Writing to free the prisoner of one idea, crossing the bridge of paradox to truth, serving the legacies of Chesterton and Lewis who defended their faith in Christ
(Author’s Note: The original post was written in June of 2010)
In today’s fast paced world of technological changes, it is easier to feel “lost” in the multiple tracks of events, the speed of the constant shifting.
For some, in the natural feeling of overwhelm that ensues, there can grow a sense of chronic, low-level panic and constant questionings: Am I good enough to compete with the world instead of my own backyard? Do I have enough education to make it in the world marketplace? How do I plan for this new norm of 5-6 career changes over the course of a lifetime in this age of globalization? The list of questions goes on as the world shifts. Anxiety for the “self” and its “existence” in this field of enlarging competition and choice seems a natural outworking. But should it be this way? Why is it this way? What is it saying about us as a community, as individuals?
Social Networks abound with a cacophony of “voices” in blogs, wall-postings, podcasts, and wiki’s. Everyone is telling their “story” but it is a “story” without a central story of culture or any “holds” at the center. So there are no permanent anchors, no familiar reference points to speed connections and associations from story to story. With only 24 hours in the day, surely none of us can be expected to read them all. But as we try to do so there is a consequence: we seem to have less and less time for our real relationships. Are we as real “selves” disappearing in the sea of ever-increasing individuality that looks more and more alike?
Technology lures us with the promise of absolute control of our individual worlds: information at our command. But as we eye with machine-like rapidity, every new consumer product, every new celebrity as postmodern hero, every emerging “lifestyle”, every news story, and every social cause, are we trying to add the conjunction “and” to everything we want and want to do? Are we thinking it is possible to find peace and find out who we are at the same time by doing this?
Note what Public Opinion Analyst and Social Scientist, Daniel Yankelovich wrote about our “And” culture:
“If you feel it is imperative to fill all your needs, and if these needs are contradictory or in conflict with those of others, or simply unfillable, then frustration inevitably follows. To Abby and to Mark as well, self-fulfillment means having a career and marriage and children and sexual freedom and autonomy and being liberal and having money and choosing non-conformity and insisting social justice and enjoying city life and country living and simplicity and graciousness and reading and good friends and on and on. The individual is not truly fulfilled by becoming ever more autonomous. Indeed, to move too far in this direction is to risk psychosis, the ultimate form of autonomy. The injunction”–notice this now please– “The injunction that to find one’s self, one must lose one’s self, contains the truth any seeker of self-fulfillment needs to grasp.” (1)
Yankelovich echoes Jesus in the challenge to examine what we think it is to exist: what does it truly mean to be alive? What does it feel like? Jesus’ words challenge us to ask these questions when he says: “…whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:25b)
In the “And” culture, the legion of choices should challenge us to start asking the hard question of ourselves as did Jesus: For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? (Matt 16:26). Consider the time it takes us even to look over our choices in this overwhelming world of choices, and then compare that to the idea of our possible death in the next minute! When that thought sinks down into our deepest grasp, we can begin to realize that finding ourselves is not in trying to experience a myriad of choices as fast as we can (hoping we don’t make a mistake and miss out on what we really wanted!) before its all over, but in realizing that this way of life is not what Christ died for on the cross. No, He died so that you and I could live a real life of self-fulfillment and live it more abundantly than being forced into the constraints of so many choices, so little time. That in itself is the ultimate contradiction of having it all. The only way to real abundance in life, is to deny ourselves now, and follow Christ. Please promise yourself to examine this choice before any others.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” — Matt. 16: 24-28
(1) An Ancient Message, Through Modern Means, to a Post Modern Mind, Dr. Ravi Zacharias, 1998
Taken from © DailyQuote, M.S. Reed, 2007
Till next time….
God bless you, M. S. Reed, 2010, Dilseacht, le gra go deo
July 1, 2012: A Forthwrite Addendum…
Today a headline off the NYT desktop push caught my eye: The ‘Busy’ Trap. Please take the time to read it as it extends what I have discussed here and in private musings when I observe the self-imposed busyness of our world. In fact it made me recall a recent getogether with friends, a ‘makeup’ Christmas due to our ‘busy-ness’: theirs self-imposed, mine, I fancied more and more, to be the projection of a James Thurber like scene: me tied by a noose trailing a red pick-up truck driven by ‘busy’ people whose lives I am connected to on a long dusty dirt road. I emphatically agree with the writer from NYT. For several years now I have felt ‘forced’ into this busy-ness.
We decided to meet near my turf (for some novelty compared to their turf) and go out to eat and trade our gifts. The trade took place between cars with a few words about what might be in the sacks later to be opened out of each other’s sight. For lunch, we found ourselves in the predicament of being busy trying to find something ‘quickly’ to assuage hunger rather than enjoyment of the conversation and meal. Then, as if on cue, we found ourselves taking a small diversion away from a relaxed afternoon adventure among friends so that thoughts could be shared and real bonding could take place. Instead, cell phones connected to other friends (I wondered if much better company than myself) with whom appointments were being made for dinner that evening. One felt rushed through the whole experience as if there were no importance to any of what we were doing except in the doing of it in order to do more. In order to forget ‘momento mori‘ it seemed we had to forget making the experience memorable for ourselves.
I carry a continuing conversation about these things and other lesser or grander matters with myself from time to time, a gift (or curse) I share with a poetry mentor friend of mine who used to talk to me about his “conversations this week with myself”. Every time I converse with myself about this subject, I come to the same conclusion: Momento Mori. It’s a latin phrase meaning ‘Remember you will die’. Since the Puritans got ahold of it, I think perhaps many an American thinks its too strong a concept to be useful. They did tend to overdue on the meanings of things. But I would ask that we all take a measured view of the phrase here without that prejudice.
You see, I don’t think the author of the NYT article has gone far enough in his observations and conclusions. It’s not just that people are fearful that their lives won’t have meaning, that old existential argument. It’s about what the Christ so accurately stated over 2000 years ago: “…whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:25b). Our ‘busy-ness’ is a matter of life and death. It’s fear of dying that keeps us so busy doing what, in the end, really doesn’t matter. Just like the plethora of jobs we have created in our society to put layers and layers in-between why we do the jobs in the first place and the eventual goal: so we can eat. We do it in the busy way we do it to get out of an ancient penalty: “In the sweat of your face you will eat bread”. The fear of actually getting our hands dirty in, well, real dirt and the fear of bending our backs in, well, real work keeps us busy trying to avoid it. We would rather ride a bike for 4 hours down a country road accomplishing nothing rather than tilling a field,( incidentily losing weight and toning), accomplishing something. We do it because of Momento Mori. Every day we pile more in to the day to do to push away that inevitability. God is there, in the background, only for the world of us who do this. A dim shadow we have almost distracted ourselves from with so many things to do…
But the more we disentangle ourselves from the possiblity of God and an everlasting life that is far more important than this one, the more we are bound to busy ourselves in this present life into an everlasting death.