Sigmund Carl and Alfred speak to one of the modern spirits of Christmas – the spirit of avarice and of self-preoccupation – with a particularly insightful post.
It is not economics that define a man’s worth, nor it is the opinion of another, perhaps ‘wealthier’ that defines a man. It is what you choose in life, with money or time that puts everyone on an even footing with everyone else. The poor man’s contribution of his time or money is just as valuable as a rich man’s. It is true more money can do more good- but money is not the man- nor does it demean the choices and contributions made by a less well off man. ‘Each according to his ability’ is an admonition to the rich man, not words of consolation to the poor man.”.
Siggy links to an excellent essay by Melanie Phillips, The Trojan Horse of Sex Eduation and manages to find the correlation between the mindless acquisition of money – simply to “have” – and the mindless acquisition of the almighty orgasm which, increasingly, seems to be linked – quite erroneously – to the human quest toward “being.”
Ms. Phillips writes: “…adult values are being loaded onto children who are too emotionally immature to cope with them. Teaching children that premature sex is permitted, appropriate and fun encourages them to try it out. This is hardly rocket science.
…The increase in sexual promiscuity among children and teenagers is not due to ignorance but to the deliberate destruction of the notion of respectability.”
Phillips’ piece is a must-read. She has a great deal of eye-opening information about just how far some governments have gone toward abandoning the idea that parents know what is better for their children than the “experts” swimming in government subsidies – but for now let’s just hang on to this bit about “respectability” being undervalued – a notion I’ve touched on before.
In both essays we see treasure being mis-identified. The great thing about having wealth is not that one is wealthy, but that one is in a position to do a great deal of good with one’s money – as Ebeneezer Scrooge learned in Dickens’ lovely Christmas Story. The great thing about sex is that when it is engaged in out of love – real, committed love – it is not only great-but-fast, it is holy-and-eternal. An orgasm lasts a little while – love lives on.
There is nothing wrong with being rich – the world needs it’s Joseph of Arimetheas, who can provide a clean crypt in a hurry and get access to the flunky in charge of releasing a body – just as much as it needs its Baptizing Johns.
There is no sin in being rich and powerful, or in being lively, rambunctious or extremist in one’s views. Joseph and John were all of those things. Sin comes not from being any of those things, except when – in being rich, or powerful, or rambunctious or extremist – one has embraced one’s self over another, which always results in a failure of love…and a failure of love is the very definition of sin.
How do we fail in love by embracing ourselves? “I’m aborting two of my triplets because if I don’t I’ll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise,” is a big and kind of obvious failure of love. but there are other failures, smaller ones. We Catholics call them “sins of omission,” when you know you really should invite your lonely elderly neighbor in for a cup of tea but you don’t, because she bores you and you can’t bear an hour of boredom. A failure of love is not listening when a teenager is trying to tell you something, because the subject makes you uncomfortable. A failure of love is calling human beings with whom you may disagree by names like “Chimpy” and “Blow-job.” A failure of love is misspending billions of dollars on “education” and “anti-poverty” policies that – twenty years on – have seen illiteracy rise and poverty far from eradicated, and then blaming those failures on the tax-harrassed middle-class or on anyone but the policy-writers. A failure of love is looking at someone in the car next to you and deciding whether that person is a “good” sort of person because of what he is driving or how heavy she appears to be, or what bumpersticker he or she feels the need to sport.
We all fail at love, every day and (like the word or not) because we all fail at love, we all sin. But we need not fail in love on the big things, like these issues of money and sex. Where our treasures are, there will lie our hearts.
We live in a very odd age wherein the flaunting of wealth is somehow considered to be “inspirational” to the “downtrodden” and the working class, but the spectacle of working-class people dreaming of acquiring their own wealth is considered vulgar. Such dreams are “greedy,” and are routinely denounced by extraordinarily rich, private-jet flying, stock trading people, like Michael Moore and Barbra Striesand and Al Franken – people who doubtless would have given old Bob Cratchit a thumbs up for “keeping it real,” in his freezing hovel as their carriages glided by, headed toward the castle, wherein they will be served by other folks adept at “keeping it real,” and they will merrily pontificate upon the “miserable middle-class” who are too selfish and greedy to willingly “give up more” to take care of “the poor.”
It’s even noble if you do – in the course of carousing – have a baby or two, either while unwed or “alternately” wed (as long as you can “afford” the kids and the nanny).
About the only thing ignoble about sex, these days, are the large families that committed, married “breeders” dare to have, (these are immoral and do not deserve tax breaks because kids from large families are not as cool or exceptional as kids from small families upon whom all material and educational advantages may be lavished). Also there is no nobility to be found in anything that even hints at abstinence education. Repressive. Moralistic. Closed-minded.
If your treasure is your stock portfolio, your daily orgasm, and your social standing then your heart will be focused on these things as well. Your life amounts to, Ka-ching! Oh, Gawd! Oh, Gawd! What is there to eat? That moron Bush, I hates him! Cheney too! Do you like my Prada purse? I need a new lover! Why am I alone? Ka-ching!
Basically, you’re Maureen Dowd. You sit at the lunch table with the cool kids…for whatever that is worth. Hey, it’s your treasure! It’s your heart.
If your treasure is in covering your expenses and tithing a bit to charity and perhaps laying a little by for a rainy day, and in treating your body more like a temple than a trendspot, and in focusing on family before friends and values over valuables, well, there will your heart be. Your life will amount to fewer “ka-chings,” and possibly fewer orgasms, and you’ll still wonder, “what is there to eat?” But those other bits, about $6,000 purses, or needing “new” people and resenting being alone…well, you might be lucky enough to by-pass them.
In Advent-time, it is good to remember that the God of Abraham, the Creator of the Stars of Night treasured us…so much so that he sent his heart here, to be broken and shared. Where your treasure is, there too will be your heart. As we indulge in preparations and await the celebration of the Incarnation, think about what you treasure…what you are teaching your kids to treasure, and ask the fountain of all mercy and graces to guide you past the trappings of materialism and body-worship, into what is lasting and solid and faithful. It might be the key to your whole new year. Or years.
Actually, to come full circle, Siggy says it better than I: The emphasis on orgasm has supplanted the emphasis on healthy relationships and healthy sex, in the same way that money and the acquisition of money, have become goal and not the vehicle of what is believed to be a productive and meaningful life.
As that Christmas/holiday anchor drops upon us, reflect upon what a meaningful and productive life is really all about.