Sunday, March 12, 2006
Guilt Expands to Fill the Universe
As soon as one guilty ghost is laid, another takes its place. Jesus said that a demon exorcised will, upon finding its old home cleaned out, move in and invite its friends along too. Human beings are forever building monuments to past atrocities, as if these could expiate the guilt. But soon another monument is made, and another. There is no forgiveness in stone, nor in history.
Families do it too. The guilt builds through the years, uncorrected mistakes, miscommunications, abysses bridged by arms that are too short or that actively deny the attempt. Eternal guilt, days, years, generations. We've all seen it. Feuds. If you can't have forgiveness you might as well make the other guy pay.
If no one else will make me feel guilty, well, I'll just have to do it myself. I heap snow on the hot coals of memory but nothing quenches them. There is nothing but flight until the legs are worn to stumps. Even then the impulse to flee animates the vestiges. Twitch, twitch.
Guilt drives the human race. Endless cycles of hand-wringing, apology, smiles over the gravestones. None of it is damn good enough. No forgiveness comes. Guilt builds to an inchoate anger and there is no sink for it. Tail chasing until the teeth sink into the self who then strikes out as the only outlet.
Yes, throw more gasoline on the fire. Go to church, feel the guilt dripping from the words, the music, the endless litanies, the endless entreaties to a distant god more cold than the heart of an outbound comet. You will always find something to feel guilty about, and that reaffirms your membership in the human race. You fit right in. Take up your burden and add to it each year.
Is it no wonder Christians are seen as weird? We're forgiven. The guilt stops. Jesus stopped it, agreeing with his Father that they would make the solution together. Jesus became the sink for our guilt and it's gone as soon as you allow it to be taken away.
Haven't you seen this? I certainly have. I've been through enough family arguments to know where the guilt is being assigned, to no avail. I've seen people carry the guilt. I've lived with them. I've run from my own. It's hell on the sensitive soul.
Forgiveness is a very special state. Somehow God makes it happen. Somehow he takes it up and it's gone. Human beings have better things to do than build monuments to the tears of guilt.
The book is "Transcendent," by Stephen Baxter. Science fiction verging on fantasy. The human race has developed for half a million years into... basically, a big and powerful version of one human being. Even an imaginative author can't figure out what to do with his guilt, so he populates the story with ugly splinter versions of himself. All that happens is that the guilt-sink grows to consume ever more resources.
The answer is as plain as the old-fashioned cross on the church steeple. Perhaps the people inside have forgotten the message, but the symbol is still there.
It's my first visit to your site. Love your stuff. Please, come and sculpt sand and chalk the sidewalk for VOXTROPOLIS at Mosaic's Origins conference in Pasadena in late May!