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The rush-hour cross
Traffic waves are my new favorite metaphor for moral law. They’re one of the easiest ways to see how “refusing to participate in an illusion reveals it as an illusion,” without having to do anything particularly virtuous.
But yesterday I left out the most important thing:
This tactic of “revealing an illusion by refusing to participate in it” was invented by Jesus Christ.
Here’s how the philosopher Rene Girard describes it in I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (emphasis mine):
The victory of Christ has nothing to do with the military triumph of a victorious general: rather than inflicting violence on others, Christ submits to it. What we should retain in the image of triumph is not the military aspect but the idea of an extraordinary event offered to the view of all humankind, a public exhibition of what the enemy had to conceal in order to defend himself. The Cross has stripped away this defense, this reality that exists through deception.
Compare Girard’s description of Jesus with Gandhi’s own words:
I seek entirely to blunt the edge of the tyrant’s sword, not by putting up against it a sharper-edged weapon, but by disappointing his expectation that I would be offering physical resistance. The resistance of the soul that I should offer would elude him. It would at first dazzle him and at last compel recognition from him, which recognition would not humiliate him but would uplift him.
—Mahatma Gandhi, from his writings on mkgandhi.org (emphasis mine)
They are clearly describing the same phenomenon!
Traffic waves excited me because they provide a way to witness Jesus and Gandhi on your everyday commute.
And the easier such lofty moral things are to see with your own eyes, the easier they are to believe in, and act on — and that’s the ballgame right there, folks.
Pics for proof: