“The worst thing about the miracle of modern communications is the Pavlovian pressure it places upon everyone to communicate whenever a bell rings.”
-Russell Baker, No Cause for Pain, “Times (London)”, November 28, 1991
I wrote this post in response to a former colleague’s thoughts concerning “work-life balance” – a common pass phrase favored by Human Resource professionals and others in Corporate America. I hope you find some of it worth your while.
Constant interconnectivity – the ability to interact with just about anyone, at any time, no matter where they are – is a fact of life in our postmodern society. Indeed, it has become an overriding requirement for those caught up in large corporate subcultures! Interconnectivity can be a good thing. It keeps us in touch with each other, allowing us to share our joys and concerns in ways never before possible. But underneath it all, postmodern culture, which corporate subcultures greatly magnify, uses this technology to put intense pressure on the individual to conform to the needs of the moment – to function on a sliding scale based on the perceived priorities of the “here and now” – to focus on self-preservation (that is: keeping one’s job!) to the exclusion of all else.
This relativistic norm, which philosophers of my parents’ generation termed, “situation ethics” has led human persons into behaving in whatever manners (or taking whatever actions) “feel right” in the moment. Like ships without rudders, we now bounce through life like balls in some cosmic pinball machine. And in so doing, we deny (or ignore) the standards of behavior, of truth, of modesty, – and yes, even of beauty that previous generations held sacred. We have lost respect for authority, for others, and ultimately for ourselves.
The truths (proofs, if you will) of this are self-evident. One sees them every day. We, as a society, as a culture and as individuals, have forgotten that we are accountable to ourselves, our fellow men, and ultimately to our Creator. The teacher in Ecclesiastes instructs us (in 3:13 and elsewhere) to “take pleasure in (our) toil….” (ESV). But whether one believes in God or not, there is within each of us a sense of Moral Law, or Law of Human Nature, a Law of what is Right and what is Wrong – a Law of Common Decency. We feel it every time someone cuts us off, butts in front of us, or wins the big promotion.
“It’s not fair!” we cry. But what is the origin of that cry?
Like a child begging for a piece of candy, the Rule of Right and Wrong (or whatever else you might call it) nags at each of us. And because of it, there is buried (sometimes very deeply) within all of us, the realization that there is something above and beyond the ordinary facts of human existence: something that is real – a real law, one not made by the imagination of men, pressing in upon us.
Following this Law is not something that’s necessarily easy or popular, because, as C.S. Lewis wrote almost 70 years ago (in “Mere Christianity”), “it has more to do with working honestly when it would be easier to cheat, leaving a girl alone when you would rather make love to her, staying in dangerous places when you would rather go somewhere safe, keeping promises you would rather not keep, and telling the truth even when it makes you look like a fool.”
Why then should we follow this Law? Of what possible benefit can we gain by its observance? Simply this: however we choose to behave has ramifications far beyond our immediate circumstances. We can never predict how what we do – or what we say – will impact the attitudes and subsequent behaviors of others. That statement is obvious for those in positions of responsibility. But also applies to each of us, regardless of our stations in life. Paul admonishes the us to avoid placing stumbling blocks in front of others (Rom. 13:15, 1 Cor. 8:9, et al.) But let’s face it: if the universe is not subject to an overriding, governing force of absolute good, then it’s “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die!” Those are the watchwords of contemporary westernized culture; but our innate knowledge of the Moral Law tells us: it’s a lie! (Oh, we may deny it, but our actions and attitudes ultimately circle back upon us. “What goes around….” I’ve seen it happen many times as, no doubt, have you.)
So what does all this have to do with the price of eggs? Why have I taken the time and expended the energy to write this? Simply for this reason: I had a good career in Corporate America. I did what I thought “had to be done.” (Machiavelli would have been proud!) But along the way, I lost a part of my humanity. It took being laid-off, among other not-so-nice shocks, for me to realize (Ecclesiastes again) that “all is vanity.” By the grace of God, I have recovered some of what I had lost – and gained far more than I ever imagined: the sure and certain knowledge that there is a God; a God who loves us, who sent his Son to die for us, who calls his people to something better than the ephemeral trappings that our postmodern culture terms, “success”, who calls us to something REAL! My parents taught this to me as a boy, but it took a lifetime for it to begin to sink in. I hope that you – and any others who might read this – will take this lesson to heart sooner than I.
No, I haven’t “lost my marbles” or “have a loose screw” – though many will conclude that that’s the case(!). No, I write this because I care about you – and about your impact upon those around you. I write so that you may be a blessing to this world!