The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

23 May 2011

Of the slippery nature of pedestals

An idol recently landed on my head as it fell off its pedestal.  It didn't just wobble from uncertain balance, it was given a mighty push and was ejected off its perch.  I wish I'd remembered there are safer places to put people than on unsteady plinths.

It doesn't matter who this particular idol was, nor does that fact that it was a group of people and not one individual.  I'll cope with and eventually recover from the feeling of betrayal that comes of seeing the god of my making on the ground; but I really hope that this time I've learned to allow people to be less than perfect, to not paint them with gold leaf because I admire them.

The conversation I had with friends which instigated the falling of the idol brought home to me the role that pride plays in idolatry.  At first I was placing the blame entirely on the perch-dwellers, for pride was clearly one of their biggest failings. (I am in awe sometimes at my remarkable perspicacity) (I hope you have your boots on, or you'll get a soaker from that large puddle of sarcasm on the floor).  But a conversation I had with a different group of people last night helped me to see that our own pride is also a factor. Elevating someone, or a whole group to the level of an idol is a way of elevating ourselves. We hope some of their glory will rub off on us, that we'll be special by association. 

Up on that pedestal we survey the landscape and pity those we see below us. If only they could figure out how to be like us! There's nothing quite like perfection, and it's really too bad the people over there are so tarnished with shortcomings and failings.

You know what happens, right?  With all the jostling for space up there, none of us last very long. We're not made for such elevation, and we get a horrible kink in the neck when we keep looking up at others. There is room for healthy and well-placed admiration. We look to others to show us the way, to guide and mentor us, but hopefully we see them as they really are, chips and scuffs and wobbles and all.

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