See video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmpYnxlEh0c
We always seem to grab hold of a new awe-inspiring Youtube video at least every other day. One that genuinely warms our hearts and causes us to “share” with our online social media. In 2005, late author David Foster Wallace gave a very well-received commencement speech at Kenyon College. It can be compared to the likes of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford speech. This 1-week-old video was made using much of the audio from the original speech and has now gone viral. However, there is something seriously lacking in his speech. That is…..he lacked an answer for us. A sufficient and attainable answer.
It should first be said that Wallace’s speech was indeed exceptionally insightful. He makes several valid points and does not shy away from some difficult parts of life. His full speech is actually even deeper and may be worth listening to. The core message of his life-advising speech is the importance of combining awareness, effort, and education– in giving ourselves a choice to better our lives and the lives around us. One thing that he gets exactly correct is at the 4:38 mark….because ever since Genesis chapter 3, all individuals do in fact believe that they are the center of the universe. The core issue with sin is that we subconsciously believe that we are God (Romans 1:21). Even secular psychologists confirm this in their research, naming it “The Truman Show Effect”. Where Wallace begins to swerve his speech into the wrong direction is when he uses quotes such as ‘..you get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t, that is real freedom’ and ‘The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, every day.’
So, his solution to our selfishness, our inadequacy, our impatience, our lack of awareness…..is to somehow continually teach ourselves to be more conscious of the personal experiences of others around us. While also forcing ourselves to become more aware of the realities that we usually are too busy to relax and see. From this, we get truth and real freedom. Phew….well, that sounds easy as apple pie now doesn’t it?
What Wallace is suggesting for us to do is extremely exhausting. It is pretty much a second full-time 24/7 job, without a 401K. On the other hand, ironically, this freedom of truth is something that we all inherently desire within the depths of our souls. We want to care. We want to soak in everything/everyone around us for the fullness that they really are. The problem is that we cannot do this on our own will. The joy that comes from the perfection of this is always lacking outside of a relationship with Christ. There is a difference in willing yourself to achieve something and resting in that which has already been achieved. As we rest in the Gospel, there is an outflow from us (true believers) that automatically achieves what Wallace is stressing.
One thing that Oprah, Aristotle, Christopher Hitchens, and Kim Jong-un would definitely agree on is this– that the world is broken. Oprah comes out with a new silly self-help article everyday. Historically there is always someone new trying to find ways to fix the brokenness. Even the ancient Greeks would depict this in many of their mythical stories. God designed us to live and function a certain way that leads to joy, but when sin entered the world, the cosmos fractured in a way that now all that we do and think of fall short of His glory. Sin is now in our DNA from birth (Psalm 19-1-4, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12-13). With sin being in our DNA, it is a cancer that does not necessarily work as an external action but as an internal idolatry. The only time on earth when things we “right” was during the first two chapters of Genesis. Using conjecture: God would give Adam and Eve new iPhone’s and juicy steaks in the garden. In return, their mind, actions, and affections would not collapse on the iPhone itself, but created even more worship and understanding toward God. They were not tainted with sin yet. This allowed them to enjoy the fullness of the iPhone & steak how they were meant to be enjoyed. Win-win.
In order to get back to the state of awareness and fullness of life, we need restoration. Lucky for us, Jesus came to restore our ability to live life in the manner that God first created us (Romans 6:4, Eph. 2:21). How lucky are we. When this happened, for those that come and believe, our behavior begins to transform. Now….God does not simply want to transform our behavior; he wants to transform the heart so that our behavior comes out of a new heart. We have to catch that major difference there. It’s big. It helps us not walk with an arrogant swagger because we realize that we all fell short of the Lord. But Jesus picked us up and gave us his Spirit so that we can walk as he walked. We have a Maker that is so focused on His own glory that calls us into a holy joy that we can have, no matter how good or bad the circumstance. This is true Freedom. This is capital T-Truth. We need an ability that is spiritual. An intellectual method only allows you to know what to do, but does not allow you to achieve it. Without the Gospel lens, David Wallace just missed this. He died of suicide in 2008. I pray that he believed before it was too late. God’s ways are far wiser and complicated than we can possibly imagine.
[Other verses: John 1:13, Philippians 2:12-13, Proverbs 14:12, Jeremiah 17:9, John 8:34, John 3:19]