| Anne Williamson |
We’ve given idols a “bad rap” this round. But, in truth, they spring out of a natural and lovely human longing: to want to be whole and complete and satisfied. The issue is believing this can come from a thing – whether that “thing” is money, a particular definition of “success,” a particular set of beliefs, health, a certain kind of relationship, a certain party in office, a consistent meditation or yoga practice, and the list goes on. (Again, it’s not the thing itself; any of these things can be icons too – helping us make meaning, helping us experience the sacredness of life.) The issue is engaging with that “thing” – whatever It is for you, for me – as the “whole-maker,” as the thing that will “make it all better.”
Because, the truth is, it won’t. As theologian Peter Rollins shares, to be human is to live in-between – to live in-between who we are and who we want to be, what we have and what we want (both as individuals and as communities of people). Idols are problematic because they lie to us about the reality of being human. To be human is to get moments of the sacred, the ideal; it is not to find the thing that will allow us to experience the sacred, the ideal, always. To be human is to create meaning within the realities of pain and suffering as well as joy; it is not to escape pain and suffering all together.
Perhaps wholeness, completeness and satisfaction as a human are possible. But, if they are, they cannot mean ridding ourselves of all shadows, of all lack, of all pain. Theirs would have to be a definition of wholeness that incorporates our shadows, of completeness that is honest about our lack, and of satisfaction that accepts the inevitability of pain. Theirs would have to be definitions based in a real human experience.