Monday, October 21, 2013

Metroids as an Analogy for Sin

                Metroids are the most dangerous creatures in the galaxy. They look something like large jellyfish, only with mandibles instead of tentacles, and they float around until a living thing gets close, then they latch on and such all the energy out of it. Once they’ve sucked out enough, they divide into two and begin again, so two become four, four become eight, and so on.
                What’s more, they’re devilishly tricky to kill. They absorb energy, remember, so guns, lasers, explosions, lightning, and so forth don’t do any good and might just make them stronger. And their bodies are so malleable, so soft, yet tough, that they can’t be beaten, cut, or smashed (even if you wanted to risk getting close enough to try). The only way you can kill them is to first freeze them, then hit them hard with something powerful enough to shatter them, like a missile.  

                The image of the all-but invincible, ever-multiplying parasite is, I think, a good metaphor for sin. Like Metroids, sin is parasitic; it draws its strength from its ‘host.’ It is our free will, our choices to sin, that give sin its power. Also, just as Metroids multiply the more energy they drain, so sin multiplies the more we indulge in it. What was a harmless way to blow off steam after work grows into a wallet-draining, marriage destroying addiction within an alarmingly short space of time. Sin indulged breeds more and worse sin; once you cross a moral line, it is nigh-impossible to return, and the next line begins to beckon you. The more you do, the more you’re willing to do, until finally the life-sucking parasites multiply to the point that they eliminate all life on the planet (that metaphor kind of got away from me).
                So how do you kill sin? First, you have to ‘freeze’ it; make a firm resolution to reform, cut yourself off from temptation as much as you can. In short, make it as hard as possible for you to sin. Put a filter on your computer, then your computer in the living room, then stay off your computer as much as possible. Avoid the people and situations that cause you to blow up in anger. Stay out of bars and away from parties.
Then ‘blast it with a missile;’ here meaning intense prayer, service, other interests, spending time with family and friends, or building ‘replacement’ habits. Instead of that beer, you drink coffee. Instead of smoking, you eat jelly beans.

"Die, Metroid! Die!"

                The important thing about the latter is to find an alternate and non-evil way to get the desired result (the ‘reward’ of a habit). Thus the alternative to an unhealthy habit like smoking is a comparatively healthy one like eating jellybeans, which gives you a similar kind of satisfaction via the taste and sugar, but without the lung-cancer. Even Love and Mercy can be a kind of alternative means of satisfying our desire to punish, as responding to evil with good often leads the other person to be ashamed of himself; a much more thorough punishment than any we could devise (as St. Paul says, we “heap coals upon their heads”).  
                But remember; first you need to freeze the sin. You have to resolve to eradicate it and work to limit your exposure to it as much as possible. If you don’t freeze it first, all the missiles in the world won’t help you. As with everything you do, overcoming sin begins with a choice.

Vive Christus Rex!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Wonko the Sane

In the fourth book of the inaccurately-named Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy we meet a character named Wonko the Sane. He's a man who lives, with his wife, 'outside the asylum.' That is, he built his house so that the outside is designed like an inside, and the inside like an outside. The whole world, minus the small space 'outside' (a few lawns and paths) is thus inside the asylum, while Wonko has declared himself (and, presumably, his wife), to be outside; thus, the one sane man on Earth.

He settled on this plan after reading detailed instructions on how to use a toothpick.

Wonko strikes me as rather similar to Douglas Adams himself. Or Scott Adams (no relation, I presume), creator of Dilbert. Or Matt Groening of The Simpsons fame. Or Mark Twain, or any other satirist you care to name. Someone who has declared himself to be one of the few sane ones and thus qualified to diagnose the insanity of the rest of the world.

There's a dark side to satire, it must be said. It seems as though it often has to be born of a kind of arrogance and self-satisfaction; of the sense that the author is really just one of the few smart people, while everyone else is just an idiot. We, the viewer/reader, are of course "one of the few" as well, since we're in on the joke.

Considering how popular the above listed works are, apparently there are a lot of us 'smart' people in the world.

The web-comic Xkcd expresses the problem well:

See, the fact is that we all think of ourselves as 'special' or 'other' than the rest of the world. That's because we have information about ourselves (our thought processes, feelings, consciences, etc) which we don't have about others. It's easy to look out at the world as an indeterminate blob of humanity, drifting thoughtlessly with the tide while we watch from the shore, anchored by our unique sensitivity to it all. But from the other person's perspective, we're part of the tide and they're on the shore.

We like to think of ourselves as one of "the smart ones," the chosen few who are awake and aware of how mad the world is. But we're not. Everyone on Earth knows that the world is mad, or at least that it's got a lot of madness in it. The fact that we see it and laugh at it doesn't make us any more 'special.' All too often, it makes us less special. 

Wonko the Sane is just Wonko the Arrogant; he's no more sane or aware than anyone else. If you showed a hundred random people on the street that toothpick box, they would all probably come to the same conclusion as Wonko; that it was stupid. Wonko, rather than realizing this, simply decided that, since such a thing exists, it shows something wrong with all humanity except him (because, apparently, he's the only human being in the world who had nothing to do with putting instructions on toothpick box).

Wonko's right that there's something wrong with humanity, but it's called Original Sin and he's just as caught in it as anyone else. Part of the penalty of the Fall is stupidity and blindness, and even the most brilliant and witty among us are not free from those ills, even if they can make good jokes about it.

This isn't an indictment of satire in general; satire is a perfectly good and useful thing. I enjoy pretty much all the authors I listed (well, except Twain). It does, however, have a dark side and a danger to it. Ideally it ought to cause us to look at ourselves and ask whether we're the ones being mocked. All too often, though, we just assume it's meant for 'everyone else.'

Of course, since I pointed all this out, that means I'm the superior one here. In your face, Adams!

Vivat Christus Rex!