People follow habits all their lives, and even subsequent generations often follow in the routines and practices they know. This creates the impression that human behavior is predictable, and that strategies can be created which take advantage of human habits and routines. To a degree, this impression is valid.
But only to a degree.
Things change, and not always in predictable ways. Historians spend a lot of time trying to link apparent causes and effects in events, though often their judgment is subjective and really does not prove their case. The connection between events, conditions, and subsequent actions is real in some cases, but not all. Like the belief that human behavior will always proceed as it has gone before, the belief that the future can be predicted perfectly by drawing up behavioral theory from past events is mistaken, and when trusted too much will itself draw people into grave error. There is an additional factor to consider besides the habit and history of humanity, a factor which is not obvious but very real in the direction of events and reality as it unfolds. That factor is sometimes a catalyst, sometimes the controlling direction itself, and in some cases it displays an unstoppable force which turns back events against the tide of history and human predilection. That factor brought about the rise and fall of empires, whether Egypt, China, Rome, Britain, or America. That factor singled out individuals of note to rise in prominence, to be ‘in the right place at the right time’ for the need of the moment, whether an Adam, an Abraham, a Moses, a Cincinnatus, a Plato, a Paul, a a Galileo, a Luther, a Newton, a Washington, a Franklin, a Lincoln, a Churchill, and so on.
Such a simple noun, a word immediately rejected by some because it denies the individual his imagined right to hubris and narcissism, by others because it begins the illumination of our limits, by still others for its inconvenient Absolutism. Others read the word and imagine a puppet to do their bidding, or an intellectual construct which just so happens to fit their personal worldview. Others imagine a force against which to rebel, and others a weapon to use to coerce people to obey their will. Few indeed stop to consider God as a being, let alone listen for His word and will, much less submit to holiness as a vocation. Discovery of one’s mortality, defined not only in length of life but limits to control of your own condition and choices, is more than most of us can easily accept, myself included. And many people, overtly or without even knowing it themselves, rebel against the right and authority of God to rule His own creation.
When I was younger, I saw many things to wonder at, and many things to despair. Racism is not what it was, but it has not died away completely, only changed its face and membership. Sexism also continues, though it also metamorphosed into something unforeseen yet still potent and feral. It is still fashionable to praise the popular and the beautiful, while mocking and taunting those unfortunates whose appearance or station is not sufficient to guard them from the malice of the elite. The ‘wrong’ politics, an unfortunate disadvantage in articulation, a sudden shift in the mood of the media or the public, and everything can be lost in a moment. In the same way, we see over and over some new mogul, leader or celebrity who has done nothing to merit his sudden ascent to fame and power, but who seems almost to have been created for the moment. The matter is not often considered, and when it is, too often it is dismissed with a shrug and a word synonymous with ‘coincidence’. That is not to say that our efforts are unimportant, but it reminds us to consider that we do not control everything in our horizon, and there are many things out of view which will have great meaning for our fate and future.
Not all goes as planned, nor as badly as feared. I am old enough to recall many fears of Doomsday, and many promises of permanent improvement which failed. It is well to be cautious of the promises of men, whether good or ill, but important as well to trust God, for in His hands alone the truth unfolds.