THE BIG PROMISE
They promise you the world, and by they I mean those who make lofty promises without consideration for the feasibility of delivery. Yes, they promise you the world, or at least the possibility of having everything you want. Its only a possibility, of course, which should insure against immodest expectations. Then again, a promise of a possibility amounts to no promise at all, since the possibility remains only a possibility, promise or no.
In short, they promise what you want merely by assuring you its possible, which actually amounts to more of a validation than a promise. You say you want something and they answer: why not? And why not, indeed? Everything is possible, just about, so erring on the side of the possibility is a fairly safe bet.
We at the Church That Is No Church have long been in the habit of making safe bets, so rest assured we know what were talking about. Possibilities are going to happen sooner or later, and you dont need anyone to tell you that.
In fact, you dont need anyone to tell you anything since theres no knowledge that cant be yours if want it, and no purpose that cant yield results with a little determination. Thats not to say you can have everything you want. We never promised that, not when we know painfully well the disappointment of not getting what you want. Weve heard the same promises many a time and were still waiting for them to come to pass.
Which brings me to the point: waiting is only for those who enjoy waiting. For those who dont, we suggest you dont even bother. This is why we dont promise anything. Granted, were hard pressed to deliver on anything anyway, considering our limited funds; but even if we had the funds and the means, wed rather not make promises wed have to keep. We dont want to keep anything that should be yours and so we leave it to you to make your own promises.
Why wait for a future that may never come when can bypass the promise altogether and jump to the delivery? Thats not to say that if you want it, take it. Were not, after all, in the business of advising theft or force. But to the extent you wont make someone else cry or get yourself thrown in jail, we see no reason for you to wait for what you want.
And yet, youre expected to wait, not because waiting is necessary but because those with the power to give are usually unwilling to do so. Theyd rather you content yourself with waiting than in putting your thoughts to the purpose and achieving it. The promise is not a means to an end but in lieu of it, the end having no value because it was never their intention to give it to you.
They promise you the world but youll never get it. Its their world, not yours. It could be yours too but it will never be yours as long as you wait for them to give it to you.
Its still a promise of a possibility. But the probability is not looking in your favor unless you make that possibility a probability. Wait too long and that possibility may no longer be possible.
Lets examine what they promise. They promise empowerment. They promise security. And they promise the truth. Chances are, this is not what you get.
Then again, then again what incentive is there for those in power to share that power with others? They wanted power and now that they have it, they would never agree to diminish it. Its one thing to promise a share of the spoils, but its another thing to surrender them to others. We know how painful it is to give up something we might need again one day, which is why we keep our generosity to a minimum; not that we have much to give anyway.
We may not be generous with our possessions (which are both few and essential) but we are always liberal with advice; and were happy to advise as long as you have the patience to read.
What then is our advice, you ask? Well, our advice is that you observe and act accordingly. All too often, people act not on what they see and hear but, rather, on what theyre told; and as weve seen, empty promises are legion.
Not everything youre told is a lie, but the business of self-interest will compel other to advance their own interests at the expense of your own. Better to tell you that can have something and never give it to you rather than leave it to you to claim it yourself.
Let us make it clear, however, that we neither condone self-interest nor condemn it. It is our nature to advance our personal agenda, seeking out our desires, often oblivious to what others might lose so that we might gain.
We dream of what we want - love, for example, or power, or even both - but what we get often depends on what others are willing to give. All too often, we hold people to promises and yet we remain reluctant to keep the ones we make. We expect others to give without giving in equal measure; and we complain of unfairness without always deserving it.
This is not to say we get what we deserve. However, we should remember that there is no taking without someone giving, willingly or unwillingly. This is why promises remain promises, because keeping promises require a degree of selflessness that we assume we possess without having to go to the trouble of proving.
As long as we hold others to promises, we must also keep ours. Easy to say if you make as few promises as we do. But the Church That Is No Church has always been averse to using words without backing them up, and false promises are like unexpected belches: they come naturally, all too naturally, and yet they require explanations or least a polite apology.
But we stray from the point, which is that we are offered the same access to all that the highest and mightiest of us enjoy, and yet given nothing. Its a promise which amounts to nothing. Its not access. Its merely the idea that, in theory, such access is open to all when, in actuality, it isnt. It is limited to those who can enjoy it without disturbing the access of others. To suggest placing limits on the most powerful is to prove yourself unworthy of power.
Power attracts power, building upon itself ad infinitum. It yields nothing that doesnt actually reinforce that power. For example, youre offered laws for your protection; but the law protects only those with something to lose. In essence, it maintains the balance of power in favor of those who already have it.
What about those without power, you ask? How can it be acquired? The same way its always acquired. Considering there is so little of it and that those who have it tend to be unwilling to share it, youd be well advised to steer clear of the herd. Chances are the herd is being steered the wrong way, told of greener pastures which, it turns out, are never greener.
