Friday, January 2, 2015

Selfied to Death

Two recent articles on the culture of selfie:

Thou Shalt Have No Graven Images - Including Your Own, by Heather King

The Scourge of the Selfie Stick, by Simon Tatz (H/T: Patrick Madrid)

I'm interested in the cultural climate or leaven; there is nothing intrinsically evil or base or narcissistic necessarily in the mere fact of "taking a selfie". One does not need to get doctrinaire in reaction to it; yet that does not limit the extent to which we can penetrate the phenomena (yes, I'm using the plural) in order to lay bare other things in our culture that we would not otherwise consider.

Twice now in the Christmas season during the consecration at Mass I was moved, spontaneously, to pray, "Lord, this new year break the chains of pornography in our world." The feeling with this prayer was for something that would break these worldwide chains irreversibly, in some way, by a great positive, a great grace. That was the plea. This was compounded by a general sense of a pervasive tiredness, of a mounting dull deadness in our society and culture. And I can say that this was not just me projecting personal depression onto the world, as some psychologizer would say, because personally I was feeling very much alive and awake and filled with peace (none of it owing to any merit of my own.)

I am no fan, really, of the propensity for "Let's talk about Pornography and HOW HUGE IT REALLY IS IN OUR AGE!!!" Not because it is not true; it is true, more than we realize, but because in another sense, pornography is not huge. It is infinitesimally small. At its core is the vacuity of the imploding star - more so, for it is spiritual.

Which brings me to the point I was wanting to make: that pornography really has infiltrated our society and culture, tainting our ordinary lives - yes, tainting the lives of people who are not bound by it. Not because pornography is some kind of super potent cultural brain-restructuring phenomenon, but simply because it is a deadly sin. Ultimately my feeling is that all the science that shows what porn does to a person and the evidence of how it destroys lives is not going to bring about change, but the realization that it is a mortal sin, and that mortal sin really is mortal, and that, lo and behold, there really is such a thing as sin, from which we need to be saved.

Which is to say, we are either sowing life or we are sowing death. The life, if we accept it, is the very end for which we were made; and it is life in abundance, over-brimming; it is nothing less than the inner life of Jesus Christ living in your own soul. The death, on the other hand, really is death: more so than physical death. (Say, maybe that's simply the reason for the cultural love affair with zombies! The culture is just reflecting the fact that, in reality, with spiritual eyes, when in mortal sin, you are in a sense a walking corpse.)

The climate, the leaven, of a society in which porn-viewing is common knowledge addiction, something more acceptable than alcohol addiction and the like, indeed, almost spoken of like it was a kind of trend, is a climate in which people are dulled and dead from mortal sin; and this dull death becomes the acclimation, the accepted ground on which we interact, or avoid interacting. Isn't it interesting how people who persist in sin become the very antithesis of the tolerance and plurality they preach, demanding more and more - and indeed getting what they demand - that the very ground on which we have our personal being, as lived out in all its aspects, must be defined by their sins?

A sort of yeah, you may be the Taj Mahal, but you're just the background to our selfie on the moral-societal plane.

Again, this is spiritual. When we say "spiritual" we do not mean "airy-fairy". Rather the opposite: that which underpins our very life, our breath, our everyday ordinary life, and bears an imperceptible influence, like a clear conversation going on beneath the noise. This dull deadness of mortal sin that has permeated our society on the ground of common interaction is not to be understood in some psychological sense, as in a lack of cheeriness or lack of engagement with life or whatever. But immediate, spiritual death.

Anyone who has had an encounter with this, by which I mean a moment of seeing it, so to speak, with the eye of the soul, knows what I am talking about. Spiritual death is immediate inversion and the loss of light, of isolating darkness, and the fact you are still breathing and walking and so forth is testimony to the fact that, as with all of us, the mercy of God continues to sustain you, not desiring the smoldering wick to be extinguished. The alarm bells go off in your soul when you see this though. There is no mediation or dichotomy. It is super real. And it underlies and threads all what we take for granted as ordinary life, ordinary conversations, ordinary interactions, and so forth.

Now, how did I go from selfies to pornography? Oh! Oh! There are more things, more underlying things to ponder than one would otherwise consider!

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