Wednesday, January 04, 2006

"Wit" and what it's all about

The other day, we rented the DVD of Wit, and we finished watching it tonight. What a beautiful movie -- a spiritual movie -- from "HBO Films" of all places! As the professor, this brilliant scholar, is dying from cancer, she has this touching conversation with the nurse. Afterwards she says:
I can't believe my life has become so... corny.
Now is a time for simplicity. Now is a time for, dare I say it, kindness.
I thought being extremely smart would take care of it. But I see that I have been found out.
Being "extremely smart" doesn't count for a whole lot at the end.

I've continued to read through Searching for God Knows What, and the author talks a lot about the lifeboat theory of life.

Remember the exercise in school (in my case it was a high school psych class; other people had this exercise like in 3rd grade or something), where there are N+1 men and women all wanting to get into a lifeboat that can only hold N of them? If you stuff N+1 people in, they all die, but if only N are there, they can hold out 'til help comes.

His point, Miller's point in the parts I've been reading, is that much (most?) of the things people do, the things you and I do, are based on this theory -- that only so many of us can live, or only so many of us can feel good about ourselves. It's a mentality of scarcity. And we do things to try to stay above others in some stupid imaginary hierarchy, which, even though we hate it, we still obey.

I am trying to digest this, and trying not to push other people out of the imaginary lifeboat. And I'm continuing to read the book in light of what the Bible says, and finding that he's really on to something.

Here in the US, we have -- no, we are -- a very productive economic machine, which is very good for producing goods and services. It's not very good for producing a better life, though. On NPR's Talk of the Nation the other day, someone mentioned that the sort of average level of happiness in a country does not correlate positively with the level of economic development. That's right; having the basic needs met for most of a country's population doesn't mean that people in that country are happier. I'm not saying that we ought to live in poverty, but we somehow sign up for this competitive system, this unwinnable rat race, and don't seem able or even willing to give it up, even though it makes us no happier and maybe no healthier.

But, as Paul says, we are not called to the rat race; instead, he writes:
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Peter talks about how we were redeemed from "the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers" and so what we ought to do is "love one another deeply, from the heart."

Easy enough to say; hard to do. People like me (I know some of you are out there) tend to get more into doing stuff. It's more, umm, natural, to focus on doing things than on living a life of love. As my friend Jim says, "that's why it's a command; it's not natural." Or easy, either.

Which is why I need help from Jesus.

No comments: