I HEARD mention the other day, mention by somebody I reckon wouldn’t mind being put in the politically liberal bucket, about “hate radio” folks. I need to make a couple of asides here. First, when *I* talk about liberals and conservatives, I’m almost always talking specifically about divisions in Christianity (and, by the way, I’m more toward the liberal camp, in case my posts don’t make this clear enough). I am a little out of my element in this current post, because liberal versus conservative politics is not something I know much about. Second, along with this is the fact that I do not listen to the alleged “hate radio,” watch alleged “hate TV” or read alleged “hate books,” but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there are some of the “hate people” on each side of the political spectrum. Those are my disclaimers.
Now. I was intrigued enough about the “hate radio” comment that it stuck with me, and a couple of days ago I was browsing book shelves in a store and decided maybe I should skim through one of the “hate books” by one of the famous “hate authors.” And no, I’m not saying which author it was, nor which camp they sleep in. So I skimmed through the book, and a few thoughts popped into my mind. One thought was, “This is really boring.” The second thought was, “It really aggravates me that people get this stuff published, when I have yet to have my writing published.” The third thought was, “This is trash.” And the fourth thought was the basic outline of this post. These four thoughts occurred to me roughly simultaneously, then I put the book down with a bit of a scowl.
Which brings me to the title of this post, and the place where I try to sound smarter than I am. If you want to be impressive, go to your library and check out a copy of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter. If you really want to be impressive, then read all the way through the book, and place yourself on the very short list of people who have managed to do so. The relevant point of the book for this post is that in any highly developed system, there is at least one internal contradiction. If I may extrapolate this, the point is that no system, no way of thinking, no platform, no person is always one hundred per cent consistent; everything breaks down once in a while here and there. This isn’t just human nature; it is the way things work. It is even true for our system of mathematics. (Hofstadter won a Pulitzer, putting it a bit more eloquently than I.)
Next, find yourself a copy of the essay entitled, “Thinking as a Hobby” by William Golding. (William Golding is the guy who wrote Lord of the Flies, and the only reason this is important is that it makes for a great post title.) The idea behind this essay is that people’s thinking can be grouped into three levels. Level three is child-like thinking, based upon emotion. Golding says level three thinking isn’t really even thinking, but rather acting upon feeling. Level two thinkers, which covers most all of the rest of us, are people who have enough analytical ability to point out the contradictions in other people’s thinking. Level two thinkers are good at tearing things down, but not at building new things. They are good at pointing out problems, but they do not spend much time coming up with solutions. Level one thinkers, on the other hand, see problems, ask meaningful questions, and find answers. It has been many years since I read the essay, but as I recall Golding had met Albert Einstein and considered him a level one thinker. Other than that, he couldn’t think of any. Personally, I would add people like Jesus, Buddha, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh and the like to the list of level one thinkers. But anyway, what’s the point?
Well, it is this: Referencing Golding, the loud voices we hear in the political arena today are level two thinkers. They use their talents to incite the emotional fervor of level three thinkers, and awaken the innate ability of other level two thinkers who have no aspirations of ever ascending to level one thought. These media personalities point out contradictions as though they are the most clever people in the world to have unearthed startling revelations about the people and ideas on the “other side” of the political arena. But, and referencing Hofstadter, contradictions are always among us, everywhere. So, the mark of these people is that they possess the gift of articulating the blatantly obvious, in such a way as to whip people into a frenzy. It is as if they are yelling, “Oh my gaaawd! There’s air all around us! And we’re breathing it into our lungs all the time! The insanity of it all!” And before long they have a portion of the public on their side, screaming that we have got to stop all this air which is surrounding us. Well, actually we don’t have to stop it, we just need to make sure we elect somebody who actually cares about getting rid of air, and will do something about it, because it is obvious that the other side does not give a flip about the horror of air. Look at them! They’re air breathers, after all! Notice all of the exclamation points in this paragraph? I hardly ever use them, but I needed a bunch here, because everything in this realm of trash talk is an exclamation. It has to do with all the emotion involved.
This is why I believe it is trash writing; trash talk: It reveals no surprises. It offers nothing to better us in any way. It prays off of a public that thrives on angry rhetoric and ill will. It is insulting and demeaning. It promotes ignorance. It weaves truth and falsehood into an unintelligible tangle of knots. It borders, theologically, on evil.
SO HERE is my advice: Let’s ignore it. Let’s stop playing a game that says we’re informed and educated and sophisticated if we learn a hundred new reasons to hate somebody else. It’s pointless. We’re all contradictory. We’re all flawed. We’re all hypocrites. Let’s rise above it. Let’s listen to something else. Let’s watch something else. Let’s read something else. Let’s read something that feeds our souls. Let’s stop bickering, and start trying to fix things with a little love, understanding and compassion. This, it seems to me, would put us on the path of trying to find solutions rather than problems.