Sunday, December 09, 2007

Wow & Ouch!

Over 30 years ago, a terse 2-sentence memo came from the Chairman of the Board to my former employer's computer division (back then, there was only one):
      I have seen some of our Model ____ literature.

      I hope you will impress upon all hands that in the future we are not to say we can do something unless we have demonstrated that we actually can do what we say we can do.

On the copy I saw, someone had hand-written: "WOW & OUCH!"

That's the phrase that came to mind when I saw this scathing indictment of the previous century:
We live in a dishearening century—“the worst so far,” as someone has said. There have never before been wars so destructive as the series of conflicts that erupted in 1914; never have tyrannies been so frenzied and all-consuming as those established by Nazism and communism. All great political causes have failed. Socialism has eventuated in the rule either of privileged ideological bureaucrats or of comfortable, listless masses; liberal reform in America has at least for a time passed away, leaving stubborn injustices and widespread cynicism; conservatism has come to stand for an illogical combination of market economics and truculent nationalism. Most of the human race lives in crushing poverty, and the privileged minority in societies where industrial abundance undergirds a preoccupation with material comfort and an atmosphere of spiritual inanity.
Glenn Tinder, "Can We Be Good Without God?"
The Atlantic 264:6 (December 1989); p. 85
Did I just hear you say, "wow and ouch" too? Eighteen years later, is there any indication that our century will be any better than the last? Evil idiots like Osama bin Ladin, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Kim Ill-something in North Korea, interacting with naive fools like Dubya and Rummy, have started the 21st century off with hatred and violence, with who-knows-what to follow....

Now I seem to remember something called the Human Potential movement, who said that progress was inevitable, that we are getting better and smarter and more ethical all the time? Have they at last gone back into the asylums they came from?

Sorry for sounding flip, but there is much to be worried about in the world today, and "Progress!" sounds rather like a bad joke. The world needs something better than Human Potential today -- haven't we seen enough of what humans are capable of?

We seriously need help from God -- and when I read words like "preoccupation with material comfort and an atmosphere of spiritual inanity" then, well, I have to include myself in the group of needy ones.
From subtle love of softening things, from easy choices, weakenings—
Not thus are spirits fortified; not this way went the Crucified!
From all that dims thy Calvary, O Lamb of God deliver me.
Let me not sink to be a clod.
Make me thy fuel, Flame of God.
(Who wrote that? -- ah, it was Amy Carmichael)

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