Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:39

Redemption

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Redemption

Barry MacDonald-Editorial

. . . It set my own political course toward philosophical skepticism and political tolerance. That didn't mean splitting differences or straddling some ideological midpoint. It meant viewing certainty with suspicion and acknowledging, with both regret and resolve, the imperfectability of man, the fallibility of institutions, and the tragic - rather than redemptive - nature of history. (Page 7, Things That Matter, by Charles Krauthammer.)

Thusly Charles cites the effects of an experience on campus in the 1960s: witnessing an alliance of a Marxist professor and a leader of the "neo-fascist, anti-immigrant popular front." Whatever romance his fellow students felt through marching and protesting left Charles cold. A mature Charles Krauthammer would later settle on ideals of constitutional government and limited powers through checks and balances, because he understood that the sort of people who desire to use power are just the sort of people who can't be trusted with it. It takes the vigilance of free people to keep freedom.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Americans like Charles Krauthammer who dedicate their lives to the defense of principles of freedom against unscrupulous and voracious people. People in the arena of political combat have to become battle hardened, and so they sacrifice a significant portion of their peace of mind. Two early American statesmen, John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams (both presidents), took pride in being "good haters." They were objects of scorn and abuse; and they returned fire in equal measure.

Even people with benevolent motives who advance a cause through the gauntlet of the legislative process must meld their personalities to getting the job done. Their attention is outside of themselves.

So it is not surprising to discover when reading Charles' book in the essay titled "The Inner Man? Who Cares?" the rather curmudgeonly worded sentence "'Know thyself' is a highly overrated piece of wisdom."

Charles is dead wrong. But I forgive him.

The scope of The St. Croix Review should be wider than just the status of political battles. We must be mindful of the need for the cultivation of virtues if we want to uphold the good life and a healthy culture. We must give thought to the taming of the human heart, and the mitigation of selfishness. It is very important for people to learn the practice of self-examination.

I have spent thirty years in the regular company of drug addicts and alcoholics, because I am one myself. Mind you, the addicts and alcoholics I have spent countless hours with are sober, and we are working very hard to stay that way. I have been sober for thirty years.

Here is a group of people who wreak havoc through drunk driving. Alcoholics are justly subject to severe penalties for the deaths and injuries they inflict while driving impaired.

It may be surprising to learn that the alcoholic has "blackouts," meaning he enters a period of time when he loses consciousness of what he is doing once he starts drinking. To an outside observer there is no indication that a drinker in a blackout is not really conscious; he may appear impaired or he may not, but he is talking and interacting with others as if he were present-minded, when in fact he is not. Sometimes such an alcoholic may return to consciousness the morning after in a jail cell with no recollection of the night before, and he is told that he killed someone in a car accident. Such a person is a walking bomb. The prisons are full of people who can't control their drinking.

The unrepentant alcoholic wreaks havoc on those he loves the most: the family. The spouse and children acquire deep spiritual wounds at least the equal of the alcoholic. The sickness radiates through generations, and everyone involved loses touch with a normal way of life. Secrecy and isolation becomes an ingrained family characteristic.

The unrepentant alcoholic is an unlovely individual, full of excuses and alibis. He is belligerent, defiant, antagonistic, evasive, dishonest, and resentful. He is also confused, self-pitying, fearful, and full of shame.

The alcoholic has lost control completely of his drinking: when he drinks, and how much he drinks once he starts. His body and mind react differently than others to alcohol - this is what we believe. Normal people don't have blackouts. Normal people aren't tormented by an obsession with alcohol.

The beginning of the solution is an admission of defeat and the finding a "higher-power" whom most of us call God. Then follows a process of rigorous self-examination, an admission of wrongdoing and amends, accompanied with a lifetime of prayer and meditation. Family members of alcoholics go through a similar process.

A gathering of reforming alcoholics is often a light-hearted affair: there is much laughter amidst the serious discussion. The reforming alcoholic is kind hearted, humble, grateful, genial, optimistic, honest, trustworthy, and loving. The reforming alcoholic is a miracle of transformation.

Self-examination is key. The number one killer of alcoholics is resentment. Resentment is a habit of the mind. It is the fuel that drives the obsession to drink. To resent is to re-feel - to feel again and again an imagined or real slight. Resentment is a compost pile, piled with accumulated hurts, fears, and self-pity that take the form of a burning attitude. Resentment is a malignant obsession with the focus on a single point of view, and an exclusion of all mitigating factors - therefore resentment is a form of blindness. The habit of acquiring resentments is a formidable obstacle to serenity. It is impossible to stay sober while carrying the burden of resentments.

The solution to resentment is forgiveness. Forgiveness is the surrendering of resentment. Forgiveness is a gift from God. It cannot be forced or manufactured. One can take all the steps necessary to prepare the way - praying - and yet not find forgiveness. Forgiveness is a phenomenon. It happens. It is a divine connection. It comes from over the horizon, like an arrow to the heart.

It is necessary to walk in the direction of forgiveness if one is to find peace, but the timing of the release of forgiveness is up to God - such is the preoccupation of the reforming alcoholic. The unrepentant alcoholic and the reforming, humble alcoholic who has a divine connection to his maker are as different as night and day.

So, even the most wretched people are capable of redemption. Human beings are capable of miracles of transformation. The people who founded this nation had religious fervor, and America today is full of people of faith.

Charles Krauthammer may see "the imperfectability of man, the fallibility of institutions, and the tragic - rather than redemptive - nature of history," but I prefer to see also the ever-present possibility of redemption: it is a road open to everyone. *

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