It seems theres nothing more frightening to the old order than talk of change. Change, after all, is what happens when newcomers want to share . New rules are devised to permit such sharing and to foster a greater sense of fairness. Change took us from a feudal system to an industrial one, and, by doing so, the power structure changed, disenfranchising some and empowering others. Communism promised more change, disenfranchising those in power and replacing them with others.
Much has changed, but power invariably remains in the hands of the few, exercised ostensibly for the benefit of the many. Its whats called democracy, the few acting on behalf of the many while advancing their own self-interest. In truth, democracy is not in the business of sharing power but, rather, offering the promise of empowerment, something once impossible to all but for those born to the right parents. Democracy cant ensure fairness but it does value the idea of fairness. Although, what use are ideas alone to a man without power?
I wish we could offer you the power you seek, but we have as little as you do. About all we have are ideas, which, I admit, you could find anywhere. Books are full of ideas, and you could fill your head with them. It still wont keep you from starving, unless you find some nutritional value in paper mulch.
True, we may offer more of the same, but the Church That Is No Church makes every effort to keep those ideas true. We care little for our reputation. We have no reputation, for that matter, for good or ill. So we have no incentive to lie, no reason to prevail upon your credulity. Our advice we give gratis (although donations are always welcome) so we have no fear of losing your interest, and, quite frankly, its a wonder youre still reading; nor do we fear telling you what you dont want to hear. No doubt, weve already disappointed you with our lofty promises of great truth, so far signifying nothing.
Meaning will out when it is true, and we will not manufacture it to win you over. There shall be no reassurances that we cant back up, no promises that we cant fulfill. As such, well likely offer no reassurances or promises. As they say, expect much and disappointment will be great. Expect little and when you get more, celebrate.
What can the Church That Is no Church offer you? An attempt at honest dialogue, for one. Without incentive to lie, its always easier to speak true. Lies might be easy to devise but theyre frustratingly difficult to maintain for long. We can only imagine the unendurable strain of a life premised on lies; and its our hope that people will dispense with them for their own sake.
There are many lies, foremost among them, that the state protects and preserves humanity. In truth, we survive not by dint of nationalist abstractions but by our innate human endurance. We survive despite the state which seeks its self-interest against not only those living outside the state but against even its own inhabitants.
The state serves no one but itself and, those who manage it. The state props up the existing power structure and restrains the possibility of change. Possibilities do, on occasion, become certainties, and when they do, they become stories designed to inspire others to seek out the same possibilities. Those stories validate the existing power structure by giving it a sheen of fluidity. The sheen soon grows dull, however, which leaves people with the unsettling truth that nothing will change unless they demand it.
The state, its said, is designed to keep us safe from our enemies. Unfortunately, the state is also adept at making enemies and when the state makes an enemy, the states inhabitants must do the same. The state wages war to preserve its interests, but the state, being an abstraction, cant fight its own battles. Such battles requires the sacrifice of individuals, preferably those who benefit the least from the existing power structure.
The state invariably seeks increased power, the better, it claims, to protect those who reside in it. However, the stronger the state, the more enemies it makes and the stronger it must become to guard against those enemies.
We can speak of the state as an abstraction when we know that any state is comprised of individuals. However, not all individuals benefit from the state, most benefiting little and only a select few turning more than a modest profit. Thats not to say that theres anything amiss with turning a profit. However, it should still be noted that the state speaks largely for those who gain by it; the greater the gain, the greater the love for what should never be changed.
With power comes fear, fear that power might be lost. But fear is never suffered alone, not when it can be shared; and so it is that the fear of the few becomes the fear of the many. Its a different fear, of course, the many fearing that they will lose what little they have just as the few fear the consequences of the many becoming fearless.
The state exists not to protect its inhabitants but to guard against them, for the benefit of those whove been clever or unscrupulous to learn how to bend the system to their will. They might not be the best and the brightest, but they enjoy more of the power the state promises to all but which can never be shared equally, not without state coercion. To attempt to wrest power from some and give it to others only strengthens the state, further diminishing the individual.
The existing power structure might be limiting, but at least our ideals provide some consolation. And what are those ideals? In essence, theyre freedom, love and truth. And why are they ideals? Theyre ideals because they empower the individual. They give the individual the strength and the knowledge to believe that all things are possible and to pursue those very possibilities. Our ideals reveal an innate value beyond the physical, permitting us to transcend the usual restrictions of biology and to aspire to a life without limitation. In short, they push us to evolve.
