Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It Doesn't Matter.

It's not a very catchy slogan, is it? I can't really see putting it on a bumper sticker, and if I wore it on a T-shirt people would assume that a) I was being ironic or b) there was something else on the back to explain it.

I'm sure there's an "ism" for it, but I can't put my finger on it. It isn't quite nihilism, since I want to keep existing. Not quite stoicism -- lots of things don't matter to a true stoic, but that's because everything else fades in the light of his core disciplines of fortitude and self-control. Depressionism? Maybe that's closer, because I certainly am not a very cheerful person at the moment, but I don't think it really works as a life philosophy.

I don't know what you call it, but I am adrift in it. Without my accustomed anchor of spirituality and its accompanying values, I find myself floating randomly through my day. Laundry remains undone, the dishes sit in the sink, and I only finish my running workout because I am still a mile from home, not because I particularly care about it. I look at the mess and think, "It doesn't matter. None of it matters. If I am not going to try to be the Proverbs 31 woman any more, with her perpetually busy hands and God-fearing self-discipline, why bother?" I know, because we will eventually run out of underwear. But for someone used to having a higher calling in all things, clean underpants is a pale motivation.

I can't help but think of my old nemesis James and his writings: "He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind." But since the poor sailor is floundering because his own doubt hinders his prayers, there seems to be little hope for him -- he is trying to pull his own self from the water, and simple physics will quickly tell us his fate. There must be some other way, some life preserver that doesn't require you to inflate it yourself while your lungs fill with water and your heart with despair.

There must be some hope for the day-to-day that doesn't require every action and thought to first be dipped in holy water. There must be motivations that stand alone without needing to be sanctified. I can list them (clean house, stable finances, healthy body, sharp mind), but my mental muscles are weak from decades of making everything be about something else -- something higher and better, granted, but still something else. I have not had to think for a long time about the intrinsic value of the things I do. And when that higher calling ceases to draw me, I find that I flail to find the drive and motivation to do the things I've always done.

One of my least favorite contemporary Christian songs wails, "It's all about you, it's all about you, Jesus." The Beatles shoot back, "I, I, me, me, mine." There must be something in between those two extremes, some non-faith-based balance between altruism and narcissism where I can finish a project and take satisfaction in a job well done without it having to be a star in my eternal crown. It doesn't seem like everything that brings me pride should have to drag along its unwanted companion, Guilt, for the sin of not giving God all the glory for the thing that I did.

On second thought, maybe a little bit more "I, I, me, me, mine" might not be a bad idea for a while.

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