What if

Today society is being bombarded with online messages.  It happens at my house, that is for sure. While cooking dinner the other night, I listened on with equal parts entertainment and disgrace as my three teenage daughters were hashtag-searching for all available Kardashian trivia. The idea of the newly discovered brother, Rob, was “epic”. They laughed at the idea of him being too self-conscious from weight-gain to be included in the family photo concluding that he must be just as vain as his sisters. My daughters’ brother, Max, is a heavy-weight too. It’s a good thing he’s too young to be embarassed. Of course, that led them to the natural succession of assigning other Kardashian equivalents to our family. Finishing with the completely insane idea of their dad having a sex-change to become a Kaitlin. Roars of laughter. I even chuckled at that.

This conversation got me thinking about the mind-numbing nature of the internet. As a mother I want to withstand the harmful culture. I want more for my kids. I have big plans for our front room when we move. It will be an electronic-free zone. The only thing available will be books, records, musical instruments, notebooks and pens, art supplies, and comfy chairs for lounging, pondering, sharing, and creating. The only rule will be to seek out the best things of the world. The wisest things. The secrets of the universe. All will be encouraged to find answers for troubling things and to seek serenity. I cannot wait. I have a feeling when my kids discover the joy of a distraction-free zone, it’ll become the best gathering place in the house. If they don’t discover it, I will have a totally quiet space to enjoy it for myself. I’m not gonna lie: both conclusions sound equally legendary. You see, even though I try to be a really good mom, I’m still by nature, selfish. I need a room where I can figure out how to change.

great minds

So, as I’ve been planning the details of my new home’s room of intellectual glory, I’ve simultaneously been learning about a literary analysis called deconstruction that is focused on assumptions in the reading/writing process. The scholar, Jaques Derrida, encourages taking apart literary works and looking at them from a new angle. He thinks that as readers we should find a point of emphasis and then ask ourselves “what if”. What if the meaning were different? What if there were no limits of language, but we could open our minds to endless possibilites? I know. I know. It all sounds a little too new-age and LSDish, and yes, this is a discovery from the 1960’s. It’s taken me a lot of time to understand its usefullness. I found the answer on facebook, of all places. Homework procrastination can be helpful sometimes.

So, here it is:

What if that black rapper who does all the crazy stuff (you know the one who people call a sad excuse for a human) is really battling some kind of mental illness?

What if those people on food-stamps actually work harder than you,  and are doing  better than you with the little resources they’ve been given in life?

What if butter is really good for you?

What if those people who have more kids than they can afford actually listen to  God more than you do?

What if God is trying to tell you to help them?

What if there is no life after this where you will ever be able to eat again?

What if all you’ll be allowed to eat are the things that you didn’t overindulge in now?

What if that star is your future?

What if the alcoholic was beat and raped throughout her childhood and she drinks to keep the nightmares away?

What if you really learned to love  yourself?

What if evolutionism and creationism are both true?

What if it’s easier to get into heaven as a homosexual than it is as a heterosexual?

What if light is dark and dark is light?

What if you automatically go to hell if you have never owned a family pet?

What if the Bible is true?

What if the least of these is really the greatest? Like the janitor?

What if sexy is nonexistent?

Anyhow, I could do this all day. Even though  I am not quite getting to the really deep ideas that the literary theory intends, I think the less deep ideas hold greater life applications.

What if asking “what if” only accomplished a world where people would quit judging each other and start loving each other more?

Then, desconstruction would actually have worth.  Instead of just making everything have no meaning, and being the biggest liberal warcry of all time, it would literally provide worldpeace. I think God likes that.


One comment

  1. I’m a total deconstructionist. When I was in college, I didn’t really appreciate the value of a question that didn’t have a concrete answer. I had a hard time conceiving of questions that had more than one answer. I studied visual art, not literature, but it’s a similar game. But the more I live life the more value I see in asking questions with hard answer, questions with individual answers, and questions with no answers. I often apply deconstructionist type questions to my life today, and I think it makes my life richer. I believe that if your faith can’t withstand a thought experiment exploring the world empathetically through a different lens that it must not be very strong.

    I think that being able to ask deconstructionist questions is, at the end of the day, a way to encourage empathy and a way to broaden our own horizons. If I can’t think kindly towards, say, an alcoholic, it’s probably because I can’t conceive of a world where a reasonable person might go down that road. I can’t even imagine the life she has lived, so I can’t empathize with her.

    And asking questions lets you explore options. What if God really loves everybody like he says? What if he really loves that alcoholic who neglects her children and her registered sex offender father who is raising them? What does that mean about how I should interact with them in my neighborhood? What I should tell my children about those kids? How do I protect my children while loving somebody like God tells me to love them? These kinds of ponderings beg really abstract deconstructionist questions like what is love? What is goodness? What does it mean to be a good person? Thinking about these types of questions broadens your mind beyond the simple cultural narrative we’ve been told into something more nuanced and, in my opinion, closer to what God would have us be and how He would have us love.

    Beyond that, some questions have a different answer for every person. Should I got to college? Should I stay home with my kids? How many kids should I have? Sometimes we like to think that the answer to certain struggles is one size fits all, but it’s really not.

    Asking questions empathetically invites you to think of the world in layers of complexity instead of simple narratives, which ultimately opens your heart to other people, their circumstances, and I think it brings me closer to God.

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