Posts Tagged ‘ stuff ’

I am moved to wonder about the nature of things:

Things of this world are not bad. Things of this world are good; they are good because GOD made them. But, things of this world are not what we are made for; although we, too, are good. Things of this world exist to give us a choice. For, without options, without different things to choose from, we could not have any choice at all (by definition), let alone free will.

GOD gave us the intelligence and the possibilities so that we would have the freedom to choose. But, the freedom to choose comes at a cost: responsibility. We have the obligation to choose and the responsibility to be held accountable for our choices.

And the first, last and daily choice we cannot escape is the choice between GOD and the things of this world.

Two Goods.

GOD is good, things of this world are good. How about some of each? After all, it’s ALL good, isn’t it? Yasureyoubetcha.

However, while these mortal, flesh-n-bone bodies need things of this world to survive and even thrive, theses bodies will cease to function one day, and the things of this world will too (just ask the dinosaurs). I guess we are the ultimate house of cards on shifting sand. And, if all you see is a mortal, temporal, temporary, this-is-all-there-is existence, then your life just got really, really simple, and really, really pointless. At least I am unable to convince myself that all of the heartache and body aches all thru my short, miserable life were meant to enable me to eat this pepperoni pizza.

Actually, I would not call five score years a “short” life, but the heartaches I have lost count of, and the body aches I have never counted are real enough.

So, where does that leave us? I mean, if we can’t depend on the things of this world to bring us satisfaction and even joy, then what is there? I mean, what point is life after you have the iPhone and the 60 inch flat screen tv and you can tell your co-workers you’re flying to Lexington, Kentucky for the weekend, just to watch some horses run around a dirt track (and, only once, at that). At least the Indianapolis 500 takes all day, not just two minutes. (No, I’ve never seen either race, even though I grew up in Indiana.)

Maybe the things we can touch and smell and hear are not all there is? Maybe we do have a choice between things of this world and, um, I guess it would be “things not of this world.” If we have free will, then I guess we do have that choice. If we don’t have that choice, then we don’t have free will. Which would you want, if you (wait for it) had the choice?

Me? Both, thank you very much.

Catch-not-22

In fact, things of this world were made for us human beings; and we human beings were made for the things of this world. Pretty clever, huh? Kinda like, fish need water and birds need air, and presto (as if by magic) there is water for fish and air for birds. Who woulda thought? We human beings eat more different kinds of foods than any other creature (if you ever had balut or natoo, you know what I mean by “different”); we can live in more different climates than any other creature (if you live east of the Rocky Mountains, you can attest to what “different” means when it comes to winters, esp recently). When it comes to living in this world and doing things in this world, humans can do more different things (to varying degrees of success) than any other creature. I guess that house of cards is made up of jacks? (That would be “jack of all trades” for those of you that haven’t had you first double shot espresso of the day.)

In summary, human beings were made to go almost anywhere and do almost anything; there is very little about this physical world that is not accessible to human beings. Such versatility. Why? So that our choices could be very nearly limitless. So that our egos and abilities and talents could be given free reign. We are not big fish in a little pond. We are small fish in a unfathomable cosmos, and we want to explore it. We need to. We have to. We are made to.

So, what’s the catch? The catch is, damn it, we are responsible for our choices. Or, to quote someone who used to be a very important person in my life: “choices have consequences.”

Tilting at windmills

The fact of the matter is, there are worldly things that are good to have and other-worldly things that are good to have. Stands to reason.  You know: some of this, some of that; a little bit more of this, a little bit less of that. For some, it seems like 100% here-n-now; if it feels good, do it; the person who dies with the most toys wins; and 0% whatever else there might be “out there”. Certainly our culture pounds this mentality into us: get as much as you can, while you can, and absolutely nothing – and no one – else matters.  Whew!  No wonder we’re tired all the time: running day and night after the latest and greatest novelty.  And people think Don Quixote was a fool.

But this brings us to what it is you put in your old kit bag.  First, there is more than enough in the world for most of us.  Most people who have the resources to be reading this are sufficiently wealthy and live in sufficiently free societies to have a veritable cornucopia at their fingertips (if you are not one of these, please advise: I really don’t have very good grasp of who my audience might be).  What you pick and put into your lives is just a small fraction of what you could.  Everyday, we chase after more and more, fall into bed exhausted and join the same rat race again the next day.  There is no danger of running out of stuff; either stuff to do, or stuff to stuff into our garages and our rented storage containers.

