For those of you who heard the New Testament story of Martha and Mary, she who did the housekeeping and served the unexpected guests, and Mary, who chose the sweetest portion of listening about the kingdom of heaven, it won’t surprise you that we all have a bit of both, of course.
Most of the sermons about that portion, at least the ones I’ve been privileged to listen to, emphasize the sweetness of Mary’s calling, the importance of spiritual life, and all that. Partly, I suspect, due to professional deformation. It is preachers, priests and ministers given them, after all.
But also because that’s the part people have trouble seeing. Except in politics, world-changing, the secular stuff like that.
So, leaving the spiritual behind, let’s look at the Martha/Mary dichotomy in the world.
I was going to say I’m by disposition a Martha, but that’s not true. Novelists, and world-creators are by avocation Maries. Mary builds these great systems that all interlock and are so perfect and shiny. You need to be a Mary to write (good) novels.
But in the real world your Mary side sees these big movements, these big plays in history. She abstracts the minor stuff, and leaves the whole theory shiny and beautiful and self coherent, and seductive.
Yes, Marx was a Mary. (And other sentences you’ve always dreamed of writing!)
And his theory was, like all those great, self-coherent theories, a lie. Because they are. Because reality is way more complicated, each individual human gets a say, and things are changing even as we formulate the theory. Believe in your theory, and you end up thinking history comes with an arrow.
It’s important to remember this. I write lies for a living (at least in fiction) consciously, and I know where the holes are and why my stories probably wouldn’t work in the real world. I try to patch them over, but truly, you can’t create something wholly coherent that is ALSO realistic.
The human mind is a machine for extracting meaning, logic and chains of action-consequence out of the chaotic soup of reality.
We do that, because, evolutionarily the over all pattern applies. Like, you know, if you’re a person who doesn’t randomly attack your tribe mates, you’re less likely to get thrown out and eaten by a tiger. It doesn’t mean you’re safe from psycho-Ogg deciding he has a hate on for you and throwing you out to be eaten by a tiger, nor that a tiger will lurk in your hut, warming himself at your fire, and eat you when you go back for a snooze. Those can still happen. But perceiving action consequence chains makes you less likely to be eaten by a tiger in sufficient percentage that you’ll have more kids who also perceive action and consequence.
Reality, OTOH, is full of psycho-Ogg and happy-Ogg and a million other crazy Oggs. Which is why it’s impossible to control your life in minute detail. And once you multiply your life by 6 billion (Bah, I know what the UN says. Since when do you believe the UN? I’d be shocked if we’re that many, really) it leaves History and any other big system as a game of Calvin ball, where the rules, the tech, the state of life is changing so fast no one can predict it, much less assign an arrow to it.
Part of the problem of those who follow Mary-Marx’s so shiny vision, is that they’re being driven insane by how reality persists in deviating from the beautiful self-consistent system.
I’d say that our side is more Martha and theirs more Mary, but that ain’t true. At least, a lot of their loudest ones are Maries now. (A lot of ours too, think on.) But the beauty (in terms of process, even if results are schrecklish) that was the long march through the institutions was a thing of Marthas. They came in, they did the work well enough that even if their proclivities were suspected the old guard didn’t want to kick them out. They were bright efficient and hard working. And hired ONLY people of their political color, despite abilities. That’s when the Mary interfered. They started mistaking the shiny vision for both intelligence and competency (which explains the Sandra Berhard’s of this world) which in turn led to skinning the institutions they took over, and wearing their skin demanding respect while actually being unable to perform any of the functions of those institutions. Because it comes to that. BUT they got there, and to a major control of media, education and entertainment which allows them to continue pushing their shiny vision at an innocent new generation by being Marthas. By doing thankless work, ceaselessly and well.
The Maries on our side are just as loud as the left, but because they look at the mess things are in, and how they don’t fit their mental shiny, they insist the only way to fix it is burn it all down.
That’s Mary for you. I bet she never dipped her hands in a basin of greasy water to wash a dish in her life. No. In her perfect world, dishes come pre-washed and shiny, and why should she corrupt herself with the grease and the muck? And why be Martha, who does all this over and over again, and what do you see, for it?
You see change. You see incremental, tiny change. Takes a long time. We’ve only really started fighting maybe 38 years ago, if you date it from Reagan’s election. Before that the growth of government and government as a good thing had been unquestioned by everyone, yes, even Republicans (we still have fossils from that time, guys.) And at first the fight wasn’t so much for principle but away from fricking Jimmah Carter and his ineffective governance.
It’s very slow. It’s very, very slow. You wash dishes more, and even though the rest of the people living in your house are slobs, you see fewer rats. Not that anyone else will notice, which is both beautiful and dispiriting.
Yeah, in many ways the left is still in charge, but we’re starting to see their power fail, because Marthas work ceaselessly and in a small way, here and there.
As Jordan Peterson put it, you’re not powerless. You know what, 100 people? Even if you write a blog post, or a novel, or a story, or a book about economics, and only twenty people read it, each of those twenty people can take from it an idea, that in turn they pass on each to another twenty people. In ten years, your idea will be accepted as fact in the backs of millions of minds, and it can change things. Maybe not in a big way, but little by little, one intellectual dirty dish at a time.
Do we have the time for that? Who knows? But barring total extinction, we do. The Founding Fathers and their miracle constitution had deep roots, some of which probably went back to people talking, just talking, in a tavern in England.
We have a long way to take over the culture. But unless our hand is forced and we go to weapons, which is more a thing of Mary, of course, big actions on big thoughts, we also have a long time. And we can turn this around. No intellectual climate is forever, which is something else the Maries tend to misunderstand.
Go wash a dish today. Talk to a kid, write a blog post, set your life in order, fight chaos.
All life is a fight over chaos and creation. We build.
Go be Martha.