I advised Neil Remington Abramson that there seemed to be an increased public interest in some of his comments from 2013, in “Love, Not Power“. He responded as follows (reproduced with permission), where his response seems to relate to some of his later sentiments in “Special“. Both pieces follow.
Gosh, did I write this? Maybe I used to be really deep. Aging is, perhaps in my case, the process of filling in one’s depths, to achieve greater averageness. When totally flat, we fit our slots more precisely, and with less inhibition. The world is an average, built by and for itself. We achieve average perfection by learning to fit the contours of our mean world.
Thank God the bell curve still fits.
Love, Not Power
Originally published January 2, 2013
Sit down old friend
There is something
I must tell you
In the end
There is nothing
The following is extracted and adapted from Neil Remington Abramson, “The Way of The Cross: A Meditation”, published December, 2012, in Compass, the monthly newsletter of the West Vancouver Presbyterian Church. Writing with reference to Douglas John Hall, The Cross in Our Context (2003):
Each of you should examine your own conduct, and then you can measure your achievement by comparing yourself with yourself and not with anyone else; for everyone has his/her own burden to bear.
(Galatians 6: 4-5)
It is a theology of love, but not of power, because it does not seek to make others but simply to build constructive relationships with others who are free and not coerced by one’s influence over them. One practices “suffering love” because there is no guarantee that one’s love will come to anything. One is constantly vigilant against trying, consciously or not, to gain power over someone else (p. 197 of Hall’s book).
When I read these sections, my intuition was that The Way of The Cross was kindred with Martin Buber’s idea of “I/Thou” relationships. Buber argued that there were two kinds of interpersonal relationships. In “I/He” or “I/She” relationships, one treated the other person as an object that one intended to grasp so as to make them be what one wanted them to be.
It reminds me of a letter my late father, William Remington, wrote as a young man to his mother about his fiancée, Ann Moos. He said that Ann was a good person and he loved her, and that once he had finished educating her and redirecting her thinking, she would be even better. Evidently, Ann was a public works/reclamation project for him. Of course, their marriage ended in divorce some years later, followed soon thereafter by the tragic end to his own life. Lucky for me, since he then married my mother. My father could see very clearly what he wanted from Ann, but he didn’t have faith in who and what she was or would become. He wanted very much to achieve the result he had in mind and wasn’t willing to just hope for it. He was willing to use his influence over her to guide her on his way, as opposed to just loving her as she was. His relationship was I/She, the opposite of The Way Of The Cross.
By contrast, in an I/Thou relationship, one’s intention was to be with others rather than to act upon them, or to be acted upon. One’s obligations to others were more important than one’s own hopes or expectations. Each person regarded the other as a subject (as opposed to an object) – a unique, free individual who was and should remain in charge of his/her own life. As the relationship built up, and both parties came to trust each other’s intentions, each came to place the other’s needs and hopes ahead of their own, so each did his/her best to look after the interests of the other. In an I/Thou relationship, the goal was to love the other as she/he was and not to use power or influence to change them in some way. One hoped for I/Thou but one could not insist on it as a final result because it could only come about through mutual willingness to trust and cooperate. One could only have faith, and hope, and behave consistently and reliably with love, and never try to force. And so one would suffer, hoping but not knowing, until it either happened or it didn’t.
Originally published June 7, 2015
Neil Remington Abramson commented as follows (reproduced with permission):
Had I lived in the Stone Age, I might have invented the axe. As it is, I was mainly only special to my mother and she apparently had doubts. It’s taken me a lifetime to see that I was mostly ordinary all along.
If everyone is special, as we were all told, specialness is nothing special.
Anyway, in a world designed by average people, to serve the interests of average people, being “above” average is almost as much a liability as being “below” average. So maybe I was lucky, in the end.