self inflicted praise
the gushing power of vanity
exceeds the vacuum of deeds
and words cascade
over the lip of an empty bucket
“So, what do you do?”
This seems to be the most common way we make the first step of exploration when meeting someone for the first time.
I know it is mostly very innocent and a customary socially appropriate exchange to boot but I can’t help thinking that it subtly and perhaps even bewitchingly encourages us to define ourselves not by who we are but by what we do.
With each and every one of us there are a multitude of things we “do” and none of these things defines us completely. In fact, even what we do as a primary activity in our daily lives is for the most of us not what we would choose to do. Most often what we “do” is a functional necessity usually linked directly to the most primitive of drives – that of survival rather than something that is a full and free-flowing manifestation of who we really are.
Apparently they say it has been proved that real job satisfaction is very rare in our times.
To add more to this suggestion our apparent obsession with desperately making it to each weekend (TGIF) is perhaps powerful evidence of this sad state of affairs.
Now this dominance of defining ourselves almost exclusively by what we do rather than by who we are may well be as a result of a gradual shift away from the entitlement of the aristocracy in history where worth and status in society was granted not by individual functionality or competence but by peerage.
Or perhaps it could also be a spin-off from the beginnings of the industrial revolution where focus on the worth of the individual was suddenly shifted and extended in terms of the specific function played in the production line of life in the modern age of mass production and consumerism?
Either way I would think it’s perhaps more than just an interesting thought to entertain.
A fruit tree at the very earliest stage in its life may well be confused with any number of other sapling species to all but the expert botanist …but come maturity it will be defined by its fruit and all debate will then cease.
It is written in the ancient spiritual texts that a tree will be recognised by its fruit – however, it was the fruit tree well before it bore the convincing fruit declared it as such.
In these deceptive times perhaps our marketing saturated and superficially obsessed, materialistic society has succeeded in convincing us otherwise though?
So, how would you define yourself?
giving is a one way motion
as is taking
a selfless action or intent
according to any expectation of return or reward
was never selfless in the first place
there will be an effect
there always is
and that effect could well be rewarding
but that reward would be selfless
never budgeted for
and this reward will come from another unexpected place
if we see it coming
if it was expected or anticipated
it was self-centered from the beginning
to give with the expectation of reward or return
reveals the presence of a transactional process
whether conscious or not
it has always impressed me that in the ancient sacred texts
the blessings for obedience
as as well as the curses for disobedience
always overtake us
that which overtakes
comes from behind
it outpaces us
it overpowers us
even sweeps us away
to other places
other unexpected places
unintended unplanned for destinations
that will leave us wondering
in our market driven world
our self made markets
we go out and grab
we promote others
that we might be promoted in return
we snatch and take
and we celebrate those who succeed in this
and the words of truth echo…
faintly it seems
and more faint every day
“the first shall be last…
and the last shall be first… ” they say…
Imagine watching a National Geographic type program where multitudes of Wildebeest are trekking across the savannah in their great annual migration. The high drama unfolds as predators stalk and attack the seemingly defenseless prey at key points along their perilous journey. We sit and watch with mouths agape as the life and death struggle unfolds before our eyes.
However, can we imagine that on this occasion something unexpected and strange occurs. Right in front of our eyes amidst the terrible life and death struggle the Wildebeest suddenly start turning on each other at the same time as the fierce predators are picking them off one by one? As the predators are ripping into the herd the Wildebeest masses start biting each other and tearing strips of flesh from each others bodies as they run frantically attempting to avoid being devoured by the predators themselves? Living hide is ripped off the living of their own kind. Blood sprays out like cheap Hollywood special effects as one Wildebeest with huge gaping jaws snarls and grips another Wildebeests flesh and with once herbivorous grinding molars now flays and devours the flesh of their own kind.
Maybe this might seem like a Stephen King novel or a little Freddy Kruger happening to you? However, to me this looks almost exactly like a regular day on my Facebook wall.
Strangely we, the multitudes, whilst suffering under the unrelenting pounding force of a gluttonous industrial predatory monster that herds us and sets us up for ambush and which is clearly hell-bent on extracting every micro particle of life, specifically in the shape and form of revenue are in the same movie. Relentlessly they bombard us with more and more maliciously manipulated and strategically packaged, useless consumer items that never really better our lives or ever make us well but instead makes us sick and even kill us. And now, we the hapless prey are confronted by our own fellow victims who tear at us with equal ferocity. The prey has turned predator.
I am a musician and in my little circle of influence on the ‘social’ network I see ‘friends’ and colleagues, fellow sufferers and even the walking wounded turning on each other like ravenous predators. Most of the time I’m quite overwhelmed by so many advertising their gigs, new CD’s, projects, products.
