Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thoughts on a Snowy Day

Snow on a December Saturday offers more time for reading, reflection and writing. Editorial pieces from two of my regular periodicals have occupied some of my thoughts. One begins with this observation: “The two most enjoyable activities of mankind are gossip and metaphysics –– people like to talk about other people, and they like to talk about how the world works.” The other quotes Eleanor Roosevelt: “Small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, great minds discuss ideas.”

From those complementary quips each editor goes in his own direction. One gives tribute to the passing of a man whose social circles cause me to think of how small my world is, while the other focuses on the huge societal shift in which reading substantive material is being displaced by entertainment, sound-bites and bottom-of-the-screen tickers.

So much of “life” in our culture is surface. Our obsessions are comfort, convenience and personal security –– one way to understand what St. John calls “worldliness” in his first letter. The focus of attention is appearance, both physical attractiveness and material opulence. Again, this is what Christian Faith warns against as the kind of worldliness that separates us from God.

How do we keep our bearings in this world? The “formula” is so simple.... and so hard: Be still and know that I am God. It is hard for us to be still; the pace of life around us is “hurry.” It is hard for us to find quiet; we are surrounded with noise.

If our routines are so harried that we are usually only reacting to the stimuli around us, how are we to know how to respond? In an ever-increasingly complex world, how are we to know what to think and how to choose our actions unless we (and by this I especially mean people who say they are committed to Jesus Christ) are taking the time to open ourselves to the wisdom of God and to live in the Spirit (instead of “the flesh”)?

I hardly watch TV but I (cannot help but) notice the “trash” magazines that clutter the check-out lanes in supermarkets –– the ones whose covers are full of immodest women and whose captions are consumed with bodies and affairs. I think about the inexcusable amount of money that is paid to the people who are at the top of our entertainment scale: actors, singers and sports players, while many in such things as human services and food production can barely make a living.

Our American society has not had to face a total crisis of security since the first half of the twentieth century. I cannot imagine today’s city-dwellers voluntarily ordering themselves in a soup line as they did during the Great Depression. I cannot imagine the total population complying with things like gas rationing as they did during World War II. I fear that the spiritual strength for internal restraint has so eroded that we are only one major crisis away from anarchy.

Spiritual life is not just “warm-fuzzies” when we go to church (if it is that at all!). Spiritual life is entering into the Spirit of God so that we know who we are as image-of-God beings.... as people who face every day a hostile (fallen) environment.... as people who are invited to so follow the One who came into our world to reveal Father-God that we become like Him.... and in so doing, live distinctive lives as we face the varied circumstances of life.

These are some of my thoughts on a snowy day.

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