“Treading Paper,” Thrice If anything means anything,
there must be something meant for us to be,
a song that we were made to sing.
There must be so much more than we can see.
Why are we here? What is our purpose? Modern American culture might answer these questions with some form of the words “I don’t care” or “It doesn’t really matter.” We keep ourselves plugged-in and distracted 24/7. How can I be expected to ponder about the reasons for which I exist when I’ve got to be up for work in 4 hours, a plane to catch, one of four hundred TV shows I need to catch up on, or any one of around five million apps I can have in the palm of my hand, all begging for a few minutes of my time?
I think there’s a reason why every kid in the world asks their parents the age-old question “what is the meaning of life?” long before they hit puberty. I also think that there’s a reason why modern society is hell-bent on distracting us from answering that question. Humanity, it seems, (as I talked about way back in my first post) has been programmed at birth to wonder. As children, we stare at the stars in awe of our tiny existence, filled with desire to answer the question “why?” As adults, we desperately grab at any experience or item we can find to make ourselves feel big and important. We want, more than anything, for our lives to matter and, yet, in our fervent race to the top of Matter Mountain, we seem to weigh ourselves down with a trailer load of material that is almost-hilariously devoid of much meaning.
So, where’s the disconnect? What changes between adolescence and adulthood that causes us to shift our gaze? Could it be that society and culture, for all their positives, might be wholly unequipped to answer the questions we asked as children? I speculate that their vehement penchant for distraction is born from the inability to satisfy the most basic of human desires – the desire to feel like we matter.
Undoubtedly, should someone choose to break free from the distractions and seek meaning in their life, their journey will lead them to consider the possible existence of a Creator. I’ve talked before about how important I think it is that we not be content with not answering life’s big questions. I certainly can’t present the idea any better than C.S. Lewis did:
Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.
Following in that line of thinking, if one were to acknowledge the possible existence of God and decide to jump down the rabbit hole, what does that mean? For whom, or what purpose, were we made? Many would suggest that Christianity is chiefly about rules because, quite honestly, those of us who practice the faith wish it was about rules. We want an achievable list of practices that sum up our faith, and we want to feel like we are being “good Christians” by adhering to those rules.
In examining all I know about the Bible (which is, frankly, nowhere near enough) I’ve come to some contrary deductions. Nearly all of Jesus’ teachings are about how we are to relate to each other. B.C., most of the stories in the Old Testament are about how people treat each other, very often illustrations of how not to treat each other. When asked to sum up the faith, Jesus told us to love our neighbors. When he delivered the Great Commission, he commanded us to go and teach. During the Sermon on the Mount, he commanded us to be quietly charitable (not praising our own accomplishments), to stop judging others, and to treat them as we’d like to be treated. When He performed miracles, he healed people, fed people, and taught people.
The funny thing about loving, teaching, giving, feeding, healing, and judging, is that they all require engagement with other people. I know there is a degree to which the Bible, the nature of a Higher Power, faith, etc. are in-summarizable. They are, and will remain, too big for anyone to ever fully understand and relate to. But, sometimes, for reasons I’ll leave to God, we are given moments of clarity. When I look at everything I’ve discussed, I’m lead to one single conclusion:
We were made for God and for each other.