And, while we are gathering stuff to stuff ourselves with, where is GOD?  Where is our preparation to meet Him?  Oh yeah, “Tomorrow – I’ll love ya tomorrow.”  Maybe not.

In the first place, why are you convinced you’ll have tomorrow?  All you really have is today.  Yesterday is just a memory, and tomorrow is just a dream.  In the second place, if you’ve spent all your earthly time pursuing things of this world and haven’t given your life after this one much thought, then how will you recognize it when death hits you in the face like a cold, wet fish?

Besides, hope is not really a strategy.

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While this essay really doesn’t end here; too much has happened in my little corner of the world recently to keep on this particular track.  Rest assured: I’ll come back to it  (as some of you know, with me there is no such thing as a short answer).  In the meantime, mosey on over to BernardGaynor.com.au   I am a very proud United States Marine (no longer on active duty), and I just can’t imagine going through what has recently happened to Major Gaynor.  Sadly, I don’t think the Red, White and Blue is far behind.

Get out of Jail Free

Dunno why – tho I can certainly speculate – but the world has gotten to the point where it’s obsessed with “I want it all, and I want it now.” Of course, in this mad rush to accumulate toys, there is no time to consider the consequences, the cost. If there is any threat of accountability, then Flip Wilson’s classic “the devil made me do it” leaps to mind (if that is too, um, flip, then you can always go for John Belushi’s apology to Carrie Fisher in “The Blues Brothers,” as theatrical as it was insincere). A life of no payback and no pay-it-forward. A life of no stubbed-toes, skinned knees or bloody noses. The narcissists wouldn’t be so intolerable if they didn’t expect others to pay for their self-aggrandizement.

But, completely convinced that everything good is because of my efforts, and everything bad is the result of your screw-ups, we press on regardless. Until cut-down, or slowed-down, by some unfair quirk of fate, when we reach into our (or their) hip pocket and pull out the sacred “Get Out of Jail Free” card. And then life is not forever changed, and we go right back to the same hedonistic existence we have come to love, and expect. Infants are supposed to be all about themselves; aren’t adults supposed to be more than just large infants? What am I missing?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Even if you don’t believe in Jesus the Nazorean as the Son of GOD, there is still the purely historical account of the purely human preacher who was no less than a member of a long line of rabble-rousers (aka prophets). And, as well documented as anything else was in those days, the Romans were not impressed, and summarily executed Him. And, within another generation, razed Jerusalem (as if to say, “We’ll show those pain-in-the-ass Jews”). Those penniless preachers who made the moneyed elite squirm paid for their beliefs with their lives (voluntarily, as opposed to someone like Julius Caesar who probably did not throw himself on Brutus’ sword).

So, is Jesus my “Get Out of Jail Free” card? If He saved me, “once for all,” then I can pretty much do anything I damn-well please, and Bob’s your uncle (or something else equally non-sensical), right? Some would say, yeahsureyoubetcha (no, that’s not Yiddish, it’s Yooper). There’s a whole mess of folks who point at the empty cross…and pray, “I’m saved, I can do no wrong; and the rest of you are going to Hell.”

Really? Jesus died for me so I could avoid all unpleasantness? His only possession was the cloak on his back, so that I could accumulate so much stuff that my three-car garage doesn’t have enough room in it for my cars? (see George Carlin’s treatise on “Stuff” – it’s on YouTube, like most everything else). Maybe so; but I don’t buy it. Call it my old-fashioned, middle class and mid-west upbringing. The alphabet I was taught began with the letter “a” which stood for accountability – not accounts.

To me, the empty cross is hope; but I can’t allow myself to skip the Crucifix. I can’t allow myself to expect that this world owes me “the car and the dream vacation.” I’ll never believe that He suffered so that I wouldn’t have to. His whole point rather, was choice; and He showed me that free will is a two-edged sword. Christ offered salvation to me, He did not guarantee it. He’s knocking on the door, but I have to open it. I have to pick up my pallet and walk. I have to do something.

There’s the story of the guy who gets down on his knees, day after day, to pray to GOD for help. “Dear Lord, please just let me win the lottery. Please Lord. Somebody’s gonna win, let it be me.” Finally, more out of exasperation than anything else, a voice comes out of the heavens, “For pity’s sake, man. Meet me half way: buy a ticket.”

