Monday, March 26, 2007

A Perfect Nutshell

by Troy Chapman

March comes to an end with spring breaking in upper Michigan. As I’ve spent this month thinking about imperfection I’ve become more aware of my penchant to reject and fight with life. This, in turn, has allowed me to question this impulse and be less judgmental and less arrogant.

There are still times to say “I don’t accept this,” but it’s a thing that ought not be said too quickly. We should all cultivate the ability to live contentedly with things we don’t like, whether these be aspects of nature, social conditions or other people’s idiosyncrasies.

I found what immediately became one of my favorite quotes this month, that sums up my views here. It’s from Pope John XXIII. He said, “See everything. Overlook much. Correct a little.”

That’s it, in a perfect nutshell.


As for my anonymous correspondent…

What you seem to be pointing out in your comment on my last reply to you is that there is a real difference between the Dalai Lama and Jim Jones. And you’re right — there is. One man brought light into the world and the other darkness. You’re also right that I didn’t speak to this distinction in my last piece. But that’s only because it’s off the topic I was dealing with. I speak to this distinction a lot in many other pieces and I think we agree; it’s real and it has real consequences in the world.

I think the same about Jim Jones as most people: That he made the world a worse place by his actions at Jonestown. He was a sick and evil person, and no defense can be made for his behavior. Yet I still hold that no matter how evil a person is they are still as valuable intrinsically as any other person. This is because we must value people beyond what they’re able to do for us or we run into all the problems I spoke of earlier.

This doesn’t stop us from calling evil evil or from taking action to confront it. It simply stops us from dehumanizing people by denying their value as human beings. And this is good for us as well as them.

If we change our moral system according to how people act toward us where does that leave us? If we believe in the value of human life we must believe in it even when — no, let me correct that: especially when — dealing with those who least deserve to be valued. How or whether we value others is about who we are, not who they are.

Thank you for your good questions, anonymous. I’m open to direct correspondence if you want to get into an extended conversation on these or other questions. I can be reached at the address at the bottom of the left column, or email Maryann and she’ll act as go-between.

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