Doxology: Brian Holers’s Debut Novel

Doxology, the debut novel from author Brian Holers, is available in both paperback and digital format now! Fathers, sons and brothers reconnect over tragedy in this blue-collar Southern tale of love, loss and the healing power of community and family. Doxology examines an impossibly difficult...

Brian Holers

Irony and illusion

Even the most haphazard and disorganized of us operate according to some philosophy.  Even if we can’t name it, all of us have some internal gauge that directs our behavior, minute to minute, hourly, yearly, and over the course of our lifetimes.  Some way of defining ourselves, of giving a point to our lives.  Some way of offering the world what we have to give, instead of just taking.  We set goals, make plans, monitor ourselves from day to day.  On a larger scale, we as groups and municipalities, states and nations operate according to some philosophy.  We influence our societies, and they help shape us.

America is, in its founding, a Judeo-Christian nation.  Yet even within those faiths, conflicting ideologies can be found, along with advocates of opposing points of view who consider their faiths as basis.  In Christianity, the most prevalent faith in America, we hear a lot about the Christian right, with its preference for traditional values and biblical proofs for all its positions; but the Christian Left may be just as powerful, encouraging followers to be their brother’s keeper and to work for “social justice.”

Confused?  Don’t count on modern secular philosophy to bail us out.  What has philosophy given us in recent years?  Life is an illusion.  All the advances humans have made over the millennia are little more than dust.  Only the most ignorant would consider believing in God.  The intelligent question all assumptions and doubt popular wisdom, simply because it is popular.  If a lot of people think it, it must be wrongIt’s every man for himself.  DARE to think for yourself.

                To be sure, these are problems of the affluent.  Only in a wealthy society, filled with lots of free time engendered by countless advances, do people have the energy to sit around and think about things.  But no matter how much we want to doubt what we cannot see, if we don’t believe in something larger than ourselves, we will look to the institutions of man as our god.

This state of affairs creates a deep irony.  First, some choose to doubt popular wisdom or mores simply because they are popular, opting instead to figure out everything themselves.  Then, as part of this they  refuse, in various ways, to buy into this advanced, intricate system of doings all around us, including all the advances it has brought about.  Then before long, after refusing to participate for awhile, they begin to feel left out—others are doing things, being happy, living like movie stars.  They begin to feel victimized.  Ultimately, they figure out they are losing in this game, and the only way to remedy this situation is to take from those who have somehow, presumably, taken too much.  Whether money, space, happiness.  So ultimately, this choice or struggle to be an individual, a standout, a free thinker, leads  to a mentality of collectivism.

In the western world, we assume things will work right.  Several years ago I spent three months in Kenya.  Friends and family asked me what it was like.  I responded, make a list of the first twenty encounters you have after walking out your door in the morning.  Starting the car.  Driving on a well paved road to work.  Stopping at Starbucks for a cup of tasty coffee.  Calling your brother with a hands-free device while driving at sixty miles per hour.  And so on.  In Kenya, which is a pretty nice place, you can’t count on any of that stuff.  But we are accustomed to affairs outside ourselves working like well oiled machines.  All the events we count on each day, they simply become givens.  We take them for granted.  We forget about all the failure, loss, and experimentation required to set those advances in place.  All we can see is that many others around us have more, more food, a better car, a nicer house.  Obviously, this thinking goes, they are taking more than their share.

When we take things for granted, we limit our concept of the size of the universe.  We come to believe wealth and happiness are finite.  There is only so much to go around.  And we deserve our fair share.  And we’ll get it by taking from someone who has too much.  It is so common to simply forget how life works.  We see disparity, and we look for someone or something to set things straight.  A savior.  A more powerful government or enforcement body to take our side.

When I speak of collectivism and the desire for a savior, some come to mind both as examples of illusion and irony.  Certain people are worshiped as saviors of man, those who tried to get a lid on things.  False gods sometimes worshipped here in the freest society on earth.

A staggering number of Americans claim to be fans of the revolutionary fighter Che Guevara, and the one time Chairman of China, Mao Tse Tung.  I’m amazed at the number of people who seem to be saying, “I may live here in the greatest, most advanced society on earth, but I’m not buying it.  I think for myself!”  Now this same person, when he hits a light switch, the light better come on.  And if something happens and she calls 911 on her cellphone (with the unlimited talk and text for $50 a month plan), the medics better get there fast, and they better administer the best and latest medical attention.  Don’t forget, she has her rights!!!  (Health care is a right, not a privilege, remember?) She’s not fooled by all this stuff around her.  She has Che on her shirt!  He wears Mao on his jacket!

The delicious irony is that the very thing Che fought against—the “cultural tyranny” of capitalism—is the only real beneficiary of his legacy.  Mao reorganized society to try and make things equitable, and got rid of everyone in the way—here’s this man whose life’s work was to promote the “common good” over that of the individual—and the only way he’s really commemorated is by rewarding the most individualistic economic system on earth.  The companies that print those shirts make lots of money.  And those who wear them feel like they are doing something.  The illusion is that so many define themselves as “against” something, then wear shirts to express their feeling.  In reality, by doing this, the ONLY result is to promote capitalism.  And further, the (misplaced) pride one feels displaying these men’s faces in their shirts—the I stand out as an individual!—is the hallmark of the mentality that drives capitalism forward.

Then, to top that all off, we’re so overgrown, lazy and sometimes foolish that we promote even more foolish ironies—when we use the latest technologies to decry the evils of technology.  Come on guys.  Get your IPhones out and let’s make that video.  Let’s tell the people if we just lived like Che or Mao said we should, and shared everything in common, the world would be such a better place.  We can post it on YouTube tonight.

                How many people are lining up to go to Congo, where Che helped lead a revolution?  China?  Cuba?  Last I heard the USA was still the land of opportunity.

Sure, there are inequalities in life.  Some things can be fixed or improved, some can’t.  And government does have a role in helping fix things.  As a compassionate, responsible society, we look for continually better ways to care for those who can’t care for themselves.  Children’s education is obviously crucial to the continuation of society.  As is caring for those who struggle with disease, mental illness, addictions, and other challenges that are far beyond the capacity of the individual.  Those social needs are as important to society as are the roads, buildings, internet cable, and infrastructure that makes this giant machine called America work.         Some choose to try and get ahead by perpetuating this giant economy that is the envy of the world.  Others  choose meeting social needs for their life’s work.  We as Americans can and do find concrete solutions to problems, without allowing our culture to be coopted by an ideology that simply goes against human nature, and creates an illusion and an irony all its own.  Attempting to rein in America’s appetite for economic expansion, to reduce the individual’s motivation to get ahead, will never fix things.  For only in the desire to continue to improve our lives, and the lives of those we love, will we continue to find solutions.

We are not all the same.  Each of us has our own unique talents, and our own little place in the world.  From the outside, some seem to have received more gifts, more opportunity, an easier life.  But each of us plays a part in something infinitely larger than any of us.   In the adult world, there are makers and there are takers.  Children are takers, and only through hard work, love and education do they learn to become makers.  “Share and share alike” works fine in a child’s world, where a child with two toys gives to one who has none, so the two can play together.  But in the adult world, only the desire to improve ourselves leads us to make toys or cars or medical advances or anything.  To value collectivism over capitalism is to put a cap on human endeavors while trying to expand what some can take from society, which is an irony.  The illusion is that it will ever work.

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