Were designed to evolve. Its in our nature to do so. But we will only evolve as individuals not as a collective. Abstractions will remain abstractions and will change only when we call upon them to do so. Abstractions do our bidding, and so must the state. It was designed to serve a human need, and it will continue to do so. It might not serve every human equally, but at least it serves some of us. What it doesnt serve are our ideals, although it does honor them in theory. It praises freedom while limiting the freedoms of those it claims to protect. It values love - love of the state, that is - but it, being an abstraction, is incapable of returning love. It also calls upon its citizens to be true while keeping them ignorant and complacent, the better to reinforce the existing power structure.
As you can see, the state promises ideals but fails to deliver upon them. Yet, how could it not? The state, after all, is just an idea and ideas are neither self-reflective nor capable of self-preservation. It takes individuals to acknowledge the ideas and to preserve them, at the risk of their own lives. As such, our ideals sustain us and they round our lives with purpose from birth to death; and to die for an idea is to exceed the restrictions of individual biology.
Ideals inspire, but they are not enough to sustain us. For that we need more than promises of something better. We need to give those ideals flesh, so that we might know them. We earn a living so that we might feel empowered to benefit from the existing power structure. We seek love so that we might find that life tolerable. And we choose to give life purpose and meaning so that we might never lose hope.
The problem, however, is this: the more we seek to actualize our ideals, the more the most powerful among us will resist them. To actualize ideals is to lay claim to what few want to share. Ideals, after all, might inspire many but few ever get to enjoy them. It is the nature of a power structure designed to empower everyone but which gives a clear advantage to those with more power to build upon. After all, its easier to turn a hundred grand into one hundred and ten grand than it is to take a dollar and make it ten thousand.
Its said that we can have all that we desire provided we work hard enough; although hard work is far from being enough to secure the benefits of the power structure. One must also know how best to make use of that hard work. After all, nothing will come to those without a strategy.
Will the Church That Is No Church at least provide a strategy? Unfortunately, no. Since no two individuals are created alike, so too must every strategy be tailored to the individual. In short, its up to you what you do, and its for us to fully endorse the self-actualization of your ideals, whatever they may be.
That self-actualization will not be easy, not with the natural resistance of the power structure that admits few into its holy of holies. The state, and those who benefit the most by it, promise you a better life if you want it, but they wont make it easy for you. In fact, they will use whatever means possible - legal, socioeconomic and military - to restrict the bounty of the state to those who already enjoy it.
Its the very premise of the empty promise we might as well call a lie. Its the lie that only the most deserving succeed and that fairness is innate to a system said to be perfect. To question that fairness is to challenge the system itself; and the system will not be pushed without pushing back. Its natural resistance to change is remarkable; however, its not without its breaking point.
Those who benefit from the power structure call upon everyone to support it, insisting that to do otherwise is unpatriotic. Change, on the other hand, is dangerous and disloyal. What then if the actualization of your ideals requires change? What then if your interests diverge from the interests of the select few who freely pursue their own?
The state can be made to serve the individual, but it cant be made to serve all individuals. Only a few sharing similar interests can reasonably expect to benefit. As for everyone else, theres still hope.
And what if hope isnt enough? What if people want more than just a promise of something better? Theyll have to claim it, of course. But chances are, what they claim is only what the power structure is willing to surrender; and its willing to give only because it has an opportunity to take.
The existing power structure reinforces itself by inspiring others to support it; and what supports it is the near-sighted pursuit of self-interest. If actualizing freedom means purchasing a car, the power structure will not resist. In fact, it will support your ideals, the best ideals being the ones that produce the most immediate benefit. And with the distraction of immediacy, one forgets the big picture.
The political structure rewards those who support it and punishes those who seek to undermine it. The rewards are attractive and the punishments dire. Its the nature of any self-perpetuating system designed to ensure its own survival.
The small rewards, however, might be many, but they dont always add up to much. The rewards are still enough to sustain the illusion that ones ambitions can be actualized. Its the promise that if never kept, not entirely, that is.
We want freedom but we have to take out a mortgage on it which means spending a lifetime paying for it. We want control over our lives, but the more we invest in the power structure the more that power structure controls us. Its like falling knee deep in quicksand. We can thrill to the freedom of throwing our weight around, but that weight will only mire us deeper and deeper until theres no extricating ourselves.
How does this happen? Well, we forget our original ideals and settle for the ones that are more feasible, ones that the power structure fully supports. Ideals, after all, are fine, as long as youre willing to pay into the system and to help sustain it; and we sustain it because we believe our safety requires it. As long as we restrain ourselves, living within clearly prescribed limitations, the state leaves us in peace; but it will always keep close watch on its inhabitants whom it trusts as little as it trusts those who live outside its borders. Individuals, after all, desire; and to keep individuals in line is no easy feat.
How then does the state sustain itself? The most obvious means are fear and falsehood, but there are other more subtle ploys used to keep us satisfied with less, ideals of a better life for all sacrificed in the interest of immediate and tangible benefit. And the more we seek out short-term gain, the easier it is to disregard our long-term interests.