One Big Pile Of Salt
Continuing on the theme of being stuck in the past, I am going to connect two seemingly unrelated authors -- Thomas Friedman and God.
I just finished reading The World Is Flat by Friedman, an incredible book and a must read for anyone who cares about the state of the world. A brilliant friend already wrote an in-depth review of the book, so I direct you to his blog for that. Of interest to me in this post is Friedman's concluding chapter (sorry to spoil the ending kids) in which he discusses the differences between "dark societies" and dream factories like America.
In societies that have more memories than dreams, too many people are spending too many days looking backward. They see dignity, affirmation, and self-worth not by mining the present but by chewing on the past. And even that is usually not a real past but an imagined and adorned past. Indeed, such societies focus all their imagination on making that imagined past more beautiful than it ever was, and then they cling to it like a rosary or a strand of worry beads, rather than imagining a better future and acting on that. It is dangerous enough when other countries go down that route; it would be disastrous for America to lose its bearings and move in that direction.
America's role since its inception, Friedman remarks, has been to be the country that looks forward, not back.
Looking forward, not back, is of such psychological importance that even God gave this same advice to his followers. One of my favorite Biblical stories is that of Lot's wife.
According to the Book of Genesis, God was upset with all the shenanigans in Sodom and Gomorra so, in his oh-so-characteristically angry, Old Testament way, he sent in Al Qaeda to blow up the place. There were, of course, a few good souls in the city and the angels warned them to leave post haste. "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain" was the admonition to Lot and his wife.
As with her predecessor Eve, Lot's wife did not heed the advice and looked back (what's with all the obstinate females ignoring the Lord's commands?). She instantly became a pillar of salt.
Biblical scholars continue to ponder the moral of the story, so I will throw in my $.02 on the topic. Looking back = salt. Salt is an apt metaphor for bitterness, regret, doubt and guilt. The story is a great allegory (I do not believe it is literal) about not wallowing over the past, not keeping your head stuck on things that have happened and how important it is to let go of the past so that you don't become a bitter pillar of salt. Lot's wife may have been attached to her life in Sodom and looking back indicated she had doubts about the unknown new life toward which she was heading. Since it is physically impossible to look backwards while you are moving forward, she became a pillar -- a structure anchored to the earth in one spot, unable to move.
The wisdom of this story is compelling. It is easy to become comfortable with what we have and with what we know. Think about the rigidity with which so many people approach life; the safety blankets to which they cling because they are terrified of the unknown. "I have always done things that way" or "because that is our tradition" are phrases used by people who are anchored. Many Republicans proudly declare that they never waiver from their opinions, but when they speak you can't miss all the bitter salt oozing from those rigid pillars. They offer undying loyalty to the allegorical Sodomites of their party, citing their goodness of the past rather than the sins of the present.
Michael Hammer, a business organization consultant, told Thomas Friedman
One thing that tells me a company is in trouble is when they tell me how good they were in the past. Same with countries. You don't want to forget your identity. I am glad you were great in the fourteenth century, but that was then and this is now. When memories exceed dreams, the end is near. The hallmark of a truly successful organization is the willingness to abandon what made it successful and start fresh.
Is America willing to start fresh or will the Monkey-in-Chief and his cult followers continue to mourn the loss of a fictitious Christian past? Are the dreams exceeding the memories or are we doomed to be become a nation of salt pillars?