Thursday, January 30, 2014

Weddings v Funerals

Despite his afflictions, man wants to be happy, only wants to be happy, and cannot help wanting to be happy. But how shall he go about it? The best thing would be to make himself immortal; but as he cannot do that, he has decided to stop himself thinking about it. 
-- Pascal, Pensees

Death stalks us. We run but, in the end, cannot hide. Death is inevitable. We do anything and everything to not think about it, to not see that it is at the end of every path we take so as to avoid it. And each morning we wake, our avoidance mechanisms are strengthened and emboldened, and death disappears deeper into the mists until, poof, we think it is gone, or at least so far off in the future that we can safely tell ourselves we will think about it, later. Much later.

Solomon said that it was better to be in the house of mourning than in one where there is feasting: it is better to go to a funeral than a wedding. (Ecclesiastes 7.2) How so? Who thinks this way? Isn’t this morose? Isn’t it better to celebrate life than to stare into the abyss of death? “Carpe Diem!” Well, sure, but what if all of our Carpe-ing is actually a seizing of the meaningless?

At funerals we are faced with mortality: my mortality.  Death whispers to me: “Your dead body will also be in a casket or your ashes in an Urn. Your day is coming. Your time here will end.” And herein is why funerals are – or can be – better to attend than weddings, because it is here where we are most prone to asking ourselves,

What is the meaning of life?
Why am I here?
In the end, what really matters?

Of course, the answers to these questions depend upon the answer to The Question, “What is the meaning of death?” After all, if death is meaningless, then so is life. If death is the obliteration of my existence—my self—then tell me what was the point of my being here? Why was I even alive? And how does anything actually “matter”?

“Come on, Wilson, our existence is an accident by way of some freaky accidents millions of years ago that came about by accidents out in deep dark ‘space’ that occurred billions of years ago. These accidents set in motion a series of occurrences that led to our having these bodies that wear out after so many years.”

So, life is an accident? Your life, my life, their lives are an accident, and death is simply part of that accident? Then what does that mean about our lives here on earth?

Even in asking ourselves serious questions about the meaning of life, we often still seek to avoid death. Think about this: If I never ask questions regarding the meaning of life, I cannot help but have a very shallow existence. However, if I never seek out the answer to the question of the meaning of death, how do I know that my answers to the questions about the meaning of life have any relationship at all to Truth or Reality? 

How many of us set about to create meaningful lives, with our meaningful goals and meaningful experiences, without actually sitting before the reality of death and asking ourselves, What does it mean? If it’s meaningless then what’s up with seeking to create a meaningful life? If death is The End, if death is meaningless, then anything we do here on earth is, in the words of Solomon, only so much “vanity and the grasping of wind.”  

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Wasting Yourself

Reading about Johnny Football hanging out with King James: “"When the opportunity was brought to me, I just told him (Manziel) if he's willing to listen to my advice, I was willing to give it," James said. "I was texting him weekly, before the games and after the games. I didn't know it would lead to us being together with business, but I was happy to help." If he is willing. Just. So.

How much energy and resources have we wasted on seeking to Be There for people who demonstrably don’t want us to do so? I say “demonstrably” because where we most often err are with those people who say they wanted our help to learn or change or grow but whose behaviors screamed: “I’m not really interested or willing.” But there we were pouring out whatever life and light we had … on a disinterested mind and heart. You’d think once we saw that all we had poured out for their sake wasn’t seeping in we’d get the hint, but, nooooo, we redouble our efforts! When we do this not only are we wasting the resources God has given us, we are robbing those who are willing and who actually want whatever it is we have to offer.  

Think of Jesus calling Peter to follow him, Peter saying, No Thank You, and Jesus still coming around every day seeking to teach him, and help him with his fishing business. Not going to happen. Christ gave himself to people who followed after him, to those who sought to be and do what he called them to. The “willing” people were the one’s who got his on-going attention.

Sometimes people start out all gung-ho and such but after realizing that learning and changing takes a great deal of sacrifice and work, they begin backing away. Imagine Peter saying, “Yes, I will follow you”, but then, a year later, saying, “Never mind. All that, ‘eat my flesh and drink my blood’ stuff, freaked me. I am out of here.” Maybe Jesus would have gone around a few times to check in with Peter, maybe had John do the same. What He wouldn’t do is give himself as much to Peter as he was to the disciples who remained with him. His mindset was, those who continue to hunger and thirst, get my life. Those who don’t, don’t.

Where this analogy breaks down is that—shock—none of us are Jesus, so we are not someone that all people need to heed. Your not wanting to learn from me or have my support in your quests is not necessarily an indictment against you. In fact, I make it a practice to never allow myself to think along those lines. If you don’t want me to Be There for you, then my thinking is, “I hope and pray you find people who can serve you on your quest,” and then watch out for those who want me to do so.

Of course, it took me years and years of wasting my resources to learn this. My thinking was that you could love people into changing and learning. Keep Being There, no-matter-what, and he or she will see the light. Maybe. Sometimes. Rarely. Usually, however, if they aren’t willing, if they don’t listen, if you are doing most all of the reaching-out, if they rarely take any of your advice and recommendations and run with them, then they don’t see you as someone from whom they can learn: no matter what they may be saying to you. Again, don’t think of this in terms of an indictment against either of you, just a sign telling you to pull back and move on to those who are willing.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Messy v Clean

Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox.  
--Proverbs 14.4 

So the Fidel Castro mini-me (Raul) decided to “permit” a small amount of entrepreneurialism in Cuba but quickly jumped in to “restore order” because the guys were branching out and producing in ways and places they weren’t supposed to.  Statists just hate the messiness of free markets where people think that they know best regarding how to get what they want with what they’ve got. And it galls them, when it comes to the marketplace, that freedom loving people see the State pretty much as a cop walking a beat to keep force and fraud out of the neighborhood. Silly people.

The Statist’s idea of how the marketplace should operate is where everyone proceeds along at the proper pace, earning a proper wage, making the proper purchase from the proper vendor at the proper price. The problem with all of this properness, however, is that throughout history it inevitably has led to empty troughs.

The “Ox” of freedom produces a lot of caca. Whether it’s in markets, the Public Square, or relationships, freedom is always messy. The freedom to succeed brings with it the freedom to make a mess of things, to err in judgment, and to fail. The alternative to the messiness of a free market is State control … and empty troughs.

Freedom also weighs a ton. All the responsibility for filling your trough is on you. There is no unalienable right to success and happiness: only the right to pursue them, as you deem best.  With the weight of responsibility firmly in place, the individual quickly learns that filling his trough will require self-motivation and self-government. Some people, however, don’t like mixing it up in the messy marketplace, and definitely do not want a ton of responsibility placed on their shoulders, so find that their troughs remain fairly empty. Rather than allowing this to motivate and educate these people, the State is called in to do-something-about-this: which it gladly does, of course.

“I’ll clean up the mess and will slaughter other people’s oxen and feed you.”

What it is actually doing, however, is taking away much of our freedom and replacing the weight of self-responsibility with the restrictive burdens of State control. Now the only people with full troughs are those in the upper echelons of the State and those corporations that make unethical side deals with it: deals unavailable to the self-employed and to small businesses. The result: an ever-increasing amount of empty troughs.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014