Good and Useless
There are some things that somehow seem really good. But I tend to ignore them because they don’t seem useful.
My friend’s mom is completely useless. From years of trauma, her mind has shut down and she wanders around the house, responding to no one and having sporadic breakdowns. It is really, really hard. Her husband is a normal guy and could go pursue other passions if he were to leave her. But he says he made a commitment to love her until they die. Somehow, despite not making any sense, or being useful at all, this seems really, really good to me. Beautiful in a way that is bigger than all my reason. He sees something in her that is really good and worth living for, even if she looks useless.
I so easily give up on things that are intrinsically good in exchange for things that are useful. But the irony is that the only reason a thing should be useful is if it moves us toward that transcendent good. If it lifts the fog that conceals that mysterious, expansive beauty that is the purpose of it all.
It’s been hard for me to see the benefits of marriage and children. How would it help me get my life in order and write more books? It just sounds like it would be introducing chaos into things I’m already struggling to control. All I have to do is ignore that good pull toward relationship, and my life stays easier.
And yet marriage and children, if a person really puts their heart into them like my brothers do, seem to be a couple of the most noble goals that can be taken upon oneself in this life.
Noble. What is useful about Nobility?
What good is selflessness to me?
Rest is good, but what is the usefulness of it.
I think I have become a man who pursues my little pleasures and productivity, more than the everlasting good.
Isn’t the American dream to get what we want out of life? The freedom to build a life we want and be productive? But when I see someone across the coffee shop in a sweat-stained T-shirt, face buried in a computer screen, who picks his nose when he wants, something inside me says, he’s missed the goal entirely.
It seems in the process of breaking everything down into its useful parts, it is all in danger of becoming completely useless.
I am sitting alone at a Chipotle, buried in my computer screen. A scrawny little sparrow just fluttered up to me and ate the rice I tossed to the ground. He was only using me for the usefulness of his hunger. But the reason I threw the rice on the ground was so that I could just marvel closer at something mysteriously beautiful about this little creature. Maybe God is like that. Despite using him for what we can get out of him, he uses those things to draw us near to him because he loves to be close to the deep intrinsic beautiful eternal good he’s built inside of us. And he wants for us to see it too.
Raw Spoon, 6-16-14
A great book on this subject is The Abolition of Man, By C.S. Lewis. But you may need to read it more than once. In fact one of the smartest people I know and most respect in this life told me he tries to read it every year.