I was meeting with someone last week who noticed my ring and asked how long I had been married. "Marriage is grand," he said, "and divorce is five hundred grand." You could feel the tragedy even through the joke. I laughed somewhat nervously and paused to let him elaborate. Just behind the humor was an obvious sadness. A few days later another person told me about his childhood and the pain he felt from being made fun of for being overweight.
I think we all have default modes we go to when we are tired, bored, angry, or hurt. I remember a time in my life when I intentionally tried to do whatever the opposite of my first inclination was, even with unimportant, simple things. Once it was raining when I pulled up at my apartment, so instead of running in I stood there and got soaked. You don't realize how relaxing an outdoor shower is until you aren't running to escape it or complaining about getting wet.
There is a gas station I stop at periodically on my way home where a very angry man works. I'll refer to him as Angry Ninja because in conversation he once told me he practices martial arts. Angry Ninja towers over me and is always wearing a hip, knit beanie. If you walked in right now he would tell you his grievances with little introduction. You've met these people before. They're always prepared, ready to unpack today's dose of "everything sucks" at the first opportunity. Always something different, always negative.
I spend a lot of time trying to see the world through a positive, hopeful lens. I realize, though, some of you might feel left out. What about those who want to strike a match and watch it burn? What if you're really trying to mess things up? Well, this week is for you. Here are ten surefire ways to make it a little harder for all of us. Oversimplify complicated issues, then have a very loud opinion about it. Share those opinions as often as possible, especially on social media via memes. Limit your influences and embrace confirmation bias. Only seek information that already supports your existing beliefs. Live in an echo chamber. It feels real nice not having anyone disagree.
I sit down with hundreds of individuals throughout the year. Sometimes it's a business transaction, but other times it's an eye-opening conversation. Like I described last week, some people are especially gifted at discussing the deeper things, and that often means hard topics. "Do your clients ever try to ask you about politics?" I hesitated before answering a new client of mine. I've been around long enough to know when I'm on the precipice of a volatile conversation, but this didn't feel like one of those.
There are days I wonder how I am having an impact in this world. The vast amount of suffering and pain is almost immobilizing to a heart that cares about it. Where do I even start? It starts right where I am. Many world-changers never grow into their own shoes because the problems they hear about solving are a continent away. When in reality, tragedy lives next-door. There are days I wonder how I am having an impact in this world. The vast amount of suffering and pain is almost immobilizing to a heart that cares about it. Where do I even start?
I remember the first time the Lord's Supper clicked in my mind as a child. After church I asked my parents if we could go buy juice and bread from the store, and for the next week my sister and I took communion by candlelight in our upstairs office room. There is something beautiful about childlike faith: unadulterated by much of the sorrow and suffering years of living brings, free from doubts of a searching mind, vacant of the complexity an aging soul acquires. I long for that simplicity. Progress is wonderful, growing in our thinking is invigorating, but like the writer in Ecclesiastes says, "For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief."
In case you have forgotten, in case you never knew: you are not crazy, you are not alone, you are loved. "Why do I believe what I believe? Is this really real? I want to believe, but I'm struggling." I hear you loud and clear. I know you're exhausted. This road is full of heartache and existential angst, but it's so worth it. It's worth it, because at the end of the pursuit of truth is not more certainty but more hope--hope that compels us to love and live more deeply than we ever knew possible.
"Tell me what it is you plan to do with your wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver
"…the great aim of education is not knowledge but action." - Herbert Spencer
It's 1:07am, and I can't fall back asleep. I'm wide awake. It's not insomnia. No, it's something different. Inspiration, maybe. A gnawing awareness. An energy I recognize from the days I wrote music like my life depended on it.
I walked into my client's office and immediately knew something was wrong. "I'm sorry, Chase, but I'm not going to have much time today." I knew him to be a busy guy but he had a serious and sad tone about him. He went on, "To be honest, my marriage is falling apart." He looked exhausted and defeated. The only thing I could muster was, "I am so, so sorry." And I truly was. We talked for a few more brief moments, then I left. I walked back to my car and sat in the silence. The first line of Psalm 13 immediately came to mind: "How long, Lord?"