Augury of valuation
4 August 2012 § Leave a comment
What have I been doing lately in unwork time, aside from watching deadlines for sending in essays for scholarships fly by fleetly and attempting to catch their tails and soar along with them? Do tell me.
I have only half an answer: thinking. Why do I like certain people more than others? Everyone does; one cannot deny it. There must be some system of (e)valuation that every person has in his mind like fingerprint-scaffolding through which each new person falls down, here and there, a curious Goldberg wonderland of ladders and tubes and chutes and stairs and cogs that arises from an unconscious and seemingly arbitrary amalgam of values.
A person who knows everything about something might fascinate another person; but take away the schooling that the first person has that engendered his knowledge, and all that remains is a plain human, an unformed mind. A person who can run quite fast, when put some place where he cannot run for a month, becomes slower. A person who can sing magnificent songs with great skill could not before he had training.
In any of these cases, a sudden injury—to the brain, to the legs, to the vocal chords—decimates what one might call natural ability.
These are isolated (and unsophisticated) examples; usually the characteristics to which value are assigned abound in a great muddle. Two people like each other because they eat the same food, share a certain sense of humour, agree on certain unspoken rules about personal hygiene and personal space and personal nonsense. These cultural things bind people together—for people cannot ultimately know one another—yet, in consideration of the disappearance of all of those things, one is left with nothing. The value of one’s friend suddenly becomes arbitrary. Enjoying someone’s company has value in itself, yet one enjoys a friend’s company because he has first placed value on something (which seems intrinsic) in his friend.
When one makes a friend in that way, one is in grave danger of reaching disillusionment that exceeds that of even a misanthrope. Yet when one sees the ultimate poverty of his friend in the first place, his absolute powerlessness and lack of anything that really merits value, one can love his friend in a different way, a better way.
Stripped of all accomplishments, physical beauty, philosophical positions, enthralling ideas, endearing habits, peculiarities, attitudes, potential, intelligence, courage, commitment—stripped of everything—the only value a human has proceeds from his being made in the image of God.
It is bare. It is no system, no structure, no collection of preferences—it is a distinct lack of these things. It is a sudden understanding of what is really meant by equality. We are all equal in our spiritual poverty. Everything extraneous to that is unequal and thus cannot be used for constructing the unconscious conviction of the motivation and sustaining of love and friendship.
This line of thought produces a strange feeling that one must conjure love from nothing. An impossibility!, protests the mind. True, ’tis impossible, for nothing comes from nothing, yet Someone has created something out of nothing. This something is marked with mystery—the mystery that Someone casts a tiny reflection of Himself into myriad little ones.
The only reason I can find to love others—if I choose not to love them because of something they are or have or have done—is that tiny grain of otherness in them, the tiny piece that has the amazing possibility of infusing the rest.
Ah—to see a world in a grain of sand—to see the grain of sand in another soul—