You know those days, right? The ones where everything is a personal attack on you:
Your boss gives you an assignment you don’t like, and you know she did it on purpose, just to spite you. And now you have to start your day doing that.
And those idiots who are so loud while you are trying to read? They are doing that because they hate you, because they want to militantly enforce their happiness.
And when the waiter messes up your order and brings you what you wouldn’t eat even if it was all the food that was left on earth? He brought it to you because he heard you were having a bad day and wanted to make it worse.
And, really, the only thing to be done on such a day is to go to bed and hope you wake up to a kinder world.
Which is how this morning went, except that the world isn’t any kinder today than it was yesterday. At least, not in an objective sense.
We hope that the world fixes itself while we sleep, trusting that as the world spins it will shake things up just a bit, that it will tilt circumstances in our favor. But that rarely happens because the world has no objective interest in our wellbeing.
Because the world is just a set of constructions, of circumstances. And all we have is to react to them. And even the choices we make everyday are drawn from a range of possible reactions, a range determined by a myriad of interlocking variables over which we have little control.
And reading the world as purposefully directed toward us can be rewarding or harmful depending on the degree to which we understand our value. On the one hand, we can suppose that God’s love is always directed toward us, whatever the circumstances we are called on to react to. Such a view problematizes God when things don’t go well, but it works for a lot of people. On the other hand, we can suppose that the world is out to get us. This goes poorly. Honestly, most of us somehow combine the two, or weave back and forth.
A third option is to view the world as the weaving together of a variety of meanings, meanings that run into each other causing friction, explosions, and harmonies, meanings that are imbued with Meaning. And, of course, you still can only react, but your reaction is now part of the meanings, itself imbued with Meaning, both other and familiar. And this allows you to start to love the Other as yourself, because you are aware that the Other also shares your contingency—that the Other also lives a precarious existence shaped by reactions and meanings filled, like you, with Meaning.
“And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Col. 1:17)