Here I must say… I see very readily the kind of unbridled restlessness that pervades our world. If I were to speak of all three of these Kill Joys as false gods, or idols I would name them this way:
First, Narcissism – the god of “self”
Second, Pragmatism – the god of the empirical.
And third, unbridled restless – the god of experience.
Our flesh thirsts, hungers, longs for experience. And our culture provides an over-abundance of experiences on which we may gorge our appetites to the point of exhaustion. We have allowed ourselves to be put in an environment of constant over stimulation. All of our senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch are given so much stimuli that we become numb to the “ordinary” and special occasions of heightened senses cease to be special occasions.
The way we eat. For many of us, most of us, myself included, hunger is never a real threat. We have refined everything … every taste … from the bitter … to the sweet … to the sour … to the savory. It is all intensified and has even in its most concentrated forms, become mundane. Our addictions to caffeine have moved us from coffee, to soda, to No Doz pills, and now energy drinks that contain unnecessary amounts of caffeine. And it isn’t just caffiene. It’s sweeteners. It’s movies that once satisfied us in black and white, now color, now high definition, now three dimensions. What is next, one wonders? And when will today’s thrillers be tomorrow’s sleepers?
The result of all this “experience” is that we are left with an unbridled restlessness. We simply cannot get enough experience. We cannot see enough, hear enough, eat enough, smell enough or touch enough. So we eat more, listen more, feel more, touch more… and find the emptiness of our lives leaving us desperate for something we cannot even name.
I think Rolhieser has it right when he says that the answer to the restless soul is contemplation. In fact, for those who are at least nominally Christian and would follow after the discipline of Christ himself… contemplation is a must.
For us to remove from the “high places” our gods of self, empiricism and experience, we must shut them out and consider how our very lives as temples of the Holy Spirit are aligned with the heavenly tabernacle… the true temple in which Christ is seated at the right hand of God. That is, by definition, what contemplation is. . . an aligning of temples. The inward temple with the heavenly.
I encourage you to stop pursing self, to stop relying solely on what “works,” to cease from “experience” long enough to examine the Holy Place. To consider the heaven in which Christ sits with all authority over heaven and earth… and from that place acquire (or to inquire of God for) an alignment for the soul.
May we be a people who can contemplate (with temple). May we align our inward Spiritual House for God with the place in which he resides heavenly. May the spirit within us cry out along with the seraphs and the cherubim…. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. Who was, and who is, and who is to come!”
It’s not much of an overstatement to say that Americans worship the God of “pragmatism.” If it works, do it. Rolheiser believes, and I think accurately, that our drive for effectiveness and efficiency is pulling joy out of our lives. Here’s my take.
I have been a first hand victim of pragmatism. I’ve seen it at play in my life both from a financial standpoint, but more importantly relationally. I think that is where it effects us most. It’s difficult to live in a relational world. That is, I think, intentional on God’s part. I think he means for life to be difficult but certainly not impossible when it comes to relationships. It is through the very struggle of relating to others that we grow stronger as human beings, and ultimately as spiritual beings.
If pragmatism is god… and relationships are where pragmatism is most practiced… then I think the use of anger is one of the most exalted altars on which we make our heathen sacrifices. Think of the ways people use anger to get things done… and we do it because, quite frankly, it works.
Violence, passive aggression, manipulation. All pragmatic expressions. Getting what we want through emotional manipulation.
The result is that we miss out on the joy of being who God intended us to be at peace. We also miss out on the joy of letting others be who God made them to be. I have to admit, between narcissism, this one (pragmatism) and what I’ll address in the third post (unbridled restlessness), I think pragmatism has me hammered more than the others.
What about you? How have you seen pragmatism at work in your world? What would life be like if we let God be God instead of “what works”?