Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wisdom from R. M. Peters


Ultimately it is about living creaturely in a created order, living "naturally" with the idiosyncrasies of other critters. The antithesis of living creaturely is to attempt to live according to the abstract principles of liberalism, such as "all men and races are equal," gender is meaningless, every language can convey all things equally, etc.

Getting along with chickens was learning to live creaturely for me as a little boy growing up in Louisiana. It was dangerous to enter the chicken yard if you did not know your chickens: their moods, their gestures and their group dynamic. One had to live creaturely with cows, particularly if there were a bull around. It was not prudent to enter his domain if cows were "in heat." One had to learn to sense that; they do not wear signs.

Learning to live creaturely is how we get along in families. My mother's great grandmother was a Choctaw. Choctaw women were known for "enjoying" skinning captives alive, burning them, disemboweling them, etc. From time to time, when I came home from college, my father would warn as I came in the door "Your mama's in a Choctaw mood." That meant that my "button pushing," often but not always unintended, could bring disharmony to the household. I would be held accountable for the disharmony although it was my mother's Choctaw mood.

Learning to live, really live, and work among blacks takes the same creaturely awareness. The same is, however, true in the "redneck" community in which I am embedded and which is, in part, embedded in me. If one walks into a bar, just like walking into the chicken yard, one must "read" the clientele, particularly those one thinks to know. A misreading can lead to a fight, a broken body or a trip to the morgue.

Although I live in the country, we have an informal neighborhood watch. Most of us are armed to the teeth: conceal and carry, open carry, etc. Louisiana is defend your castle and defend your ground. None of us desire to kill or to be killed; but we are committed to defending not only our own home and hearth but also those of our neighbors.

Part of living creaturely is to develop an etiquette which allows one to hold the world at bay but to be prepared to extend charity. The stranger who might venture onto one's front porch (Very few real ones left!) is a potential threat to the household; but he is also as our Lord has taught us potentially in need of our charity and hospitality. It is the mark of a civilized society to have developed the necessary rituals, i.e. lesson learned, internalized and lived out by having lived creaturely, to simultaneously hold the world at bay, i.e. keep the stranger from crossing the threshold of the household, while weighing the need to extending charity and hospitality and consequentially taking the risk to invite the stranger over the threshold. Southern ladies of my mother's generation had mastered this important ritual and the associate skills. Liberalism has destroyed them and even made them taboo.

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