I don’t really know how flipboard works–if it’s all algorithms and computers, or people and reading, or some strange combination of the two. But I like to flip through a category, like Happiness or Baking, and wonder about the nature of all things. I am sure there is no thoughtful curation, per se, but the way articles fall must occasionally mean something.
Like when I flipped to Motherhood and the first thing to pop up was How To Have Plumper Lips.
Really? The article, which I did try to read out of a pathetic indulgence of soul crushing lurid fascination, was both long and preachy. Having plump lips is hard to achieve, apparently, and takes a lot of effort, and the right products, certainly not the wrong ones. I gave up and continued my desperate flipping, finally landing on something about Kate Middleton and Charlize Theron. So that’s ok, then, I thought. Middleton is obviously a mother, and Theron is playing one in a movie. What more do I need in my consideration of this ancient subject?
The two are essentially opposite from each other. Middleton is the ideal. Theron is the reality. And maybe by lots of shaming Facebook memes, we can bring Kate down to our level. A few more flips and I got some tips from other celebrity mothers, peered into the sexy Motherhood of a Kardashian, and landed on a cross-over article from the Happiness board about how, simultaneously, I deserve to be happy and that’s the most important thing, but I shouldn’t ‘feel bad’ if I’m not happy because pursuing happiness will prevent me from ever finding it.
What I like best about this cultural moment are all the mind-bending contradictions. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t possibly “live into the tension” or the question for that matter, because it’s not just one or two contending ideals, it’s literally everything. Rival cacophonous listicles screech across the vain dumpster fire of social media. Contradictions like,
-Women should be utterly respected and never treated with abuse ever, but the highest ideal of the female person is a tawdry sexual plaything.
-Gender identity is immutable, probably, but I will pick something as my gender that did not exist a few minutes ago.
-Mothers should have it all together and hold the universe in their hands, but isn’t it wonderful and funny when they slap on yoga pants and scream at their kids and husbands.
-Men are inherently evil in their masculinity, but the best kind of person is a straight talker who just says it like it is and doesn’t take any guff.
-Having too much stuff is wrong and bad, but you deserve to have this thing right now.
There are lots more, of course. I could make lists of them. And being a maker of lists, maybe I’ll start a collection, just to keep my mind straight. Because having a straight mind still seems to me a worthy ideal–a mind that thinks through things and moves the person to act in certain cogent ways.
Every age is plagued with peculiar and alarming contradictions and troubles. And no single human person can act and think in a completely sensible manner all the time. Even though I don’t want to, I contradict myself constantly, especially to my children, especially about myself.
I need a clean house to think, I say. You all better clean up right now. But then, fifteen minutes later, I congratulate myself on being laid back and not minding all the clutter. Which is great because when I was shouting to clean up, nobody did. I make laws and break them myself in the same breath.
So it’s curious that God is known to be unchangeable, consistent, coherent, not forgetting what he said a few minutes ago. When he says, “If you love me you will keep my commandments,” it’s not a capricious, grasping effort to keep a disordered reality from completely unraveling. It’s because there’s a deep coherence to the law, to the word of God. That we can’t keep it and, more usually, can’t understand it, says everything about our turbid human faculties.
It’s why the law, whether or not we can understand it, is tied by God himself to love. Because love is about trust. You think there’s a contradiction but that’s because you are measuring everything by your inconstant self. In reality, it is your own blindness, your personal confusion that keeps you from seeing the deep logic of God’s unchangeable person. If you love God, you will trust him, which means you will haltingly try to do what he wants, even though it seems senseless.
You will eventually find yourself staring at the most unexpected, uncertain reality, an event that contradicts and opposes everything you think you know about yourself and the world. A man will hang on a cross, taking off of you the burden of your disobedience and irrationality, giving you his own mind, indeed his own heart. The longer you look at him, the more everything that matters begins to finally make sense.