Yes, Jesus is my “Get Out of Hell Free” card; but I’ll be damned if I’m going to get to the Pearly Gates and have Him wave the card in front of my face and ask, “What have you done for me?”

Busy

I think I still have the top I had in Fourth Grade. As I recall, it I could get it going fast enough, it would spin a “long” time. Occasionally, it did spin a long time; but the instant it left my hand, I lost all control. In a manner of speaking, so did it. As long as it stayed upright, it would dance around, bouncing off of obstacles, until it finally ground to a halt (maybe even “halted to ground” – as only tops can do). Other than spinning around its own center, it was entirely without direction.

I know people like that: they are full of action and devoid of direction. In some cases, they quite literally don’t know why they do what they do; they just react to the moment. We have all heard that we should live in the moment; the past and the future exist only in our imaginations. Well, there are quite a few people behind bars that might beg to differ (on both ends of the spectrum). Perhaps some of those incarcerated lived too much in the moment? There are others who are as shortsighted but have stayed within the law (or, haven’t gotten caught). They are incarcerated in their own lack of direction, purpose. And so, their tomorrows won’t look much different from their todays. They might say that if they had it all do to over again, they’d do it all the same. In other words, life was as good at it gets when they were infants?

These are busy people. Busy, busy, busy. All year long, they are busy. Busy doing what? Hell if they know; I know I don’t. None of these whirling dervish look alikes ever ask themselves if they are busy about the right things – the things that matter, important things, dare I say First Things. And now we enter the “silly season” when these people who are ‘busy’ all year suddenly shift into high gear and become frantic, frenetic, hyperkinetic (Roget’s Thesaurus, 707.24). While still juggling all those balls they have been keeping in the air, or keeping their plates heaped to overflowing, they add more…stuff (thank you, George Carlin). And there will be stories again this year about holiday stress and excess and the always regrettable suicide.

I don’t believe it is a matter of getting out a chain saw and clear-cutting; I think a more surgical approach is in order. More pick-and-choose, and less throw out the baby with the bathwater. Make the conscious, deliberate decision to do what is truly important; and the other stuff can go begging. After all, if it is just “stuff,” then you really shouldn’t be wasting your resources (time and energy) on it anyway. Don’t try to do it all; try to do less, but better. Yeah, less is more.

Maybe it is my own age that is causing me to more critically allocate my own resources? Maybe the youthful indiscretions that have come back to haunt my corpus? Maybe a lack of desire to have the next 30 years look like the last? Maybe I’m finally implementing the wake-up call I got back in 2005 April? I do know I have all my Christmas shopping done; and it isn’t because I am not doing any (like some years). I have all my Christmas cards addressed and stamped; and they all have a “keep Christ in Christmas” theme (The Adoration of the Magi tryptich by da Fabriano), no Santas or Rudolfs (and I waited until the Post Office released their religious seasonal stamps: Madonna Candelabra (Raphael), Virgin and Child (Gossaert), Holy Family). Sad to say, I have to work Christmas (yes, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day..and, ho hum – or should I say humbug? – Christmas Day night); so, like Thanksgiving, it won’t seem like a holiday (but that’s a different story).

I will know why I am doing what I am doing; and I will be doing those things on Page One as well as I can. The stuff on Page Two belong in the shredder anyway.

It is easy to laugh at “New Year’s Resolutions.” Like fruitcake, NYR are part of the season; and just as easily thrown away. But, taking stock of the past year is better than ignoring it (it is a record of choices you’ve made). And trying to do better next year is better than, well, just waiting and letting it happen (which it will do without you). Start with those things that really are important. Breathing is pretty much a given. Eating is definitely on the list, tho maybe not so much (not as important as breathing, and not indulged as much as in the past). Isn’t this easy? You already have two things on your list of What’s Really Important. Ok, they were gimmies. What’s next? You’re on your own: it’s your life. You might try exercise; I actually know a few people who might exercise too much (no, I am not among them – tho, I’d rather do too much than too little). Now that you are working on staying as healthy as possible as long as possible (so you don’t make yourself a burden to others), you could consider your personal life, your personal relationships, the other people in your personal life.

Don’t stop there. Busy is good; busy doing crap is not.