Monday, November 14, 2011

"How To Live Before You Die" thoughts. Part 1

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

From Steve Jobs address to Stanford Graduates 2005
Steve Jobs' life was certainly an American story built upon ingenuity, capitalism, hard work, adventure and risk taking. He accomplished what most of us merely dream of. He followed hard after the things that intrigued, the stuff he loved -- and it paid off in many ways. He was a fortunate man, the epitome of the American dream, doing what he loved to do, gaining influence and wealth and, apparently, satisfaction. By all means, let us look, listen, and learn.

And so we all read his words. Lofty words. Inspiring for some.
"... the only way to do great work is to love what you do."
Am I saying it is bad to do what you love to do? No! Hey, if that works out for you, then Oh Happy Day! But to say that satisfaction comes only by doing what you "...believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do" is actually somewhat condescending, revealing a measure of unknowing.

These words may very well be somewhat defeating for many who aren't in a situation that will allow such -- pardon my saying so -- self-indulgence. Some folks, actually the vast majority of people on this planet, have a simpler goal called survival. They are not middle class Americans. They work where they can, do what they know to do, eat the food they can afford, and are blessed to learn to appreciate the simple things in life. Forget the American dream.

Consider the Nepali who works the field all day (the same family field that great-grandfather worked) to provide sustenance for his family. I submit that he is doing a truly great work, a responsible work, a wise and not foolish work. Maybe he would rather be putting out to sea in an unknown vessel, leaving it all behind, searching for the dream of doing what he loves. Well, I vote for caring for the family myself. Is his work really in vain? Might he possibly know satisfaction in spite of doing a job he does not "love"?

Or how about the eleven year old son who cares for the younger sister when mom and dad are mercilessly killed by guerrilla gunfire? Is it not possible for him to find satisfaction in the fruit of his labor and care rather than in the labor itself? I pray to God it might be so, for his lot in life is more common to the common folk than the fairytale of the man who becomes the richest man in the world by doing what he loves to do.

Let's note this: The audience to whom these words were addressed perhaps were already several notches above such lifestyles. Let's remember that. And let's remember the small percentage of humanity they represent.

That said, I recommend looking for an approach to life that meets all men right where they are, unlimited by their circumstance of education, social clime, health, or wealth. Let's search for a philosophy that lifts the broken and meets the need of the downcast orphan in Ugandan city streets, that brings satisfaction to a man whether he is in prison or sitting in a palace throne atop the highest mountain. If the purpose for living doesn't apply to everyone, it's not really a purpose for life.

Those of you who can search for satisfaction and purpose in the "doings" of your life, "do" all you can. See if you find a message for the one suffering from starvation through pursuing a life of satisfaction in your own "doing". Share your hope in doing what you love with the 50 year old man whose life has been devastated and broken by drugs and alcohol, leaving a trail of broken relationships in his wake. Go ahead and tell him that the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. True, he may be totally inspired and charge ahead full speed ahead. But more likely he will hang his head even lower in defeat.

Nope. I'm not buying it. This is the pursuit of happiness twisted and perverted. Americans have fallen prey to the "happiness guru", to borrow a favorite phrase from Sandra Bullock's character in While You Were Sleeping. We idolize personal happiness and have become a self-centered, immature, disrespectful culture. "You deserve a break today." "Have it your way." It's all about us -- or so we have been lulled into believing.

Let's champion the man who sacrifices his personal pursuit of happiness for the sake of something bigger than himself. Let's honor that woman who sets aside her own agenda and longings so that she can find a greater joy in serving others. Let's acknowledge the youngster who shows deference to his elder by listening with respect and answering politely when spoken to, showing an ability to set aside his own foolish impulses to blurt out, "I already KNOW this!"

Self-seeking is small, inclusive by definition. It's focus is tiny. Do self-seeking people sometimes accomplish big things? Yup, they do. That doesn't mean they should be iconized. Nope. Not at all.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Unending ending

We mentioned chapters. Life-chapters relegated to memory files.


Where do they go? What happens?
Yellowed, crumbling pages. Photos indistinct, losing clarity.


A lifetime comprised of mini-lifetimes, moving necessarily through the story, waking to a new setting. Sometimes




And inevitably


Until that Day.
His Day.
The one He owns.

The chapter eternal opens.
The one I'm waiting for.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Undoing Idols

Their idols are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands. Psalm 115.4
Idols cannot see, hear, speak, feel, think. They are lifeless, and yet people live for them. Statues may be passe', but academics, money, fame, and career are current idols popular to American culture.
And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them. Psalm 115.8
Well, that's not very nice, is it. The Word of God is seldom milk toast. This slights the majority of the populace, you and I included unless we are careful to take routine inventory and ruthlessly tear down the idols.