Thursday, January 3, 2013


Many, maybe most, people serve the god of utility. Whether you're a church person, a temple person, a shrine person, a or one who tries hard to keep a polite distance from anything existential, spiritual, biblical, or religious, you probably live your life with a high degree of measurability, or at least you strive to. People value the process of accomplishing, of being strategic, and often with no boundaries or checks. Usefulness is the litmus test, the paradigm that governs choices and behavior. You won't keep your job if you're not useful. If your SMART goals aren't met than something's not right; you need to adjust, alter, mend, and do it again, better this time. And this is all logical. There's a mound of things to address, to fix, to make, to write, to pay, to visit, to clean, to generate, to preach, to manage. We are innately utilitarian. We predict to control. It's the bedrock of the naturalist worldview, which says that we exist in a closed-system universe. No God. No divine intervention. No existential nonsense. No spirit, just matter. It's all up to us. Sophisticated molecular connections and interactions. Pure cause and effect. Scientific method, only. Empirical data. If I can't measure it through sound sensory instruments, it's dismissed, relegated to the underground of pious myth and archaic narrative. Interesting, maybe, but not true.

Assuming "true" is linear, progressive, rationally ascertained, governed by logic, and appropriated most fully through ventures of utilitarian nature. To me, that's like saying the Pacific Ocean can be put into an aquarium if we're carful and methodical. But it can't. Truth is uncontainable. We don't govern it, it governs us. We are invited into it, like a good south swell in the summer dumping six foot a-frame barrels on a sandy bottom beach break. We taste it. We get wet in it. But we can't predict it and control it, try as we do.

We ought not abandon our utility, only temper it. Utility is a tool, and that's it. What is the end of the striving, of the accomplishing, of the climbing? Rewards? Pats on the back? A release of endorphins? Probably, but that's not enough. The soul won't be satisfied with it. Utility needs to be tempered with play. Play. Sabbath. Play. Uselessness for a time. Shouting for your team in the bottom of the ninth at the stadium. Swimming out to the dock. Testing your four-wheel drive. Piddling at the cafe. Singing in the stairwell at a downtown building. Questing to accomplish, driving to fulfill demands, these have their place, but without play, it doesn't matter and won't matter. "Marley is dead," penned Dickens in his opening of A Christmas Carol, and his business partner, Scrooge, has pretty much wasted his life being useful. His end will soon be that of Marley's.  He never played. He was never chosen to play, and so he nailed that coffin shut and got on with it, making money and establishing security.

We've been chosen to play. We've been allotted the time. We've been given Sabbath.