I don’t think the outrage has died down about the choice of Rolling Stone to feature one of the “Boston Bombers” on the cover. (Rolling Stone offensive? You’re surprised? Irreverent, in your face, know-it-all, over-the-top-edgy, but a cultural force that must be reckoned with.)
We are so quick to outrage. On Facebook and Twitter, in comments on on-line articles, to our friends and colleagues. Outrage has become our modus operandi.
I’m “outraged out,” people. I don’t have any outrage left.
I look at Jesus. Was he ever outraged? I would say He was, especially when the Temple was being desecrated. But not often. We vent outrage out of anger and frustration. Jesus had a purpose to His outrage. It moved him to action. Does ours?
I actually think Rolling Stone did the nation a favor. The magazine showed the bomber as a normal, everyday young adult. We can’t imagine a cold blooded murderer looking like one of us. But he did. Both of them did.
We need to imagine it, however distasteful it is. Cold blooded mass killers no longer look like Hitler or Stalin, or the Khmer Rouge. They might be our neighbors, like in Bosnia or Rwanda, or otherwise unexceptional people, like the men who flew planes into buildings on 9/11. We can’t limit our imagination to how life used to be, or how we want it to be. Those old paradigms must go. Evil is way out in front of us on that one, unfortunately and tragically.
Like I tell my college students when we have an in depth discussion on hot topic issues: Just think about it, people.
I was focused after capsizing my kayak on the Shenango River.
I rounded a turn and saw a large branch, but figured I’d let myself slide off it and be on my way. But the current had other ideas. It trapped my boat against the branch and I was over, gasping and scrambling in the deep water. My lunch and paddle floated away. Water filled the unsecured dry hatch. My life jacket wasn’t tight enough; it was pushing up to my ears.
I was totally given over to getting myself out of my predicament. The mantra from rescue training rolled through my head: “Stay with the boat!” I grabbed at the edges of the cockpit, now upside down, and tried to find the bottom with my feet. Nothing. There was only room for one other thought: “Jesus!”
Finally I stepped on stones and fellow paddlers helped drag my boat to shore, empty it and round up my errant equipment. I caught my breath, shaking from cold and fright. I had to paddle soaking wet until we could stop and a friend handed me her dry clothes.
I thought I knew the dangers. But I had never imagined them strongly enough to prepare just in case, as necessary on the river. Now I have no trouble imagining the results of poor preparation. I lived it.
Imagination isn’t only useful in the “artistic” realm. God gave us imagination to help us think critically, especially while trying to figure out Plan B in deep water. My “bad example” has become a running joke in my kayaking group. Hey, I deserve it!
Recently I was faced with a decision: I could adopt the attitude, “I have to trust the Lord,” or choose instead “I will trust the Lord.” “Have to” strikes me as begrudging and willful, a reluctant acceptance of an undesirable situation. Too often I plant myself firmly in that mindset. “I will trust” seems confident and assured, a moving forward in relationship.
I checked in the dictionary for the denotative meanings of “have” and “will,” and lo and behold, found some insight into this dilemma. (Often I look up familiar words to discover the “third” and “fourth” meanings because they often provide the nuance I want in my writing.)
The meaning of “have” includes owning, possessing, consuming, to hold mentally, to engage in. “Will” indicates habit, determination, expectation, or possibility. “Have” seems to anchor us in the present. “Will” points to the future.
I wonder if we can apply this outlook to our work in the arts. If I approach a chance to be creative with the “I have to trust” attitude, I anchor myself in the present, which may prevent me from moving forward imaginatively. (Admittedly, many of us could stand to be more attuned to the present moment, so this sure isn’t a rule!) If I adopt a “will”ingness to trust, I am more open to what is possible in creativity, more willing to experiment with new ideas to see where they lead.
Perhaps with this trusting confidence I can glide more smoothly into my writing, art, and life. I am more open to an imaginative relationship with God.