Call to Self Transcendence

When I am stuck in a place where I am pre-occupied with my own emotions in a way that is detrimental, then in order to transcend out of it, I listen to say Bach’s Fuges. Being from the Baroque era, Bach saw his music as a reflection of God’s glory. So his music had the multi-faceted majesty of God’s glory. When I listen to Bach’s fuges I am transcend out of my self-absorbtion to a place of apprecation for the majesty of his music.
I have been reading David Brooks new book The Second Mountain. The book’s central thesis is that everyone climbs their first mountain, usually some career goal, driven by personal ambition. Then after they get to achieving their goal, they find that something is still missing, the first mountain wasn’t satisfying after all. Then they have to figure out how to climb the second mountain. This second mountain takes the form of ‘care for the other.’
The first mountain is often one driven by hyper-individualistic motivation and fancy restaurants. People who are the second mountain people give off themseleves freely, they are exhausted, but still they have a sparkle in their eyes. Brooks mentions a lady from Houston, Stephanie Hurek, who teaches kids after school – she thinks of every hour she spends with the kids as creating a better future for them.
Brooks is not a Christian. But the principle of the second mountain had some interesting Christian parallels. The kind of second mountain’s giving of the self for the sake of the ‘other’ is akin to Paul saying that he find himself being poured out as a drink offering 2 Tim 4:6. The call of the Bible is the call to a place of giving off of oneself to the love of neighbor.
Every person, Christian or not, has common grace. So everyone has the ability, up to a point, to give of themselves to serve the weak and the vulnerable around them. But special grace enables Christians to serve others even in the most desperate situations. Etty Hillesum was a Christian jewish person who was in one of the Nazi concentration camps. When she was set to go to take the transportation to the death squads, she had a kind word for everyone on the way out. From the train she threw a postcard that had words written “Christen, The Lord is my high tower.” Brooks gives Etty Hillesum as a second mountain person.
Brooks calls people like Staphanie Hurek and Etty Hillesum ‘weavers.’ They are second mountain people who are have given themselves to caring for people around them. They ‘weave’ the social fabric. In a sense the cross carrying Christian is a ‘weaver’ of God’s kingdom.
Going from the first mountain to the second mountain involves going through a valley. The valley is where the hyper individualistic ambitions die. For Brooks, the valley came when he got divorced and he had to move to an apartment. There he realized though he was very successful in life life, he was drive by selfish ambition. It was his first mountain which was not satisfying for him at all. Then he had to learn what it means to give up his former life and climb his second mountain.
From a theological stand point this valley experience is what Jesus talks about in Luke 9:23 where Jesus say anyone who wants to follow Him has to deny self, then take up their cross daily and follow him.
The cross carrying that Jesus talks about is a call to the second mountain. It is a call to self-transcendence by the way of self-denial. Within the Christian life, the pathway to this place of self denial, aka the valley, is something that one does not have to walk alone. As Christians we have the help of the Holy Spirit to make it through the valley between the first and the second mountain.
The call of the cross is the call to self-transcendence. God sent Jesus to us to forgive our sins, and also, to call us away form our narcissistic self-absorbed first mountain lives, to the world of self-transcendence as ‘weavers’ building God’s kingdom by being the loving presence of Chris to people around us. Then Christians will be people with a “sparkle in our eyes,” as Brooks notes, sparked by the Holy Spirit.

Capitalism VS Communism??? Really!!!!

All of the media propaganda and the progressive economist say that capitalism is the solution to fight against the evils of communism. But that argument goes only until wall street is on its own feet, if at any time it indeed was on its own (it could be argued that it is always standing on the feet of the American tax payer). Once every couple of decades the wall street buckles down and needs infusion of billions upon billions of dollars from the FED to get back on its feet. Depending on FED to get back on its feet is to depend on the tax payer to bail oneself out. This is not capitalism, it is communism.

The basic difference between capitalism and communism is that in capitalism none is entitled to anyone else’s economic well being but in communism each man is responsible for the others economic well being. Capitalism is about catering to self-interest in such a way that everyone caters to their self-interest, communism is about catering to the other’s-interest.

In a recent interview with Bill Gates about the global economic down turn and what impact it would have on his development work in the third world countries, he was asked a question. “Now that the American way of running the economy has failed, wouldn’t the other countries say ‘why do you want to do this the American way, after all it has failed’?” Gates replied “No, I don’t think so, I think the other countries would like to have the kind of problems that America has… (it is better than the kind of problems they have)”.

I was immediately reminded of the late Russian thinker, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s classic Harvard lecture which earned him a boycott from the western elite, where he said

“But the blindness of superiority (of the west) continues in spite of all and upholds the belief that vast regions everywhere on our planet should develop and mature to the level of present day Western systems which in theory are the best and in practice the most attractive. There is this belief that all those other worlds are only being temporarily prevented by wicked governments or by heavy crises or by their own barbarity or incomprehension from taking the way of Western pluralistic democracy and from adopting the Western way of life. Countries are judged on the merit of their progress in this direction. However, it is a conception which developed out of Western incomprehension of the essence of other worlds, out of the mistake of measuring them all with a Western yardstick. The real picture of our planet’s development is quite different.”

America, though it considers capitalism as the ultimate ideal for economic and social development, has to resort to communism to stabilize itself because of the imbalances created by the capitalistic ideals. Without communism, capitalism will buckle down into an everlasting demise. When communism comes to the rescue, the tax payer takes it upon himself to rescue the mismanaged financial firms whose CEO made millions of dollars for that asset management credentials. The financial firms somehow by a sudden change in the mood become entitled to the tax payer’s money. Capitalism suddenly becomes communism.

And wall street, the paradise of capitalism, gets back on its feet, thanks to the ‘transient’ communistic mood, and it again gets back on its capitalistic ideals of ‘individual self-interest leading to collective good’, only to find itself playing a different ball game of communism a couple of decades when it buckles down. Spat comes the ideal of communism to the rescue.

The problem is that the western world simply fails to understand that greed and self-interest cannot give the right ethos for life in the long term. No matter how many lessons we learn we are never able to unlearn that the ideal of ‘individual self interest leading to collective good’ is simply not right for life.

It is a classic irony of every age that the icons of capitalism of each age whether it is Rockefeller, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, all of them after having reached the pinnacle of capitalism by seeking self-interest and resorting to ruthless business strategies, have to espouse communism to make some sense of their life. This again proves that that ideal of goodness of greed and self-interest does not really make sense in life in the long term, but then this is another of the lessons that will never be learnt.

The bottomline being that for capitalism to be a long term way of life, communism as to be its life-line. Selfishness cannot exist without large doeses of selflessness and in that 700 billion dollar bailout what it is the large dose of selflessnes of the American taxpayer that compensates for the selfishness of the wall street executive who rakes in million of dollars. This capitalism at work, this is capitalism standing on the feet of communism, as against capitalism working against the evils of communism as the media elite would like us to believe.