Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Dying to Live"

I did not come up with this title. It is the title of Chapter 5 of Rob Bell's newest book, "Love Wins," and it's some thoughts I've had due to that book and due to life lately.

What kind of a life does one lead when they have so much money that expenses go beyond their perception? How satisfying is it to get to the "top" and have all of the power you have ever wanted? What happens when you finally get the respect you feel you deserve, you finally have everything go right for you, and you finally obtain that thing you've always wanted?

What then?

It's very easy to go through life dissatisfied. In fact, I am a master at this. My critical nature gives me the perspective to see weaknesses in almost anything, and it's very often my greatest weakness, as it leads to unnecessarily hurting others and mostly hurting myself.

We are our own worst critic, are we not?

However, it's also easy to live in a way that is solely focused on comfort. Pleasure seeking, living the good life, food for the stomach, because why deny ourselves something we want when it's easily attainable? Substance, sex, any food we want, endless entertainment options, constantly living in a world where we are comfortable.

And yet for some reason, this gets boring. We begin to feel run down, tired all the time, bored, and we need something else. Some kind of variety, some kind of change of routine. We need new entertainment, different substances, more crazy forms of sex, we eat more, find more TV shows, buy more DVDs from the store, get new pets, move for no reason, adventure restlessly, and keep looking for that elusive satisfaction that our existence is centered on.

It's part of who we are, we always want something new. This isn't a bad thing, it's human nature to be creative, and it's also our nature to find the thing that defines our existence, defines who we are.

The problem is, when we live in such a way that we look out for ourselves all the time, we miss out on a lot, and we miss what we're looking for.

I just finished watching the movie "The Social Network," which was thought-provoking for a variety of reasons. Firstly, and I'll come back to this point, my absolute favorite character was the protagonist, which is an oddity for me. Usually I hate the protagonist or at least have a profound lack of caring for them.

Secondly, the movie lacked any sort of moral lesson. It was about events that happened, and then it ended. There was no preachy character, no didactic message implicit in the film, it just was, and when it ended my response was "huh. that just happened." It felt very subdued, very real, as opposed to the drama movies tend to be (and rightly so in most cases).

All real, of course, except for the protagonist. He was the detached anti-hero, the one that came out on top, and he was so smart he silenced every person in the film, riddled with flaws as he was. I liked him precisely for this reason, he was a tragic character.

Brilliant, the youngest billionaire in the world, and his character in the movie was still so empty. It ended with him attempting, once again, to simply establish a connection with a person. He was so alone.

He had gotten everything he ever wanted, surrounded himself with people, was rich beyond his wildest dreams, was at the center of a brilliant creation, had defeated all of his enemies, and still, he had failed at his goal.

He was still alone.

When all of our efforts toward a thing gives us the opposite result, we begin to ask ourselves, "what kind of a screwed up world is this, and what am I doing wrong?"

"Does God hates me?"

"Is everyone really out to defeat me?"

"Is there a point to any of this?"

A point indeed.

A teacher that lived twenty centuries ago had some crazy ideas about life and what would fix this problem people have been having for many centuries before he showed up.

He seemed to think it would be a good idea to give everything we have away, to live as though everyone is more important than we are, to give without thought of reward, and to devote ourselves to loving other people so completely that we'd die for them.

Die for them, and live for them.

It makes a weird kind of sense, right? If all of our efforts to create a meaningful life for ourselves fails, why not just start creating lives for other people? Why not put all of our restless energy, all of our frustration and anger into giving things away, doing crazy, counter-intuitive things that make no sense but we know do in some backwards, weird, upside down way?

Why not get creative? Why not stop caring that you can't seem to get people to listen to you and start listening to them? Or start taking the initiative with people that just don't like you instead of avoiding them out of self-preservation? Why not seek out destructive elements to one's own ego if you're going to run into them anyway and choose to learn when it happens instead of becoming frustrated?

Why not make others more important than yourself?

Why not choose to die for something instead of live for nothing?

This teacher, named Jesus, seemed to think you'd find the meaning of life by giving a homeless person a cup of water. He chose to die instead of be silenced, and he died at the hands of a broken system motivated by religious appeasement and systems of power.

And he did not yield to it, he simply proclaimed that death would be defeated, and then showed up miraculously a few days after he'd been killed to prove it.

They were powerless before his counter-intuitive actions.

This story has a point. Miraculous things happen when we choose to die. Dying isn't just about ceasing to live this life, it's about allowing your ego to be killed, choosing to give your life away, to lose yourself in others, to listen to others instead of choosing to not care, to give your time, your energy, and your life all away. To hit rock bottom, to lose all of your caring for yourself and what benefits you, to die.

And maybe when we choose to live in death, we'll find what we're looking for.

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