Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving blessing

Happy is a yuppie word
Nothing in the world can save us now
It's empty as an argument
We're running down a life we won't cash out

Jon Foreman of Switchfoot wrote this song after a Bob Dylan quotation "from a 1991 Rolling Stone interview. Dylan was asked, on the occasion of his 50th birthday, if he was happy. Dylan replied, 'Those are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness. It's not happiness or unhappiness, it's blessed or unblessed.'"

If you want to put things this way, happiness and unhappiness are a matter of your instinctual reaction to your circumstances. When we long for happiness, we long to control our circumstances to the point that all our desires are endlessly satisfied, and we ride on a wave of pleasures to our eventual death. But it's good while it lasts.

I should have said, rather, to our eventual unhappiness, because the kind of control necessary here is impossible. This is one of the things the machines couldn't understand in The Matrix: "Some thought we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world..." It's in a CS Lewis book too (Pilgrim's Regress) that advising people to the pursuit of happiness is like advising someone to enjoy unbroken good fortune.

Blessedness is not about luck. It rejects the power fantasy of the yuppie world. This is the first way that blessedness is about weakness. Here are some other ones.

[3] Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
[4] Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
[5] Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
[6] Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
[7] Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
[8] Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
[9] Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
[10] Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessedness is not a question of circumstances. It is an orientation toward the world, an allegiance to a point of view. That point of view is to understand the world as overflowing with meaning, rain or shine. It is to understand the seasons of living.

For Christians, blessing lies beyond the horizon of this world. Still, they find blessings everywhere. But that's a story for another day.

May your lives and your families be blessed this Thanksgiving.

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