I should start off by disclaiming that I am writing this listening to ‘Till I found you’ by Phil Wickham so we can all probably guess where this will end up…if not, come along for the ride!
How do you tell a pursuit is empty? Does it dance by you, tempting your intellect, to the beat of ‘I’m no good’? You may be wondering, is that a real song or is it being made up on spot. There might be some songs with such a line. But here I am, attempting to make up ‘another beat’ empty pursuits dance to. Or at least what I think they dance to.
This thought was sparked when I read ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’ by Marina Keegan which was then followed up by ‘Digital Minimalism’ by Cal Newport. At first I thought these two stood in stark contrast. The essay celebrates the togetherness found in college, before the drift we all find ourselves in after structured pursuits.
What happens after the degree if the job, career, fame, money and family are not being drawn in as fast as they have been advertised? The book, well it encourages time taken away from the world, in particular social media. It argues that you don’t need that constant bombardment of information all the time or the less broadcast thought, that man wasn’t made to interact with so many people.
So I drew the conclusion that they stood mutually exclusive. If you embraced the ‘opposite of loneliness’, you could not embrace solitude. Joy-giving, purpose-affirming, self-refreshing solitude.
But that’s not truly the case, as evidenced by the quote by Wendell Berry included in Newport’s book. ‘We enter solitude, in which we also lose loneliness.’ Don’t ask me to explain this further, it makes sense. Just believe it.
And now you might be asking, what do solitude and loneliness…or its opposite have to do with empty pursuits. Probably nothing, probably everything. The book ‘Digital Minimalism’ strives to address addictions and focuses on social media. But I think the cycle is the same.
You get trapped in because of the benefits, attested to by more than one person. You stay for the high, that feeling you get when you indulge. You beat yourself up as you deal with the hangover or the symptoms of the consequences and you swear you’ll change, you’ll give it all up. You get back because life’s short and nothing truly lasts forever, right. So what about a few more moments of bliss. Senseless, fleeting bliss.
How did people start out on social media (for our little analogy)? I can tell you in my circles it was by word of mouth. ‘Heard of Facebook?’ or the exclamation, ‘You are not on Twitter!!!’ and somehow drawn in by the hatred of loneliness we opt to get on board with what everybody is doing.
With no driving intention behind what we were doing (another idea put across in the book. He is not against social media, just purposeless swiping that sees you eat away more than half your day) just the need to belong! Or another internal need that we can’t quite capture right with words.
In thinking up this blog post, I remembered an empty pursuit from secondary school. How it was cool and in to use the school slang. How we actually looked forward to joining secondary to learn slang and stand exclusive. How we traded in our perfect (OK somewhat perfect. No one has perfect English after primary!) English, written and spoken to embrace a culture that would be of no use to us after at most 6 years, especially in the corporate world most of aspire to. Talk of empty pursuits.
But addictions, these empty pursuits, which we chase with all the wisdom that they only lead to ruin, or in a less dramatic stance, do not yield highly-coveted rewards. CHASING AFTER WHAT WON’T LAST. That at the end of the journey you are in a little regret of the time you wasted, the energy you lost, the opportunities you shunned for the ’empty’.
At the core of ‘Digital Minimalism’, or what I thought to be the core, is to have intention for what we do. Let’s not be led like lambs to the slaughter, unable to decipher the ulterior motive of the butcher, unwilling to break away. As though there is no information available, or experiences handy to caution us before we immerse ourselves in a pursuit. LET’S BE INTENTIONAL instead. In our academics, leisure, relationships, name it.
As a sign off, there is a better pursuit! One that is not empty, never emptied no matter how many times you embark on it. One that shines light into all your other pursuits and aligns them with truth and intent, if you let Him. He is the only one that can satisfy and last forever. And if you think its a one way pursuit, that’s not true, God pursues you a whole lot more than you could ever pursue Him.