Wednesday, September 12, 2007

To be Known and Loved

It's a truism that history repeats itself. Often this adage is used in the context of people repeating mistakes that have been made often. The sins that easily ensnare us have been around from the beginning of human existence and written about in every creed, story, self-help book and court of law. We have been warned and taught at a young age to eschew lust, pride, greed and so on- but we are prone to fall victim to this troika as easily as we ever have been.

The latest celebrity life to be torn to shambles doesn't make us sit and reflect much nowadays, does it? One would be hard pressed to actually take a celebrity life, at least here in the US, and think about a life that has been relatively stable. Infidelity, divorce, suicidal tendencies, drugs-rehab-drug-drinks routine, parent-child clashes, property disputes, disputes over prenuptial agreements... the list goes on. The so-called sexual revolution and the enlightenment that followed it in the sixties were supposed to have freed us, but at long last we realize (even if we would not admit it) that there is no such thing as free love. Love demands a price of commitment and self-control. But this is nothing new. It has been repeated ad-nauseam through the ages. We are too busy to listen or too uncaring to slow down. What CS Lewis called chronological snobbery- the feeling that our time and age has the answers that previous ages did not- has blinded us to reality. We have never been a more confused mass of people about any topic under the sun- sexuality, civil rights, terrorism, crim and punishment, the status of the human embryo and the sanctity of life- the list goes on.

Coming back to the celebrity theme- going by the recent experiences of Owen Wilson (suicide) and Britney Spears (several traumatic incidents), is it wrong to aspire to be famous? Does fame necessarily bring a cup of woes? That would be a pretty categorical statement. A long time ago, when I was still an unbeliever, I read one of Dr. Wayne Dwyer's self-help books in which he decried approval-seeking behaviour. He exhorted the reader to not be bound by others' opinions about ourselves, be they our parents or siblings or coworkers. In reality, this is not entirely put to practice- just as history repeats itself, noone listens to advice like this. Indeed, I doubt if even Dr. Dwyer could do this on a 100 percent effective scale. Advice has been given as copiously and variedly, as Paul Johnson writes about Bertrand Russell's output of advice in his book Intellectuals, on topics ranging from naturalistic evolution to toothpaste. Very few listen. Fewer advisers are even worth listening to. That's why Jesus cannot be categorized as simply a moral teacher. He clearly stated what the human condition is all about. He teaches: "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander" (Matthew 15:19). And as Jeremiah says: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9). Christ aims to have our natural man die and his character take over our lives in its purity and reconciled status with the Father. Until then all the laws of this world or the world to come will not change us.

The Bible talks about being known by God and rewarded by Him as our goal. All over Scripture is the exhortation to keep your prayer and your good deeds from other people but let them be between youself and your Father in heaven. He is the one who calls you "good and faithful servant". In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul talks about the glorious time when "we shall know just as we are known", not "as in a mirror but face to face". Could it be that our desire to be valued and known is a genuine desire? That it has been misdirected, and needs to be shifted in its focus to the One who put it there?

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