Friday, April 25, 2014

Lessons from William M. Joel, Philosopher, or, Fantasy vs Reality

Conformity vs Non-conformity.
Bland vs Edgy
Safety vs Risk
Cowardice vs Courage
Obedience vs Rebellion

All of these comparisons. So little truth. Think of how a young person judges whether or not something is cool. Or whatever the term that is now cool instead of cool. Sick? Whatever. Is it common? Is it original?

Really, what is meant, is, what group does it identify me with? How does it brand me?

Because really, folks. Nothing is new. Just like the word says. No. Thing. If you are trying not to conform to say, what "society" says is "normal," all you are doing is conforming to what popular culture says  is cool, rad, sick, progressive, alternative, etc. But is it? Or is it about finding a way to define yourself as special? To define yourself as being loved? (by the ____ group).

Let me try to sketch out a very basic example.

A young girl, let's say, projects her identity out to the world through her clothing, at least in many cases of American girls. If she picked up somewhere that she deems cool,  the message that to be a feminine looking girl is not very cool, she will not like the look of herself in a dress. It will not fit with the image of herself she wants to project. If she gets positive feedback from the group that is informing her ideas, then she is comfortable. If some other (non-cool) group compliments her on a day she must wear a dress, it not only does not make her feel good about the dress, but extra bad, because this is the group that she wants to distance herself from. A common occurrence, ever since the invention of teenagers, right?

After all, the great philosopher, Willam Martin Joel, said, "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun." Of course, if he had written that in today's jargon, he would have put it more like, "I'd rather crusade with the alternative lifestyle warriors than bitterly cling to the Bible and maybe a gun." His way was a bit catchier.

If any of you reading are over the age of, say 40- ish, you may be realizing that being one of the sinners was not indeed the fun we once thought. It may have seemed so in the moment, but some of us are still reaping the "rewards"of some of our Billy Joel moments, and may now know better.

So, you get where I am going. There is no non-conformity. There is no edginess. There is no such thing as standing up to societies norms. There is only choosing who/what you will conform to. No human person can reinvent the wheel of what it is to be human. We can have a personal style, a way of being in the world, but when we base it on rebellion against xyz, we are fooling ourselves.

Especially in our current culture. This culture dictates with an iron fist that we must never, no not ever, call a thing right or wrong. To do that is to JUDGE (gasp). Oh, but wait a sec, there are some things which not only are we free to judge, but in fact MUST be judged, and we will be told how.

1. Do not ever utter a word against any (xyz) "alternative" lifestyle. (read: homosexual) You are then the worst person who ever lived on the earth.  (No distinction between the person and the lifestyle is allowed to be made).

2. DO rant and rave about anyone who does believe in God, who does believe there is objective truth, and paint them as The Oppressor. This is by far the coolest eh-vehr position to have. Those people need to be silenced. They may not breathe the same air as the cool ones.

Here is the Wisdom of the Ages from the Bible:

What has been, will be again. What has been done, will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 1:9

We all share the cloak of humanity. We are, at once, all individuals, and all a collective. God treats each one with the utmost respect by giving us free will that He will not violate. But, our human condition can only innovate so much until we just repeat the same mistakes over and over.

Pride is our hallmark. The "I will not serve" that is resident in all our hearts, has been with us since the Fall. When we think we are going against the mainstream, when we think we have found a way to call everything  "okay" and thus create peace, we are just repeating what ancient societies have tried over and over. All to just escape that awful thing that is labeled Conformity, or worst of all Obedience.

The grand irony, is that the most counter-cultural thing of all is to be radically obedient to Christ. To bow our heads and our hearts to the ultimate Truth. If you want to go completely against the current Norm, try to be a faithful Christian. It ain't easy. You will be opposed at every turn. You will be opposed by the people you love the most. By family. Friends. Yes, the dreaded Society.

This is what takes real courage, real risk. Want to be stretched intellectually? Try reading St. Thomas Aquinas. Try reading the Church Fathers. Those guys used their intellects to the degree which, for us, would be the breaking point.

In the Gospel, in the Church, resides the Ultimate rebellion. Christ destroys death. It can't get any edgier than that. The Radical of Radicals, He hung on the cross, that so we would not ultimately lose our lives, he gave His.

Oh, you can say that you aren't going to go along with how God made you in some way, you can dress yourself as whatever you want, you can yell at the top of your lungs against Him all day long. Try as we might, none of us can defeat reality, defeat Truth. There is one certain Prince of Darkness that would love for all of us to go on trying. He has already lost that war, but misery loves company, and he would love to have us as company for eternity. However, God has seen to it that we can be happy with Him forever, in the great Company of the Angels and the Saints, of life and love.

We will all face our own earthly death.The great leveler of playing fields. The human condition that we all share. It will not matter then how we have dressed ourselves up, only if we have dressed our souls with Christ.

There is no human on earth right now that He has not died for. No one who is out of the reach of His love.

Try reading  this aloud to yourself, slowly. I dare you.

 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.  You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,  even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,"  even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.  For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,  your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!  They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.  Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you?  I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139


  1. I've said the same thing about conformity - that radicals, either in dress, appearence, or belief, are just conforming to something also. There is no such thing as non conformity. This quote always comes to mind:

    "Drinking bear is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that's a tough call. That's rebellion."

    Alice Cooper


    1. Truth. This had been bouncing around in my brain for a while and I had to let it out. I also want to post a slightly lengthy video that I love and touches on this topic.