Thursday, February 02, 2012
The Vision (2/2/12): The Anecdote to Contemporary Boredom
We live in a fast paced world of seemingly endless increasing complexity. Sometimes just for fun, Llewellyn and I will mesmerize our children by telling them about what things were like “in the old days.” We did not have cells phones and could not be reached at every moment of the day. If your car broke down you had to find a pay phone and make a call home (hoping someone would be there on the other end to actually answer). We did not have digital recording devises and players, so we could not listen to music (or sermons!) constantly. There were only three or four television channels, and the only time you could see a program was if you watched it at the time it was broadcast. If you missed it, you missed it, and you couldn’t see it till (or if) it was ever broadcast again. There were no VCRs, no DVDs, and no digital streaming of every form of entertainment imaginable. When you took pictures with your camera, you had to send the film away to be developed and you might not get it back for weeks to see the images you had snapped. When someone went “overseas” to visit another country or even if he moved to another state, you could not easily communicate with him usually for weeks or months on end, and then only by sending letters or packages. There was no email and no video links. The only “social networks” you might enjoy were to be found in family gatherings, churches, etc. You could not anonymously find out almost anything about almost anybody. There were no search engines. If you wanted to know something you looked it up in an encyclopedia or searched for a book in the library on card catalogue, and even then you might not find it. You just had to be content to be in the dark sometimes about some things.
The thing that strikes me most about all the changes in information, communication, and entertainment is the fact that the more things have changed the more they have stayed the same. People still get bored and anxious with life. It all seems vain. Clicking one more video, making one more post, exploring one more link doesn’t make things better. We just get bored faster.
This is, in fact, the same predicament that Solomon faced in his day, when he wrote:
KJV Ecclesiastes 2:1 I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. 2 I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it? 3 I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. 4 I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: 5 I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: 6 I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: 7 I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: 8 I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. 9 So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. 11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
In the end, Solomon affirms that man’s life only makes sense when he walks the path of wisdom, fearing God and keeping his commandments (Ecc 12:13). Indeed, the only answer for man’s boredom and longing is the wisdom of God. And that wisdom has now been made manifest in the person of the Lord Jesus who is “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).
The thing that we as a Biblical church have to offer a bored and anxious world is not another brief thrill, factoid, or entertainment program. In preaching the gospel of Christ we have the thing they don’t even know they need and long for. As Peter told Jesus, “Lord to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle