What’s to be done with idiots?
We all know that every trouble of the world is some idiot’s fault. Just ask anyone. Regardless what the problem, idiots are behind it, screwing things up for pleasure, pain, or profit.
My lifelong perplexity is why so few of us want to do something about it.
Maybe people are afraid of becoming idiots themselves, I’ve wondered. Then I realized the folly of my question. They aren’t afraid of becoming idiots… they’re afraid that they already are, and that engaging with other idiots will only highlight their own idiocy in sharp relief. So, they walk the other way, leaving idiots to foul the place at will and compromise the safety and happiness of everyone else. Turning backs and blind eyes to it is weak, callous, and cowardly — its own kind of idiocy.
In my teens, I despaired that I could do much about idiots. I contemplated and rejected suicide, so instead I planned to live a hermit’s life and escape the whole insane, fucking mess. Then I found God. Suddenly, I had all the means I needed to counteract global idiocy, and I joined a movement to do just that: Christian Evangelicalism.
I threw myself headlong into the work of salvation, but soon became frustrated. The power of God didn’t seem to do much. Idiots and idiocy abounded with nary a dent despite our efforts. We spoke about miracles and glories, but lived with contingencies and grinds. I trusted the preachers of heaven, so I assumed that I was the problem. I searched my soul deeply, which took me on a pilgrimage to Europe. There I realized that neither God nor I was to blame.
I returned home in limbo, disillusioned. Christianity was the epitome of idiocy, an institutionalization of faith that human depravity outweighs the power of God to change it; the fruit of practicing evil for millennia, claiming that good will come anyway. Christian idiocy seemed like the mirror image of atheistic idiocy. One claims ultimate good but denies its realization in life; the other denies ultimate good, yet claims that life is worth living anyway.
Then I met people who seemed to have the goods: God and life, talk and walk, theory and practice. I fell for them hard and ate up everything they offered. This came at a high price: loss of relationships with people I loved. And yet, it all made so much sense. Idiocy always does when we’re caught in its throes.
That’s when I met my wife, a “shining star” in the church to my rising one. We married, had children, built a house, built a life. We were building the kingdom of heaven, together. As we went along, loving her and loving my sons changed and instructed me. My bonds with them became paramount, and I realized that the “true church” I’d sacrificed to become part of required that I sacrifice my family as well. That was the line, and I refused to cross it. And then fire came.
I woke up as if from a morning stupor, as did others. Those drooling for control of the church encouraged us, as long as it served their purposes. Once they felt secure, having ridden the wave of our enthusiasm and support, they threw us outside their graces and ordered, “Humble yourselves and repent!” Most of us complied. I and a few others called it for lies and hypocrisy. They excommunicated us. My wife left me. She tried to take our children with her, but she failed, leaving me alone with them in a seemingly insane world.
Loving God and good and truth with all my heart, soul, and strength landed me mired in universal, existential idiocy. The cosmos was crazy — and wrong. I didn’t argue whether I well-deserved such treatment, but my boys certainly didn’t deserve it. I raged, but God’s idiocy didn’t dent, and I inwardly hoped that I was wrong about it. One possibility remained. Maybe the idiocy, which was all I could see, was frothing on the surface of life’s waters, a veil obscuring the deeper truth, a cover apparent only to those who haven’t dived in. Of course, diving in seems idiotic as long as we stubbornly plant our feet onshore. I had a choice to make, and it was simple: identify the idiot.
It’s hard to admit we’re wrong, and harder yet to admit that we’re all wrong; but this was worse still. I had to admit that I was all wrong as the inevitable, necessary, and natural consequence of trying so very hard to be exceptionally right. My best resulted in the worst; my goodness resulted in harm; my love resulted in violation; my joy resulted in horrors. I was the idiot.
Realizing this was curiously liberating. When we stop wrestling angels and demons for superiority, we can also release the lie of our worthlessness and don dignity that we had all along. Admit blindness and sin vanishes. Claim sight and it remains. When the world looks like shit and the shit won’t wipe away, it might be that we’re wiping the world when we should wipe our eyes instead. Even Jesus promised that we’ll take specks out of our brother’s eyes, but only after removing logs from our own.
As sincerely admitted idiots, life looks different. Everyone who has genuinely confessed sees this. Grace becomes apparent where we once claimed entitlement, secretly fearing that we had no right. Idiots become no less prevalent or idiotic, just more understandable. That’s empowering. Hope replaces despair, because what we swore would kill us is apparent everywhere in everyone, including us; yet we live on just the same. The big difference is we’re no longer in denial about it. We don’t “deserve” anything, but receive lots anyway.
So, what’s to be done with idiots? Once we realize that we are them, the Golden Rule takes on an entirely different character. As idiots, how do we want other idiots to treat us? At the very least, less idiotically. Hopefully, cognizant that we’re in the same boat and share the same plight. When Jesus spoke of doing unto others and being done unto by them, he meant as peers and as friends. How often do we take it that way?
Something dies when you jump in with both feet, and it’s a strange kind of death. Or maybe that’s just how death is: terrifying in anticipation but, once committed, not much more than a change of condition. Now submerged, we wonder what the furor on the surface was all about. It feels like drowning at first, just like everyone said it would. And once we’re all wet, they aren’t shy about pointing out our folly, our idiocy. But we don’t drown. We start swimming. It’s a whole new world down there, beneath the hype and bullshit, scares and threats, promises that never come, and burdens that never leave. It’s navigable. And it’s fun.
What really dies down there? False hope. And why would false hope ever occur to us? By believing lies that true hopes are false. And where did true hope go? Nowhere. We didn’t lose it. We still have hope. We just need to be idiotic enough to dare believe it. And jump in.