The floor-tile calculator
On some item of news (it doesn’t really matter which), I was just reading some (better than average) media “analysis.” It told me things could get better, or they could get worse, thanks to the election of a charismatic, and intensely sectarian, politician. (Okay, it was India.) Which will it be, good or bad? The journalist hedges his bets.
I haven’t hedged mine, and it wasn’t my habit to hedge when I was myself in the sooth-saying trade. That struck me as cissy, then as now.
It is going to be bad. …
Of course, I am a pessimist in all worldly matters. …
“That’s why I’m always right,” I used to explain to my newspaper colleagues, when they accused me of being a pessimist. It is also why, unlike them, I was able to remain reasonably cheerful; for even on a very bad day, I could always say, “I told you so.”
I find this sort of pessimism is also unpopular among contemporary Catholics. Having been infected by the “evangelical” happy-clap they say, pray and God will make everything better! (We’re even getting this attitude from Rome.)
By all means we should pray, that the idiots come to their senses. But I’m not sure we should pray, for God to fix their mistakes — for Him to, in effect, intervene on behalf of the idiots with His signs and wonders.
The secret of worldly pessimism is to look at each situation deadpan. You don’t even have to be jaded; just look at what’s there, and ask yourself what it looks like, with all excuses and extenuations removed. Making a good Confession frequently is tremendously useful in developing this skill.
In mysterious ways, God is indeed constantly saving people from the consequences of their own stupidities, so they may live a little longer, and try to improve the next day. But this happens invisibly, and to count on it in any specific case would be rather sinful.
God wants us to fix our mistakes. I am convinced of this, from what I have seen of the teachings of Holy Church. It would seem that He makes serious interventions on behalf of people who are merely trying, however incompetently. But why would He help people who do not even try?
The Parables are clear: Christ expects us to make an effort.
We can also know, by observing the world with our eyes open, that He actually allows bad things to happen, including, most particularly, bad things to “good” people. They get victimized, scapegoated, just like Himself. According to my theological understanding, He does not Himself do bad things to anyone. But He allows this dangerous freedom, this wild skelter of cause and effect. From a worldly perspective one might even accuse Him of being a crazy libertarian.
From the divine view, as we understand, things will work themselves out. But to imagine they will resolve themselves happily and clappily, entirely within this tiny corner of His Real, is nincompoopish.
It takes many floor tiles to accommodate a ballroom dance.