I was first introduced to the Christian version of "positive living" as a high schooler though Norman Vincent Peale, the mind behind Guidepost Magazine. It really was the Pollyanna approach to life. Smile, pretend all is well, pretend all us of us have superb motives for everything and life will always be swell . . . you know, the movie Pleasantville, before color is introduced.
In this way of looking at things, we show only the tops of our personal lives that is illuminated in that tangential light of early morn or twilight. But, speaking of square footage, most of life plays out in the crevasses, the places that we are told to hid in the shadows. Places where we feel scared, confused or depressed.
This connects back to my post about words that can't be spoken. So much is left unsaid about the reality of where we are, what we think, what we struggle with, what we long for, because if it doesn't fit the ideal, then it falls into those deep shadowy places like the crumbling rocks from the pinnacles.
I think part of this presses on my thoughts so much because in my "day job," I'm with patients talking about those crevasses all day long. My perspective is skewed. I think I would have a common experience as the psychiatrist. You know the stories, husband comes home unexpectedly and finds his wife in the bed with her boss. The mom who hates her life because two babies drain all her energy . . . and she feels hopeless. This isn't even touching on the depression, anxiety, addiction and physical pain that is some much a part of these peoples lives . . . living here in the fallen world.
I can't stand Pleasantville any more. I can't stand sitting and lying to each other . . . the tips in the tangential sun. I have to force myself to play, to communicate on the superficial. It doesn't come natural anymore.
I still have a lot of evangelical friends on Facebook and reading their post you would get the notion that they stand around all day just smiling, looking up at the sky and praising God without ceasing . . . and without one cruel thought . . . ever! When you lie long enough, you start to believe your own lies. The deep crevasse are filled with that two-part Styrofoam mix. It expands and covers the holes, the cracks and the voids until the smiling land is smooth and perfect on top. But this yields an incredible alienation.
I had a patient recently talking about her crevasses. It is pertinent because she lives in Pleasantville on the surface. She and her husband and kids all attend a clean, white Evangelical church where the Gospel according to James Dobson is preached every Sunday. She is in complete distress because she had filed for divorce and the whole church has turned against her, worst of all her own kids. The most difficult experience of all is when her husband delivered her to his mother, the matriarch of the big church. She lectured my patient about her sin and betrayal of God and gave her a stern warning that if she files, God will punish her. She knew of a lady who left her husband and then died from breast cancer a year later.
So I explored why she wanted a divorce in the first place. It appears that her husband, a type A, confident, yet "godly" man (and church elder) has been a womanizer all his life, since his football stardom twenty years ago. The lady kept running into women, usually her husband's co-workers, who where saying that they had slept with her husband in years past.
So she began to wonder and carry an intense fear about the man . . . if he was still that way. One day she saw his Iphone laying in the den and she started to review his text message out-box. In it she found many "sexting" messages, to various women he worked with. They were graphic. Actually pornographic as he included some photos of his body parts (think Bret Favre here).
This patient then confronted her husband. His response?
The man expressed "gody" rage that his wife had betrayed him by looking into his phone. "How dare you not trust me! You've violated our vows!"
I quickly point out to her, "no . . . I think he was the violater here."
So she feels in a quandary. She feels that it would be wrong for her to tell her mother-in-law that her son is a womanizer. She doesn't want to tell her kids the truth. She, at least at this point, is willing to take the fall and be the bad guy and file for divorce . . . or return to being the perfect wife . . . on the surface.
So what am I saying? I'm really not cynical. I really do see beauty in the world and in people. But I think the worst facet of the Fall of Adam is the alienation that we all have one from another. Living in one place, pretending the other. It just seems that the good Church, the true Church--while unable to fix this predicament--would at least be pressing against it, rather that propagating it. Jesus lived honestly. Human godliness is a fraud. Dobson families are a myth and card trick.
I've gone on too long once more but I think that Dickens expressed this alienation brilliantly in A Tale of Two Cities (which I've quoted before):
A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all. No more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have had glimpses of buried treasure and other things submerged. It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page. It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood in ignorance on the shore. My friend is dead, my neighbor is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead; it is the inexorable consolidation and perpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life’s end. In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?