Toward a truer distinction

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If you’re a writer, a gen Xer, or just familiar with the book of Ecclesiastes, you’ve had this thought: It’s all been done. You know that one? There’s absolutely nothing new I could ever hope to contribute to the world. The snarky realization comes in all kinds of existential flavors and strengths. I’ve had near-panic attacks dwelling on it, like my free will was being revoked, shouting into the abyss: “What’s the point of living if it’s all been done? At times, the idea still stops me up like a rum-soaked fruitcake (Sorry. Bad image.):

“The very thing I want doesn’t actually exist.”

Of course, it’s just the human stain talking. I know the truth: that the best thing you could ever find in life isn’t really here at all. And it isn’t so hard to find if you just act on the right belief.

But there are times when you just don’t feel that answer’s enough. And then where does that leave you? Ultimately, you’re still going to have to sacrifice your life for what you’re hoping to find. Either way, you’ll have to live on faith.

This became very clear recently as I reflected on a little indy film called Me and You and Everyone We Know. I’m not endorsing the movie. Really. This is NOT a recommendation. But as a case in point for how badly the world needs a savior, there’s much to appreciate here. One character says she’s looking for something that couldn’t have existed before the digital age. Somehow, I think this is a key to understanding the film because it’s also the digital age that has introduced the characters to their inescapable separation, made them lonely, sick and twisted, longing for the simple connections of a lost era. And they’re all heart-wrenching case studies: each has seen too much to escape untwisted.

Another recent film example I can’t recommend: The Door in the Floor. Like the tree in the garden or Pandora’s box, once you’ve seen, you can’t go back. Some thoughts mix in and change our composition. And once you’re there, unless you have a greater purpose, all the suffering in the world becomes justifiable for the hope of finding what hasn’t existed before. Even if it’s something so horrible you can’t imagine it yet. And so by default, this becomes the great new hope of our digital age: reveling in our human stain. Finding company in the misery that runs through us all. This is how we escape the doom.

And while this is truly a terrible reality to realize we’re in, what bothers me most is that it seems many Christians are buying into this insatiable evil just as innocently. One of my great fears with this blog is that in looking for writing that goes beyond the standard second-rate Christian knock-offs, I’ll miscommunicate that I’m endorsing we write Eminem all cleaned up spiffy for CBA. When I talk about our writing being for a greater purpose, I mean it’s a completely different entity. Is appropriating the world’s diseased offerings justifiable if it earns their attention? We’re not even of their world. Stop trying to fake it.

We need to fight the flesh together for the greater realization that there is a real hope beyond our human disease. And far from reveling in it, our words must cure it with our undiluted sighs for the kingdom.

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7 thoughts on “Toward a truer distinction”

  1. I have struggled with the nothin’ new under the sun stuff, but one thing struck me this morning as I read your post. There is something new. It’s me. And you. And you. And him. And her.
    We are all uniquely different, utterly new. That’s what makes our words unique. Sure, we can copycat everyone else’s individuality, but where will that lead us? The most unique our words, the closer we are to becoming and emulating our true selves. That’s why I’m an authenticity nut. My prose is different simply because I am.

  2. You’re onto something so important here: “When I talk about our writing being for a greater purpose, I mean it’s a completely different entity.”
    I’m probably not angsty enough. I buy full guns into a sole purpose for existence: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” And since He created me, I figure He’s the One who will daily map out the path to my glorifying Him. Meanwhile I work hard at the “enjoy Him forever part.” It’s a pretty easy job. I don’t even have to look beyond the people who live in my house to experience joy so exquisite it hurts.
    Some might suppose this mindset leads to laziness, but the opposite is true. The Author and Finisher of faith sets the fire that burns in our bones. A rhythm pulses in our veins. We either dance to it or explode.
    I don’t want to compete with anyone, though the tendency arises. What I truly want is to let Him shape me into a living stone that perfectly fits with all the stones around me, leaving no chinks, and yet never bulging beyond its proper proportions. Freedom to create, to love, to soak up beauty, to serve.
    The temple is His handiwork. Each part is essential and irreplaceable, therefore brand new. People may not point to my contribution and oooh and aaah, but as long as they don’t see a gaping hole in my spot, it’s all good.
    The “undiluted sighs for the kingdom” song sounds much better sung as a choir, especially when Mick sings tenor and plays the keyboard accents. ;)
    Thanks for sharing your thought-provoking meditations. Merry Christmas.

  3. Mary, that’s a great thought, and I really don’t want to overthink this, but for some reason my existential angst says even we are not new. The underlying reality is still there–everything that can be, already is, and everything that will exist has before. I know “new to me” should be enough, but if time is an illusion, I have to fight not to fear predestination.
    And yet part of me does love that we’re not inconsequential because we each have a role to play, an individual destiny God designed, fated though it might be. We can be consoled by finding God’s unique purpose for us.

  4. Great post, Mick. Great comment, Jeanne.
    Why would you fear predestination, though, Mick. Embrace it. =0) Yikes if God hadn’t saved us from before the foundations of the world then we would have something to fear.
    I was going to leave the free-will comment alone. I was. But the fear of predestination was too much for me. Forgive me and carry on with fighting the good fight.

  5. Particle man, ahem, you ARE utterly uniquely YOU. That’s the beauty of it all. And Jeanne is utterly Jeanne. And Sally is utterly Sally. It’s our worlds, our lives, our souls that bring freshness to the page.
    I have been thinking a lot about this lately. I spoke at a conference recently and some folks said, “I’ve never heard a speaker talk like that before.” Not to brag at all (not my intention), but I knew in that comment was a kernel of truth. There is only one ME. And I can bring something new, a message God has breathed through me. That’s the newness.

  6. oh my friend, how truly you speak. (i’ll try to sound normal tonight.)
    it keeps coming to me that i am to write for the fringes. that is my audience. not the good people inhabiting your church, or mine (if i had one). but those who are truly lost. sometimes, when i hear the aching melodies they cry out on the radio (i cut myself cause the pain tells me i’m alive), it just kills me trying to figure out how to get this pasty white, mamby pamby jesus we’ve all settled for (i have too, i’m pointing more fingers at myself than anyone), to be flesh and blood for these lost souls (myself among them)?
    i just don’t know. but i keep fumbling through the darkness and trying not to judge the saved throngs who are so damn happy it makes me twitch. they have their audience, i have mine.
    suz. (and the rumcake image was great, a little lemon in your water and thing will be flowing again smoothly. or maybe a prune).

  7. Absolutely, Mary, we need to keep looking for the uniqueness every day. I’m so glad for the bigger story and that ultimately, my great angst doesn’t preclude me from the kingdom. Or from friendship.
    Jeanne, I’m just the accents to your rolling stone. :-)
    Great perspectives everyone.