“Come support me”, “buy my CD”, “come to my show…”
Not only the musicians mind you. All manner of product movers stalk (perhaps unwittingly) like predators trying to sell themselves, their products, anything… to anyone they can, anyone whose attention they can grab for a fleeting second…
They say from social research findings that the vast majority of children who have been sexually molested or physically or emotionally abused in some way end up being sexual molesters or abusive parents or adults themselves when they grow up.
to live above the noisy dust
the frantic rushing herd
a world of hype
and smoke and mirrors
where reality is absurd
where everyone is trying to sell
making as much noise as possible
screaming for attention in the market place
bumping for centre stage
to get the attention
to get the deal
to turn the squeaking wheel
squeaking for oil
as we all run dry
we shout louder to believe in ourselves
because we don’t
so we make believe that we believe
we believe in belief
and believe we believe
that we have what we have not
that we have a place when we don’t
so we shout even louder
look at me!
look at me!!
for I cannot bear to see myself
as I really am
In South Africa a secrecy bill (the “Protection of Information Bill”) has been shoved through in what clearly appears to be a sneaky, underhand and sinister fashion. If it gets past any constitutional court appeals and hearings it stands to give the government unimaginable power to control who says and does what … and exclusively at their (the ruling party’s) own discretion and for their own personal benefit and ultimately, protection (from exposure and prosecution for corruption and any other deviance or malpractice).
A thought from another planet perhaps: – the bill, what it stands for and the way it was forced through as well as the alleged reasons for this action is to my mind somewhat extremely unethical to say the least. The fact that it comes through the ANC is nothing less than shocking.
However, in terms of the direct implications of the bill on the “free press” what to my mind does perhaps need to be thought through is the extent to which the press really is “free” and objectively “journalistic.”
Let’s face it, sensationalism sells and revenues from advertising in publications that generate sensationalistic response is what makes the world go round for the press industry.
The press feel like their freedom to inform is being taken away, as well as their freedom to bring an ‘objective’, factual perspective (and before I am branded as a neo-Nazi, totalitarian despot sympathizer, I do believe that strong debate and passionate opposition is essential and very healthy for any community).
But for many decades now I personally battle to read the newspapers, or watch TV, TV news, or read current news editorials as they are to my mind so overwhelmingly manipulatively inflammatory and one sided in terms of the sensationalistic negative spin they seem to take (take the whole recent Rupert Murdoch debacle for example).
Could it be argued that the cries of the “free” press are the same as the cries of the record industry against piracy (who even mobilise the artistes themselves to campaign against piracy) when they themselves, to my mind at least, are the biggest pirates, raping and pillaging creativity, the arts, culture, artistes and the coffers of the artistes themselves for their own gain and dictating to the masses what, when, and who to listen to in order to extract exorbitant profits for themselves?
(and as a personal footnote jab, the Gospel Worship/”Contemporary Music” industry as well as the Christian/Gospel Book Publishing Industries do exactly the same thing – selling manipulatively marketed, sensually “popular” merchandise for exorbitant profits and in so doing dictating to a thoughtless and naive church what the “prophetic” voice and message and culture of God is… – which in the present Christian scene is merely a very weak, attempted copy of what is perceived to be popular and trendy in the ‘secular’ marketplace. - A bit extremely blasphemous to my mind … … .. . don’t you think?)
For me quite an important aspect of living a life above the noisy dust of the frantic and confused herd is captured in a passage out of Paul’s epistle to the Roman church.
This passage urges us to not conform to the patterns of this world but rather to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
I feel we live in an unreal world of hype, smoke and plenty of mirrors. Everyone seems to be huffing and puffing, trying to sell something and make as much noise as possible in the process. what’s more, we don’t only sell stuff, we sell ourselves.
We raise our voices in the market place to try drown out all opposition so that we can seize center stage, get the attention and do the deal. Perhaps the reasoning behind this bustle of activity is the belief that the squeaking wheel gets the oil? and that if we so overpower them with persistent in-their-face-ism we will convince them to be convinced about us? Or maybe it’s that we actually don’t really believe – in ourselves, our product, perhaps even in our place under the sun or in God’s ability to sustain us as we humbly go our way – … so we shout louder and louder to convince ourselves … and others?
On facebook I have been alarmed at how much of this personal marketing process is shown to have begun to saturate us in our interactions with each other. We are preyed on by the owners of the social networks, their clients the advertisers… and we also prey on each other. We pepper our own and others profile walls with our personal marketing schemes.
As a way of protest and retaliation to the way I personally have been violated by this barrage of self-selling I (with not a little humorous tongue in cheek but yet with serious intent) posted a status warning people I would add them to an obnoxious group of my own making.
And here is the description of my group:
This Group is a protest page for and against those who qualify themselves as members of such a group by thoughtlessly joining others to their group/event/cause/page/scheme/need, etc. without the dignity of respectfully, privately and personally inviting the person and waiting to receive some form of willing agreement.
It’s also for those who shamelessly market themselves at the expense of those they claim to be their “friends” or pestering them to “LIKE” them or their group/event/cause/page/scheme/ etc… … and who bombard others (their “friends”) with constant cries of “look at me,” “buy my product,” “support me,” “like me,” etc.. with seemingly very little or no awareness of their own self-centred vanity (as if the marketing bombardment of the corporate consumer slave-driving worthless commodity peddling corporations is not already relentlessly beating everyone into helpless submission and then total subjugation).
If you are “joined to the group” without your personal consent and made a member then “feel the love” and revel in the fact that it is an honorary title you now hold.
