**The following post is a ‘redraft’ of an earlier version that appears on http://theshapeofdesire.blogspot.com/ where I currently feature poetry and the poetic form. I hope to begin a mini series – with Melissa next week – on Porn, Power Narratives and the Promise of Lasting Change. The series will contain the ways in which we have leaned upon the grace of God to live into His freedom and relied upon the love of each other in the good and the bad.
Stay tuned ! Until then, enjoy this older post!**
Pop culture is infatuated with the age of 17. My wife and I live with three teenagers. I can, from their perspective, understand why the age of 17 is so important. After all, this is often an age during which one has a strong sense of tomorrow coupled with the feeling of invincibility.
When I was seventeen I recall believing that I was at my peak in many ways. I further recall thinking that my current age (forty-six) was a mere step from the grave. Yes, from the perspective of a 17 year old adolescent, I get it – the world is their oyster.
As I recall my late teen years now, it’s easy to see that I was, like most people the age of 17, completely incomplete. Caught somewhere between Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man and James Cameron’s Titanic: flashes of brilliant irrationality combined with a sense of superhuman invincibility.
SITTING AROUND TALKING ABOUT . . . GLORY DAYS
What I do not ‘get,’ however, is why those of us over 40 still long for and dream about the ‘glory days’ once past; those days when we were . . . 17. Consider this brief list of songs that extol in one way or another the virtues (or celebrates vices) of ‘yesteryear’ (mind you all of these are written by songwriters older than the age of 17, some of them much older):
- Yesterday, The Beatles
- You’ve Got to Fight for Your Right to Party, The Beastie Boys (okay, these guys were probably about 7 when they wrote this one).
- Dancing Queen, Abba
- Glory Days, The Boss
- Summer of 69, Bryan Adams
- Fast Cars and Freedom, Rascal Flatts
- Springsteen, Eric Church
In the interest of ‘fair play’ I admit that these songs and others like them (as well as a variety of components from our culture) may simply be relaying themes and ideas of times gone by in a way that causes us to pause and be thankful for where we are now; rather than longing for where we were then.
Yes, this may well be the case.
However it is increasingly clear that we are living in a world that ‘idolizes’ youth and detests aging. We fight aging or ‘growing old’ at every turn. From our incessant habits of exercise, endless consumption of diet pills, to our multi-billion dollar industry of cosmetic surgery, one might easily surmise that we are infatuated with youth.
Indeed many, if given the chance, would choose to be 17 again.
No Neutral Desire
Perhaps, in your own mind, you are already drawing a distinction between wanting to be 17 and remembering, with wonder, what it was like. Indeed, that may be the case – and, of course, that may also be the core of the problem. In once sense the sheer act of remembering stirs within us and points us toward desire – a longing lurking somewhere just beneath the surface of our lives.
Desire (this longing), even if unseen or denied, always controls the helm of our heart, steering our lives in one direction or another – or holding us in a pattern of perpetually unrealized hopes and dreams.
There simply is no neutral desire.
Desire always points toward deeper – to longing which lurks within.
Consider for a moment the languishing uncle of Napoleon in the hit movie Napoleon Dynamite. His name is Uncle Rico. Many of us know him well. We laugh at him in order to protect our own hearts; for in his character we find an inkling of our own unfulfilled dreams and the agony of misdirected desire. Uncle Rico was a high school football star who never grew past that wonder moment of the grid-iron glory days long past. In fact, he so deeply desires a recurrence of this moment that he continued to work on his ‘football skills’ (not to be confused with ninja skills) throughout the his life.
The writers made us laugh and point a finger at uncle Rico, even as they caused us to ask the question, “what of Uncle Rico lives within me?” You find him at the tailgate party, or the beach side game of pick football.
He still exists on the basket ball black-tops and in the city play grounds throughout this country.
He dwells in the board room, and drinks from the water cooler in the company lounge.
He gets drenched in the Saturday night pub and stumbles into the Sunday morning pew.
Yes, he lives in the salon, the bar, the restaurant or the conflict around the dinner table . . . And no; Uncle Rico doesn’t always throw a football.
Some Uncle Ricco and Napoleon Dynamite clips
Desire Rightly Stirred is Desire Rightly Steered
To remember stirs desire. To remember falsely (i.e. glory days remembrance) stirs and misdirects desire. Such stirring and aim often leaves our hopes unfulfilled and someone (or thing) else to blame. To remember rightly stirs desire that points us forward toward a still yet to be seen reality and a meaningful purpose as we strive toward such reality.
The Ancients, a people who remembered rightly, knew this difference well. Consider the ancient Israelite’s who journeyed for decades before arriving at the promised land. They not only ‘remembered’ rightly, they memorialized right remembering!
One might even say they institutionalized remembering.
In Numbers 15 we find God commanding his people ‘to make tassels for the hem of their clothing.’ These tassels, when looked upon, were to stir up memory of God’s laws – the way forward – so that they would not be directed or ‘steered’ by misaligned desires. To remember was a way forward – one which they weaved into the very fabric of their society and served to hold them fast and grant them purpose and meaning. Further, the way forward – rife with both purpose and meaning – was grounded in their remembrance of God. Yes, to remember was to be reminded that they were the people of God, set aside as a light unto the world, to bring glory to Him and honor to His name.
Whereas we moderns have also institutionalized remembrance – ours is an institution which points back to oneself. The ancient institution was one in which memory pointed forward to God and His vision (away from oneself). The former causes misaligned desire which leads to a life poorly lived. The latter causes desire rightly directed which leads to a life rightly lived; instilling a vision for glory yet to come!
Perhaps the question I might leave us with today is this:
Does my desire direct me to glory days long gone or to the Day of Glory yet to come?
They way I answer this question impacts how I live my life and the stirring and steering of my deepest desire.