An Ocean of Fantastic Distractions

The Purpose of the Ocean View

It’s been 3 years ago now since the Prince family moved to the quiet refuge of a salt life that has been a oceanic sanctuary in and of itself, and that which makes me never want to leave the healing powers it seems to bestow upon us as we breathe in both its infinitude, and its endless array of perspective and hope for any given moment.

As I have written about before, there were many motivations for our detour here, one of which was personal, in that it was my last excuse I could muster up for not finally sitting down and writing anything this lost soul could get down on paper.  I had made a promise to my wife years ago that I would write, and was equally commissioned by many others that I was uniquely qualified to do so, and therefore should get busy doing it!  And yet as many of us know all too well, belief in one’s self, belief in what others think of you, and the action it takes to realize one’s potential or God-given destiny, are not always natural bedfellows.

The plan nonetheless upon arrival was to start a blog and eventually write a book and evolve somehow into a true writing life alongside my life as a sales dog in the world of business.  I guess you could say that in some respects I finally morphed into doing something of what I said I would…well, almost.  Indeed, I actually started the blog (check) and had a goal of writing at least 1 entrance each week.  Yet after the first year or so, I was writing perhaps only every two or three weeks.  And now at the tail end of 2018, once a month has been my most consistent “inconsistency”.  And, so it seems that fantastic distractions are not as hung up on geography as I once proposed.

Conversations with Brother Al

My brother from another mother’s name is Al.  We live an eastern seaboard apart, yet we talk on a very consistent basis about everything from politics (not always a good idea), to faith, and about the constant foray of fantastic distractions that keep good men and women from taking a shot at something that has the potential to breathe new life into their soul, and that oftentimes seems to also lie on the other side of a slimy, nasty little thing called fear.  We are both now in our mid to late fifties collectively, and we are likewise in constant awareness of both the certainty of potential that still exists for us, and the equal hourglass of sand in the days of our lives that is at least in some very real sense running out here on the “back 9”. These uniform realisms give us both reflective pause, and the additional communal “Atta boys”, reminding each other in something of a melodic harmony, that since today we are alive and well, the train has not yet run out of track, thus there is still runway for bold and more consistent attempts at what gives meaning to our lives this side of paradise.

A Song That Remains the Same

As I reflected on our meditations of late, I was reminded of a song that I first heard back in 1997 by the Dime Store Prophets.  It was a time when Christian music was in a brief state of relevance and equal talent, which has seemed to die a slow death since then unfortunately.  The song however is appropriately titled “Fantastic Distraction”, and for sure it has a repertoire of meaning to the eye of various beholders.  However, for me, it echoes quite succinctly where I’m at, and mirrors quite sadly, why many of us go to bed at night dreaming about becoming some knight in shining armor, yet wake up each day limping to a coffee pot of desperate rescue to more of our both comfortable and equally predictable distractions, which seem to be on eternal autopilot in the beds of our lives that we have faithfully and meticulously made.

The lyrics are as follows:

Michael looks up at the bottle from under a glass table
He’s mouthing words I can’t make out, something about innocence
He calls us all his best friends
And swaggers into the haze of no questions

Joy keeps a strict diet of popsicles, pop-tarts, and heroin
She likes to open the doors and go looking for Morrison
She biped and fell on Jesus
He says I’ve been walking the gardens looking for you
I’ve been desperate too
Maybe she’s just hiding from the one thing
Maybe she’s just hiding from the one thing
In a fantastic distraction
Twelve steps forward and thirteen steps back

Sonny works hard on the pavement all of the live long day
He drives home, sits down with his burdens placed where his wife should be
Turns on the tv set
And toxicates himself with gamma rays
White noise for the pain

Maybe he’s just hiding from the one thing
Maybe he’s just hiding from the one thing
In a fantastic distraction
Twelve steps forward and thirteen steps back

Moth on the window pane
Drawn to the light
Can’t find an opening
Back to the light

To say that the song speaks volumes about our current topic, is to state the obvious.  At first glance, they speak of fantastic distractions such as bottles of our favorite nightly elixir, narcotics, and wasting away on gamma rays, which are descriptive of just a few of those that can keep many of us all from the “one thing”.  Of course one is also free to insert their own distraction of never-ending choice that range from incessant entertainment, endless Facebook surfing or simply biding time in your ass imprinted easy chair, simply waiting for the light of your life to finally go out or for some other “white noise for the pain”.  The light forever longs to get in, but “can’t find an opening”, so we simply rinse and repeat.  And as I listened to the song today, it was haunting in its prophetic tone as if the weeping prophet himself was speaking across the ocean waves of my distractions directly at “yours truly”.  And then the thought occurred to me, that though I have been known to commend others to a life well lived and full of purpose, and have sought to employ it in my own life, at times the revelatory paradox from my lips is more like, “Do as I say, not as I do”.  And thus I too many times live my life “twelve steps forward and thirteen steps back”.

Learning to Number One’s Days

I heard the story once of a man who made it a practice each day of looking in the mirror and saying something to the extent of, “Today, perhaps today, you will die”.  When I first heard of it many years ago, I thought it quite morbid, yet the longer I live, I know exactly why this was his practice.  Because you see, realizing the brevity of one’s life, is indeed the proverbial key to a life lived well in the here and now, and evidently King David also knew this ancient secret as he writes in Psalm 90:12:

            So teach us to number our days

            that we may get a heart of wisdom. (ESV)

I’ve now inscribed this verse on just about every page of my prayer journal so that I see it each day as I offer prayers for myself and others.  It is there to remind me to “get busy living” (Andy Dufrane), and to stop allowing life’s fantastic distractions to keep me from being on mission with my creator by tapping into why I am here, as well as to put my own small “dent in the universe” (Steve Jobs), rather than being caught with my pants down for my final dress rehearsal.

