Fame, fortune, financial accomplishment.
The good life.
We all want it! We all exhaust ourselves in pursuit of it! The good life and her accouterments entice us all.
Nickelback’s 2005 hit Rockstar – a song which embraces and encourages the pursuit of fame, fortune and financial accomplishment – may well provide the modern rhythm that has captured a generation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3iO5vMIAUQ).
We all want to be a Rockstar. So it seems!
While it’s human nature to dream of the good life, many define the good life by using terms like conquering or consuming in pursuit of fame, fortune, and financial success.
There is another option. An older, perhaps wiser way one might pursue the good life. This ancient way is birthed from and built on terms such as communion (or connection) and commitment.
The former leads to a relentless pursuit of pleasure: the latter, to a pervasive sense of well-being. The drive to conquer and consume offers satisfaction while delivering depletion. The virtues of communion and commitment require surrender but deliver satisfaction.
Sorta upside down isn’t it?!
This drive to conquer and consume undeniably shapes the cultural waters in which we swim. At the same time, we are filled to the gills with a sense of being overwhelmed, under-loved, and desperately searching for answers that are increasingly difficult to find.
Today’s culture has embraced this God-given desire for the good life.
Today’s culture seeks to direct this God-given desire for the good life.
Today’s culture has exploited this desire and left us with a definition of the good life that more closely resembles Nickelback’s conquer and consume than the Ancients focus on communion and commitment!
For example, stanzas 2 – 3 of this addictive tune exclaim:
I want a brand new house
On an episode of Cribs
And a bathroom I can play baseball in
And a king size tub big enough
For ten plus me
(So what you need?)
I’ll need a credit card that’s got no limit
And a big black jet with a bedroom in it
Gonna join the mile high club at thirty-seven thousand feet
(Been there, done that)
I want a new tour bus full of old guitars
My own star on Hollywood Boulevard
Somewhere between Cher and James Dean is fine for me
Hmm . . .
These popular lyrics, ten years later, feel prophetic; embodying a prescience acknowledged now by the wider world of academia. Tim Keller, in Counterfeit God’s, explores how this definition of the good life – to conquer and consume – has shaped a generation when he says,
Nathan Hatch, president of Wake Forest University, admitted what many educators have seen for years, that a disproportionate number of young adults have been trying to cram into the fields of finance, consulting, corporate law, and specialized medicine because of the high salaries and aura of success that these professions now bring. Students were doing so with little reference to the larger questions of meaning and purpose, said Hatch. That is, they choose professions not in answer to the question ‘What job helps people to flourish,’ but ‘what job will help me to flourish?’ As a result, there is a high degree of frustration expressed in our unfulfilling work.¹
“High salaries and aura of success.”
“A high degree of frustration expressed in our unfulfilling work”
We all get it! We all want it! We all exhaust ourselves in pursuit of it! Apparently the good life and her accouterments entice us all.
This desire, though often distorted, twisted and bent out of shape in our modern world, is God given!
From the earliest moments of creation, in Genesis 1 we read,
“God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.'”
The Psalmist reminds us that desire is birthed by and filled in God. Consider Psalm 20:4, which says, May He grant you your heart’s desire And fulfill all your counsel!
If the desire for the good life is a good and God-given desire, yet we find ourselves always and ever longing for more, feeling left out, wondering how we got here, then perhaps its time to adjust our aim!
As James K.A. Smith² has said, it’s time we direct our desires toward a different, more life fulfilling end. In so doing, we may even stumble into a way of living that is both ancient and biblical. Possibly even learning a language that engages the culture and encouraging our culture and communities toward more life-affirming, life-fulfilling and life-giving ends.
If so, then the Gospel – the ancient Gospel – is the place to begin. The full Gospel as told in one of the oldest biblical books on record: the book of Job.
The Scriptures elevate one individual – Job – as one who had what we would all call the good life; only to lose it in what appears to be a great cosmic chess match.
Ultimately, as the drama of Job unfolds, his entire life is re-framed. In his struggle Job stumbles upon something – someone – called Wisdom and begins to understand that the ground and goal of the good life is Wisdom and her pursuit!
Perhaps his story might provide a pathway for us toward the good life?
In the midst of this epic narrative, Job asks a penetrating question:
“So where does wisdom come from (or where does one find wisdom)? Where is the source (or place) of understanding?”
Job asks and answers four relevant questions:
- What is wisdom?
- Where does it come from?
- How does one obtain it?
- Why does it matter?
Next week we will explore and consider answers to these questions. Answers that may help us rest in the good life. A rest that offers life giving rhythm for all of us in pursuit of the perpetually elusive good-life.
As I write this brief series, I am considering the following questions of introspection. Perhaps they would aid you in your journey as well.
- What is my vision of the good life (after all, we each have a vision of what the good life is)?
- What are my strategies for pursuing this vision of the good life? Am I in a conquer and consume mode or would I be identified by or open to a communion and commitment reality?
- How do I define wisdom and would a pursuit of ancient wisdom provide a pathway toward the life I say I desire?
I would love to hear your comments in the space provided with this blog. Your ideas of the good life would now doubt instruction and shape mine!
Next week: What is Wisdom?
Disrupting to Renew!
¹Keller, Timothy J. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. New York: Dutton, 2009. Print.
²See Smith’s excellent work on desire and cultural formation: Smith, James K. A. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009. Print. Cultural Liturgies.