People are different from one another. They hold different beliefs, have a variety of experiences, and distinctively relate to one another. Each individual gravitates toward inimitable symbols of value. For me, education and experience have high value. For another person, material possessions might have a higher value. For yet another, the opinions of peers are of the utmost importance. Each person is unique.
Groups of people can share symbols of value. When they gather around such symbols, like an intellectually stimulating conference, they might have trouble understanding another person’s perspective, especially when that other person does not see the group’s symbol as having any value. More than once, I have been excited about a conference paper and tried to share my enthusiasm, only to discover responses falling on a spectrum between polite disinterest and overt apathy.
The question, How can they be so off base?, belies an assumption of shared value. Both the one asking and the one to which the question refers must share some value. Yet, if they do not, the question makes no sense. I have had the experience, in the past, when, to me, I condescend to participate in something. Then, someone in the group organizing the activity says, ‘No thank you. We are fine without you.’ A grumpy old man seems to channel through me and say, ‘Harrumph! Really? Without me?!?’ However, the activity in question is not usually something I sought or, if I am being honest, really wanted.
Every person likes to experience value. Instead of finding value in something else, we all like to be the value. When a group says, ‘Yes, you are the one who can help us!’, we swell with pride, believe their affirmations and smugly and reluctantly join the activity. Instead of honestly answering the question, What am I supposed to be doing?, we follow the flow of life. Other people can set false pathways in front of us.
When other people set false pathways in front of us, do they do it intentionally? No. Certainly not. Or, at least, most of the time, people have no mal intention. Instead, they see something in us that we do not see in ourselves. Perhaps what they see is accurate. Perhaps it is an allusion, a misguided attempt to draw us out and nudge us into a new direction.
The overarching questions each person needs to ask are: What am I supposed to be doing? Where does God call me to be? Does this activity fit in with my sense of calling?
Interconnectivity, respected friends and mentors, hearing about other people’s successes, news and social media, and other sources can lead anyone to miss the point. Instead of asking and trying to answer the overarching questions listed above, people look around, practicing lateral Christianity.
The boy on the left might not have thought about a snack of cookies and soda before seeing his friend’s snack. Likewise, a person might be content with her job, car, house, phone, spouse, etc., until something grabs her attention. Suddenly, she misses the point. Her job was fine. Then, someone suggests applying for a new position; she applies, gets excited, and then is disappointed if she does not get it. Never mind that she was content before anyone mentioned the new position. The same applies to everything in life: living space, cars, bikes, mobile phones and other electronic devices, and even relationships.
Few spouses would say, I would like to wreck my life, go through a bitter divorce, become estranged from my children, and look back, wondering ‘Where did I go wrong?’ However, that is exactly what many people do. I once counseled a man who thought single life would be full of rabble-rousing nights in bars, so he left his wife. What did he find instead? Loneliness. Desperate for what he had, he and his wife reconciled, but their relationship will never be the same after his delusional foray into bachelorhood.
What is the point? Each one of us has to answer this question for ourselves. Let God guide your journey of discovery. Matthew 7:7 says, “Seek and you shall find.” Once we find the point, we can watch the world with interest, without letting the voices of the world create clutter and chaos and distract us from the point.
Maybe, one of the secrets of happiness is maintaining focus on the point.