In light of recent events, I am sharing these well-written thoughts from guest writer Gordon Williams.
Shocking!! Anthony Bourdain, less than a week after Kate Spade, has died, both the result of suicide. Both rich and famous!! Both with awards and the accolades of admirers!! Both able to reach out and explore the world!! Both wizards in their respective fields!!
I well remember when I heard the announcement of Robin Williams’ death in August, 2014. Driving back from a camping trip in the Adirondacks, I was dumb-founded when I heard of his death in a news clip. That funny, zany, suspender-wearing alien from the planet Ork was no more. In his wake, people were scrambling to patch together the final days and hours of his life. Absolute sadness, that Williams passed most likely feeling very alone and with no hope.
People who bring such laughter, innovation, insight, and challenge to the status quo ending their lives at the bottom of a vortex shocks us. In our culture, we are increasingly the worshippers of a philosophy that says you can have it all. You can buy your way, laugh your way, create your way, love your way, discover your way to someplace, to someplace, to someplace where…? You fill in the blank!! You get to define what makes your life worth living!!
How incredible is that? You get to define, demarcate, describe, and demand what will make your life worth living!! No religion, No philosophy, No person, and absolutely No God has the right to tell you what makes life worth living.
We mourn their passing because we will miss their contributions to society, but we shouldn’t linger too long, or we may, unnecessarily, ponder our own fate.
To ponder might be dangerous because at the pinnacle of success and power many people find that they lack one of the very ingredients that makes life meaningful: hope.
Romans 5:1-8 has an amazing discussion of hope. Read it, if you are so inclined. In the middle verses of that passage there is a fascinating progression: suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope. And this progression sits in the middle of bold statements that it is only through the amazing sacrifice of Jesus and gifts of God that we can have hope at all.
Wow!! Our culture says something like creativity/education/hard-work produce opportunity, opportunity produces success/money, and success/money produce power/influence.
Not much room for Hope!! Or Peace for that matter!!
But how can suffering produce hope? Maybe perseverance or endurance but ultimately Hope?
Too long a discussion for an already too long Facebook post but consider the juxtaposition of the progression from Romans and the progression from our culture.
Our culture’s progression is self-defined/self-focused and often self-absorbed. It purports to be for the good of others and the good of humanity but at its root it is the celebration and exaltation of ME!!
In that progression, you will not find Hope!! You will constantly be filling in the blank in your life with something else and having to add more stuff, relationships, ideas, people, causes, etc. searching for Hope.
In Romans the journey to Hope begins with the seeming paradox of suffering. Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and Robin Williams ended their lives with and because of incredible suffering. At the top of their fields and with influence/power, they actually found suffering and not Hope. Suffering was the end of their journey and not the beginning.
Hope is not the result of the path of success but begins with suffering. Strange but true.
Only when we begin to learn that answers lie outside of ourselves and that suffering is an integral part of our existence here can we begin the path to Hope. Attempting to avoid pain/suffering by accessing the self-defined culture, we are bathed in, only leads to despair or the never-ceasing activity of acquiring more stuff or accolades.
So one path ends where the other begins. And one path is focused on self and the other outside of self.
A good place to end this post. Life is precious. All Life. My prayer is that all of us will seek enduring things and not the incredibly intoxicating but temporary things which surround us.