Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Dull Hearts

"New Every Morning"
- desert dawn -

It was almost afternoon this past Sunday by the time I heard about another suicide bombing in Baghdad, almost 200 people were senselessly slaughtered in another terrorism attack. Either that story hadn’t been reported on the news or I just didn’t pay all that much attention to it. I later learned that there was an equally horrific act of terror in Saudi Arabia and also in Pakistan; but once again it didn’t seem as if anyone was following those stories all that closely – including me.

I’ve been thinking about the seemingly nonchalant response to all those egregious mass murders and cruel human suffering this weekend.  At first I thought that our news media weren’t paying as much attention to these events because they hadn’t taken place in this country or didn’t directly involve Americans; but the more I thought about it, I wondered if it was more than that? I began to wonder if perhaps there has been so much recent violence, so many mass shootings, bombings and terrorist attacks, that we have essentially become immune to them? I wonder if it is possible that human suffering, pain, murder and terrorism have become so much a part of our lives nowadays that these events are no longer heart-wrenching to us? And if they are no longer heart-wrenching is it because our hearts have become hardened and dull?

I am reminded of a scientific principle known as the “boiling frog syndrome.” It may sound a bit crass, but there have been some experiments in which a frog has been placed into a pot of cold water on a stove top - there is no lid on the pot and the frog is able to jump out of the out at any time. The heat is then turned up and the temperature of the water is raised very slowly, one degree at a time, until the water gradually come to a boil.  Failing to sense the growing danger of the heating pot, the frog simply gets used to the gradually increasing temperatures and instead of jumping to safety, ultimately boils to death.

I wonder if perhaps many of us nowadays may be suffering from this syndrome?

Almost every day we hear of some sort of terror or terror-related event.  Every day we are immersed in the chaos of spiteful rhetoric about building walls and cleansing our nation of undesirable foreigners. Over the years more and more people have gradually become more and more isolationist, xenophobic and racist. I wonder if the “hate and terror temperature” in the pot of the culture is increasing day by day but we have gradually gotten used to it and become numb to it, and so we nonchalantly accept the growing darkness without even trying to jump out of the pot?

There is a passage in the Bible that says:

The hearts of these people have become dull.
They hear very little with their ears.
They have closed their eyes.
If they did not do this they would
see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their hearts,
then they would be changed and be healed.

As I reflect on my own indifferent response to all the suffering that took place over the past few days, I vow again to intentionally renew my effort at reviving my dull heart and opening my closed eyes and ears.  I want to to feel along with the suffering of others in this world because there are no different others and what happens to others happens to me.  I want to be able to get up every morning with a heart open to the wonders of each day, new every morning, eyes wide open, listening to everything that comes my way each and every day. And when I am able to do this I shall indeed be changed and I shall be healed

The psychologist, Rollo May, once observed

Hate is not the opposite of love,
apathy is.

It seems to me that having a dull heart is probably the same thing as being apathetic, and since apathy is the opposite of love, apathy is to be avoided at all costs because “God” is “Love.”

1 comment:

  1. Hello Paul, I think it can take a bit of work to keep our hearts open. But open them we must. Not avoid the bad news, but be moved by it and inspired to get involved. Thank you for this reminder. xx

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