I recently had the pleasure of looking over a speech that my friend Steve had written for the workers at his summer camp. I thought it was very good, since it speaks truth and challenges us to re-evaluate our priorities. Though it was written for a summer camp, it has relevance for all of us. Please take the time to read this speech.
It’s a good read.
Tonight, I would like to introduce all of you the two metaphors at the center of the LDP curriculum this summer: “the jet plane” and the “Russian nesting doll.” Both of which, I believe, are hindrances to LIVING a life OUT LOUD.
The American poet, Langston Hughes, once asked:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Through those timeless words, Hughes pondered the dangerous consequences of deferring one’s deepest wants and desires. Human beings find themselves in a dilemma. No matter what part of the world you are from, we all live in a society of deferred gratification. For many, life is a jet plane ride that never lands. Let me explain.
You go to school for twelve years, then college, then graduate school, possibly seminary, or a PHD program, so that you can get a well paying job. Once you get a job, you buy your first house, and go to work each day so that you can pay those bills, pay for your 2.5 kids and your swimming pool. You invest in the stock market and call your broker every other day to make sure that your future securities are safe. You work so you can take vacations; you take vacations to get away from work. With any luck, you will work hard all of your life, retire, and play shuffleboard somewhere warm, hooked up to an oxygen tank. For all us Americans, congratulations, you have achieved the American dream. For our international staff, well done, you have lived the standard, modern life. And then, guess what? You die.
Because of this never-ending plane ride, for most of us, death seems like an insult. If you are riding on the jet plane, not getting safely to your destination is an outrage. You feel that you haven’t even lived your life.
This year’s theme is LIVE OUT LOUD. For me, this is the most important crux of our Christian lives. Living in the moment, the now, is the only way to live. This September is the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The men and women aboard the planes who got in contact with their families in the last moments of their lives did not inquire about their stock portfolios.
This system of deferred gratification is the result of a complex society, a Russian nesting doll, if you will. The ancient hunter-gatherers and earliest humans did not worry about tomorrow, they lived for the now. They satisfied their immediate needs – food, shelter, and fellowship. After thousands of years, after the rise and fall of great empires, as humans multiplied and multiplied, after the construction of a social order, a top down power structure, and the establishment of laws, living for the now became covered by layers of complex civilization. The human in his most basic form, as God had created, became lost. Humans forgot how to live in the moment, live in the now. They became like Adam and Eve after expulsion, left to suffer the wrath of a cold, dark world.
On this jet plane, instead of life being an end in itself, it has become, even to you, a means to an end. You are on that jet plane and you can’t get off. When you get out of high school, then you’ll begin to live. When you get out of college, then you’ll begin to live. As soon as you get tenure, then you’ll begin to live. As soon as you retire, then you’ll begin to live.
But simply dropping everything to live in the now is extremely difficult. One cannot simply walk away from civilization. Here we are “camping” and many of us have brought everything and the kitchen sink. You could never walk away from electricity, let alone modern plumbing. You cannot stop going to school or work and move into the wild. Have any of you read John Krakauer’s Into the Wild or seen the movie? It’s an account of Chris McCandless, a young American college student who gave away all his money, abandoned his family and future, and after being a sort of hobo for a few years, set out to live in the Alaskan wilderness. Before he left, he secured a copy of a guide to the edible plants of Alaska. He didn’t last one winter there.
We are strapped into the jet plane, the plane that is never going to land. How can you free yourself from the pain of the human condition? We try to find ways to sustain ourselves, to make the plane ride a little more bearable – drinking, pornography, video games, relationships, sports, FACEBOOK, Twitter, Charlie Sheen, How I Met Your Mother, gossip, camping, and cutting. But no matter how hard one tries, the plane ride is still intolerable. You have to just tough it out, defer your dreams, defer your now for tomorrow. That’s when the sun will come out. Tomorrow, when you get older, you can start living, and according to one little redhead’s delusion – you can bet your bottom dollar on that.
But tomorrow never comes. Only more work, more responsibility, more chores, more bills to pay, more things to do. Only one thing can free the individual from worldly tribulations and that is Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life. In the gospel of John, with sounding boldness, Jesus declared, “I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.” Being a Christian does not mean that you have to walk away from the world, from civilization. You simply have to tune your personal radio dial to the eternal now, Jesus Christ. Think about the world beyond this world. Go about your daily commitments with your head in sync with the eternal now. Think about the big picture, the macrocosm of God’s axiom. Don’t think about the little picture, or the microcosm that is your life. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” Bring the macrocosm, the eternal now, or the Kingdom of God to Earth. Let life be the means to the end, not the end.
Henry David Thoreau once asserted, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with their song still in them.” This summer, you get to break that desperation. Many of our campers’ planes are just taking off — they are in school for the other ten months of the year, fulfilling their duty, deferring the now for tomorrow.
This summer, you have the opportunity to peel away those nesting dolls, locate the center, and free the spirit within yearning to breathe free. This is how you land the jet plane, even for the briefest moments. You get to show every camper that passes through our gates a life changed by grace, the life in tune with the macrocosm of God’s eternal plan. You can help every camper locate their inherent, God-given, “barbaric yawp” inside them and show them that they too “are not a bit tamed,” but instead that they are able to “sound that barbaric yawp across the rooftops of the world.” You get to show them what it means to LIVE OUT LOUD, a life where the individual lives in the moment, does his dharma, his duty, all the while focusing his eye on the eternal now of God’s periphery. For me, this makes life precious and I want it to shine out of every orifice for the whole world to see.
Carpe Diem is Latin for “seize the day.” This summer, I challenge you to seize every moment of every day and show these campers why it can be such an important and freeing joy to LIVE OUT LOUD for Christ. Thank you.