‘…All night and all day, among the tombs and in the mountains, he would howl and gash himself with stones.’ ‘“What is your name”, Jesus asked. “My name is legion”, he answered “for there are many of us.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the district.’ (Mk 5:5.9-12)
I just wonder if our culture, as a collective entity, can be modelled on this individual demoniac. As a culture, we also carry the weight of a permanent self-harming, via our sins, mindless consumption, wars, etc. This negativity is so real − ‘legion’ − that it can become an independent actor, a real ‘influencer’. The presence of this negativity has an effect on the quality of life which our culture leads. This negative force can blindfold communities and can they end up in making wrong decisions. The wrong decision.
How can this negativity − the demons of a culture − be detected? Is not this scrutiny coming from its absolute opposite, love itself? Saint Francis de Sales can be helpful here. His careful analysis shows how complex this realm of love is. The interaction of human and divine love is perhaps the richest and most organic system, and our ‘high tech’ resource. It excels the importance of artificial intelligence, and all the advances in information technology.
Our real eye to ‘send negativity out of our district’ is Francis’ distinction between loves. ‘The love of concupiscence is that by which we love a thing for the advantage that we except from it. Love of benevolence is that by which we love a thing for its own good.’ It is this later love, which gives us access to the experience of divine love, our friendship with God. It is this which has the power to undo or diminish the ‘power of demons’ residual in our culture.
‘If our esteem for our friend is great and unequalled but still remains comparable and proportionate to the others, such friendship will be termed dilection. If its eminence is beyond all proportion and comparison with others, it will be termed incomparable, sovereign, supereminent dilection. In a word, it will be charity and this is owed to the one sole God.’ (Treatise on the Love of God, Ch 13 ‘On the Difference between Loves’) Without encountering this Love, our culture remains self-harming, like the demoniac in our story.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..