Monday, March 1, 2010

Thoughts on Personal Slavery and Worship

I ran across this short paragraph recently. It is a compelling thought taken from a commencement speech to the Kenyan College in 2005. The speaker (and author), David Foster Wallace, committed suicide in the fall of 2008. He’d struggled with depression for years and finally lost the battle. Wallace accurately describes the default setting of humanity—to worship…something! But according to Foster the kind of worship that enslaves us, betrays us, and eats us up is the kind that our culture propagates every day through the thousands of messages we receive about life and truth from commercials, through conversations, and in print. I don’t think Wallace was a follower of Jesus but his depiction of life is profoundly close to something Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Luke 16:13). Listen to Foster:

“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some inviolable set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

If you worship money and things -- if they are where you tap real meaning in life -- then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you … Worship power -- you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart -- you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on. Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is …. that they are unconscious. They are default-settings.”

(Taken from Wall Street Journal Sept 19, 2008)