Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What Do You Want From Life?

Considering what they have done to their lives, if people lived eternally in this life, there would be no greater hell.
Elder Paisios

Back in the mid 70s, when I was a teenager, I had a foster brother who listened to a punk rock group called The Tubes. I never liked loud music, so didn't much know about contemporary pop music. However, my foster brother made me listen to The Tube's album over and over again. Soon I began to understand the words, and the words of two songs have stayed with me.

One song is entitled, "We're White Punks on Dope".

We're white punks on dope
Mom and Dad live in Hollywood
Hang myself when I get enough rope
Can't clean up though I know I should...

It was a song of despair, about having all the stuff, yet being so bored and lonely that the only apparent escape was drug induced highs followed eventually by suicide. Although this was not my experience as a teenager, I observed it all around me. It is exactly as Elder Paisios says, "Worldly stress is the result of worldly happiness."

The other song, the one that most comes to my mind even today is entitled, "What Do You Want From Life."  The refrain is repeated several times as the song proposes increasingly real desires. In the penultimate verse, we get to perhaps the deepest, most real, desire of the lyricist:

What do you want from life
Someone to love
and somebody that you can trust
What do you want from life
To try and be happy
while you do the nasty things you must

Then the very next line says, "Well, you can't have that; but if you're an American Citizen, you are entitled to..."  which is followed by an amazingly long list of consumer goods and pop culture trifle.

What do I want from life?

I often ask myself that question. It is so easy to be captivated by stuff. My spiritual father says that the Garden of Eden is not so much about something that happened in the past as it is the story of every human heart. Adam, Eve, the Garden, the serpent and God are all in the human heart. Every day we are reaching out for the forbidden fruit, ashamed of past failures, hiding from God, repenting and walking with God in the cool of the evening. What do I want from life? The serpent whispers constantly in my ear. Stuff looks so alluring. What everyone is talking about must be what is worthwhile, right? Yesterday I took the fruit and repented of it, yet today the fruit still has a pull on me. What do I want from life?

Courage is called for. "Wide is the path and easy is the way that leads to destruction." It takes courage to say no to the Stuff. It takes courage to say no to ourselves.

Heaven and hell begin for us in time and move into eternity. We choose heaven or hell, not in a moment, but throughout our lives. We repent. We learn. We grow. We even walk a little with God in the cool of the evening--if that is what we want, if that is what we long for.

What do you want from life?


TeresaAngelina said...

I wonder if "stuff" isn't always material things (but often it is), but "what everyone is talking about" so it "must be worthwhile, right?" That might be the latest social event or vacation or relationship or...anything that distracts. Stuff and such gives a temporary ease to the unhealed pain. The courage to face such pain includes courage to say no to the "stuff" that prevents the healing process, that gets in the way to the Way of the Healer. I wonder if that is a reason that monastics stay away from stuff...fewer distractions? Good description of "stuff" as captivating...as I glance at my craft room...

Fr. Michael said...

Much stuff is neutral, and hand work has been an important part of the monastic tradition from the earliest days. Stuff is bad when it keeps you from prayer, or when you cant pray while using/doing it. Stuff is particularly bad when one is deluded into thinking that the stuff is salvation, peace and joy--when we think stuff is the answer.

TeresaAngelina said...

That was helpful, Fr. Michael. Thank you!