I think I sometimes get too invested in fictional stories. I seriously considered watching The Lord of the Rings after graduation since I think “leaving the Shire” is symbolic of my leaving college. That may be true. It may be symbolic, but why should I find meaning in life based on fictionalized metaphors that are only a reflection of my fuller purpose, when I can find meaning based on a story that is both metaphorical and literal: Christ’s resurrection.
Strictly nonliteral metaphors aren’t inherently bad. After all, Jesus often spoke in parables to help us understand. However, metaphors become harmful when we become too engrossed in them.
I want my life to be a saga. I want my life to be dramatic and magical. I want to have an important and noble purpose in life such as destroying an evil ring. However, I am grown up now, and it’s time to face reality. Enough with the fairy tales because not even a fairy tale has more wonder and “magic” than the story I am living right now. My story involves someone who has risen from the dead, and it doesn’t get more “magical” or dramatic than that! It’s not drama for the sake of drama, but it’s dramatic because it means something.
We all want to be a hero like Frodo. While we may not be able to achieve this individual heroism, we can achieve some degree of heroism through Christ, meaning that we are not heroes by our own strength but heroes through surrender; heroes through the honoring of the truest hero; heroes through our bravery (our decision to trust in the power of good when the future seems ominous). Achieving heroism is not why we follow Christ, but it does explain why we are initially drawn to Him. We all have a deep yearning for purpose and meaning and epic sagas that aren’t so epic that they are corny.
I love symbolism. I love being able to relate to characters who are experiencing “more action” than me (no not that kind of action, lol). Action as in sword fights and the like. However, none of this explains my love for The Office. The Office isn’t epic and meaningful. It’s not trying to communicate a deeper message. Humor is our escape from meaning because the basis of most humor is how banal and silly our pastimes are. Nowhere is this demonstrated more than in an office full of time-wasting drama queens and kings.
I’m not saying humor is in any way bad. It can be bad, but not all comedic demonstrations of frivolous pastimes are meant to communicate that those pastimes are what we should be living for. Even humor has a message, maybe not a deep one, but a message just the same. When comedians make fun of our frivolous pastimes, they may be communicating the fact that it’s kind of mildly depressing that most people are here on this earth just trying to survive without getting bored or going crazy. Many people don’t really know why they are here except to make money and find lasting love, but what about all the stuff in between?
Because of this mystery, people often create their own drama and mind games so that they feel deep meaning in everyday activities – something to puzzle over or something to throw a pity party for. This drama feels monumental while we are in the midst of it, but in the long run, it does not matter too much.
Horrible tragedies, like child starvation and cold-blooded murders are an exception of course because they are not trivial. However, those of us who never experience such things are the people I am talking about; the people who seek after drama, the people like me.
What I have yet to comprehend is that we can find meaning in the mundane. All we have to do is accept that fact that our value doesn’t come from our own personal victories but rather from Christ’s – we are valuable because He loves us enough to go through all the pain and suffering in the world to save us. If we weren’t valuable, it wouldn’t be worth it.
So if we are looking for value in everyday, mundane life, we do not have to climb Mt. Everest to find it. We already have value, whether we are saving orphans or lying in a hammock. Give yourself a break, you’re only human…but do realize that you wouldn’t have the privilege to take a break from saving the world to watch The Office if it hadn’t been for Jesus saving the world for us – something we could not do on our own.
No matter how much we do, we will always get discouraged because of the sheer volume of suffering in the world. We should still do as much as we can, but instead of getting discouraged about not being able to do enough, we should be thankful for the amount we can do.
I’ll leave you with a song about letting go of the need to be the hero in every situation: