Social soteriology

How is OKness ``transferred'' to a hanger-on of a strong personality? Contrast with actual (divine) redemption, both in mechanism and in effect.

{Also link to ``desirability''.)

Mostly written 961103.

Some people are desparately dependent on having conversations (or possibly other contact, such as ``sports''), apparently using them (and using the people they use for conversing with) to try to make them feel more adequate, not realizing that whether or not someone is willing (or prepared) to have a conversation with them doesn't actually change their adequacy or inadequacy; the look of desparation (whether manifested as ``matey'' or as ``cute'' or otherwise) that pleads ``please turn me into your equal'' is one of the few ways that a human can degrade themselves into a lower status and make it impossible to treat them as an equal as they take a forcibly suppliant stance towards any who might be able to make them fully human (as they see it; perhaps the more general term is ``ignore the observation that they have dropped part of their human dignity quite unnecessarily'').

And of course, once this attitude has been perceived, how can one go along with it without condescencion? When they have forced themselves so low that they will talk about anything so long as someone will at least talk to them (or still better, give the appearance of listening)? Making a conscious effort to come down to their level -- is that a kindness to them, or the most degrading thing you can do to them, and a major sin for when we must later render account?

And yet I remember a time when I felt that I was on the brink of being pushed out of society (I was in a politically-incorrect subgroup of a politically-correct social world at the time) that I hung on to every converstaion for as long as I could, with a feeling eachtime that it was going to be the last time anyone would deign to talk to me;; but I didn't, couldn't, degrade myself to talking about things that exist largely to give a sense of belonging (*spectator sports; *spectator music; *spectator life)... perhaps I was misusing things that have a real purpose, for this false purpose?

But what of the deeper levels of this social soteriology? How is it that one person can rely on the ``observed'' approval of the other (which they may see only becaouse they're looking for it so desparately, and will try hard to see anything that way if they possibly can -- their might patron may, quite likely, be extremely irritated by them, and, with some amount of guilty feeling, be wishing that they'd go away or at least stop sucking up to them).

The invariable prerequisite is that they feel inadequate. In the situation I'm thinking of, the person they're getting their teeth into will seem adequate to them -- to have some quality they lack (*desirability) -- but there is a related situation in whcih some number of inadequate-feeling people will bind together to find adequacy in numbers -- there is also a half-way (or combined) situation (the remote star's fan club).

Is there a hope that some of the missing quality will be transferred? I don't think so; I think it is just a second-hand feeling of being good enough that they're looking for, and not for the actual qualities. (And therefore, part of the fear the adequate have of the inadequate is that they will suck their juices for ever, and never become independent.) For example, when I still felt inadequate, and at the time before I'd learnt to sing (*singing-lesson), it meant a lot to me to hang around with friends who were in choirs, and to be accepted by them -- the acceptance is what I was trying to find, and didn't expect that I'd find myself able to sing because of the ``approval'' I scraped out of them (I made separate efforts to learn to sing!)

And so, we find this social phenomenon to be still a bizarre parallel to out salvation (or perhaps, an idol mimicking it) -- we are saved by the Sinless, the Anointed, becoming neither of perfect nature in our own right, nor only-begotten, but becoming accepted by God through His goodness. So, having obtained mercy, should we not show mercy to those who plead with us to me them to be (or at least, help them to pretend) to be... what they were to start with?

What can I do -- how can I show mercy to them?

It's tempting to brush them off with something like `` you're adequate -- now go anway and leave me alone'' but of course that is unlikely to satisfy their cravings -- they'r emore likely to want to keep on feeding on your blood (another parallel with our salvation -- but only One has the strength to give his blood constantly to make us whole!)... perhaps explain about finding ``converstation'' like that boring and inhuman / dehumanizing (aside: why are things boring when used to such ends, that you would have found interesting otherwise -- is it just that their hearts aren't in the subject but in their own chance to feed off you?) and suggest that they seek the ceompany of their ``mates'' and the football (and sewing etc etc) clubs? And explain about how pretending to be interested would be the worst degradation possible?

Digging *deeper is another possibility -- offer to help them to look into their feelings of inadequacy and to address them properly -- which does involve the potentially *socially unacceptable act of saying ``I can see you feel inadequate and want to use [people not actually escaping your clutches from] conversations to bolster yourself -- let's talk about it...'' which they may deny, alon either with ``no, I just want to be mates'' or with something like ``why don't you talk to me like you do to other people'' (to which the honest answer is that conversations where the interest is in using you, and not in the `subject', are so boaring it's embarrassing to take part in them...)

Although awareness that this is socially off limits pushes me away from chancing it, it does make a certain amount of sense; and while it could be (mis-?)taken for condescension (in that it acknowledges the inadequacy / inequality that has been set up) it is possibly compassionate (with the right approach attitude) and does not involve the lie of pretending to be interested in something.

[John's essay index]
Contact me

For other essays, see the index to this collection; and for some other thoughts, my thoughts index.

[John's home] Last modified: Sun Jun 10 22:28:51 GMT Daylight Time 2007