Be Amazed!… Or Bored…Or Whatever

I’m still trying to work through this post, so it might sound somewhat dis-jointed, but the main idea is the need to recapture wonder and mystery in our everyday lives. In other words to begin living contemplatively. The lack of these things has greatly reduced the God-awareness in our lives.

The Shattered Lantern, by Ronald Rolheiser, which may be the most important book I’ve read in the last five years, has this as it’s theme.

Rolheiser observes three characteristics of our culture– pragmatism, narcissism and an unbridled restlessness– that are both cause and effect of this death of God-consciousness in our lives.

Pragmatism reduces worth to utility, and truth to whatever works. Something only has value if it produces, and if it works, well it must be right, Right?. Thus beauty has worth only if it can be used toward some end. “If you’ve got it, flaunt it”… or sell it… or manipulate with it, but you can’t just appreciate it. 

Narcissism takes a famous hymn and changes it a little, “Turn your eyes upon yourself, look full in your own wonderful face, and everything else will grow strangely dim…”.

Combined, these two reduce our lives to a search for the answer to this question, “What can it (God, others, the world) do for me?

The unbridled restlessness has us searching for something, we don’t exactly know what, but we know it must be out there to be learned, or experienced. Often this means crossing traditional moral boundaries and pushing experiences to an earlier age. 

Here are some quotes from others, and a few thoughts on the subject.

“H. L. Mencken said, ‘The problem with life is not that it’s a tragedy, but that it’s a bore.’ A child who is filled with wonder is also filled with a sense of enchantment, a sense of significance, a sense of meaning. When wonder ceases, boredom and emptiness begin to stalk existence.”

-Ravi Zacharias

Boredom and emptiness sure describe a lot of folks these days. And wonder and amazement seem to be in short supply. “Nothing tastes”, as Marie Antoinette once said.

“The greatest of all illusions is the illusion of familiarity.”- G. K. Chesterton

The illusion of familiarity, thinking we actually know it all about anything, causes loss of wonder. Kind of a “been there, done that, bought the t-shirt” view of the world around us. “Show me something I haven’t seen” seems to be one mantra of the age. The problem is we’ve seen it all, a thousand times or more… by the time we’re twelve.

“By age 18, a U.S. youth will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence.” -American Psychiatric Association

We don’t even bat an eye at things that would have horrified us in earlier days. Familiarity doesn’t breed anything, it deadens.

“For youth who reported being sexually active , the average age of first sexual intercourse was 14.1 years for boys and 14.5 years for girls.” Canadian Council of Ministers of Education, “Canadian Youth, Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Study 2003”

“The average age at which teenagers have their first sexual experience steadily decreased during the 1990s, according to background information in the paper, and now almost half of American adolescents report that they have had sex by the time they graduate from high school.”- New York Times

Something about “Don’t awaken love before its time” comes to mind. 

Another mantra of the age-“Tell me something I don’t already know.”

Another mantra, another problem.

Exploding amounts of information and easy access to that information mean that if we don’t know something we can sure find out about it in a hurry with almost no effort on our part… If you can wade through all the info that we are flooded with. 

“Print, film, magnetic, and optical storage media produced about 5 exabytes of new information in 2002. Ninety-two percent of the new information was stored on magnetic media, mostly in hard disks. How big is five exabytes?If digitized with full formatting, the seventeen million books in the Library of Congress contain about 136 terabytes of information; five exabytes of information is equivalent in size to the information contained in 37,000 new libraries the size of the Library of Congress book collections. “- How Much Information? 2002, U. C. Berkeley Research Project

Is there a way forward, or even back? Yes, but this post is long enough already. More later.

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2 Responses to “Be Amazed!… Or Bored…Or Whatever”

  1. Rob Scott Says:

    It seems to me that this is a typical pattern for a culture. We are following the path of our forbears, the Romans. We’re crumbling from within, and the slow slide into irrelevance has already begun. Soon India and China will eclipse our mighty economic muscle and we’ll become more like Britain — still powerful in some ways, but mostly a has-been. Maybe it will be good for us.

    There are certainly ways back, but like an alcoholic going into detox, it won’t be easy and it won’t be fun. Just like individuals, a narcissistic culture may prefer self-destruction to self-control and healing.

    We (Christians) scream that we have the answer, but we appear to be like that self-righteous relative who berates his drunken nephew, but won’t inconvenience himself to intervene. We prefer to carp and point fingers, tut-tutting in satisfaction among ourselves. And we are closet drunks; we just don’t want to admit it.

  2. The Thinker Says:

    Excellent article, beautiful insight. Much required for such fast paced world today.

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