It sounds apocalyptic, the way a Catholic website penned it: “we live in a time of shaking in both the world and the Church.” Even newly elected Pope Francis I averred this line during his first public mass: “Walking, building and confessing are not so easy. Sometimes there are tremors.” With earthquakes becoming more frequent especially this part of the globe, “quake talks” could be morbid, superfluous. Those who experienced tremors and came out alive or scratch-free know how emotionally traumatic the experience is. Quakes instantly bring you to a miasmic thought of the fragility of the ground you are standing. It can shake up your fundamental sense of being in the world very much awake to its own reconfigurable, evolving impermanence. In a speedy stream of a few seconds, you are jolted in terror into a sense of destructibility and dissipation – figurines falling off from their display stands, lights on and off, a church building swaying, bridges collapsing. It is dispersion from the “center that holds.”
If we can suspend a bit of our chronic dualistic reading of reality, perhaps what was alluded to as earth-shaking events in geological terms have parallels to our, for lack of a better term, psychic life, or the life of the mind and soul and spirit and body collapsed into one both in individual and communal level. There is a kind of dissipation, many dissipations captured by Pope Francis I graphically as “children building sand castles on a beach,” congruous to the dissipated life the younger son wallowed himself into. Comparably, ours though is a more suave, nuanced, and sophisticated form of dissipation because it is fostered (as in foster parents) by a robust home of arguments, one that is a feisty neighbor of religion (in the best sense of the word) but nonetheless a home for many, a home that is seemingly credible enough people could take off their shoes of disbelief on anything meaningful in any institution upon entering the house. This home of robust arguments has its own dogma of course – meaning is meaningless in this world because whatever that makes sense and gets translated into symbols and rituals are mere cultural constructs with language as its cultural servants. Every sense of stability, or groundedness on a ‘meaningful center’ must be subjected to the intellectual microscope of suspicion, incised, only to be junked off as “untruths” or specimens of power plays.
Welcome to our time of postmodernist dissipation as people begin to wander from one “untruth” to another under the ticket of personal freedom and consumer’s choice. Welcome to our age when the intellectual elite in the academe (subtly shaping cultures) try to reduce all human transactions into the Darwinian tags of aggression for survival and adaptation, and competition is the rule of every game; proclaiming “God is dead!”; freedom means being libertine; the immaterial as nonexistent. At least in the West, this is the kind postmodernist dissipation becoming a staple lifestyle. More so in the West. But now, it’s creeping into developing countries, held as immutable and carriers of “the truth” especially by the academe (“Theology? There’s no money in it in the first place, son.”). Welcome to the postmodernist dissipation preached by the Philippine Atheist and Agnostics Society (PATAS) and their counterpart in the academe who would rather behold Marx, Nietszche, Foucault or Derrida rabidly and without some grain of salt because they “believe” they are more cool than the self-forgetfulness of the Cross, or the self-effacing and centering power of silent liturgies – more profound correctives to the greed and self-indulgence in power and wealth of the ruling few.
And people wonder why suicide and violence are becoming a common way out of the vortex of this despairing dissipation.
Does the “center” still hold for you?
Photo credit: kellydamian