Saturday, July 09, 2005

changobeer on the Gollum syndrome

The best explanation I've yet heard for the peculiar silence by muslim imams after islamofascist terror attacks. Get it here! Fr. Karras notes Tolkien's brilliant observation of human nature: we exist at living contradictions. Like Gollum and Smeagol:
It is Smeagol and it is Gollum. The depth of the conflict between 'the two', oddly enough, does not diminish the identity of the one character. It merely puts everything he is on the table. Therein lies the art of Tolkein's creation. Smeagol is not less Smeagol because he is Gollum. Gollum is only truly Gollum as long as he remains Smeagol.

This is the defining essence of humankind. We are many things at once, and it is no single element that defines us. We are Red Riding Hood and the wolf. We are Snow White and the jealous Queen. We are the nameless protagonist and Tyler Durden.

If this is true on an individual level, how could it not define us as society? Is there any reason to think that, all together, we become somehow less antonymous? More coherent?
He answers yes. In particular, he notes that Americans exemplifies this trait:
Americans are the most rampant consumers in the world, yet we are a very religious society. We impose our political and economic will on other countries with almost missionary zeal, yet we receive more immigrants and donate more money and aid to foreign causes than any other nation. All human groups are complex and contradictory. We're all a little bit Gollum and a little bit Smeagol.
. Finally, he reflects on how this plays out in the Muslim world:
The west asks, how can Muslims not be horrified by acts of planned terror that take innocent lives? I venture that they are. Even when they strike nations perceived as aggressors, like the US and the UK. They are human, they have families, they are not unaffected by the suffering of others.

I also venture that they are not. Muslim nations feel they have been historically mistreated, shut out and left behind by the west. They bear the brunt of a campaign against Islam born of fear and distrust. They know that, if not for the oil reserves under their soil, the west would care little for the advancement of their culture or the resolution of their conflicts.
Oddly enough, the good Father did not consider why humanity lives in contra diction. Perhaps he thought it too obvious. I don't.

When we live in contradiction, we live dis-integrated lives. Only one thing disintegrates us like this: sin. We still live in a fallen world. Christ has conquered it, but the conquest waits to be fulfilled. Eden is restored to the extent that we live in Christ and obey the will of the One who sent him. However, we also live in the world where it's possible to turn away from him. The world trapped in his shadow thrives on the vices that destroy it. Thus, when we sin, we live in contradiction. Even the good that we want to accomplish we don't, while the evil we long to avoid we do. We simultaneously want to lead master Frodo to Mordor while we yearn to seize the precious.

Evil exists. His agents are legion. When faced with the reality of global terrorism, it's too easy to demonize the butchers that carry this out. While all are responsible for their actions, we must not forget who the real enemy is. Evil, present since before the world's beginning, longs to sow the seeds of sin in all of us that reap a harvest of death. Terrorists serve as his agents, whether they realize it or not. While we must do all we can to stop them, even if that means taking their lives, we must also seek the protection of the only man that defeated evil, Jesus Christ. For man though he is, he is also God. In him do we enjoy the victory over sin and death that our enemy longs for us to suffer. Only in him is the integration possible that puts an end to our contradictory ways.

Gullum met his end when he finally possessed that for which he coveted so long. Frodo could not willingly give that up to him. The message is clear. Without Christ we are powerless over sin. With him, sin is powerless over us.