The other day I was with some friends and we were discussing what makes a life look different from others. Specifically, being Christ-followers, we were talking about what could make our lives look noticeably different than non-followers. Now, I know this is a risky topic to take on because of the incredibly emotional nature of the discussion. But I think this is relevant for anyone really. Don’t we all want to live a life that is somehow different than the masses of humanity?
We’ve all seen the Matrix. And if you haven’t, stop reading this blog right now and go rent all three of them and get to work. Seriously. (Me tapping my fingers as some of you leave…) Okay, now that we are all on the same page, don’t you sometimes feel like Neo? Not that you live in a matrix and the real world is at war with artificial intelligence. But that when you look around you it appears so many people walk around in almost a drone-like trance. If you ask people why they do things and they were honest much of the time I think you’d end up with something like…because. That’s it.
Don’t you want to just shake them? Yell in their face to start thinking and wake up? But that is exactly the issue. Have you first asked yourself if you are walking in the same trance? There is a reason that daily life seems so unchanged and mundane throughout history. Yes, the environment changes. The clothing changes. The technology and organization changes. But fundamentally not much really is different from 1,000 years ago. We are born and want to grow up fast while our parents tell us to slow down. We play, learn and strive to be a man or a woman. We seek out independence and freedom from the bounds of our childhood homes. We seek out work. We find work. We look to advance in our work. We build stuff. We seek for even more stuff in our lives. We want connection with other people. We meet that special someone. We have kids. We complain about having no time to play anymore. We complain that youth is wasted on the young. We pay taxes. We die. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Wow. I’m not really that much of a downer I swear. But isn’t that the thing we fear? Pointlessness. That if you strip away all the Facebook bluster about how exciting our lives are and take away the occasional fun experiences our lives just about follow this kind of progression. This is where we stood the other day asking the question: What makes our lives look any different from other lives?
If this were an easy answer I wouldn’t be putting it in a blog post. I’d be putting it on a piece of paper in a bottle and selling it for millions per bottle. I can’t solve this. The best I can do is give a single perspective in a maze of views. The single thought that I have had since that night is this: Our actions should hint that our minds are focused on something other than the things that make this life better.
Here’s the point: if this life has looked the same for so many for so long, should start looking elsewhere? Maybe you believe that there is no afterlife and there is no God. OK. But can you at least see that living for the betterment of mankind as a whole (i.e., beyond your life) is carries a greater legacy than anything else you could do with your life? And if you are a believer (of any sort, really), shouldn’t you be focused on the next life more than this one? Simple math tells you that even if you live 150 years on this earth that eternity is waaaayyy longer than that.
But here’s the thing, how many of us live day to day thinking about life beyond the here and now? I’d wager the number is pretty much zero. Why? After millions of years of being on the earth (or thousands depending on your persuasion), learning how to deconstruct DNA and build computers that can almost think as well as a human, why have we not realized that optimizing this life means thinking beyond it? I’m not saying this is a new thought nor am I saying this is particularly revolutionary. It’s not. And yet you and I don’t live this way.
The question I’m asking here is what does your life point to? What does my life point to? When I’ve died and been gone for 100 years, what will it have mattered that I was here? Maybe I’ll attempt an answer to that at some point. For today, I’ll just let that question sit.