The glory of man: His ability to compartmentalize

(This one is a bit rough and I found it sitting in my notebook gathering dust since it was written during a long hospital visit a couple months ago.)


The glory of man is his ability to compartmentalize. This allows him to fight ferociously until his sword handle is fused to his palm (1 Samuel 23:10). It enables a soldier to shoot and suffer fire all night long without being distracted by thoughts of his wife and children back home.

Put to ill use, it allows the same man seemingly faithful in a thousand ways to have an affair on the side. He is so good at dividing reality, it is as if the other woman still doesn’t exist when he’s in his wife’s arms.

A kindly man can be wholly empathetic and then walk away and cease to give a damn. This can be the source of both cold false love and astonishing bravery.

Someone is always using knowledge of a man’s vices to wholly discredit his life’s work, but this practice is often illegitimate and dishonest. Augustine had a sexual problem; does that negate his saintly life? Some of it, ye, all of it, no. Luther spouted hate in his senile old age. Does that redact all those prior years of grace and bravery? Barth had a mistress (maybe), so everything he wrote about God is just a bad joke, right?

All of these people, including every saint on the books was a sinner until the day he or she died. But dirt bags are the only sorts of folks Jesus saves. And save them all he did. And rise to often greatness while still living on this old earth while their eyes were fixed on him, they did that too.

These attackers have real ammunition, but they always aim for the whole continent of a person’s life and work assuming their one bomb will vaporize a thousand square miles and send the whole thing to the bottom of the ocean. They forget that the glory of man is his power to divide his mind and give undivided attention.

This is Adam’s lot. Eve was given other more balanced treasures.

I think one could argue that man should NOT be divided and certainly that is often the case, but I think it must still be a pre-fall power, something tied to the heart of creativity. It gets twisted and corrupted and abused to enable great sin and shield the horror we perpetuate from our own consciences. However, it also frees us from chains, focuses the light we receive like a lens, and makes possible the Bach Partita for Violin, The Cathedral of Notre Dame, Apollo 11, Aquinas’s Summa, and Robin Hood’s archery.