[Jesus, considering our great ideas.]
So, those romper things for men are really something. I looked at a lot of pictures of them yesterday trying to avoid improving my mind with important stuff. For all those gentle readers who thought I was overreacting to the invention of the washing machine, I feel the duty of explaining the man romper is on them. Actions have consequences. Someone has to be to blame.
Actually, that’s part of the problem. Cultural forces are usually produced by a whole mess of converging ideas and events so that only later is anyone able to look back and say, ‘this caused that,’ and ‘that thought produced this horror.’ It’s usually no singular person’s fault. It’s the whole bubbling cauldron of humanity trying to do ‘good’ that produces profound sin–problems, one might say, too deep for words.
Truly, truly, the person who woke up one day and thought, ‘let’s make pastel colored rompers for men,’ is probably not trying to be bad. It’s not nefarious. It’s not conspiratorial. It’s not Let’s Deliberately Make the World Uglier and Sadder.
No, the human person is always on a trajectory of trying to do good. One ‘good’ idea leads to another leads to another leads to another. I’m trying to think of a non controversial example of this, other than the male romper, but all the ones that are popping into my mind–healthcare, education, all the isms of the age–are too likely to make people’s heads explode. So let’s go back to the dreaded washing machine.
The invention of the washing machine was truly wondrous. Absolutely, it saved some portion of the population from servile poverty–the virtuous washer woman previously consigned to a short, brutish life scrubbing the clothes and linens of the rich and evil is now freed from her burden. Let the rich wash their own clothes.
Which is fine. The rich do wash their own clothes, if you count ordinary middle class people in suburbia as rich. And how can you not. I am one of the richest people on earth, and so are all my neighbors. But, of course, the poor wash their own clothes also, trudging many miles to dilapidated laundry places, exhausting the body with the long walk, and the mind with anxious worries. The machine itself doesn’t save either person. The rich, now, alone with her fancy machine, is still evil. The poor may be virtuous, who knows, but now both of them are washing ugly clothes, and isolation in their common bread.The machine can’t save us because we’re not good, and every good thing we try to do produces consequences that, in our blindness, we cannot see and cannot account for. Technology is lovely in that it can keep you alive, certainly, but it can also be used to kill you. Because the human person Isn’t Good, there’s no way to end up in a glorious utopian future. I know, this is the least remarkable fact about humanity.
Except that we can’t accept it. And that’s why we’re all outraged all the time. The only way to stop the outrage cycle is for a significant portion of humanity to admit to not only being wrong, but being wrong even when trying to do good. That’s why I’m a Christian. Because the Christian posture towards reality is one of resignation. The Christian ought to be able to admit the lack of personal goodness, and therefore be fairly gracious about the lack of goodness in everyone else. ‘We tried to do the right thing. We thought it was a good idea. We thought making this clothing item would be fantastic–this single garment sewed top to bottom in one piece so that I’m dressed like a baby–but oh dear, I see now that we were terribly wrong. We shouldn’t have done that. So sorry. Will try not to do it again.’ And then, when you accidentally sew another one piece romper, to turn around again in repentance.
We like to think of humanity as divided into groups, two groups really–the good ones and the bad ones. But really we all share the one bread of just being bad, even when we’re trying really hard to be good. This should make us gentle with each other, instead of blaming. And it should make us desperate to really taste, and feel, and touch, and even wear goodness. It should make us long for an action that doesn’t somehow unravel and go wrong, for a virtuous thought that isn’t tainted with ugliness, an invention that brings only peace and never death. It should make it look outside of ourselves towards God and his perfect, unmarred beauty. It doesn’t, of course, because that means admitting all the errors of thought and action. But if we did, the strong power of God’s own goodness would surely fix even the ugliness of what we wear.