Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For Sunday, December 7, 2014
Our Addiction to Extraordinary
David W. Hegg
It is increasingly apparent that what makes for a good news day, and what makes for a good life are polar opposites. As a nation I greatly fear we are becoming addicted to the spectacular, the extraordinary, and especially the bizarre. And it isn’t just the media that is fueling this.
Deep inside we are people bored with life, despite the gadgets, gizmos, and outrageous happenings we believe can offer some small bits of excitement. We check our messages, emails, and tweets incessantly against the chance that something new and interesting can be found. And with 24-hour news apps, we can be the first to know when a new song breaks out, or a celebrity works some crazy and lands in jail.
Our lives are caught in a harmful cycle. We’re just not that excited about the ordinary, and seek out the extraordinary to relieve the boredom, but the relief doesn’t last long. Pretty soon we’re right back where we were, looking high and low for another fix.
This explains our incessant drive for the newest thing or the best story. It’s why we have to have the newest gadget when it comes out, and why we sleep in line to get the best deals on Black Friday. Our boredom with life compels us to find something – anything! – to bring some small spark of excitement into our otherwise dreary, day-to-day existence.
Face it, we’re a nation addicted to our own tragedy/celebrity/bizarre fueled adrenaline. How else can you explain the fact that the Kardashian clan and those like them, who provide nothing of value to society, are banking millions in both PR moments and cash. Who cares about them? Apparently a desperate nation with nothing better to do.
But the truth is, a good life is not made up of extraordinary moments. A good life is one that has come to see the depth and beauty of the ordinary things around us. A good life is built around values and commitments that are cemented in wisdom, knowledge, and experience, and not subject to being blown around by the winds of culture. A good life has learned to deeply value a good meal, a loving hug, a waning sunset, a well-mown lawn, long-term relationships, and the simple smell of morning coffee.
The ancient Greeks called it egkrateia, which literally meant “self-powered.” It’s often translated “self-control” today, but really defines the person whose wellbeing is not dependent on outside sources, but on what he or she believes and who they are. A “self-powered” life understands the staying power of the ordinary things that make up 99% of our days, and recognizes their intrinsic value and deep worth. Instead of “having a good day” these folks are intent on “making it a good day” or better yet, a good year. They are active, not passive, in the task of finding joy, purpose, and satisfaction is this life.
Such people look, not to the “event of the moment”, but to more lasting and meaningful things like love, beauty, relationship, and challenge to find worth in each day. They take the bad with the good knowing that happiness should never be measured in 24-hour increments. They learn to know real contentment simply because they have anchored their hearts and minds to things that lay outside the reach of circumstance.
I find there is a connection between a contented, purposeful life, and the continuous pursuit of real knowledge. This is true because the ability to love the ordinary only comes as we are able to think deeply about the simple things in life. When we place greater value on whose singing what, or whose wearing what, or what celebrity has engaged in the latest outrageous act, than we do in the great ideas and questions of life, we’re activating our own addiction to that which can never satisfy.
Real meaning in life will always come from those things that have real meaning. For me it starts with my relationship with the God who made me, and who continues to give me life, breath, and the joys of serving him.
So, what do we do? I propose we forget the ultimately forgettable, take a pass on the bizarre, and focus our lives on forming personal values, convictions, and standards that will make our lives valuable, even newsworthy. Maybe its time the celebrities started taking note of us for a change.
Picture Credit: "Fireworks" by satit_srihin; Freedigitalphotos.com