Humanity and Its Insanity

Sometimes I wonder why humans are the way we are, and how such small, insignificant creatures can do the incredible (albeit often horrendous) things we’ve done. Many of us aren’t even the weight of an average black bear, but how much more have we done to the planet? Black bears don’t build palaces or nuclear weapons, and they don’t have religious services or bake cookies or keep pets or write blogs. I think of all the crazy, amazing things humans do, and it seems insane that we’re capable of doing them, let alone that we do them every single day and barely ever think twice.

This is one reason I believe in a God. I simply find it impossible to believe that humans are yet another animal on a self-created planet. And this is not arrogance about how great the human race is; humans are horrible. We traffic each other and shoot each other and chop down the trees that we depend on for oxygen and melt plastics that destroy the atmosphere and abuse the beautiful, intricate animals that surround us. But we are certainly different from those animals. And it seems to me we must have been created from some different, higher pattern than gorillas were. A pattern, such as the image of God.

Christianity is the only place where I find a compelling explanation for humanity, with both its beauty and complexity and its stupidity and evil. If you think about the way we’ve been able to use the resources in this universe for the things we’ve done–like, I’m pressing down pieces of plastic (my laptop keys) with my fingers, and at the same time I’m translating complete thoughts into a written language that will show up on the light display of another piece of plastic (your own laptop), and you will be able to read it and understand my thoughts in exactly the way I thought them, maybe from some entirely different part of the world–human intelligence is nothing to sneeze at. But at the same time, we have wreaked an insane amount of havoc on this world and each other. Every human relationship I find is broken in some way; our wasteful manufacturing processes and pesticide use are broken; our treatment of animals is broken; and in many ways it seems like the world would be better off without us.

So, that’s one reason I believe in a God who made us “a little lower than the heavenly beings” (Psalm 8:5) and in a man and a woman who, though they were made with everything they needed, rebelled and broke God’s order and beauty. Humans are kind of insane things. No use denying that.

Writer’s Keys: Lying in Wait for a Raven, Step 1

Ideas are really such slippery things; as smooth as a raven, with sleek shining wings.

Harnessing That sort of a bird can be difficult, because there are fat, distracting, and overused pigeons idling in much easier reach. But there’s an art to catching what you really want, if you know where to look. Spontaneous though it may seem when coming from the Greats (Dickinson and Dickens and Hemingway and Hawthorne), lying in wait for a raven is purely technical and purely intentional, nine ravens out of ten.

By far the most important trick is to discredit the easily reachable birds. Given a prompt, most will take hold of the first pigeon they see, and admire its feathers, and give themselves a pat on the back for Originality and Cleverness. It is all too easy to fall into this trap, but when avoided it causes an exponential increase in true originality. Examine one such prompt:

A pair of unlikely friends.

The first idea one thinks up involves a popular, athletic sort of boy in middle or high school, and a quiet girl of the same age and a very different mien. You may have some slight variation on this standard, but it almost certainly stems from the same tree.

This is a pigeon, of the Fattest, Laziest, and Most Stereotypical Sort.

Ditch it.

As much as anyone dislikes the truth, we all live in the same world as everyone else, and the same country as a great number of people. With many of these we share a language, a lifestyle and an outlook on life; therefore, we have the same associations, the same cultural cliches, the same assets and setbacks. And we think up the same first ideas.

So the first step in catching a raven is to not catch the nearest pigeon, no matter how glossy its feathers appear to be, and no matter how well-fed and comfortable it seems. It has almost certainly been caught, caged, capacitated and coddled a thousand times before. You have to Let It Go.

Once your eyes are opened to the truth of what is really a desirable bird to catch, you can train yourself to find the rarer ones, those that hide in the undergrowth masquerading as pheasants or sparrows rather than sitting plumply on eye-level branches. Writing is reaching. Nine ravens out of ten.

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