Viral Dis-Content and Disjunctive Gratitude
We have talked a lot about viruses the last year – many of us are running around with google degrees in epidemiology! (Note: this does not equal an actual degree in actual epidemiology…) But infectious diseases aren’t the only things that are viral in nature. We can talk about a social media post that “goes viral” when it’s shared repeatedly by an ever-growing network of people. We can talk about viral phenomena when a new idea catches our interest as a society and becomes, almost overnight, pervasive. Viral is contagious, growing, and has a persistent (pernicious?) grip on our attention.
So, I want to take note of another thing that can go viral: complaint… dis-comfort… dis-content.
When people start to complain and take not of reasons to be upset an interesting thing happens… we all start taking note of all the reasons – legit reasons – to be upset. We “catch the bug” of one moment of discontent, we focus on it, and we let it spread so that all that our eye sees is that which is wrong. And the wrong things are often there. We aren’t “making it up”. There is much over which to lament and be upset. But the nature of the viral pushes out anything else – it consumes us. It allows that we only see that which it is looking for: bad stuff.
Enter thanksgiving: I’m caught up in the idea that the root idea of thanksgiving (both the concept and the holiday) is of gratitude IN THE MIDST OF messiness and challenging circumstances… it to have a necessary disjunctive experience to our viral complaint and our current condition. This is not the same thing as having rose-colored glasses. I’m not saying to ignore all that is wrong with the world and pretend it is all good. I’m saying that sometimes we need to clean off our glasses to make sure we are seeing the WHOLE picture… which often is as much – and even more – filled with reasons for gratefulness and celebration than it does for complaint… but we won’t see it, experience it, or celebrate it if we don’t cut off the viral nature of the progressive cancer of discontent.
I’m a cynic and an idealist at the same time. I’m not sure which is more my core being. But I do know how easy it is for me to swing out of balance towards cynicism… or out of touch towards idealism. And then I need a disjunctive experience – my own vaccine to my viral blinders. It is often my favorite part of “going home” at the end of the day. Work can get me negative… or work can be high on idealism… and home brings me back to rootedness in the everyday blessing and messiness of life. It is why I appreciate seasons and liturgical seasons because ready or not a new thing is ready to interrupt my current thing… and I think, for me, that’s healthy.
So, thanksgiving? What are you grateful for? Who are you grateful for? And how are you expressing and sharing and celebrating those gratitudes in ways that interrupt your, and others, viral fascinations?
We all need it.