Monday, May 28, 2012

Marilynne Robinson Week 4: Against Fear

In her essay "Facing Reality" in the collection The Death of Adam, Robinson argues that what we take to be reality is a collective fiction, resting on faith just as much as any other understanding of history does.

She argues that the dominant construction of reality in our culture today is based on fear.  Robinson then offers this powerful critique:

When they make fear the key to interpretation of history and experience, as they do so often, as ours does now, nothing contains a greater potential for releasing all the varieties of destruction.  Fearfulness assumes a hidden narrative – that we are all ill despite our health, vulnerable despite our apparent safety. We are contemptuous of transient well-being, as if there were any other kind. Routinely discounting the preponderance of evidence is not the behavior of reasonable people, nor is devaluing present experience because it may be overtaken by something worse.

I see this again and again as I talk about happiness.  Most of the people I talk to are, on the whole, happy.  They know that their lives are full of good things, along with some bad.  When pressed, they concede that our social order actually has many excellent features. But, they say, this could only be temporary.  It could all go away.

"We are contemptuous of transient well-being, as if there were any other kind."

The Creator called the world good. To me, to Marilynne Robinson, that is a good reason not to make fear the key to the interpretation of history. 

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