This is WaterI recently was given a small book, “This is Water,” that consisted only of a single speech. It was a speech to college graduates by the author David Foster Wallace. He told his young audience that they will have to decide for themselves how to cope with the seemingly mundane aspects of life, consciously deciding what’s important and what is not. They will also decide what to “worship.”
Wallace points out hat everyone worships – but what – or whom – do they worship? That is what makes all the difference in how they view and live their life. Anything other than a spiritual worship, Wallace states, is a dead-end street. And whether we are travelling in a car or travelling on the journey of life, a dead-end street leads to nowhere but frustration. His examples:
Worship money and “things?” You will never have enough of either.
Worship power? You will always feel weak and vulnerable
Worship beauty and allure? You will always feel inadequate and ugly.
Worship intelligence and your intellect? You will always feel like a fraud – on the verge of being found out that you’re really not so smart.
And when time, age and life’s circumstances make these things more and more difficult to obtain, you will die a thousand deaths.
These lessons have been repeatedly taught to us. By the time young people graduate from high school, or certainly from college, they have heard these things numerous times. The challenge is to keep them in the front of our consciousness as we go through our daily routines - as we live our lives.
The insidious thing about these forms of worship is that, unfortunately, they are the default settings in our society. I see it all the time in my cardiology practice. These are the kinds of worship we gradually slip into if we are not on guard against it. The kinds of worship that seem to be working just fine in our society until you speak with people about their real frustrations with daily life and in their own little world. Indeed, it is these types of worship that actually seem to fuel our society, producing great wealth and creature comforts. But this fulfillment is a transient illusion.
The alternative to this “default” setting - this worshiping of the transient and the unimportant – will bring the true and lasting fulfillment that comes with choosing a spiritual worship and all that it entails. This requires attention, awareness, effort and discipline, and involves caring for others while finding satisfaction and happiness in the numerous little things we do each and every day. This is not only a challenge to young people. It is the challenge of a lifetime.
If you have a comment or question about this blog entry, email Dr. Roffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Joel Roffman has spoken to many church, synagogue and support groups. His book, Coping with Adversity: Judaism’s response to illness and other life struggles is enjoyable, uplifting and informative. It is meant for people of all faiths and can be viewed at www.copingwithadversity.com. It is available at Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Amazon.com.