Posted by: ritagone | September 14, 2016

As a Man (or Woman) Thinketh…

Woman thinking blackboard concept. Pensive girl looking at thought bubble on chalkboard / blackboard texture background. Mixed race Asian Chinese / Caucasian student.man-thinking

 

 

Never thought much about that phrase from Proverbs 23:7 (“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” NKJV) in recent years until I started reading the Nobel Prize in Literature winning book “Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets” by Svetlana Alexievich, in which she interviewed hundreds of Russians who lived through the era of Stalin, the end of the USSR and the beginning of perestroika, periods of history which most of you reading this have probably also lived through.

In our Western minds, we tend to think (at least I do, so I should probably just speak for myself) that rescuing a people from the trauma of tyranny and oppression is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Who wouldn’t relish democracy as opposed to communism or living in constant fear for one’s life? So when that happened in Russia, people should have been rejoicing in the streets.

Not so.

In this book, as she listened to and recorded the memories and meanderings of men and women who moved from government under Stalin and Khrushchev and Gorbachev to government more aligned with capitalism, the hostility level increased, not decreased. One gentleman was extremely vocal: “We’re living in the most shameful era of our entire history. Ours is the generation of cowards and traitors. That’s how our children will remember us. ‘Our parents sold out a great country for jeans, Marlboros, and chewing gum,’ they’ll say. We failed to defend the USSR, our Motherland. An unspeakable crime. We betrayed everything!”

A woman being interviewed: “Socialism isn’t just labor camps, informants, and the Iron Curtain, it’s also a bright, just world: Everything is shared, the weak are pitied, and compassion rules.”

Again: “With perestroika, everything came crashing down…There were new rules: If you have money, you count – no money, you’re nothing.”

And finally: “We’re used to the idea that everyone needs a good whipping, that you won’t get anything done without flogging people.”

This seems to me the ultimate encounter with wishful thinking for “the good old days,” when soldiers knew how to kill a person efficiently and quickly, when everyone knew their place, and punishment was doled out as needed. Forget about shopping and food lines and wanting a new winter jacket; the important things were taken into consideration: how to survive and how to turn in the people around you so as to protect yourself and your own, which was a common occurrence.

It’s unbelievable to me that people can think that dictatorships and tyrants were actually part of the good old days. It must be true that we can think anything we want and make it stick.

But wait a minute. Haven’t we seen plenty of that in this American political season…on both sides of the aisle?

We should all be frightened of what we are capable of as human beings, where our minds can go and how we can justify thought patterns and understandings that make no sense at all to others. At any given time you or I could be completely irrational and so far off the mark that it’s frightening.

The cure? Immersing oneself in the Word of God, surrounding oneself with God’s sane people, and focusing on God’s Kingdom and how to push it out everywhere you can, in any way you can. Paul said it well: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

Words to live by for sure in this crazy world, whatever your nationality.

 

 

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