You are one of them!!! YAY!!
… and please, don’t try deny it…
… YOU DESERVE IT!!
But, this is not the mark of the beast YET! … you see, you CAN be removed, but it will necessitate you acknowledging this about yourself and posting a public apology on the wall of the person you disrespectfully “joined” to your “group” or “cause” without respecting them by asking for their their active, willing and personal consent.
Along with the “Secrecy Bill, “Big Brother,” the Church Police and your next door neighour “we” will be watching closely and keeping a record so don’t try to cheat and sneakily delete your membership (because if you do, you’ll simply be added again) … if you are unrepentant as the famous song goes, .. “… you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave… “.
Have a nice day now and please don’t forget to “LIKE” this page?
now I am aware that this is merely a local fellowships sincere attempt at spreading the gospel as best they know how and that clearly not much thought other than the urgent need to perform the task at hand was entered into
however,very often in our unguarded moments our real nature is clearly revealed and who we are leaks out for all but ourselves to see
could this be the tragicomic reality and state of where the present church has got itself to?
“refreshments and boerwors rolls on SALE” shares equal billing prominence to being reconciled with, and the worship of God
we are clearly admonished to not be conformed to the patterns of this world but instead to be transformed by the renewing of our minds
has it perhaps got to the stage where we could even be setting the pace and giving the systems of the world a lesson in priorities and product marketing?
so how do we live? …by faith in vain science? … or by the science of vain faith?
I asked this recently and someone said, “I’d rather live to believe that Jesus is real and find out He’s not than to believe He’s ‘not real’ and find out He is.”
I understand that response but is that kind of response reflecting faith or is it reflecting blinding fear?
Is it not also merely suggesting that at the end of the day our belief systems (whether ‘spiritual’ or ‘scientific’) are merely a construct of convenience? And not really a personal construct either, but a social, cultural one at that?
Wasn’t it Bob Dylan who said, “you have to believe in something”?
Is this the reality of things for us?
Is life like our present democratic system of governance where we are presented by only two (or maybe at best a few) choices that aren’t really choices at all? A cosmic polling station where we are forced to chose what for the circumspect can only be really a choice between the lesser of two evils… and yet we feel it our duty to put our cross on one of the options and once we do make our vote we set about seeking as many as possible who made the same choice and form communities.
There are many of us who don’t vote or who even ‘spoil’ our vote but even then if we participate as a non-participant our hearts as well as all those around us condemn us?
But then again, maybe like this democratic system we so love and adore, that’s all we have? – we make a reasonable decision (according to ourselves at least – and also those significant others in our lives) based on the best data available to us at the time. … and so we believe … and do everything possible to sustain that belief system.
However, for me this data set seems to be based essentially on incomplete and mostly intangible options.
Perhaps honesty is all we have? … however, these days I find that there is very little honesty around. There’s lots of huffing and puffing – marketing of our own views and what we would like others to think we are, or what we believe, or what we would like them to think we can do… excuse my scepticism, but all I see is a very successful “Hollywood” marketing system reigning in our hearts and minds.
Honesty and humility?
Hardly any of us have the ability to clearly see our own flaws and weaknesses. And if we do manage a glimpse we cover ourselves with fig leaves and hide behind trees… Maybe that’s why we eventually turn to belief, to a system of faith? Maybe that’s why we align ourselves and commit to a course of … self generated internal or social equilibrium perhaps?
Personally I do have a belief in God but I also have many doubts.
Amongst quite a few other things I doubt my own sincerity towards life and it’s meaning. I doubt my own ability to really understand enough of what’s actually happening in me and around me. I doubt my own integrity as a rational being, my own ability to make accurate decisions. I also doubt my own ability to shrug off my own self-embraced illusions, etc.
As a result these days my efforts are invested far less in trying to support my chosen belief systems than they are focused on trying to remain as open minded as I possibly can… if that’s really at all possible?
The truth is that it takes so much discipline on my part to confront my own faith and belief systems and to weigh them up against the good and the bad times, against reality as I am exposed to it.
And through it all I am amazed that I still believe in God … but even that sounds so arrogant… It sounds like because I believe God is real and exists… maybe it’s more of a truth that God believes in me and because God believes I exist? Maybe it’s God who holds tight to me and not the other way round?
And maybe this all is just another illusion of convenience I simply cannot seem to shrug off?
But I really struggle with the God of the majority and cannot embrace that popular social construct – a God who is exclusively focused on me and blessing me, doing things for me, whilst simultaneously pouring out wrath and anger on everyone who doesn’t agree with my beliefs.
Instead I am confronted with what I can only describe as a somewhat confusing source of immense power and peaceful majesty that calls out to me more than I call out.
Instead of this source of power being focused on me, to bless me personally and exclusively, I seem to find that the more I challenge my own abilities and fight my own vanity the more peace I get, the more at rest I become within myself and with my environment. It’s in this pain that I find healing. It is through this pain that I seem to become whole.
For me, both faith and science are profoundly speculative and the most insecure seem to be those who try to shout the loudest, who claim to know beyond a doubt.