Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Prid of Ankh Morpork

We have no cultural or political divides in this nation.

What we’ve got is a pride gap.

We’re proud of what we are, or what we are supposed to believe.

If we’re proud of the Second Amendment, say, we’re proud that we espouse that freedom to, you know, wave guns about in a patriotic manner

At the same time, I see, there is selectivity in our pride. Those who are proud of the Second Amendment, say, seem not so enamored of the pride others see in the First Amendment when it applies to government not supporting one religion by allowing nativity scenes and such on public property.

Maybe that’s not what the First Amendment intended. Maybe the right to patriotically wave guns about is not what the Second Amendment intended. What certainly was not intended is a cafeteria approach to supporting rights and suppressing rights by calling on the same document, in our pride, to do so. And that goes for those who love the First Amendment but don’t particularly like the Second.

It’s pride.

Pride is what allows us to be overly selective. It’s the same in politics. Pride blinds us to the errors our side makes, or allows us to think that the wrongs our side performs are justified because the other side does them to, but to a greater degree. Murdering five people is more acceptable than murdering ten. The death penalty for criminals is more morally acceptable than abortion. And other such nonsense.

Pride is what leads us into the Internet echo chamber. Saint Augustine, in his Confessions, says in his youth it was pride that stopped him from studying the scriptures – pride put him in en echo chamber:
“I was not in any state to be able to enter its mysteries, or to bow my head to climb its steps.”

“The Bible was composed in such a way that as beginners mature, its meaning grows with them. I disdained to be a little beginner. I was puffed up with pride, and incorrectly considered myself a mature adult.” 
I catch myself doing the same things, of course, with scripture and politics and a lot of other stuff. It’s easy to do, and not so easy to stop doing.

But CS Lewis cautions us that stop we must:
The intellectual life is not the only road to God, nor the safest, but we find it to be a road, and it may be the appointed road for us. Of course, it will be so only so long as we keep the impulse pure and disinterested. That is the great difficulty…: we may come to love knowledge -- our knowing -- more than the thing known: to delight not in the exercise of our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us. Every success in the scholar's life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his scholarly work. The time for plucking out the right eye has arrived.
Humblers. Little reminders that we, on our own, do not know it all.

The older I get, the more listening I do. That's what Ezra Taft Benson, prophet of the LDS Church when I was a kid (mostly) brings up in his famous sermon on pride (emphasis mine):
Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance. In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride—it is always considered a sin. Therefore, no matter how the world uses the term, we must understand how God uses the term so we can understand the language of holy writ and profit thereby. Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness,arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.

The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.

We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”
That's what I'm striving for: Finding the beams in my own eyes while not worrying (yet) about the mote in others'.

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