Monthly Archives: June 2014

The World Is Amazing and Nobody Is Happy

The World Is Amazing and Nobody Is Happy

Recently I came across a comedian, Louis CK, who was on a late night talk show and explaining to the host how, “The world is amazing and nobody is happy.” I posted a link to this on the Hurstville Facebook page, and encourage you to watch it. This guy is absolutely right. We go to the airport, complain when our flight is delayed by 30 minutes or an hour, totally forgetting that it really is amazing that we can travel coast to coast in about 5 hours. Even if you add in the time it takes to get to the airport, going through security, etc., you can make the Sydney to Perth trip in 8 hours. Amazing. Consider that 100 years ago that trip wasn’t something you did in a week, much less a third of a day.

Friends, we live in a luxurious, amazing world. Louis CK also reminds us that not long ago we had rotary phones! Remember those? I recall as a kid trying to call into the TV station to win a prize – first caller wins! When the phone number had a “9” in it, it seemed like it took an eternity for that dial to rotate around so I could dial the next number. What a joy it was when there was “1” in the number! Now people grumble because their mobile phone hits a dead spot and can’t find Google to look up the answer to who got kicked off last night’s episode of “The Block.” Yes, Louis CK is right, the world is amazing…and I think an awful lot of people are unhappy.

It would be easy to site this as evidence for the fact that “stuff” doesn’t bring happiness, but I’d wager that we are a happier world than folks of centuries past. Perhaps our happiness hasn’t increased at the rate our technology has. I think that’s Louis CK’s point. Technology has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 100 years, but I don’t think we can say our happiness has grown by leaps and bounds. Optimist that I am though, I do believe we are happier, yet there is no denying that there is plenty of unhappiness in the world.

This unhappiness really is, for the most part, pretty unnecessary. The world is not only amazing when it comes to technological wonders, but is also amazing when it comes to our moral and spiritual development. It isn’t perfect, I know, but I do believe that we’re on the right track. This belief that the world is getting better is actually one of the fundamental teachings of the New Church, but what I’ve found in my ministry, it is also the New Church teaching that I get the most disbelief on. People are willing to accept that there’s a deeper meaning to the Word, an afterlife that’s more about who you are than what religion you belong to, but believing that the world is getting better? A positive outlook about recent history and for the future? Not so fast.

But really, how could it not be so? If you believe that the prophecies from the book of Revelation came to pass hundreds of years ago, mustn’t the world be getting better? We’re told “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Rev 11:15). Let’s go through this: you believe God is good, and that the kingdom of the world has become His…well then, how could the world be getting worse? It can’t.

I think part of what is happening is that people are regularly expanding what they are willing to be upset about. This isn’t all bad, but there reaches a point where we have to distinguish between something being “upsetting” and letting something spoil our happiness. Back in February there was a big deal over a giraffe named Marius that was killed in a Copenhagen zoo. The zoo belonged to a larger zoo association that has guidelines about breeding of animals, and had determined that Marius’ was unfit to breed with the other giraffes because he was too closely related to all the others. Zoo officials believed that castration was a worse fate than death and so decided that the humane thing to do was to kill Marius.

As the story made news cycles around the world, people around the world were outraged and some took it to extremes. Some were outraged to the point of sobbing as one celebrity wrote on her Facebook page: “Oh man, I’ve seen a lot of abuses in my life, but this baby Giraffe killing at the Copenhagen Zoo is overwhelming. I have to take a cry walk.” Really? Some took it much further and sent death threats to the zoo staff, including one person who called the zoo director in the middle of the night to tell him that he and his family deserved to die. Yikes!

Now, I don’t want to go down as seen to be wishing death on giraffes, but at the same time, getting outraged over the death of one giraffe in one zoo just seems a bit extreme. That we have the ability to get upset over it is in itself a luxury good. We live in an amazing world when we can get upset over stuff like this. Can you imagine what the public reaction would have been a few hundred years ago to the death of a giraffe? Nobody would have cared. Just one hundred years ago we were still experimenting on humans! Nobody was going to get outraged over a giraffe. This outrage extends to all lines of thinking, and can infect our line of thinking in regards to what we prioritize for our spiritual development and our church practices.

[There are people] who take a conscientious stand on issues that are not vitally
important. . . [who] burden the consciences of simple people. . . [who are] incapable of
paying any attention to reasons offered to them because they persisted in holding on
tenaciously to their own opinion. . . who become scrupulous about salvation, not only in
essential matters, but also in matters of form, and even in issues that make no difference
at all. (Secrets of Heaven #5386)

Exactly. Some people make big deals about issues that make no difference at all. Sure, it seems that the zoo could have found a better way to deal with Marius, but getting upset isn’t going to change anything. Yes, let’s make ethical decisions, and not be cruel to animals. It is actually a good sign that we care about these things, but we don’t need let them ruin our positive attitude and outlook. Yes, it is frustrating when the airplane is delayed, and when the cell phone hits a dead spot…I get frustrated when technology doesn’t work too. But I hope these kind of problems are ones that aren’t actually impacting the happiness of people, because we do live in an amazing world, one that has amazing technology which allows us the time and energy to try to make right even the smaller matters, a world that is getting better all the time, and we should all be very happy.

The Spiritual Railway

Last month, Norman Heldon wrote a short article for the newsletter that included poem titled, “The Spiritual Railway.” The poet compares the path to heaven to travelling on a train, and stresses that without repentance our journey will not be successful. Here’s the poem:
Repentance is the station then,
Where passengers are taken in….
God’s Word is the first engineer,
It points the way to heaven so clear
Through tunnels dark and dreary here
It does the way to glory steer,
God’s love the fire, His truth the steam.
All you who would glory to ride,
Must come to Christ, in Him abide.
In first, and second and third class,
Repentance, faith and holiness
You must the way to glory gain.
Or you with Christ will not remain.

I for one really really liked the imagery in the poem, and it is especially timely as we’ve just started learning and adding Josh Turner’s song, “Long Black Train” to our musical repertoire. While “Long Black Train” gives similar imagery, it is given in the opposite sense. Whereas “The Spiritual Railway” presents the railway as leading to God and repentance, “Long Black Train” presents the railway as one driven by the devil who tries to lure us in by appealing to our base desires. “That train is a beauty, making everybody stare, but its only destination is the middle of nowhere… Watch out brother for that long, black train.”

The Word similarly uses imagery and presents it a good light and its opposite sense. To the casual reader this can be quite confusing, but the answer to the meaning of the image can be found in the context that it is presented in. For example, water means “truth,” which makes sense when you consider that baptism is done with water. However, in the opposite sense water can mean false beliefs and understandings as evidenced by the great flood that wiped out humanity in the Noah’s Ark story. Humanity wasn’t wiped out by truth, but rather it drown in a sea of its own delusions.

Since the Word is describing our spiritual lives, it shouldn’t be surprising that we see this good/bad dichotomy in our dealings with others. Just about any action we do can be taken as good or bad depending on the intent behind it. Are we giving money to gain a person’s trust and confidence so we can use them later, or did we give them money to help out a friend in need? Same action, very different intent. Getting on a train likewise can look the same, but just be sure it isn’t the long black one.

Catching up with the times

It has been almost 2 years since the current Hurstville New Church site went live, and since then it has been tweaked, revised and grown to it’s current state. Now we’re adding a blog to it. For those of you who have been getting our newsletter, this probably won’t have much in the way of new information. The idea is to post the newsletter lead articles here so that they can be indexed by Google which will hopefully bring us in some more traffic. Will it work? I don’t know, but it is free and a relatively easy project to get running. Hope you enjoy it!