Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Contentment Or Apathy

When Erin was in second grade, we taught a unit on folktales to her class. This project culminated in reading Katherine Patterson's The King's Equal. After reading the book, we turned the story into a dramatic presentation. The wisdom of this story knows no boundaries.

Here is a brief synopsis:
"A selfish, conceited prince is tormented by the dying words of his wise father, the benevolent king: "You will not wear my crown until the day you marry a woman who is your equal in beauty, intelligence and wealth." Raphael's vanity prevents him from finding such a bride until an unknown maiden appears at the palace. Sent by a mysterious talking wolf, Rosamund dazzles Raphael with her beauty, her intelligence (she is the first who recognizes his loneliness) and her wealth ("There is nothing I desire that I do not already possess"). However, she refuses his proposal of marriage, pointing out that, by his own admission, she is more than equal to him; his task is to earn her love."

Lately I have been haunted by Rosamund's description of wealth. I think that it is beneficial to have a heart to heart with yourself every now and then and ask the question, "What do I want right now that I do not have?" Interestingly, I don't think that this is a context where the word need can be substituted for want. I suspect that at any given point in life there is always something we need (a root canal, an oil change, to lose a few pounds, a new hair style), but are these things we want? More often than not, an intense want is much more damaging to our soul than an equal need. I recognize that maybe my perspective here is biased by the fact that I believe that God will provide for all of our needs. Wants, at best, are open to negotiation.

My point here is that if you find yourself wanting nothing, is that a sign of apathy or great wealth? My entire life has been a series of setting and meeting, and setting more and achieving more goals. This, for sure, is a means to keeping oneself on the move, but at what cost? When you are constantly reaching for something more, are you ever really aware of what you already have? And, if having "it" is not enough, why did you want it in the first place?

Life is a journey. None of us is stationary. We are constantly moving, constantly changing. Do we need to be constantly acquiring? There is a cliche that says, "he who dies with the most toys wins." Wins what? Maybe he who dies with the one toy that he has truly enjoyed wins. One who understands simplicity, in my book, is the winner. Think about it for a minute (or more if necessary), if you could only have one "toy", what would it be?

I would have to answer this question with "my camera". Pictures can tell the story of our lives. They can also tell the story of the lives we wish we had. They allow us to preserve, assuming we are watching in the first place, all the wonderful moments in this life. From these pictures, thoughts and words flow. When all of these things converge, the story of our self emerges. To reveal our true self and to allow this self to live the life it is destined to live should be our primary goal.

Another reason that i have chosen to answer the above question with "my camera" is that this is a place where my rampant perfectionism does not reveal its ugly head as often as in other places. I want to take good pictures, but good is relative. In many instances, the picture I thought I was taking was not the picture I took. This is God revealing to me what I should be looking for in the world. Maybe the camera lens is a tangible eye of God.

I would love it if those of you who lurk out there would share your "toy" with us by commenting.

I have strayed from the point I thought I was making here. Back to the question of apathy verses contentment. Right now I am at a point where there is nothing I really want. This creates a great sense of peace in me. I think it is peace. I don't think that I am apathetic, but because the question has surfaced, I guess I need to consider it. And so I will, I'll let you know what I figure out.