we can dimly recognize at times but not completely understand.

Yet sometimes this pattern is broken. Sometimes a life, or a family, or a dynasty, is cut off before it has the chance to spread its wings. An example should suffice. In 1767, the corrupt Ayuttaya regime fell after a lengthy siege to the armies of Burma, which wrecked a terrible destructive fury on the city. In the midst of the chaos, there remained enough cohesion among the Thai people (and enough of a base of leadership) for a general named Taksin to reunify the country by force. Yet this man, who was a brave (if flawed) patriot, was assassinated after a short period of rule, profiting from the establishment of order from chaos in order to place himself and his heirs as the inheritors of that unmerited gift through violence. There is often a dialectic here—to gain power through some sort of revolt or revolution requires disrupting an existing order through chaos, yet the end result is as better order, even if it a dynamic one or a periodic one. Often those who are the most willing to support such efforts of creative destruction themselves tend to come from the more disorderly side of the continuum themselves, yet they often fare badly just after their greatest success. A classic, if tragic, example of this is the way that Hitler treated his two paramilitary organizations. The SA, or brownshirts, were of particular value for Hitler in disrupting the order of Weimer Germany, providing the crisis that would legitimize Hitler’s seizure of power, and yet very shortly after that power was obtained, “the night of the long knives” eliminated chaotic element from threatening the order that Hitler set in place, instead giving favor to the more orderly (if no less violent) blackshirts (or SS). Those of a libertarian or anarchic bent are generally of most use during periods of revolution and turmoil and crisis, where their agitation can serve to spark a decisive situation. Yet when their usefulness is at an end, they can find their erstwhile friends, who used them for their own purposes, to be far more hostile than their longtime enemies.

As human beings, the more strategic-minded among us tend to view other people like chess pieces [4], yet this is unjust, for people have their own free will, their own plans, their own purposes, and we are responsible to heaven above for having fulfilled those purposes set by God. Although it is a matter of grave and serious importance to respect the free will of others, within the limitations of God’s laws (and those laws of mankind that do not contradict God’s laws), it is sometimes far too tempting for people to attempt to manipulate others like pieces under control rather than seek to negotiate a mutually beneficial solution in the dance of conversation. In my interactions with others, I do not seek to be a chessmaster moving others on a board to fit my will, but rather I see myself on a dance floor looking for a willing partner to share a mutually enjoyable time, and depending on how mutually enjoyable that time is, to seek that it continue once the music stops. Being a strongly egalitarian person by nature, albeit within a very orderly sort of existence, I tend to view others, be they small children or elderly, male or female, rich or poor, friendly or unfriendly, as people with wills and perspectives of their own that are worthy of respect even if they are variance with my own wishes and perspective. When we stop viewing others as mere impediments or tools, and see them as actors and at least potential partners in the affairs of this life (and, quite possibly, the next as well) of their own, we are freed of our need to control what cannot be controlled so that we can come to terms with the sometimes chaotic elements that others bring to our lives.

Ultimately, it is for our own benefit that we cease our efforts to be the lords of our own universes. Those of us who have lived closest the margins of life can recognize that while we are responsible for a lot, we are not ultimately in control as much as we might wish. Yet our span of control and responsibility is generally in rough equivalence with our capabilities. If we are diligent, our diligence will make itself known and we will be given opportunities beyond that which we have known. If we are slack, those who are more diligent and ambitious will take the reins for themselves and try out their own visions of domination and dominion. In the end, time and circumstance, decay and error, make fools of all of us. Our limbs grow weary, our mind grows forgetful, our will grows weak. And we can little for our troubles in seeking to dominate other people, who become resentful and hostile to us, denying us of the love and respect and honor that we long for so deeply. We may even, if we rule particularly despotically, earn ourselves a horrible judgment for the abuses we heap on other people. The solution of this, of course, is not to eschew any sort of attempt to live lives that are orderly and decent, but rather to make no claims of authority that go beyond our just span of control, and to seek to build up and encourage others in a spirit of mutual service, to create something that will endure longer than power gained by force or fraud, a loving relationship with a fellow brother or sister in Christ that can last for all eternity in the Kingdom of God. Is that not what we should all want for ourselves as the fruit of our diligent efforts?

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/a-thin-line-between-rigidity-and-chaos/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/in-media-res/

[3] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/giving-credit-where-credit-is-dueon-the-five-paragraph-essay/

[4] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/a-game-of-chess/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/objects-of-desire-objects-of-contempt/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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