modern Noah.

The news on Google today was flooded with photos from the 2014 Met Gala Best Dressed.  I humored myself for about eight seconds of perusing posed shots of celebrities in fancy clothing before I couldn’t stand looking at it anymore.  It’s like when you cut sugar out of your diet and you no longer can stand the rush from sugar.  I can no longer even fathom what thrill people get from these kinds of things.

I used to look at outfits and appreciate the creativity, flow, contrasts, etc. of each piece.  If it were a school assignment, sure – I’d whip out all of those elegant words from the bank and I could fool anyone.  But today was completely different and I felt nothing for the outfits.  Nothing positive.  Actually, I felt disgust.

I’ve been applying for several travel scholarships lately in the hopes of scoring an award to either a global sustainability class or a service project in one of the least attractive corners of the world.  I constantly want to push forward and do something.  That something generally involves putting time, effort, and money into working with impoverished people in this world who are the voiceless, working bodies holding every society together.

In other words, when I saw those outfits, I saw the faces of the people who grew the cotton or mixed the dyes.
I saw the anguish, the integrity, the bleeding hands.

I did not see the floozy in the gown or the million-dollar smile.
I did not know the name of the celebrity, but I wished I’d known the names of the servants who created her.
From a million miles away.
With several million dollars less.
And what has that celebrity done?  Relative to her potential?  ZIP.  ZILCH.  NOTHING.

NOTHING, as far as relative goes.  NOTHING when you can buy up an entire fleet and take world problems by storm.  NOTHING when you have the voice and the potential to be heard by so many sheep who blindly follow.

What can the peasant do?  Keep quiet, keep humble, keep working.

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This all happened so perfectly in timing with my spontaneous decision to see the movie Noah.  Going into it, I had no idea what to expect – I just know the imagery looked intense.  Well, quite frankly, I had two impressions: 1) WOW, that was creepy and 2) WOW, that didn’t seem accurate.

And it wasn’t.

I’m no expert on the book of Genesis, but it’s short and I’ve been around it since I was little enough to get the main ideas.  With a little help from reviews, I was able to back up the reasons for my reactions.  First and foremost, Noah was played out as a maniac trying to kill, kill, kill.  It was all supposed to be showing his devotion to the Creator’s will, but you know how Hollywood takes ahold of things and runs with it.  Now, there were also some technical things wrong with the film, like how Jepath was not the youngest son but rather Ham was, or how Lamech didn’t die when Noah was a child.  But there were also some points in the film that were clearly strategic in capturing any kind of audience: the overlaying of Creation with Evolution.  Admittedly, I know enough people who insist both coexist that I actually really liked the implications the directors  made – but I also know a lot of Christians did not like said implications and took offense to Hollywood selling the Bible for profit.

It’s true, though; one could justly say this group’s scriptures have been misrepresented and sold.  It has been work-shopped questionably and beyond the entitlement of “artistic license”.  From the “rock people” to the dramatic, wordless visions from God, Hollywood was really just pitching a highly animated sci-fi movie – and how ironic, right?

But perhaps one benefit that came from this is the message it gave.  Now, people will argue the message of Genesis is that humans left their god and ran astray, so they were all wiped out – save for Noah, his family, and a bunch of animals meant to repopulate the earth.  In other words, disobeying the Creator is the big no-no.  Well, in this version of Noah’s story, it’s about what humans have done to the planet and less about how they’ve forgotten their god (although it does come up time to time).  Noah’s obedience to God is supposed to show why he has been chosen, but he just comes off as crazed until he learns love with discretion.  Meanwhile, the Flood is allegedly occurring to cleanse “evil” and to save the “innocent”, meaning the animals.  It’s like an eco-friendly, modern Noah story.  Save the planet, or you’ll have nothing left.  At least it’s a positive message, although missing the Biblical mark by a substantial bit.

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So Met Gala.  Noah.
These two ideas finally collided in my mind.

The evil-doers in Noah were transfixed on themselves, on their power, on humanity’s greatness, on their ruling over everything below them, on their image in the eyes of others and not in goodness,… They were eating other humans and holding absolutely no values, bloodthirsty to be at the top just as they were when the Flood came and they scrambled over each other to the highest peak to avoid the inevitable.  Because they thought they were great.  Because they had raised themselves up and not appreciated or ever understood the foundation on which they were standing to begin with.

Wow, just like our society today.

Dog eats dog, climbing over each other to the top, striving to save that extra buck so you can get that much farther ahead.  Idolizing things that should not be idolized, like celebrities who bring nothing of good fortune or true inspiration to a wholesome life.  Meanwhile, we take for granted our foundation, the one as simple as who grows our food.  Do you know how few people could survive without that anonymous web of peasants laboring below us?

“Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.” – Proverbs 28:6

The toil, the labor, the strife peasants pour into providing riches to the already rich… that’s just an example of these same themes.  False pedestals hold false idols, and becoming a sheep to the wrong flock drags you down the road of foolishness.  You can no longer hold what is important in your mind.  You become materialistic and take advantage of the downtrodden.  But the world balances itself out and nature/God/whatever will always have the last say.  “…for a piece of bread a man will transgress.  A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him” – but he is often already poor.

Yes, celebrities and those who idol them are poor and sickly.
It’s the impoverished, the righteous, and the downtrodden who live righteously who are the richest, the ones who are safe from the transgressions of the world – the ones closest to being the modern Noah.

the company you keep.

“Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.  Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.” -Proverbs 4:14-15 NIV

“For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” -2 Timothy 2:2-5 NASB

I don’t care if you don’t believe in the Torah/Bible/God; scripture can offer some really good advice if you know how to read it.  For example, in this quote from Timothy, take “God” as a symbol for living peacefully and good.  It provides the same meaning and is certainly applicable to any faith or faithlessness.

How did I get these quotes?  Well, I Googled quotes that could demonstrate the idea of “the company you keep”.  And these were my favorites.

Today, I became (yet again) a victim of online bullying.  It was a rash, brash, offhand, unprecedented comment from an uninformed, unimportant individual.  In the past, I would have blown up over it.  I would have sobbed, raged, replied, and probably done a lot of things I would have regretted later.  But that was me before I started paying attention to these kinds of things.  That was me before I began thinking about the company I keep.

It made me realize the company I choose to keep does not behave like this person.
Meaning he meant nothing to me and he couldn’t hurt me.
Meaning he doesn’t know the truth but the people who matter do.
Meaning I don’t keep his company because he is not considerate, respectful, classy, and of good sportsmanship.
But the company I do keep is all of these things.

In thinking of the company I keep and who I want to be, I debated my options.  I could delete the comment and move forward.  But maybe this person was making a point?  Maybe I had overlooked something that had evoked his reaction in the first place.

Aha – indeed, I had.  I realized he was either being completely tactless and cutting me down without reason, or his tactlessness arose from a misunderstanding in what I was saying.  And yes, this was all about hockey.

First, I chose to leave the comment.  I didn’t reply.  I won’t reply.  It’s not worth it, and it exposes his lack of anything human.  And it makes me look better in the meantime.

Second, I e-mailed the captain of the team.  I thanked her for her candor, congratulated her team for their season, then made her aware of the situation in case someone else might have taken what was said in the wrong way.  I know I didn’t have to do it, but I felt like it is good to clean things up and it can’t hurt nipping a potential problem in the bud.  It also gave me a chance to explain why I left the one team for another: sportsmanship.

The comment that was left and a teammate’s supportive, subsequent reaction to that comment were the perfect parallels to the situation.  It showed how my old team lacked the sportsmanship and respect I craved and how I gained so much more in those fields and others by switching teams.

It reminded me of this past Sunday when I spent time with a friend.  I’ve gotten along swimmingly with his whole family and realized there’s a reason for that.  Kind of like there’s a reason why I can throw my closest friends from all over the world in a room together for the first time…and they love each other.

We always tend to migrate towards the same kinds of people.  And I’ve been trying increasingly harder to base my “kind” of person off of his/her character.  His/her goodness.  His/her positivity.  Even though I haven’t always been the most positive person, it’s amazing how letting go of a little negativity and surrounding yourself with good people will really change your outlook on life.

You really can change your life by the company you keep and surrounding yourself with good things.

As the quote above from Proverbs tells us, don’t be tempted by that evil path.  Just because others act one way does not justify your reaction in their footsteps.  You have to own what you do and you are responsible for the consequences.  Every step you make should be towards the kind of person you want to be, no matter how big or small that step is.

And this person’s bullying is exactly what Timothy’s quote is describing: This person may have been reacting from a misunderstanding, but it was still completely uncalled for, demonstrates his lack of good character, and proves that he is insecure about another’s accomplishments.  He had to cut me down for my pride in the wonderful people I have discovered on my new team and by the honors I’ve received for being a part of their society.  Clearly, I have a LOT that he lacks.  And he doesn’t like it.

While I can’t change him and it’s not my responsibility to try, I can just hope to lead by example and to continue supporting my teammates, choosing better, and maintaining a close watch over the company that I keep.