The Frustration of Human AbsurdityPosted on: October 25, 2020, by : David
I woke this morning with a feeling of frustration niggling at the back of my mind. Despite the relaxation of some COVID restrictions that were announced yesterday, I realised that my Monday would be little different to the past months of Mondays – I’m not a golfer, I can’t go riding my motorbike just for the fun of it, and the morning walk with the dog will be done before breakfast! And the more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became: frustrated at the restrictions, frustrated at those who break them, frustrated at the regulators who seem to be so inconsistent, frustrated at yet more cancelled holiday bookings, frustrated that I rolled the motorbike out of the garage to wash it, only to roll it back in again, and frustrated at the dog who seems to be demanding more and more attention!
It would be easy to fall into a downward cycle of frustration, anger and despair at the injustice of my predicament. It would be easy to join the growing chorus of finger pointing as I look for someone to blame – politicians, bureaucrats, health officials, police – someone must be to blame for the way I feel!
My ‘downward cycle’ was interrupted by one of Richard Rohr’s daily reflections, which included these dot points:
- Neither sin nor salvation could ever be exclusively mine, but both of them are collectively ours!
- Universal solidarity is the important lesson, not private salvation.
- We all hold responsibility for all instead of blaming one or the other.
- Human solidarity is the goal, not “my” moral superiority or perfection.
Says Rohr, Humans often do evil by thinking they can eliminate evil, instead of holding it, suffering it themselves, and learning from it, as Jesus does.
Jesus was less concerned with his personal security and comfort and more focussed on the wellbeing and cohesion of his community. Jesus did express frustration at times, but it was invariably directed not at individuals but at the system (religious and/or political) in which they were caught up, a system we all help to create, a system we all help to sustain. Rohr (and Jesus) calls me to a theology of we not I, of us not them, and to the wisdom of thinking collectively not individually.
My frustration was coming from a place of self-interest, not from a place of deep compassion and concern for my community. Despite my genuine intention to be a kind, patient, compassionate person, I recognise moments when I am not these things: when self-interest gets the better of me. The apostle Paul wrote of this very human condition, the capacity for good and evil: ‘I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. … I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.’ [Romans 7:15ff]
I guess it’s good to know that my paradoxical frustration is so very human! But it’s also a little disappointing to think that I am so irrevocably bound to it. Or am I? Perhaps simply accepting that the human community, of which I am part, is fatally flawed releases me from having to be ‘better’ than others, or having to ‘save’ those who I judge as being more flawed than me, and frees me to relax in the reality that we really are all in this together. Accepting this ‘human absurdity’ better enables me to live out of the well of patience, love and forgiveness toward all things that I know is embedded deep within me. And living out of that place gives us the active compassion we need to work for social change. A final comment form Richard Rohr:
God has created a world where there is no technique or magical method for purity or perfection. Forgiving love is the only way out, and the only final answer is God’s infinite Love and our ability to endlessly draw upon it.
May this wisdom empower me to live with more compassion and less frustration, even in the midst of a pandemic.