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The Student Media Site of William Clarke College

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The Student Media Site of William Clarke College

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What’s the Point?

Photo from Martin County (2021)

Sitting in a dark greasy room with 200 other students, I seem to lose track of anything important. The folded-down red chair is enticing me to decide whether or not putting my feet up to rest will be frowned upon. There’s some guy with a beard up front talking about religion. Who’s he to tell me how to live my life? Anyways, I’ve got better things to worry about; finishing school, getting a job, going to uni, getting a better job, getting money, retiring with a house or two to my name and then dying.

Oh whoops, we thought to far ahead.

Topics like dying and purpose, I can worry about those later. I mean right now I’m having the time of my life! Last night I literally got to sit on my bed for 3 hours scrolling through videos of… wait what did I watch again?

Well do you know what? I can’t wait to be an adult. Such a fulfilling prospect, sitting in my office chair for 8 hours a day, so I can head home to my house to eat a meal and do it again the next day. Going on a holiday for 4 weeks for about 40 years and then I can finally rest and be happy.

Sounds fun doesn’t it. Not really. The truth is, if everyone is honest with themselves, the society we live in is void of meaning. And not just void of it, but actively avoiding it. Everywhere we walk we are told to fixate on largely unimportant matters. Material possessions drive us to work like slaves. Short, pointless, empty videos leave us twiddling our thumbs for hours on end. Everyone is in a race to see who can get the quickest fix of satisfaction.

But why? Why do we settle for these cheap handfuls of pleasure?

In the year 2000 the famous pastor and theologian John Piper directed his audience of 40,000 young men and women to a page from the Reader’s Digest which read:

‘Bob and Penny . . . took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball, and collect shells.’

Sounds nice does it not?

“That’s a tragedy…” he told the crowd.

It’s a tragedy because it’s the dream that is sold to us. The dream that the end goal is to retire early and collect shells. That’s our purpose, our desire, our goal. We spend so much time in school talking about goals, but for what? What really is our goal? Buying into the idea of the utopian Australian dream is the biggest mistake you can make. To think that you have no other purpose for this short time on earth than to live in comfort and collect shells, what a disaster. John Piper summarises it so clearly with the simple statement; “Don’t waste your life.” It might sound like a corny motivational speaker’s anecdote, but it means so much more than that.

I think that the book of Ecclesiastes describes this pursuit of purposeless perfectly in chapter 1:3-4;

“What do people gain from all their labours at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.”

What do you gain? You should be asking yourself that in everything you do. Every course you take, every business decision, career choice. You will find yourself ultimately empty. There has to be more to life than seashells.

The idea of long-term pleasure culminating  in an early retirement brought me to a thought experiment I have seen. Imagine holding the end of a rope in your hand that goes on forever and never stops. Envision a small 1 inch red section of the string at the beginning, that’s your life. You have that much time on this earth. So many of us believe the lie that the little red part of the rope is all that we need to worry about. Not just that, we become consumed by it. We have become so hedonistic as a culture that we can’t even talk about eternity for longer than 5 minutes without getting squirmish.

Think about it, the last time you and your friends tried to talk about something serious like where you’re going to be when you die. What happened? Who brought it up? Did it even happen? Have you ever even thought about it? The conversation likely gets changed to something else. Next time that conversation change occurs, briefly examine the topic of conversation and ask yourself:

1. Does it have purpose?

2. Is it about some sort of short-term satisfaction?

It is becoming increasingly hard to find purpose or question our meaning without dismissing it because it is confronting. We live in an age where billionaires are pulling the strings of our society, constantly fighting for your attention so that they can make more money. Do they care about you? Of course not. The more TikTok you watch, the more Frank Green bottles you buy, the more pornography you consume, the more meaningless gossip and Youtube drama you engage in, the more money you pursue and the longer you are distracted from your true purpose.

You become a rat in a cage that just pushes a lever constantly to get the next bit of cheese. The next rush of dopamine, the next fake emotion.

How do we escape the endless cycle of dissatisfaction that we feel so trapped in? It is all well and good to understand the nature of someone who is trapped in this mindset, but what’s the answer to this problem?

The answer is, become a marathon runner instead of a sprinter.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.” (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

God has given us the opportunity to live in the freedom of knowing the end of our story, and yet so many of us settle for second best. Do not buy into the Australian dream. It is a product being sold to you. It does not benefit you.

Instead of selling your soul to a world that is going to fade away, give your heart to the King of all, who has already bought your soul and is waiting for you to approve the transaction. Run the race with your eyes fixed on eternity and everything else will blur into the background. You will start to see how trivial it is that so many people devote their entire lives to making sure that their time on earth is comfortable.

In the film Fight Club, there is a famous scene in which Tyler Durden addresses the ‘narrator’ for the first time. At that point in the story, they are on a plane and he is reading through the safety procedures on a brochure. He says:

“An exit door procedure at 30,000 feet, the illusion of safety… You know why they put oxygen masks on planes?… Oxygen gets you high, in a catastrophic emergency, you are taking giant panic breaths, suddenly you become euphoric and docile you accept your fate”.

He then points out the graphic on the brochure which shows the passengers “calm as Hindu cows”.

Regardless of the context of this quote, this short statement does well to symbolise how we as humans delay the inevitable in order to feel comfortable in the short time that we have. And we do everything possible to distract ourselves from the end of the race. You see if a plane has engine failure at 30,000 feet, there is an inevitable consequence. In the same way, by our very existence as humans on this earth we are all inevitably going to have to face God.

We are going to have to stand in front of the all-powerful and have him decide our fate. Surely, if this is what’s ahead of us, we will spend less time chasing after such minuscule amounts of pleasure. The truth is, God gives us a way out of the plane crash.

For everyone who decides to become a marathon runner, you no longer have to live grabbing onto every bite sized piece of the euphoric experience this planet has to offer. A marathon runner’s eternity starts now, you become so fixated on the gift of eternal life that there is nothing in this world that you even bother wasting your time with.

I really pray that everyone who is reading this tries that little bit harder to understand the meaninglessness that they have without Christ. And I mean that in the most sincere manner. Christ is the only answer to the world’s problems and if we do not give our lives to him, we have wasted our time. But hey, at least we got some cool seashells.

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  • Joseph KSep 13, 2023 at 8:38 pm

    Cam you went in, this really good keep it up.