Exploring where life and story meet!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Where happiness is...

Money can't buy it, fame can't procure it, power can't obtain it, thrills can't give it, stuff can't offer it.  Chasing after it is like pursuing a rainbow, instead it creeps upon us when we are least suspecting it but if we turn suddenly to glimpse it, it is gone.  Our circumstances do not determine if it is ours to have or not: young or old, single or married, kids or no kids, rich or poor, famous or obscure, it doesn't matter.  It has become an idol or an ideal in Western culture, this pursuit of happiness, mostly because no one truly knows what it is any longer.  The ancients (anyone who lived before the advent of 1900s) had this quaint idea that happiness and virtue had something in common, namely that one could not have the former without the latter.  And in a culture whose only virtue is individuality, no wonder it has become such a fleeting concept.  We buy the right clothes, watch the right entertainment, read the right books, make so much money, hang with the right crowd, but still we are discontent, thus we must do so more and more, yet ever the hole deepens, the chasm widens, and we are further still from our idealized state.

But we are seeking fulfillment in circumstances rather than within ourselves.  The ancients knew they could not control most of their external circumstances, but what they had full control over was their own character, actions, words, and thoughts.  Modern man blames his failings on his parents, his genes, his education, his job, the world in general, bad luck, even his diet, but never thinks that it might have something to do with his own lack of character.  For we are told from the cradle that we are all special and perfect and good and that life in general will be wonderful and then we get out into the real world only to discover it is all a pack of lies and we are miserable therein.  We focus our energy on good grades, musical talent, athletics, dance, or any other skill or talent, rather than on becoming decent, respectable people.  We are taught to seek value in our skills and achievements rather than in the 'content of our souls,' and then when we suffer a crippling injury ending our football career, what then is left to life?  Or if we are not overly skilled in any one discipline or field, what is the point at all?  Life is pointless so why not live as it pleases you?

Modern culture has come to see children either as a burden, a nuisance, something to be avoided lest they destroy 'your' life or an idol through which your own broken dreams can be realized, rather than unique individuals who are both a blessing and a responsibility.  It is all about 'me' and nothing else matters.  No wonder we look to the gods (ourselves) and find them disappointing.  Happiness is found by focusing on something completely other than the self, forgetting oneself for the moment and losing oneself entirely in the other: a sunset, a baby's laugh, a celebration of another's joy, a beautiful song, a bird on a branch, a crocus pushing through the snow, the hush of a dying day.  These are mortal whispers, hints, echoes of that greater thing called Joy, a place to which each of us is called, but few of us pause long enough in our pursuit of happiness to even realize it.

Forget all you ever learned about self-esteem and the innate wonderfulness of yourself and how the world is just a splendid place and everything will work out happily ever after with absolutely no effort on your part.  Look around you, look at yourself.  You know you are flawed, broken, hurting, lonely, frenzied, and often feel adrift; so too is the world full of sorrow, grief, evil, and malice.  It is not the happy place you were told to expect since the beginning nor are you the wonderful darling all your teachers and coaches proclaimed you to be.  Yet your inmost heart says things should be otherwise.  What gives?  Instead of pretending the world is as it ought to be, perhaps we should discover why it isn't.  Pretending you are well when you are ill does not make you better nor does ignoring death and sin make them go away or negate their consequences.

The good news is, there is a cure and a happily ever after, but it is not found within ourselves.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Of dreams

Everyone has dreams, plans, and hopes, after all, is not 'the American Dream' a cultural necessity (at least if you happen to be an American)?  Here's an interesting little article on what happens when our dreams/plans don't quite work out the way we intend, after all, if we dream it, it must be ordained and approved by God, who designed and equipped us to dream in the first place, right?  Or maybe not, read the article, it is very short but may make you rethink the way Western culture has taught us to automatically think about our hopes and dreams.

Monday, February 2, 2015

On significance

Most people spend their entire lives trying to be significant, yet how can we matter at all in a world of over 6 billion now living and countless others who have gone before or are yet to come?  What matters what I do if it will all implode in a few billion years and revert again to meaninglessness?  Just look at your favorite social media sight and watch people compete for attention with their cute baby pics, cute dog stories, controversial links, etc.  Everyone is awesome, perfect, and wonderful, at least on their site, but inside, they are just like everyone else: wondering what it all means, what it is all about, and what is the point any way?

But we don't have to be 'good enough.'  We don't have to earn love or recognition, which completely floored me, for I spent my whole life in such vain pursuit, knowing I could never achieve anything even verging on success, but I don't have to.  There is Someone who knows every sparrow, every blade of grass, and who named the stars as He called them into being, Who gives everything meaning and significance and Who promises to love you no matter that you revile Him, ignore Him, or run from Him.  He knows every hair on your head and He is infinitely patient.  You can run, but you can't hide, but why do we want to run?  We want to do it all ourselves and take all the credit when we know, deep inside, it is utterly futile and pointless.  Like little children that want to dress themselves but can't quite get it right but utterly refuse our help.  What silly children we can be, like sheep that have wandered off, but thankfully there is a Father and a Shepherd that is just waiting for us to realize we can't get home in and of ourselves and to ask for His help.