Once we move beyond survival, the purpose of life seems to be the ultimate elusive question competing against a desire to consume.
Last night I sat watching my dog and I have to wonder what is going through his head with him not being in a wild environment. When my dog is laying on the floor just looking out on the world what is he thinking? He spends quite a number of hours alone just resting on his bed looking out on the space around him, and I wonder what is going on inside of his mind. His excitement can be seen when someone comes in the door and his hope that he will be played with or some other needs met and he learns which people are better at providing for those needs. At a stage in our lives when we felt that our dog wasn’t getting enough attention we gave him to another family for a while and when I went to pick him up his emotional outburst towards me was so unbelievable. I still to this day remember a sense of ineffable energy from him that I still cannot put into words. Just to make this clear, yes I was emotional but from the moment my vehicle pulled into their driveway he was jumping in their house like they had never seen and when they opened that door he would have jumped into my arms (if wasn’t a 90lb lab). For the first 30 minutes of that long drive home his body language, noises and looks seemed to be saying a lot to me. I was reminded of this just yesterday evening when after I picked him up from the kennel where he was for 2 nights he went through a mini version of that whereby for 3 minutes he seemed to tell me a story. So here is my question, while I was gone, was he thinking of me? And more importantly, how was he processing the fact that time was passing and his environment remained unchanged and not where he wanted to be?
The reason I share this story is that if a human is waiting for the answer to a question we seem to have a creative imagination that happily helps us pass the time with any number of combination of results. We can end up optimistic, apathetic or depressed on a seemingly limitless number of tracks to pass the time. Sadly today the dominant track that seems to garner our interest and imagination when we are not occupied with survival is consumption. Our imagination can happily guide us on how we might spend a million dollars or onto some fantasy of some cool adventure but it can also help us formulate some very tough questions about the mysteries that remain unanswered. I believe deep thoughts are a good thing, perhaps to not undertake that wonder is to slide back towards the likes of our animal friends who strive to eat and sleep as best they can? I think we can do better and on my journey with my friends and family I am particularly enthused by conversations that allow us to share our moments of deep thought.
As a non-Christian married to a Christian (I believe the term is unequally yoked) I am fascinated by the results of deep thought that are tracked against the bible. Where my mind may wonder a certain way, based on my consumed inputs from various sources and times, the Christian mind can choose to track their imagination against the bible and others’ interpretations of it. I realize that non-Christians may pick up on certain sources as being more dominant in their supporting research as well as any Christian but bear with me here. What make’s it fascinating is a group faith in a belief, a belief that the authors who inscribed the words in the bible were divinely inspired. We can’t actually apply the scientific method to prove or disprove this concept so it has to be a leap of faith to believe.
Christian tradition has passed along various beliefs through the bible and other documentation and being married to a Christian who, on most days, continues to enjoy her study and discovery I am impressed by at least one thing. I am impressed by the personal development that can come with religious studies. It can be said that the study of Christianity, or any other religion for that matter, could be considered a form of entertainment but what is most interesting is the potential that lies within to develop personal ethics and wisdom. Sit down in front of a movie and occasionally it can cause you to reflect on your personal life and direction but more often than not the movies’ conclusion has a dominating factor on the lesson. The same goes for other fiction but consider the impact of non-fiction reading and study. If we read about the struggles fo a people group during the middle ages we can ponder what lessons can be learned from these real people doing real things or we can simply consider the story. Read a story with the express intent to stir up ideas and concepts in your head related to ethics, values and life direction and that is a different thing. Religion is the oldest “self help” documentation on the planet with some unique twists.
So the interesting thing about “riding shotgun” is that you are there to protect the driver of the stage coach who is driving to a particular destination. It may not be your destination but you have a job to do. Along the way you have to watch out for bandits and you get to listen and take it all in. When you are a non-Christian with a Christian spouse you get exposed to elements of society, groups and traditions that may seem odd or uncomfortable but once you get used to the discomfort and realize that comformity is not the only option to be amongst the Christians you can get the opportunity to “Ride Shotgun”. I don’t know the map, I don’t own the stage coach, I just hold a shotgun and look pretty until somebody tries to get in our way.