Oh to be sure, a life of contentment and as a faithful ordinary is commendable in the eyes of the Lord, but yet this all depends on how many talents you currently have in your pocket. Perhaps it’s only one, maybe you have two, or perhaps you have been blessed with five or more.  The goal for each of us is to simply use our talents and invest them in the service of others, rather than bury them in the ground of our most favorite fantastic distractions, only to find out that life went ahead and did the numbering for us, in our otherwise preoccupied absentia from it!

Selah

Does Reciprocity of “Give-and-Take” Exist In Relationships Anymore?

A Question

I’ve reflected on this particular topic for some time now, asking the discernable “sixty-four dollar” question as it relates to others as I “people watch” all around me, while also rather sheepishly asking it of “yours truly”.  For after all, what is good for the goose as they say, must also be good for the gander.  And as far as it goes, up until now, I felt that I had at least somewhat passed that particular test.

For instance, when someone called me and needed something, if I had what they needed, nothing was spared. If I was called upon to give advice; or to simply listen; to be a shoulder they could cry upon; or they needed a place to stay; or if called upon to look at something that was most important to them, I would dare not relinquish it.  I did so simply because after 27 years of devouring the scriptures with both my mind, heart, and equal brokenness, I cannot walk away from the mirror of those well-rehearsed lines and not recognize that I indeed “am” my brother and sister’s keeper.  I “am” somehow to be the hands and feet of Jesus in some form or fashion, and both my schedule and my prayer closet should flex for allowance of that oftentimes inconvenient, yet gospel-like intrusion into my life.  And, should we need a reciprocated mutuality of this same comfort upon ourselves, should we not also be able to count upon it?

Narcissism and Facebook

Well before we hold our breath in the endless waiting line, perhaps our answer comes to us front and center in the current climate of chronic narcissism and now habitual attention deficit disorder?  For me, it’s plain and simple, or black and white, even as I often fall short; and yet, it seems for most of us now, this obvious nudge to go beyond our now routine superficiality of paper-thin convictions and relationships has become an inconvenient truth threatening to hold us back from “living our lives”.  I believe Facebook, of which I am a reluctant patron of, is part and parcel of the problem.  We scroll through old friends and mostly mere acquaintances unremittingly, periodically adding them to our “friends” list, perhaps not realizing it’s “friends with(out) the benefits.  We presume our “likes” and “tags” show in fact that we are comrades of sorts, even as we scurry on to our next diversion keeping us at a comfortable “stone’s throw” from real communication, interaction and love bestowed on our “so-called” virtual friends, many of whom should fall into a quite different category of “brothers and sisters” if their posts claiming their love for Jesus is descriptive of who they actually are.  But Facebook need not bear the full culpability, as I fear this casual “hit it and quit it” relational interaction seeps from these flickering pixels seamlessly into the flesh and blood world of our daily grind equally I’m afraid.

Privatization

For instance, our homes have long become our private castles, hiding us away from the pain and suffering that exists just outside our door, all the while scampering out occasionally for food, drink and never-ending entertainment; and then rushing back into our doors safe and secure again inside the womb of indifference, as we then settle down in front of a speaking idol that beams out constant nonsensical garbage certain to fuel our desensitization all the more.  And as we interact with our peers in our work-day week, once we leave on Friday, the unwritten rule, outside of an occasional joining up for a frolicsome rendezvous, is that the weekends have become our sacred parish of “us four and no more”, as our self-made stained glass windows expediently keep out those that come with any hint of a bag full of predicaments and a worn out welcome to boot.

What About the Church?

And as I ponder this even more, I wonder as it relates to the faith I claim to possess, and that the church proposes to offer assistance with, how we are doing in this same arena?  Are we, as supposed guides of the blind, pushing back on this privatization of our lives that keeps our shoe leather of caring comfortably at bay?   Oh, we use words like “family”, surely understanding that Jesus alluded many times to the fact that His family would be even greater and ever more loving than our own nuclear family.  Yet oftentimes, when we are no longer the shiny new visitor, or the over-committed and tithing acolyte, we find that perhaps we are still “a day late and a dollar short” of feeling safe and loved by a collective family, who at a moment’s notice will go out of their way to leave their light on for you.

And as I muse about this 800-pound conundrum in the church’s and my own room, the question I have recently asked myself is this: Have we now come to a time that our Christianity means mostly nothing outside of the mere trappings of church life full of weekly “sermonettes by preacherettes to us as christianettes”? Or to put it more pithily, I wonder if we truly inculcate the values of Christianity into our daily lives and relationships where the rubber actually meets the road, and beyond the veneer of regular church attendance, an occasional check in a large golden bowl, and constant swaying to the everlasting catalogue of predictable muzak?

The Rub

For sure, the lack of real mutual “give and take” of real community lacking in our daily lives and in the place we call church is often spoken of, and no shortage of ink has been spilled in the description of it, and perhaps I won’t offer anything new here today.  Although it does seem that the lack thereof is slowly killing us in ways we have yet to give attentive runway to in our own topsy-turvy lives; and at least for me, the devil is for sure found in our individual details. Yet I just can’t help but quietly wonder if we’ve not been so busy “going” to church, that somehow; just maybe, we forgot that we are actually supposed to “be” one.

Selah