Part of exegeting the Word is exegeting the world, and that means that sometimes, we need to stop an think about the times we're living in and what it means to be a human being today. Without a doubt, one of the challenges of our modern world is that we are now living in a time where the scariest things - the things most likely to cause anxiety, depression, trauma, and trouble - are words and ideas.
For those of us who grew up in the time of "sticks and stones," this is hard to comprehend. When and why did we become so concerned about what other persons say or think? When did having a disagreement with someone become the worst possible thing you could do to them?
It's almost easy to blame a postmodern philosophy, where words are used as weapons and culture is hashed out on the stage of ideas, but we're beyond the point where this is about what you believe or don't believe or even what you can get sucked into. At this point, the root of the issue lies in the way we're living.
It centers on our virtual lives.
Our virtual world has become so developed and so central to the way that we live that it has become the most real thing about our existence. Social media, the Internet, connections across the world from the comfort of the living room, they have created a new space where humans dwell, and it's where we spend most of our time. In fact, an overwhelming number of persons are now playing the real world like a sim, taking their flesh-and-blood avatars to the cafe to get a cup of coffee before returning to their "real life" of connectivity.
And in this realm where no one and nothing is real enough to be held, touched, or felt, words and ideas reign. They create the reality we're virtually living in, so of course, they have become the most dominant thing in our cultural conversations. The words and ideas that form our new social experience are more real to us than the food on our plates or the sun on our backs.
Over time, our lives are less and less lives we're living and more and more those we're constructing new every moment as words and ideas continue to change the landscape in front of us. And there's no way for us to put our finger down, let alone our foot, and be grounded in anything.
Because what is most real to us is not real at all. It's all figments of a virtual realm.
Meanwhile, in the real world, anxiety, depression, suicide, and violent crime are on the rise, and it's a direct result of our virtual existence. We're all looking for some place to land, some place to find refuge, and more than anything, what we want is a break from the noise. A world formed in the tension of words and ideas never stops, it never shuts up, there's no way to silence it. Unless you kill something - the world or yourself.
So we've got persons who solve their disputes with guns, who kill one another over mere exchanges of words because what we've learned from our virtual realities is that there is no victory in ideas, only perpetual tugs-of-war. The pendulum continually swings and the clock never strikes the hour because there is no hour, only words, and the only way to "win" this war of words is to have the last word. And the only way to stop the noise is in the stillness of the shock of something more real.
Which is another reason that violent crime and self-crime is on the rise: it is undeniably real. In that moment, life gets grounded. It gets put on a plane we can understand again. It's got flesh and bones and blood and breath and it can hold things in its hands and feel them, really feel them, and it seems like these extremes are the only way to truly feel human any more. To feel the pain, the hurt, the anger, the trauma...something, anything real. We are aching for something real.
We are fighting over so much less.
Words and ideas...they're scary in this virtual world because that's all we've got, that's all we are. In bytes and bits, we're reduced to nothing more than our words and our ideas. And it's left us aching for something more, something real, something with a little skin on it that, to be honest, most of us don't know how to find any more.
So we take it wherever we can find it, or wherever we can make it, and that is often in the extremes of our anger, our rage, our violence, our hatred.
And then we log back into our lives and see the headlines, and we wonder what happened. How could anyone ever do such a thing? Because of what? Because of words?