Consider the Stars: Reframing Purposelessness

This is what the word 'random' tastes like to Christians.
This is what the word ‘random’ tastes like to Christians.

My last job was a disaster. I wish I could pinpoint the big thing that was wrong with it, or that caused me to leave it, but I just can’t. It was…a little bit of everything. I mean, a generally disorganized structure, my complete lack of “intuition”, and the job requirement to do mental gymnastics to divine my boss’s true desires surely didn’t help, but I couldn’t lay the blame squarely in one place. But there was one truly amazing perk to my job, and I’m still sad about losing it. It was in Florence, Italy, at a school I’d studied abroad at 3 years before.

The coffee, the architectural sites, the traditions, the masses in the Duomo, the gelato, the bella lingua italiana, the culture, the random bicycles that came so close to hitting you, the carabinieri who would arrest you for making a quick buck with your guitar in the wrong spot, and the cobblestone streets on which you could stand while catching a glimpse of the river Arno on a Saturday evening…that was my life. It was a profound life, if brief.

It was profound life, if brief.

Time, Purpose, and the Christian Narrative

Essentially, what I’ve noticed that is given to people through the Christian narrative is time and purpose, the two things that we can’t really get enough of. For now, we’re just going to focus on purpose. Often times, I will hear Christians say that without God, life has no purpose. Or they will say that we are pretty much meaningless but for God’s everlasting grace, and it is only the favor that He shows us that makes us valuable in any real sense.

The major thing that this Christian narrative offers is purpose. “Random” is a trigger word in Christian circles, and it’s one of the reasons the theory of evolution or the Big Bang theory have so much of an uphill climb there. “Random” speaks to purposelessness, it speaks of the lack of an Almighty guiding force, it speaks to the darkness in your soul you might experience for a moment when you look through a telescope and realize that you could be very alone.

But I see it differently. On those days when my job truly sucked because I felt like it was impossible to get anything right, I went to the stars. I went to the backyard of our Villa and looked at the Tuscan landscapes while listening to The Killers, and seeing if I could feel the footprints we’d left in that very grass three years before. And while looking up into the dome of the sky, it appeared to me that randomness was the key.

‘Random’ is a trigger word in Christian circles.

If you’re the kind of person that believes that your life has an inherent purpose or that God has a special plan for your life (as Jeremiah 29:11 might suggest), it might be easy, when you run into difficulty, to feel frustrated because you’ve been knocked off course or off purpose. You could console yourself with the line that it’s God’s will, but if you’re honest, you’re still a little peeved that He didn’t let you into the drawing room when He was making it, and you can’t understand why it has to be like this to fulfill His plan, but everyone at church tells you not to ask too many questions and just to trust Him more.

But if you were a person like me, and you considered you and everything around you to be pretty much a giant cosmic improbability and you considered the fact that you’re here rather than not, you might wake up differently. If you didn’t feel that this world was made just so the Creator could have a relationship with you, you might not feel abandoned in times of trouble. If you could acclimate yourself to the chaos outside, you wouldn’t be so perturbed by the chaos within.

If you could acclimate yourself to the chaos outside, you wouldn’t be so perturbed by the chaos within.

I’m not, by any means, suggesting that dealing with the complexities of life and managing the chaos is purely a religious matter, but I am suggesting that there’s a peace in recognizing I’m not the center, and neither is God. For me, the miracle of life is simply being here at all. Maybe life could be a much more beautiful thing if we realized that our time here is profound, if brief. Perhaps we would realize that far from discouraging us, this “randomness” should be the one thing that excites us and makes us cherish this curiously limited opportunity.

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