Taking a semester off has awarded me a return ticket to a place that I had completely forgotten about: serenity.
I am naturally a very introspective person. While school and vocation oft thrust me towards the lime-light that admittedly is far more light than lime, I still prefer the quiet solitude of my desk, blank paper and a pile of books.
Most of my highschool experience was that way and a good portion of the three years I took between highschool and college were spent that way as well.
It feels good to be back.
One of the more fascinating effects of my return to peace has been the border-line Solomic response to popular culture and the monotonous parade of trends that swear they’re the best that’s ever to come –until the next day when an unlikely competitor beats them out with a tweet they never saw coming. And thus it continues.
I’m not down on progress, I’m simply humored by the attitude of progress peddlers who pull their squeaky WordPress cart into the public square and try to deal suave to the techno-children of the world.
Unlike the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (who, by the way, gave me nightmares as a child), the folks who spend their lives trying to be cutting edge are instead becoming dull.
In other words, like trends themselves, trendy is getting boring.
I tried the pursuit of the cool. I spent two-and-a-half years in the groves of academia (most of which was full of foxes with their tails on fire, burning down the place in the name of being contemporary). Now that I’ve surface from that quick sand, I find myself coming to the same conclusion: There’s nothing new under the sun.
A number of years ago, I started listening to John Piper’s sermon series on Romans. I had heard his name so often in my church circles that I decided to hear him for myself. In that introductory sermon he said something that encapsulated my discontentment,
“I am not as moved today as I once was by the tyranny of the urgent or by the need to respond to every trendy view that blows across the American cultural landscape. I’m well passed mid-life and my confidence has grown very deep that the way to be lastingly relevant is to take your stand on old, tried, unshakable truths; rather than jumping from pragmatic bandwagon to bandwagon trying to do the latest thing to make things happen in the church. So I don’t feel any need to do that sort of thing anymore.”
This is difficult for me because I love novelty. I love the better, the greater, the more efficient. I love those moments when you roll out a new idea and all God’s people say, “Finally!” But this love for progress often conflicts with with the old, tried, and unshakable.
As I reflect on this tension, I discover that my conflict is not with progress or tradition, it’s with attitude and goal.
I am becoming more and more convinced that the end of the matter is the end of that matter. That is, goals determine our reaction to trends.
If my goal is to be trendy, then I will be chasing the wind with a butterfly net. But if my goal is actually a goal, then trends become atmospheric rather than determinitive.
Imagine if we were on a flight from Sea-Tac to LAX and the pilot came on the loudspeaker and said, “Sorry folks, but we have a very strong side wind, so I looks like we’re headed to either Post Falls or Austin.”
I’d want my money back.
But seems to he be the inevitable leadership style of anyone whose goals are not set on the old, tried and unshakable. Those leaders aren’t leaders. They’re follows. And they’re the worse sort of followers because they’re ultimate purpose is to follow –making them little more than consumers.
What’s the point of a leader who doesn’t produce anything?
Aimlessness is one thing, but pride in it is another.
I loath the attitude of the trendy class whose insistence that the storm is better than the calm refuses to be influenced by such trivialities as a destination.
Chasing the wind with a butterfly net and hoping all your friends admire you for it is Original-Shredded-Wheat weird. But not nearly as weird as when the adoring fans turn their ire towards those who refuse to join the “fun”.
As it turns out, the King of “What’s Next” is making the same fashion statement as Michelangelo’s David. That’s just not at all appealing to me.
Armed with this new insight and resolution, my only remaining question is, how long will this burst of reason last?