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Friday, September 30, 2011

Everything is Meaningless?

Meaning.

This is what I long for. This is what I feel evades me all too often.

Ecclesiastes is a book of the Bible that talks about this dearth of meaning that we often cannot find words to express. "Meaningless, Meaningless, everything is meaningless. A chasing after the wind." What do you do when a passage of the Bible is communicating a truth that isn't actually true? How do you interpret it and then apply it? Is is possible to disagree with Solomon without disagreeing with God? I don't know.

All I do know is that I couldn't agree and/or disagree more with God's Word.

The part I agree with and feel more often than I would like to admit is the apparent meaninglessness of life. Conversations seem canned and contrived. People aren't listening half the time. Environments are created to keep us from feeling the awkwardness of this vacuum. Throw in the white noise of music in the background and create a mood that doesn't require anyone to make an attempt at intimacy. Nobody has time, not the kind of time it takes to draw in and go deep. So we make passes at things like asking questions, but we don't have time for the answer should the person chose to "go there". So it becomes clear that whether or not we say we want meaning, we don't position ourselves in life to make any time for it.

I was at a pastor's gathering yesterday and we were set up at tables of 8 people as we listened to the leader guide us through vision and values. He shared for about 15 minutes and then asked us to take some time at our tables and answer a simple question: "What are the walls you're hitting in your leadership right now?" I thought: "This is going to be good to hear what everyone has to say around this table." Just then, the leader said, "We have about 90 seconds so keep your answers brief." It took about 10 seconds to figure out how to keep such a weighty question connected to a weightless answer, another 10 seconds to wonder who was going to go first and whether we were going to go around the table clockwise or counter-clockwise, and by the time we shared, people were speed-talking their way through their "leadership lids". Only a couple people got to share even with the "speed chess" velocity.

The leader would then bust into the middle of our sharing from up front with his loud microphone and pull us toward another topic, a great topic by the way. Every topical shift was so important to talk about, but we didn't actually have any time to talk. He would share some nuggets of truth and then tell our tables to take some time to each share our personal response to the question...in 90 seconds. "Where are you at spiritually right now on a scale of 1-10? Please be honest, too, because if we can't be honest here where can we be honest?" Bam, we are talking a mile-a-minute about our chosen number and the reason we chose that number. Remember, 8 people...90 seconds...sharing honestly about the currently reality of our walk with God. This went on for an hour...about 7 very important questions that we had a minute and half to talk about with honesty, meaning and passion. I couldn't help but feel queer.

I didn't feel angry at the moderator, I guess it's better than just coming to a place and having someone just talk at you the whole time about some all-important topic. I really loved even the little shreds of humanity that I heard around our table even though it was hopelessly truncated. It left me wanting more and feeling a feeling that I'm often feeling. Namely, that all the meaningful things are effectively forced into parking spaces in which they can't possibly fit. I'm tired of well-meaning people not treating meaning very well. Myself included. Let me rephrase that...myself especially.

Meaning cannot be pushed around like a pawn, forced upon us in the concentration camp of efficiency. Meaning needs time and attention. Meaning surfaces in awkward silence. It visits perfunctory places and perfectly imperfect people. It emerges as a sidebar conversation...it is usually off-topic and in the baseball diamond of life it is always coming "out of left field". That's what makes it meaningful.

Which leads me to what I was getting at a bit earlier. Though I agree that everything in life feels meaningless, I don't agree that "everything" in life is meaningless for obvious reasons that I probably need not expound upon. There is so much meaning when you're doing the "things" that are meaningful.

Taking my daughter on date on Thursday night was unspeakably meaningful, dripping with meaning, in fact. So I don't agree that "everything is meaningless". The feeling of meaninglessness, this chasing after a gust of wind that you can never catch, is felt when we live our lives in such a way as to crowd out meaning with programs, schedules, demands, expectations, predictions, predispositions, prejudices, terms & conditions. Meaning rarely finds a home inside these human contracts and constructs. There is no room for meaning at this table of 8 with 90 seconds to share the 'what and why' of your deepest passion. It will not submit to these trivial terms. Meaning doesn't want a place at the table...it is the table. It isn't a talking point, it is the point.

So is life meaningless?...yes and no. Yes, if you treat it like a whore. No, if you treat it like a wife. A whore is pursued, used and discarded. A wife is pursued, romanced and cherished. You can't get meaning from pleasure. You get pleasure from meaning.

Meaningful, Meaningful, everything can be meaningful. A running with the wind.


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