Civilization and the Inner Self
By WILLIAM PRENTISS
I lie here mortally disconnected to humanity, only God! Sis, not sure if I can hear while I lie in abeyance, a dormant state, cognition unknown but to God and me, still talks to me and shares God’s words and the thoughts of those far brighter than I.
Struggling often with why I am where I am day after day—hearing only, feeling and seeing nothing, thought to be in a coma—repugnantly pissed at a culture I deem responsible for inciting the violence which led to my current state, I fear the demise of civilization as we know it. I can’t do a thing about it; I worry nonetheless.
Sis, careful not to mention world news deemed deleterious to my condition in case I am aware of what is spoken, does occasionally read me current events; mostly I think to pass the time during her visits. Lately, I have detected a troubled spirit; I think she finds the world amorally slipping into darkness, not unlike the darkness that altered my former life.
The tenor of Tolstoy’s ruminations in today’s devotional Sis read to me seems to capture a Judeo-Christian worldview of mankind’s relationship to God, others, and self.
“Nothing seems to check the notion that the way to improve civilization is affected by changing its outer forms. This notion is false, and draws the activity of too many people away from the effort that truly can improve our lives.
“Civilization is first of all a moral thing. Without truth, respect for duty, love of neighbor, virtue, everything is destroyed. The morality of a society is alone the basis of civilization.” — Henri Amiel
Too often we believe governmental largesse can legislate and fund major paradigm shifts in behavior. Government will never be an adequate substitute for families, individuals, churches and small platoons of like-minded people able to change society through focused goodness—goodness predicated on internal changes and an expanded conscience due to empathy and relationship with God, others, and an appreciation for life derived from submission to something greater than self.
Tolstoy referenced Giuseppe Mazzini; “We should first of all, understand that we are all children of the same father, and we should fulfill the same general law: live not for ourselves, but to help others be happy.”
Leo’s final admonition today speaks to the obligation to stand up for Truth and justice. Without both, civilization ceases to exist: “When we accept false and violent laws and submit to them, we can neither establish truth nor combat lies in this world.”
Lord, please make me a better man, one able to see Truth, love others, and if I ever arise from my fallow state, please embolden me to seek justice, love mercy and pursue a path of rectitude and goodness. And in the meantime, please stay the hands of darkness seeking to imprison those who believe, those who will, and those who might.
MORNINGS WITH TOLSTOY consists of the inner reflections of a man in a coma, the victim of a senseless beating. He can only hear, and no one knows this, but maybe his sister. Sis reads three devotional pieces daily and the internal dialogue reflects his response to them.