How you view your city and community has been a central concern of LF’s work. Our conviction is that the way you see will determine how you act: free and generous or confined and malevolent. This is why Joseph Campbell argued “If you want to change the world, you have to change your metaphor.” Campbell understood that the metaphor you choose to interpret reality is going to have more to do with how you behave than anything else. Thus, the weight of this simple statement: LF sees the city as God’s playground rather than a battleground.
We were reminded this past weekend, in a horrific way, what can take place when you see your city and community more like a battleground.
When the layers are pulled back and knots are untied what will sit at the heart of this tragedy in Charlottesville is a clash of metaphors and worldviews- people who saw the world as a battleground and those who saw it as a playground. In this clash we run toward, escape from, navigate through, circle wide around and hide ourselves within these metaphors of ours—for good and for ill. Metaphors that have become so deeply internalized they become unconscious extensions of ourselves. And while there were many of these at play in the case of Charlottesville, two loomed writ large. On one side, a battleground that animated a God of vengeance, stimulated mercilessness and violence toward neighbor, and propelled a belief of scarcity. On the other, a playground lifting up a God of infinite mercy, neighbor as sister and brother, and an economy of abundance.
In a recent Op-ed in the New York Times entitled How to Roll Back Fanaticism, David Brooks reflects on some of these behaviors that LF associates with seeing the city and our communities as battlegrounds: anxiety, conspiracy, dread, and fanaticism. He is convinced—and LF is as well—that the antidote to this battleground is the virtue of modesty and that it is “time for assertive modesty to take a stand.”
While it must be acknowledged that in and through the metaphor of playground there are still many sharp realities that can hurt, maim, and tragically even kill, LF is convinced that seeing the city as playground is the way forward. Our understanding of city as playground forms and informs our capacity “for assertive modesty”: to stand united with those whose metaphor moves them to be people of peace, while opposing those whose view moves them to violence.
And in the end seeing the city as God’s playground as a framework for “assertive modesty” frees us up to do perhaps the most important and challenging thing of all: loving our enemies.