Voyeur

Voyeurs

Advent 10

 

Got your attention with that title, huh?  In a blog that is dedicated to discussing all things spiritual and religious, whose intent is to get you and me thinking, to put new ideas and perhaps more complete thoughts into my and your heads (hence the blog website name “n2 my head”), you are probably wondering where voyeurism would it, right?

 

We generally think of the word voyeur as a sexual term.  Truth is the word literally means “to see”.  This series during Advent we are discussing grace and during the here and now of the second week of Advent. We are using the empirical approach, borrowed from the study of probabilities, to discuss the concept of grace.  The empirical approach is one based upon observation.  Ah…. Now the use of the word voyeur is starting to make sense, isn’t it?

 

The year 2015 was a very busy year as far as news stories went.  There were the bombings in France; refugees running for their lives in Syria to escape the Islamic State; terrorist activities in other countries including the United States; civilians versus law enforcement agencies, especially in the United States; the legalization of gay marriage in several countries, these actions causing great dissension and fervor in many including religious groups within the United States; a political contest for the highest elected position in the United States which included a candidate whose only real experience for such a position was firing people on his reality show.  Using an empirical approach, where would you think to look for grace in 2015?

 

The easiest, most popular, and most reliable way to observe those moments of grace that occurred in 2015 would be to ask what were the most shared stories and videos on Facebook during that timeframe.  The list in the above paragraph is not conclusive but it does mention some pretty high profile news stories.  Which of those do you think made the list of the most shared, viewed, and received posts on Facebook?  The answer is none of them.  From an empirical approach, none would make the list in our search for grace.

 

The year 2016 has also been fairly busy.  The elections in the United States had results that proved the popularity of reality television over actual experience.  Today TIME Magazine will announce their Person of the Year.  Both presidential candidates are on the short list but so are some pretty interesting choices.  One is a group known as the CRISPR Scientists.  They have developed a new technique that, hopefully, will enable us to locate and isolate the mutations responsible for incurable diseases.  Also on the list is Olympic American gymnast Simone Biles who rose from a very hard childhood to not let life defeat her.  Performer Beyoncé Knowles is another name, not for her singing and performing but for using such venues to speak out against racial injustice, police violence, and feminism.  There are other nominees, most political and yes, the list does include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for the social media website amassing over one billion subscribers (As one, let me say “You’re welcome, Mark,”).

 

One’s political perspective will come into play as to whether or not you believe your candidate or world leader (The list includes those from India, Turkey, and Russia.) and if there is any grace to be had in their nominations and their actions that garnered them those nominations.   Some on the list, however, practically scream out “Grace!”

 

In 2015 the most shared and viewed posts on Facebook include actor Vin Diesel.  He made the top list of shared videos not once but twice, in fact.  Diesel playing with a puppy certainly speaks of grace towards animals but so did his video of him and a baby.  To see a tough guy connect with the joy of life that a baby represents is grace at its purest form and I for one am overjoyed that it touched so many.

 

The top Facebook post in 2015, according to the company CrowdTangle whose sole purpose is to socially analyze what we do on Facebook and then aid companies in using that for advertising, had 11.7 million interactions.  This means that this post was liked, shared, and/or had comments more than any one other single post.  The top ten list included recipes, life hacks or shortcuts, friends, parenting, and religion and all included videos or images.

 

The top Facebook in 2015 was that of a child with cancer, requesting a certain number of “likes”.  While this post might seem perfect for our attempt to find grace in an empirical manner, it also points out to why grace is in short demand nowadays.  In any one twenty=-four hour time period, they are at least ten new posts going up on Facebook about a sick child and many of these involve a child with cancer.  They tug at our heartstring and make us want to show grace to the child and their family. 

 

In 2014 a sick child with cancer was another popular Facebook post.  This time the picture was not of a child in a hospital bed but of a little girl in a cheerleading outfit standing in a field.  Her bald head was evidence that she had indeed undergone chemotherapy.  However, the picture was over six years old and used without the permission of even awareness of her parents.

 

Social media has become a huge opportunity for those involved in “like farming”.  Once we realize we have been victims of such, our hearts become hardened and we refuse to show grace… to anyone, whether in real life or on social media.  By using “like farming”, Facebook promoters will then take a page with thousands of likes and comments and, after stripping the page of its original content (and yes, they can do that), they will then use that page to promote something else, generally a product they get a commission for selling.  The new page can also be used to spread malware or software used to attach the Facebook user’s computer.  They can also be used for phishing, the act of trying to gather credit card numbers, passwords, or other personal information.

 

Because of these voyeurs, we no longer see the world through eyes of grace.  We suddenly start seeing with the lens of fear and suspicion and to arm ourselves against such, we stop showing grace.  Yesterday I posted a story about a certain Facebook page that was a hoax.  One of my friends commented back:  “I don’t believe that.”  Why?  Because the scammers had done a greatly sophisticated job and my friend is a kind soul.

 

We now are living in a world where it seems like being gracious to others makes us a target and opens us up to victimization.  I have no instant answer.  Let me clear on that.  I agree with those that think Facebook needs to devote more time and algorithms into insuring the validity of such posts.  We, though, as users also bear some responsibility and turning our back on humanity is never a good answer.

 

“The average user doesn’t know any better,” said Tim Senftt, founder of Facecrooks.com, a website that monitors scams and other illegal or unethical activity of Facebook.  In a CNN article in 2014 he explained:  “I think their [the Fb user] tells them it’s not true, but in the back of their minds, they think “What if it is true?  What does it hurt if I press like?’  We need to think before we hit anything, a button on a social media site, the give key on a charitable page, or another person.

 

Living the concept of grace does not mean doing any emotional thing that will make you feel better for a minute.  Whether you define grace in its most simplistic terms of kindness and beauty or in a theological concept of sanctifying or in a spiritual context of that which makes us all better, it needs to be an action with intention and intention never works unless some insight is applied.

 

We cannot go through life being afraid of one another because that means we would have to be afraid of ourselves.  We really are not much different, in spite of how the outside shell might appear.  As we have discussed many times in this blog over the past three years, only .02 percent of our chromosomes are really that different.  Those are the only things that affect our hair texture and color, the shape and size of our nose and lips and eyes, the hue of our skin.  In every other way, every human being is physically constructed the same. 

 

Our uniqueness comes from within, from how we live grace.  Open your eyes today and really view your world.  I think you will find those beautiful moments of grace within a child’s exploration of life and a puppy’s playful joy.  You will also see opportunity, not to fear but to live grace.  Embrace those moments and feel the grace that makes life beautiful.

 

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