10 December 2010

Sum Things Up with Some Snap

from Proverbs Fourteen

"The heart knoweth its own bitterness and with its joy no stranger can intermeddle."  We are ultimately responsible for our own depression and our own tranquility.  Often making the mistake of looking beyond ourselves for the cause of our despair or triumph, here Mishley reminds us that as autonomous souls, we bear the burden of our own lives.  Personal responsibility is not always easy to embrace; and sometimes we turn with too much ease to a culture of blame.  But when we take the time to understand ourselves, "the heart knoweth its own bitterness and with its joy no stranger can intermeddle."  As the writer of Deuteronomy, "man is a tree in the field," standing alone. 

Wherever we land on the depression-joy spectrum, death awaits.  The great, unavoidable truth of our existence.  How we handle this reality is the mark of wisdom or foolishness.  "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death."  In other words, whether we live with wisdom or live with foolishness, we will die.  So why care?  Why try?  Mishley, like the Psalmist, would argue that there's death and then there's Death.  One temporal and physical; the other eternal and ephemeral.  This aspect of the conversation requires a kind of openness to the idea that there is more to life than life itself; that there is existence beyond the grave.  But even for those who simply can't sign up for that program, there is the notion a life of quality, of meaning, can be had in this world.

"A tranquil heart is the life of the flesh but envy is the rottenness of the bones."  Look, these ancient philosophers really knew how to sum things up with some snap.  If it's a tranquil life in this world you're searching for, then live a life of wisdom and find a healthy heart.  But competition and envy from sun-up to sun-down?  Your bones will rot; your structure will collapse.

A true lesson for life; a metaphor for our nation which has lost its way--overly concerned with others while neglecting our own body-politic.  The mind:  our schools.  The heart:  our health care system.  The bones:  our national infrastructure, teetering on the verge of collapse.

Our country is depressed.  We're literally in a depression. 

American Idol.  Glee.  Dancing with the Stars.  Mere distractions--passive envy; others' joys.  "Even in laughter the heart acheth; and the end of mirth is heaviness."  When the television goes off and the blue-grey fades to black, we are left with making choices in our lives, choices for our nation.

Choose life, not the screen.  Choose wisdom, not the instant gratification.

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