Not drowning but waving

Let us suppose a child, floundering in the water. He looks apt to drown and you, gentle reader, are the only person in possible reach. What should you do?

Hint: there is no time to reflect upon, “How did the child get into that unenviable position?” Nor on, “Where are his parents or a supervisor?” Nor on, “What is the world coming to, when children so young are left unattended in dangerous places?” Nor may dramatic, nor other aesthetic values, be entertained. Really, you have only two choices: dive in (good), or have a trauma. Well, I’m sure a progressive person could think of other options, such as, pretend you can’t swim, or blame Trump.

Children drown every day, though compared to scraping their knees it is not statistically significant. The loss of one more will not much alter the ratio, however. The kid could just as easily have been aborted; or fallen off a cliff. (You want me to jump off the cliff after him?) I am trying to think like a progressive.

But no, I have no modernist tendencies. I’m a quality over quantity kind of guy. Too, a bit of an instinctivist, if that is a word. I think a person who is not a scientist can instinctively understand an urgent moral calling, not all the time, but let’s say in 99.8 percent of cases. You do the right thing, or you feel deeply ashamed. It’s true you may have suppressed your “useless feelings” of shame and guilt, to the point where they don’t bother you any more; but later on, when you weren’t noticing, they contributed to your suicide. You couldn’t take the pain of living any more.

I give this commonplace example — the initial one of the child splashing — as an analogy to our modern situation, viewed from the shore. We are inclined to panic. Several notes have reached the High Doganate, criticizing the author, in terms I would characterize as hysterical, for having said (most recently here) that we shouldn’t “get our knickers in a twist” because the world is imperfect. I stand accused of quietism. My self-declared moral superiors upbraid me for panicking too little about global warming, the disparity between rich and poor, scandals in the Vatican, vulgarity in the White House, the high price of cheese, looming asteroids, &c. But these are things over which I have no control, and moreover, would be unlikely to get control, even if I expended considerable effort, in the foreseeable future. The universe is in God’s hands, according to my theory. Let Him take care of it, in His own time.

Whereas, I have some influence over that child who is drowning. It is the sort of thing I should act upon. And did I mention there was no time for scientific, philosophical, or even theological analyses? Either you know what to do instantly, or you are genuinely useless. If you didn’t know, there could be only one cause: bad living.

There are times when, oh dear, you may even have to surrender your life — not possibly, nor probably, but certainly — without any time for thinking. Let it go without saying that, in an entirely human view, this is rather unfortunate. But now that I have said it, let me add, that a Christian may sense the paradox. He might, if properly instructed, realize that apart from saving the life of another, it could be his last chance to save his own. He might suddenly get to Heaven, when the odds didn’t look very good before.

But again note: all the time spent on the “big issues” was wasted. It all came down to the little one — thrashing about in the waves. Unforeseeably.

So don’t worry, be happy. And like a good, traditionalist Boy Scout (or Girl Guide, to remember the other sex): Thou shalt be prepared.